Friday, 29 April 2011

The Benefits of Standing UP for Yourself

The Benefits of Standing Up!  (This isn't about activism.)

It isn't about the dangers to our health of sitting down for hours at a desk at work, or in front of a TV at home.  Read these related articles for all the health reasons why my makeshift stand-up desk in my humble cubicle at work is good for me, but read on to learn the truth of why I did it.

Wrinkles.  I hate those wrinkles in the back of my suit pants that are caused by sitting all day.  I hate those wrinkles in the waist and crotch area of my pants from sitting all day.  I have a pants-press at home where I hang my pants and press them fresh daily, thus getting at least one or two wearings more before they hit the dry cleaners.  I'm guessing I save probably 4 to 6 cleanings a year per suit this way, and save replacing at least one suit a year by cutting down on the wear and tear.  (I just wrote the word "pants" 5 times in one paragraph.)

If it firms my abs or speeds up my metabolism, strengthens my glutes or tones my calves, well...bonus.  If I save somehting like $600 a year in wardrobe maintenance and replacement costs, even better. 

Next time - why listening to rock music on my headphones all day every day at work is good for me. 


Thursday, 28 April 2011

Showing up is Probably MORE than Half the Battle in Sales

This past month I have had the uncomfortable displeasure of hearing from a few prospects that they have chosen my competition, effectively taking me, or more accurately my product, out of the picture for at least another year and probably more.

This would bother me enough if it was merely a matter of being out-bid, out-negotiated, out-sold.  It isn't.  In every case it has been because my competition has been in contact with the prospect well before I ever showed up - before I ever made the prospecting call.

This would bother me enough if it was merely a matter of me discovering the client for the first time, and in prospecting discovering I've just missed a booking pattern.  It isn't.  These were all people whom I knew, or knew of, and I just hadn't gotten around to asking for their business yet.

The lesson in all this for me?  Show up!  Play full out!

Don't assume that because someone knows you that they know what you do.  Don't assume because you serve in a volunteer capacity beside a potential customer that you will be top of mind when they're in a buying mood.  The truth is, you'll be top of mind when they're looking for a volunteer.  Don't assume because someone thinks you're a swell guy that it would occur to them to do business with you.

I have a friend who designs widgets for a living; damned good widgets.  He diligently serves on many committees in a professional association.  He is frustrated and confided he is thinking of quitting the association because of the number of people who know him and volunteer beside him who've asked him to check out the widgets they've just paid a stranger to design.  The reason they haven't asked him?  He never asked them; he just assumed they'd call simply because of his ubiquitous presence everywhere and all the time.


If the relationship is one of customer / client, even if only by nature of our respective positions, but even with our friends, family, neighbours, associates and all future clients, we owe it to them (if only to stop them from making a terrible purchasing decision) to:
  1. tell 'em what we do, 
  2. find out if it's a good fit for what they need, 
  3. present our product and 
  4. ask for the sale.  We owe it to ourselves and to our potential clients to ask again and again until we are categorically rejected.
Then we can all sleep well because of a job well done.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

An Article by Cortney E. Martin and John Cary: "Greg Mortenson and our false ideals about social change"

The co-authors of this article, Cortney E. Martin and John Cary absolutely nail it in one sentence, " In this culture of 24/7 news, swollen with schadenfreude, Mortenson appears on the brink of becoming another tragic figure – the most recent saint to fall from his pedestal of six-figure book contracts, sold-out speaking engagements, and CAI’s millions in annual donations..."  

Read more:  Greg Mortenson and our false, ideals about social change

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Prayer - There, I Said It

One day, like ever other day, the boss arrived at the office and answered the morning greeting from his assistant with his usual "never better, how are you?" If he wasn't "never better", then he was "excellent" or "outstanding" that day, and every day. I suppose it got a bit annoying for his team to hear day after predictable day, though each day he offered it as if it was a brand new thought to the man. He always asked in return, and had never received any better than a "not bad" in response.

So one brave soul got up the courage to address the issue. "You're always on!" she accused. "Nothing ever brings you down. Every day it's the same bright attitude when you come in. Do you read inspirational sayings every day?" she challenged, and the team leaned forward to hear the answer.

"Do you mean like new-age motivational stuff, quote-a-day stuff, a calendar page of inspiration-a-day stuff?" the boss answered. He almost called it crap, because that's what he thought of it, but he knew that some of the team believed quite strongly in it.

"Yeah, that's it - that self-motivational stuff - you must read it every morning when you wake up," teased his team mate.

"No," said the man, and that was the end of the discussion. "None of that really appeals to me."

