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Archive for June, 2011

To Paul and Evelyn

60th wedding anniversary – how many of those celebrations have you ever attended?  (How many have you ever even heard of?)  Last Saturday night was a first for me. 

My next-door neighbors are Paul and Evelyn.  Wait – before going any further, I just have to ask about something.  Paul and Evelyn live on a corner; we are their next-door neighbors.  When you read this, where do you think we live in relation to their house?  I ask this because during their anniversary dinner as we met their friends and out-of-town family, we had the hardest time explaining which house in the neighborhood was ours.  Everyone knew where Paul and Evelyn live; but seemed confused about our location. 

Is it me?  Is “next-door neighbor” a Chicago phrase?   I would think if someone lived on a corner, they would only have one “next-door neighbor”; one “back-door neighbor”; and two “neighbors across the street” (front and side).  What do you think?  (But I digress…) 

There were many, amazing and unusual things about their 60th wedding anniversary (more so than the next-door neighbor thing).  Paul and Evelyn renewed their vows, of course (nothing particularly unusual about that).  But the ceremony was conducted by their daughter, Louann, an American Baptist Minister.  As she said, “I’m marrying my parents – weird!”  Pretty amazing too, don’t you think? 

During their renewal of vows, I picked up on one of the commitments in particular; “through every hardship and every happiness for the rest of our lives.”  Being surrounded by their family and friends (and next-door neighbor) for this 60th anniversary truly fits in the “every happiness” category.  I suppose with any long-lasting marriage, there must be several sources that contribute  to, “every happiness”.  A sense of humor is one, key contribution.  Seems like Paul and Evelyn passed this source down to their daughter. 

I know Paul has an excellent sense of humor.  When he told me a while back that they were having this celebration and we would be receiving an invitation, he smiled and added, “You know; we’re celebrating our 60th because we might not get another chance to do this again.”  And when he kicked off the dinner Saturday night by welcoming all of their guests, he commented (with a smile), “You know; there isn’t a person in this room that I can’t tell a dirty little secret about.”  Made me wonder what they do in their spare time as our next-door neighbor! 

Much has been written about the secrets to a successful marriage: 

Often the difference between a successful marriage and a mediocre one consists of leaving three or four things a day unsaid.

                                  Harlan Miller 

In any long-lasting relationship, there is “every hardship”, too.  Paul and Evelyn had three children.  They have buried two.  An unimaginable hardship no parent wants to ever endure.  But, they have endured – bolstered by their strong foundation of Christian faith.  

We are all blessed in our own ways.  Saturday night I was reminded of the many blessings I have received in my life.  Being Paul and Evelyn’s next-door neighbor is one.  Acknowledging how serving our Lord (also a next-door neighbor) enriches our life is yet another.  And for me, celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary with my wife of 38 years may have been the best of all.  

My wife has a terrific perspective on another key to a long and successful marriage: 

In every 50-50 relationship, both parties have to be 100% committed. 

Amen.  

GAP 

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Story or Style?

What do you do today for the pure fun of it?  Ever daydream about converting your passion into a for-profit-pursuit?  Here is a recent experience that might connect to your story – or your style.

I was listening to the writers in my MeetUp group read the other night.  As we were discussing a few of their excerpts, I had questions.  (If you know me then you know I always have questions – drives my wife crazy!)  I wanted to know (1) Do you have to read in order to write? and (2) Which is more important to writing, your story or your style?

I read some, but compared to these writers, not nearly enough.  I might be OK on the story side (you tell me).  As for style – who knows?  The writers in my MeetUp have style, though.  What an amazing group of talented, story tellers!  (If you’re an aspiring author, and find yourself in Denver, check it out http://www.meetup.com/Northwest-Metro-Writers/events/22934941/)

Their stories are terrific.  They write novels, novellas, short stories and poems that grab your interest in the characters right from the start.  Then they do bad things to these characters later on to tug at your emotions.  (And you thought sales people were manipulative!)  They maintain a logical story line, include natural sounding dialog, and paint vivid pictures of scenery with their words.  They also use a rich, diverse vocabulary that we never find anymore in our mobile, texting, Face Book world of acronyms and our modern form of shorthand born on a Blackberry keyboard.

