AW

Archive for the ‘Inspiration and Motivation’ Category

Looking Back at April

In Family, Giving Back, Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on May 2, 2010 at 6:25 am

Each month, I do a recap to measure my progress while keeping myself accountable to my goals.

Here is my look back at April…

THE PURSUIT OF HEALTH

After going off course in March due to a change in schedule and some extenuating circumstances, I was determined to do better in April.  Unfortunately, April started off much the same way that March ended.  While I am disappointed overall of my progress for the month, I am happy to say that I wrapped up the month on a high note, which will lay the foundation for May and the months ahead.

Part of the reason that it took until the end of the month to “right the ship” is because I was waiting for a new workout video to arrive.  Of course, that is no excuse for not doing something else until it arrived.  But since I can’t go back in time, I’ll just have to look ahead, and stop worrying about mistakes that I made early in the month.

The video finally arrived just as I was about to go out of town.  My wife and I decided to start the new workout when I got back, although we watched it a few times just to see what we needed to do to prepare.

Since the video was made by a friend, and we are acting as “testers,” it did not have the full workout to follow along with the instructor.  We wrote out each exercise and a list of things that we would need to do the workout.  I was happy that the workout could be done at home without having to spend a lot of money on equipment.  As we watched the video, I thought that it would be a good, effective workout, but one that I would be able to finish the first time that I tried it.  WRONG!!!

This workout is going to whip me into shape, but it is not something that can easily be finished coming off of the couch, largely because it is about going all out for a short period of time rather than being able to pace yourself.  It is going to take several tries before I can complete the entire workout in the way that it is intended to be completed.

Always one to look ahead, I asked the creator of the video what happens when I start to plateau.  His response was interesting, and something that I never thought about.  He admitted that the workout is going to start to feel easier at some point, but then it will start to get more difficult again if done properly.  Because the workout centers on a lot of jumping, and giving maximum effort in short bursts, it can actually build upon itself.  This is because, as the muscles start to develop, it will allow me to jump higher and move faster, so the same exact workout will end up having a higher degree of difficulty.

Of course, all of this exercise wouldn’t be as effective without an altered diet as well.  But unlike many “diets,” this one does not tell you what to eat, when to eat it, and how much to have.  It doesn’t have that feeling of dread, and it can be modified depending on your lifestyle and your goals.  This nutrition plan is more about what not to eat than what to eat.  I won’t say that it is easy, especially if you want to eat meals outside of the home, but it is manageable.

In addition to the 3-day-a-week exercise plan, and nutrition guidelines, I will also be incorporating fun exercise into the mix on the off-days.  Thrilled to hear that swinging a bat is good exercise for the off-days, I immediately found a batting cage nearby.  I went for the first time yesterday and really enjoyed myself.  The best part is that it is much cheaper than what I am used to paying (it’s only $1 for 20 balls).

I believe that May will be the month where I take a huge leap forward in my pursuit of health.

THE PURSUIT OF WEALTH

Because I have to rely on other people to get my projects off of the ground, there have been unforeseen delays.  If I had to sum up April in a word, it would be “progress.”

One of my projects is finally ready to take a big step forward, and I will actually be reaching out to others to see if they would like to be a part of it in the next week or so.

The other project took a slight step backwards, but in some ways, I think that the step backwards may end up being the most progress that I made this month.  I’ve learned that not everyone makes an ideal business partner.  And while I had hoped to be moving along with this particular project, I think that things may work out much better by partnering with someone else.  I guess time will tell if I was right.

THE PURSUIT OF “HAPPYNESS”

With the difficult month of March behind me, I thought that April would be better…and it was.

While I found some frustration in my pursuit of wealth, I made progress.

While it took a while to get my pursuit of health back on track, I finally did it.

And, as usual, I had a lot of fun with my wife and kids.  Ultimately, this is what it all comes down to anyway.

But when I look back at April 2010 in the future, the thing that I will remember most will be the first-ever fundraiser for the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation called “Bowling For Cookies” (which I wrote about recently).

I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child.  Even worse, I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child and having another child with the same terminal illness.  But that is the hand that my friend Trish has been dealt.  And while no one would blame her for falling apart, she has boldly taken a step in the other direction by launching the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation.

I proudly serve as a board member for the foundation, and was thrilled to have been a part of the first fundraiser.  It is hard to believe how much has been accomplished since Olivia passed away in December of 2009.

Without going into too much detail, I can honestly say that the results of the fundraiser blew me away.  If you want to see why, please read “Bowling For Cookies.”

The work that I do with the foundation truly makes me happy.  Part of it is because of the good that will come as a result of our collective efforts, but for now, the best part is supporting a friend in something that means so much to her.

“While her life was short, her impact will last a lifetime” is the tagline for the foundation.  The first fundraiser already proved that this is true.  The next fundraiser is planned for August, and it should be great as well.