The truth he'd tell them, if they wanted to hear it, is that he begins and ends every day in prayer.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Three Reasons Why Even Atheists Should Observe Good Friday (and Lent)

You don't have to be Christian to benefit from observing a good Lent, and a Good Friday.  Here are three reasons why.

1.  It ain't about you.  Sorry to break it to you, but the sooner you acknowledge it, the sooner you can get on to caring about someone other than yourself, the sooner you can celebrate that it ain't about you.  You don't have to carry the load yourself; you're not alone; it's OK to ask for help.  Repeat - it ain't about you.
     Some people discover that when they have children, and they devote their lives to raising the best possible children.  Some don't and focus instead and only on being best possible parents.  There's a difference.

2.  As C.S. Lewis says in his book Mere Christianity, "there are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right then, have it your way."  Lent and especially Good Friday is a good time to step back and reflect on which we choose to be.

     When it comes to famous last words, none can beat Christ's.  "Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit," or more simply put daily by Christians throughout the world, "Thy will be done."

3.  Christ was a human fact in the history of mankind.  Contrary to what South Park's creators would have us believe, he was not a mythical creature like the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.  Looking for profundity?  You can spend your riches on dough-heads who spout off on four hours of sleep a day, you can self-motivate, and you can anesthetize your soul with chicken soup and or your mind with daily quotes.
     You can read the Gideon bible available for free in any hotel room.  Go ahead, no one will see you.  You can download and read the bible for free on your smart phone and people will think you're checking your emails and texts and tweets for the umpteenth time.  You can read the words of Christ (they're in the New Testament) and try to figure out what he's saying, and how that applies to you.
 But first, you're going to have to surrender your pride.

And that, my friends, is the great lesson of Good Friday, the day God surrendered to the will of mankind and was nailed to the cross for his troubles.

Once you wrap your head around that one, you'll be ready for your very own Easter Sunday.

On Smart Communities...

In most communities there's an element I have heard referred to as "movers and shakers."  These people are the ones you see at every event, every opportunity, and every reception where the wine is flowing and the shrimp is free.  They natter and gnosh, gladhand and trade bon mots, imbibe, air kiss and pat each other on the back for jobs well done, whatever it is that they do.

Frankly, it's been my experience that most "movers and shakers" are just "bobbers and weavers" in expensive suits.

The other night the usual suspects were noticeably absent and the room was mostly filled with academics and entrepreneurs who somehow found time to celebrate Windsor's Top 7 standing as one of the world's most intelligent communities.  Columnist Chris Vander Doelen of the Windsor Star in his column today succinctly describes almost exactly my thoughts on the matter, both before Monday evening and after a wonderful night, beautifully presented at the St. Clair Centre for the Arts.

Read it here 

I was a skeptic about the amount of money being spent to promote the region, but now I'm a believer.  Here's what a number one ranking would mean to a man in my position:

1.  Doors would be opened in Toronto and Ottawa as I sell Windsor as a convention destination to provincial and national associations.
2.  One more reason for people to consider our region for tourism, investment and relocation, as if an extra month of fresh vegetables, golfing and nice weather on either side of the summer wasn't enough
3.  A fresh infusion of influential dandies and dilletantes
3.  The long term viability of a pretty cool city for my wife and I, but also for our kids.
4.  I look like a genius for relocating the family here all those years ago.

Stay tuned to see how it all turns out.  The World's Most Intelligent Community will be named in June 2011.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Value of Gas and its Influence on Behaviour

When gas was going for about 79 cents a litre, I made the stupid error of telling my dad that I thought it should sit at a buck a litre, and maybe people would stop driving such big gas-guzzlers, and as much.

What I failed to take into account was how much that would affect a man like my dad, driving three times a week for dialysis, on a fixed income.  He would no more welcome a twenty-cent hike than he did my granola crunching self-righteousness.  I think he told me to go hug a tree, except he didn't say "hug" and he didn't say "tree".

At the risk of revisiting the situation, I would suggest that at current high gasoline prices, I can't help but wonder what would happen to prices if demand were to drop drastically.  More specifically, what if most of the 3200 people in the place where I work were to buy homes within walking distance, or on a bus route?  Would gas prices be as much of a concern?

Could we become one car families, use less fuel, bring life to downtown neighbourhoods and prosperity back to the inner city?

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Road Test - 2011 Chevy Malibu

My first car was a 1973 Malibu.  Picture this car (above) in a light blue, with a white vinyl roof that started at the B pillar (driver's door) and went all they way to the trunk line.  Swivel bucket seats.  Big engine, big power, thirsty.  I sincerely regret ever selling that car, although I do recall that the rusted hole in the floorboards was causing the interior windows to fog because the carpets were always wet from road spray, the swivel seat was broken so it kept rotating when I turned corners, and the damned car disliked wet weather so much that it stalled BEFORE it came to a puddle.

