There are times when even the most confident among us begin to doubt ourselves. Times when we can’t see our way through the tangle of mortgages, bills and day jobs. Times when we can’t imagine our dreams coming true because we have to live in the real world.
In 1990 Joy Mangano was a 32 year old divorced mother of three, scraping by as an airline reservationist while supporting her kids, her ex-husband, both of her divorced parents and her grandmother, all under the same roof of a broken down old house. That alone would be enough to crush the spirit of most of us. But Joy had several things going for her:
- A creative and an inventive mind
- An insatiable desire to better herself
- A stubborn streak of resilience and grit
- A grandmother who nurtured her talent and told her she would become a strong, successful woman who would create things
So what did Joy do? She used her creativity to solve a common household cleaning problem. Then she went out, got a patent, built a prototype and tried to sell her new product to anyone who would listen.
But nothing came easily. Stores wouldn’t stock her product, she didn’t have the money for a production run, and both her business partners and her family blatantly sabotaged her efforts.
This woman struggled through things that would stop most of us in our tracks. Yet she persisted, and during one of her darkest times, when it looked like her fledgling business was about to crash and burn, she got some powerful advice: Continue reading Don’t Let The Practical Hold You Down
You know that expression, “Don’t Take No for an Answer?” Great advice on persistence. Keep moving forward, assume the sale, don’t stop when people reject you, persist, persist, persist.
Yes, that is great advice in many situations. Persistence is a powerful force that helps less talented people out-produce their competition. But sometimes the more powerful technique is just the opposite.
Instead of not taking ‘No’ for an answer, how about giving ‘No’ for an answer?
Here’s what I’m talking about. I had to get my car towed recently. I had $75 of towing coverage with my insurance, so anything more than that would come out of my pocket. I called around and found prices from $90 – $130. Then I called the insurance company. They offered to set it up for me for $130. It would have been the easiest way, the path of least resistance, and they had it all lined up for me to say ‘Yes’.
But ‘Yes’ would have cost me $40 more than if we went with the $90 company. My insurance company was not concerned with my out of pocket expense. They were just doing what was easiest for them. So I paused a moment, then did something real smart.
I gave ‘No’ for an answer. Continue reading Give NO For An Answer
If you spend any time in Corporate America you’ll hear this phrase over and over: “What gets measured gets done.” The reality in today’s metric-crazed business climate is that you have to measure things or people won’t do them. Lots of sad truth to that.
Often it’s just about focus. Most people are assigned more work than they can finish, so they make sure they finish the things that are going to show up on some muckity muck’s scorecard. Everyone knows that when a muckity gets a bad score, someone has to pay. And since, as they say, sh*t flows downhill, it’s probably going to be you. So you make damn sure you get those visible, measured and punishable things done, stat, above all else.
But this same dreadful principle that sucks in business, can help you win big with your personal goals. You won’t have to worry about being punished, either. Because when you measure and get things done for you, you’re the big winner, not some glad-handing, credit-stealing, kiss-up kick-down Vice President. Continue reading The Final Piece of The Plan
Wearing my best suit, clutching 25 copies of my resume and flat broke, I approached the Xerox booth at the SF Job Fair. They were the big blue- chip firm at the fair and had the longest line in the hall. I left to visit the other company booths until the Xerox line died down, then stepped up to take my shot.
I looked the sales manager in the eye, shook his hand and handed him my resume. He looked me and my suit up and down, then said, “Why do you think you could work at Xerox?” No doubt that question had thrown a lot of people back on their heels, causing plenty of bowing and scraping throughout the day.
But I was having none of that. I reached into my pants, hoisted my balls onto the table and replied, “Why would I want to work for Xerox? I’m a closer, and everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve made people money. What would Xerox do for me?”
That’s all it took. He handed me his business card and said, “Call me first thing Monday morning.” He hired me Monday afternoon.
I learned three important things in my time as a Sales Rep for Xerox:
- I was not cut out for life in a huge multinational corporation
- My title of “Reproduction Specialist” was very misleading
- You can’t manage results – you can only manage activities
Continue reading What I Learned From Xerox On Making Resolutions Happen
The end of the calendar year has always been a time for me to wrap things up, enjoy some down time, and get ready to start the new year strong. I know some folks believe that New Year resolutions don’t work, but they do for me.
I do an annual review and assess where I’ve been, where I am, where I want to be, and which course corrections I need to get me there. The symbolic starting point of January 1 always helps me re-commit to new and better habits and goals. Sure, I often fall off as the year grows, but that good start always helps me with whatever I’m trying to accomplish.
