Thursday, December 30, 2010

A New Year's Resolution


A New Year's Resolution"


I’ve got a friend who polls her colleagues at this time of year and then publishes a list of notable New Year’s resolutions. Lots of lofty goals and ideas but I suspect that more thinking goes into coming up with those resolutions than actually following through on them. While I was pondering my resolutions for next year I noticed an article in the Wall Street Journal (by Elizabeth Bernstein on 12/28) that suggested a good resolution would be to focus on making 2011 a year of great relationships. She writes that we should “focus on the state of your relationships instead of the state of your abs.” Hey, that sounds good to me (so much for my repeated resolution about losing weight)!

We all get caught up in our own worlds, with our own problems and hopes and fears and we tend to make judgments about others that color our relationships and how we think of others. These issues (with a small “i”) aren’t nearly as important as making and nurturing and keeping the relationships we have. We all need to keep our focus on the bigger Issues (with a capital “I”) of family, friends, colleagues and community. Ok, so I admit that this is a recurring theme for me at the end of 2010, but then again isn’t this what the holidays are really all about??Anyways, I was impressed with Ms. Bernstein’s tips for improving interactions with those who matter most to us:
  • Share more
  • Make time to talk
  • Go outside together
  • Turn off the computer
  • Reach out
  • Make new friends
I’ll admit that these weren’t at the top of my list but of resolutions but now that I’m thinking about it, maybe they should be. Like most people, I find that the stuff I write about is as much aspirational as it is real, so I am going to redouble my efforts to follow through on the stuff like this and I encourage you to do the same. Take time this week to remember those you love and care about and to let them know. And make a resolution to be a better and more constant friend in 2011.  My year-end message is about integrity and the value of doing good and being good.

“The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right.”  -William Safire


William Lewis Safire (1929 – 2009) was an American author, columnist, journalist and presidential speechwriter.  He was perhaps best known as a long-time syndicated political columnist for the New York Times.

Just because you can doesn’t always mean that you should – that’s a lesson that everyone should learn. I realize it’s hard to learn this in the abstract but it’s often even harder to learn it through experience. This kind of learning often comes at the cost of having to suffer through the outcome(s) of some particular mistake. The key is to understand how things will be received and perceived by those it affects and to be sensitive enough to include these factors in your thinking and planning. That means you have to be open to the realization that you may be wrong and flexible enough to consider all of the options that may exist and confident enough to listen to all of the viewpoints that might exist and courageous enough to do what’s right. Which means you have to leave your ego behind. Which means you have to be more concerned about the ‘we’ than you are about the ‘me’.

So as you get ready to make your new year’s resolutions for 2011, remember your family, friends and colleagues: don’t take them for granted, don’t assume they’ll always be there even though you’re not, treat them the way you want them to treat you. These relationships should be the most important thing you commit to supporting in this coming year – because if you don’t, you may wake up one day and find them gone. And that would be a shame.

I hope you have a happy and healthy and prosperous and rewarding new year.

I’ll be back next year. 

Stay well.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Schnapps

jpeg.jpgSchnapps"



Here’s a Monday message to start this last week of 2010.

Everywhere I went last week I saw people carrying gift bags into stores and businesses – everyone was giving gifts to family, friends, colleagues, casual acquaintances and even those they didn’t know personally but knew they were in need. This reminded me of when I was a kid and my father would buy several dozen bottles of “schnapps” (that’s how he referred to all types of liquor) and give them to his best customers.  He’d buy the bottles, package them in colorful bags or boxes, carefully fill out the to and from information on those little note cards and then load them all into his car for delivery.  As the youngest, I would sometimes get to accompany him as he visited these customers and expressed his thanks. The warmth and sincerity of these visits and the feeling behind the giving impressed me because these were not only the friends and family that I knew from my childhood; this gift giving was a whole lot more inclusive than that. And from this I learned that everyone matters when it comes to saying “thanks”.

From this simple practice I learned several things:

•    Treat your family like friends and your friends like family
•    You shouldn’t wait for a special occasion to let people know that you care
•    Simple gestures mean a lot
•    A “thank you” goes a long way

So, from these lessons comes the real meaning of this holiday season. It’s a time to be thankful for all that we have, to be mindful of what having family and friends means and to never overlook or take for granted those around you who give and mean so much to you. Take time today to make sure you’ve expressed these sentiments to all who matter. And if you haven’t, well it’s not too late because it’s never too late to let someone know that you care.