I encourage anyone who hasn’t done so yet, to please check out www.OliviaGraceArmandFoundation.com and www.OliviasCookieJar.com.

CONCLUSION

April was much better than March (as anticipated). A lot of good things started to fall into place.  Hopefully the foundation that has been laid in April will result in a great May!

Advertisements

Bowling For Cookies

In Giving Back, Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on April 27, 2010 at 10:32 am

Olivia Grace Armand, affectionately known as “Cookie,” died of a rare disease called I-Cell (or Mucolipidosis Type II) on December 11, 2009 (10 days before her 5th birthday).  Within a few weeks of Olivia’s passing, her parents, Trish and Mike Armand, established the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation.

Being that Olivia’s brother, Mikey (who turned 4 yesterday), also suffers from the same rare disease that took his sister’s life, it is logical to think that the foundation was set up to find a cure for I-Cell, but it wasn’t.  Unfortunately, the harsh realization is that very little can be done for Mikey at this point, but that hasn’t stopped Trish and Mike Armand from wanting to selflessly “pay it forward.”

Because of their disease, Olivia and Mikey have spent countless days in hospitals.  The Armands give a lot of credit to the doctors that they have dealt with, but the ones who have given them comfort and strength are the incredible pediatric nurses that they have encountered over the years.  For this reason, the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation was established to provide pediatric nursing scholarships to the unsung heroes who provide an emotional support system that goes beyond medical care.

Needless to say, I was honored when I was asked to be a board member for this incredibly noble foundation.  Although I haven’t personally had much experience around pediatric nurses, I have seen the difference that compassionate nurses can make in the lives of family members who are dealing with a dire situation.

In 2001, a severe head injury caused my father to go into a coma.  The neurosurgeons did absolutely nothing to comfort us.  In fact, their stark presentation of my father’s condition made things even worse.  The only solace that we ever received was from the compassionate nurses.  Even though it has been nearly nine years since my father’s passing, I still remember one particular nurse named Colleen.  Colleen treated our family as if we were long-time friends, and it didn’t take long for me to trust whatever she told us.

My father’s fight for his life lasted for 5 days, until he finally couldn’t fight any longer.  During that time, Colleen would tell us what was happening, and what was likely to happen next.  She was never wrong!  Even though the news was never good, she always delivered the message with great compassion.  The night that my father died, Colleen hugged each of us, and cried with us as we said our goodbyes.  I’ll never forget Colleen as long as I live, so I know exactly why Trish and Mike feel so strongly about giving back to pediatric nurses.

In a short time, the foundation had already raised $10,000 leading up to the first fundraiser, “Bowling for Cookies,”which was held this past weekend.  I am truly honored to have been a part of it.

When I arrived in Florida on Saturday evening, I was greeted at the airport by Trish and a few other board members (some of whom I had never met before).  It was a fun-filled evening with a lot of laughs.  By the time that the night came to an end, I felt as if I had made new friends.  We only spent a short time planning for the event the next day, and since none of us had done this before, we were going to have to learn on the job (so to speak).

After having a quick breakfast together, we started our day by going to visit Olivia’s gravesite.  Although visiting a cemetery is usually very solemn for me, Olivia’s final resting place felt different.  Trish described it best in one word…“peaceful.” The wind chimes hanging from a small tree blew gently in the breeze as we all stood together talking about the day.  I was sad that we were standing by the grave of a little girl, but happy that we were about to do something special in her name.

We arrived at the bowling alley about four hours before the event was to begin.  At first, it was a little confusing trying to figure out each of our roles, but before long, we were working together as a team, and getting things done.  Slowly but surely, the lobby was transformed into a greeting area that made you forget for a moment that you were inside of a bowling alley, the billiard room became a silent auction staging area, and it began to feel as though we were a team of people who had done this together before.  Each of us seemed to just gravitate towards a responsibility as Trish led the way, which couldn’t have been easy with all of the stress and emotion that she was feeling.

There were many touching moments throughout the day.  It began with the first family showing up, and each of them wearing purple (the foundation’s official color).  As the bowling alley filled up, Trish gave a speech thanking everyone for coming.  Through the tears, and a quiver in her voice, you could feel the passion that she has to make this foundation a success.  And perhaps the most touching moment of all came when Trish picked the winning ticket for the 50/50 raffle, which ended up being a $400 cash prize to the winner.  Everyone applauded as Trish’s friend Jason came forward to claim his prize.  As Trish went to hand Jason the money, he immediately told her not to hand it to him, and that the money was for the foundation.  Trish announced Jason’s generosity to the crowd, choked up, with tears in her eyes, and said…“you see everyone, this is what paying it forward it all about!”

