Archive | April 2012

Become a leader for free

If leaders are readers, how can you afford to keep supplied in reading materials? Libraries offer one option or you could borrow from your friends, but it’s not the same as owning your own copy.

Guess what. There are resources available that will set both you and your wallet free! If you have a Kindle or Kindle app, you’ve got all you need to download a myriad of titles directly to your Kindle, PC or iPad. And, the cost to you? $0.00.

You’ll find both fiction and non-fiction. Sure, you’ll find genre that won’t appeal to you as well as some unfamiliar authors. But that’s the beauty of the freebies. You can afford to take a chance. Who knows? You may discover the next Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games.)

And it’s simple to do. Just click on the title – double check the price is $0.00 – and then click to have it downloaded to your eReader device. It’s that easy. Even I can do it without the help of the kids.

Still looking for an excuse why you can’t find something to read? You won’t find it here.

Firing the inner editor

Ok, I confess. I need to walk the talk. I listen to the inner editor.

As a former teacher, I would tell my writing students to get all of their ideas down on paper first. Tell the story and then go back, re-read and revise as necessary. I would tell them to keep going, and then edit, but I failed to warn them about the inner editor.

He’s the one inside your head who makes you go back and read the sentence you just wrote. He says, “Something’s not right. Try again.” Once you follow his counsel, however, it sets other words in motion and the whole paragraph requires change in order to realign your thoughts. This rewriting takes time and prevents you from completing your article, chapter or whatever piece you’re working on. It can become a vicious cycle.

I’d like to fire the inner editor and send him packing. In fact, I’ve done that several times, but he must sneak in the back door because before I realize it, he’s returned and set up housekeeping … again. My head knows that polished sentences will come during the editing process and can be readjusted as necessary, but the inner editor too often drowns out that logic.

One thing that helps is having some accountability. When length of the piece is an issue or a nebulous deadline exists, reporting to a trusted friend (especially one who has known the inner editor) makes a difference.

If you’ve done battle with the inner editor, tell me how you won the war.

You can’t beat writers

Say what you will about writers, I think they’re among the best. So what if they work in their pajamas, wield their craft unshaven or keep irregular hours? They have some, in fact quite a few, redeeming qualities.

Writers think. Regardless if their passion is fiction or non-fiction, they combine their creative talent and language skill as a master builder. They construct a foundation of sentences and paragraphs until they communicate their idea or story, one that could potentially change the world. Like a renowned artist, writers apply colorful language to the blank page and educate, engage or entertain their readers beyond themselves. For good or for bad, writers make you think, even for a brief time.

Writers understand the process can be slow and tedious including a lot of waiting time that may lead to rejections, yet they do what they can to help their writing siblings to avoid their pitfalls. They often meet together both online and off to share their works in progress seeking both affirmation and feedback for ways to improve. In this forum, they also communicate lessons learned about the writing process or making a go of it as a business. Writers share resources and tricks of the trade to save others the hassle of going it alone.

Writers aren’t perfect, but most care about their craft and its impact on others. Those who’ve achieved a measure of success have also experienced rejection – likely a lot of it. Yet with the fortitude of their character and the encouragement of their writing partners, they forge ahead and get better.  You just can’t beat writers.

6 Steps from Memory Lane

Do you remember singing the song Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush? It’s definitely for the pre-school set, but the interesting thing is what it teaches us as adults.    

The original lyrics included a daily to-do list with each day dedicated to a certain task or priority.  For example, they dedicated Monday to washing clothes; Tuesday, ironing the clothes; Wednesday, scrubbing the floor and so on culminating with Sunday, going to church. Back then multitasking was out of the question. It actually took all day to scrub the clothes, hang them outdoors to dry, take them down, and prepare them for the next step in the process – ironing, also an all-day event. 

Aside from the benefit gained as children burn off lots of energy singing the song, think about what you can learn (or relearn) from the lyrics. Although the days of one task per day are long gone, a key message is prioritize. If you’re one who is easily overwhelmed by things that need to be done or procrastinates on projects taking you out of your comfort zone, try these tips to help you focus. 

  1. Make a list of what should and can be done in your day. Be realistic.
  2. Assign time frames for each item on your list. (This is often a good way to reduce its size.)
  3. Dedicate a certain amount of time to one task or phase of a project and work on that.
  4. Use a timer. Besides providing a measure of accountability, you can see there’s light at the end of the tunnel as well as how much you can accomplish in your time allotment.
  5. Ignore rabbit trails or interruptions seeking to divert your attention. Unless it’s a matter of life or death, it can usually wait.
  6. Stick to it until the time is up or you’re finished. 

