Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I'm Going In the Gym Business in 2016

I wanted all of you to know this first...on Friday I'll be opening my new business...it's a gym called Resolutions!

Resolutions! will have gym equipment for the first two weeks and then it turns into a bar for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Present for You!

It's the holidays!!!

Here's a wonderful (and inexpensive) present for yourself...get a copy of The Perfect Workday Ebook at Amazon.com for only 99 cents for the next month! Over 350 tips, tactics and ideas for having a better workday!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy Kwanzaa! Merry Ramadan!

Choose whichever one is appropriate.

Monday, December 21, 2015

In this Season of Yes, Just Say No

Christmas is the season of Yes. We want to be able to say Yes to everything from granting every Christmas wish to having another piece of pie, because it’s…well…Christmas!

But, the other day I ran across an interesting quote from Warren Buffett. He said the most successful people say No to almost everything. Now, I have to admit, he was talking mostly about business ideas and deals. His whole point, though, was that we have a finite amount of time, energy, and other resources, and by saying Yes to lots of different things we spread ourselves so thin that it’s very difficult to succeed at some of the things that have the highest potential for success.

Now, believe me, I get the idea of saying Yes to life; to trying new things, to understanding that Live, as in Living Life, is an active verb. But, even in that context, we can say Yes to so many things that the important things get short-changed.

I realize that this thought goes against the grain for so many of us, but, in this season of Yes we might be well-served to say No every now and then. No to one more party (and maybe driving home drunk), No to one more contribution (to the charity at which the director gets paid more than the needy receive), No to buying one more present (for someone you really don't care that much about)…so we can say Yes to the really important things....like that extra piece of pie.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Caught In the Hall In my Boxers

This is pretty long, but I was telling the story to a friend the other day and he said, "You have GOT to post this!"

So, here we go......

I was bent over, placing a tray of half-empty coffee cups, half-eaten muffins and bagels, dirty utensils and empty milk cartons on the hall floor outside our cruise-ship cabin when I heard the door click shut behind me.

To be honest, the door, or lock, I should say, wasn't behind me, it was about 10 inches from my head, or really, my ear. So, when the metal of the lock met the metal of the door facing I heard two clicks. It was almost as if they spoke, "Hi there." Click, click. "You're back." Click, click. Or, "Stu-pid." Click...click.

I don't speak fluent door lock, but I'm pretty sure it was, "Stu-pid."

If you've ever had a situation like this happen to you, you know there are, basically, a couple of ways it can go: 

1) You can be wearing your cargo shorts and a Key West Green Parrot Bar t-shirt, the one that says, "EXCESS in Monderation," and your hair's a little messy and you feel pretty sheepish. You knock on the door and your cabin companion comes to the other side of the door, but doesn't open it. They do the whole, "Who issss iiiit?" and you say something reasonably cute such as, "It's Saaaanntttaaa! I couldn't find the chimneeee!" And they open the door and you both laugh and they say, "You are such a dope!" and you both do another little laugh and you walk in the cabin.

Or, there's the way it happened to me.

2) The only thing you have on is Minion boxer shorts. This look works if you're 8 years-old and helping mom by taking the tray outside after breakfast. It works less well if you're a 63-year old, short, thick, gray-haired man who simply thinks the Minions are hysterical and doesn't expect a lot of folks to see him in his prized Minion boxers. Next, the chance of knocking and having your travel companion come to the door is pretty much impossible since she's stting on the balcony with the outside door--think of a bank vault door--closed.

All I was going to do was put the trash outside, do a good deed, clean up a little. I mean, what's wrong with that? What's the line, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished?

So, whataya do in a situation like this? You do the only thing you can; you man-up, act like nothing's wrong, like you walk around in nothing but Minion boxers...all...day...long,  and go looking for someone who can let you back in your cabin.

My first thought is that I could knock on the doors of one of our neighbors and ask them to lean around one of the partitions that divide our balcony from those on the left and right and ask my friend to come open the door. Unfortunately, the door on the right has a doorhanger reading, "Cruisin'," which means they are out; and the door on the left has, "Snoozin'," which means they don't want to be disturbed.