Shortly after Jason’s show of generosity, everyone attending the event sang “Happy Birthday” to Mikey.  And though I couldn’t see his face from my vantage point, I got the full description from Trish’s dad and step-mom, who told me that he usually gets a little scared around the candles, but not this time.  They told me that he really enjoyed himself, just like everyone else who attended the event.

“Bowling For Cookies” was a tremendous success.  It seemed as much a celebration of Cookie’s life as it did a fundraiser for nursing scholarships.  Being that this was the first event, I had no idea what to expect in terms of money being raised, but I do know that my expectations were exceeded.  We ended up raising over $8000 to go towards the “Cookie Jar!” Pretty amazing when you take today’s economy into account!

I encourage everyone to check out www.OliviaGraceArmandFoundation.org for more information about this amazing little girl and to make donations.  Please also visit www.OliviasCookieJar.com to shop in the Olivia Grace Armand Mall, where all proceeds go directly to the foundation.

I Would Be Rich Beyond My Wildest Dreams If…

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on April 15, 2010 at 8:09 am

Throughout the course of my sales career, I have attended a number of seminars by industry leaders, subscribed to newsletters and read books by some of the most successful people around.  But nothing compares to the sales lessons that I learn daily living with the world’s greatest salesperson…my 3-year old daughter.  Not a day goes by where I don’t experience her unique style of salesmanship.  In fact, I’ve already witnessed it first-hand this morning.

We were getting ready to take my son to school, and my daughter asked if she could bring two library books with her.  Since she does nothing with the books but hold them, I suggested that she bring one of her baby dolls instead.

She picks up two library books and the baby doll and says…“I’ll just bring these two books and the baby.”

I replied…“What did I just say to you about bringing the books?”

Getting frustrated with me, she exhaustingly says…“Okay, okay.  I’ll bring my baby AND a book!”

This type of back and forth goes on regularly.  Somehow, in her own way, she works the negotiations out in her favor, but makes it sound like she has given in and agreed to what we have asked of her.  She has this incredible way of turning every “no” into some sort of victory for her (truly the mark of a great salesperson).  By the time she has finished negotiating, she not only has gotten her way to some degree, but she also appears to be walking away defeated, with a martyr-like quality that actually makes you feel kind of bad for her.

I can only imagine what my life would be like if I were able to apply the sales techniques that are used on me daily.  Let’s use real estate as an example…

How great it would be to go on a listing appointment using this technique.  I can see it now.  The homeowner would say that they will let me know after meeting with a few other agents.  I would reply with…“Okay, okay.  I’ll list your house for the price that I think it will sell for, and I’ll do it for a full commission!” I would then make them sign the listing agreement, pack up my stuff, and walk away sulking leaving the homeowners feeling bad for me.

Working with homebuyers would be a dream using this technique.  No longer would buyers be afforded the luxury of being eternal fence-sitters and taking up countless weekends looking for the “perfect home.” If the buyer tried to say that they want to see more homes before making a decision, I would respond with…“Okay, okay.  I’ll write up the offer for the house that I liked the best today.” The buyers would feel bad for me as I got into my car to drive home, realizing that I could have been home even sooner if they had just allowed me to make the decision for them earlier in the day.

The beauty of this technique is that it works for every product or service.

In the interest of fairness, I will issue the following warning…

If I master this sales technique, I will be impervious to your resistance.  You may as well say “yes” right away to anything that I am selling, because if I have to break out my daughter’s sales technique to close you, you will end up spending more money and feeling bad for me for saying “no” to me in the first place.

“Ideal” Conditions

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on April 14, 2010 at 7:19 am

This morning, a fairly insignificant moment with my daughter inspired this post and a life lesson that should benefit me going forward.  Hopefully those that read this will reap some benefit as well.

Potty training my 3-year old has been an experience (to say the least).  Like many kids, she resisted the idea of shedding the diaper, even though it meant bribery gifts, “big girl” underwear with her favorite characters and more.  Try as we might, there is very little that can be done to make it happen before she is willing, even if she is able.  It takes work, and it can be very frustrating at times.

To date, we have finally gotten her to use the potty at home.  However, we are still working on getting her to use a potty outside of the house.  This struggle seems to be more of an epic battle than it was to get her to go on the potty at home.  But it was no easy task at home either.

It started with the little potty because she was scared of the toilet with the potty seat.  Eventually, when we got tired of having our kitchen double as a bathroom, we took away the little potty and forced the issue a bit.  Though there was some screaming at first, it didn’t take long for her to realize that it wasn’t so bad to go on the big potty.  However, there was still one fear to overcome.  Let’s just say that she was no longer “regular” as she held it in out of fear.  Overcoming this fear was more work than just getting her to transition to the big potty, but before long, she realized that it wasn’t so bad after all.

