The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective


Archive for February, 2011

I am not what I don’t eat

I was chatting with a friend of mine the other day.  He’s a colleague and a mentor.  We were discussing the job climate and the challenges of finding a good position “at my age”.  Not that I’m an ancient relic or anything – but once you’re over 50, some hiring managers think you are. 

One thing we discussed was appearance, especially weight.  It’s no secret that obesity in America is out of control today.  Sales people are certainly not immune to this affliction.  So the battle of the bulge needs continuous attention.  No exception here (although I’m very proud to say that I am within 12 pounds of my 1975 collegiate basketball playing weight).  Getting back to this point reminds me of a quote from Margaret Thatcher:

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

Lord knows, I’m engaged in a life-long series of battles!  And weight control needs daily attention, don’t you agree?

It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of our jobs; our in-box; our quota-performance.  It’s easy to get hooked on working extended hours instead of working out.  Add-in business travel and our eating habits can really take a turn for the worse, yes?  Fast food, airport dining, and hotel room service are definitely not our waistline’s friend.  

There is nowhere to hide and our appearance tells a hiring manager a lot about us.  But our health is much more important than just our job.   To make matters worse, there is a tremendous amount of misinformation about food, diet, and approaches to maintaining a healthy weight.  Let me help you avoid a few pit falls.  Here’s a little “accepted wisdom” I picked up on one of my out-of-town trips (yep, from a person losing their battle of the bulge):

 Question:     How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?

Answer:       Well, if you have a body, and you have body fat, your ratio is one-to-one.  If you have two bodies, your ratio is two-to-one, etc.

Question:     I’ve heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life.  Is this true?

Answer:       How could that be true?  Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that’s it.  Everything wears out eventually, so how could speeding up your heart make you live longer?  If you want to live longer – take a nap.

Question:     My wife says I should cut down on meat, and eat more fruits and vegetables.  What do you say?

Answer:       Look, what does a cow eat?  Corn.  And what’s corn?  A vegetable.  So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system.

Question:     Is beer bad for you?

Answer:       Look, it goes to the earlier point about vegetables.  As we all know, scientists divide everything in the world into three categories: animal, mineral, and vegetable.  Well, we all know that beer is not an animal, and it’s not on the periodic table of elements, so that only leaves one thing, right?  My advice:  Have a burger and a beer and tell everyone you’re on a vegetarian diet.

                                                                            Unknown Sage

It was actually Colonel Harlan Sanders (yes, that Colonel Sanders believe it or not) who said;

“Make sure you don’t wind up the richest person in the cemetery.  You can’t do business from there.”

Being overweight is nothing to take lightly!  And I mean it’s more important than our next job interview.


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Now I’m no “consultant”

A friend of mine asked me to do a little consulting for him.  He’s trying to grow his company’s top line revenue and wants a complete sales/operations assessment.  He considers me an expert.  You see, in my career I have had the privilege to work for some of the finest sales organizations around and I’ve worked with terrific sales professionals, too.  I suppose that qualifies me for his project – but don’t call me a “consultant”, God forbid!

I usually poke fun at consultants.  I’m not the only one either.  Here’s what Norman Augustine, the former head of Martin Marietta said:

A consultant is an individual handsomely paid for telling senior management of problems, about which senior management’s own employees have told the consultant.

Asking your own employees what can be done to improve things?  Preposterous!  In Corporate America bringing in an outside consultant is the way things are done today, yes?  I’ve heard a consultant described as some guy from out of town, with a brief case.  Well, I guess that will be me when I step off the plane and visit his company.  Come to think of it, I’ll be chatting with his employees about their perceptions of the problems that need to be addressed.  (Uh Oh – if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…)

It’s true that professional selling is both an art and a science.  However, selling is skill-based and unlike some folklore about being a “natural born salesman”, I believe sales professionals are made – not born.  They continuously reinvest in themselves; constantly seek improvement; and successful companies know that without sales excellence, they limit their ability to thrive. So I’ll take a look at how his company’s sales department operates and see if there are opportunities for improvement. 

Now don’t get me wrong.  There are many aspects a company must excel at to be successful.  Let’s keep the sales people’s contributions in proper perspective, shall we?  (Wait a minute – proper perspective?  Is that possible to do with those egotistical, sales maniacs?  Just kidding!) 

