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Posts Tagged ‘Overcoming resistance’

Changing ways …

There are lots of things changing in our modern world today.  And our pace of change is amazing.  Modernization; automation; the Internet of Things; today’s changing ways goes by many names.  We assume these changes will be for the better; we’d like to believe in “new and improved”!

With today’s “new ways”, when we experience something that’s still being done the “old way” it stands out.

During a recent business trip, I rented a car and checked into a hotel.  You know, the usual stuff done the usual way.  The car rental experience seemed simple enough; the hotel check-in process?  Well, that struck me as something still being done the “old way”.

Why is it that it takes only a few minutes and no paperwork to pick up or drop off a rental car at Hertz’s #1 Club Gold, but twice that time and an annoying name/address form to check into a Hilton hotel?  Are they afraid you’ll steal the room? 

Michael Tracy

True, business travel affords us plenty of opportunities to poke fun at travel providers.  Poke fun aka the “old way”.  Complain, rant on social media sites, blast people and places on Trip Advisor… it seems like that is the “new way”.

Often these days, the new ways can stimulate increased strain and stress don’t they?  Call me kooky, but isn’t that the opposite impact “new ways” are supposed to contribute to society?   What do you think?

I mean, any kind of travel can be frustrating, yes?  Just commuting to or from the office has taken on new perils in our modern society.  You tell me; is road rage a “new way” or an “old way”?  Even Uber is not insulated from it.  Believe it or not, Wikipedia suggests this is actually the “old way” dating all the way back to 1987:

The term originated in the United States in 1987–1988 from anchors at KTLA, a television station in Los Angeles, California, when a rash of freeway shootings occurred on the Interstate 405, 110, and 10 freeways in Los Angeles.

I get it; it can be hard to embrace changing ways.  Especially for those of us who are comfortable doing things the “old way”.   Yes, yes, that way drives the kids crazy.  They’re amazed we have made our way to this point doing things the “old way”.  That’s OK.  Our way is not for everyone.

And you must admit that some things (travel or otherwise) ought not to be changed:

You’ll notice that the airport buildings are in the distance.  We don’t land at the terminal because it scares the heck out of the people inside. 

Mark Sanborn

But changing ways are inevitable.  And there are lots of smart people coming up with “new ways” everyday intending to make our life better.  They’re trying to avoid the strain and stress when “new ways” supersede “old ways”.  I suppose changing ways will always anger some.

Seth Godin reminds us all that it will be OK:

Do you have to abandon the old ways today?  Of course not.  But responsible stewardship requires that you find and empower heretics and give them the flexibility to build something new instead of trying to force the Internet to act like direct mail with free stamps.

During times of changing ways, we should not try to hold things back.  Even someone like me who often prefers the comfort of the “old way”, needs to step out of the aisle and let the other passengers by.

GAP

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Strategic direction…

Last year, my company made a strategic change to our go-to-market approach and corresponding sales, implementation and support processes.  We made significant changes to almost all of our software programs too.

This is not a foreign phenomenon – companies implement strategic directional changes all the time, true?  And you know it’s strategic when they create a logo, a slogan, and have T-shirts made up.

As with any “strategic direction” there was a corresponding amount of “push-back” from the field.  This is also not a foreign phenomenon – pushback from the field is always a normal reaction to changes in strategic direction, especially from sales people – true again?

It always amazes me how change-adverse sales people are even though our profession is all about selling change.  But I digress.

I was one of the messengers tasked with going out to face sales teams and sell the advantages of said strategic direction.  Carrying the message from leadership to the field – fun!  I was not a member of the Corporate Staff, thankfully.  Just someone on one of the internal teams assigned to this project:

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

As I mentioned, there has been a degree of pushback from our constituents.  Pushback often gravitates towards the shadows of strategic initiatives; the areas not fully baked; vague issues yet to be worked out.  And vagueness in the technology field presents problems:

Golub’s Laws of Computerdom

Fuzzy project objectives are used to avoid the embarrassment of estimating the corresponding costs.

A carelessly planned project takes three times longer to complete than expected; if carefully planned, it will take only twice as long.

