Friday, June 28, 2013

Dead as a Doornail


                                     Dead as a Doornail

“Dead as a doornail” said the guy at the NAPA store the other day when checking my car’s battery.  And since the car wouldn’t start, I figured he was right.  But even as I nodded my head knowingly, I was wondering: “what’s a doornail”?

Best answer found on the Internet:  A long time ago, especially on farms, doors were made by nailing planks together. Over years of continual slamming and banging shut, the door nails would eventually loosen and fall out. When they hit the ground, instead of "ringing" like a new nail would, they would simply make a "tink" sound, i.e. they were dead. In a sense, the door nail is dead: it has no ring, it has no "life"; similarly a person or thing that is dead as a doornail, is utterly and completely dead -- either literally or figuratively.

We often use phrases like this as if they were full of real-life meaning.  In fact, our lives are filled with lots of these folkloric expressions…. such as: blind as a bad, clean as a whistle, easy as falling off a log, finer than frog hair, guilty as sin (as opposed to good as gold), happy as a lark, light as a feather, mad as a hatter, naked as a jaybird, out like a light, poor as a church mouse, quick as a flash, right as rain, sick as a dog, thick as thieves, and pleased as punch.  These and literally hundreds more like them have been handed down from grandparents to grandchildren and will continue to be used whether we understand what they really mean or not.

And while it’s often comfortable to use phrases like these, we should remember that it’s important to say what we mean and then mean what we say.  Friends, colleagues, customers and casual acquaintances will be much better informed and served by plain and straight-forward speaking.  So strive for clarity in your speech and actions today, and see if that works like a charm.

My message this week is about getting personally involved in the things you do to create and ensure the best results:

“Legacy is not what's left tomorrow when you're gone. It's what you give, create, impact and contribute today while you're here that then happens to live on.” Rasheed Ogunlaru

Life is about living every experience to the fullest.  That means you have to participate fully in everything you do and put your best efforts into making all of those things the best they can be.  Giving, creating, impacting and contributing today while you’re here is the same as “being in the moment”.   That means focusing all your energy and enthusiasm on what you’re doing while you’re doing it, explaining what you’re doing and why it’s important to those it affects or touches, and following up appropriately to get the biggest and best impact. That’s how to create the best legacy, now while you’re still here; do that and you’ll be remembered for that work long after you’re gone. So get involved today in order to create something that will live on long after tomorrow!

Stay well!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fly Away

                            Fly Away

We flew to the Adirondacks this week to begin our annual summer sojourn in the mountains. And on this longest day of the year I have a few extra daylight hours to reflect on the experience of flying away.

When traveling, one thing is painfully obvious: the airline industry doesn’t help make travel enjoyable.  Airports in general get low marks for service or efficiency: we need reservations and yet ticket counters and security check points don’t seem aware of how many of us might be arriving at any given time.  (An example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.)  And gate personnel are more interested in giving orders than service: eye contact and smiles were missing. (An example of knowing what and not understanding why.)  And it doesn’t seem to have crossed anyone’s minds that charging for baggage leads to too many carry-ons: I guess the law of unintended consequences is lost on them.  (An example of not understanding customer needs or behavior.)

We live in a mobile world, and yet the folks who most promote and are responsible for that mobility act like they’re doing us a favor.  They act like they don’t have any competition, and the sad truth is that unless we only go where we can drive or take a train, they don’t.  But it doesn’t have to be this way: they could smile and make eye contact, they could be a little self-deprecating and empathetic, and they could actually utilize some of the technology that is so available (and acceptable) in so many other aspects of our lives.  But I guess in order to do any of these kinds of thing, they first have to care….and sadly it appears they don’t.  The moral of this story: always treat others the way you want to be treated!

My message this week is about acting like a business owner when working and providing goods and services for others:

“Our business in life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves -- to break our own records, to outstrip our yesterday by our today.”  Stewart B Johnson

Ever hear it said: “if you’re not moving forward then you‘re falling behind…”?  Most business owners (and managers who feel like owners) feel that way – so they work extra hard at creating ways to sell or do more while spending the same or less. But after a while, that gets progressively harder because you run out of ideas.  That’s when it’s good to look around for best practices, listen to and learn from others, and fearlessly try new things.  It’s even good to go back and re-look at what you might have done before and could do more of, or what didn’t work quite right and could use a little tweaking.   So act like an owner and go break some of your own records today!

Stay well!

Friday, June 14, 2013

It's Hot!

                     It’s Hot 

Ever notice that people  talk about the weather a lot?  Weather reports and the Weather Channel are the most watched parts of the news; but here in Las Vegas it’s pretty much always the same: sunny and warm.

Because the summer is especially hot in the desert, it’s the only time of the year that people here even comment on the weather.  During the rest of the year we never think about sun or clouds, rain and umbrellas, cold and coats, or snow and shovels.  And the absence of weather-related banter takes some getting used to; but since the Weather Channel forecasts and tells all we often commiserate with friends and family back home about……their weather.

Think about all the time you spend talking about the weather…. more than current events, interpersonal relationships, and the economy.  Now think about all the time you could save if you just stopped talking about it….after all, nothing’s going to change it.  But I guess we like to stick to simple things that affect us all, and weather, like traffic, seems to fill that space.  This is another of life’s habits that start simply and easily, and die hard.  

