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Archive for August, 2017

Mediocre…

My colleague and I were arguing recently.  I thought a training class we delivered was mediocre.     He thought we did a great job.  Further he offered anything that was sub-par was not actually our fault because we were just delivering materials created by others.

Besides, our class attendees were multi-tasking on their phones and PC’s and out of the room to the point that they weren’t really “present” anyway.

The best that could be said about the event was, “No one quit; no one got hurt.”  That’s a low bar to set; I agree.  But did meaningful knowledge transfer take place?  Not a chance.

In summary; he felt our efforts in spite of others’ shortcomings made the class excellent.  We tried our best.  I felt we are responsible for the class.  Mediocrity is mediocrity – regardless of effort.  So here we were, expending more energy arguing about a class neither of us was proud of to begin with.

Perhaps such energy would have paid more dividends were it invested in improving the class – it would likely have been the same amount of effort:

Why should I try to build a great company?  I believe that it is no harder to build something great than to build something good.  It might be statistically more rare to reach greatness, but it does not require more suffering than perpetuating mediocrity. 

Jim Collins

I understand.  Not everything can be done with excellence.  Sometimes; somedays; we have all had one of “those” days.  Things simply don’t go right. And it’s bothersome for us all to suffer through perpetual mediocrity; many of us take it personally; take pride in our work.

We have been struggling to get this class perfected for several months now with only mediocre results to show for it – so far.  But mediocre is not what we stand for; we will get it right.

Only the mediocre are always at their best. 

Jean Girandoux

True; my colleague and I are mere mortals.  We make mistakes.  It’s hard to excel – that’s why they call it “excel”.  And I’m not so fanatical that I try to spoil everyone’s day (although sometimes I worry that I come close):

Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing. 

Harriet Beryl Braikes

So, after longer than a sprint but shorter than a marathon, I abandoned the argument.   My friendship and our working relationship are more valuable to me than trying to convince him.  But he knew I would not capitulate – that class was neither acceptable nor close to our team’s standard of excellence.

Maybe it is best simply to accept the fact that excellence upsets some people.  It always has and always will.  Live with it. 

Larry Bossidy

Where do we go from here?  I mean it’s the classic tree falling in the woods matter:  If we delivered a mediocre class; attended by people with a mediocre desire to learn; absent any quality check from our company’s executives  – indicating a mediocre level of interest in the class to begin with; does anybody hear it?

Perhaps after the class we should have enjoyed a nice dinner; imbibed in adult beverages; and invoked one of the blessings of my wife’s forefathers:

Irish Blessing:  May you never forget what is worth remembering, or remember what is worth forgetting. 

Unknown Sage

If I am right and our last class was mediocre; it isn’t worth debating and certainly isn’t worth remembering.

The next class?  We will get it right; or “die” arguing about it I suppose.

GAP

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Reasons…

I’m sorry for any typos in today’s post; my spell-checker wasn’t working.  And the post was late this morning because the power company had a blackout causing my alarm clock to malfunction.

When I (finally) arrived at the office I had to explain to my boss why my project really isn’t behind schedule.  No; the reason we’re waiting is I sent an email to the marketing department and they haven’t responded yet.  Oh, and now the Channel Manager is calling.  I bet she’s wondering why I haven’t responded to her emails yet.  Doesn’t she understand the reason is I’ve been so busy?  Today is already stacking up to be one of “those days”!

I can’t wait for lunch hour.  My wife packed me a healthy lunch of fruits and vegetables.  She just doesn’t appreciate the reason why I’m overweight is all of the pressure I’m under.  Besides, according to medical research, chocolate has a mood-soothing effect.

Now I have to jump on a conference call with the training team.  I can’t wait to hear their reasons for the bugs in the company’s machine learning initiative.  When we tried to log in and take our Level 1 course, the whole system crashed.  They said the reason was IT didn’t apply a software patch.

A friend of mine in IT said the reason why they didn’t apply that patch was they were told to wait until the training team updated materials in the course.  When the “fit hit the shan” our Business Unit President blasted the IT Manager!  He said our continued IT fowl-ups were the reason our stock price has been flat.

Come to think of it, now I will have to work a few more years than I wanted to before retiring.  My 401k account isn’t growing fast enough and the reason is obviously a combination of our flat stock price coupled with the national political mess.  Everyone knows the reason for our national crisis is those people supporting that other party.

And I know my wife is going to be mad because I want to watch the NFL game this weekend even though it’s her Aunt Ester’s wedding anniversary.  The reason why I don’t want to go to the anniversary party is the last time we played cards I think Aunt Ester purposely sabotaged our game so we would lose and leave so she could go to bed.

First Law of Bridge

It’s always the partner’s fault.