Project teams detest weekly progress reporting because it so vividly manifests their lack of progress.

We’ve all been there – leadership decides on a strategic direction and a project team is assembled to covey the tactical meaning and daily impacts to the field.  In 2017, I was one of those project team someones.  Hooray!

In 2018 we are continuing our strategic direction.  Our team has done a pretty good job with pretty good support in the deployment of these strategic changes.  But it seems that in every meeting, someone from the field stumps us with a question about the process and the changes that puts in that uncomfortable, “I have no clue what they were thinking” position.

When we are put on the defensive we can’t always defend or even explain our Corporate Staff beyond Woltman’s view:

Woltman’s Law

Never program and drink beer at the same time.

I think it will be OK though.  Strategic changes are often complicated; take a while to work out the vagaries; hard to convince everyone.  And given the complexity of this roll-out I feel we have faced the field as well as possible.

That is until we’re facing said field and someone raises an issue we weren’t prepared for.  Then, if we’re not careful; even with our pretty good efforts; we run the risk of making things worse:

Anderson’s Law

Any system or problem, however complicated, if looked at in exactly the right way, will become even more complicated.

So, if your company is making a substantial change and you’re involved with articulating the message behind the new, strategic direction to the field, don’t panic.  Just hide the keg in the programming department and plan your travel so you don’t follow behind the Corporate Staff.

GAP

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I’m Gonna…

Annual planning; boat-floating; achievement drive; creating memories; we’re one month into 2018… now what?

If we don’t intervene, the start of each New Year can look a lot like the end of the previous calendar year, don’t you agree?  Many of us have great intentions each New Year; some of us even make New Year resolutions.  That’s a boon for health clubs.  Weight loss goals, along with many other popular resolutions, recycle this time of year for many of us.

Resolutions recycle because of the high failure rate.  Here’s what the Google Machine says:

Only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions, according to one commonly cited statistic. There are many reasons people can’t stick to their resolutions, from setting too many of them to getting derailed by small failures.

Count me in on the list of those with great intentions.  The problem is intentions don’t count:

You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do. 

Henry Ford

Nonetheless, I will try and re-try and re-re-try in 2018.  I bet you will too.  We vow not to get derailed by small failures; nor will we postpone our effort:

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.

Donald Robert

This year – we’re gonna!  This year, we will join those 8 percenters.  Of course, the odds are not on our side.

It’s curious why there are so many of us that share this dilemma.  I mean, we are capable; intelligent; even successful in our fields of endeavor.  But when it comes to self-improvement or self-discipline, we often perform worse for ourselves than we do for our companies, our clients, and our careers.  Disappointing.

I have spoken about the “Principle of Disappointment” before, meaning: Every day I know I’m going to disappoint someone.  Every day I know I won’t be able to complete every task on my task list.  Every day I start the day with determination to do it all, get everything done, disappoint no one.  And at the end of every day I fail – someone was disappointed today.  Every day.

It’s inevitable for me and I believe it’s inevitable for us all.  The better and more capable we are, the more we pile on to our daily To Do List; inevitably setting ourselves up for small failures.

If you believe (as I do) that we cannot avoid disappointing someone today, then the only question remaining is, “Who will we not disappoint today?”  Ironically, we rarely put ourselves at the top of that list.  (Google suggests 92 out of 100 of us don’t.)  And inevitably, we become the very ones we disappoint… especially as it relates to our self-improvement and personal development goals.  It’s a common trap

Life is what happens when we’ve made other plans. 

Susan Jeffers

No, we can’t “plan” our way around it.  And, we can’t avoid the Principle of Disappointment.  If we will achieve our self-improvement goals it will take focus; it will take a new way of prioritizing; it will take acceptance that we will inevitably disappoint some one today; and every day; but today, it will not be us!

This year I will try and re-try to put myself on the list of those who succeed with their resolutions.  This year, if I accomplish my self-improvement goals then I will become an even better resource for my company, my clients and my career.  A healthier, better balanced “me” is good for all those I care about.  You too?

This year – I’m gonna!

GAP

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Wrong – again!

Hapless?  Helpless?  Hopeless?

