Archive for September, 2008

Just Doing My Job!

September 30, 2008

Henry David Thoreau once said: “A man had better starve at once than lose his innocence in the process of getting his bread.”

Just doing a job cannot justify doing something unethical, immoral, or dishonest. The guards in the German concentration camps, after becoming friends with the prisoners, would often justify walking them to the gas chambers with, “I’m just doing my job.”

I know we have all been inundated with the messy details of the unraveling of Wall Street so I won’t bore you with more of the same. However, hopefully we will learn the lessons from this blatant example of what’s wrong with the common corporate mentality. Greed, deceit, and a “culture of corporate corruption” can never be justified.

Unfortunately, this is just one more historical example of moral meltdown. When people at the top justify one little breach of integrity and then compound it with another to cover the first, there is no limit to what can be encouraged. Adolf Hitler, Jim Jones and many others have served as models for leading “normal” individuals to lose all ethical perspective for the good of the cause. And the end result seems to be very predictable — devastation to thousands of innocent people.

Thomas Stanley, in his landmark book, “The Millionaire Mind,” lists the top five factors most often displayed by millionaires in explaining their economic success: (1) Integrity – being honest with all people, (2) Discipline – applying self control, (3) Social Skills – getting along with people, (4) A Supportive Spouse, and (5) Hard Work. Notice the number one characteristic – Integrity. Without that, any “success” is likely to be short-lived.

What is it that you are justifying doing just because it’s part of your job? Just because you have the ability to do something well is not enough reason to continue doing it – if it violates your values and common sense.  If in the completion of your job or business, someone else is ultimately made poorer or taken advantage of, you are in great danger.  (Prov 22:22-23)  Stop immediately, no matter what it takes.

If your work doesn’t express your true values, you’re setting yourself up for deceit in other areas of your life. And for the invasion of ulcers, migraines, cancers as evidence of a less than authentic life. In the movie Cool Hand Luke, a guard says, “I’m just doing my job. You gotta appreciate that.” And Paul Newman responds: “Nah, Calling it your job don’t make it right, boss.” I agree.

(Incidentally, we all had to say goodbye to Paul Newman this week.  He appeared to be an actor with unusual integrity in real life as well.)

Happy Birthday — Hula Hoop

September 29, 2008

The Hula Hoop turns 50 this year – at least as we know it.  Actually, hoops were used as toys, being pushed along with sticks over 3,000 years ago in Egypt.  Native Americans used hoops as a target for teaching accuracy in hunting.  But then in 1957 Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin of Wham-O started marketing a lightweight plastic version of the Hula Hoop.  They sold over 100 million from January to October of 1958 at $1.98 each. 

Knerr and Melin were not able to patent the Hula Hoop as it had been around for many years.  All they did was make it out of a new material and then market it well.  Which highlights a very important point.  I see people stuck in the “patenting” process – wasting time and money on what may be an insignificant part of their success. 

Keep in mind, most people put too much emphasis on developing their product or idea, and not enough on Marketing.  If you have a new invention:

2% of your challenge – Protecting your Idea (Patent, Trademark, Copyright)

8% of your challenge – Is it a valid idea or product?

90% of your challenge – What is your Marketing Plan?

Most people spend too much initial time, energy and money protecting their idea rather than selling or marketing it.

Knerr and Melin did trademark the name Hula Hoop® and that became the recognized and requested name around the world.  What could you do with your idea – what could you do to tap into the viral power of the masses?  Remember the Pet Rock; the Frisbee?

Here’s more on Inventions and Patents

Did You Lose Your Horse Today?

September 23, 2008

Like most of you, I have been hearing a lot of personal examples of “disaster” this week.  No gas, no job, no retirement fund, worthless stock, cancelled vacations, and general uncertainty.  Rather than trying to create something profound I’d like to share this old story.

Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, because he owned a beautiful white horse. People offered fabulous prices for the horse, but the old man always refused. “This horse is a friend, not a possession,” he would respond.

