Sunday, August 29, 2010

Give a Gift of Pride

I was traveling recently and took a side trip to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. I'd been to this site several times before but not since the Memorial and Museum were completed. But I wasn't prepared for the impact of this experience:

The Museum: It's worth the trip: the pictures, videos, audio histories and exhibits are riveting and moving. It starts in a room listening to the recording of an actual meeting held on April 19, 1995, in a building across the street from the bomb site - while listening you hear the explosion, the sound that changed all of us forever. From that point on, visitors proceed through a multi-media display of the chaos, rescues, survivor experiences, memorial services, a gallery of honor, a behind-the-scenes look at the investigations, and the community's efforts to rebuild neighborhoods and lives. Because the museum is in a restored building next to the site, there's a section that has been preserved so visitors can see, first-hand, the devastation caused by the blast. Last is the exhibit that shows the milestones and anniversary ceremonies that were and are designed to make sure no one ever forgets.

The Memorial: On the site is a field of empty chairs - one for each of the 168 victims, with smaller chairs representing the 19 children killed. There's a large Elm tree that survived the blast and is now known as the Survivor's Tree. And sections of the actual chain link fence that surrounded the site in the months following the bombing, complete with notes of love and hope left by early visitors. Like I said, it's riveting - all of it.

History is filled with events that change and shape our lives: over time these tend to blend into the fabric of our existence, and the messages and meanings can sometimes get lost or diminished. My visit to this incredible site and exhibit reminded me of the importance of remembering those events and people who have shaped us. Take time this week to realize how fragile life can be, and the importance of living life to the fullest with those you love. I know this is a recurring theme for me, but after this visit it's one that I really believe should be repeated. Take a moment to look at today.

My message this week is about pride and helping others see and feel pride in themselves:

You can't give people pride, but you can provide the kind of understanding that makes people look to their inner strengths and find their own sense of pride.” Charleszetta Waddles

For nearly four decades, the Reverend Charleszetta Waddles devoted her life to providing food, hope, and human dignity to the downtrodden and disadvantaged people of Detroit, Michigan. When, in the late 1940s, Waddles began holding prayer meetings at her house for small groups of local ladies, she emphasized practical, charitable actions rather than religious rhetoric. No one, she told her friends, is too poor to help those who are less fortunate.

What can you give to those around you today? Money, advice, a kind word, the shirt off your back, a hand, or maybe you’ll just do all of something for someone (have you ever said: “I’ll just do it myself”). For those times when you want to do something for someone, stop and ponder what would be best. You should always try to give others the basics, so that they can understand what’s needed, and why, and they then can begin to figure out the best way to do it themselves. If they do figure it out, then they not only accomplish something, they also learn how and why and when for the next time.

And then they’ll have the ability to show and teach others. And then they’ll feel like they are important to themselves and those around them. And then they’ll be proud of what they’ve accomplished.

Give a sense of pride to someone today.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Man's Best Friend

Here's a 'man's best friend' story. My daughter is a Jack Russell Terrier lover, and got her dog Buddy 10+ years ago after winning a major equestrian competition (these being the favorite pets of Arabian horse owners). Buddy was a really smart and cool dog - everyone loved him and he affectionately came to be known as "the Mayor" (that's another story). After a few years of professing our affection for this four-legged member of the family, she surprised us with two of these unbelievable dogs (they're the same kind as Eddie on Frasier), and we became Jack Russell lovers all over again.

Fast-forward to last week - Buddy was not eating or feeling well, and after several anxious visits to the vet it was decided he needed exploratory surgery. Unfortunately, cancer was discovered and he passed away. The shock over losing Buddy so suddenly has left us saddened and reflective. Saddened because best friends are hard to come by; reflective in the realization that friendships are to be cherished. For sure the memories in our hearts help sustain at times like these, and time heals sorrows. But still, our pets ask so little and give so much and, unlike our two-legged friends, are always faithful and happy to see us. But even so, I can't think of a better time than right now to remember all of your two and four-legged friends: reach out and tell them how you really feel, hug them and give them kisses, cherish them always, and be there for them in all circumstances - like Buddy was for all of us. It's never easy losing a friend, so make sure you say and do everything to show them how you feel, today and every day; because you never really know when they might be gone.