It happened at the office (again).  I saw it coming (again).  And I responded wrongly – again!  It was my old brain reaction – that fight or flight stimulus thing – and flight is not my way.

It started out innocently enough.  He was in my office for meetings; took the time to see if I was at my desk; wanted to discuss something with me.  Our social pleasantries started out fine; but I saw it coming (again!).  Ever have to work with someone that you just don’t get along with?  Me too.

I know he wasn’t trying to spoil my day.  And when I say I don’t get along with him, it’s not that I don’t like him.  But his business acumen?  Triggers my old brain.  Do you have one of those at work?  Thank God we’re perfect right?   LoL!

First Law of Debate

Never argue with a fool.   People might not know the difference.

Unknown Sage

When we met, it was not my intent to argue.  I complimented him on a recent email he sent clarifying an important question we had been struggling with.  I thanked him for his clarification – should have left it at that.  But I didn’t (again).  I guess leaving well enough alone is not one of my “features”.

Instead, I elaborated; thought he might want to understand; thought offering additional background was a good thing.  It wasn’t.  Let the debate; aka argument begin!

It is important to realize what the purpose of these debates is and what it isn’t.  Don’t think for a moment that at the end of such debates all participants will arrive at a unanimous point of view.  That’s naïve.  However, through the process of presenting their own opinions, the participants will define their own arguments and facts so that they are in much clearer focus.  Gradually, all parties can cut through the murkiness that surrounds their arguments, clearly understand the issues and each other’s point of view.  The clearer images that result permit management to make a more informed – and more likely correct – call. 

Andy Grove

“Clearly understand the issues and each other’s point of view”, isn’t one of his “features”.  He remained focused on his point of view.  I felt I understood his point of view; didn’t agree with it; didn’t really respect it.  “Clearly…”, the feeling was mutual.

So he argued; I elaborated.  He was presumptuous; I was impatient.  He became arrogant; I became an asshole – again!  What started out as a conversation between two associates interacting on a cross-functional, initiative ended as a confrontation.

Happens every day in the business world you say?  True enough.  My disappointment is I could have (and should have) avoided it altogether.  You see, he’s been in our industry 4 years – me, 4 decades.  I know better.

The most difficult thing in the world is to know how to do a thing and to watch someone else doing it wrong, without commentary. 

T.H. White

It’s that “without commentary” that trips me up every time.  I simply can’t seem to avoid that old brain, “fight” trigger when in an argument with a fool.  I’d like to manage these encounters better – guess I’m still a little hapless, but hopefully not hopeless:

Fall down seven times.  Stand up eight. 

Japanese Proverb

I have enough experience to dial down the fervor and better manage my response in the face of ineptitude.  So I’m certainly not helpless.

Confrontation; not my proudest “feature” – and I was wrong.  Again!

GAP

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Losing you…

I’ve been working with a friend of mine over the past year or so – mentoring him as best I can.  When he was promoted from an individual contributor to a front line, sales manager he felt he could use a little help.  We connected through the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (see https://aa-isp.org/ ) where I’m a volunteer mentor.

Over his past two fiscal years we have convened regularly to chat about the challenges of being a front line, sales manager – IMHO – one of the toughest jobs in the profession.  I remember back to my very first days in that role.  I was assigned to lead a team of 4 of our company’s highest and most successful quota achievers; 3 women and 1 man.  Arriving home one evening my wife inquired about my day, “What did you learn today?”

What I learned, I had never given much previous thought to – women, even top selling women – cry.  There I was in my new sales manager role; coming to it after being the top sales rep in the office; thinking I already knew everything; and BOOM!  Tears.  Worse, I didn’t have a box of tissue in my office.  No one gave me a heads up on that necessity.

So when I started mentoring my friend as he settled in to his new sales management role, he permitted me to offer guidance on many of those little things, easily overlooked, that make a big difference in the eye of our followers.

Throughout our conversations I have tried to shed light on the underlying principles successful sales management is grounded on.  I’m a big believer in principles.  One of my mentors authored Principled Based Leadership © which I refer to managers and leaders at any level in their organization.