One morning the horse was not in the stable. All the villagers said, “You old fool. We told you someone would steal that beautiful horse. You could at least have gotten the money. Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”

The old man responded, “Perhaps. All I know is that my horse is gone; the rest I do not know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say.”

After fifteen days the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses back with him. Once again the village people gathered around the old man and said, “You were right – what we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.” The old man responded, “Perhaps. Once again you’ve gone too far. How do you know if this is a blessing or a curse? Unless you can see the whole story, how can you judge?” But the people could only see the obvious. The old man now had twelve additional horses that could be broken and sold for a great deal of money.

The old man had a son, an only son. He began to break the wild horses. Unfortunately, after just a few days, he fell from a horse and broke both his legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and said, “You were right. The wild horses were not a blessing; they were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs and now in your old age you have no one to help you. You are poorer than ever.” But the old man said, “Perhaps. Don’t go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. We have only a fragment of the whole story.”

It so happened that a few weeks later the country went to war with a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he had two broken legs. Once again the people gathered around, crying because there was little chance their sons would return. “You were right, old man.  Your son’s accident was a blessing.  Our sons are gone forever.”

The old man spoke again. “You people are always quick to jump to conclusions. Only God knows the final story.”

And so it is with our lives. What we see as a blessing or a curse may simply be part of God’s preparation for what lies ahead.  Be careful in seeing “disaster” in any change.  Just recognize it as change – which opens the door for good as well as bad – for gain as well as possible loss.

I’ve spent 20 years seeing people go through unexpected and unwelcome change – and have enjoyed seeing most move on to more opportunity, freedom, fulfillment and income.

Money Therapist?

September 21, 2008

ComPsych, the world’s largest provider of employee assistance programs (EAPs) reports that requests for therapists are up 20% in the last three months.  Biggest worry: Money.  So let me get this straight – workers are concerned about mortgages, college tuition, collapsing stock prices, and the threat of losing a job – so they are asking for a therapist?

I have a Masters degree in clinical psychology – but really.  Why would someone go to a counselor for money concerns?  I’d recommend they go see someone with money.  If you want to go to a higher level of success in a particular area, find someone who is already performing at the level at which you want to perform.  What’s up with this?  Why would I want someone to help me stop worrying?  I can just bury my head in the sand if that’s the desired goal.

If I have a problem with my 500SL I’m going to go to someone with a proven track record of fixing these fine machines – not someone who will help me stop worrying about the problem.  If I’m struggling with my marriage I’m not going to go to a divorce attorney to help me bury the cause of the problem — I’m going to schedule time with someone who has the best marriage I’ve ever seen.  If I’m worrying about money I’m going to find someone who has knocked it out of the park financially already.

Seeing a therapist seems to be a variation of The Emperor’s New Clothes – let’s just pretend we have no money worries – and feel better in the morning.

The Eagles

September 20, 2008

I’m always thrilled when I see someone doing work – that is obviously their passion.  Work that is fulfilling – and profitable.

Last night I had the privilege of attending The Eagles concert here in Nashville.  This is part of their amazing Long Road out of Eden tour.  Dave and Sharon Ramsey booked a suite at the Sommet Center and invited us to join them and a few other friends for this night of a lifetime of memories.

I so often write about finding one’s passion and to see it in a bunch of 60-yr-old guys is not something you see every day.  These guys don’t appear to be “working” – they just look like they’re still having a whole lot of fun.  When they hit the 9-minute version of “Hotel California” the place erupted and they played it with the same intensity they did almost 40 years ago.

Could you imagine your daily “work” being that much fun?

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

September 15, 2008

Does this reader question/comment ring any bells with you?

“I have never understood the question (or variations on it) of “What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money?” as advice for finding one’s calling. I guess it’s because I would stay in bed, eat junk food, and watch TV. I’ve never seen any job that had any real purpose either, so who I would want to trade places with is meaningless as well. Can’t really say I’ve ever felt alive.”