On a different note, my message this week is about innovation:

"Serious play is not an oxymoron; it is the essence of innovation." Michael Schrage

Michael Schrage is a research fellow at the MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, and is one of the world’s most innovative thought leaders on innovation. He has redefined how we think about innovation by focusing on customer acceptance of new products and services as an integral part of the innovation process. He also has pioneered techniques to improve return on innovation investment.

Are you planning on being playful today? We’re all so serious in everything we do – we have to be serious parents and friends; we have to be serious and studious and professional at work; we have to approach what we do outside of work with a serious attitude if anyone is going to take us seriously. But seriously, lighten up and have some fun. Laugh, look on the lighter side and keep an eye out for the humor in yourself and others.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy is a proverb. It means that without time off from work, or without some fun and humor at work, a person becomes both bored and boring. Is that how you see yourself in the mirror each morning; is that the way you want others to see you; is that how you want to be known???

The answer to those questions is most likely “no”, so take time today to have some fun at work, or at home, or at play, and then see how creative and innovative you can be. Engage in some serious play today and see how it improves your return on innovation investment!

Friday, August 13, 2010

We're Off To See The Wizard....

It's been exactly 71 years since "The Wizard of Oz" was released. The film had its big Hollywood premiere on Aug. 15, 1939, but it first officially debuted on Aug. 12 in Oconomowoc, Wis. at the Strand Theatre. It was based on the children's novel by L. Frank Baum and grew famous for its striking use of color and visual effects.

Do you remember the first time you saw it:

· Did you immediately learn the words and start singing the song they sang as they “followed the yellow brick road”?

· How scared were you by the witch and those flying monkeys??

· Can you still see the witch’s feet sticking out and twitching under that house that fell on her???

· And what about those “munchkins” – is that where the term came from????

· But wait: do you remember the look on your face the first time you saw the Wizard behind the curtain?????

Of all the impressions left by this classic, for me the biggest “aha” was that what was behind that curtain was not as special or scary as I originally thought; and that’s true about so many things in life. This simple truth is one we all realize every day: the things we don’t know tend to scare us or make us anxious. Once you learn “what’s behind the curtain” you really can face whatever that something is that’s making you nervous and proceed with the confidence that it’s not really all that scary.

Take time this weekend to skip along whatever yellow brick road you find yourself on, and sing the words you learned so long ago:

The Wizard of Oz is one because

Because, because, because, because, because

Because of the wonderful things he does

We're off to see the Wizard

The wonderful Wizard of Oz

My message this week is based on a quote by JC Penney and it challenges us to do more than what’s expected. Enjoy:

“It is the service we are not obliged to give that people value most.” James C. Penney

James Cash Penney (1875 – 1971) was a businessman and entrepreneur. In 1902, he founded the J. C. Penney stores. By 1924, Penney was earning an income of more than $1.5 million dollars annually.

What are you going to give to people today? Lots of people talk about “giving it their all” or “going the extra mile”. We all give, everyday, and most of what we give is little more than what’s expected. That’s not a bad thing: people say “Hi”, we say “Hi” back; people ask a question, we give them an answer; people order something, we give them just what they want. But if day after day you do that much and nothing more then that often gets taken for granted. What happened to saying more, giving more and being more than anyone ever expected?

When you meet someone today, don’t just say ‘hi’ – ask how they are. When answering a question today, give the answer and explain ‘why’ with enthusiasm. When you give something today, give more than was requested, and do it with a smile!

That’s what it takes these days to ‘wow’ colleagues, bosses, customer and friends. That’s the kind of service that you are not obliged to give and that people will value most. Try that today and see what kind of reaction you get!

Stay well!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

It's Not What You Do - It's How You Do It!

My sister-in-law gave us an old cuckoo clock several years ago - it was in pieces in a box and we set about putting it back together. Finding parts and people who knew how to fix these wonderful old clocks was not that easy - the professional old clock maker here in Laguna Beach (he isn't old but the clocks he works on are) had it for a year while looking for parts and tinkering with the little bellows that produced the distinctive sound that these things make. He called last week and said it was finally done so I went and picked it up and hung it in a prominent spot here in the house. But that's not the point of this story.

Weights hang and drive the mechanism that keeps the time on this cuckoo clock, and frankly this is not as accurate as the many other timekeeping devices we have at our fingertips these days. Time is displayed on cell phones, computers and cable boxes, and the time displayed there is programmed and synchronized electronically with clocks that carefully count the ongoing passage of time. But really, how accurate does time have to be. When this old cuckoo clock was made, the people who relied on it lived a simpler life - one not driven by an obsession with time. And somehow they got by and even thrived; I daresay they were probably healthier and happier than we are today.