I understand – life can be a b%#*! sometimes.  But when we make a mistake, we don’t always have to have a reason why it wasn’t our fault.  We’re all in this together; we’re all impacted by Gerrold:

Gerrold’s Laws of Infernal Dynamics

An object in motion will always be headed in the wrong direction.

An object at rest will always be in the wrong place.

The energy required to change either one of the states will always be more than you wish to expend, but never so much as to make the task totally impossible.

And we all know about Murphy…

The New Math Version of Murphy’s Law

If there is a 50/50 chance of something going wrong, nine times out of ten it will.

Too many times, in too many instances – although I am wrong – I create some far-fetched reason why I am actually right.  Someone else or something else is convenient to blame.

Today, a little personal accountability might go a long way to getting me back on the right track.

Bridge anyone?

GAP

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Who’s TOUGHER than you?

Spoken as a verbal tag line by “Lou from Littleton”, former radio sports talk show personality on the airwaves of Denver and beyond (FIFTY THOUSAND WATTS OF POWER – 850 KOA – THE BLOW TORCH!).

Lou’s real name is Tom Manoogian.  He was one of my favorite radio personalities – distinctive verbal style originating from Detroit; catchy clichés; a Broncos homer; soft on his callers (referred to everyone as “cous” as in cousin); tough on company B.S.  How tough?  He left the broadcasting booth at KOA to buy a competing radio station so he could call the shots; do things his way.

Imagine if our remedy for office B.S. was to simply buy the company.  We can all agree that office B.S. is tough. But business; families; friendships; relationships; politics; life in general are tough too.  Just about everything is competitive these days.  That’s OK – we’re tough enough:

I’ve been up against tough competition all my life.  I wouldn’t know how to get along without it. 

Walt Disney

We can all dream; and for a few, dreams come true – if we’re tough enough.

While Lou was on the air, he made his callers feel so comfortable that they often related personal tales about overcoming adversity.  Sports challenges, for sure; but also stories of life’s trials and tribulations we all face sooner or later; less or more.  And if the caller was “J.K.” and J.K. had a story to share about overcoming adversity, at the end Lou would always add, “Who’s tougher than J.K.?” as testimony to J.K.’s triumph.

Lou applied his, “Who’s tougher than…” to sports stories of the day.  Comeback victories; beating the odds; under dogs slaying prohibitive favorites; any and all tales of victory; punctuated by Lou’s, “Who’s tougher than x, y, or z?”  Verbalized with gusto; articulated slowly; every syllable over emphasized. “WHO’S…TOUGH…ER…THAN!”

I thought of Lou from Littleton the other day on my drive home from the airport.  Actually it wasn’t “day”, it was night; actually, it wasn’t “night”, it was one o’clock in the morning.  Up for 19 hours, I wasn’t even home yet.  And of course, I was scheduled for a 9:00 a.m. meeting.  That’s what’s called being a Road Warrior!

I used to be a Road Warrior back in the day.  Thirty years ago, these marathon work days occurred every week.  I never gave it much thought, other than “hang tough”; “just making a living”; “all-in for the big bucks”; “makin’ the donuts”; “who’s TOUGH…ER…THAN”; “Road Warrior”.  Others may have lighter work schedules; but just about everyone has tough times of one kind or another, true?

Tough times don’t last; tough people do. 

Mike Shanahan

You’re right; many of us endure hardships at work and at home without ever taking off on a plane.  Many of us have to be tough just to make it to the end of a day; just to make it home; just to make ends meet.  So how do we get through?  Where does toughness originate?

Well, recognizing life’s struggles for what they are is a good place to start.  Having the right attitude goes a long way to getting us to the end of each day.  Associating with the right associates helps too:

Stick with the optimists.  It’s going to be tough enough even if they’re right. 

James Reston

So, here’s to you and to your tough mindedness.  Here’s to your shear will power to overcome adversity.  Even without calling into the radio, Lou from Littleton would be proud!

GAP

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Trust me…

I was reading The Speed of Trust © by Stephen M.R. Covey recently.  A friend of mine shared his copy from a training session his company conducted on trust-building among teams.

Trust is spoken of often in the sales profession.  “Being a trusted advisor” is a common phrase sales people like to say to prospective clients.  But on what basis should the prospect trust us?

In Covey’s book, this customer offered his perspective on trust:

I don’t think you have a full trusting relationship until you are actually at the point that you deliver success repeatedly.  When one of my major suppliers says we want to have a trusting relationship, I think, “What a lot of rubbish that is!”  I turn around and say, “I don’t trust you.  I am not going to trust you until you repeatedly deliver success to me.” 

Peter Lowe

A bit impersonal; arrogant; over the top?  IMHO – just the opposite.

