Want to make changes? Start with YOU

Making changes is not always easy.
When making a change start by playing to your strengths – it’s a good starting point.

Here are a few things I learned along the highway of life:

  • Do your part. And don’t expect, or accept, any handouts.
  • Know when the price you pay it’s too high – and get out.
  • Your life-experience determines how you see the world.

Do your part. And don’t expect, or accept, any handouts
When you want something then you need to put in the effort.
(Generally, that’s what it takes to become an “overnight success.”)


Know when the price you pay it’s too high – and get out
Years ago, before starting my consulting business, I was working for a company where I made a good salary.

But I was working 12-hour days. There were times when I was there even on Sundays.
Sure, I was appreciated. But, at some point I realized how much time I was putting in.

I didn’t have a life outside work. It was a high price to pay. And it was time to make the decision.
Whether it’s the business or personal arena, know when it’s time to get out. And do it.

Your life-experience determines how you see the world
It’s been said that we see the world not the way it really is; but the way WE are.
Think about it. The people in our lives, events, experiences:
All of these help shape who we are.

My greatest asset is the knowledge that I can always start from zero and build it all back up.
Making my own decisions since I was a teenager certainly helped build my confidence.

But it started long before that, with my dad.
He made me feel I’m smart, strong, and can do anything if I’m willing to work for it.
In school, the teachers continued to build on that foundation.
(Parents and educators have the most important job in the world.)

*    *    *    *    *

The environment we grow up in, the country we live in, the people we surround ourselves with:
All of these shape who we are.
Who we become.

You want to make changes in your life?
Start with YOU. Set your goals. Put in the effort.
Periodically asses how you are doing. Adjust or change course when necessary.
Do your part and contribute: at home, with family and friends.
And in the community.

Think what you can accomplish.
The possibilities are limitless!

And think what we can all accomplish, as a nation,
if we can make the best use of our human capital.

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Workplace: top trends in 2017

As we are approaching a new year, we are looking at new trends that will play an important role in the workplace.
Let’s start with the good news: there is a projected increase in salaries.
(Due to increased demand for highly skilled professionals).

Generation Z
More good news: more diversity in the workplace.
Generation Z is entering the workforce.
The not-so-good news: they are greeted with some negative stereotype. By Millennials.
(Say what?!)

One would think Millennials would have learned by now how it feels to be stereotyped : )

AI’s growing influence
Driverless cars are now a reality (Pittsburgh and elsewhere),
And artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to move into organizations and assist with accounting, HR, etc.
That’s assisting in a positive manner.
(Malevolent uses of AI is beyond the scope of this post.)

PR for employees
Another interesting trend: companies’ PR is no longer reserved only for their customers and prospects.
Not only do companies compete for talent but they also strive to create good experiences for their employees.
These employees in turn share their positive interaction with the company on social media.
A win/win.

The workplace gets more casual.
And here is a trend that will be enjoyed by most: a more casual workplace.
Over 3 million executives are set to retire next year.
And Millennials are entering management.
That means there will be more emphasis on collaboration and transparency.
And less formality in management style.
That casual style will transfer to the business dress code as well.
With jeans and t-shirts being the choice for business attire.
(And to that I say — it’s about time : )



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A day of blunders, candies, and other fun stuff

It was supposed to be a slow-paced, leisurely day.
With one appointment only.
At least that was the plan at the beginning of the week.
It all changed with an email from a client that catapulted me head-first into a big work project.

The day of the appointment
I’m looking at the time. And I’m looking at the phone — willing it to ring.
A “doctor’s order” for me this morning would be a canceled appointment.
(And it can only happen from the other side — it was rescheduled several times already.)

I grudgingly get in the car and start heading toward the coffee shop. As I pulled in the parking lot the phone rings. It’s a friend.
We talked for several minutes as I’m relating where I am; and why. That’s when my friend tells me, “Don’t you know?! That coffee shop closed several weeks ago!”
I get off the phone and look around.
Sure enough, there is no activity. Parking lot is empty.
(Just great — I was the one who chose the meeting place!)

About this time the phone rings again. It’s my appointment.
He is waiting for me; at a different coffee shop.

Pleasant and informative
In less than 10 minutes I’m there.
A well-mannered guy, he makes an attempt to convince me this is the coffee shop he understood we were to meet.
A roaring laughter from me dispelled any notion that I would follow the same civilized principles.

