Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson Challenge: Day 1

I have committed to a 30 day challenge via the Domino Project. Today's prompt: Write the story that must be written. I have 15 minutes. The timer is set and running.

My assumption is I only have 15 minutes to speak my piece. I would address my family and friends with these charges:

1. Love someone for who they are. Do not be angry with someone for who they are not.
      I have heard way to often, "So and so is great, if I could just change a few things..."  Newsflash: if you are talking about an adult those things aren't going to be changed. It is a take it or leave it proposition. If you plan on keeping the things you like and changing the things you don't, good luck. This is no way to love. Love it all or not at all.

2. Charge ahead, no regrets and don't look back.
     Hindsight is better than 20/20. When faced with a decision, mull over the options, evaluate the positive and negative. Then make your decision, charge full speed ahead and accept the consequences good, bad or in between. Forget "If I had known..." or "I should have..." In both cases you didn't so make your decision work.

3. When facing an opponent with a different viewpoint, view the situation thru your opponents eyes.
      This problem is all around. Two opposing viewpoints choose to air their differences by restating their own viewpoint in ever increasing volume and bombast. If you want to get somewhere, argue your opponents view and walk a mile in their shoes. That's the beginning of finding common ground.

4. Embrace all you have.
     There are those with more and those with less. Always, Cherish what you have. It may not be all that you'll have forever, but it's what you have today.

Would love feedback from all. What would you charge your loved ones? What did I miss or should have left out? Hey, if I ever only get 15 minutes, I want to get it right.  There's the timer.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day: No Words

I felt it is important to post about Memorial Day but the words escape me. What do you say about those that were willing to lay down their lives to protect my freedom to flip burgers and buy large screen TV's?  I realize words are insufficient to pay tribute to soldiers (past, present and future) and their families for the sacrifice they have endured so I needn't sacrifice. In place of words, I can offer some numbers:

Total casualties (dead and wounded) from the Revolutionary War through current day:   2.5 million
Total population of Chicago, IL: almost 2.7 million

POW/MIA since WWII still unaccounted: over 83,000
Total McDonalds, Burger King and 7-11 worldwide: approx. 83,000

Countries arising from the Revolutionary War: 1

Without our veterans, there might not be an us and there wouldn't be a U.S.

Before I flip burgers (and holidays are for spending time with family) or buy a large screen TV (I've worked for it and I'm worth it) I'm going to dedicate some time to our soldiers killed in war. Why not join me? 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

ROL: You Shouldn't Say No to H2O.

Return on Life (ROL) is an adaptation of the popular financial metric, Return on Investment (ROI). ROI measures the dollars generated as a function of the dollars spent on a project. ROL is about ways to make small changes or additions that can significantly improve quality of life. Here is this week's ROL.

I was justed solicited on LinkedIn to join a new MLM. This new organization sells just one product, a magic elixir. How much should I pay to join the MLM in order to sell a beverage with the following properties:

  • Relieves fatigue thereby increasing energy.
  • Helps cure headaches without the need for NSAIDS.
  • Reduces occurance and duration of muscle cramps.
  • Supresses appetite without any additives that require the FDA to pull it off the market.
  • Flushes ingested toxins and simultaneously nourishes cells.
  • Reduces wrinkles and keeps eyes bright.
As you know from the title of the post, the stuff about the MLM is fiction. The Magic Elixir is water.

Adding water to your daily fluid intake has multiple benefits and costs next to nothing. Nutritionists, physicians and trainers suggest drinking 8-10 8 oz. glasses of water daily (a little more than 1/2 gallon) to replace normal fluid loss. The amount you should drink increases in hot weather or with strenuous activity. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Grilling Myself For A Better Me.

It is almost summer time. As Memorial Day draws near, I had better be ready to grill. My family loves grilled food. As the man of the house I take pride in the art of charring steaks, blackening hot dogs and mangling fish, all done on my gas grill.  I knew the grill needed a good cleaning and made that task Sunday’s priority.