Although we have conquered every milestone (aside from going outside of the house), it still doesn’t come easy at times, and this is where the life lesson was realized.

I don’t know if it is some kind of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) or if she is merely a stickler for details, but my daughter still requires “ideal conditions” before using the potty at home.

First of all, it must be a “fresh bowl.” Sometimes kids forget to flush, so the bowl isn’t always fresh.  I understand this compulsion.  What I don’t understand is the fact that she refuses to flush the toilet if she didn’t just use it, so the reinforcements (my wife and I) must be called in to handle the “dirty work.”

Second of all, the stool that she uses to reach the potty must be as close to perfect as possible.  This morning it wasn’t.  Usually the problem is that the stool has gotten wet because it is near the sink.  Today proved that my daughter either has OCD, or that she is a perfectionist.  The conversation went as follows…

“Daddy, I have to go potty, but there is something on my stool.”

“What is it, baby?”

“It looks like it’s a sesame seed.”

One single sesame seed threw her off her game!  It’s not as if the stool was inexplicably covered in sesame seeds.  It was one seed!  During this conversation, my daughter was “penguin walking” through the living room with her underwear around her ankles.  But this wasn’t surprising, because part of her routine includes the “penguin walk,” even if it is only across the bathroom.

I laughed to myself at the absurdity of a sesame seed preventing her from going potty.  At that moment, it hit me that my daughter requires “ideal conditions” for something that should be fairly routine.  It got me to thinking about some things that I have done in the past, and continue to do at times today as well.

My “sesame seed” is paralysis by analysis.  It is trying to get everything “perfect” before getting started on something.  But we live in an imperfect world.  Very rarely does the world fully cooperate and wrap everything up in a neat little package with a bow of perfection.  There are ALWAYS unforeseen circumstances and unexpected issues that arise.  Whether it is something small and insignificant, or a real hurdle that must be overcome, the bottom line is that action is better than inaction.  Smart planning is one thing.  Obsessing on making things perfect is quite another.

The truth of the matter is that this blog would not exist if I approached it with perfection in mind.  I would have had to have found the perfect domain name.  I would have wanted it to be designed professionally.  I would have added things to it that aren’t really necessary.  It never would have been launched because it would have taken too much time, money and planning.  Sometimes, in life, it is best to live by Nike’s tagline…JUST DO IT!

If I find myself waiting for “ideal conditions” again in the future, I will think of the sesame seed on the stool, realize that “ideal conditions” don’t really exist and JUST DO IT!

David vs. Goliath

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on April 10, 2010 at 4:07 pm

When I was a kid, I used to wake up early on the weekend to watch one of my favorite shows… “Davey & Goliath.” I can still hum the theme song today.  Each show delivered a message, but for me, it was less about the message and more about the love of watching a boy with his talking dog.  It wasn’t until much later in life that I learned the actual story of David vs. Goliath.

Today was a big day for my son’s football team.  After dominating our first two opponents, it was time to test our mettle against the Goliath of the league.   Our opponents won the Super Bowl in the fall after going undefeated.  With all of the returning players from the fall, they are the team that many fear, and everyone respects.  And though we did well against them in a pre-season scrimmage game, we knew that this was going to be our toughest game of the year.

I’m not sure how all of the kids were feeling, but the coaches were on edge and ready to play the game.  As coaches, all we can do is prepare the team to the best of our abilities, but ultimately, the kids are the ones that have to execute on the field.  Despite our repeated warnings to the team about what to expect from the league favorites, it didn’t take very long for them to take advantage of our early mistake.  Three plays into the game, we were already trailing by a touchdown.

On the following possession, we moved the ball well, but ultimately fell short, turning the ball back over to our opponents.  Having already been a part of a team that lost badly to this team in the fall, I started to think that it was going to be a long day.  After all, our previous two opponents could not contain our star player.  But then again, the other teams were not the defending league champions.

After failing to score, our defense settled down and stopped our opponents, giving us the ball back with good field position.  This time, our running back broke through and scored.  After missing the extra point, we trailed by a point, but at least the game was starting to look competitive.

On the next possession, our opponent broke another run for a touchdown.  They added on the extra point and lead the game by eight points with less than two minutes to play in the first half.  At least we were getting the ball back with enough time on the clock to tie the game before half time.  Or so I thought.  The aggressive play by our opponent caused a fumble on our kickoff return.   It looked as if we would go into the half trailing by two touchdowns, but our team rose to the challenge.  The kid that fumbled the kickoff intercepted a pass deep in our own territory.  With very little time on the clock, we went into halftime trailing by eight points…but we were very much in the game.

Our team received the kickoff to start the second half, giving us a chance to tie the game up, but we didn’t do much.  It was a defensive third quarter for the most part, but we did score at the end of it.  After a successful two-point conversion, the game was tied going into the fourth quarter.  Needless to say, for the first time in a very long time, Goliath had something to be worried about.