We are mid-ship, so when I look left and right, up and down the hallway, it looks like a mirrored view of miles of carpet and hundreds of doors. The only anomaly, the only blip on the screen, is Ferry, the Phillipino maid, and her cart. Ferry, who is loading towels on her arm to carry into a room, seems about as far away from me as Charlotte is from Raleigh, except there is no curve in the hallway like there is in I-85 at Greensboro. She is, in fact, so far away that I can't just call, "Hey Ferry! Could you help me please?!" My only choice is to do a Bataan Death March to where she is, risking folks coming out of the hundred or so rooms between me and her.

We've enjoyed meeting Ferry. She's wonderfully professional and cordial and makes little animals out of towels and leaves them in the room at night for us to find when we return from dinner. I'm sure we're the only ones she's doing it for.

As I start walking in Ferry's direction the hall telescopes like the scene in The Shining. I'm walking so long I think, "Maybe I should have brought the rest of that bagel and what was left of the butter and jelly as provisions." But, I don't have any pockets in my Minion boxers. I mean, if I'd've had pockets I'd've brought a key, right? It feels like I've been walking for a day or two. It's hard to tell on a cruise ship because, like Vegas casinos and Subways, there aren't any clocks so it's hard to have a good sense of time.

As I drag up to Ferry's cart I notice a half-finished bottle of water, THANK GOD!! AN OASIS! But, just as I reach for the water, Ferry walks out of a room with an armload of dirty towels. She stops and stares at me  with an, "I didn't know they made Minion boxers in that big a size," kind of look.

"Yes?," she asks.

I offer, "Uh, hi Ferry. I'm sure you have this happen all the time. I've locked myself out of my cabin. Can you help me?"

Big smile.

She offers, "I never have this happen!"

"Really?" I ask, "How long have you worked for the cruise line?"

"Sixteen year."


"Could you help me get back in my cabin. I've locked myself out."

She's still looking at the Minions.



"No. Only cabin steward, Wayan, can unlock door. You call room on phone."

"Mmm...that won't work. My friend is on the balcony reading and has the door closed."

Ferry says, "No problem!"

For whom?

And she adds, "I call Wayan," and walks through a door with a Crew Only sign. 

At this point a door behind me opens and I hear a little girl yell, "Look daddy! That man has Minions!"

As I turn I see a young family pile out into the hall with their pool gear. The little girl, about 10, is wearing a Minions bathing suit. I'm trying to get small enough to hide behind the laundry cart and she's pointing back and forth at her suit and then my boxers; suit-boxers, suit-boxers, suit boxers. Dad's big, about 6'4" or 5," around 280, and looks like he's had a beverage or 9 at various times. Mom is about half dad's height, weighs about 70 pounds and is dragging a snivelling little boy who looks about 5 who's whining, "I DON'T WANT TO GO SWIMMING!" 

I do the little alligator arm wave and mumble, "Locked out."

As they turn up the hall dad gives me the, "Better you than me," look. When they make the turn to the lobby mom looks up at Shamu and asks, "You remembered our key, right?"

About 5 minutes later, Wayan shows up, all smiles, and trudges with me back to our cabin. As he unlocks the door he says, "No problem, Mr. Mike. I do all the time." A gentleman.

When I open the vault door and step out onto the balcony my companion asks, "What took you so long? You planning on wearing those Minions all day?"

You know, it feels like it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Juuuusssstttt About There!

 I was at the gym this morning and noticed a young friend standing and staring out the window. I asked what he was so locked in on.

He explained that life had been going great and he saw some opportunities for it to get a lot better…but then one obstacle after another popped up and he felt like he was back where he started.

I know exactly where he’s at. I’m working on a new project and it’s as if challenges large and small are coming and knocking on the door and saying, “Pay attention to me.”

In the past, I’d let all that stuff slow me down or defeat me…and the truth is, I’ve let it slow me down this time. But, over the years, I found that whenever I’m working on a  project, just about the time I think it’s ready to happen something arrives to stand in the way of success. It’s happened so often that now, when I can see success on the horizon, I start looking around for the clown car of problems to pull up. 

I have to keep reminding myself—and I’m doing it even as I’m writing this—that a few things work: 
First, take stock. Do a To-Do List of what needs to be accomplished. I did one this morning and have two pages. 
Second….DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING! Don’t worry whether it’s the most important thing or not. Just get moving. This blog is me getting moving.
Third…as your momentum builds, start targeting the items on your list that either provide the biggest payoff or conquer the biggest problems.
Fourth…check your rewards list. When you complete a project or just one step, give yourself a reward. Too often we believe that, as adults, we’re supposed to slog through all the work and when we finally finish one project, we should start another one. I call this the Slay One Dragon, Bring On Another One Strategy of Life! Rewards are positive ways to keep motivated.