My message this week has to do with actively participating in the things you do:

“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” -George Jean Nathan

George Jean Nathan (1882 – 1958) was an American drama critic and editor.  He graduated from Cornell University in 1904, where he was an editor of The Cornell Daily Sun. Noted for the erudition and cynicism of his reviews, Nathan was an early champion of Eugene O’Neill and co-authored with H.L. Mencken.

Elections are the ultimate form of participation and Nathan is right about the effects of not voting. The same can be said about participating at work: think what might happen if you do not get involved and make suggestions, if you hang back and let other less qualified people struggle without your assistance, if you look the other way when mistakes are made or if there are questions that you fail to answer completely. If you do not participate fully in these kinds of situations they might not turn out as well as they could or should. If you do not do all you can then you’ll always wonder if your participation might have helped improve things. Make a commitment starting today to get fully involved and then actively participate in the things that are happening in your world.  Don’t allow bad things to possibly happen because you didn’t.

Happy Holidays and Stay Well!

"Schnapps"



Here’s a Monday message to start this last week of 2010.

Everywhere I went last week I saw people carrying gift bags into stores and businesses – everyone was giving gifts to family, friends, colleagues, casual acquaintances and even those they didn’t know personally but knew they were in need. This reminded me of when I was a kid and my father would buy several dozen bottles of “schnapps” (that’s how he referred to all types of liquor) and give them to his best customers.  He’d buy the bottles, package them in colorful bags or boxes, carefully fill out the to and from information on those little note cards and then load them all into his car for delivery.  As the youngest, I would sometimes get to accompany him as he visited these customers and expressed his thanks. The warmth and sincerity of these visits and the feeling behind the giving impressed me because these were not only the friends and family that I knew from my childhood; this gift giving was a whole lot more inclusive than that. And from this I learned that everyone matters when it comes to saying “thanks”.

From this simple practice I learned several things:

•    Treat your family like friends and your friends like family
•    You shouldn’t wait for a special occasion to let people know that you care
•    Simple gestures mean a lot
•    A “thank you” goes a long way

So, from these lessons comes the real meaning of this holiday season. It’s a time to be thankful for all that we have, to be mindful of what having family and friends means and to never overlook or take for granted those around you who give and mean so much to you. Take time today to make sure you’ve expressed these sentiments to all who matter. And if you haven’t, well it’s not too late because it’s never too late to let someone know that you care.

My message this week has to do with actively participating in the things you do:

“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” -George Jean Nathan

George Jean Nathan (1882 – 1958) was an American drama critic and editor.  He graduated from Cornell University in 1904, where he was an editor of The Cornell Daily Sun. Noted for the erudition and cynicism of his reviews, Nathan was an early champion of Eugene O’Neill and co-authored with H.L. Mencken.

Elections are the ultimate form of participation and Nathan is right about the effects of not voting. The same can be said about participating at work: think what might happen if you do not get involved and make suggestions, if you hang back and let other less qualified people struggle without your assistance, if you look the other way when mistakes are made or if there are questions that you fail to answer completely. If you do not participate fully in these kinds of situations they might not turn out as well as they could or should. If you do not do all you can then you’ll always wonder if your participation might have helped improve things. Make a commitment starting today to get fully involved and then actively participate in the things that are happening in your world.  Don’t allow bad things to possibly happen because you didn’t.

Happy Holidays and Stay Well!

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Count Your Blessings"



jpeg.jpg


When’s the last time you reached out to someone and told them something? Like how you feel or what you’re going through or fears and worries that you have or what you’re doing or about your hopes and dreams or just simply about what you’re doing.  Did you do any of these face-to-face, using your voice, using all your senses, responding and reacting while sharing a real physical space in real time? Or did you just log on and connect with them via one of the oh-so-many cyber channels available today? If you’re like most of us, you used Twitter or Facebook or email or text messaging or something that used one of many devices we all have and love. And just as likely, you missed a chance to really share the human experience.