The self confidence you’ll gain from your achievement will be well worth the time it takes to prioritize your day and focus on what’s most important. 

If you still have little children around, see what other benefits you can gain from their songs. By the way, today’s version of the Mulberry Bush ditty addresses hygiene issues so feel free to continue to sing it with your kids.

WDW – It’s not just for kids

Traveling to Walt Disney World for the first time this past summer generated far more than pleasant days watching the kids’ faces light up when they spotted their favorite Disney character or experienced a rousing ride like Space Mountain. Even walking down memory lane, aka Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, could not compare with the lessons so subtly taught throughout Disney. What I learned in this trip surpassed the countless classes I endured to get my business degree, and it included a lot more fun.

Disney was a genius not only with his cartoon characters but also in the world of business. His values-based leadership and dedication to excellence spills out in the quality employees (cast members), products and services they offer. Guests enjoy outstanding accommodations and food. Disney’s highly trained staff not only anticipates and meets every need, in most instances, they exceed your highest expectations. 

We actually interviewed several employees and learned more about the extensive planning that went into the complex, and it did not stop when WDW opened its doors. On the contrary, Disney World continues to grow, change and evolve to meet the dreams of coming generations. Even as we chatted, teams of employees worked behind the scenes to make the WDW organization run like a well-oiled machine. You don’t often see that practiced in the business world or taught in business courses. Perhaps that’s why Walt Disney also planned for the Disney Institute to prepare his employees in the fine art of knowing your customer. Long before Facebook or LinkedIn, Disney knew how to establish and build lasting relationships. 

During our entire stay, only once did I see anything amiss. A pop-up thunderstorm had deluged the area and the resort’s guests flooded the lobby with their dripping clothes and soggy shoes. The restrooms had a continuous flow of people trying to dry themselves. I actually spotted a little paper on the floor and an empty basket that previously held towels. I marveled to myself that this was the only time I saw a restroom in disarray, but when I returned a few minutes later, I found the room immaculate. They must have invisible staff or just maybe Tinkerbelle’s magic pixie dust is real. Whatever their plan, it works. 

Fun abounds at Walt Disney World, yet you can take home a lot more than souvenirs and it won’t take up room in your suitcase – unless you take copious notes. WDW is not just for kids.

Picture from Google Images

Is there a GPS for life?

If you’ve ever gotten caught in a strange city during rush hour, you know how easily frustration and that sense of being out of control can quickly overwhelm you.  Your grip tightens on the wheel as you struggle to figure out where you are.  You sense your blood pressure rise as you realize you’re headed in the wrong direction.  You can’t stop.  You can’t change lanes.   You’re stuck.  You can follow the throng, but who knows where those crazy drivers will lead you or if you can get back to familiar territory?  If you can relate, then you know how having a GPS can save the day or relieve your temporary insanity.  It helps you refocus and get back on track.  

The economy, health concerns, relationships and other circumstances often push us into life’s traffic jams and take us down roads we’d not choose on our own. I’ve been there and you have, too, but have you ever thought about the Bible as the Lord’s GPS (God’s Pointer System)?  Not only can it identify my current position, but it also provides exactly what I need (emotionally, physically and spiritually) to get back on course. 

When I lose my way, become confused, or even discouraged about the negatives in life, the Bible offers me His correction, instruction and encouragement. Although it’s critical to spend regular time reading and studying the Scriptures, I think it’s also important to realize this may not always be enough. When life’s traffic gets me in a bind, I need to recognize it and my need to pull out the GPS. Then as I submit to His words, my frustration begins to melt and my grip relaxes.  My blood pressure returns to normal, and I begin to experience His peace.  The circumstances may remain unchanged, but I’ve allowed God to restore control.  Will I always understand what path I’m on? Probably not, but I can trust the one who allowed it. In fact, I tried it again today and it worked!

So the next time you’re stuck in traffic, think about the Lord’s GPS and trust Him to guide you in the paths of righteousness.

How to sell a mousetrap

There’s a measure of truth in the old adage, “If you build a better mousetrap, they’ll beat a path to your door.” How does this happen? The answer is word of mouth. 

It’s simple really. One person tells another how much he liked or benefited from your product or service. That person recommends it to someone else who also touts its attributes to another until the path to your door has become well-worn. No high pressure sales and no high-priced ad campaigns. It’s just one proverbial beggar telling another where to get bread. 