At this point I have my To-Do List and finishing this blog is my DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING! step that builds momentum. 

Time for a reward.  Did I throw that chocolate away?!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Were There Buffets on the HMS Bounty?

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” Mark Twain

Just returned from a cruise! Left Ft. Lauderdale on Dec 6 and returned on the 12th. In between, we hit Key West, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

Semi-random thoughts:

At various points along the way, both on the ship and off, I kept remembering Mark Twain’s quote about travel. In fact, every time I left the buffets I kept thinking about his use of the word broad. I brought 4 pounds home with me, but if it hadn’t been for all the walking we did the damage would have been a lot worse.

The main thing I brought home was a profound sense of gratitude. As beautiful as some of the places are we kept thinking Dorothy’s belief that, “There’s no place like home.”

If you live in a place in which tourism is the main industry, and the location is essentially Turn 4 on the Hurricane International Raceway it doesn’t take much wind and rain to blow your life up. 

Once you get away from the flash and dash of the ports in Cozumel and Grand Cayman, and see how so much of the population lives, you think, “Never again will I complain about the cable going out.”

Our cabin had a balcony and, especially on the two days we were at sea, it was great to sit and watch the ocean go by. At night, we’d see blinking lights on the coasts of Florida, Cuba, and Mexico. I kept thinking, “What was it like hundreds of years ago to be on some sort of sailing vessel and sighting land and wondering if there was anyone there? And if so, were they friendly? And, if you knew people were there and you knew they weren’t friendly, believing you could hop in a row boat and go see ’em and claim their land for your country?”

Believe me, I get the political incorrectness and moral issues of that attitude. But, going back to Mark Twain’s thought, would I be thinking in those terms if I hadn’t made the trip? Maybe, but I wouldn’t be able to connect the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and touches I’ve had in the last week with the thoughts.

Maybe you can’t take a cruise in the near future, but you can get out and walk around. You can go somewhere new for a day, afternoon, or a few hours. Try this…go to the mall and don’t look at it as a grinding, overcrowded, holiday-driven drudge…go and look at it as an adventure. You’ll be amazed.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What Do the Stars Say?

Over the weekend a friend was talking about stars aligning…you know, the stars align to make certain things happen.

My point is that the stars can be wherever they want to be, but if you don’t act all the stargazing in the world won’t make things happen. 

What matters is action, what we do. And yes, sometimes the action doesn’t work..and, yes, sometimes we don’t act as quickly as we should. 

If we keep moving, even though we stumble at times, in the direction of our dreams…well…Thoreau said it best:

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Enjoy the stars, but keep moving.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Bleeeeaughhh!!! Whew, I Feel Better Now!

How ya feelin’ today? 

Let’s see some hands; how many of you have been on an almost non-stop eat-a-thon since last Wednesday night?

(This is the start of what I call the 6-Weeks of Gluttony Is Its Own Reward Holiday. It’s waaay easy to slide into the mindset, it’s the holidays/parties/Christmas/New Year and I’ll worry about all this on January 2.)

1—2—3—4—5…ok, ok, lots of hands going up on that question…along with both my hands!

The last four days have seen a variety of times in which I know I would have felt better if I could have done a technicolor yawn, if you get my drift.

I started with candied pecans on Wednesday night, slipped and fell into the Thanksgiving trough on Thursday, only moved from the couch (college football marathon) long enough to gorge on leftovers on Friday, ate tailgate food through Saturday while watching my UNC Tar Heels spank the NC State Wolfpack like they were 3 year-olds throwing a tantrum at Walmart, and am finishing it up with another couch-bound/football-rich day while trying to consume a whole pot of chicken bog.

However, I’ve hit the gym (well, at least, I’ve GONE to the gym) every day but Thursday and have tried to drink a couple of gallons of water. My weight has gone up by a grand total of 1 pound.

It continues to amaze me how little movement it takes to equalize the calorie intake/usage equation; and if you can, as we Southerners say, “Act like you’ve got some sense,” about eating most of the time, you see a slow but sure difference on scales and in the mirror.

Now, if we’ve never met, I’ll confess I’m more cube-like than svelte. But, by keeping moving (and keeping my consumables moving by drinking lots of water) I can successfully fight a holding battle the next 6 weeks.