So the next time someone asks “what’s doing”, give them an honest non weather-related answer: how you feel, what’s making you happy or sad, how things are in your world, and whether there’s anything you can do for them.  Those are the kinds of things people really want to know about us; the things that are really going on in our lives besides…….the weather.

My message this week is about what you’re really interested in and committed to:

“There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses - only results.”  Ken Blanchard

What are you interested in?  Probably getting to work on time and doing what’s expected, because that’s how and why you get paid.  But what you’re committed to is more important to the people you work for and with, and the customers you serve. The truth is, you’re expected to be at work on time, and to do the things you’re assigned, but that’s not how you or your company win and retain customers and business. In these very competitive times you need to have a can-do attitude, a sense of urgency, a never-quit work ethic, a commitment to excellence, and a smile on your face.  So, if you’re going to participate in something today, be interested AND committed!

Stay Well!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Time Marches On


                       Time Marches On

I was in Calgary, Alberta last week: that’s far enough north that the sunsets there this time of year don’t happen until nearly 10 pm. And that got me thinking about the lengthening and shortening of the days around each equinox.

While it’s not top of mind, I am vaguely aware that the sun comes up progressively earlier leading up to this month’s equinox because I walk my two crazy dogs every morning.  And because these cycles have occurred every year of my life, I tend to take them for granted.  But then I was forced to note the later sunset times in that northern area and started thinking about how time marches on.

Actually, we take many things that go on around us for granted, and it’s only the occurrence of an abrupt change like this that brings us back to an awareness of our life’s norms. My body is used to the sun setting at around 8pm here now, so it was very noticeable when at 10pm it was still bright in that more northern latitude. And here’s what I started thinking: don’t get so caught up in your habits or the way things always happen that you fail to notice the common everyday changes all around you.

And this then led me to wondering what else we tend to overlook or take for granted because we’re so influenced by our habits. Email and tweets keep us looking at computers and cell phones rather than focusing on those physically around us, and work schedules are religiously adhered to rather than noting what else we might need to do to balance our lives; things like these can inadvertently allow habits to obscure more important things…. like time marching on.

We need to slow down and notice nature’s signs so that we are more attuned to the importance of time and what’s going on around us.  We need to stop and enjoy what’s happening now, and think about the meaning of things rather than letting them continue on unnoticed or under appreciated.  After all, time and its passage really does affect just about everything else in our lives. So make time today to take the time for the really important things in your life.

My message this week is about knowing when and how to do what’s right:

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt

How’s your life treating you? If it’s not all that you want, that may be a case of what you get is what you accept.  In truth, the lives of those we admire are that way because they actively go out and make them so.  Those people live their lives to the fullest: they know what they want, they make plans to achieve their goals, they adjust along the way as needed, and they fight to keep them that way. They are fearless in their approach to getting what they want, and that usually results in rich experiences and rewards.  So if your life or job isn’t exactly what you want, make a plan to change it.  The best lives and jobs are the ones we have: the challenge is to make them the ones we want!

Stay well!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Neither Here nor There

                       Neither Here nor There

It’s interesting being back in Las Vegas after nearly 30 months in New York City.  Not that one is better than the other; it’s more just a comparison of here versus there.

·         There I walked to the neighborhood market to carry what I needed each day, and not much accumulated at home.  Here I take the car to a market nearly the same distance away and drive all that I get home in the car. 
·         There – if I didn’t walk I took the subway, and seeing so many others along the way was a way of connecting with the world.  Here I take the car, most often alone, and connect mostly with my own solitary thoughts along the way.
·         There the weather was always to be considered: hot or cold, rain or shine; which coat or umbrella did I need.  Here the warm and sunny days are a constant and the few coats I have are rarely used.
·         There we were far from friends and family, and seeing them required a plan.  Here, family is near and seen nearly every day.
·         There: museums with great art. Here: red rocks and petroglyph art.
·         There: lots of great restaurants and a city that never sleeps. Here, lots of great restaurants and a city that never sleeps.

Which is better?  Actually they’re both good, but in different ways.  And therein is one of life’s essential lessons: make the most of where you are. Be in the moment, and don’t waste time worrying about what you don’t have so much that you miss the opportunity to enjoy what’s in front of you.  It doesn’t matter where you are as long as you have the right perspective and outlook.  Happiness is neither here nor there – it’s where you are!

My message this week is about making the most of where you are and what you’re doing:

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” Andy Warhol

Has time every changed anything for you? The pain of disappointment or loss diminishes with time, but only if you focus on and do other things to re-motivate and excite you. The thrill of winning at something diminishes with time too, but it’s certainly helped by the excitement of new challenges and opportunities. And the ache of loneliness seems to only recede by joining with others to share your thoughts and dreams. But in general, time is only one factor in the changes we experience over time – and it is always aided by newer thoughts and interests that share in its space.  If you want to change what you’re doing and replace it with something better, more creative, or clearly innovative, start today by changing your outlook: look at others, study best practices and thoughts, and commit to addressing and solving the challenges you face.  If you want things to change you actually have to change them step and detail at a time.
Stay well!