I hated what GM did to the 'bu after that year.  Squared it up (notice the round tail lights on the '73) made it a family car (Mal-boo!) and took the guts out of it. The model died, came back, died and then came back again like a cheap whore in an afternoon soap.

This week I rented the 2011 Malibu, something I've been wanting to do for some time.  It's got it's looks back, though nowhere near as dangerous looking as it used to be.  It's got some guts.  It doesn't come in a two-door anymore, but there aren't many models in both a 2 and 4 door.  Yeah, it's a family car, but a young man in his early fifties can get into it, too.
Here's what I thought of it:

GREAT:  It was great on fuel.  I did mostly city driving and was very pleased on how little gas it used.  That's a very big deal to me, and even back in the day I never liked the idea of transferring money from my wallet to the big oil companies' bank accounts simply because of the inefficiency of my automobile's engine.  It's never been the prime motivation for choosing one car over another, but it can be a deal breaker.

GOOD:  Comfortable layout, easy to use controls, tight steering and handling, lots of zip, easy to park, handle inside the trunk lid so you don't get your fingers dirty (yeah!) and most importantly - not BORING.  I rented a competing sedan, the Camry, on my last trip and found it all of the above but BORING as hell.  I aged 20 years just taking a two-hour drive down the highway in the Toyota. Kind of like the Volvo S-10; I think it's against the law to listen to rock music when you drive a Volvo, it's just so boring.

Room for GROWTH:  Where's the heated seats?  I'm not being a luxury hound - this is a safety issue!  A comfortable driver is an alert and responsive driver, but a driver who is hunched over the steering wheel drawing his extremities in and avoiding movement as much as possible in order to conserve body heat on a snow-crunching dark January morning is not going to be as ready for evasive action, at least until the car and the driver warm up.  Heated seats should not be an option in Canada.  Oh, and the seatbelt kept getting stuck between the door and the seat on the driver's side - small but annoying design flaw.

Would I buy one?  Already pricing 'em.

Monday, 11 April 2011

It Really was the Best Buy

On Saturday in Windsor it was left to me to do a little big box shopping, perhaps my least favourite activity.  I had to stop by the big American home improvement chain for some lumber to repair the fence.  I prepared for the worst.

Loews was my first stop.  I arrived, parked, found the lumber section after a quick scan of the bbq / patio / outdoor seasonal stuff for some grass seed, I asked a Loews dude for help.  He took me right to exactly what I was looking for, sold me on why it was a great buy, and answered all my questions.  I was back out the door in probably less than 15 minutes, and it wasn't a bad experience as I expected it would be. It was actually a good experience.

On my way home I spotted Best Buy, remembered I needed a disc drive for my netbook, and stopped in.  I went into the computer section, in full asshole mode, and steeled myself for some very bad service.  I even set my watch to time how long it would take for anyone to notice I was there (hey, I said I was in FULL asshole mode).  Fourteen seconds later Mark showed up and asked if I needed help.  Fourteen seconds; I'm not kidding!

He called a guy named Scott over to help, who answered my questions, helped me good naturedly in spite of my lack of knowledge, directed me to the best buy (no pun intended), and I purchased it and went on my way.  My shopping excursion was so short that they didn't even have time to raise the gas prices in between going out and coming back.

Thanks, great service from both stores, nice to write about a service issue and actually name the company in a compliment!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Death and Life - Sacramental Suffering, A Question of Euthanasia

Lazarus  John 11:1-45

Mens' Health ran an article about Nick Chisholm, a 27 year old New Zealander who through a traumatic injury while playing Rugby, found himself “locked in”.  Being locked-in is a medical condition in which a quadriplegic is still very much conscious.  His doctors wrote him off as brain dead, and advised his mother to pull the plug.  She declined.  Locked in, fully conscious and completely unable to communicate his agony, Nick Chisholm heard every word. His friend offered to kill him...

The man who might have been the instrument of Nick's death, instead became the reason he lives.

Our Gospel today, of Lazarus rising from the dead,  tells much the same story, an act of love in which sisters Mary and Martha pray to their Lord Jesus Christ for help.   Jesus doesn’t come right away.

Have we ever felt that way?  We call for God’s help, and does it ever feel like he doesn’t hear us?  In my ministry of Palliative care, in working with families living with life threatening illnesses, people tell me all the time, “I’ve prayed and I’ve prayed, and it seems like God just doesn’t hear me!”  Of course He does, and of course he will answer our prayers, but not always in the time and method we would like.