Style?  Well, an author needs a distinctive style.  But, where does style come from?  Even if you have both story and style covered, that’s still no guarantee.  The late, great Johnny Carson put it this way:

Talent alone won’t make you a success or being in the right place at the right time.  The most important question is, “Are you ready”?

Is that what these writers are doing – getting ready?

I’m not sure why I’ve developed such a serious interest in writing at this stage of my life.  Is it naïve to dream about traveling the world, making a living writing and selling my books? Well, maybe I shouldn’t quit my daytime job just yet.  (Where is Oprah and her book of the month recommendations when you need her?)

Isn’t it ironic – I write as a hobby and yet have been a career sales professional for over three decades – just the opposite of:

I write as a passion; and sell as a hobby.

                                                                  Unknown Sage

What a story!  So here I am, writing for the pure fun of it (if not profit) and wondering how to develop a distinctive style.  I doubt if I’ll ever be able to write like my MeetUp colleagues.

And while attending our meetings, I’m not sure if I’m amongst future rich and famous authors or just a group of nice, talented, sharing people who help me pursue a new passion in my life.

So here’s to us and the story of our life’s passions – let’s pursue them with energy, imagination and style!  Though we may never extend our passions from fun to profit, let’s keep John Wooden’s words of wisdom in mind:

Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

Now there was a man with an unbelievably great story, plus a world-class style.  But that’s a story for another day.

GAP

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“You guys will rock!”

An excerpt from the 2011 commencement address by Majora Carter to the graduating class at my alma mater, Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois.  (It’s true – I literally graduated from the school of “hard Knox” – more on that later.) 

Do you remember your high school or college commencement speeches?  Did you attend a friend or relative’s graduation this spring?  I always enjoy the unbridled hope and enthusiasm that comes from the speakers.  Have you kept up that spirit of “we can accomplish anything” at your company?  Yes?  Good for you – keep it going!  Sometimes a job can dampen our enthusiasm if we’re not careful.  

My company recently staffed a new initiative of “enablement” as we seek to aggressively grow our revenue.  The other day, in a planning and prioritizing  meeting, the senior member of our team expressed concern about the difficulty of our assignment and whether we will be fully supported by management as we strive to live up to our team name, “DFoA”.  Before we  spiraled down that black hole of trepidation and despair, we all agreed to stay focused on Mason Cooley’s perspective: 

            “Why not?” is a slogan for an interesting life.                                 

A key part of our enablement responsibility is to remove internal impediments that have built up over the years and eroded productivity levels of our sales force and our partners.  Our eradication assignment may sound familiar to you at your company.  We need to address outdated reference materials; incomplete onboarding processes; absence of tactical planning; avoidance of accountability; lack of vision; you know – the usual stuff. 

Are we up to the task?  Will our company remain committed to this initiative?  Why not? 

            Why not go out on a limb?  Isn’t that where the fruit is?

                                                                 Frank Scully 

Our internal, executive sponsor (along with the senior member of our team) has named us DFoA, the Delta Fore of Awesomeness!  Truly, with a moniker like that – why not?  

It seems to me that the recipe for fixing things in Corporate America includes the main ingredients of 1-part know-how + 1-part enthusiasm + 1-part fearlessness.  I suppose there are many other minor ingredients, too.  But I believe we have the main ones covered and in so doing are making the best of our assignment.  We are also following Charles L. Bromley’s guidance: 

Why not make the best of things?  Any fool can make the worst of them. 