I suppose there are worse things than consultants, too; especially at large companies.  There is that notorious group called “Corporate”!  Back to Norm:

Corporate Staff:

Known in some quarters as Sea Gulls for reasons relating to their propensity to fly round the country leaving their mark wherever they have alighted.

                                 Norman R. Augustine

Many of us have been exposed to these Corporate Staff types, yes?  Yep – another opportunity to poke fun.  You remember; this is one of the “great lies” we have all heard.  It goes like this: “I’m from Corporate, and I’m here to help”.

I suppose it’s always easier to tell someone else what they have to do to improve.  The company’s problems are always in that other department, aren’t they?  It’s a bit harder for us to look in the mirror and ask what we should be doing better.  If we tried a little harder at self-improvement, maybe our companies would spend less money on outside consultants.  Maybe we could benefit from this cost savings – have a few more team-building events; more training to improve our skills; maybe even a few more company outings.  Here’s an idea from Rick Levine:

If you’re given a choice between bringing in a consultant or beer, choose the beer.

So wish me well on my project – but don’t call me a “consultant”!  (And please don’t mention the beer idea to my client, OK?)


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The obvious choice

“Gary, you’re going to get fired tomorrow.”  That was the Thursday night phone call I received from the man who had hired me a little over a year ago. I had suspected something was up and emailed him earlier that day to see.  And at 8:30 a.m. Friday morning on a conference call with him, my recently hired, Manager and a Human Resources representative, I was.

When you’re in the business long enough you experience a lot of “firsts”.  I must admit, getting fired was a first for me.  But, I can’t really say I was surprised; disappointed, yes; but not surprised.  The company was reorganizing and even though I was 155% of quota my first year, it was just not impressive enough to convince the new leadership team to keep me.  I wasn’t the obvious choice. And although I felt I was “running as fast as I can”, they thought they could find someone who could “run faster”.

Going in a different direction; reorganizing; changing ownership; being taken private; consolidating; there are a lot of ways executives describe changes to their employees (and soon-to-be-ex-employees).  Geoffrey James said it another way:

As one IT Professional put it; “We’ve been reorganized, restructured, re-engineered, right-sized, down-sized, up-sized, TQM’ed, and MBO’ed, and if I hear the word empowered once more, I swear I’m gonna scream!”

Well in my case, this wasn’t about empowerment or quality improvement.  Nope, just good old fashioned cost-cutting.  Here’s a hint:  anytime you hear the new CEO talk about EBITA, beware!  In my final analysis, I hadn’t given them enough reasons to be “the obvious choice” – EBITA won out.

“Obvious choice” is a rarely used phrase. Oh, sometimes we receive congratulations; sometimes a nice note; too many times, nothing is said at all.  I can remember one time I was awarded a promotion with this phrase, “Pokorn, you’re the best of the worst.  Get a haircut and buy a couple of new suits.  You’ve got the job.” Motivating, huh?  I assure you I hit the ground running that time and enjoyed a great string of success.  (And not just because of the haircut or suits!)

I’ve always felt that the best way to succeed in business is to be the obvious choice.  I suppose this concept also applies to our personal lives – like when I was in high school.  I’m not sure how I did it but when I met my then future-wife-to-be, I convinced her that I was the obvious choice.  (Breaking the news to her Friday was the hardest part.)

I have always associated being the obvious choice with good news.  Now I know there’s another version, too.  I think it was Spock who said, “for all things there is a first time”.  So I will mark this first time well; and I will become the obvious choice for my next company.  I will also focus on hitting the ground running (might even buy a couple of new suits).  I’ll think of my favorite African Proverb:

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.  It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.  Every morning a lion wakes up.  It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.  When the sun comes up, you better start running.

I’m on my way – gotta run – wish me well!


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How to have a winning day

I’ve known several great sales professionals:  I worked along side many; managed a few; reported to one; and learned from them all.  I still stay in touch with some of these colleagues (thank you Linked In).  I have even created my own, personal sales “Hall of Fame”.  And next to the name of each of the best sales people I have known I have noted what makes them special.

These great sales people share some things in common.  For instance, they are all wealthy (Duh!). They have the “earned wealth” kind, not the inherited-from-their-families kind.  Also, they are all extremely competitive; very smart; absolutely skilled; unbelievably smooth; totally articulate; and quite worldly; again, no surprises here.  Some are more personable than others (yes, arrogance can creep into successful, self-made sales professionals); some are older than me; some younger; but all of them are the best-of-the-best in their field. 