For too many of us the holiday season turns into a four-month spiral. The first week of January is bowl week and that leads to college basketball getting serious and the NFL playoffs/Superbowl, and then March Madness…with non-stop food mostly eaten while sitting/lying around.

I realize I’m spinning a lot of this through sports and not everyone likes sports, but let’s be honest, we all have our excuses; if it isn’t sports it’ll be something else.

Why am I yammering on about this? Because, recently, I’ve been seeing lots more information about how our energy levels have an impact on decision-making. If we don’t have a positive energy level we are slower, physically AND mentally; we are less creative; and our emotions are under less control. All that bad stuff starts happening when we try to mash more food through our bodies than we need.

So, here are three tips for the next 6 weeks: Try to get more steps in, drink more water, and get a little more sleep. 

Let’s keep up with each other to see how we’re doing.

(I was just asked if I wanted to split a piece of pumpkin cheesecake…SIGN ME UP!!!)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thankful for Clean Underwear

While getting dressed this morning I reached into a drawer and it was…full of clean underwear. I was struck by the thought of how many folks in the world don’t have a drawer—or clean underwear—or, underwear at all for that matter.

This is Thanksgiving week in the United States. It’s the starting point of the REAL holiday season; a time for gluttony, football, for families getting together so people can argue and laugh and draw names for presents a month from now…it’s a time for more.

In fact, it’s a week of expectations. Lots of folks are expecting the ritual of Thanksgiving lunch or supper (in the South we don’t say dinner). We desire, even expect, to have the same things this year that we had last year. If I ask you to describe Thanksgiving you’ll usually give me the meal you had throughout your childhood, and if you/we don’t have those foods or activities you’ll feel mildly or deeply disappointed.

We expect Crazy/Drunk Uncle/Aunt Charlie/Charleen to get wasted by mealtime, make scene, eat a big meal (or miss it) and go to sleep in the recliner while watching the Detroit Lions game. In fact, for the people of Detroit, if the Lions didn’t play on Thanksgiving Day, as the team has for decades, they’d think it was a sign of the Apocalypse. Thanksgiving is one of those occasions that ground us; prove to us that everything in the world isn’t in a wild state of flux.

When Thanksgiving rolls around we all too often think in terms of expectations—what’s to come—rather than thankfulness, what we have. 

So, this week I’m feeling thankful for good health, a good relationship, central heat/air conditioning, a work life that’s fun, a great brother, my mother’s journey over, a mind that stays on track most of the time…and clean underwear…and all that stuff is not, necessarily, in order of importance.

What are you thankful for this week?

Share this message with a friend as a way of showing them you’re thankful for them.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Stick With Me, This Ain't Goin' Where You Think It's Goin'

To begin: At this point, pretty much everyone knows that AI means Artificial Intelligence; computers, robots, smart houses, Fitbits.

One of the hottest areas of management thought and training now has to do with EI…Emotional Intelligence. According to Psychology Today magazine, “Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include 3 skills:
1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others;
2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving;
3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.”

There are tons of books written and training programs attended that are focused on helping us better understand ourselves and others.

In fact, when I ask people what some of the strengths of my programs are, what they tell me leads directly to me probably having a pretty high EI factor.

However, this morning I was watching a TED talk by Morgan Spurlock. It’s called, “The Greatest TED Talk Ever Sold.” It’s only 19 minutes and it’s one of the best presentations you’ll ever see. It gives a wonderful and damning behind-the-curtain look at marketing and PR. The key message is to embrace transparency.

In the video, Spurlock visits a psychologist who asks him what his brand is. After watching the video I asked myself that question: What is Mike Collins’ brand?

The answer I came up with was EI, but a different kind. My high EI is Energetic Immaturity. A long time ago, when I looked at most of the grown-ups around me it seemed that they weren’t having a lot of fun. Oh, they’d go to parties, cheer at games, laugh at jokes, get drunk and do silly things…but, they didn’t seem to be having a lot of fun; to enjoy life. 

If you mentioned fun to them they’d pooh-pooh it; “When you grow up you have to go to work and raise a family, it isn’t all fun!” The guy who was my big brother in my college fraternity is now a retired admiral. He and I had a discussion last year about the concept of fun and work and he totally dismissed it. God Bless him! We need serious people on the front lines.

But, that ain’t me. We also need people who see the absurdity of life, who’ll take risks, and who will be transparent about it.