With the final quarter winding down, it looked as if our best effort still wasn’t going to be enough.  Our opponent marched the ball down the field.  They had first down and goal to go from the nine-yard line.  There was less than a minute to play, and clearly, the odds were against us.

First down…our opponent gained two yards and called a timeout.

Second down…our opponent gained three yards and called a timeout.

With two more chances to go, it looked as if the game was going to end on a last-minute touchdown.

Third down…the running back on the other team breaks towards the opposite sideline, making it difficult to see the play from our vantage point.  I was disappointed because it looked like he was going to score, but elated when the referees indicated that it was our ball after recovering a fumble.  With less than 30 seconds left in the game, and about 95 yards to go for a touchdown, I figured that the game was going to end in a tie…which it did…sending the game to overtime.

Our opponent got the ball first.  Four plays, and our defense barely allowed a yard to be gained.  A score by us would give us the victory.

On the second play, our running back bolted towards the end zone on a beautiful run, but before he got there, the yellow flags came flying…a holding penalty against our team.  I dropped to my knees and pounded the turf out of frustration.  Two more plays, and we couldn’t move the ball.  It looked like double-overtime was in the cards.  But then it happened…

Our running back busted through the line on the exact same play that was called back moments earlier.  As he headed towards the end zone, I was jumping up and down celebrating.  No flags this time!  Somehow, someway, David had beaten the odds and managed to defeat Goliath in the game of the season.  Barring any unforeseen missteps by either team, it looks like these two teams should meet again in the Super Bowl.

As I hugged my son, congratulating him on a great game, he told me that he was the one that recovered the fumble to save the game.  Words cannot describe the pride that I felt at that moment, and still feel right now.  It seems appropriate that he would be the one to make the play, since he is sort of a “David” in his own right.

My son is one of the youngest kids on the team.  In fact, I’m fairly certain that he is the second youngest.  On top of that, he is one of the smallest kids on the team.  Only two kids are smaller than him, and both of them are playing football for the first time.  But despite his age and his size, he managed to earn a starting position on both offense and defense.  And though he isn’t known for his speed, his football quickness allowed him to earn the starting defensive end position (usually reserved for the biggest kids on the team).

Genetically speaking, the odds are stacked against my son when it comes to football.  He is likely to always be one of the smaller players, and will probably never be one of the fastest either.  But he is coachable, and more importantly, he has heart.  And that is something that you can’t teach.  Although I am the parent, and the one that is supposed to be teaching life lessons to my son, I learn from him as well.

Life isn’t always fair, and some people are blessed with better opportunities than others.  And while things may seem insurmountable at times, unbridled determination can help you beat odds that you never thought possible if you give your best effort.  In the immortal words of Jim Valvano…“Don’t give up…don’t ever give up!”

Today, we bask in the glow of our victory.  On Tuesday, when we return to practice, we will relinquish our David role and assume the role of Goliath.  Next week’s opponent is also undefeated, and I’m sure that they would like nothing more than to knock us from the ranks of the unbeaten.  I, for one, am looking forward to the challenge!

Looking Back at March

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on April 1, 2010 at 10:08 am

Each month, I do a recap to measure my progress while keeping myself accountable to my goals.

Here is my look back at March…

THE PURSUIT OF HEALTH

I wish that this was an “April Fool’s” joke, but unfortunately, it isn’t.  The pursuit of health went way off course this month for a variety of reasons.

As the month began, I was in Las Vegas attending a convention.  Over the course of three days, I probably walked as much as I would have if I had been at home.  It’s just that the walking took place in a huge convention center instead of the streets and walking trails near my home.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that conventions are not the best place to eat properly, and this convention in particular, made it virtually impossible.

Once I got home, there was a lot of follow-up work to be done.  And on top of that, my son started having football practice during the time when I would normally go for a walk.  While practice isn’t every day, it was enough to stop me from getting back into my usual routine.  Busy days and evening practices left very little time to do the walking that I intended to do.  Getting off of my routine was bad enough, but then I had to deal with some personal issues that also took my mind away from making the time to take my daily walks.

While it was a difficult month, I realize that I could have made the time to exercise, but I didn’t do it nearly as much as I should have.  It would be easy to blame my failure this month on extenuating circumstances, but the reality is that I didn’t do what I needed to do.  All I can do now is look towards the future.

This month, I will be starting a more rigorous exercise program designed by a friend.  The program will eventually be released as a DVD for others to use.  I will be sharing my progress in future posts once I get started.

THE PURSUIT OF WEALTH

Although March was not a good month for my pursuit of health, I made progress in my pursuit of wealth.  Two of the projects that I am working on took some steps in the right direction.  It’s all part of the process of laying the foundation for the future.  While my impatience tends to get the best of me at times, I realize that doing things the “right way” now is more important than taking shortcuts to reach my destination more quickly.

