First, Last or Next

We have all had a lot of “Firsts” in our lives; our first step, first day of school, first kiss, first dance, first car and our first job. The list can go on and on with the things we have done for the first time. Some were really hard, some we thought were going to be hard but turned out a lot simpler than we feared and some just happened by accident … but we got through them all. Then we all have had some pretty neat “Lasts” in our lives as well: the last time you had to ask your parent’s permission, the last time you had a curfew on a date, the last time you had to study for a French, trigonometry, or chemistry final …or whatever courses you hated. Life is full of lots of great “First and Lasts”.

But, sometimes the “Firsts and Lasts” aren’t fun or exciting. Sometimes they are sad, hard, disappointing or even heart wrenching. I am sure you all can think of those without me having to point them out. I don’t want to address those today. I want to stay focused and positive about a subject I feel very strong about. I feel that truly successful people, those who stay on top of their profession for years, are always moving forward. They keep relevant, thriving, and successful by looking forward and moving on to the “NEXT” challenge, goal and soon to be another accomplishment. They don’t live in the past talking about previous successes. They finish what they are doing to the best of their ability … take a moment to appreciate what they have accomplished … and then move on; they relish what life has in store for them.

Your life is going to have countless “Firsts and Lasts”, whether you want them or not, but your “NEXT” accomplishment is up to you. The day you quit looking forward to your next goal, project, plan, mission, task, or grand undertaking is the day you stop progressing. When actor/comedian George Burns was 79, his career was resurrected in the 1975 film The Sunshine Boys, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He continued to work until shortly before his death, in 1996, at the age of 100. When he died he still had future engagements booked. He had more “NEXTs” planned out all the way up to his last breath. At 86 years of age, the famous poet Robert Frost recited his poem “The Gift Outright” at John F. Kennedy’s Presidential inauguration. At 88, Michelangelo completed his sculpture Roudandini Pieta, depicting an aged man holding Christ. At 89, classical pianist Arthur Rubinstein performed his famous concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall. At 104, educator/research scientist Ray Crist finally retired after an 80 year career that began at Columbia University.

But “NEXT” is not just for the elderly. Mozart was performing piano concerts across Europe at the age of 6. Bill Gates wrote his first computer program at the age of 13 and at 31 he had made his first billion dollars. At 15, swimmer Dara Torres set the world record in the 50-meter freestyle. Tommy Hilfiger opened his first clothing store at the age of 18, with his hottest item being bell-bottom pants. What do these people all have in common? They all kept moving forward to their “NEXT” accomplishment. 

If you want to study somebody who was really amazing at “NEXT”, take a look at Benjamin Franklin. Mr. Franklin was an author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. He founded the first U.S. hospital, insurance company, police department, fire department, and book circulating library. He invented the Franklin Stove, the lightning rod and bifocals (to name a few). He was involved in founding two colleges. On top of all of those accomplishments, Mr. Franklin was also an Alderman, Governor, Ambassador and one of the founding fathers of the United States. He kept active and working right up until he died at 84 years of age. Over 20,000 people attended his funeral. Mr. Franklin’s entire life was a continuous journey of “NEXTs”. Here is an anonymous quote that I think sums up nicely the point I am trying to make. 

“You can’t start the NEXT chapter of your life, 

if you keep re-reading the last one.”

Personal Communication Filter

One of the definitions for the word “filter” is “a device that is used to filter out something unwanted.” You can buy a pair of sunglasses to filter out unwanted ultraviolet light. There are water purification filters, oil filters, fuel filters, air filters, pool filters, cigarette filters, coffee filters, aquarium filters, and furnace filters. You can filter emails, filter out spam, and put a filter on an internet search engine. You can even put a lens filter on a camera to reduce the amount of wrinkles people see on your face.

But, I haven’t found a filter you can buy for personal communication. There are a lot of people who have ruined their lives, be it on a personal or business basis, by saying something stupid, thoughtless, mean, malicious, despicable, inappropriate, condescending, cruel, hurtful, vicious, painful, and certainly uncalled-for. If they had just had a filter that would have removed their unacceptable statements, things would have turned out so much better for everyone.

Practicing good manners will serve as a filter, or possibly your experience will help to filter out the things you shouldn’t say. One simple way to protect yourself is to say nothing. Abraham Lincoln once said, “ Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”.   Or you may want to follow the advice of the Canadian educator, Laurence J. Peter, who said, “Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret”.  

Just as a water filter removes the impurities from water … I feel we all need a personal communication filter so we can filter out the impurities from our speech such as: complaining, anger, gossip, cursing, nagging, idle chatter, egotism, condescension, ridicule and hurtful criticism.  I wonder how many people you know would want to filter out certain things you say. Ask yourself this question: Do I brighten the mood of a room full of people when I enter the room or when I leave the room? Maybe you should consider filtering some of the things you are saying.

