Friday, September 28, 2012

Cream Cheese

Cream Cheese

There are little towns throughout the northeast that sponsor events to coincide with the annual changing of the leaves.  One of these is the annual Cream Cheese Festival in Lowville, New York.

Just for the record: Lowville is pronounced:  lau-ville, not low-ville; and because it’s in the middle of a large area known for its dairy farming, Kraft Foods has a plant there which produces cream cheese – thus the annual Cream Cheese Festival.

People come from near and far for the event’s food, music, crafts, rides, and what is purported to be the “world’s largest cheesecake”.  So on a recent weekend we took a ride through the countryside to see the leaves and that record-setting cheesecake.

The food vendors had every kind of fried food that you can imagine, including fried cream cheese.  The bandstand had local country singers who wanted to look and sound like someone vaguely familiar.  And at the Cream Cheese Bingo game kids threw gobs of cream cheese at numbers on a large painted board to see which was next; we had to stop and watch that bit of creativity.  But the disappointment of the day was the fact that the “world’s largest cheesecake” was eaten long before we got there; so now we’ll never know how big it had to be to be the world’s biggest!

But we checked out everything else, and as we left we realized that the theme of these events is not nearly as important as the fact that communities come together and have them. It’s called community spirit and pride, and it gives people a reason to do things together.  There were lots of people there, and hardly any texting.  There were lots of things going on, and none of them seemed to involve a computer.  And the games that people played were the types that people played together, not alone on a little screen: it was quaint and not contrived.  There were lots of smiles, the old-fashioned kind that weren’t brought on by canned laughter; it wasn’t so much small-town as it was real people.  Afterward we smiled in appreciation of this real slice of Americana: it was as refreshing as an ice-cold glass of milk!

My message this week is about professionalism:

“I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.”  
-Dr. Seuss

From the top of the heap the sights that you see are often arrayed in a very broad sweep; and from that high perch you might miss the small things that are so very important to those you are trying to reach.

So project yourself as a professional pro, and show that you know all the right things to say and the right things to do so the people you’re reaching know and understand the who that is you.

And by realizing the needs of the people below, you’re acknowledging their importance to the success of the show.

So make sure that you see all the things that you need, and also make sure that those folks down below feel good about themselves and the things that they do for the show.

Because at the end of the day you want all the who’s who are who, to feel and act professionally, just like you do!

Stay well!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Food Freaks

Food Freaks

There are all kinds of places to eat in Brooklyn…some fancy, others cozy, and all have their own style.  Unique among them is a gourmet food cart that makes all kinds of grilled cheese dishes – it’s called Food Freaks.

The guy unhooks his trailer next to park entrances and next thing you know there’s a line of people waiting to eat.  Sort of like the Mister Softee trucks we all grew up with (and which are still around here).  On the one hand, it shows that good food is appreciated anywhere it’s offered; on the other, this trailer is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit that you read so much about.  It isn’t high tech - just a new twist on a proven concept: people like unique food and settings.

But mostly, it recognizes the cravings we all have for the things we grew up with, and felt comfortable with, and often long for.  In this case, it’s the ever popular grilled cheese sandwich; but in a broader sense its comfort food.  And comfort food - like family, traditions and memories - is always appreciated.

This guy cooks and chats while serving the customers. No maitre’d, no fancy menus, no fine linen or atmosphere – just a simple meal to eat as you please.  Everywhere we look there are so many examples of noveau this and fancy that, and sometimes we forget that simple is better, that straight-forward is appreciated, that anything good stands on its own.  Next time you’re fixing dinner or doing something for others, make sure that the thing itself is good all by itself.  Because if it is, then you’ll have the basis for all the success you’ll ever need.

My message this week is about giving people what they want:

“Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more than what they expect to get.”
-Nelson Boswell

Nelson Boswell is an author of three books: Inner Peace, Inner Power, TA for Busy People: How To Use Transactional Analysis at Home and at Work and Successful Living Day by Day.

What’s your rule?  I remember hearing Norman Schwarzkopf talk about his Rule #13: “When given command, take charge.” And when you do take charge, make sure that everything you do is more than others expect.  That doesn’t mean doing the unexpected – it means giving people what they asked for, and then adding a little something extra that will increase their appreciation.  It can be how you greet them or say goodbye, or giving a little extra on a task or report or project, or showing your appreciation for the opportunity.  In this fast-paced world, we all expect to just get the minimum; but in a very competitive world, that minimum effort won’t cut it.  And if you want to do or create great things, it takes that much more effort – you may have to learn more, you may have to practice more, and you certainly will want to interact better and more….because getting to great takes a great effort.  Make that your rule today!

Stay well!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Holidays

The Holidays

After Labor Day, people start focusing on “the holidays”.  And there are lots of holidays between now and the end of the year.