A grill should be cleaned after each use and thoroughly at least three times a year. I don’t stick to that schedule. I scrape the hot grates before every use. As for a total cleaning, there is a first time for everything. That’s probably why I had a hard time starting the grill at the end of last summer.

The cleaning took about three hours and was very messy. I used lots of elbow grease and removed lots of gunk.  I found a couple of parts that although functional are worn through and will need to be repaired or replaced. Perhaps had I been more attentive on a regular schedule, these parts would still be almost like new. Then I thought, if this is what’s happening with my grill, what about me? When is the last time I reviewed, reevaluated and readjusted that which makes me, me?

Think about it. If I only engage in self evaluation when I’m having problems “starting up” I’m probably close to losing something dear, or on pace to lose someone important in my life. Perhaps something is broken beyond repair.  If I stick to a regular schedule, I can appraise and adjust prior to the occurrence of a crisis. And if I self examine on a daily basis maybe, just maybe I can keep everything running like new.

Tires, grills and even computer hard drives need scheduled maintenance. Shouldn’t I pay the same attention to my spiritual needs, that which makes me unique?  After all, if I don’t keep myself in good working order, how can I be of service to anyone else? How do you keep your "self" fresh and in good working order?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

ROL: The Truth

ROL is an abbreviation of the words Return on Life. ROL is the "live a fuller life" counterpart of the financial measure ROI. The concept of ROL is to make small, simple, incremental life changes that have to potential to pay off big time. This week's ROL is about telling the truth.
When it comes to the people you love, telling the truth is not an option. With those you love, the truth is the ONLY option. For those that think telling the truth may not always be simple. In response, let's take a look at a current news story:  Sen. John Ensign resigns his seat in mid-April before the results of a Senate ethics committee investigation were released.

Sen. Ensign (a married man) had an affair with Cynthia Hampton. Ms. Hampton worked for Senator Ensign's campaign and her husband was a staff member for Senator Ensign. The Hampton family was dependent solely on Senator Ensign for their livelihood. During the affair, Sen. Ensign listed Ms. Hampton as Aunt Judy on his cell phone. Sen. Ensign also set up email to connect with Ms. Hampton, as opposed to using his Senate account. Ms. Hampton wanted to end the affair. Senator Ensign did not want to end the affair. Ms. Hampton did not want her family to lose it's only source of income, (which included housing and private school tuition), therefore she continued the affair. Given his position as her de facto employer, it could be concluded that the coercive nature of the relationship constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace. Were this the only law broken it would be a very sad story. The harassment is only the tip of the iceberg.

Both Mr. Hampton and Mrs. Ensign learned of the affair.  Mr. Hampton quit his position on Ensign's staff and Mrs. Ensign had Cynthia Hampton fired. Mr. Hampton wanted significant restitution(it is illegal to pay severance to campaign staff). Sen. Tom Coburn became involved in smoothing things over for Sen. Ensign. Sen. Ensign's stepfather and mother paid $96,000 to Ms. Hampton. Mr. Hampton received a job with a lobbying firm(it is illegal for a former staffer to lobby their employer for a year).

Sen. Ensign denied the payments from his parents were severance and had his parents sign two prepared affidavits that stated the $96,000 was one of many gifts given to the Hamptons. Sen. Ensign had documents about the affair destroyed. Sen. Coburn stated that his conversations with Sen. Ensign were privileged based on Sen. Coburn being a licensed physician and a church deacon. Sen. Ensign steered clients to Mr. Hampton.
Mr. Hampton lobbied Sen. Ensign's office within the prohibited time period.

Mr. Hampton is indicted for violating federal statute for lobbying a former employer during the disallowed time frame. Cynthia Hampton has filed for divorce and bankruptcy. The Senate Ethics Committee report is released. The results have been forwarded to the US Dept. of Justice for possible criminal prosecution. It is possible that Sen. Ensign's parents and Senator Coburn will be investigated for violating federal law.

