Archive for December, 2009

“All Beginnings Are Hopeful!”

December 31, 2009

 “All beginnings are hopeful” is actually a quote from the president of Oxford University, spoken to the entering freshman in 1944, in the midst of a world war.  This is a concept that we have seen confirmed throughout history.  In working with people going through change, I am often struck by the discouragement, frustration, and frequent anger and resentment.  I have come to recognize however, that those feelings always tell me that the person is looking backward, at something that has already occurred.  As soon as we are able to create a clear plan for the future, those feelings quickly begin to dissipate and are replaced by hope, optimism and enthusiasm.  In all my years of life coaching, I have never seen a person who has clear plans and goals who is also depressed.  They just don’t go together.

The beginning is the most important part of the work.  — Plato (427 BC – 347 BC), The Republic

Viktor Frankl, in his wonderful little book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, relates his observations of people in the German concentration camps.  Age, health, education or ability could not predict those who survived the atrocities there.  No, rather it was only those who believed that there was something better coming tomorrow who were able to survive and ultimately walk away from those camps.

Feeling discouraged?  Miserable in your job?  Just lost your business?  Give yourself a new beginning tomorrow!  “All beginnings are hopeful.”

But I Thought The Paint Was Wet!

December 22, 2009

There is a story about Russia in the days of the Czars.  In the park of St. Petersburg Winter Palace there was a beautiful lawn, on that lawn a bench, and next to that bench, two guards.  Every three hours the guards were changed.  Yet no one could explain why these guards were guarding the bench.  One day an ambitious young lieutenant was put in charge of the Palace Guard.  He started wondering and asking questions.  Finally, he found a little old man, the Palace historian. 

“Yes,” the old man said, “I remember.”  During the reign of Peter the Great, 200 years ago, the bench got a fresh coat of paint.  The Czar was afraid that the ladies in waiting might get paint on their dresses.  So he ordered one guard to watch the bench while the paint dried.  The order was never rescinded.  Then in 1908, all the guards of the Palace were doubled for fear of a revolution.  So the bench has had two guards ever since.”

Every once in a while it’s wise to ask, “Why am I doing this?”  The modern definition of “insanity” is to continue doing what you have been doing and yet expecting different results.  Are you ignoring years of experience and knowledge only to continue doing what you have always done?  If you want different results, you will have to do something different.  Are you “guarding” a work model that lost its effectiveness years ago?  Are you trying to sell products that are obsolete?  Release the things in your life that no longer serve any purpose and get ready to see new results in the New Year.

Are You a Talent Miser?

December 15, 2009

A miser, to make sure he controlled all his wealth, sold all that he had and converted it into a great lump of gold, which he hid in a hole in the ground.  Then he repeatedly went to visit and inspect it.  This roused the curiosity of one of his workmen, who, suspecting that there was a treasure, when his master’s back was turned, went to the spot, and stole it away.  When the miser returned and found the place empty, he wept and tore his hair.


But a neighbor who saw him in this extravagant grief, and learned the cause of it, said:  “Fret thyself no longer, but take a stone and put it in the same place, and think that it is your lump of gold; for as you never meant to use it, the one will do you as much good as the other.”

Moral of the story:  The worth of money is not in its possession, but in its use.  — Aesop Fable, Sixth Century B.C.

The same is true of talents and abilities.  Just knowing you have the ability means nothing.  It is only in finding an application that there is any benefit for you or the world.  What is the gold lump in your life that you have simply buried?  That only you knows is there?  Are you talented and broke?  Do you have the “ability” to do something great but continue to do menial work?  Talent and ability mean little unless you create a plan to engage those for a worthy purpose. 

Mark Twain once said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”  In the same way, the person who has unapplied talent is no better off than the person who has no talent.

