Friday, January 31, 2014



It’s been a week since I delivered my TEDx talk.  I needed a whole week to digest the experience and be able to discuss it somewhat objectively.  But make no mistake: the emotional high is still there.

TED is all about Ideas Worth Sharing and I was honored that they thought mine might reach that level.  And presenting with (and having watched) others who are lawyers, doctors, teachers and rocket scientists made me seriously question my credentials to talk among them.  But they were persuasive and I presented.

They wanted a 12-minute presentation and I’m not usually that disciplined; I’ve given lots of speeches but none that were going to be filmed and published on You Tube.  I’ve often told stories from my days as Steve Wynn’s HR guy but wasn’t sure they’d be of interest to this audience, and worried that my non-traditional style could prove awkward in such a high-profile setting. 

So I took the stage and told stories of some non-traditional recruitment strategies I dreamed up for the openings of Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio and Wynn, and the lessons learned.  The gist of it was that Wynn and his companies were so popular that we easily garnered more than 3 million applications during my tenure: while we were certainly flush with them, we never stopped looking.  We didn’t need more, but looked because it was the right thing to do.

At lunch, waiting to present, I sat with a 14 year old who gave a talk last year that’s gone viral and is now the 3rd most watched video on the TEDx You Tube Channel: he was cool, I started to get butterflies.  And then it was show time: all of the talks were great: some had Power Points - I had me; some had great theories - I had real-life experiences; all got applause - I got a standing ovation. 

Some things in life are notable because we’re at the right place at the right time; others are memorable because we get something from them; this was inspirational because I came away with a greater sense of awe at the power of thought. 

I’d tell you more but don’t want to spoil the ‘punch’ line.  I’ll let you know when the You Tube link is live.

My message this week is about getting out there and doing things:

“Life is for participating, not for spectating.”  Kathrine Switzer

We’re often reminded that people have to play in order to win.  Problem is we’re often not invited or made to feel that way, but that doesn’t relieve any of us of the right or responsibility to prep up, step up, and be ready to get actively involved when called. So no matter what the situation, you must remember that life is for participating and not for spectating.  That means you always have to be ready, which pre-supposes that you’re always preparing and keeping up to date, and that if  (not when) the opportunity arises, you’re ready.  Your friends, colleagues and career demand that you remain constantly ready and able; that’s how to make sure you’re in a position to win.  So stop watching and get involved in the things going on in your world today!

Stay well!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Starting Over


 Starting Over
How often do you get to start over every six months?  Throughout my former career in HR I focused on longevity and continuity, using both to promote consistency and customer satisfaction.  Here on the faculty, with the beginning of each new semester, the momentum and continuity is more personal. And I’m starting to see similarities between the two.

In the world of work I tried hard to make those around me smarter and more effective; the longer they stayed with the company the better they became.  And we leveraged that continuity to help create consistently great experiences for customers.

Here at school, we try to make ourselves smarter and more effective, and to use that self-improvement for the benefit of each semester’s new students. And for each group of new customers (read: students), it’s like the old Eastern Airlines motto: We earn our wings every day.

In both worlds it really is about making sure each of us, whether manager or teacher, is as good as we can be.  It’s about doing whatever it takes to continuously learn and improve, to be better tomorrow than we are today, and to openly and honestly assess and address our strengths and weaknesses. 

Self-reliance, self-direction, self-motivation, personal responsibility and accountability are the characteristics of effectiveness and success in everything we do.  So I guess starting over is really about seeing every day as an opportunity to improve our own personal effectiveness.  

My message this week is about being responsible and accountable for our actions:

“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, January 10, 2014

Polar Vortex

Polar Vortex

I’m 60something and had never heard the term Polar Vortex until this past week.  The meteorologists were having a field day predicting the dire consequences of this latest once-in-a century weather catastrophe.  How’re they going to top this next year?