As for me, I think it helps that I am a graduate of the school of “hard Knox”.  It helps me to think of other great leaders that passed through Knox College and what they went on to accomplish.  You see, Galesburg, Illinois was one of the locations of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates – a series of debates that shaped the future of our country.  Here’s an excerpt: 

Both men arrived at the Knox College campus by carriage and walked into the college’s impressive new building that later came to be called Old Main.  The debate was held on the east side of the building.  As the two men, along with other dignitaries, stepped through a window on to the stage it is reported that Lincoln said, “Well, at last I have gone through college.”

                                                                  Owen Muelder 

OK, my college experience was a bit different than Abraham Lincoln’s.  But if he was here today and looking at our enablement assignment as compared to the challenges he faced during his presidency, he might offer us these words of wisdom – Why not? 

                                                                  GAP 

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Yes I can…

When was the last time you were astonished by your capabilities?  I don’t mean in a self-centered, conceited sort of way.  I mean a genuine, self-reflecting moment to acknowledge all of the amazing accomplishments you have earned.  If you’re like my wife, you get so focused on dealing with the challenges of daily living that you don’t often pause to appreciate how much you are capable of “dealing with”, yes? 

Over the past few days, I’ve found myself giving myself a little pep talk – often.  It goes like this, “Yes I can”.  (I encourage my wife to say this, too.)  Horace offered us this perspective on:

ADVERSITY

Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant.                                   

I have surely noticed “elicited talents” that I definitely had not noticed while they had dormantly lain.  As for, “in prosperous circumstances”, is it possible to refer to five years ago as the “good old days”?  I seem to be doing that often, too. 

We have been facing a fair bit of adversity, true?  We’re not alone.  Just trying to juggle work (especially dual-career relationships) while caring for “family-at-both-ends” (young children/grandchildren at one end; aging parents at the other) is enough to gray our hair.  Add in finances and home-improvement projects – not to mention – eating right and getting enough sleep – and living is definitely a challenge! 

Everybody repeat after me, “Yes I can!” – often. 

Who was it that said, “Barbarians at every gate”?  Back in the ancient days, was living simpler?  Deadlier – for sure; odds of survival were lower; but maybe more worry-free than today?  I wonder.  Take Attila the Hun and his tribe, for instance.  What was a day like for a Hun back then?  Well, as far as pure survival is concerned: 

            Huns learn much faster when faced with adversity.

                                                                 Wess Roberts 

I suppose they had to – learn fast, or die.  I bet a lot of Huns said, “Yes I can” each day and twice on Sundays! 

What can we glean from the experiences of Horace?  One of the facets of our modern society is that our lives move so fast we rarely pause to realize how strong and capable we have become.  We just “Go-Run-Do” today and every day.  No big deal, right?  When do we stop and say, “IT IS A BIG DEAL!  I AM AMAZING!” I bet Horace would stop and say that; and often. 

Seriously – If you’re not homeless (meaning you’re not roaming the streets aimlessly looking for handouts, yet) and you’re reading this little ditty (meaning you still have a little “me time” in your day), then chances are you have unbelievable capabilities that you probably don’t think about very often.  If that’s accurate, then today is your day.  Today is the day you are permitted to pause; reflect; and shout in the shower, “Yes I can” and, in fact, “I have been” for quite some time! 

Unlike Attila, living in modern times can be more barbaric, don’t you think?  But no worries – we are strong!  Simply ask Stephen R. Covey: 

Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition, such as lifting weights, we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.                                 

So here’s to us today – up before 6:00a.m.; back to bed at midnight; racing full-steam in between.  Fueled by our favorite source of caffeine; food on the go; and what should be the often-self-reminding-chant, “Yes I can”! 

                                                                   GAP 

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To Dad…

Happy Father’s Day this coming Sunday!  Aren’t fathers and grandfathers great?  The memory of my father brings a proud smile to my face (and my heart!).  If you’re lucky enough to have living fathers and grandfathers, give them an extra hug this Sunday, OK? 

There are many Father’s Day traditions – what’s your favorite?  The Westernaires’ White Olympics performance in Golden, CO is a tradition.  We picnicked there last year and then enjoyed the show. (Check ‘em out –www.westernaires.org )  This Sunday, ten year old kids will be performing western-style, precision horse riding to an audience of families, friends, and fathers.  Although these kids will be terrific riders by their senior year of high school, those riding this Sunday will only be capable of bringing a proud smile to their Dads’ faces (and hearts!). 

