Monday, May 30, 2011

Do You Remember the Milkman?

Remember the Milkman?

When I was a kid I remember the Paperboy, the Milkman, the old man in a truck that used to go around the neighborhood selling vegetables, the Breadman and the family that had an old Farm-all tractor they came around with to plow the driveway when it snowed. These were real jobs that real people had and they were proud of them. And before you say to yourself “those were the days”, hear this: I see some of that same spirit and dedication today.
  • When I walk my crazy dogs in the early morning I see the guy who delivers The New York Times. He drives a Ford Explorer and with a flick of the wrist he’s able to propel each delivery onto the right stoops. I met him one day when he had his son with him – they were having a great time and he told me he does this before his regular job to earn a little extra money.
  • As I ride the railroad each day I’ve gotten to know the various conductors who make sure we all have the right tickets. They also make sure we have the right information to get where we’re going. All day long on their feet and they’re always positive and efficient.
  • The Asian couple that runs a takeout Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood and the Lebanese family that runs the local Mediterranean restaurant – they’re there every long day to make sure all of us get what we ordered. No fast food places in our neighborhood and nobody wonders why.
  • There’s an Ethiopian family on the corner and they fix flat tires. No drive-in bays there – just tires piled high alongside their building and several portable jacks. They work hard and are always happy to fix whatever ails your tires.
  • As for the milk and bread and vegetables – now we can order online and two very happy brothers show up later that day with everything in a box from the new and oh-so-efficient cyber Grocery Store. And they even go through it with us to make sure we got everything we ordered.
I’ve met every one of these folks – went up and introduced myself and thanked them for what they do and how they do it.  They’re real people doing real jobs too. To some, they may be nameless functionaries working for a long list of providers but to me they are hard-working people who make sure people like me have what we need. They join the ticket takers, doormen, elevator operators, truck drivers, food servers, clerks behind counters, phone operators, bus drivers, secretaries, bank tellers and so many more who work quietly and happily in this and every other city. They are every bit as good as those people from so long ago who seem better only because we view them through the lens of long-ago memories. Open your eyes – kindness, excellence and diligence are all around us still.
And now I’m sitting in Penn Station waiting for a train to upstate and looking at the departure board with route names like the Lake Shore Limited, Empire State Express, Silver Meteor and Ethan Allen. This mode of travel, plus all the dedicated people mentioned above have me thinking – about how good it used to be and how good it continues to be. It reminds me that the views are equally as important and impressive out the windshield and the rear-view mirror. And as good as things and people used to be back in the day, they’re every bit as good today.
My message this week is about creativity and innovation – qualities that have always been important.  Use these this week to be as successful as you want to be.
“A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.” -Frank Capra
Frank Russell Capra (1897 – 1991) was a Sicilian-born American film director and a creative force behind a number of films of the 1930s and 1940s.
When’s the last time you acted on a hunch? You probably have them all the time but actually doing something with one is not all that common. And where do these hunches come from: mostly from experience that leads you to believe that something is possible. It’s easy to get to that point but far more difficult to move beyond that to action because that takes confidence and competence and a willingness to try something that’s probably outside your comfort zone. But that’s where real creativity has the chance to flourish – it’s in that space where if you think you can, and want to try, then almost anything’s possible.  Writing, singing, researching, reporting, volunteering, analyzing, exploring, loving, painting, traveling, sporting, reading (and so many more) – any of these activities can be affected or improved by a hunch. Problem is: you’ll never know if it’s a good hunch unless you try and see what happens. So if that voice in your head is telling you to listen to and believe in your hunch, chances are you should. You just might be glad you did!
Stay Well and Have a Great Holiday Weekend!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Walk the Talk

 Walk the Talk

I love walking my two crazy Jack Russell terriers - and they love going for each and every walk. Once on the street, they’re intent on sniffing everything, to the point that it seems the point of the walk is not to walk but to discover all the wondrous things on the street. And whether you’ve two or four legs, discovering all of life’s wonders is this week’s point.

Trouble is, most of the time we’re so fixated on getting from point A to point B that we don’t stop to sniff all the interesting stuff that’s all around us:
      • Because we’re often too busy to stop, too busy to listen, too busy to notice the things that could and should mean something, too busy to learn, too busy to really care.  
      • Because we think that there’s something more important someplace farther on and we’ve got to get there before we miss it, while missing the things that are already here.  

But think about what do you do with what you find: do you really stop and study and admire it, do you learn all you can about it, do you share it with others, do you consider whether and how to improve it, do you treasure and nurture it OR do you just walk by with nothing more than a casual glance? Truth is, we know the answers to these questions and we know what’s the right thing to do: it’s called Walking the Talk (which I often think about when Walking the Dog).

Go ahead: consider all the resolutions and promises you’ve made and the hopes and expectations that others have of and from you and the dreams that you all have; make the most of these by knowing what you’ve found and what you should do with these and how they might affect others. It’s being true to what you know and that’s what Walking the Talk is. It leads to being what you know you should be or doing what you know you should do even when nobody’s around or looking. It’s about integrity. And at the end of the day or the end of your life, that’s all you’ll have. No reason to take your eye off that ball and negatively impact that – ever.  Absolutely no reason.