The moral is not about extra marital affairs. They happen and everyone has their own opinion about affairs. The moral neither indicts nor exonerates Sen. Ensign or Ms. Hampton for their choice of extracurricular activity. The moral goes back to telling the truth.
I can't imagine it's easy or fun to tell your spouse you are having sex with someoone else. I expect in most cases it would be an uncomfortable and messy scene. The truth might even lead to divorce, but look at Senator Ensign. The cover up of the lie has also led to divorce: and bankruptcy, ethics investigations, indictments, possibly prison and the end of a career in public service. 

The moral is the truth might not be simple, convenient or fun. 
Still, compared to any other option, the truth is about as simple as it gets.
Speaking of simple things with great returns, check out "It Starts With Us". Each week you get a 15 minute mission via email. When you're done, you share your thoughts with others in the group's forum. This week's mission is microvolunteering via Sparked.com. I helped a non-prof with their mission statement. Adding to "A Life Well Lived", 15 minutes a week. It can't get any simpler.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The 1st Return On Life (ROL) is About The Last Word.

I'm a big fan of Social Media and it's extension, Social Media Marketing. Use of Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, HubPages, etc.) to find and nurture a cleint base and grow a brand appears on the surface to be a soft science. Soft Science (difficult to quantify), pretty as it might be is a major headache for consultants. Consultants don't get paid for programs/campaigns they are unable to prove quantitatively. Therefore, Social Media consultant's most favorite initials are, in this order, ROI. ROI is an abbreviation for Return On Investment. ROI is loosely defined as what you get back ($$$$$$$) from what you put in ($$). The greatest return for the least investment provides the highest ROI. The greater the ROI, the more a consultant can charge.

I want to take the ROI concept and bend it, just a little. I plan to write about small changes anyone can make that provide great returns in quality of life. I'm going classify these thoughts together under Return On Life (ROL). Sometimes these small changes will be physical (diet, exercise). Other times these small changes will be attitudinal (engagement, conversation, thought). At all times, the concept will be a small change with the potential of a huge payoff in enjoying life, or ROL.

ROL will appear weekly, on Thursday. Here is the first ROL.

There is tremendous weight given to the last word. When someone is dying their last words are a charge to their survivors (at least on every Lifetime movie). In a criminal trial the attorney for the accused gets to offer closing arguments last. So if your dying or a defense attorney you should have the last word. In all other cases, let it go.

You must know someone that always needs to have the last word. Perhaps it's someone you love and maybe even someone you see in the mirror every morning. Speaking for myself, it's hard to spend time with someone that must have the last word. When I'm with someone that must have the last word, I find myself becoming aggressive just so I can get the last word this one time. Inevitably, the person I'm with(only because I can't get away from them now) falls into the same behavior. Now both of us are competing to get the last word, merely so the other doesn't get the last word. Small wonder we don't enjoy being with each other. Hopefully the kids are off doing something and not watching a conversation going nowhere.

No one wants to feel like they give in on any argument. Worse yet, no one wants to be classified as someone willing to cave on any argument. When involved in a passionate discussion (okay, heated argument) it sucks to give in.  Fortunately, I wasn't describing an argument or even a passionate discussion.

No, the example wasn't an argument. A comment was made about something seen or overheard. The comment was ironic, wry, humorous or snarky. A following comment was an attempt (perhaps successful) at wryer, snarkier, funnier or more ironic. The third comment tries snarkiest, wryest, most ironic or most humorous. As the "wash, rinse, repeat" cycle continues, nothing is funny, snarky, ironic or wry. The jokeoff participants are bored or frustrated. Any spectators are comatose. It's a great big waste of time.

It's time to try things a bit differently. When faced with a s(n)ide comment game of "Can You Top This?" offer one comment, two at most and simply stop. There is no longer a competition. No bored or frustrated jokers, no somnolent observers. Conversation ensues much quicker. It's time to approach a tougher challenge. 

In an argument, decide as it starts that you will not have the last word. State your point and challenge opinions offered as facts. Listen thoroughly and patiently. Reframe the conversation and if at all possible agree to disagree and be done. Make a game of it and keep score. See how many times someone else gets the last word. Your loved ones will be happier. You'll be happier. The neighbors will be happier. Everyone wins.