The fearlessness and composure of ten year olds today amazes me!  Jumping onto a horse twice their height; grabbing a flag; and taking off one-handed to ride a precision, team drill – amazing!  When they’re in the saddle, they’re in charge, just like their Dads (hoping the horse doesn’t know any different, of course).  I never faced such a challenge.  Why, when I was ten, I only had to make sure I was home before the street lights came on. 

From this man’s perspective, men certainly have an entertaining view of the world, don’t we?  Take Mike Jaeger’s point: 

Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he’ll believe you.  Tell him the plate you’re handing him is very hot and he’ll have to touch it to believe it.                                 

Sound familiar?  Yep, me too. 

The older I get the more appreciative I am of the love and devotion my father gave to me and my brother.  I am also more impressed with the patience and perseverance my wife and my sons have had with me over the years – I’d say I have definitely been an “acquired taste”.  Now that my sons have children in their lives, I get to be the grandfather, yea!   Being the grandfather has responsibilities, too: 

Sometimes the only difference we can make is passing our wisdom on to someone else who will make the bigger difference.

                                                                  Linda B. Gray 

My children have certainly made a bigger difference in my life.  And when they use one of my little sayings, or demonstrate a family value or tradition they acquired from my wife and me, well it brings a proud smile to my face (and my heart)!

Our children and their children will carry on the values and traditions we learned from our fathers and their fathers before them, yes?  For us Dads, this is one of life’s most satisfying accomplishments.   Makes me want to keep on keeping on – maybe bring a few more proud smiles to their faces (and hearts!) for a few more years to come.  

Who was it, Mickey Mantle?  I think he said, “If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”  Sound familiar?  Yep, me too. 

Of course, someday our little angels may turn on us; they’ll want to take away the keys before sending “Gramps” to a nursing home.  And when that day comes we’ll think of our forefathers again: 

When I die, I want to die like my Grandfather who died peacefully in his sleep.  Not screaming like all the passengers in his car.    

                                                                  Unknown 

Just kidding.

                                                                  GAP 

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my book, too:  The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective©  Please check it out Subscribe.

Sorry – I wasn’t listening…

“I only have to be told twice; once.”

                                                                 Adam Katzenmeyer   

A very wise and profound statement, don’t you think?  In one, respectful sentence, Adam: (A) admitted he was not listening, (B) avoided faking it, or worse, arguing that he was listening when he actually wasn’t, and (C) acknowledged a commitment to listen, going forward.  Profound! 

Adam is a colleague of mine and this is an excerpt from a conversation he was having with one of our clients.  It is an example of lessons I often learn in my job that apply to my life.  One of the extra benefits of being a sales professional – I meet many wise and profound people. Occasionally, their profound statements hit me over the head like a 2×4; other times, the profundity is absorbed more subconsciously.  

Some advice stays top of mind with me each day; for instance, “Don’t be stupid.” Wisdom I picked from my friend and former colleague, Nick Ryder, in the late 1980s.   He and a sales support person from our company had just returned from a client meeting that didn’t go well.  His sales support person had argued with the client, which cost Nick the deal.  Afterwards, when she asked Nick what she should have done different and how she could improve in the future, he offered those three, profound words.  I try to live by them, too (although some days I probably need the 2×4). 

In 1979, my very first year in sales, I remember seeking advice from Rob Denkewalter (my first sales mentor).  I was constantly nervous when presenting to prospective customers.  His wisdom?  “Gary, for your next presentation, don’t wear any underwear.  You will be so self-conscious in front of the prospect that you won’t even think about getting nervous.”  Profound!  But I digress… 

Back to listening – have you ever found yourself in a disagreement with someone, perhaps even an argument, only to realize that you had actually mis-listened and the other person was right all along?  Did you quickly admit your mistake?  Did you ignore it and continue to argue?  Did you retreat to that neutral, face-saving place called a “misunderstanding”?  