 Plato once said, “Wise men speak because they have something to say, fools speak because they have to say something.”  Since there are no personal communication filters available for sale, it is going to fall to us to filter our words. So, let me give you a few rules that might help: Only speak what you know to be true, speak with integrity, before speaking ask yourself would someone be pleased with what you are saying about them, avoid at all costs speaking when angry, and when in doubt, stay silent. My final advice is this simple poem:

Be careful of the words you say,

and keep them soft and sweet.

You’ll never know from day-to-day,

which ones you’ll have to eat.

Well … I’ll Show You

There are two sides to rejection: those who got rejected and those who did the rejecting. Instead of crawling in some hole and giving up when you get rejected, making the REJECTERS right about you, why not see it as a challenge and simply say to yourself, “I’ll show you.” There is no law that says REJECTERS are always right. In fact, there are countless examples of the REJECTERS being terribly wrong. The REJECTERS were the ones who made a HUGE mistake. The REJECTERS turned out to be the ones who were REALLY SORRY for the decision they made.

One of my favorite stories on being rejected is about the famous cartoonist, Charles Schulz, who created the world-renowned comic strip Peanuts. Charles asked his girlfriend, Donna Johnson, whom he had dated for three years, to marry him and was REJECTED. Yep. She turned him down and married a person who had a more stable job, rather than marry a cartoonist. The Peanuts comic strip went on to be published in over 70 countries and earned Mr. Schulz approximately $40 million annually. Mr. Schulz immortalized his rejecting girlfriend by creating the little red-head girl in his Peanuts strip, who always rejected Charlie Brown. Mr. Schulz … showed her.

Marilyn Monroe was REJECTED by Twentieth Century-Fox production chief, Darryl Zanuck, after just one year under contract because he thought she was unattractive. Well … Marilyn showed him. Tom Cruise was REJECTED by the casting director for the television series FAME because he wasn’t pretty enough. Well … Tom showed him. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, originally owned fifteen Ben Franklin Hardware Stores operating under the name, Walton’s Five & Dime. He went to the executives of Ben Franklin Hardware Store franchises and suggested opening discount stores in small towns. The executives rejected his idea. Well … Sam showed them.

The manager of the Grand Ole Opry fired Elvis Presley after one performance. He told Elvis, “go back to driving a truck because you will never make it as a singer.” Barbara Walters was told by the executive producer of 60 Minutes to “stay out of television.” Jay Leno applied for a job at Woolworth’s but failed the employment test. Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, took the original idea to the executives of CBS, NBC and ABC and was REJECTED by all of them. They all thought the idea of a 24 hour news network was stupid. Decca Records rejected The Beatles, saying, “We don’t like your sound, and guitar music is on the way out”. Authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen who wrote, Chicken Soup for the Soul, received 134 rejections from publishers. Other famous authors such as William Faulkner, John Grisham, E.E. Cummings, Rudyard Kipling, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King were all rejected by publishers. Well … they all showed them!

It looks like, to me, that when you are rejected you have now joined a pretty elite group of people … if you decide to prove the REJECTER wrong. Yes, the chronicles of world history are littered with REJECTED people, ideas, concepts, manuscripts, songs, paintings, and patents that later turned out to be someone or something special. So, if you want to take it to the next level, put three words in your arsenal that will dispel all failures, ridicule, mockery and rejectionI’ll Show You.

Just imagine a convention where all the STUPID REJECTERS in the world showed up and you got to meet them. You probably wouldn’t remember their names, only the fact that they were the ones who REJECTED Elvis, or Marilyn or, The Beatles. Those REJECTERS are all kicking themselves in the butt because “the rejected” proved them wrong. Elvis sold over 1 billion records with eighteen #1 hits … we are all glad he didn’t go back to driving a truck.

The famous movie actor, Sylvester Stallone, once said, “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.” Take rejection as a wake-up call … someone sounding the alarm for you to recommit yourself to prove them wrong.

Detractors, Critics, and Rejecters are Only Right

If You Let Them

Ride For The Brand

A few weeks ago I asked you all to send me in your favorite quotes and the response was overwhelming. While I’m deciding how I am going to use all this great material, I thought I would share one quote that really stood out to me, because:

  • I had never heard it before  
  • I didn’t know what it meant and  
  • When I found out what it meant, I really liked it.