It also helps me create some urgency in my life. Why do that? Well, we just don’t know how much time we have left. No matter your age or physical condition, your expiration date is still a mystery. Sure, you can improve your odds with good, healthy choices on diet and exercise, but even then, those are just odds, not guarantees. If you have more to accomplish in your life, then you’d better get to it, ‘cuz you never know when you’ve seen your last New Year.
Just ask Kathy Baker. She was doing everything she was supposed to do. She went to college then worked hard for years to become CFO of the prestigious Lawrence Livermore Lab. She was an accomplished and well liked leader, and very disciplined about her exercise. 3-4 times a week she went to the gym for a 6:00 am class before heading to the office at 7:00 am. Every week. Like clockwork.
Until about three months ago. Continue reading Resolutions
Yeah, I know. I haven’t posted since Halloween. But as you can see, I’ve got a good excuse. A dozen, actually . Three Xrays, two Ultrasounds, two MRIs, a kidney stone, three shots of Lidocaine and a big one of Cortisone.
My resilience was sorely tested during all of this, and I was starting to feel rather defeated.
But the meds kicked in, the prognosis is good, my out of pocket maximums have been reached, and the New Year is upon us.
Let’s just hope this is the last hospital bed selfie for a long, long time.
Halloween was always my favorite holiday as a kid. It was the one time of the year when I could go out and get as much as I wanted. I just had to put in the work to get to as many doorsteps as time and distance allowed.
I had two major costume themes growing up. The first was the classic Hobo. Back then it wasn’t in bad taste as we hadn’t invented homelessness yet. I went with the classic depression era tramp look, baggy coat, crumpled hat, smudged face, and the iconic kerchief on a stick bundle thingee. The rail-riding vagabond type I’d seen on the Red Skelton show, warming himself over a makeshift trashcan campfire, cooking beans in a can and roasting weenies on a stick.
A rather romanticized ideal of life on the road. Not the mentally ill squalor of today’s homeless, but looking back, a need for freedom and escape, a yearning to be away from constraint and the tyranny of society. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day analyzing my 12 year old psyche.
Then came the Knight in Shining Armor phase. No doubt a shrink would see a misguided attempt at the hero role in the family, but for me it was a practical approach to self defense.
At the end of our street lived an older guy who loved to terrorize us younger kids. Continue reading What Your Halloween Costume Says About You
Yogi Berra, Hall of Fame baseball player and coach, passed away this week, 69 years to the day of his Major League debut. In his 19 year career as catcher of the New York Yankees, Yogi played in 18 All Star Games, was named American League MVP, and won 10 World Series Championships. He later added three more World Series wins as a coach.
As great a player as he was, Yogi’s greatest claim to fame came from his inadvertent contributions to American English idioms. Yogi was a master of the malapropism and the obvious, and one of the most quoted men in history. Affectionately known as “Yogi-isms”, Berra’s observations were often nonsensical, usually illogical, but always warm-hearted and hilarious.
He had a deep folksy wisdom, and in a certain light, he was a phillisophical genius. While coaching the last-place Mets in 1973, a reporter asked him in July if their season was over. In what proved to be one of the most prophetic statements ever made in sports, Yogi said “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” The initial reaction to this for most folks was, “Duh!”. But when his Mets went on to win the pennant and play in the World Series that year, people began to see the elegant genius in his dumbassed sounding words. Continue reading It’s Over
Meet Mitzy, our sweet, beautiful cat. She’s sociable and likes to sit on your chest while you stroke her behind the ears. She is calming, warm, and as far as cats go, very bright.
She is also a ruthless killer.
She stalks small animals, pounces, then drags them into the house to be tortured for sport. Over the years she has dragged in and tortured mice, rats, moles, gophers, birds, lizards and snakes.
Sometimes we find them partly alive and rescue them to the outside where they may or may not survive. Often we find them bloodied, missing fur and feathers, and very, very dead.
This cat is one sick puppy. Continue reading Unwanted Gifts
There was a civilized ruckus going on in Union Square Park when I popped out of the subway. A large and raucous crowd was protesting police violence in the wake of yet another person dying while in NYPD custody.
These fellas here were on duty, eyeing the demonstrators with an air of irritation, boredom and wariness, seemingly nonplussed and on edge all at the same time. Judging by the plastic handcuffs on the officer’s belt, they came ready for business.
Soon the crowd began to mobilize and head toward 14th Avenue. The cops scrambled into action, mounting a very loud loudspeaker on the back of an NYPD pickup, blaring a pre-recorded notice that anyone blocking vehicular or pedestrian traffic would be arrested. Duly warned, the protesters stepped off the curb and the moving phase of the protest began – the crowd leading, the cops following… Continue reading Disorder Control