I’m old fashioned enough to still believe that being and interacting with people in the flesh (as they say) is better than connecting in cyberspace. Oh sure, it’s easier in cyberspace (like this email message) but I think there’s something to be said for writing a letter and putting a stamp on it and sending it in the mail or picking up the phone and dialing the number and saying hi and then talking live or sitting down with someone and watching and listening to them with your eyes and ears and all the rest of your senses. Yeah, Skype is cool, but being in the same real space and time with someone is way cooler and a whole lot more satisfying. If we don’t watch out, one day soon we’ll all just be staying in bed with our WiFi connections rather than the human connections that are so much better. When those old AT&T commercials used to encourage us to “reach out and touch someone”, I don’t think they ever envisioned that we’d be doing it in such impersonal ways. In this holiday season, when family and friends are so important, reach out in a more human way: in-person. I think you’ll be glad you did.

In this holiday season, it’s important to be more human than not, and not-for-nothing, my message this week is about life’s blessings:

“Reflect upon your blessings, of which every man has plenty, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”  -Charles Dickens

Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812 – 1870) was the most popular English novelist of the Victorian era, responsible for some of English literature's most iconic characters (like Ebenezer Scrooge). The continuing popularity of his novels and short stories is such that they have never gone out of print.

Counting one’s blessings often leads to the question of whether the proverbial glass is half full or empty – this age-old reflection in many ways points out clues to a person’s personality and style. If you look back on the things you’ve done, the results they produced, their impact on others and the effect they had on your life, you can’t help but see and compare the good versus the bad. And therein lies the basic challenge of life: were any or all of these more good than bad? Which is it? And what then can or will you do about it? In the end, it’s probably better to be an optimist about things, to see the good things and try to improve upon them and to recognize the not so good and find ways to improve them too. Do that, and you’re likely to be seen and heard and respected as a real person. And that’s a good thing!

Stay well!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"We're not in Kansas Anymore"




I love to read books – the kind that are bound and you hold in your hands and whose real paper pages your turn with your fingers.  I love to go to the public library and browse the real stacks where the titles and covers fire my senses and imagination.  I read one or two books a week and while I get totally into the plots and characters in each while I’m reading them, I often quickly forget them when I’m done and onto the next.  So on one of my recent visits I asked the librarian if the library kept a record of the books I’ve read (I thought this would/should/could be easy to do) – she looked at me and exclaimed: “No – that would be an invasion of your privacy and could be used inappropriately”. I was shocked that in this computer age this simple service would not be provided; but then I thought about what she said and I sadly had to acknowledge that this was probably the unfortunate result of the politically correct and sensitive world in which we live.  I guess they figure I have to be protected from those who would seek to harm me.

And then I saw in the papers this week that Google joined the e-book craze and will start to offer books in “the cloud”.  They boasted that people like me can now get a book, start it on an electronic reader, pick it up later on a mobile device and even later on finish it on a computer – and each time it would remember where the reader left off.  Clever!  I bet my librarian friend would ask what else would or could be remembered; I bet she’d complain that the folks at Google might compromise the privacy and protection that she boasted of. But, that’s not what’s bothering me: I want to know what the hell is going to happen to those bound editions that I love to hold in my hands and read? Where is this world going? I have no idea where we’re headed or what else will be challenged and possibly changed; I just know that I want to continue to read and I hope that this fast-paced and innovative world in which we live doesn’t somehow screw up that little pleasure that I treasure so much. Like Dorothy, I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore.  And if that’s the case, can somebody please tell me where in fact we are, and more importantly, where we’re going?

Books that are printed and bound, like so many other things in and around our lives, are both beautiful and grand and thus, not surprisingly, my message this week is about grandeur.

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” 
-Confucius

Confucius was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher, whose teachings and philosophy have deeply influenced Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese thought and life.  His philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity.

I bet your mother taught you “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and that you learned at an early age that not everyone sees things the same way you do.  These are simple lessons that, once learned, are invaluable. You learn to appreciate the things you like and they become both familiar and attractive; they please you more than they do others. You most likely also find that as you talk about the things that please you, others may find them more or less pleasing than you. That’s because each of us is affected by the lives we lead and the experiences we’ve had and these leave impressions on us that are lasting, influential and indelible.  It doesn’t mean that anyone is more right than another; it just means that we each have our own opinions.  

Be open today and learn to see the beauty in others and to accept the things that they see and believe are beautiful, whether you see them or not.