Principles plus the little things plus a box of tissue make a big difference for front line sales managers.  The most important little thing?  We’re being watched:

One more word about your time:  If you’re in a leadership position, how you spend your time has enormous symbolic value.  It will communicate what’s important or what isn’t far more powerfully than all the speeches you can give.  Strategic change doesn’t just start at the top.  It starts with your calendar. 

Andy Grove

The mentoring meetings with my young protégé have been a tremendously fulfilling experience for me.  Just recently, we came upon one of my favorite leadership principles he is now personally being impacted by.  It sounds like this from his up-line, “Matt, we hate to lose you.”

No, he’s not leaving the company; just the opposite.  He’s seeking (aka competing for) his next promotion.  His main competitor?  His boss doesn’t want to “lose him.”

It’s easy for leaders to proclaim the importance of career development and advancement at their company, true?  But when it comes time to move one of your key people off your team and advance them to next assignment – well – we don’t want to “lose them”.

Actually, when you have earned a promotion your manager is not “losing you”.  And everyone in the organization is watching:

Gary, your people are not permanent.  Enjoy them while they are on your team; develop them; promote them; then bring in the next ones.

Tom McSweeney

Does your company operate on the principle of, “enjoy them; develop them; and promote them”?  Or do your top people have to literally quit and take a job with another company in order to get the role and/or promotion they’ve earned?

GAP

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Problem statements…

I’ve written recently about the large amount of change we are going through at my company.  And even though sales professionals are in the business of selling change, we tend to be quite change adverse ourselves.

During times of change, followers often make “problem statements” (aka protests, complaints, bitches) to our leaders, yes?  And during our period of change I’ve observed one of my colleagues consistently making such problem statements to the boss.  In turn, the boss has been quite consistent – he puts the problem back in my colleague’s court and asks him to come up with a solution.

It’s not that the boss is above input (or criticism) on his game plan for the team; just the opposite in my opinion.  You see, my boss is stellar at setting our strategic course based on the company’s priorities; hiring skilled, experienced people for his team; and empowering us to get the job done.  We are nicely compensated for our contributions, too – just like those that implemented dramatic changes in the United States steel industry:

“We have the hardest working steel workers in the world”, said one Nucor executive.  “We hire five, work them like ten, and pay them like eight.” 

Jim Collins

However, “getting the job done” at our company isn’t easy – I bet that holds true at your company too.  And on more than a few occasions, my colleague will make a “problem statement” seeking to throw the issue over the fence into my boss’ yard.  He doesn’t like the boomeranged result.

The reality is solving these problems (aka issues, concerns, difficulties) is the reason he hired us to begin with.  He’s very skilled at anticipating our problem statements:

The boss always scheduled the weekly staff meeting for 4:30 on Fridays.  When one of the employees finally got up the nerve to ask why, she explained; “I’ll tell you why – I’ve learned that’s the only time when none of you seem to want to argue with me.” 

Unknown Sage

So I get it – don’t expect to throw the problems of getting my job done over the fence and expect my boss to handle them.  Those problems (aka challenges, complexities, trials and tribulations) are the reason why he hired me in the first place.

And I’ve been around the block enough to understand the realities of team member complaints (aka grievances, grumbles, moans):

Zimmerman’s Law of Complaints

Nobody notices when things go right.

I may have an advantage as compared to my colleague (to be fair though, I’m not totally knowledgeable about his background before joining our team).  But I’ve been the boss before. During that time, I attempted to follow the teachings of great business leaders such as Alfred P. Sloan who led General Motors to the powerhouse of his industry during his time:

The job of a professional manager is not to like people.  And whether one approves of people or of the way they do their work, their performance is the only thing that counts and indeed the only thing that the professional manager is permitted to pay attention to.

I know my colleague doesn’t like it when he hits the boss with problem statements and doesn’t get whatever burden lifted off of his shoulders.  It’s not a “like” thing to begin with.  The boss is simply demonstrating faith in my colleague’s ability to perform.

The good news (aka happiness, silver lining, positive side)?  Like Nucor, we are all quite capable of the meeting the high performance he expects.