Sam Bertelsen, sent me the quote, who had it passed on to him by his Dad. Sam describes the company that he works for as … a small, fly-by-night company, called FedEx.  Sam is a real character, who lives in Montana and is fan of cowboy traditions and that is where the quote he sent me came from. The quote was, “Ride for the Brand.” It is an expression of loyalty to a cowboy’s employer or the particular outfit he rode for. I was now very intrigued about the expression, so I did some more research.

Most cattle on a cattle ranch are given a brand, a unique mark burned into the tough hide on the backside of the cow; it means that cow belongs to that ranch. But the expression, Ride for the Brand,” was more than just a mark that determined ownership of a cow. It became a symbol for those who lived and worked for the ranch and was a visual representation of the values and principles that ranch stood for. Cowboys were expected to dedicate themselves to the boss and the group of cowboys who worked for the ranch. The cowboys would defend the ranch at all costs, as if it were their own. I was really liking what my research was turning up, so I kept digging.

I then came across … Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West – by James P. Owens. Mr. Owens listed these points to follow:

  1. Live each day with courage
  2. Take pride in your work
  3. Always finish what you start 
  4. Do what has to be done 
  5. Be tough, but fair. 
  6. When you make a promise, keep it.
  7. Ride for your brand 
  8. Talk less and say more 
  9. Remember some things aren’t for sale 
  10. Know where to draw the line

Mr. Owens even notedRide for your Brand”, in his list. The reason why I share the quote with you is I think it is as fitting today as it was in the old west. Loyalty to your company should be a given. The company you are working for deserves your best, all the time. Sam said his father also told him  … to work every day hard and ask yourself would your company hire you again tomorrow based on your performance today?  I suggest you use that quote to measure your performance every day!

If you want to advance your career with your company, then Ride for YOUR Brand.”  People will sense the pride you have for your company and the appreciation you have for working there. Remember, the cowboys would defend the ranch at all costs, as if it were their own. If I was your boss and knew that was the way you felt about our company, wild horses couldn’t pull you away from me. I would do everything I could to keep you. But, for you bosses out there, you need to understand that employee loyalty comes from employer loyalty. If your employees are delivering for you, you need to always have their back, be in their corner and singing their praises.

Being Loyal Gains Loyalty

Ride For YOUR Brand

Don’t Confuse Them

Your boss uses the following words in a meeting: sanction and temper. Did you raise your hand and ask, “Excuse me, but I am confused about your sanction comment; does that mean you approve of it or we are to boycott it? And then you told us to temper our comments, so do you want us to soften them or strengthen them?” Or, did you think to yourself:

  • No way am I going to risk advancing my career by questioning my boss.
  • I am going to let someone else fall on the sword and ask the questions.
  • Hey, I’ll find out later what my boss really meant.
  • Not a chance in the world will I ever point out to my boss they just used a two words that have totally opposite meanings.

How employees handle this dilemma is a very telling sign as to the leadership qualities of their boss. I believe if no one says a word, then we are dealing with a difficult person to work for; a boss who might be best described as a mean, belittling, oppressive, and over-bearing person. If that is the case, a roomful of employees just walked out of the meeting having no idea which definitions they should use.

What if you are a global company, with multiple languages being used to communicate. The “context” of what was said (or written) can easily get lost in translation. The next thing you know you have employees moving in opposite directions all thinking they are doing the right thing, which is a true formula for disaster.

Our English language is riddled with puzzling words that are potential traps for confusion that can lead to problems. The examples I used in the first paragraph, sanction and temper, are called “Contronyms”, which are words that have contradictory meanings. Another area of confusion can stem from the use of “Homophones”. A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning, and may differ in spelling. The words may be spelled the same, such as rose (flower) and rose (past tense of “rise”), or differently, such as carat, caret, and carrot. Other examples are … break / brake … blew / blue … by / bye / buy …fair / fare … hear / here … witch / which … and … would / wood. In fact, the list of homophones is quite extensive. So, for you scholars out there, I have a short quiz for you; all the answers are homophones so let’s see which ones you can answer.

Example:   If four couples went to a restaurant, how many people dined?  

Answer :   eight ate.

  • 1. What would we do if we found bad plants spoiling our lawn?
  • 2. What would you say in the evening to a soldier in shining armor?
  • 3. What are groups of sailors on an ocean pleasure trip?
  • 4. What is a group of musicians that isn’t allowed to play?
  • 5. If they are not here, where are they?
  • 6. What is the name for a weird street of shops that sell incredible things?
  • 7. What do you call a bucket that has seen a ghost?
  • 8. If a devil is completely sinful, what is an angel? 

Can’t you sea that the answers to these questions are as plane as the knows on yore face.

In a world of global communication, when a click sends a message for all the world to see,

may I suggest you choose your words wisely, or what a fool you could appear to be.