I realize I’m going to be who I am—for good or ill—until the day comes that I’m called to the great clown car in the sky. I gave up on living a linear life a long time ago. In fact, about 30 years ago a shrink told me, “Mike, at some point in your life you made a decision to live a life that was not going to be like what you grew up in.” Amen.

What’s your brand? What would you like for it to be? Do you need to push a few boundaries? I’m betting the risks, the dangers, are mostly in your mind. 

It’s raining outside. I’m going to go play in the rain for awhile. I’ll be thinking of all you folks behind desks, delivering stuff, in meetings, and digging ditches. I truly do appreciate what you do, but I didn’t, and don’t, want to do that; so I haven’t.

What do you want to do? When you ask what’s stopping you, do you see any image other than your own face? If you do, you’re probably fooling yourself.

Monday, November 16, 2015

This Line Made Me Stop Pedaling....

The best book about decision-making I’ve seen in the last 10 years is What Do I Do Now?, by Dr. Charles Foster. I read, and reread, bits and pieces of it while on the stationary cycle at the gym.

Today, I ran across a line that jumped off the page at me…in fact, I stopped pedaling and read it three or four times: 
“…most of us are one or two decisions away from something wonderful. Not just a turning from the road to nowhere but a new start, on a better road that leads us somewhere we want to go.”

Foster goes on to say that good decision-makers often ask themselves one question to determine the key decision:
“What problems, needs, or situations am I not paying attention to that I must make a decision about?”

I immediately asked that question and came face-to-face with a couple of issues I’ve been dodging. 

Now, I have no problem identifying my weaknesses. In fact, like a lot of folks I probably spend too much time self-identifying them. But, for some reason, today, the Mike in my head said something different. Instead of saying, “Yeah, I know that’s an issue. I need to get something  done,” today heard, “Ok. It’s time to do something about these things. Let’s stick a deadline to’em and figure out two specific steps for each that I can take to get closer to getting them done.”

What decisions have you been dodging?

Try this; Ask yourself three questions: 
1. What is my deadline for starting (not finishing) the issue?
2. What two specific steps can I take to get started?
3. What reward am I going to give myself for starting?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Cigars, Beer and a Better Life

I’m going to ask you to hang with me here, but I might as well say, “So long! Have a great weekend!” to a bunch of you because this is one of those messages a lot of you will tune out, cut off, delete, or ignore when you see the two word topic:

Your Health.

Now that the see ya! group has left the room let me start out in a way you hadn’t imagined.

Last night I was sitting on the porch watching a beautiful sunset, smoking a great Arturo Fuente Double Chateau cigar and drinking a wonderful Belgian beer, Stella Artois (see what I mean about the start?).

And yes, some of you are rolling your eyes with, “That sounds pretty hoity-toity, Mike,” and I get that. But, I don’t smoke anywhere near as many cigars as in the past and I’ve cut my beer consumption to 10-12 gallons a week, so I might as well go with the best. (Just kidding about the gallons)

I was reading an article in the December issue of Mens Journal magazine: Training Secrets of Aging Pro Athletes. Some of the stuff I’m doing; lifting weights, trying to eat better, fitting more cardio into my life (Elaine busts me about parking as far from the front door of the grocery store as I can so we get a few extra steps walking in…if it was up to Elaine we’d drive into the store and shop from the car ). Some of the strategies mentioned I’m not doing; like flying to Europe to get stem-cell therapy at $25,000 an injection.

So, I’ve almost finished the first cigar and I’m on my third beer and I have an epiphany; one of those moments in which an idea explodes with startling clarity. (Are you like me? As your blood-alcohol content goes up so do the number of great ideas you have? An electric dog polisher?!! Man, everyone would love one of those!!!)

Here’s the idea: While we realize that improving our health often increases our longevity, do we understand that it also increases our confidence? Better health allows us to work more effectively and make better decisions in all areas of life.

I immediately made a connection with the people in the entrepreneurship classes and change seminars I teach. Most of us  don’t connect better health and the broader impacts it has on our lives. We think, “Yeah, yeah. I need to exercise, lose some weight and I’ll live longer.” What we don’t think about is the impact better health has on a whole range of other issues. If you are going to start a small business or you’re going through life/work changes you’ve got to be more confident, healthier, fitter, quicker, smarter in order to survive.