The weather was really cold everywhere, and there were wild temperature swings around those frigid blasts.  Snow piled up, winds howled and waterfalls froze.  The 24 news and weather channels showed pictures of treacherous conditions over and over as if they were actually continuing rather than being repeated.  People got out their warmest gear, schools and cities were closed, and everyone was encouraged to stay home and be safe.  You’d think nobody ever experienced winter before.

I know I’ve blogged about this in the past because like everyone else I’m driven to being obsessed about the weather.  Maybe that’s why the Weather Channel is the most watched cable station.  But rather than sit indoors and worry about the scenes on the TV we should get up, bundle up and go out and enjoy them.  Maybe this polar cyclone (that’s what a polar vortex really is) is a call from Mother Nature to come out and play.

We all recall winters’ past when records were set and proudly declare how we experienced and survived them.  Remember leggings and boots and mittens and mufflers? Remember seeing the snow swirl in the glow of the streetlights at dusk?  Remember digging tunnels and forts in the snowdrifts and seeing the snow have a blue tint?  If we had stayed indoors back then we wouldn’t have those great memories today.  But we didn’t stay indoors back then because there were no 24-hour news and weather channels telling us not to go out: we looked and decided for ourselves.

I think the 24-hour news cycles are out of control and making us a little bit crazy.  And the last thing we need today is someone making us a little crazier.  So: don't be vexed by a Polar Vortex - turn off the TVs, shut off the computers, and go out and enjoy whatever weather you’re experiencing.  The memories will be worth it.

My message this week is about participating in life to the fullest:

“Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance.” Scout Cloud Lee

What have you hoped for?  As kids, we all dreamed of what we hoped to become when we grew up, and now as adults we’re hopefully living that dream.  Whatever we are, it’s important that we get involved as much as we can to become as much as we can.  There will be good days and bad, happy and sad, more and less exciting and rewarding – and they will all add to whatever we are. So think back on the dreams you had, and while the here and now may not be all that you had hoped for, you should make the most of it.  Smile, be in the moment, extend random acts of kindness, bring joy and happiness to others, and make today and every day all that you want it to be. Do that, and then go ahead and dance!

Stay warm…. and well!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Another Resolution

Another Resolution
How many New Years resolutions have you made in your life?  Most of us make at least one every year, but it’s not how many you make; it’s really how many you keep.

We’ve all made the one about losing weight.  If that were so easy we wouldn’t have to make it a special one, and if we were successful we wouldn’t have to keep repeating it.  And we’ve all made the one about being a better person.  Again, don’t you think that would be one that wouldn’t need repeating?  Or: how many times have you heard or read one and said: “that’s the one”?  Just goes to prove that there’s not much new in the universe.

So what’s the deal with these resolutions anyways?  Presumably they focus us on something that will make us feel or act or be better.  Sure it’s good to have goals, but if any are good to have then there’s no reason to wait for a special occasion to declare and commit to them.

What if every day we got up and just reminded ourselves about: being nice and kind and honest and humble, doing what’s right, smiling and laughing more, saying please and thank you, honoring our mothers and fathers and other elders, speaking well of others, promoting fairness, learning new things, and countless other efforts that help us to be better tomorrow that we are today?

So maybe all of those will be my resolutions for 2014.... and beyond.  And if every morning I remind myself, and if every day I catch myself, and if every evening I remind myself then just maybe I’ll become the person I aspire to be.  And like most things in life, that will be a continuous work in progress.

My message this week is about trying to become the person you want to be:

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everyone will respect you.” Lao Tzu

Are you content?  That could refer to money, profession, family, or stature; but it could also refer to whether you’re content with yourself.  Possibly one of the hardest things in life is to like who you are: the person that you see when you look in the mirror.  Do you say and do the appropriate things: the kinds of things that others respect and trust?  Are you kind and considerate: the kinds of characteristics that others appreciate and follow.  Can you be counted on when called upon: the type of person that others can rely on no matter what?  To do any or all of these you must be content with yourself, so don’t compare yourself to or compete with others.  Be open and honest in your dealings with others and everyone will respect you.  Consider this as you begin to live your New Year’s Resolutions this week!

Happy New Year!