I’m looking forward to sharing more details about one of the projects sometime in April.

THE PURSUIT OF “HAPPYNESS”

As is usually the case, this month had good days and bad days.  I knew heading into the month that it was going to be difficult (see posts entitled “A Year Ago Today”, “Dear Dad” and “Too Hard to Let Go” to understand why).  In addition, there were some other unexpected issues to deal with.

While March had its share of trying moments, there were good times as well.  The trip to Las Vegas was good on a business level, but the highlight of the trip was reuniting with a cousin that I hadn’t seen in a long time (see post entitled “24 Years” for details).

It is said that “when one door closes…another one opens.” The unexpected issues that I had to deal with have shown me that the saying holds true.  I am very grateful for the silver lining that came with the dark clouds.

On the positive side, I am thrilled with my son’s football team.  It is a great group of kids, coaches and parents.  For the first time since he started playing organized sports, I feel that he is finally experiencing the joy that I did while playing little league baseball as a kid.

Of course, in spite of any bad days that I may have had, there was always something to be happy about.  I’m thankful that laughter fills our home at least once a day.  Although I always knew this, sometimes the bad days give me an extra reminder of how great my life is with my wife and kids.

CONCLUSION

It seems a bit silly that flipping the calendar is really a chance to start anew, but I do feel that way today.  Overall, March was a difficult month and I’m glad that April is here.  I’m ready to move forward and build on the positive things that happened in March.

System Overload

In Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on March 10, 2010 at 8:23 am

When I started my journey in the pursuit of health, wealth and “happyness,” my intention was to remain as positive as possible in all situations.  Sometimes, however, the only positive to come out of a situation is learning how to avoid mistakes that others are making.  The mistakes that I am referring to are business-related, not personal.  What people do with their personal lives, (as long as it doesn’t have an impact on my family or me), is their own business.

Lately I’ve been dealing with some big companies whose business practices leave a lot to be desired.  It is truly shocking that – in today’s economy – some companies actually make it difficult to give them business, due in large part to their archaic systems.  Other companies that supposedly exist as a platform to allow people to connect to one another (for both business and personal use) have created seemingly arbitrary rules to block people from doing just that.  In my opinion, it has gotten to the point where companies that do the “right thing,” and simply meet expectations are seen as extraordinary.

It seems to me that technology has allowed us to move one step forward while taking two steps backwards, particularly when it comes to customer relations.  Domestic customer service representatives with the capacity to think and feel have been replaced by automated systems and outsourced customer service representatives who can’t go “off script” because they barely speak English.  Even those companies that have not outsourced their customer service representatives have made it difficult (and time-consuming) to reach a human being.  How often do we find ourselves yelling voice prompts into the phone because the automated system didn’t understand our response?

As frustrating as the companies are that make it difficult to speak to an actual person, there are also companies that seem to operate with no phone lines whatsoever.  It would be one thing if these were small start-ups, but the companies that I’m referring to are so ubiquitous that they are often mentioned in day-to-day conversation, television shows and movies.  Of course, I am referring to Facebook and Twitter…two companies whose only customer service is online, and even then, it is done mostly by autoresponse, and FAQ links to answers provided by other users.

Facebook frustration is nothing new.  They are constantly changing the layout and functionality of the site, much to the dismay of the community-at-large.  It seems that these changes usually happen just as Facebook users get comfortable with the previous change.  When the most recent change happened, I compared Facebook to a sadist who randomly rearranges the furniture in a blind person’s house.  While I understand why Facebook does not want to put customer service people in place to handle objections to layout changes, I cannot understand why there is no mechanism in place to help people when their profile becomes unavailable for no apparent reason.  I guess the answer is…because they can do whatever they want, and no one ever seems to leave.

After resisting Twitter for a long time, I finally started to use it recently for a new business venture that I am working on.  Like Facebook, Twitter also seems to have arbitrary rules that restrict the ability of people to connect to one another.  Pretty ironic considering the fact that Twitter solely exists as a conduit to connect people for either personal or business purposes.  I only started using Twitter for business purposes, as I find it too limiting to socialize with friends in a meaningful way.  However, Twitter does appeal to me as a business tool.  I just wish that they didn’t make rules that create stumbling blocks for no apparent reason.

Case in point…

I received a direct message yesterday from someone that is interested in my new venture.  When I hit the “reply” link, I was allowed to type a 140-character response.  However, when I tried to send my response, I was denied because the person that sent me the inquiry was not one of my followers.  How are people supposed to connect if they have to connect first before they are allowed to have a 2-way communication?  This makes no sense to me!