How do you feel when you drop a few pounds? Pretty good, huh? And, get away from that negative, “I’ve lost five, but I need to lose 15!” Five pounds is five pounds. Keep doing what you are doing.

Anything that increases your confidence is a good thing in today’s world. There’s so much negativity and life seems to get more challenging in many areas on a daily basis. You/we/I need all the confidence we can get. To think that we can get more confidence and better health by walking a few more steps, biking a little, doing a dance/aerobics/Zumba class, or actively gardening…that’s a pretty cool and easy deal.

The two cigars and four beers I had last night had me feeling pretty confident by the time the football games came on, and I had three pages of notes, great ideas, to work on (some of which I could actually read this morning). But, I understand that I can’t use cigars/beer as the foundation of a better health program. What I have discovered, having dropped over 30 pounds since Summer ’14, is that I enjoy the cigars and beer more since they are special events instead of every night occurrences, and I’m healthier so I don’t feel as slow the next morning.

Speaking of that, it’s late morning and I’m late for the gym.

See ya, have a great weekend…and walk somewhere!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Where Does So Much of Life Go?

On a trip to present a seminar in the mountains we passed a house and happened to see a wonderful example of yard art. There was a commode beside the driveway…with flowers in it. 

I blew past it at about 70 miles and hour and thought, “Did I see what I think I saw?” I hit the breaks, turned around, and checked it out. There was a matching commode on the other side.I loved it!

Whoever lives in that house has a sense of humor. In fact, if I’m ever blasting down that road again I’d love to pull in and simply find out who they are. 

Living life has to include some fun. If you can’t look at some of the challenges you face with an understanding that life is often ridiculous, it’ll drive you crazy.

You don’t have to have a commode outside your house, but if you can’t laugh at life every now and then you’re not living life.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I'll Figure Something Out

One of my potential clients is running into a couple of obstacles that need to be overcome before we can do a seminar. Yesterday, I received an email from the person in charge of the logistics and she told me not to worry, “I’ll figure something out.”

You’ll what? Am I reading that right?

“I’ll figure something out.”

How refreshing is that?! 

Too often people spend most of their time telling you why something won’t work, can’t work, never will work…and oh, by the way, I’m on break in a few minutes

“I’ll figure something out.”

Recently, I read a management piece that said managers don’t want to hear, “What do you want me to do next?” They want to hear, “Can I try this?”

“I’ll figure something out.”

Initiative, or lack of it, is clearly one of the biggest issues in the workplace today. I hate to sound like an old dope, but the most frequently heard complaint (deserved or not) by managers about Millennials is the lack of initiative.

“I’ll figure something out.”

I’m thinking about printing the phrase in big letters and framing it.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Am I Crazy?

I’m in the early stages of a project that most of my friends think is crazy. 

My favorite reaction has been that of my brother and one of my best friends; they simply changed the subject. I told them about the idea and after a short, uncomfortable silence they both said, “Well, that’s great. Now…..” and they moved on to talk about something else.
A VERY small number of people have had comments such as:
-   This could work.
-   This is interesting.
-   Are you sh****** me! This is great!!
-   Man, this could be a gold mine!

Every morning when I wake this is the first thing I think about, and it’s the last thought on my mind before I go to sleep. In between, my thoughts run from the peak of confidence to sheer terror. I can tell my blood pressure is up and I spend too much time feeling like I should be trying something that makes more sense.

Like many of the projects I’ve come up with no one I know has ever done anything like this. So, it ain’t like I’ve got a road map.

If you’re running into a situation like this I can offer three suggestions:
Focus. What’s the most important thing you need to do RIGHT NOW that moves the project forward?
Action. Do SOMETHING. Keep moving (even if it’s one step forward and two steps back) and eventually you start seeing the project coming into shape.
Relax. Find healthy ways to relax and get it off your mind…or, at least be able to get to a point for a short time that it isn’t foremost in your mind for awhile.

I’m trying my best to believe this is true: “Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life and see how life suddenly starts working for you, rather than against you.”

Eckhart Tolle, Philosopher

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Shut Up About The Golden Rule

Yesterday, in a seminar about marketing to Millennials, the Golden Rule Issue came up again.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The discussion centered around customer service and someone said, “The basic philosophy in customer service should be The Golden Rule.”

When I said I didn’t think that was true it got really quiet.

We were having the seminar in the community room at a Pizza Inn (I know, nothing but the most lavish venues for me!) and I asked the questioner, “Tell you what, if I asked you to go to the buffet and get me a plate of pizza what would you bring back?”