Sipping coffee and talking — the time went by quicker than I thought.
What started as a don’t-have-time-for-this business meeting ended up being a pleasant and informative hour.
(In some ways he reminds me of someone from my family. Well, almost: he doesn’t have the Smart Alec part : )

Moral of this story: if you have a meeting with me YOU better pick the place.
You see what happens when I do!

Unexpected visit. And candies
When I got back to my desk, I was ready to dive into my work. As soon as I started the phone rang.
A client — asking if it’s all right to stop by for a short visit.
“Yes, of course”, I say as I’m closing my computer. And putting away the project I’m working on.

About 30 minutes later the client shows up. With a check in hand. And a box of candies.
I quickly glanced at the check as I put it away; and start a thorough “examination” of the candies.
Dark truffles — yes!!

As we talk, I have to keep telling Sunny to keep quiet. He wants to be part of the conversation (mainly complaining that Flipper doesn’t want to play with him).

The phone rings. Again.
This time is a friend who wants to go and get some poinsettias; and asks if I want to go along.
“I’m with a client” answer didn’t deter her. She said, “It’s all right. We’ll go later — after you are done.”

…and other fun stuff
The day continues with more phone calls.
And several visits to the IRS’ site.

Later that evening, at a social gathering, as soon as I walked in I started,
“Let me tell you about my day of leisure.”

A good day.
It didn’t go as planned — but a good day.

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Serious about making an impact? Power down your smartphone and get to work

“Most social media is best described as a collection of somewhat trivial entertainment services that are currently having a good run. These networks are fun, but you’re deluding yourself if you think that messages, posts and likes are a productive use of your time.”

This is an excerpt from an article written by Cal Newport.

A computer scientist, author and a blogger, Newport wrote an article in the NY Times. In it he talks about how addictive social media can be; and how it interferes with our civic life.

He concludes the article with,
“If you’re serious about making an impact in the world, power down your smartphone,
close your browser tabs, roll up your sleeves and get to work.“
(Forgot to mention: Newport is also a millennial. What is this world coming to : )

Another Times contributor, Andrew Sullivan, paints a much darker picture.
The title of his piece says it all,
“I used to be a human.”

The irony of it
What I find interesting is that Newport’s article was brought to my attention by one of my LinkedIn connections.
The irony doesn’t escape me: an article about the bad effects of social media is shared on the very medium it vilifies.

Is it really as bad as  Sullivan and Newport want us to believe?
No doubt. When done in excess, of course it’s bad.
(What isn’t?!)

It’s all about balance
When used moderately, far from being a villain, social media is great for networking.
It’s also good for keeping in touch with family and friends.
(Yes, Messieurs Sullivan and Newport, I have to concede: watching cute birds, puppies, and kittens it’s addictive : )
It’s all about balance.

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The power to choose

”…whatever you do it’s working; we are giving you carte blanche — both of us.
We love seeing how well she is doing.”

That was several years ago: two happy parents — expressing their gratitude for my help.
They were in the U.S. for a short visit. The father was running several businesses, frequently traveling outside of the home country.

A few years prior, visiting with friends in the States, he decided to have his daughter going to college here.
(It just so happened that we had some friends in common; and that’s how I’ve met the family.)

My student
It didn’t take long for me to begin giving unsolicited advice on the college courses “my student” was taking.
I started giving her specific instructions on how to get the most out of each lesson.

Then I scheduled several hours a week and helped guide her through some of the subjects she had more difficulties with.
As the end of the school-year was approaching my student was getting really excited to go back home.

One day, at one of our sessions, she turned to me and asked,
“Do you want to come over and visit? You would love meeting the rest of my family”!
I smiled and said how much I appreciated the invitation.
But I couldn’t. Maybe sometime in the future.

My student kept insisting.
I knew why. She, along with her family, appreciated my help.
And an all-expenses-paid trip was yet another way to express their gratitude.

Pay it forward
Then I had an idea. I said to her:
“If you feel you want to do something, for all the help you received, I have a suggestion on how to pay it forward.
Talk with your family and see if you can help someone less fortunate. Maybe a former classmate.
Someone that is bright and wants to learn; but doesn’t have the necessary support.
You and your family can help that person reach his or her potential.”

Seeing the light of possibilities
How did my student respond?
A big smile flooded her face.
And the light in her eyes became so bright.

Across demographics, economic classes, etc.  — this is the kind of light we all want to see more of.
It’s the light of possibilities, of all the good we can do with and for each other.