The last word on the last word: Like the last cookie, let someone else have it. What are your thoughts and strategies on letting someone else have the last word? 

A Little Help From My Friends.

When you take another person's work as your own it is plagiarism. When you do the very same thing but give credit, it is research. Using these parameters I have been engaged in research this morning to pull together this post.

As I opened my email this morning I found a great post from Sarah Robinson. The essence from this post, "Five Percent Better" is that standing out does not take a Herculean effort. It is not necessary to give yourself a complete "no prisoners taken, balls to the walls" makeover. Just choose one thing and do it 5% better. Make a commitment to doing that one thing 5% better consistently. Attempting a full makeover is overwhelming and keeps us stuck in place. Doing one thing 5% better can start today and pay dividends tomorrow and every day after that. That incremental change executed daily actually moves you forward at a very rapid pace.

A few minutes later, another post appeared in my Facebook stream. This post, "Competing for Who Is Most Stressed" is from Gini Dietrich. Simply restated, Gini talks about the stress at her PR firm, Arment Dietrich with the launch of Spin Sucks Pro. Early in the week, Gini feels she is a supportive listener to her staff. As the week goes on (and her patience and energy lag) she spends more time fueling the fire with her share of  "You think that's bad? This is what I have to deal with". As a result, neither Gini nor her team are feeling or dealing any better. Until today, as Gini vows to stop adding her tales of woe.

Wow, Gini found her 5%. Listen, empathize, commiserate and stop there. It's good advice for everyone, not just business owners. When a friend, colleague, employee shares a story of challenge, frustration or sadness; they want you to listen. They want to know they're not alone. They are not looking to hear about the crap you are dealing with. Listen, lend support and stop there. If you need the very same thing, go to your support system. Don't make someone feel a need to reciprocate when they come to you for support; neither of you will get what you need.

Think about it. How much better a friend, colleague, employee, consultant you will be simply by listening. It's a small step, maybe less than  5%, but it does require discipline and consistency.  Find a way to do it and you will be leaps and bounds ahead of the crowd.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rock'N Role Models: Leadership lessons from unexpected sources.

This post was adapted from "We Are...not all we should be." from my blog Unemployed But Organized for the 21st Century on April 26, 2011.


The world of popular music and it's stars provide a multitude of abject lessons for us "commoners". Most of those lessons usually begin with "How not to..." or "Don't..." Once in a while, however, rock musicians go beyond the mantra of sex, drugs and rock and roll to lead by example.


I drove my daughter to school the other day. We were listening to the radio. The local "I play whatever I want" station was doing a Top 9 at 9 countdown. The year was 1985 and the #1 song was "We Are The World". For those too young to remember, "We Are The World" was recorded the night of the 1985 American Music Awards, after the show. The group of artists WAS POPULAR MUSIC in 1985, with some legends thrown in because they are legends. 26 years later, what lessons about leadership can we learn from "We Are The World".

Lesson 1: It's not about the time required to complete the project, it's about the longevity and continued relevance of the finished product.

"We Are The World" was recorded over the course of a week, primarily in one night. Post production ran about 5 weeks for a March 7, 1985 release, an incredibly short time in the world of popular music. Despite some negative reviews from critics (maudlin, over the top, complete plagiarism of "Do They Know It's Christmas") "We Are The World" still resonates today. "We Are The World 25 for Haiti" is a remake by today's pop stars in response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake disaster.

Acceptable leaders obsess over path, resources and length of time to completion without much concern for the product's legacy. Exceptional leaders recognize value lies not in how much time went into the project, but how in how long the product remains relevant.

Lesson 2: Leaders lead, even when following

You've probably heard the phrase "Check your egos at the door." This was the message producer Quincy Jones taped to the door as artists entered the studio to record "We Are The World". Superstars were willing to suppress their ego and work together to execute a plan. By following directions, their leadership by following made great things happen in a very short time frame. Sometimes the best way to lead is to show everyone how well you can follow someone else's plan. That's not very easy for those used to being in control, almost impossible for those with fragile egos.