He said, “Pepperoni, sausage, cheese and maybe some of that desert pizza with cinnamon and icing! I love that stuff!”

(Is your mouth watering?!)

I asked, “Why those choices?” 

“Because that’s what I like and I think that’s what most people like. Those are the most popular choices.”

I said, “So, you would be doing to me what you would like to have done to you, The Golden Rule, right?”


I said, “Ok, if you did that for me I’d thank you for your kindness and then tell you that I have a reflux problem and can’t seem to eat pepperoni, sausage or bacon without having a reaction that feels like a heart attack.”

I asked the group, “What’s the solution here?”

They agreed that taking a moment to ask what I liked would be the quickest way to get me what I would like and could eat.

What they revealed—in a very practical way—is The Platinum Rule.

Do unto others the way they would have it be done to them.

In customer service, in any kind of relationships (personal/community/global), the key is The Platinum Rule.

Someone quickly offered the thought, “But there are some customers who want everything for free! How do you deal with them?”

You suggest that your product or service is not for them. You can’t make everyone happy. You can’t serve everyone.

And yes, this point goes to everything from individual relationships such as marriage, to global relationships between nations. 

People want what they want, and what they want may not be what you want.

Do unto others the way they would have it be to them.

If you're smart (and I think if you're reading this you're really smart!), you'll take a moment to think about the relationships in your life. What do they want?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

100 Days to Go

100 Days.

Here’s the cool thing about today. There are 100 days left in 2015.

So, whataya gonna do with 100 days?

You know and I know that there’s some dream/project/idea/ambition/responsibility/job/…some something you’ve been promising yourself (and, maybe others) you would get done this year.

100 days.

Today is a great day to create a plan to make the dream a reality; to fulfill the responsibility. There’s something that, at the end of the year, if you complete it, you’ll be able to look back, feel great, and say, “I did it!”

100 days.

I’ve got a couple of projects I’ve been working on and I have to say that I need to pick up speed on them. So, I’ve got a calendar and a marker and I’m going to number the days as they pass and hold myself…

***you know what? I just started to write, “try to hold myself responsible”….and that ain’t it. Trying doesn’t get it done. Here’s what I’m going to do: By January 1 I will have 3 books on Amazon. One novel and two non-fiction books. Also, I’m working on a project called Liar’s Gold, and by January 1 it will be up and running with a website.

100 Days.

If I don’t have those projects completed I pledge to donate $500 to a political candidate whom I believe is absolutely worthless. And I’ll write about it and confess to the failure and donation right here in the blog.

If you know a worthless candidate to whom YOU would not want ANYONE to contribute money send me a comment at mcollins62@gmail.com and I’ll see if your worthless candidate is the same as mine.

100 Days.

So, there you go! The challenge has been issued, the punishment laid out. The reward will be seeing these projects completed.

100 Days. 

What will you do with them?

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Rhythm of Slack

Recently, two seminar attendees offered truths I’ll be passing on to others for years to come.

The first was a new supervisor who noted that some of his employees had gotten into a Rhythm of Slack

(If, for whatever reason, you aren’t familiar with this use of the word slack, it means, characterized by a lack of work or activity)

He said, “They do just enough to keep their jobs, and they’ve been doing that for years. So, they’ve gotten into a rhythm of slack and it’s almost impossible to pull them out of it.”

I started looking around at my life and realized that, in some areas, I’ve gotten into a rhythm of slack. Now, it isn’t that there aren’t some areas of life in which it’s fine to put yourself on autopilot. In fact, as humans we do it all the time, it’s a way to conserve energy for the really important things.

But, most of us profess to have certain goals in life; accomplishments that would mean a lot to us and that we want to see realized. Then, we slide into a rhythm of slack and, years later, we say, “Well, it would have been nice if that had happened, but it just didn’t work out.” The reason it didn’t happen is because we got slack.

Look around. Have you eased into a rhythm of slack in important areas of life? I know I have. Seems like a good time to pick up the pace.

I’ll tell you about the other comment in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hack Your Life

Here goes a flat-out endorsement. 

As much as I appreciate you reading the blog, as soon as you are through reading this you need to go to lifehack.org. You’ll find tons of great suggestions for work, travel, health, and other important life issues. 