Stay well (and warm)!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Back Pages



"My Back Pages"

While channel surfing the other night I found John Sebastian’s infomercial on the folk music of the 1960s.  Having lived through that era I was amazed to see all the musicians from that time that are still at it (and what they look like) today.  Jesse Colin Young, Peter Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Roger McGuinn, the Chad Mitchell Trio and Barry McGuire.  McGuire, whose website describes him as a prolific singer, songwriter, storyteller and truth-seekerstill sounds the same when singing The Eve of Destruction but he sure doesn’t look the same.  Bald head and a leather biker outfit are his brand today and although he certainly represented the counter-culture back then, he looks more like it today than he ever did back then.  But regardless of his looks now versus then, he still has and sings with the passion of a real minstrel. 


The 60s were when the term ‘counter-culture’ really got its meaning – protests were everywhere and ideas and mores were changing faster and more dramatically then than at any time in the past.  We tend to forget the magnitude and pace of those changes in light of today’s internet-based speed of change.  But back then it wasn’t  the speed of change as much as the magnitude of what was changing that made those times so historically memorable.  From the election of John Kennedy, the civil rights protests, ground-breaking legislation, the anti-war movement to the man on the moon, that was a decade to remember and the songs on this info-show sure highlighted all that went on when so many of us were coming of age.  If there’s one thing that characterizes and defines that era, it’s passion.  In all of its Day-Glo color and rhetoric, the passion of the 60s was real and definitely found in its music. 

So not surprisingly, my message this week is about passion.

“It's hard to beat a person who never gives up.” 
-Babe Ruth

George Herman Ruth, Jr. (1895 –1948), best known as "Babe" Ruth was an American Major League baseball player from 1914–1935. He became one of the first five players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and has since become regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture.


Do you give up easily?  Sports figures are judged every time they step up to the plate - they could give up after missing so many chances but most of the time they don’t quit – they just get ready for the next pitch.  And neither should you give up if things don’t go exactly as you’d hoped – because eventually, if you work hard enough and practice long enough, and prepare well enough – you might become unstoppable.  That requires a burning passion for the things you’re doing, because passion is not a one-time or every-now-and-then thing; it’s a never-quit and always-show-it attitude that leads you and others to the finish line.  And if you make it to the finish line you just might win.  But remember:  you can’t win unless you try and it’s hard to beat someone who tries passionately to win and never gives up.

PS: As the infomercial ended, Roger McGuinn was singing these words from the Bob Dylan classic My Back Pages: “oh but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”.  Amen.

Stay well!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010



"The Sand Beneath My Feet"

I often go to the beach to watch and listen to the waves.  Not having grown up near the ocean, I never knew much about the tides and how they affect the beaches. Now that I’ve lived in Laguna Beach a few years, I’ve begun to notice how storm tides erode and then rebuild these sea-side landscapes: first there will be endless sand and then there will be only the rocks that were previously hidden beneath.

The same can be said about the lives we lead: we think we know what’s going on and then things change.  And like the sand on the beach, most things are not entirely what they seem and subject to change. Take a moment on this Thanksgiving weekend to notice and be thankful for all that you have.  And realize that like the sand on the beach, all that you know and have can change in an instant.

My message this week is about loyalty – something to give judiciously and to then be thankful (especially during this holiday of Thanksgiving) for all that it gives you in return.


“Loyalty is something you give regardless of what you get back and in giving loyalty, you're getting more loyalty; and out of loyalty flow other great qualities.”
 -Charles Jones

All of the great values we read and write about seem to be interconnected and loyalty may be the one at the hub of them all.  Think of the people and things you’re loyal to and then note the other great qualities that come from that loyalty.  Friendship, success, pride, professionalism, integrity, team spirit and passion are a few that immediately come to mind.  These are the qualities and values that you hope to find in others, and certainly they’re the ones to which you aspire.  But to get loyalty you need to give it and that means you must be true to your work, forgiving in your nature and understanding in a complex and competitive world.  Look for ways to give loyalty today and then start to see the loyalty (and all those other great qualities) that comes back to you in return. And if I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was another way to describe and define The Golden Rule.

Colonel Charles Edward ("Chuck") Jones (November 4, 1952 – September 11, 2001) was a United States Air Force officer, a computer programmer and an astronaut in the USAF Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program.  He was killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001, aboard American Airlines Flight 11.

PS: a Google search produced several individuals with the name of Charles Jones, and while I am not exactly certain which one was the author of this quote, my head and heart wanted it to be the adventurer noted here.

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Stay well!

