September is National Preparedness Month, a reminder that a disaster can hit at any time, and the best way to minimize its impact is to be prepared.
During my days at the American Red Cross, I often spoke with groups about fires safety and prevention, so let’s look at simple steps you can take to keep you and your loved ones safe.
One morbid statistic, before we begin. If fire strikes your home, you have about 2 minutes to get out. That’s not much time, so being prepared pays off.
You should have one on each level of your home, in every bedroom, and in hallways outside of bedrooms. Test and vacuum them monthly — they collect dust that can impact performance — and change batteries twice a year.
Have a plan
Every household should have, and practice an escape plan. Identify two ways out of each room, as well as a meeting place outside for the family. And practice you plan. If you have young children, include them in the planning to better engage them.
Grab one to go
Make a “grab bag” for every member — human and animal — of the house. The bags stay near an exit or somewhere where you can “grab” them quickly on your way out the door in an emergency, such as fire or weather event. Include whatever you think would be needed if you have to leave home, such as:
– Emergency clothing
– List of medications
– Important phone numbers
– Flashight and batteries
– Small games to occupy the kids
– Dog food, extra collar and leash, etc.
– A book or a deck of card (in case you land in a shelter)
The list of possible items goes on — and differs for reach person. Spend a few minutes thinking about what you’d need to function if you were driven from your home.
Hopefully the only time you touch your grab bag is to dust it, but if you ever need it, you’ll be glad it’s there.
Many years ago, a speaker at a conference shared a story about working with the Dutch. He said while it’s very difficult to get them to make a commitment, once they do, they’re in 100 percent.
He paused and said, “Now, think about Americans.”
He makes an interesting point. As a culture, we don’t like to say no, and often regret saying yes too quickly. However, that often leads to overextending ourselves, and not having enough time or energy to follow through on what we promise.
Worse yet, it’s becoming harder to say no.
What’s the answer? I suspect it’s a combination of becoming better at prioritization, letting go of details that are less critical, and yes, learning to say no.
Implementing and following a solid time management system is also a big help.
Your turn. How do you manage all of your commitments and requests?
Years ago, a conference presenter spoke about doing business with the Dutch. He noted that while it generally took them much longer to commit to something, once they signed on, he said, they were committed 100 percent.
The speaker paused and then said, “Compare that to Americans.”
Wow, he’s right. How often have you seen people offer or promise to do something then miss a deadline or completely blow off the project? We’ve all been pulled away by competing priorities, and while it’s often understandable, the odds are good that someone was let down by the change of direction.
Years ago, the acronym DWYSYWD began circulating around Corporate America. It’s meaning, Do What You Say You Will Do, must seem obvious — perhaps even silly — to the Dutch. After all, why do you need to be told to do something you agreed to do?
Food for thought…..
I’m in the midst of an interesting book, Everyday Millionaires, by financial guru Chris Hogan.
The book is based on a survey of more than 10,000 U.S. millionaires. Using the data, Hogan dispels many of the images we have of the wealthy, and argues — quite strongly — that a seven-figure net worth is within reach.
Who are the millionaires?
Hogan found the vast majority of millionaires earned their wealth through hard work and by prioritizing savings — living well below their means — and that they continue to follow these habits.
Hogan spends considerable time debunking the myths of how people became millionaires. Most came from humble beginnings. Seventy-nine percent received no inheritance from their parents, and eight out of 10 came from families at or below middle class.
Education matters, as 88 percent earned a college degree. Incidentally, 68 percent of the graduates never took out a student loan.
Somewhat surprisingly, the key to wealth isn’t landing a high-paying job. Hogan found that less than one-third earned more than $100,000 a year. Can you guess the top three occupations of millionaires? Engineer, accountant, and teacher.
Keys to success
So, what is the path to wealth? Hogan identified several characteristics. Topping the list are discipline and consistency. The tortoise definitely beats the hare on the path to $1,000,000.
Hogan found that millionaires:
- Save consistently, largely by living below their means.
- Avoid unnecessary risk and get-rich-quick gimmicks.
- Practice patience, realizing that it takes time to build wealth.
- Believe that they control their own destiny (but also ask others for advice and guidance).
- Invest in retirement plans. This was identified as the biggest contributing factor.
- Establish and reach financial goals.
Whether or not you fit these criteria, the book is a worthwhile read. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself in the next millionaire survey!
Baseball returns this week, so let’s wrap up the preseason with a look at my picks for the best baseball movies:
A League of Their Own
Gena Davis and Tom Hanks star in this terrific movie about the Women’s Professional Baseball League.
Minor league catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Kostner) tries to keep his shot at the “show” alive, while also mentoring a young pitching prospect (Tim Robbins) and trying to win the heart of the team’s biggest fan, played by Susan Sarandon.
A middle-aged fan makes a deal with the devil (Roy Walston) and becomes a major league star in this popular 1958 musical. Who said there’s no singing in baseball?
Eight Men Out
Based on the infamous Black Sox scandal that ended the careers of Shoeless Joe Jackson and his teammates on the 1919 White Sox.
Before he was Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman played Jackie Robinson, the Dodger great who broke the color barrier. An important move, and at times, difficult to watch the abuse Robinson experienced.
Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger lead the hapless Clevelend Indians from last place to first. Silly fun.
A brilliant retelling of the 1961 season, when Yankee teammates Mickey Mantle (Thomas Jane) and Roger Maris (Barry Pepper), chased Babe Ruth’s single season home run record (60) amid near-constant media pressure. Directed by die-hard fan Billy Crysal. The DVD’s extras are worth a watch, too.
Robert Redford plays slugger Roy Hobbs, an aging ballplayer with a mysterious past.
