Archive for category Personal development

A lesson in business and life from the Dutch

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…..

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Want to become a millionaire? One expert says you can.

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!

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What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?

“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.

Find balance
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.

Give back
Find more time to volunteer. It’s really a win-win.

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A life lesson taught by a snow shovel

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.

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A few lessons from years in PR

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….

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35 ways to make 2016 a terrific year

  1. Hang out with people who make you laugh.
  2. Try to do something active every day.
  3. Experience other cultures through travel, books/magazines, events, etc.
  4. Spend less than you earn.
  5. Go to bed earlier.
  6. Get outdoors more.
  7. Volunteer.
  8. Talk with a senior citizen.
  9. Eat a cleaner diet.
  10. Find stress management activities.
  11. Say hello to strangers.
  12. Unplug frequently.
  13. Spend more time with family and friends
  14. Do something outside your comfort zone.
  15. Leave the car and walk or bike to the store.
  16. Listen to music from your youth.
  17. Let people off the hook when they make a mistake.
  18. Take photos of things in nature.
  19. Stretch.
  20. Say “yes” more than “no.”
  21. But learn how to say “no” when you feel overwhelmed.
  22. Clean out the clutter.
  23. Make new friends.
  24. Connect with old friends.
  25. Watch an old movie.
  26. Honor your commitments.
  27. Do your taxes earlier.
  28. Ramp up your retirement savings.
  29. Take all of the vacation time you’ve earned.
  30. Pat yourself on the back once in a while.
  31. Replace television time with a hobby.
  32. Take a class.
  33. Tackle that home project that’s been hanging over your head.
  34. Live knowing that every day could be your last.
  35. Tell your loved ones how you feel.

Your turn. What ideas do you have to make 2016 a great year?

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16 Tips for hopeful PR practitioners

I was recently interviewed by a budding PR practitioner for a college class. The conversation made me think about the pros and cons of the business, and what I wish someone had told me in the early years.

Thumbs Up

  • A great variety of tasks ensures you’ll never be bored — from writing to photography to media relations.
  • You get to do a lot of fun things. Top of my list? Taking courtside photos at a Boston Celtics game. I’ve also done aerial photography and handled media relations for an event that featured former Secretary of State George Mitchell as the keynote speaker.
  • You learn a lot. About a lot of things.
  • And get to hang with interesting people — celebrities, authors, elected officials, company leaders, and national media. One of my favorites was working at a Leon Redbone concert, and being in the Green Room after the show.
  • The CEO knows your name and returns your emails.
  • PR people have a seat at the table, whether in a leadership meeting or a crisis response.

Thumbs Down

  • Along with the variety comes a high degree of unpredictability. Issues and projects have an interesting way of popping up at the wrong time.
  • You’ll run across people who think they know your job and — often well-intentioned — tell you how to do it.
  • Pressure. PR has been listed among the most stressful jobs.
  • Lack of control – you can do everything correct and still not have the outcome you desire: rain washes out your outdoor event; a significant event bounces your story off the news, etc.
  • 24/7 – Lots of things happen off work hours, from customer events to a middle-of-the-night crisis.
    Your mistakes are often public.

Doing the Job

  • Ask questions – If something confuses you, it likely has the same effect on your audience.
  • Show common sense – Be the person who says, “This doesn’t pass the straight-face test.”
  • Know numbers – A good business sense helps you understand your organization and boosts your credibility.
  • Be quick – The clock is often ticking, so learn to write and think quickly.
  • Act with integrity – It’s the right thing to do and you’re asking for trouble if you veer off course.

Your turn, PR people. What advice would you share with a hopeful practitioner?

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What if you had no television?

Can you imagine living without television? It’s such a part of our lives that doing without would mean a major lifestyle change. I know, because I recently went two months without television.

Yeah, between a couple of house moves, issues having cable installed, and a longer-than-expected search for a new flat screen, I found myself looking for other ways to spend my free time.

Some of my revelations:

No news is not good news
While there are a few shows I look forward to and missed, lack of news was the biggest gap created by going TV-less. Despite reading the daily paper, I felt out-of-the-loop and disconnected from the goings on around the globe, as well as pop culture news. I missed the morning routine of breakfast and Today.

Reading failed to fill the gap
I was certain that going without television would lead to more reading. It didn’t, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the disruption in my routine of watching a little television, then heading to bed to read.

Gather no moss
Perhaps the most interesting reaction was that I found myself looking for excuses to get out of the house. To avert boredom, I took lots of walks around town, frequently drove home via a longer route, and spent more time at the gym.

Any port in a storm
Confession: on a couple of occasions, while visiting family, I caught myself peeking at the television for things that would ordinarily be off my radar. Detroit Lions football comes to mind.

Radio
Radio stepped in to fill a big part of the television void. Rock, country, sports — if I was awake, the radio was generally on, to the point where I grew tired of it.

Productivity lapse
Oddly, I found myself feeling unproductive when I was home with nothing to do (i.e. with no television to watch). I did paint some walls and trim, but it wasn’t the same. It’s amazing how much television fills the gaps in our lives.

Your turn. What would you do with no television?

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Pitcher’s new contract offers career lesson

Red Sox fans everywhere are kicking dirt because the team failed to lure much-coveted pitcher Jon Lester back to Beantown. The lefty was traded from the Sox to Oakland late in the year, but became a free agent after the season, able to sign with the team of his choice.

Despite optimistic predictions that he’d return to Boston, Lester agreed to a $155 million, six-year contract with the Chicago Cubs.

As I read the news, I recalled a recent article about changing jobs. It offered advice on what to do if you have another job offer, but your current employer ponies up more compensation to keep you.

The author contends that if your current employer wants to keep you, and sees value in your work, he/she should have compensated you fairly without the threat of a departure. The author argued that you should walk away. Just like Jon Lester did.

Many feel Lester’s decision was due to a low offer that came from the Sox in the spring  for $70 million over four years. Yeah, hardly chump change, but you could argue that the much larger offers Boston made in the fall couldn’t undo the damage of that lowball offer in March.

Your thoughts? Do you stay or walk away if your current employer offers a raise to keep you from jumping ship?

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Joking at the office? Keep this in mind

I’ve always been a bit of a jokester. In my last performance review, my boss mentioned my sense of humor more than anything else (I hope that’s good).

Years ago, a striking lesson taught me the best way to joke at the office, or anywhere else for that matter.

A coworker on the other side of the building had just moved into a new office, complete with a window — a rarity for that particularly company.

He was sitting there, quite pleased, when I stuck my head in. We chatted, spoke about his kids’ photos, etc, and I left with something like, “Cool office. You look right at home.”

The next day he stopped by my office to thank me. When I asked why, he said, “You’re the only one who didn’t make fun of me.” Apparently, others asked who he slept with to get the office, etc.

That hit me like a lightning bolt, and changed the way I joke with people.

Now, I focus on comments that are funny, but positive. For example, if asked about my boss, my reply is something like, “She’s awesome. The best. Very smart, supportive, and never hits me on the nose with a newspaper.”

Okay, it’s a little corny, but you get the point. It’s clever, gets a chuckle, and leaves a positive feeling.

Do no harm
There’s an old saying about truth in jest, and I’ve learned that negative jokes can leave people wondering if you’re serious.  Years ago, at a going-away party, my outgoing boss said, “I’ll miss all of you — well, all but one of you …” I thought he was clearly kidding, but a coworker later asked me who the boss meant.

Be funny and kind at the same time. Sometimes that takes a bit of creativity, but the goodwill it generates is worth the effort.

Your turn? How do you kid around the office?

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