Friday, November 19, 2010

I'm Only Doing This For Your Own Good


I traveled to Phoenix this week to give a speech to a group of hospitality GMs and HR leaders.  The speech was about things your Mother told you that apply at work, like: “I’m only doing this for your own good”.  It’s fun to watch the reactions I get when I ask people to raise their hands if their mothers said this and other things like: “this hurts me more than it hurts you”.  These gems (and lots of others) can be found in a book called Momilies – As My Mother Used To Say by Michele Slung - I highly recommend it as a source of smart things you can say to remind colleagues and friends about what’s important.  But I digress.

In the audience was a woman I recruited 22 years ago to be an intern during the opening of the Mirage.  Back then she was a UNLV Hotel School sophomore who wasn’t sure what she wanted as her concentration; she ended up working for me for the three remaining years of her undergraduate program and then I lost track of her.  Fast forward 22 years and she’s now the Director of HR at a major Scottsdale resort, and she told me she credits her career and success to things I told her all those years ago.  The moral of this story is that you never know what impact the things you say and do might have on someone.  I was thrilled to see the professional she’d become and humbled by the knowledge that my efforts helped in her development.  Take time this week to reach out to someone and help them to find their way.

My message this week has to do with deciding where to go in life:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the one who'll decide where to go.”  Dr. Seuss

To think like an owner, from your head to your shoes, is certainly something that that only the you that’s in you can choose.  For this you’ll need to work well with others and help them succeed, and always be looking to help with their needs. Also you must teach others to shut out the lights when there’s no one around, as you leap over tall hurdles in only one bound.  And at the day’s end when the work is all done, you’ll have steered a steady course for all and everyone – and they’ll know that you know the absolute way to go because you’ll have shown them all everything that they should all know.  So be an owner-like thinker from your head to your feet, and see how this helps you and your colleagues to never ever miss a beat.

Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel was born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. His mother often soothed her children to sleep by "chanting" rhymes remembered from her youth. He credited his mother with both his ability and desire to create the rhymes for which he became so well known.

Stay well!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Interesting experience this week: was asked to guest lecture in a class at Northwestern in Chicago; didn't have to travel because they had me "live" on Skype. Been doing some executive coaching: no longer a need to sit with someone, it is so much easier on Skype. Have always talked to my soon-to-be 90 year-old mother on the phone nearly every day: now she Skypes me. Like cell phones, Skype seems to be everywhere. It was founded in 2003 by a Swedish entrepreneur and developed by Estonian engineers - if that doesn't prove that the whole world is connected to this global economy then nothing will. 6.5 Billion people, all connected and working to change things - makes me feel like how my grandmother viewed airplane travel: I don't quite understand all of the wonder that is created around us. But I do know that we all must adapt to these changing times, and learn to use all the new ideas and tools that are available to us. Scary: yes; exciting: for sure; demanding: absolutely. And like exercise, this is what will keep us young and nimble and thoughtful as we bravely face each new day. Take time this week to look at what's coming from over the horizon - and learn all you can to be all you can.

My message this week is about the power of teams and the fact that "two heads are better than one".

“In order to have a winner, the team must have a feeling of unity; every player must put the team first -- ahead of personal glory.” Paul “Bear” Bryant

“Nothing but a winner”: that's how Bear Bryant described himself even before he broke the record that made him the "winningest" coach in the history of big-time college football. Every player on every team that he coached knew what victory demands of you every day of your life.

Big time coaches are always talking about “team”, and how there’s no “I” in team, and why everybody has to work as one in order for all to win. Every kid who ever watched the Three Musketeers learned about “all for one and one for all”. So when you go to work, or take on a chore at home, or play with friends, you know intuitively that it’s best to work together. You understand (like your mother told you) that “two heads are better than one”, and that “the load gets easier when everyone puts their shoulders to the wheel”. You know these things – so accept these truths, live them all the time, believe in them with all your heart, and let them create that feeling of unity that puts the team first – ahead of personal glory. That’s how to be a winner!

Stay well!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Great Mandala

I noticed in last week's local Laguna Beach paper that a group of Tibetan monks were here to create a sand mandala. Always having loved that old Peter Paul and Mary song "The Great Mandala", I ventured over to the church where they were working to see what this was all about. As I sat there and watched, the words from that song filled my head:

Take your place on The Great Mandala,

As it moves through your brief moment of time.