Over the years I’ve had the privilege to see it happen a few times.

Influencing others
The impact you have on others may not always be so visible.
But make no mistake: what you say and do will influence others.
More than you think.

In everyday life — at home, at work, in the community:
Your words and actions DO matter.

You have the power
In this fragmented world of ours remember this:
You do have power.

You have the power to choose:
You can be part of the problem.
Or you can be part of the solution.

You decide.

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The day after

It’s finally here: the day after election.
An overwhelming number of Americans said the 2016 election was a “significant source of stress”.
(Source: The American Psychological Association report in October.)

Now it’s time to de-stress.
And return back to normal.

Some of you (depending on where you live) are returning back to a new “normal”:
Few more states, including California, have decided to legalize the use of marijuana.
Obviously that’s great news for the people and organizations supporting its medical use.

I don’t know how that works (or not).

But I would imagine the pharmaceutical industry isn’t too happy about the news.
(Feeling probably same way Clinton feels about Trump : )

Here are some post-election soothing words:

“In the winter the mountains and forests
Look like never ending clouds.
With skyscrapers covered in snow.
As the wind blows through the tall pines
I feel a sense of peacefulness.”

These are excerpts from a poem written by Isabella Gerard, a fifth-grader from Boise, Idaho.
She’ll be our state’s ambassador this year.
Isabella and her parents will fly to Washington, D.C, to be there for the Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in December.

Democracy at work
For our country to remain a leading force of good in the world we each need to be involved.
From the wide, open spaces of Idaho to the skyscrapers of New York — we are one nation.
And it takes each one of us to make our democracy work.

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Move over California – we have a new environmental leader

Strange bedfellows
No, I’m not talking about politics.
I’m talking about the members of an alliance formed to defeat I-732.

What is it?
I-732 is an initiative that’s proposing a tax on carbon emissions in Washington state.
It’s the first time in the country this type of initiative is going to be on the ballot.
(Move over California. We have a new environmental leader.)

Who oppose I-732?
Businesses and union leaders. The initiative also gets opposition from unlikely places: environmental organizations like Sierra Club.
(Strange bedfellows indeed!)

The reason for the opposition?
Business lobbyists say that imposing tax on carbon emissions will make it difficult for local businesses to compete with those from out-of-state.

And groups that you would normally think would jump with joy at this type of initiative — they don’t.
Because they don’t like its current terms.
They want to address climate change AND economic inequality.
In one package.

Why those in favor say it’s a good thing
Its proponents say that a carbon tax will reduce pollution.
And the way it’s set up is based on a well-known truth: people respond much more favorably to incentives.
As opposed to a set of rules and regulations that would be expensive to enforce.

Interestingly, the only environmental group to support  I-732 is the Audubon Society.

With its revenue-neutral format, the initiative also seems to have a bipartisan support.
(And that’s a good thing, right?)

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The Invisible Barrier

My daughter Ellie used to pet sit for some friends who lived in our neighborhood. The first time I went to check on the pets with her, we were met by the dogs in the front of the house.
My first thought was, “Oh crap! The dogs are out.”

Ellie then told me that the dogs stayed in the yard because there was an invisible fence; a radio frequency barrier that controlled special collars the dogs wore.
Whenever the dogs would get close to the invisible fence, a little warning tone would sound.
If the dogs continued to approach the invisible barrier they would get an electric shock.
The closer they got to the barrier, the stronger the shock would get.
Hmmm, pretty cool.
Unless you’re one of the dogs.

Invisible Barriers
The other day I was thinking about the way this invisible pet fence works, and it seems really similar to what happens in real life.
When we set and are trying to accomplish goals and objectives that require us to step outside of our comfort zone, there is an invisible fence out there that robs most of us from achievement.

Let’s examine.
We start by setting a goal. We might even make a plan to accomplish the goal.
But, when the going starts getting tough, the little voices in our head starts making the soft warning sounds just like the sound the dog collars make when the dog approaches the invisible barrier.

Face discomfort and keep marching straight ahead
Now some people might ignore the warning sound and keep marching towards their goal.
If we continue, and we are the dogs with the special collars, that’s when the invisible fence sends the signal to the collar to give us a little shock.

The response: “Wow! What was that? That was uncomfortable. I better drop this craziness and get back in line. Sure I want to run free, but that shocking business sucks.”