Here’s why the question makes sense.  In as much as you may think you really would lie around the house, eat Twinkies and watch Seinfeld reruns – my observation is that no one enjoys doing that for more than a couple of weeks.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with lots of people over the years for whom making money was no longer an issue.  But that really brings to the forefront the question: “What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money?”  Those people don’t have the easy out that “I only work because I have to.” 

 See it’s actually a whole lot easier to just barely squeak by week after week – having no extra time and certainly no extra money.  In that situation no one expects you to deal with the important questions of life – you’re just doing what you have to do – right?  But when confronted with having more time and money than ever needed, a person has to really decide, “How am I going to invest my time – and money?”  “How am I going to make my life matter?”  Yes, you really can have only so many cars, cruises, houses, and pieces of art.  And my observation is that those people are immediately attracted to ideas that serve others.  I don’t see many who want to plan to spend it all selfishly and just die on the same day the last dollar is spent.  Rather, they, like some of you are already doing, look for ways to:

  • Share your time and money with those who have not had their same advantages
  • Bring hope and encouragement to others
  • Volunteer in a worthy church or community program
  • Start a social entrepreneurship venture
  • Sponsor a children’s sports program
  • Revitalize the downtown area of your town
  • Give money strategically – not just 10% dropped into the collection plate
  • Teach life skills to those with self-defeating patterns

‘Feeling Alive’ is one of those interesting by-products.  It’s not something we can approach directly – it flows out of a meaningful life.

You may think you are eagerly awaiting ‘retirement.’  But time invested in meaningful activities makes ‘retirement’ diminish in its attraction.

So go ahead:  spend three days staying in bed, eating Moon Pies, and watching the political drivel the news teams conjure up.  See how quickly you feel worthless in body, mind and spirit. 

But here’s the deal.  You don’t have to wait until retirement or until you win the lottery to decide what you would do if money were no longer the issue.  You really can just make those decisions now – live as if you have an abundance of time and money.  Start one of the above activities today.  And you might be surprised at what happens to your actual bank account when you realize what you already have to give and share.

And if you want to see what can happen to someone who just wants to eat, drink and be merry, check this out:  Eat, Drink and  Be Merry

Does Everyone Have Passion?

September 12, 2008

This week a reader asked:

“How do you identify PASSION when that word seems so intense? You’ve addressed this before & I’m reading 48 Days but the word “passion” itself seems too intense for me. I have a hard time saying that there is anything other than my loved ones that I feel “passionate” about… How do I identify passion when I can’t recognize what it is?

Yes, I do talk about the importance of finding your passion – as a pre-requisite to finding work that you love.

The dictionary defines “passion” as any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.  Others meanings would include a strong excitement, enthusiasm, or desire for anything: a passion for music.

Well, I hope you do have things in your life that you’re excited about – and those should help you identify your passion.  Having a little life experience is a great help in uncovering our passion – because it’s not so much bringing something new into our life as it is uncovering what’s already there.  Pablo Picasso said, “All children are artists, the problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

I see the same thing in working with adults.  I agree with Picasso that all children have passions.  You cannot find a two or three year old that does not show passion in many ways.  How do we lose that as we grow up?  I observe that “life happens” and often we just become numb to what our passions are.  The responsibilities of life sometimes crowd out those things that were once most important.  But we ought to be able to look back at our life and see recurring themes.  It may be when you’re working with elderly people, or with plants, or when you’re working on ideas rather than with people at all.  There is no right or wrong; but you should be able to see these patterns that help you identify your true passions.  So it’s rather like peeling an onion – just peeling back the layers to expose what’s already there rather than discovering something new that you’ve never been aware of before.

So enjoy the process of unpeeling your onion – and watch your passions come into view once again.

Change or Die

September 11, 2008

Last Saturday Joanne and I were returning from a few days in Washington DC.  At the Reagan airport we ran into my good friend and blogging coach Bill Seaver.  So the three of us boarded the plane for Nashville.

Amazingly, there were only 2 other passengers.  Bill whipped out his little Flip Ultra Video camera and shot this video of me describing the nearly empty flight.  This is a glaring example of why you can’t do business as usual anymore.  What worked ten years ago may not work at all today.

If you’re doing the same things today that you were doing ONE YEAR ago you are likely falling behind.  Make sure you’re watching, learning and realigning every day.

No Thanks!

September 6, 2008

Joanne and I are in Washington DC this week for a couple of key speaking and meeting commitments.  I noticed that there was going to be an event here in Washington DC on the Friday night while we were here that I was interested in attending.  So 23 days prior to the event I sent a message to the organization offering to help usher people to their seats, distribute programs, or whatever would be useful.  I didn’t pull some big “I’m important” card or anything – just said we would be willing to help in any way that would be useful.  I heard nothing – and frankly, I forgot I had even sent the note.  On the day of the event, I received this message in reply.


Thank you for your e-mail to Joel Osteen Ministries.  We appreciate your interest in volunteering for a Joel Osteen Ministries tour event.  To sign up, you will need to first register using the “register now” link located at the upper right corner of the website.  After registration, you will automatically be directed to the sign up page to choose a team to volunteer.  If you have previously registered, the website will not allow a second registration.  You will need to login with the username and password that was provided to you upon initial registration with the website.  If you have forgotten your password, you will need to choose the “forgot password” option located on the login page and your password will be e-mailed to you.

Thank you and God bless,

You’ve got to be kidding — no personal greeting – and then this complicated process of signing up to help?  I would have been fine if I had gotten an immediate autoresponder that just said they had all the arrangements made.  Or that they had a training session scheduled for all volunteers two weeks in advance.  But this impersonal maze of roadblocks sent on the same day as the event served nothing more than to irritate me, and to discourage me from any connection at all.

Bigger is not always better.  If getting bigger has caused you to lose a personal connection with your customers, clients, friends or congregants, you are in danger of following the pattern of Enron, WorldCom, Sears, Bear Stearns or Countrywide.  Even God’s work doesn’t get a pass for lousy customer service.

I’m not ‘normal’

September 2, 2008

Here’s a great question I got this week from a reader who creates beautiful music – but…………  I’m sure many of you will identify with her.

Dan, I’m an artist.  I don’t fit any “normal” job because I’m in the 1% of the world’s population. I have felt blocked by obstacles or setbacks all my life.  I have wanted to use my gifts and talents in the church but feel rejected by it.  I have big dreams — I want to be used by God in a big way.  I see myself doing many things: singing/writing/teaching.  But I have a feeling I’m going to have to create my own “job.”  There has never been a job description written for what I want to do.  I think God is pushing me “out of the box” and has other ideas for me.  But I see no clear-marked path of how to best create work.  Am I alone in my struggle?

Dear Artist,

I love gifts that God gives us that don’t “fit” nicely anywhere.  I find that people with those often end up with a much more authentic life than those who simply chose a common path like dentist, accountant, pastor, teacher or engineer.  Be grateful that you are in a wonderful 1% of the population.  And yes, you will likely have to create your position – there are not traditional “jobs” for people like us. But that’s where we have to use that same creativity and artistic abilities to find how to share our gift with the world in a way that is meaningful, purposeful – and profitable.

I’m listening to all the music intros on your MySpace site as I write this.  It’s soothing, restful and healing – great sound.  Just keep in mind that having that skill and putting it to music is the beginning part of seeing business success.  You then have to position, brand and market it.  Having the gift and talent is not enough.  You need to know your “unique selling proposition” (USP) and have a clear marketing strategy.  Your music may be appropriate for people in hospice situations or as part of a physical rehabilitation program.  I know of an artist who has focused on dental offices for selling her art.  Someone commented that her art is calming – she took that one cue and has been extremely successful selling into that one profession.

Here is a Business Planning Guide that has 48 different ways to market.  You have to have a clear 4-5 that you are doing at any given time. 

No, you are not alone in your struggle.  Thousands are asking the same questions and having the same feelings.  Being “out of the box” is a blessing.  People inside the box are smothering.