After doing some research, I was able to find a phone number for the person that contacted me.  When we spoke on the phone, I let him know that I tried to respond on Twitter, but it wouldn’t let me because he wasn’t following me.  He told me that he would have followed me, but he had already reached his limit of 2000, and couldn’t follow any more people until he had more people following him.  Pardon the pun, but I have a hard time “following” Twitter’s logic on this rule.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I have found a positive in all of this insanity.  I know what it is like to be a disgruntled, frustrated consumer.  I see simple solutions to the problems that have been created by our increasingly automated society, and I plan on using them in my business ventures.  Ironically, providing outstanding customer service has very little to do with technology.  Quite the contrary!  While technology can be helpful in managing customer relations, the best way to connect with customers (while creating loyalty) is to be there for them.

It may sound crazy, but my plan to succeed with my new venture is to do more talking and less typing.  I will use systems for management purposes, but I will not use systems that alienate my customers.  Amazingly, my “old school” approach to customer relations may very well be the biggest point of differentiation between my competitors and me.  Time will tell, but I think that this plan just might be crazy enough to work!

Laying the Foundation

In Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on March 7, 2010 at 7:44 pm

It can be difficult to set expectations when venturing into the unknown because there is no basis for comparison.   Sometimes we set our expectations too low and end up pleasantly surprised.  Sometimes we set our expectations too high and end up disappointed.  In either case, all we are left with is the results that we get.  It is what we do with those results that really matters.

This past week I attended a tradeshow for a new venture that I am working on.  I only found out about it within the past month, so there was very little time for extensive planning, and a very limited budget to work with.  Because I had never attended the tradeshow before, I didn’t really know what to expect once I got there.

As the saying goes…“you only get one chance to make a first impression.” This tradeshow happens every March, so I had a few choices in how I was going to approach things.  I could have gone as a quiet observer, taking notes and coming up with a long-term plan to implement in March of 2011.  Had I known about the show a little bit sooner, I may have had the opportunity to be an exhibitor at this year’s show, but it would have been a stretch both creatively and financially.  My final choice was to use some creativity to make my presence felt with a limited budget on a tight deadline.  I chose the latter.

There is no doubt in my mind that the show would have yielded better results if I had an exhibit booth.  However, sometimes you have to be ready to answer the door when opportunity knocks, even if the conditions are less than ideal.  Waiting until next year would have allowed me to make a bigger “splash” in the industry, but it would have cost me valuable time.  More importantly, it would have cost me the opportunity to gain valuable insight into the needs and challenges of my target audience.

In business, as in life, the highs and the lows can often times be felt within the same day.  This tradeshow experience was no different.  While I feel that I was able to make a noticeable impact with my creativity and drive to succeed, I don’t feel like the results were as good as I expected they would be before the show began.  Clearly, there is more work that needs to be done.  But rather than dwelling on the results that fell short of my expectations, I have chosen to take the positive aspects of the show and use them as building blocks to help lay the foundation for future success.

Based on my return on investment for attending the tradeshow, it was absolutely worth it to attend for the following reasons:

  1. The cost to attend was relatively inexpensive (free admission, package travel deal using Travelocity, little to no expense for food).
  2. The knowledge that was gained during the course of the show will be used to improve the venture, and help fill a void in the marketplace.
  3. The marketing that was done on a shoestring budget was very effective, and helped get the word out about the venture to a mass audience.
  4. Plans have already been made for increasing my presence at the 2011 tradeshow next March.
  5. New ideas for other revenue streams were conceived during the course of the show.
  6. Contacts made will help make this new venture a success sooner rather than later.
  7. Last, but certainly not least, a number of companies have signed on to be a part of the new venture.  And while the number is not as high as I had anticipated, I am much further ahead than I would have been if I didn’t attend the show.

“A journey of 1000 miles begins with just one step.” Attending this tradeshow was a huge step in the right direction.  And though there is a lot of road left to travel, at least I know that I am on the right path.

Looking Back on February

In Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on February 28, 2010 at 11:45 pm

At the end of January, I wrote a post called “Looking Back on January.” It was a report card of sorts designed to keep myself accountable to my goals.  I will be doing this every month as a way to not only stay accountable, but also to be able to look back and measure my progress.

Here is my look back at February…

THE PURSUIT OF HEALTH

This area was the most vulnerable to falling back into my old ways as the routine of walking would no longer be a novelty.  But I was determined to continue the work that I started in January, although I didn’t do as well as I had hoped.

Not to make excuses, but I would have never guessed that my walk would have been snowed out for three straight days in Texas.  Even when the snow stopped, the roads were still covered as there is no mechanism in place to deal with the winter days that I am accustomed to as a native New Yorker.  It turns out that this has been one of the snowiest winters in the history of this area.