I’ve always enjoyed surrounding myself with smart, successful, professional people.  Since I began my career in an innocent state of cluelessness, I felt the best chance I had for success was to do what they did – sort of a “paint-by-numbers” approach.  Well, three decades later I’m still in the profession (and if I can succeed, just think what you can do!).  I’m still learning too; almost every day.  But the key to success is not always found in “something new”.  There are many, time-tested, principles of success that a career can be built on. 

One great salesman I’ve known is Gary Givan.  A key principle I acquired from Gary was that of having a good day.  He used to say, if you focus on having a good day, every day, then the year will take care of itself.  Sage advice for all of us no matter our profession, yes?  Over the years I’ve found additions to his principle – more along the lines of the “How” vs. the “What”.  Here’s an example:

“How to have a Winning Day:

     1. You have to listen more than you talk…

     3. You have to smile more than you frown…

    10. You have to be fascinated more than you’re frustrated…

    15. You have to believe in yourself more than you doubt yourself.

    16. You have to work more than you whine.

    17. You have to do more than you don’t.”

                              Rob Gilbert

 Do more than you don’t – I especially like that one.  When you’re having a tough time a great remedy is to just go sell somebody something!  (Ok, that can be easier said than done sometimes; but a great remedy nonetheless.)  The nice thing about focusing on one day at a time is it’s just one day.  Some days we win; some we lose; and some get rained out; but tomorrow is always another day and another opportunity to succeed.  I guess I should add resiliency; mental toughness; and the ability to try and try again to my list of attributes great sales people have.  William Feather described it this way:

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” 

Successful people can relate to this “hanging on” principle, yes?  And while we’re hanging on; day-by-day; one day at a time; we can narrow our focus to simply trying to make today a good day.  Oh, and one more tip (from an unknown pet lover I suppose) on how to have a good day:

“Wag more than you bark.”


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Love rules without rules.

One of my favorite Italian Proverbs.  And today – Happy Valentines Day! 

What are you doing for that special someone in your life?  Too busy?  Too tired or stressed?  Are you doing something special today (it’s not too late you know).  Or did you plan ahead and date your honey over the weekend?  Yes, I know – today is a Monday – back to work for many of us; back to the rat race   Me?  I took my wife to afternoon tea at the Briarwood Inn on Saturday.  It’s one of her favorites.  I enjoy high tea, too.  We first experienced this activity while cruising on Princess Lines several years ago; 4 p.m. tea, every day.  What a luxury!  During our date this Saturday, I reflected:

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”

Mignon McLaughlin

My wife and I are still in love.  We enjoy these quiet, social settings together where it’s just the two of us.  We have always enjoyed being together – going all the way back to when we first started dating (1970 believe it or not; we were seniors in high school; and before that we were classmates all the way back to 7th grade!).  We’re blessed with sharing many common interests, so spending time together is always a nice retreat.  Like you, our conversations span a variety of topics; our children; extended family; friends; and happy memories.  We both love people-watching; what great humor!  Of course, when we’re together we also synchronize our calendars; debate upcoming projects; disagree on priorities; discuss business; and almost always review our finances.  Yuck!  Necessary I suppose, but certainly not very romantic. 

Like everyone else, we’ve also added electronic communication to our daily routine – email; voice mail; cell phones; and, of course, texting.  We both have home-offices.  Sometimes, I’ll call her from my office when she is in hers – what a modern couple!  I get a kick out of these technological means of communication.  Less personal (and more lazy) I suppose, but it keeps us in closer contact throughout the day.  However, these electronic tools, no matter how convenient, won’t replace our quiet moments together.  Brings to mind what Jim Sterne said eleven years ago:

“Live contact will never be replaced by a machine (except ATM’s – we love machines that give us money).”

Yes, today is Valentines Day, but our relationship over the years has taken constant care and attention.  Little things mostly; not very difficult for us, I suppose; but that’s probably because we are very, very fortunate.  Marriage seems less common than divorce these days; long-lasting marriage is becoming even more rare.  And when times get tough, the most convenient person to argue with, vent, and take out your frustrations on is often your partner, yes?  We’re no different.  Our fights just don’t seem to last very long and we’ve always been able to move forward.  Like I said, we’re very, very fortunate. 