When I first started out in the business my company (ADP) held sales meetings every Tuesday at 5pm (“Roll Call”).  Afterwards, we strolled across the street to a neighborhood “gin mill” (Nancy’s).  Beers, boasts, and war stories of the week were exchanged until closing hour.  That was the setting junior sales reps like me learned the profession from seasoned veterans.

Except one seasoned veteran, Bob Ackerman.  Bob was one of the top sales reps in our office.  Polished; professional; Bob spoke well; dressed well; showed all the evidence of sales success.  And for my first 6 months on the job, he didn’t have a single conversation with me.  If I approached him, he would literally and rudely walk away.  It would have been easy to say he was impersonal; arrogant; over the top.  Turned out – just the opposite.

One Tuesday evening after our sales meeting; 6 months to the week; Bob approached me with two beers (one for me) and said, “Gary, great week – congratulations!”  And from that week forward, Bob trusted me.

I didn’t have the stroke that night to ask Bob, “WTF?”  But after a period of time the opportunity arose, and I asked him why he was so cold when I first started.  Turns out – it was a matter of trust.

You see, Bob was successful during an era when sales rep turnover was even higher than in today’s marketplace.  “Draw vs. commission” was the standard compensation plan back then; no base salary.  Sales results roll called weekly; classic “What have you done lately?” environment.

A modest weekly draw soothed cash flow needs. The draw was deducted from our monthly commission check.  (Trusted – 30 days at a time.)  If we didn’t earn enough commissions to cover our draw, the next month the draw was cut in half.  Two months in a row, and the draw was eliminated.  We never got to month three.  Trust without results didn’t go very far back then – still doesn’t.

Bob had seen plenty of sales reps come and fail.  He told me he used to get to know the new people; he used to coach them a little bit; tried to help them out.  And when they failed it hurt his feelings.  So rather than continuing to feel hurt, he withdrew; he waited.  Bob felt if a rep (like me) could make it 6 months; then he would trust that the rep would make it.

The moral of Peter and Bob’s stories?  To earn the position of “trusted advisor” we must produce.  Trust doesn’t beget results – just the opposite.

GAP

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Authenticity…

If you’ve been reading me for a while you know I poke fun at many things not the least of which is technology.  Even though I make my living selling technology – and have done so for more than 40 years – the idiosyncrasies of my industry do not escape the “pen”.

Irreverent?  Perhaps; but at least it’s authentic.  You see, I’m continuously amused by my industry and my profession.  I believe Clarke is too:

Clarke’s Third Law

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Is magic authentic?  In our world of advanced technology today, search engine marketing in general (and Google in particular) places a big emphasis on “authenticity”.  In a post (of course) by Matt Kapko way back in April of 2015 titled “7 staggering social media use by-the-minute stats”, he cites IDC research:

Eight of the world’s most popular social networks generate an astonishing amount of content every minute.  The social “universe,” composed of every single digitally connected person, doubles in size every two years, and by 2020 it will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion GBs…

Zettabytes?  Magic alright.

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. 

Eden Phillports

But can mankind’s wits grow sharper fast enough to keep up with our machines?  According to a futurist who spoke at a technology conference sponsored by RSM way back in 2014:

70% of all internet traffic is machines “talking” to machines, posing as humans.

70%!  Machines posing as humans!  Is that authentic?  Of course, the primary vehicle supporting such machine-to-machine human charade is social media.  This, in turn, poses the question, “Can machines be social?”  Well… let’s consult… another machine:

Living organisms including humans are social when they live collectively in interacting populations, whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary. 

Wikipedia

Wondering if Wikipedia is human or a poser?  Let’s go to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary © which was at least started by humans in 1828:

Social  adjective

3: of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society

Seems to me that in order to be considered “social”, humans need to be involved.  But if machines are now posing as humans how do we validate authenticity?  Or do we even care?  I mean, next up following social media and virtual reality is self-driving cars, true?  Question:  Can there be “muscle cars” that are self-driven by muscle-less computers?  Would these self-driving, muscle-cars be posers?

OK, OK…  I’ll lighten up on technology for a moment.  Posers aren’t limited to machines posing as people.  Posing has been around for a long time and is witnessed in many fields:

The difference between being an elder statesman and posing successfully as an elder statesman is practically negligible. 

T.S. Eliot

In today’s day and age, it’s hard to be authentic.  So many want to be perceived as some other persona.  Using a machine, we can easily doctor our image; a video; our resume; our online profile.  But in so doing, we are not being “true”.  Perhaps to seek authenticity in the face of 21st century technology we need to turn back to a different time:

Be yourself, everyone else is already taken. 

Oscar Wilde

Spoken by a 19th century, Irish playwright no less – and I’m saying that’s authentic and not magic.  No really – it’s really me; no it’s not my computer posing as me – it’s really me; really!

GAP

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