GAP

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Resistance…

I find the dichotomy intellectually interesting.  Sales professionals by and large make our living selling the next new thing to our customers and expecting our customers to embrace the change that comes along with replacing their old, tried and true things with our new-new things.  Yet, we sales professionals are among the most change-resistant folk on the planet.

A few months ago I was assigned the task of building a new course in my company’s sales training curricula.  When I reviewed the draft of the content I was to use, I whined.  Actually, I whined, stomped, argued, pushed back, pleaded, plotted and cajoled in every possible way I knew to try and avoid the assignment.  My boss was patient, pleasant, and steadfast.  He reminded me of my responsibilities; reminded me that the President of our company stated this course would be rolled out by September 1st.  My boss asked me if I could get it done by the deadline (but he really wasn’t “asking”):

At first speechless, Acheson had said he was not qualified to meet the demands of the office.  “This”, responded Truman, “was undoubtedly so, the question was whether he would do the job anyway.”    

Harry S. Truman

It is more accurate to say I didn’t have to develop the training from scratch.  I was expected to “tweak” the training that had been developed for another part of our company so it would better align with our resellers.  Since then, there have been frequent meetings with my cross-functional team trying to decipher just how to “tweak” the class and deliver the assigned content…

In all my years in business, I have found that people in meetings tend to agree on decisions that as individuals, they know are dumb. 

John M. Capozzi

Of course, all along the way I looked for opportunities to insert my personal, professional preference – which was to do nothing.  I didn’t like the new content; I preferred staying status quo.  “No change” was my mantra.  I was reacting just like many others when faced with making a change – hide!  But, as we all know progress is based on progression:

The problem with doing nothing is not knowing when you’re finished. 

Benjamin Franklin

So I toiled on to complete my assignment to the best of my ability.

I mean, just because this new content was not something I dreamed up doesn’t make it bad.  It’s just new; different; requires me to make a change.  Who knows?  It might turn out that I actually like the new-new way.

I’m not sure what the root cause of my resistance has been.  Maybe I thought I would fail with this assignment; let my boss down; disappoint my clients….

It seems to me that the largest impediment to a healthy attitude toward failure is our inability to distinguish between just plain being stupid and failing on the way to great success. 

Unknown Sage

Yes, change comes with challenge.  As it turned out, I was able to create the new content.  And to help with my deployment plans, I delivered a “dry run” for my internal colleagues.  I “crashed and burned”.

It was back to the drawing board to make the necessary improvements.  Then, last week I delivered my 2nd go ‘round – this time to live clients.  The outcome?  Well, no one quit; no one got hurt; so I’m calling it a success!

They’re still a little reluctant to the change their ways and adopt the new training, but that’s OK.  I can relate.

GAP

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Plumbers…

“Pokorn, you are a plumber!”  That’s what my high school basketball coach would bark at me.  Our sophomore team went 20-1 that year; I was the team co-captain and leading scorer.

So when Coach Wyllie would constantly critique me during practice and called me a plumber, I interpreted that term as a derogatory inference.  That might have been his context, but when it comes to plumbers my appreciation (and respect) has certainly changed over the years.

I was leaving for the airport recently; running late; and glanced down by the kitchen sink where a small pool of water had accumulated on the floor.  Rut row!  I opened the cabinet and sure enough, something was leaking.  I only had enough time to empty the cabinet and detect that the leak was coming from my garbage disposal.  Been there yourself, you say?

Returning from my trip, I put my plumber’s hat on – you know the one that says “Clueless”?  Anyway, I knew that this leaking disposal was a Badger 500 I had purchased at Home Depot.  (It seemed I had just replaced this thing a short while ago – but of course, I didn’t keep the receipt to see if it was still under warranty).  And I remembered when I installed it back then it was an all-day ordeal.

Have you ever noticed that plumbers don’t carry hammers?  In every other trade, the tradesman can “get it close” then pull out their hammer and “tap it the rest of the way”.  Tradesmen “tap”; hackers “bang on it”, true?  But plumbers?  Well, H2O doesn’t appreciate this man-made concept of “getting it close”.  That’s how leaks start – H2O’s sense of humor I suppose.