This is when the people I call determined-pretenders use Eric Cartman’s famous line from the animated cartoon South Park and say, “Screw you guys. I’m going home.”
They quit.
However, if you are one of those people that don’t quit easy, you face the discomfort and just keep marching straight ahead facing the pain head on.

The Wall
The bad news now though, is that the invisible fence has been programmed with the instructions to really dial up the pain.
If I translate this programming into a sentence it would read something like,
“Let’s show this  SOB  who’s in charge.”
If you were running a marathon, this would look, and probably feel like what long-distance runners call, “The Wall.”

Malcolm Gladwell would label this extremely difficult period as the moment that immediately precedes what he calls the “Tipping Point.” The Tipping Point is where you break through to the other side and all of the hard work and suffering you stomached actually works to propel you forward.

The many “faces” of motivation
A few years back in the Las Vegas marathon I hit “The Wall” at mile 24.
My body and brain said STOP! Not one more step.
I anticipated this happening. I didn’t stop. I ignored it.
(I actually channeled my entire focus on two really attractive women wearing tutus directly in front of me. Love Las Vegas! But I digress.)

I finished the marathon. After the race ended, I met up with my buddies, walked back to the hotel, showered and changed, and we went out on the town until about 1am.
But wait!
Just a while ago my body said I couldn’t take one more step and now I’m out eating and partying on the Strip?!
But how?!
I endured and I broke through the barrier.
And so can YOU.

Find your adventure and live your life
The real barrier was nothing more than just internal thoughts and feelings that I re-conditioned myself to ignore.
If only that dog knew that all you’ve got to do to be free is run like hell, stomach a few brief moments of extreme discomfort and then the world is your fire hydrant, the invisible pet fence company would go out of business.

It’s like that for us humans too.
The problem is that our bodies are conditioned, or better yet, evolved into vessels that flee from discomfort.

If you’re comfortable you’re not growing.

Today is a fresh new day.
I hope you decide to make it as uncomfortable as possible.

Now go
Find Your Adventure and Live Your Life

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The age of drones

It’s been several weeks now since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has decided to open the American skies to drones.
FAA is informing us of what we can look forward to:

  • Over 600,000 commercial drones expected to be air-born within a year.
  • By year 2025 we can expect a million drone flights. Per day!

And that’s just in the U.S.
(NASA is working on developing a traffic system for drones.)

Drones are here to stay
We know there are many challenges with regulating the use of drones.

From smuggling drugs to a near collision to a passenger aircraft (Europe) we know: enforcing regulations against illegal use of drones it’s challenging.
Some have even taken unusual steps. A police agency in Netherlands is training eagles to catch drones.
(Not the first time we turn to birds for help.)

We certainly know there are many positive, practical uses for drones.
Defense industry, agriculture, real estate, and many other areas.
So the drones are here to stay. And proliferate, for sure.

Let’s hope we are smart enough to enjoy a high-tech environment AND protect the sights and sounds that make our world a beautiful place to live.

Let’s hope future generations can still look up and enjoy the beauty of the blue sky.

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Blending the old with the new

“I’ve read this article a while back in the Journal”, said my friend.
“About a publishing company who found out the reason its sales have been in decline: their sales team made their sales calls mainly via email and text. The company had to hire a telephone coach to train its sales force. Isn’t that interesting?” asked my friend.
I started laughing. To which my bewildered friend mumbled, “I didn’t think it was funny!”

You are eating, right?
I laughed because the story brought back some fun memories.
When I lived in Southern California a good friend of mine would often call to either go shopping or take our feathered kids (mine and hers) for a walk.
It almost never failed: every time she called I was eating.
After a while she would start the conversation, “You are eating, right?”
If I wasn’t, we were both surprised; and I would jokingly say, “You are losing your touch!”

Beep. Beep. Beep
If I am in a business meeting I prefer the text message over the voice call, for obvious reasons.
However, when one find oneself part of a group of friends who can’t decide where to go for lunch.
And messages are going back and forth.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Well, I really want to beep the phone somewhere.
Mars, maybe…

Blending the old with the new
Back to the Journal story: text or email messaging can be part of the strategy when seeking new business.
That’s the key word: part.
For a successful business strategy you need to blend in the old with the new.
You wanna develop new business relationships?!
Pick up the phone. Show up.
You need that voice time; or face time.
That’s how you build trust.

Wishing you much success in all you do.

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