The monks worked without discussion or guidance as the shapes and colors took form - they were into their own thoughts and rhythms as the sand was shaken onto the design. And in the brief moment of time that I was there I began to feel a calm connection to what obviously had been known to them forever; and again, the words from the song:

And it's been going on for ten thousand years!

So take a deep breath, feel and experience all that is around you, and understand that what you do today forever becomes a of the vibrations of the universe. Be kind, respect others, do what's right, and above all treat others the way you want to be treated. That's what came to me as I watched this amazing display of discipline and craftsmanship.

This week's message challenges you to know where you want to go, and how you want to get there.

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” Confucius

Where are you going today, and how are you planning to get there?? Most would say the key to success is based largely on a positive attitude. This comes from believing in yourself, and being prepared intellectually and physically, and then having the courage to give it your all so that when you’re done you have no regrets. Many would call this self-motivation, others might say it’s stick-to-it-tiveness; but really it’s a matter of pride. Being proud of yourself, what you do, how you do it and the effect it has on others. So, whatever it is you’re involved in today – know why you’re doing it, understand how it needs to be done, take your time doing it right, and then finish and present it as if it were a gift to someone you love. Wherever you go today, whatever you’re doing today, however it needs to be done – go there with all your heart.

Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC) was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the ‘Spring and Autumn’ Period. His philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. Stay well!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trick or Treat

I love Halloween; I paint my face and put on my Uncle Fester stuff and generally have a great time - I'm so into this that I also have one of those bulbs that lights up in my hand or in my mouth. During these last days of October I can focus on little else. As a kid I couldn't wait to get into my costume and spend the night collecting more candy than I could carry in a pillow case. As a young adult I attended endless parties in hopes of extending this fun day beyond its 24 hours. As a parent I think I had more fun than my daughter - for sure I was dressed up long before she was. And for more years than I care to admit I'd work at scaring the kids who came to our door by designing costumes intended to scare them away empty handed. I was so excited this week when a client was having a Halloween Friday when I was scheduled to meet with them - I was up and 'painted' long before I was supposed to be there. You get the drift - I am in the spirit!

Let's admit it - life is supposed to be fun and there's too little of that to go around these days. When's the last time you had some fun - not the kind where you smiled politely, but the times when you and your friends, family and colleagues had a really good belly laugh together?? There's too much serious all around us - life, work and even stuff that's supposed to be playful - we need to have a little fun! Halloween is the one day when you're supposed to have fun - so get out and do it.

My message this week is about innovation, and how being in a fun environment helps promote that.

"If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play." John Cleese

John Marwood Cleese (born October 27, 1939) is an English actor, comedian, writer and film producer. He achieved success as a member of the Monty Python comedy group. He later co-founded the production company Video Arts, responsible for making entertaining training films.

Ok, I’ll admit it: I have been dying to use a quote by John Cleese. He’s a funny guy who always makes me laugh, and his creative endeavors have been very popular. In one of his more memorable productions he played the manager of a country inn called Fawlty Towers and his mantra was: "I could run this hotel just fine, if it weren't for the guests." A parody based on that statement is certainly understandable; but in the real world dealing with problem people is a challenge that requires you to be creative and positive and innovative in taking care of their needs. The key to that is never being cranky and disagreeable, and the way to do that is by staying focused on doing what’s right, being positive and having fun. You should develop relationships with your family, friends, co-workers and colleagues that are based on mutual understanding, respect, trust and admiration – those are the characteristics upon which you build real friendships. And friends like to play together and have fun. So, be friendly and have fun today, and see how creative and innovative you can be.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thunder and Lightening

I love thunder and lightening storms - when I was kid I remember lying in bed and watching the lightening and counting the seconds between its flash and the booming sound of the thunder to determine how far away the storm was. In my head I would always be counting: one-one thousand, two-one thousand and so on. We had those kind of storms all the time in upstate New York, and I loved the power and fury they brought, along with the sound of the rain on the windows and roof. California rarely has those kinds of storms now, but we had them this week and it immediately brought back all the sounds and smells and memories of those long ago storms. What's amazing is how little it takes to recall memories from our past - the sights and sounds and smells and emotions we grew up with. And as I laid awake in the night and watched this rare lightening illuminate the darkened room, I smiled at all the related memories that accompanied those long ago events. Life is full of memories - and they continue to vividly shape and define who we are today. Take time this week to remember all those things that made you what you are today, and to smile at the memories.