On two of the days this month, I was just too busy to get out.  By the time that things slowed down, it was already dark out.  Had I known that those days were going to get away from me, I would have gone for my walk in the morning with my daughter in the stroller.  As the saying goes…“hindsight is 20/20.”

I missed my walk on one of the days due to the residual pain caused by a visit to the dentist in the afternoon.  Not only did I miss my walk, but I also turned down free tickets to a minor league hockey game (which is something that I would never do if I was feeling up to going).

The last missed day came today, although I did manage to get in some physical activity by playing football with my son.  No regrets over skipping today though.  The time spent with my wife and kids at the park and the playground was well worth it.

So, the final tally was 21 out of 28 days walking.  Not bad, but not as good as I had hoped.  March will be the month when things start to kick into high gear, so next month’s update should show improvement.

THE PURSUIT OF WEALTH

As I stated last month, the simplest way to determine my success in this area is by measuring my income.  However, I don’t think that using money as a measuring stick is a good idea because it fails to take into account actions that I have taken to build towards the future.

Things did improve overall, and some real progress was made on one venture in particular.  In fact, the progress made in February may very well lead to taking a major step forward by the time that March comes to an end.  More information about this will follow in the near future.

Progress was also made with another potential business venture, and plans are in the works for further discussions during March as well.  Should this work out, it could be another very positive step in the right direction.

As I reported last month, one project was still in the “ready to launch” phase.  It is something that has a lot of long-term potential, but it had to remain on the backburner for just a little while longer as the other projects consumed a lot more time during the month.  Since the project that is waiting does not have a strict deadline or other people counting on me directly, it was the most logical one to delay.  As I mentioned last month, I am looking forward to getting it off the ground, and sharing it with others as soon as possible.

My goal for March is to make enough progress with the projects that I am working on to officially take them out of the planning phase and into the implementation phase.

THE PURSUIT OF “HAPPYNESS”

Two months in, and my feelings about 2010 remain as positive as they were on New Year’s Day.  While my pursuit of health remained steady (at best), I did take steps to ensure that March is going to provide meaningful progress.  I also made significant progress on my business ventures in my pursuit of wealth.  And while it is still too early to translate into revenue and income, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Although February was much busier than January, I did manage to keep Waldo2010 updated with as much new content as possible.  And fortunately, the posts that I deemed to be the most important were the most well-read of the month.

Once again, the closeness, the love and the laughter that is my family and my home, ensures that any bad moments are easily overshadowed by the good.  As I head into the month of March, I already know that there are going to be some bumps in the road on a personal level.  But I also know that there are positive moments that lie ahead, both personally and professionally, so there is something to look forward to.

CONCLUSION

February had its share of highs and lows.  There is room for improvement, but there is also reason to be optimistic.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the month of March brings in my pursuit of health, wealth and “happyness!”

Best Laid Plans

In Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on February 26, 2010 at 9:21 am

Life today is infinitely busier than it was when I was a kid.  Perhaps it is because I am an adult with responsibilities, or perhaps it is because the simpler days before the technology revolution left us with more time to live in the moment.  So much of our life nowadays is spent planning for things that we are going to do in the future that the present tends to get short-changed.  And though we don’t give it much thought…time marches on while we continue to make plans for the future.

Because we do not exist in a controlled environment, sometimes even the best laid plans fall apart, due to human error, “acts of God” or some other unforeseen circumstance.  When things happen that are beyond our control, we still have the power to control how we respond to adversity.  There were times in my life when I wasn’t very good at dealing with plans falling apart, particularly when it was due to human error.  Although I still have a tendency to get annoyed when miscommunication or mistakes made by others alters my plans, I am getting better at finding solutions to problems rather than dwelling on them.  As Fraklin Delano Roosevelt once stated “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

One of the reasons that I’ve been posting a little less frequently this week to Waldo2010 is because I am in the middle of planning a business trip for one of the ventures that I am working on.  As is the case with any new venture, there have been some bumps in the road.  There have been technological challenges, as well as challenges caused by miscommunication, working on shorter than normal deadlines and even uncontrollable “acts of God” (namely the weather in the East Coast).  So far, each challenge has been dealt with by finding an alternative solution.  As the saying goes…“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

By this time next week, I’ll know if the lemonade turned out to be a cold drink on a hot summer’s day, or something that was too sour to swallow.  If it turns out to be the former, it will be a step in the right direction as I travel down the road in my pursuit of wealth.  If it turns out to be the latter, I will continue making more lemonade until it suits my palate.

This experience has taught me some valuable life lessons:

  • Things aren’t usually as bad as they seem when you take a moment to think about them.
  • Life is going to throw you curve balls.  How you react to them is the most important thing.
  • No plan is perfect, but good ones can overcome challenges when met with creativity and desire.
  • And finally, lemonade metaphors make you thirsty!
%d bloggers like this: