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.

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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.