My message this week is about integrity, and how all that we learned throughout our lives continues to help shape who and what we are today.

“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters.” Alan Simpson


Alan Kooi Simpson (born September 2, 1931) is an American politician who served from 1979 to 1997 as a United States senator from Wyoming as member of the Republican Party. In 1997 he wrote a book titled Right in the Old Gazoo: A Lifetime of Scrapping with the Press.

It’s clear that integrity matters. You can do lots of things each day, and throughout your life, and in the end all that will be left will be your reputation. Think of all that you do each day, each month and each year – in the aggregate nobody will remember one thing from the next. But they will remember the tone and context of your efforts. Were you honest and trustworthy, did you keep your promises, could others rely on the quality and intent of your work, would anyone recommend you and your work to others?? These first three questions talk about the quality of each individual effort; the last speak to the caliber of the person. So much of what we do can be measured against the quality of similar work - what can’t be easily measured is one person’s character against that of others. In those instances, you stand alone, and will be judged alone. And in those instances, integrity matters.

Stay well.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Fate Loves the Fearless

I flew home this week and noticed several people with pillows getting on the plane. Having your own pillow when away from home is one of those 'comforts' that many can't do without. I sleep in lots of hotels and for sure most of the pillows there are nowhere near as comfortable (let along comforting) as the one on my own bed. And there too is another of life's comforts that we all crave - our own bed. Again, hotels may boast of their beds, but there's nothing like your own bed - how often have you heard someone say: "I can't wait to get back to my own bed" (how often have you said this yourself)? The point being: we're all creatures of habit and we like our own things. While this is good, we should also realize that there is so much more out there to discover that may one day make it into that group of comfortable things. So take a moment this weekend to notice all the things that you're so comfortable with - friends, a favorite sweater, the view out a window - whatever it is, recognize it and be thankful for it. And then keep an eye out for new things to get comfortable with and thankful for.

"Fate loves the fearless." James Russell Lowell

James Russell Lowell (1819 – 1891) was associated with the Fireside Poets, a group of New England writers who were among the first American poets who used conventional forms and meters in their poetry, making them suitable for families entertaining at their fireside.

I’d ask if you were fearless, but how many would admit that they’re not? In reality, most of us are less fearless than we’d like to be because to be really fearless involves taking risks and dealing with the unknown. Most people opt to stay in their comfort zones and when asked to participate they check to see if doing so is inside or outside that zone. Doing things with family and friends, offering to do something or get involved in school or at work, volunteering for a project in your community, making decisions – so many opportunities and yet so little courage. But it doesn’t have to be such a stark choice: every day you should take small steps to expand your horizons, to learn a little more about something, to practice new tactics and techniques, to grow your competencies and confidence, to go where you haven’t gone before. That’s how you build up your knowledge, skills and abilities, and start to expand those comfort zones. Start finding ways to be more fearless and then see where fate takes you!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Beauty of Renewal

I spent this past week hiking and driving around the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York and looking at the beautiful colors of the fall leaves. Like so many others, I try to I make this pilgrimage every year - not that I'm afraid I'll miss it - but because I want to see how time and nature continue with cycles that are timeless. In addition to the beauty, I am reminded of this process of renewal - the leaves change colors, they fall off the trees, and then next year the buds will grow and the process will start all over again. There's a comfort in knowing that life goes on and that we can be assured of these cycles - they provide the foundations of our lives and ease the transition from one season to another. And I am also reminded that time marches on, and that we should make the most of each of the seasons of our lives - to smell the leaves, to appreciate the beauty around us, and to be thankful for all that we're given. Take time on this holiday weekend to enjoy and appreciate all that you have - because even though beautiful things like these fall colors come every year, there's no reason to take them for granted.

My message this week is about professionalism and the need to see the glass that is our lives as always being half full.

"It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light." Aristotle Onassis

Aristotle Sokratis Onassis (1906 – 1975), commonly called Ari or Aristo Onassis, was a prominent Greek shipping magnate. His grandmother Getsemani always told him to remember: "men have to construct their destiny."