So here’s to February 14th – Valentines Day.   May you enjoy it with someone special in your life – a friend; a family member; your spouse.  And if you’re lucky enough to be in love, may you cherish your quiet time together; sharing common interests; avoiding getting bogged down with life’s trials and tribulations (even though it’s Monday).  Love is special today – and every day:

“Love is not finding someone you can live with; it’s finding someone you cannot live without.”

                               Rafael Ortiz


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A Bear and a Beer

February – reminds me of my Dad.  February was his birth month (mine, too).  When I think about my Dad I can’t help but remember his perspective about how much things cost.  He’d always pine, “Oh, the cost of gas is outlandish!” (And that was back when we only paid $1.75 per gallon).  Or he would complain about the price of bananas; milk; beer; you name it.

If you have “Depression Era Babies” in your family, I bet you’ve heard these complaints too.  Now, I don’t like over spending any more than the next guy, but I try to focus on the fact that I am truly blessed.   Of course, I get that annual shock about this time of year, too, when my W-2 shows up in the mail.  Reminds me of the saying from that unknown Sage, “When I first started working I used to dream of the day when I might be earning the salary I’m starving on now.”

And when my annual 401-k statement arrives?  Well, my Dad’s complaints on how far a dollar can’t go any more come back to mind.  I think of the,

“Market Terminology for Dummies:

Bull Market –  A random market movement causing the investor to  mistake himself for a financial genius.

Momentum Investing – The fine art of buying high and selling low.

 Standard & Poor – Your investment strategy in a nutshell.”


So it’s obvious by my 2010 W-2 (coupled with my investment portfolio) that I’m going to be working for “a while”.  Let’s just say that I’m not quite to the point of being a Wal-Mart Greeter, but I am paying closer attention to where their employment application kiosks are located.  I’m trying not to let this keep me down, though – I love my work, and I’m blessed with my income.  I’d like to keep working as long as I’m physically able.  And if you saw my golf game you’d tell me not to retire yet either.  (Besides, Lisa Kwiecien once said, “The secret to a long marriage is a husband that travels.”)

However, like my Dad, I confess that I’m starting to pay closer attention to the price of things;   Norman Augustine, the former head of Martin Marietta Corporation, did, too.  He told the story of:

“A bear who, displaying a $5 bill, had entered a bar and ordered a beer and; the owner of the bar directed the bartender to give the bear the beer, saying that since the bear didn’t look very smart to only give it 25 cents in change.  Having done as he had been instructed, and having watched incredulously as the bear placidly sipped the beer, the bartender finally could no longer contain himself and sought to engage the bear in conversation.  You know, he said to the bear, we don’t get many bears in this bar.  To which the bear is said to have replied, at $4.75 a beer, it’s no wonder.

Funny thing about money; no matter how much we make, it’s not quite enough to take our minds off the price of things.  And how we deal with the delta between our take home pay and our household budget has a lot to do with our daily outlook, yes?  So whether it was my Dad’s continuously, friendly disposition, or that bear, placidly sipping his beer; both serve to remind me that my glass is truly half-full.


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Dark Ages Computing®

The title of Chapter III of my book – and the result when I reflect on my career of 30+ years selling the latest and greatest; newest and coolest; technology “solutions” to those customers that absolutely, positively have to have “it” – even if they don’t quite know exactly what “it” is; why “it” is better than what they already have; nor how they’re actually going to use “it”.

Take cellular technology for instance; how far have we come?  I remember the very first cell phone I owned.   It was 1990; in Chicago; I was selling for Oracle Corporation.  Oracle Financials, Version 1.0 – what a ride that was!  Talk about the latest and greatest and the newest and coolest; our slogan was Oracle is so portable it will run on every platform known to mankind, including your wristwatch!  (See what I mean about not knowing what “it” really is?)    Now in 1990, believe it or not, we didn’t really need a cell phone for business success.  However, cell phones were the latest “it” and I absolutely, positively had to have one.

The first cell phones were referred to as “brick phones”.  About the size and weight of a brick, too; definitely not a device we hooked to our belt.  My salesman convinced me to buy the optional “power antenna” – a ten inch spike that screwed onto the top of the phone –  added 4 blocks of reception (which was only about 8 blocks to begin with; excluding most indoor locations, of course).   So I made my calls outdoors, in the clear, which was particularly lovely during Chicago winters!  The power antenna reduced my battery life to about 5 minutes, but when it was cold, my calls were brief anyway.  Nonetheless, I definitely had to have “it”.