I can get so busy multi-tasking at times that I just don’t listen.  (Drives my wife crazy when I’m present – but not present!)  Does that ever happen to you?  When it does, sometimes I can become defensive or I try to hide my mistake.  Not very wise I suppose.  It would be better to follow Adam’s advice, yes?  Of course, first I would need to become more comfortable with my mistake-making.  Do you think it’s pride that makes it hard to simply admit being wrong? 

I don’t think I’m alone with this affliction, though.  I have seen others argue, defend, and attempt to deflect the blame of being wrong almost to the point of absurdity before admitting that they simply weren’t listening.  In most of these instances, the matter was not of great importance to the other person.  But as the debate rages on, the level of irritation ultimately rises, true?  We might all agree that it is often much easier, and certainly more appropriate, to just apologize for not being present, and respectfully commit to being present going forward. 

But no one is perfect.  And if Adam’s profound wisdom needs further, more scientifically oriented reinforcement, Russell Kay offers us Grabel’s Law: 

Two is not equal to three – not even for very large values of two. 

                                                                  GAP 

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my book, too:  The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective©  Please check it out Subscribe.

Written in Ink…

Who is it that said, “The Internet is written in ink.”? 

When you want to speak to the “Internet Customer Service Department”, who do you call?  For all of the amazing enjoyment of our technology; and all of our social media interaction; once in a while do you wish you could just call the Customer Service Department? 

The other day I had a glitch with Linked In.  After spending an hour searching through online help; texting a few friends; adding in some trial and error; and resorting to the obligatory device reboot; I finally gave up and tried contacting their Customer Service.  Yea – right.  It was an email template, and it really didn’t want to accept my service request.  It kept sending me back to the same help documentation I was in for the past hour. Hmmm, when you need to speak to someone in Customer Service, who do you call?  (The good news – I finally did receive a fix via email – two days later!) 

Permit me to digress… 

I lost a deal once; hoped the loss wasn’t written in ink; so I visited the client after his decision.  During a brief but pleasant “post mortem” the client shared with me the reason.  It was because he would not have to attend training class with their product; whereas we required our new clients to attend a 2-day, in-person training class.  A well-trained client; what a concept!  (And, my company’s training requirement was written in ink.) 

As I researched this competitor’s tactic further I discovered “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey said.  My competitor didn’t offer training!  The sales rep put a clever “spin” on his weakness, “Our application is so easy to use; you don’t even have to attend training class.”  (Which would be a good thing if true; but they didn’t offer a training class!) 

A short time later, that client quit my competitor.  He didn’t buy from me though.  His bad experience with one company in our industry ruined the chances for all of us – he went in a different direction altogether.  Unfortunately, his poor customer service experience was written in ink. 

Back to today’s technology; is the social media perspective of, “Our application is so dependable and easy-to-use, you won’t need to call our Customer Service Department.”  written in ink?  (It would be a good thing if true; but there often isn’t a Customer Service Department to call!) 

And before we get too carried away with today’s world, it might be wise to keep things in perspective, yes?  Jim Collins offers: 

The truth is, there’s nothing new about being in a new economy.  Those who faced the invention of electricity, the telephone, the automobile, the radio, or the transistor – did they feel it was any less of a new economy than we feel today?                                 

The “those” he refers to are our parents and grand parents.  Think about it – they adopted electricity!  The technology advancements they lived through during the 1900’s, should impress us.  The patience, perseverance, and the ability to maintain a sense of humor that they displayed seems amazing. 

Of course, while technology in their world was speeding along back then, at least when they needed a little help they could always call the Customer Service Department.  (Which was a good thing because before the advent of our modern technology, there used to be a Customer Service Department!) 

I guess it just wasn’t written in ink. 

                                                                  GAP 

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my book, too:  The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective©  Please check it out Subscribe.