Patriot Day, the Jewish High Holidays, Citizenship Day, Native American Day, Grandparents Day, Columbus Day, Boss’ Day, Halloween,  Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Years are just a few.  According to there are 57 holidays or observances between now and the end of the year – and that’s just in North America!  While it seems like somebody is celebrating something every day, if it’s one you believe in, it’s a big deal; if not then you probably don’t pay much attention to it.  But it’s good to remember that those you don’t know about or celebrate are big to someone, somewhere; and each observant soul expects the rest of us to either know about or respect their holidays.

As the Jewish people get ready to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the next two weeks, it’s a time of remembrance, reflection and atonement.  And while it’s good to do that on these occasions, shouldn’t we be doing those things regularly: like always being mindful of right and wrong, and thinking of those who’ve passed, and striving to be good and righteous?  Of course we should – but that doesn’t mean we will.

So every morning you should make it your practice to look down the road and take a few moments to reflect on what happened yesterday, and what any of that means and how you might have been better, and then what you want to accomplish today.  You shouldn’t wait for a holiday to reflect on how you should be – take time today, and every day, to focus on the important things in life, and whether you are measuring up to the person you want to be.

My message this week is about having faith and a passion for life:

“It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living.”

-Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809 – 1894) was an American physician, poet, professor, lecturer, and author.  His son Oliver Jr. was a famous Supreme Court Justice.

Is your life worth living today?  It’s surprising how many people have to stop and think about the answer to that question. There are those who don’t like what they see in themselves because they think life and work are meaningless.  That’s because they either get bogged down in mundane and repetitive tasks that don’t seem motivating or challenging, or have too much to do and not enough time to get it all done, or they feel under-challenged and under-appreciated.   While these are true, there are certainly many more who love their work, circumstances and life – and for them the day can’t start early enough.  What’s the difference between the two – the first see the glass of life as half empty, the second see it as half full.  Because there are glimmers of greatness in everything, the challenge is to find them, build upon them, and let them help you to become more of what you want to be.   Find those today and bring all your faith and passion to bear on them.  That’s how to make life worth living!

Happy Holidays, and Stay Well!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Walk in the Park

A Walk in the Park

A Walk in the Park is another one of those idioms that means more than it actually says. According to the phrase 'A Walk in the Park' means something is going to be really easy; according to my dogs: a walk in the park is their favorite thing; and according to the folks in New York City: a walk to and in the park is a fun family pastime.  Take your pick.

This time of year is for families and outdoor fun, and nothing serves them better than the big park (or any park) in my (or any) neighborhood. The weather here was great this past holiday weekend: warm, not too muggy, sunny, and just right for a real walk in the park. My two Jack Russell terriers and I headed to the park several times, and each time we found different but similar scenes: people having a good time in the park.  Early morning: dog lovers let their dogs off leash for a romp in the park; Mid-morning: a farmer’s market sets up in the park; Lunch: the kid’s playground was full of kids at the park; Mid-afternoon: soccer, Frisbee, tennis and a new tightrope thing between trees that seems to have been inspired by Nik Wallenda’s recent walk over Niagara Falls all in the park; Late afternoon: more picnics than you can count in the park; and Evening: lovers and friends taking….. a walk in the park. All of it fun, and all as easy as… well… a walk in the park!

I grew up in a great neighborhood in a medium sized American town – lots of kids, lots of parks and open spaces to play in, and lots of fun: it was idyllic. We never would have imagined that people and kids in a really big city like New York could do and feel the same.  But they do, and so on my walks in the big park near my apartment I’ve discovered that happiness and fun are easy to come by anywhere.  Because it’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with.  And in this fast paced, heads down, keep your eye on the ball world, that’s a lesson that needs to be learned and remembered, over and over, so we don’t ever forget it.

So as summer turns to fall, take time to find happiness and fun with those you’re with and care about. Make that a walk in the park!

My message this week is about doing things passionately:

“Enthusiasm is contagious. Be a carrier.”

-Susan Rabin

Susan Rabin is an author, seminar leader, therapist, communications consultant, coach, lecturer, writer and media personality. Susan is the Director of the School of Flirting® and President of Dynamic Communications, Inc., a company dedicated to building better business relationships.

Passion often manifests itself as enthusiasm – have you ever seen someone who says they are passionate about something but doesn’t seem enthusiastic about it.  That shouldn’t happen. Because when you really are passionate about something, you can’t stop thinking about it, or talking about it, or telling others about it, or looking for ways to improve it, or showing it to others. That’s why entrepreneurs spend days and nights working on what they’re passionate about. That’s why successful athletes and actors and politicians look for the cameras to tell their stories.  That’s because people who are successful at anything act enthusiastically.  And that enthusiasm is contagious – it spreads to the people who work with them, or play with them, or collaborate with them, or invent things with them, or do anything with them. It’s fun and exciting to be around people like that – right?  So remember that when you feel strongly about something – be enthusiastic; and make that enthusiasm contagious today!

Stay well!