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.