Now I’m no plumber, but this time I thought I could out-smart the disposal.  I’ll simply buy another Badger 500 at Home Depot; pop the old one out; pop the new one in and it won’t require any “plumbing” at all.  That’s when Naeser surfaced:

Naeser’s Law:

You can make it foolproof, but you can’t make it damn-fool-proof. 

Unknown Sage

With my new disposal in hand, the connection to the sink bottom worked out perfectly, just as I planned.  The hook-up to the dishwasher waste hose too.  I was even able to reuse the electric cord from the broken disposal.  But the drain pipe connection?  They changed the design!  Was that Murphy in the background?

Murphy’s Eighth Corollary:

It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

Unknown Sage

So, it was back to Home Depot for me – where’s a plumber when you need one?  I brought the parts and pictures of the piping from under my sink, hoping I would find a helpful plumber in the plumbing parts aisle.  But no luck; no one was around; old Clueless was on his own.

Amazingly, I found a connecting pipe that looked like it would do the trick (fingers crossed).  $2.38 later I was back home hooking things up just like I knew what I was doing.  What’s that you say, “…even a blind squirrel…?”  And to my amazement – no leaks!

I headed to the shower planning my victory dance for my wife who had just returned.  That’s when she said, “the dishwasher isn’t draining”.

Just when you think you’ve graduated from the school of experience, someone thinks up a new course. 

Mary H. Waldrip

Back to Home Depot – looks like an all-day ordeal was lining up.  The $2.38?  Not even close.  Coach Wyllie, if only you were right about me being a plumber.

GAP

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CIO…

May I ask you to change the way you always have been doing it, please?  Yeah – right!

“Change”, now there’s a provocative word in our vocabulary.  And just when we get comfortable with how things are working.  Hey everyone, Windows 11 is on the way – great!

The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order. 

Alfred North Whitehead

In the sales profession, what we sell the most of is change, true?  Or we try to – sometimes we face difficult obstacles from our prospective clients as posted on LinkedIn recently:

CIO

We’ve all worked with members of this org chart before, yes?  Truth be told, I have served in one or more of those capacities myself when I have been on the “change” side of the equation.

In business, change is constant.  Here’s a little ditty one of my readers shared with me a while back based on another LinkedIn post:

Just Monkeying Around 

…While eating lunch together with colleagues one of his friends was attempting to peel a banana.  As often happens the stem was not cooperating and a struggle with the banana ensued.  Another friend observing the struggle said “you know you are doing that wrong”.  Everyone at the table turned to hear the revelation on proper banana peeling technique. 

The observer explained that if you watch monkeys, who clearly have been dealing with bananas much longer than we humans, they peel bananas by pinching the opposite end and gently pulling the peel away from both sides of the banana.  

What followed at the lunch table was a mass return to the lunch counter for bananas and a series of very successful tests of the monkey banana peeling technique.  The author observed how often we use the phrase “This is how we’ve always done it” and how inhibiting that is to even looking for new techniques.  Secondly he observed how incredibly valuable firsthand experience or “seeing is believing” is when it comes to learning and embracing change. 

As I read the post and spent time pondering the appeal of his story I started thinking of innovation and change working together.  Not all change is innovative but all innovation implies change.  Like the banana story if we are so comfortable or set in our ways even when they are only marginally effective we miss the opportunity to monkey around with more effective techniques.  Innovative ideas for more effective and efficient ways to work are all around us.

Of course, dealing with change in the business world is one thing; dealing with change in our lives is something altogether different:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. 

Unknown Sage

What’s good for me isn’t always good for you, and visa versa – don’t you agree?  The phrase, “not in my back yard” is very Americana, isn’t it?  Yet change is inevitable and more than that, often needed.

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.  For, indeed, that’s all whoever have. 

Margaret Mead

So come-on fellow members of the Chief Indecision Officer’s org chart – let’s get over the worries and get into the fun of making positive change in our lives and those of others.

I wake up every morning determined both to change the world and have one hell of a good time.  Sometimes this makes planning the day a little difficult. 

E.B. White

That’s my call-to-action.  What’s yours?

GAP

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