Enter social media. Now if someone likes your mousetrap, she (or he) can post it on Facebook so that 487 of her closest friends see it. Respecting her and her opinions, these comrades just may give it a try and then tell 287 of their nearest and dearest friends their thoughts – good or bad. With social media the cycle continues within minutes. You do the math. If the comments are positive, it won’t take long for folks from all over the world to be beating a virtual path to your door. 

Whether you’re helping your child sell Girl Scout cookies and popcorn or marketing a new line of cars, social media is a viable marketing strategy.

Spring for change

Do you get excited about making a change in your life only to become discouraged because the results don’t come fast enough? Whether you’re starting a new business, ramping up an old one, writing a first-time novel or trying to lose weight, it can be easy to get discouraged when the transformation to success seems negligible or slow in coming. (Feel free to add your own desired changes. I know I’m not alone in this.) 

If you live in an area where you experience the cold of winter, you know how excited you get about the tiny changes that bring spring. Even a blade of grass that turns from its brown winter coat to brilliant green shouts to all who notice that spring is definitely on the way. One sign provokes a search for additional ones like buds popping up on trees, perennials poking their way through the hard earth, and of course, birds singing from high branches. Each day is part of the transition, whether we see something happening or not, yet you relish the fact spring is coming. 

Why is it then that we humans become so discouraged when we don’t see what we want overnight? If we are consistent in following the right paths, won’t we see results? Perhaps I should take heart in the lesson God teaches from nature. If it takes Him days, weeks or months to complete the process, who am I to give up so early when I don’t see the finished product? 

The next time I get down about my slower-than-desired progress, I’m going to remember the time element involved in spring. Then I’m going to spring for change … in me.

Words on the page

Random words on a page do little to make the world a better place, but when you put them together in an orderly way, they have power for both good and evil. They can bring comfort or destruction, clarity or confusion, direction or uncertainty and humor or pain.   

Some people have a special knack for putting words together that when delivered, they inspire and motivate others to positive action. They edify the listener or reader. You can attribute this, in part, to the testimony of the person speaking, but the words themselves often contain power beyond their original intent. Such words can pierce to the very core of the human heart challenging perspectives and providing opportunities. It is these words, we often continue to quote, attaching the credentials of the man or woman who first penned them and sharing them to encourage or exhort others. Consider these examples:

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

~ Martin Luther King

“A people that value its privileges above its principles will soon lose both.”

~ Dwight Eisenhower 

Walk the Talk has compiled a short movie clip of some leadership quotes. Maybe you’ll enjoy them as much as I did. Too busy to check them out right now? Then you’ll like these words of wisdom from Abraham Lincoln: 

“The best thing about the future is it comes one day at a time.”

Come and get it

 Have you ever seen an eagle swim? Click here to see for yourself.

A good friend sent this video to me. Perhaps it’s on an email circuit from your friends as well, but one thing stood out. Apart from the fact I had no idea an eagle could sit on the water like a duck and then swim a modified butterfly stroke, I had to marvel at his perseverance. Granted his growling stomach drove him on, but it seems that there might be more of a lesson learned beyond a picnic at the lake. 

We cannot be certain how hungry our friend was in order to determine his motivation. Was this meal the eagle’s first of the day or did it give the appearance of a quick and easy snack? Regardless, our buddy accepted the challenge, even though it took four failures before he realized success. Maybe observing the eagle will help me (and you as well) to persevere with new adventures or difficult situations. 

Saw the opportunity – Even from great heights above, his eagle eye spotted a meal in the midst of the water. 

Envisioned himself successful – He pictured himself partaking of the delicate morsels. 

Planned to succeed – Stephen Covey would say he “had the end in mind from the beginning,” and he decided to go for it. 

Tried the easiest approach first – Swooping down and picking prey out of the water  had worked before, so that was the natural approach. If it worked, great. If not, something else would. 

Assessed the situation – The first try didn’t bring lunch. Maybe he was just off his game a bit, so he tried again being conscious of the entire process.   

Tweaked his program – Making adjustments along the way, he kept trying. You have to give him credit. 

Took a less conventional approach to meet the goal – Though I’ve now learned that eagles can swim, they generally choose a more conventional mode to prepare their meals. This eagle must have also read Robert Frost as he took the road less traveled and it made all the difference. Maybe his method will also work for me.