High school coach Dennis Quaid promises his players that he’ll tryout (again) for the majors if the team can turn things around. Based on the true story of Jim Morris.
That’s my list — what’s on yours? Field of Dreams? The Sandlot? Moneyball?
“If I’d only known…”
Every catch yourself saying this? We all do from time to time. Imagine the mistakes we’d avoid and the time saved if we could go back in time and give advice to our younger selves.
What would you say? Study harder? Travel? Save more?
Here’s my list:
Trust your gut
That little voice inside is correct far more than you think.
Learn from your elders
They’ve been around for a while and are happy to share experiences and wisdom that they’ve picked up over the years.
There is more to life than work. Travel, spend time at the beach, and relax by doing hobbies and activities that you enjoy.
Don’t expect to have all the answers
Not sure? Say so. People generally won’t judge you for not knowing something, especially if you promise to do some research and find the answer.
Take care of your body
Now is the time to establish life-long fitness habits, but pushing too hard at this age brings aches and pain down the road.
Take calculated risks
Too much risk is bad, but so it too little.
Stick to mutual funds
Set a 60:40 ratio of stock to bond funds, and other than rebalancing your portfolio yearly, leave it alone.
Use your ears
You learn far more by listening than talking.
Find more time to volunteer. It’s really a win-win.
Ever feel like you’re on a treadmill that’s going faster and faster? That seems to be the new norm, with less downtime to just sit and relax for a moment.
As people feel the constant tug for their time and attention, the importance of clear, concise communications becomes more important.
So how do you reach someone who is reading your message while making dinner, helping the kids with homework, and answering an after-hours text message from her boss?
- Begin with your most important message.
- Use bullets. They help break up copy and make reading easier.
- Opt for simple words and avoid jargon, acronyms, and words that readers may not understand.
- Use examples to illustrate complicated points.
- Offer a contrast or comparison to create an image in your readers’ mind (“The ship is the length of two football fields.”)
- Stay away from too many fine details.
As I write this, we’re enjoying a beautiful late-winter day — and waiting for the arrival of a sizable winter storm.
Snow brings a unique and unmistakable beauty to a scene, particularly when it reflects the morning light. There is, however, the issue of clean-up.
As a kid, I didn’t mind snow because it often gave us a day off from school, as well as a few dollars for shoveling driveways. Year later, I clear the driveway that leads to my home, although my bright red snow blower stands ready when the snowfall exceeds a few inches.
In the early days, however, there was no snowblower, just me and my handy shovel. Sometimes the snow was heavy and the work exhausting. During those days, I learned to look down and focus on the work in front of me, not the long section that lay ahead. When I needed a quick break, I’d take deep breaths while purposefully looking back at the section that I had already shoveled. In an odd way, that motivated me.
The same can be done in life or work. When faced with a daunting task or project, keeping my head down and plugging away helps move things forward. And reviewing progress still prods me to continue the work still to be done.
Early in my career, I worked as a weekend sportscaster at the local CBS television affiliate. Some days, the clock would tell me we had 45 minutes until air time, and I’d wonder how the work would get done. I’d take a deep breath, and tell myself, “You did it last week, you can do it today.” Then, just like after a snowstorm, I’d put my head down and get to work.
One of the great honors of my career was receiving the Edward L. Bernays Award from the Maine Public Relations Council. It’s the organization’s highest honor, and I’m humbled to have my name listed alongside some of the great PR people in our state. My acceptance speech shared a handful of tips gleaned over the years, and I though you might find it of some value:
Thanks, Linda for that warm introduction.
And thank you to Kelly, the MPRC board, and to the Bernays Committee for this award.
I’m touched, honored, and humbled to know that my name will be listed alongside some of the best public relations people from our great state.
I wrote three different drafts of today’s remarks, but none felt right. I don’t particularly like talking about myself, and because this is a conference, every speaker should give the audience a takeaway or two, so how about if I to share a few tidbits of the best advice I’ve received through the year, with the hope that one or two might resonate with you.
- Doing the right things is the always the right thing to do — particularly in PR. We need to be the conscience of an organization. A corollary to that is something Mark Twain said: the best thing about telling the truth is that you don’t have to remember anything.
- The next one came from the big store at the top of the hill, L.L. Bean: Put your customers first and remember that they’re the reason you’re in business.
- At the end of the day, the person you have to answer to is the one in the mirror. If you do that, everything else seems to fall into place.
- Perhaps my favorite quote is from Thomas Jefferson who said he was a big believer in luck and the harder he worked, the more if it he had.
- Finally, trust your gut and trust your instinct. Or in the words of the great American philosopher Cosmo Kramer, “what does the little man inside you say? You’ve gotta listen to the little man…the little man knows all.”
In closing, I’d like to thank the many people who have provided guidance, encouragement, and unwavering support to me for so many year. I accept this award on behalf of all of you, and in my mind, your names are etched on this with mine. But, I’ll keep it at my house.
Thank you again for a few minutes of your time…..I hope you enjoy the rest of the afternoon….
It’s been awhile since my last post. While I’d like to say that it’s because I won the lottery and took an extended trip around the world, the truth is that I had tendinitis in both wrists, which led me to reduce the time I spent typing.
Recovery was slow, and while I’m not quite 100 percent all the time, I’m back at the keyboard and ready to start blogging again.
There’s also a lesson here that I want to share with you — it’s important that we manage our screen time. Watch your posture at the keyboard, take regular stretch breaks, and if you experience pain or discomfort, speak with your physician or the appropriate safety or wellness person at your office.
It’s nice to be back, and I hope you’ll enjoy the return of my regular blog posts.