 Leaders who confuse people, aren’t Leaders for long.

 

Homophone Answers

“That’s Not My Job”

I find many people fail to advance within a company because they don’t take responsibility for the overall success of the company.  It is as if they perform their job with blinders on; ignoring anything that is going on around them. They have decided that they are ONLY responsible for their job, function, task, assignment, or duty and nothing else. Now, I am not suggesting that you should mettle in other people’s jobs. But, when you see a problem or mistake getting ready to happen that could be avoided if you just took a moment to bring it to their attention, I think you should speak up; especially if it is going to cost the company money or the loss of a customer.

Years ago I came across a wonderful explanation of what I am suggesting. I think when you read it you will better understand the point I am trying to make.    (the author is unknown)

This is a story about four people named,

Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done,

and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did.

Somebody got angry about that,

because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought Anybody could do it,

but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody

when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

I know successful companies are looking for people who are willing to take the initiative; people willing to do something even if they haven’t been asked to do it. If you want to advance in your company, I suggest that when you see a problem, take the initiative to fix it without waiting for a directive to come down from your boss. You can focus on just your job or you can also be concerned about helping to make your company be successful. Personally, if I was putting together a team of people for a major project, I want people who are both FOCUSED and CONCERNED.

It is as simple as oiling a door that has squeaky hinges. Every time Somebody opens that door it makes an annoying, squeaky noise that bothers Everybody in the room. Anybody could have taken the initiative to oil the hinges, but Nobody did. Everybody thought Somebody would eventually oil the hinges … but you guessed it … Nobody did it. If you were working for me and I found that your “REAL” attitude was … that is not my job, I wasn’t hired to do that, or that is beneath my job title … you soon wouldn’t be working for me. Start being the Somebody who does what Anybody could have done, but Nobody took the initiative to do. Because if you do, Everybody is going to want you on their team.

What Do Initiative and Success Have In Common ?

Everything !

Adjust vs. Change

Unexpected things happen all the time which we have to deal with, whether we want to or not. We can adjust to the circumstances or resist them. I find the people who adjust are a great deal more successful than the ones who don’t. It is one thing to be stubborn to your convictions, it is entirely different thing to be unaccepting to the new circumstances that have just occurred. Instead of looking at things under the painful guise of “Having to Change,” I think it is more effective to say, “It’s time to adjust.”

I would say it is definitely time to adjust when your company decides to let you go. Oh, they can say it in so many different ways; they can tell you they are retrenching, downsizing, rightsizing, re-purposing or re-aligning staff. I had one client call it a “RIF.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with the acronym “RIF” … it stands for “Reduction in Force.” I guess you might say that is a nice way to tell people, if there is such a way, they have been laid off. But in your eyes, you see it as being canned, kicked to the curb, booted out, terminated, shown the door, sacked, discharged, axed, let go, dumped, ditched, dismissed, pink-slipped, issued your walking papers … or in the simplest of terms … FIRED. I heard one person say they had been issued their “DCM” notice, which stands for “Don’t Come Monday.”

Whatever a company wants to call being “laid-off,” the reality is you now have to ADJUST to this new situation. I really prefer using the word ADJUST rather than CHANGE, because it seems easier, in context, to do.

The weather changes and you ADJUST what you are wearing.

The economy changes and you ADJUST your spending habits.

Traffic is bad and you ADJUST your route.

Sales are down so you must ADJUST advertising or prospecting activity.

Production is down so you must investigate the cause and ADJUST.

Your health changes and you ADJUST your exercise and eating habits.

Your boss changes and you ADJUST to their style of management.

You have a newborn baby and you ADJUST your sleeping habits.

You get married and you ADJUST from an “I “ to a “We” way of thinking.

In business you have to ADJUST to competition, technology, economic issues, healthcare issues, rising expenses, changes in media advertising, changing demographics of customers, and availability of workforce … to name just a few. So, instead of using that painful word “CHANGE,” may I suggest you start looking at approaching things with an ADJUSTMENT mentality.

People have a real tendency to resist change, but they do seem more accepting of ADJUSTING to the circumstances. Sometimes it is just the perspective of how we are going to address a situation/problem that will help people buy into doing what is necessary to fix it. Most of the time you don’t have to change everything to fix a problem; you just need to make some ADJUSTMENTS. Would you rather someone say to you, “You have to CHANGE what you did.” … or … “With a few minor adjustments, what you did is going to work great.”?

Our world is constantly changing … so your life is in a constant state of adjustment. Always remember, there are things you can’t change so you must ADJUST or you will not succeed.

Successful people know that

if they aren’t reaching their goals

it is time to ADJUST their actions.

 

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