In the coming years our country will face the question of Euthanasia.  Well-meaning people will use the argument that we should do all we can to relieve people of their suffering, but I ask:  “Whose suffering are we talking about?”  It is very difficult to see someone you love suffering – it was for Boyd Carter, and it was for Mary and Martha.  The misguided arguments in favour of “mercy” killing are the same, I would suggest, in support of better palliative care for all Canadians, not just the few.

What is our Catholic response to the looming Euthanasia debate?  I refer you to today’s Gospel, the Gospel according to John; John the apostle; John, the beloved disciple.  John, who with Mary, was the only apostle at the foot of the cross.

Mary and John, family and friends, kept vigil as their loved one suffered to the end.  Mary and John, seemingly helpless, giving all that they had to give, in two ways – they were there, and they prayed.

How many of us have kept that same vigil at the foot of the bed as our loved one, made as comfortable as possible, awaited for God’s will to be done?  

Christ, by his submission to it, makes suffering a sacrament, not a shameful fact of life to be hidden or denied.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Joys of Waiting

I'm at my desk working late, plugged in through the Internet to the Mighty Q in Toronto, rocking out to their "live drive" segment in which they play cuts from live concerts.  It's always great music, and sometimes my appreciation for a band or their song really grows hearing it performed outside of the studio.

Such was the case today, listening to Fleetwood Mac performing "Don't Stop" - one of the worst Fleetwood Mac tunes ever recorded, to my ears.  But in this version they perform with a live marching band, a la "Tusk" - and delivered one of the best live Fleetwood Mac tunes ever recorded, to my ears.  I was rocking out the cubicle here alone after 5:00.  Watch it here:

I resolved to YouTube it, and enjoy it again and again.  And then I remembered the days when you'd hear just a song on the radio, or just a few bars of a song (as happened with one particularly cool tune in the late seventies when I heard the last 16 bars, sourced the album and have enjoyed every tune on that disc ever since) and you couldn't wait to find the album, carefully unwrap it, gingerly place it on the turntable, take control of the arm and lower the needle gently to the groove, and then groove along - over and over again.

Not only is today's I-Pod generation missing the joy of the b-side and the bad tunes on the way to the one tune they bought the album to hear, but they are missing the sweet agony of waiting until they can afford to buy the album, or waiting to find it in the store, or buying the wrong album and discovering it's pretty cool anyway. 

They've never hummed a few bars to the scruffy dude at Sam the Record Man and followed him to the exact spot in the store where musical gold awaits, (although I hear there's an app for that). 

They're missing the joy of waiting and wanting and longing as they hum along to their collective theme song, "I Want it All (and I Want it Now)" . 

(That's a song from Queen's album, The Miracle.  You can find it in the  Rock section , under the Qs.  Back of the store.)

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Ten Mistakes Managers Make

A knowledgeable friend of the Association industry, Jack Shand, has written a very good article on mistakes managers make. Read it here: CharityVillage® Ten Mistakes Managers Make

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A Simple "Hello!"

You can tell a lot about a man by the way he enters, and leaves the workplace.
Years ago when I was just a pup with a tie, I learned a valuable lesson from Peter Hunt, a seasoned veteran of the restaurant industry.  He used to arrive for a shift all smiles and shaking hands, saying "hi" to everyone and sharing a story or a laugh.  When he left, it was the same, all "goodnight!", and "thanks for your work today!"  (Contrast that to a boss who once took until two in the afternoon to acknowledge my presence, and we'd been in the office together since 9 a.m.)  But I'm not one to learn by example, or wasn't at the time.  It took Peter to tell me what I missing.  And it took my last shift before Christmas, when I left without saying goodnight, tired and weary, and Peter chased me out into the snow and called my name, "Jeremy!" 

I turned to see what I had forgotten, and he came up to me, shook my hand, and said simply, "Merry Christmas." 

Since that day, and every work day since, I made it my goal to never enter the office, the kitchen, the hotel - the workplace, without a greeting to everyone present, (and sometimes that means going looking for them), or left for the night without stopping by every desk, cubicle, office, section of the restaurant or into the depths of the walk-in freezer, without saying goodnight.

Thanks Peter.

Ten Tips For Successful Conference Tweeting

buJeff Hurt gives some excellent tips for effective Social Media.  I'm especially impressed with the consideration he shows to followers on Twitter - with some good suggestions that will enhance their experience (and appreciation) of your Tweets.

"Tweeting at conferences and events. It seems to be a love-hate relationship with some.

Some say it’s become passé. Others see it as a way to spread information.

Some conference organizers, mostly those outside of social media events, are beginning to see an uptick in the backchannel chatter. Their attendees are just starting to discover the value and usefulness of Twitter at a conference."

Read the rest here:  Ten Tips For Successful Conference Tweeting