Tivo to 2011 – Now our business world blurs into our personal life – so we all work more (yea!).  And who goes even a few hours without checking social media to see all the posts everyone makes showing just how blurred our daily lives are?  The result of working more I’d guess.  And the latest and greatest?  Well if you’re still on 3G and not 4G, then every TV ad and billboard blares that you’re missing “it”! (Better buy a power antenna, I suppose).  How on earth did we ever get by on whatever preceded 3G – what was that, tin cans and string?

So if you find yourself pausing to wonder how did we get so entangled with all these new-fangled, hi-tech, cellular, social gadgets, which have helped us to work more and vacation less?  And when we can’t get “it” to connect (even when we go outside) causing our blood to boil, and we demand, “Who is the %/*# responsible for this!”  I offer a behind-the-scenes explanation on the newest and coolest, latest and greatest (which I affectionately like to refer to as Dark Ages Computing®):

“Charismatic salespeople vie to win the attention of the visionary with outrageous promises, which heroic sales-support specialists try to illustrate in demos invented more or less on the fly, and which R&D groups agree to make come true under the influence of contagious enthusiasm and too much caffeine.”

                                                                            Geoffrey A. Moore

OK, gotta go now – gotta check my texts to see if that order for the latest and greatest, newest and coolest “it” came in from my new customer.  I know they absolutely, positively have to have it!  (My bad).


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Wisdom from our kids

Wisdom from our kids

“Never tell your Mom her diet is not working.  Never trust a dog to watch your food.  And if your Dad asks, Do I look stupid?, don’t answer.”

Unknown Sage

A year ago, in January of 2010 I responded to a radio ad and signed up for a thirteen week, “Maximize Living Boot Camp” by Dr. Joseph Singh (check out  OK; it was the New Year and traditionally every New Year I make a resolution to lose weight.  (I know, I know – what a novel idea!  Bet you’ve never heard that one before.)

Starting out at 6’3” and 237 pounds, I knew that the last time I weighed 200 pounds was in 1975 – my final year of playing collegiate basketball.  And then I thought, “Why would 2010 be any different”?  Would I go on a strict diet?  Been there, done that.  You, too?  Would it be the workouts?  Probably not; I already work out, and I think I am in decent shape (for someone my size!).  Will I abandon Grande Caramel Macchiatos?  Well, I’ve never actually had a Grande Caramel Macchiato (although I hear they’re very addicting!).  So what would be different?

Maybe it would be a renewed commitment to finish what I start. Unfortunately, we’ve all heard that before too, even say it ourselves, right?  Even received expert advice on it, like:

“My therapist told me a way to achieve peace was to finish things I started.  Today, I finished 2 bags of potato chips, a lemon pie, a fifth of Jack Daniels, and a small box of chocolate candy.  I feel better already!”

                                                                            Unknown Sage

I think regaining control over my weight has a lot to do with my approach to daily successes (and failures).  Winston Churchill once said, “Success is the ability to move from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”  Seems applicable to weight loss, or for that matter, any other personal improvement goals we set each year.

Yes I know; I’ve also heard that Churchill was a bit of a kook.  Like the story told of a Woman Member of Parliament who, after an extensive tirade at a social function, scornfully told the Prime Minister, “Mr. Churchill, you are drunk”, to which Churchill replied, “And you Madame, are ugly.  But I shall be sober tomorrow.”  (Ah, I digress.)

Back to Dr. Joe – In 2010, I completed three, thirteen-week boot camps; binged for six weeks on holiday food and adult beverages from Thanksgiving through New Year’s; and finished the year at 212 pounds!   By January of 2012, I will weigh 200 pounds (yes, yes, another New Year’s Resolution.)  How?  Well, I learned a lot from Dr. Joe – nutritional education (it’s amazing how much sugar is in everything we eat); regular exercise; group support (hey, welcome to my blog!).  But mostly I think it will be just about me; my ability to finish things; just staying focused each day; and when I “fall off the wagon” I won’t stay off the wagon, I’ll get back on as quickly as I can.

Brings to mind a thought, a proverb actually, that we can leverage each day in 2011 for our diet, our job, and any other important goals we set:

“Fall down seven times.  Stand up eight.”

                                                                           Japanese Proverb

So here’s to continuing the pursuit of getting to a little less of me in 2011.  How about you?


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