The thing I love about lifehack.org is that almost all the articles are in list fashion so you might not be able to use everything you read, but there’ll be something in there that was worth your time.

I know there are tons of sites begging for attention, like this one, but
 lifehack.org is worth a moment.

See ya there.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Please! BLUF Me!!

Yesterday, my brother and I spent about 3 hours on a roadtrip to do some family business. I don’t get to spend enough time with him and we both enjoyed laughing and talking about what’s going on in life.

Joe has two life experiences I do not; he has two daughters (I don’t have children of my own), and he served in the Navy (I didn’t have the honor and privilege of serving in the military).

We were talking about talking, about communicating information to people so they get it. I’m probably bad about giving too much information. I believe having the background can often help someone place the event/fact/instructions within the framework of their lives in such a way that it sticks more easily…see, that was probably more information than you needed/wanted.

Joe said that in the military there’s a communication strategy known as BLUF…Bottom Line Up Front. 

He said, “It’s different than when you simply say to someone, ‘Let me cut to the chase.’ To me, that phrase seems to infer that you don’t care so much about them as you do about getting on with the situation for your own good.”

I thought that was a pretty perceptive way to look at what a lot of folks see as a simple communication tool.

“But, if you preface the situation by explaining, ‘In the military there’s a strategy called, Bottom Line Up Front, where you give the end result desired or what will seem to happen at the completion of the project at the beginning of the conversation. Do you mind if I start with the Bottom Line Up Front?”

As he explained, it’s a good, caring, courteous way to pare away a lot of extraneous information and, in fact, get to the bottom line…or, the chase, if you like that better. Then, you can ask if they need clarification, more info, or a different way to explain. If they do, give them what they need; if they don’t, great! You’re ahead of the game on time and effort.

The Bottom Line at the End here is, my brother is one of the best people I know…and smart. But, don’t tell him…it might go to his head…and then I’d have to give him the Bottom Line Up Front.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How Old Do You Think?

The new Cigar Afianado magazine has an interview with Academy Award-winning actor, Robert Deniro. I know he’s a wonderful actor, I love his work, but if you’ve ever seen an interview with him you know he’s a terrible interview. Looks uncomfortable, gives monosyllabic answers, always seems like he’d rather be anywhere but where he is. I keep thinking that for most interviews, they could simply use an empty chair, or print the question, then print a blank space where the answer would be.

Having ranted about that, though, he offered a profound, one-sentence answer to a simple question.

Deniro is 72 and was asked: How old do you feel?

He said, “I feel as old as I think.”

No pun intended…or, pun intended, if you like…think about that.

“I feel as old as I think.”

How old do you think? I think pretty young…I think. And, thinking young can happen if you are open to new ideas, always exploring, have some regular contact with younger people. 

You don’t have to memorize all the random young actors/actresses, musicians, YouTube stars and athletes in the news. But, when a name pops up your response should probably not be, “Don’t know who they are and don’t care.” That sort of response gets you isolated.

My friend, Elaine, has a great strategy for one area of life…music. As she travels she spins through a wide range of stations and listens to a little bit of a lot of different kinds of music. I’m always amazed when a song comes on that I’ve never heard and she’s singing the words.

How old do you think?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Burgers, Baseball and Being Better

Once a year the folks who run the Graduate Liberal Studies program at Duke University sponsor a get-together at a Durham Bulls game. Yesterday,  at the event, I had the great pleasure of reconnecting with a number of folks who have been positive forces in my life.

If you don’t have the opportunity to be around people who’ve been supportive of you, you need to create a situation like that. It reminds you of the good things about yourself (for many folks that happens waaaaay too seldom) and prompts you to think about new, creative, positive ideas…well, at least that’s the effect the function had on me.

If you are fortunate enough to live with someone who is positive and supportive, as I am, it’s easy to take that sort of feeling for granted because you experience it every day. If you’re lucky like that you need to show them you appreciate their caring.

But, if you don’t have the type of support that pushes you to new heights, you’ll have to cultivate positive relationships and do a consistent job of staying in touch.

Too often, we get invitations or opportunities to attend functions in which we can recontact with good people, but the possible negative feelings or contacts keep us from the good stuff. Don’t let the bad outweigh/overcome the good.

Fall is coming. Depending on your interests that can mean all kinds of events at which you have the opportunity for reconnects and new relationships. Take the chance! If you don’t, you can end up one of those old, negative whiners who spends all their time at home saying, “No one ever calls!”