Life is full of good and bad - most professionals understand this and seek to balance their lives so either extreme doesn’t overly distract them. If you focus on all the bad stuff it will frustrate you, it will make you miserable, it will color everything you do. Sort of like thinking the glass is half empty. But, on the other hand, if you keep a positive attitude then all things are possible, you’ll have the confidence and courage to try new things, you’ll see all the opportunities that are in front of you. Sort of like the glass being half full. Onassis was right when he said to focus on the light – even in the depths of darkness (or when the glass is nearly empty) – that’s the time to take a deep breath and redouble your efforts to find ways to complete new things and be successful.

With the right attitude anything is possible, everything is doable and nothing is beyond your grasp. And once you try, you own your destiny. So, go on – focus on the light.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

An Extraordinarily Big One

This is a big week for me - I'm going to be 60. For the past several months, friends and family have all been quick to point out that 60 is the new 40. I gotta tell you: "I don't know what that means!" When I was growing up I clearly remember that I was most impressed with my father (and all the other parents of the kids I knew) when he was 60. People I meet today - personally and professionally - all seem to be most thoughtful and successful at that same age. So what's with trying to hide behind some false assumptions about age. We're all living longer and doing more longer, and there's no reason to make up something about when it's supposed to be really good. As I reach this milestone I have to admit that it ain't bad. Yes, I'll also admit that in my late teens and early 20s I thought anyone who was 60 was ancient, but now I can see how mistaken that was. Today I have less to prove; more experience, knowledge and perspective; a healthier attitude about being and doing good (personal/work/health) and a growing sense that I can help others with all that I have become. So forget about 60 being the new anything - it's 60. And I know with certainty that if I want 60 to be anything special, then I have to just get off my ass and make that happen.

This week's message is about how ordinary people can create or accomplish extraordinary things.

“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.” Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, (1919 – 2008), was a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer and philanthropist. In 1953 at the age of 33, he and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers’ known to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. He was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

Every day you take on lots of ordinary tasks; the trick is to then try to do something extraordinary with them. Successfully reaching this level relies on understanding what your goals are, and then it takes a great deal of careful and strategic planning to discover where you could or should take them, and then you have to pay close attention to all the details (both big and small), and after this you have to work harder than you ever expected; and then, and only then, do you have any chance of reaching an extraordinary level of achievement with any or all of your goals.

Whether it’s creating something grand, or performing at a level way above your competition, or turning in work that is so much more than anyone expected – these each require you to reach deep within yourself and to focus on performing at your very best. Do that today and you may reach the peak of your performance.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Passion for Life

This week we had an “equilux” - that's a day when day and night are just about equal in length. We normally refer to this as the autumn equinox or solstice, but by any name, this passage from summer to fall is a time when change again occurs around us. The days are now noticeably shorter, the nights are cooler, and the leaves are beginning to change. A bright Harvest Moon ushered in the change of seasons this year - that hasn't happened in nearly 20 years and is not scheduled to happen again until 2029. This full moon also coincided with the alignment of Jupiter and Uranus, adding extra flavor to this year's equinox. Try to figure the odds of all these things happening at once; on second thought, just enjoy this confluence of events and the world around you. Take a moment in your busy life to slow down and reflect on the passage of time and what this all means to you and those you love.

My message this week is about passion and what it means to the things we do and those we’re with:

"We are here to add what we can to life, not to get what we can from life." William Osler

Sir William Osler, M.D., C.M., 1st Baronet (1849 – 1919) was a Canadian physician. He has been called one of the greatest icons of modern medicine. Osler was a pathologist, educator, bibliophile, historian, author, and renowned practical joker.

Are you going to add anything to life today? On your way to work, did you add to the craziness on the roads or were you one of the considerate ones – driving defensively, staying in your lane, and slowing and stopping when you were supposed to? At work, are you helping others, staying positive, lending a hand and adding to the general morale – or are you just there, waiting to see what’s in it for you? At home, will you help others and be there for your friends and family, or just sit in front of the tube and veg out? You’ve got choices – today and everyday; you can add to all that’s good, or take more than your share. If you have a passion for life – all of it – then you’ll give it your all, all of the time. Make up your mind to passionately add to your life today and see how that affects the world around you.

It’s not easy to find out whether someone is passionate; you can’t just ask - it has to be experienced. The best way to determine if it’s there is to see what shines through a person’s personality and actions. Be aware that what you’re thinking, feeling and doing shines through you to those around you. Make sure that the you that is seen by others is passionate about the everything you do. You’ll be glad you did, and so will they.