Acceptable leaders are concerned with being in charge. Exceptional leaders lead, even when following.

Lesson 3: Leaders set (un)realisitic goals

"We Are The World" is a great lesson in setting (un)realistic goals. "We Are The World(s)" was successful at raising awareness of ongoing tragedy in the World. "We Are The World(s)" was also successful at raising funds for the cause(s). Still, there is hunger in Africa 26 years later and Haiti is still a disaster. The hunger and devastation that remain isn't the fault of the "We Are The World(s)" teams. There is only so much anyone or any group can accomplish. Still, I bet the recording artists wished they had done more, even with the understanding that it was impossible to correct all the bad in those regions. Sometimes results fall short even with outstanding effort. Establishing (un)realistic goals insures desired results when things fall short and "over the moon" results when goals are reached.

Acceptable leaders set moderate goals in order to protect their role as leaders. Exceptional leaders set (un)realistic goals to occasionally reach the moon but always reach the sky.

Finding inspiration where you expect inspiration isn't inspiring, it's mundane.

Disclaimer: My intent is not to self-classify as an exceptional leader, acceptable leader or for that matter, any type of leader. I apologize to anyone offended by my apparent auto-anointment as an exceptional leader.
This entire article evolved from hearing "We Are The World" on the rare occasion of driving my daughter to school. I wasn't planning on writing about leadership. I hadn't thought about "We Are The World". I didn't even know there was a remake of "We Are The World" until "We Are The World 25 for Haiti" showed up in the search engine results. Still, this post is now published and I'm proud to have my name on it.

Acceptable leaders consider mimicking another's success inspiring, usually during business hours. Exceptional leaders find inspiration from unintended sources at unexpected times.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is celebrated in many different countries and many different cultures. The origins of Mother's Day go back to Greece and Rome at the very least. For early Christians and in Great Britain, Mother's Day was celebrated during Lent as a tribute to the Virgin Mary, eventually inclusive to all mothers. In the USA, Mother's Day goes back to 1872 and originally included an anti-war component. With such an august history, why is it so hard to come up with gift ideas for Mother's Day?

Think about it. Mother's Day gifts go to our mothers, grandmothers and wives. We should know these women pretty well.  When we're young, all it takes is a hand drawn card. As we get a little older some trinket suffices. During high school and college taking Mom or Grandma out for lunch or dinner is always a success. Finally reach adulthood and ... Oh crap, brunch or flowers again.

In clarification, taking Mom to brunch on Mother's Day shouldn't qualify as a gift. Any mother shouldn't cook on Mother's Day. Say it with flowers? You're saying, I thought about your Mother's Day for less than 15 minutes. Jewelry might be great, but after time even that grows old(unless of course you can do it big.)  Is there a solution?  I might have one.

Go back to the first Mother's Day gift, the hand drawn picture. Clearly it's not the quality of the picture (or the craft) that made it a score. The magic of that picture was that it came from the little giver. It came with a piece of the giver. That strategy has worked for generations. There is no reason it shouldn't continue to work, especially utilizing today's technology.
For Grandma, if she has a computer but isn't on Facebook, set her up. Many grandparents are on FB to keep up with the Grandkids. FB too much tech? Set her up on Skype. Free video calls with the grands even just across town can really hit.

For Mom, how about a video tribute? A poem, song, montage (or combination) on a disk for posterity. To take it over the top, post the tribute to YouTube or Facebook. If it's a performance in her honor, you can live-stream on USTREAM.

For the wife (and mother of in house children) consider a coupon book. Chores, meals off, quiet time(an hour of no kids screaming) can be some of the coupons. Computer printed labels, index cards, a hole punch and yarn or lanyard for binding. Dads of in house children could consider giving your partner a coupon book a little later. The coupons could be PG, R, X or "Needs Fire Extinguisher" rated. Just remember, it's about her.

None of these cost much money. They do require spirit, but spirit's cheap. There's still time. A little imagination, a bit of yourself and go rock Mother's Day.