So maybe the moral of this story is that it's who we are, how we treat one another and whether we keep our promises that really counts. It's not whether we use all these devices to be on time, but rather whether over time we're what we really should be. Timekeeping, like everything else in life, has evolved to a highly exact and mechanized science. This old cuckoo clock operates differently - it's time is a bit less accurate, a bit more laid back, and a bit more like real people: intent on being nearly right most of the time. Maybe that's good enough.

The message this week is about the fact that it's not what you do, but rather how you do it, that's so important.

Professionalism: it’s NOT the job you DO; it’s HOW you DO the job. Anonymous

A lot of people describe themselves as professionals: doctors, lawyers, architects, athletes, drivers, chefs, actors, pilots and others too numerous to list. Look in the yellow pages (are there still yellow pages?) and you’ll see electricians, plumbers, computer programmers and a host of other technical types who claim that they’re also professionals. Palm readers, dog walkers and stenographers round out the long list of people claiming to be a ‘professional’.

So, what are you? Are you the best at what you do, every day? Do you bring knowledge and skills and abilities with you wherever you go and whatever you do? Is the work you do exceptional in every way? Do you approach and then perform that work to the best of your abilities and with the best attitude every time? The answer to these questions should lead you to conclude that it’s not what, but rather how you do the things you do that defines who you are and how people see you – it’s what gives you a reputation. If you do what you do with creativity and enthusiasm and good humor, if you perform at the highest levels at all times, if you pay close attention to every little detail as if your life (read: reputation) depended on it – then you’ll be seen by family and friends and colleagues and neighbors and all the others you run into as a professional. Because it’s not the what, but rather the how that others really notice. Doing whatever you do, flawlessly, every time, is not just the way to being seen as a pro, it’s the essence of professionalism.

The Art of Eye Contact!!

I was in an airport this week - just got through security and, like everyone else, was in the process of getting my stuff together. You know the drill - shoes, belt, liquids, laptop, phone and anything else that might set off the TSA alarms. Some were able to do this quickly and easily, others not - and everyone, including the TSA staff, doing their best not to make any eye contact.

Off to the side, in obvious distress, was a woman holding her sneakers (the kind with laces) and trying to get them back on her feet. Everyone was in a hurry to get around her and continue to their gates. I was watching rather than hurrying - and then it hit me: quit looking and go help. I smiled, made the obvious gestures that suggested I was offering assistance, and got down on my knees in front of her. In my peripheral vision I noticed her and everyone else looking at me like I was some beyond-belief apparition - after all, the public address announcer said to be on the lookout for unattended bags, not people.

She said her "back had gone out" (sound familiar) and gave me a look of surprise and relief; it took no more than a minute to get the sneakers onto her feet and laced up, and then we both went our separate ways (she more gingerly than me). Fast forward past the chaos of the boarding lines; I was in my seat (again trying not to make eye contact with anyone who might want the middle seat next to me) when something else hit me: this eye contact avoidance thing was crazy. I mean, aren't we supposed to be on the lookout for those who might be in need of something, or a smile, or some other gesture of kindness? Maybe the moral of this story is that we should be looking to help more than we are watching for trouble - try to remember that this week as you rush to whatever gates await you. After all, you never know when your back might "go out".

Today's message is based on a quote about innovation by Arthur Porter:

“The innovation point is the pivotal moment when talented and motivated people seek the opportunity to act on their ideas and dreams.” W. Arthur Porter

Dr. Porter is a Professor Emeritus of the University of Oklahoma. Prior to his retirement, he served as University Professor and Regents Chair of Engineering at that university.

Do you have ideas and dreams? Of course you do; we all do. Every day we think of things as we drive around, go to work, begin to play, talk to others, sit quietly somewhere or spend a thoughtful moment alone. We dream at night and during the day about all kinds of things, some are cool ideas about how to do something new or different or better. It’s natural to have ideas and to dream – it’s harder to do something with or about them. Getting those thoughts on paper, working out the ideas so that they make sense, talking to and working with others to perfect them, developing the concepts into something concrete and real, getting them beyond the thought stage and to market – that’s the challenge. Getting them to that pivotal moment when those dreams become reality – that’s the goal.

Are you talented and motivated enough to move your idea or dream from thought to finish? If you are, or want to be, then make that your goal and begin a journey to your own personal innovation point today!