This past week I buried a dear friend and celebrated his life – the latter helped soothe the former. I also addressed a group of HR colleagues and got them to laugh and learn about the things they do and take for granted - the laughter helped them to refocus on and re-commit to their work. In each of these very different events the walk was eased by focusing on how to best Walk the Talk. These were microcosms of the broader lives we lead and it was good to be reminded of the bigger pictures that always surround us.

So whether you’re walking the dogs or just walking around by yourself, make sure you’re Walking the Talk today and every day. Easier said than done, I know, but no reason not to keep on trying. And any little bit you do today is better than none; and that’s the truth.

Arte Nathan
So the point this week is to lead a life of integrity and today’s quote and message is all about that:

“Conscience is a man's compass.”

-Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853 – 1890) was a Dutch post-impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th century art for its vivid colors and emotional impact. His sadness and depression mixed with an incredible talent and produced some of the most memorable Impressionist Art.

Do you have a compass? Growing up we had a compass in school that was used to draw a perfect circle. Then there was the pocket compass that came in the Cracker Jacks box that we used to find true North. These gadgets symbolized the best way to find our way and it’s not surprising they share a name and idea with what we use internally to find right from wrong. These paths are most often clearly marked but sometimes they’re not followed. So, what’s to stop us from veering off a path you know is right? It’s your conscience - that voice inside your head that’s constantly telling you to make the adjustments you know are needed. Do you listen to that voice? Do you note the readings on the moral compass that’s guided by your conscience? If you’re the kind who responds to the wrong signals or fails to note the obvious external signs or ignores the warning feelings in the pit of your stomach – stop what you’re doing, pay attention to these signs and react to your more real internal compass today. And let your conscience be your guide.

Stay well!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rain or Shine

Rain or ShineCamomile on water

We all grew up with sayings like this but where did this phrase come from?  Certainly not Las Vegas or Southern California – there it’s mostly Shine or Shinier.  But here in New York City you never know from one day to the next or one hour to the next, if it will rain or shine. So you pay more attention to the weather and the sky and the forecast and those Doppler radar displays – and then you try to integrate all that information into who you are and what you’re planning. That’s complicated!  But again, this is not just about the weather.

The way I see it, weather is a lot like relationships, moods, tastes and behaviors.  These can be pretty stable and constant or they can change as often as a Northeastern sky.  
  • Relationships can and should be based on trust and respect gained from growing to know others and this should create a foundation that is steady and secure. But if you don’t put in the time and effort to build this foundation it can end up falling like a house of cards. 
  • Moods should be steady and somewhat predictable so others can rely on you to support or at least not upset what they’re doing. But if your mood changes quickly and often, think about how that can upset the environment and people around you.  
  • Tastes are acquired, they’re cultivated over time and they’re reflected in how you react to what you eat and drink and feel about the world around you. If you don’t know what you like, how will you ever grow to enjoy things fully?  
  • And behaviors – these are embedded in everything you do and they ultimately reflect who you are and how others perceive you. If you want to be trusted and respected, if you want to have the chance to do good things and make great friends, if you want to be a success at whatever you’re doing, then you’ll learn how to behave properly and effectively and pleasantly and humbly and respectfully. Remember: it’s not how you think you’re behaving but rather how others perceive it!
But if all of these change often like some kind of “interpersonal rain or shine” depending on some will or whim, how good do you think you’ll be, how many friends do you think you’ll have, how many co-workers and colleagues do you think will want to be with and loyal to you or how effective or successful do you think you’ll be???
  • The weather may be uncontrollable but these things should not be.  
  • The weather may change often and that may not be a bad thing but these things should be more reliable than that.  
  • The weather may affect how you feel or act but in life you have to always be seen and perceived as steady and trustworthy and true.
  • The weather may change but who and what you are to others should be something far more stable that they can count on.
While it’s okay to live in a place where it rains and shines, it’s not okay to be the kind of person whose behavior rains and shines. Be aware of your behavior and how it affects those around you. Control your interpersonal behaviors and make them shine more and rain less. And see how that affects your personal weather report.

Arte Nathan
This week’s quote and message are about professionalism and how that affects others:

“The first rule of holes: if your find yourself in one, stop digging.“   -Jack Dane

Jack Dane was a character played by Yale Summers in a TV series called Daktari (Swahili for Doctor) that aired between 1966 and 1969 on CBS.

Are you in a hole today? You probably don’t want to admit it if you are but look around and you’ll probably see lots of others in one too. The issue is not whether you are but what you do when you find you are.

Life has a way of creating holes that we might fall in – either because of something we’ve done or something that happened to us. But no matter what, you’ve got to stop and figure out why you’re there, come up with alternative approaches to try and get out and be open to and ready to listen to other’s ideas that may help reverse your fortunes.

The smartest professionals know that blind and dogged adherence to a failed strategy is just plain crazy. There’s no shame in adjusting, especially if it rights the course and ultimately results in success. The key to success in so many things is your ability to be flexible enough to adjust to the changing circumstances in which you find yourself. So stop digging today, be open to suggestions and change today and get out of that hole you’re in!

Stay well!