Half the size – twice the price

December 14, 2009

On Thanksgiving weekend Joanne and I traveled up to the Amish country in Ohio to visit my dad in his retirement home.  As always, I am amazed at the micro enterprises that cover the back roads of this farming area where I was raised.  At one shop, where I bought some fresh unpastuerized apple cider, we saw a pile of miniature straw bales, about half the size of regular bales.  My brother told me a local Amishman had rebuilt a hay baler to produce the tiny, decorative bales.  While regular sized bales sell for about $2.00, these half sized ones sell for $4.00.  That’s the power of a unique idea. 


We also visited the local winery featuring Amish Country Wine.  And we stopped in at Homestead Furniture where we’ve had a couple of beautiful custom pieces designed and made for our home.  There is certainly some amusing irony in the Amish being winemakers and having the latest laser technology.   But the point is they are great about finding unique ideas and building a successful business around them.

If you have an idea, you’ve got to have a well thought out business plan.  The importance of a comprehensive, thoughtful business plan cannot be overemphasized.  Much hinges on it: credit from suppliers, management of your operation and finances, promotion and marketing of your business, and achievement of your goals and objectives.

Here’s a free Business Planning Guide – you will see examples and questions to help you develop your idea.  You’ll also see information relative to taxes, insurance and legal issues.  I love to see simple ideas produce unusual success –

If you have an idea you want to turn into income this next year you may want to check out the growing group of Members who are sharing ideas and growing their businesses. There’s no cost to be involved and you can tap into the best braintrust I know of anywhere. 

Now, tell us about your unique business idea – that may defy logic.

Faster and Cheaper – Good News or Bad?

December 11, 2009

About six months ago we started looking at the possibility of a 48 Days iPhone app.  At that time we were told it would be a $20-30,000 process of development.  While we were in discussions we had a couple other companies tell us that because they were doing similar applications they could do our project for $8-10,000.  Yesterday our social media consultant pointed us to a website called Mobile Roadie where for $499 we can build our own app and be ready to go. 

So are the changes described here good news or bad news?  For me as a user, it’s great news.  If you are a technology guy who based his business model on developing $30,000 applications, it’s bad news.  If you are a musician who wants to build a fan base for your latest album it’s great news.  If you’re a record label with a four-story building and 80 employees it’s probably bad news.  If you are an author it’s amazingly good news.  You can go right to your audience without waiting to get your book on the shelves at Barnes & Noble.  If you are a traditional publishing house these changes just wiped out your big company advantage. 

Change always presents the good news – bad news options.  If you see change as threatening, you will likely see the bad news.  If you believe progress always requires change, you will likely see the good news.  If you can build your business in a way that embraces change, you will recognize ways to take advantage of change rather than feeling victimized by it.  And it doesn’t matter if you are mowing yards, filling teeth, preaching sermons, writing books or building houses.

Healthy, Homeless and Happy

December 8, 2009

Can these three terms really go together?  Saturday night Joanne and I went to a party for a local non-profit organization.  As part of their work some of the volunteers often take food to the homeless here in Nashville.  One of the gentlemen they see there just looked the part of a Santa Claus.  While he has never dressed up or grown a beard to look like Santa, his daily presentation made him a natural choice.  He resisted when first asked but then relented under the charms of the ladies serving him food. 

I took advantage of a lull in Santa’s handing out gifts to ask how he ended up “homeless.”  His story surprised me.  I typically expect that someone living on the streets has exhausted every possibility for having a roof over their head, and in desperation and hopelessness resorted to the misery of sleeping under bridges.  Not so with our Santa.  He is a former truck driver who gets a monthly retirement check.  He does a little work now and then at a restaurant and in exchange they allow him to use that as his mailing address.  His wife died several years ago and he just decided to not have rent and utility payments each month.  He’s bright, articulate and does not use drugs or alcohol.  He spends most of his days at the library reading history books.  Yes, he is sleeping in an abandoned building (technically trespassing) but is quite content as he describes it, “living simply.”   

In recent weeks I have observed that circumstances do not seem to dictate a person’s happiness or sense of well-being.  Many with fancy cars, homes and bank accounts are miserable and discouraged right here during the holiday season.  And there are many, like our Santa here, who has none of those luxuries yet chooses to be happy nonetheless.  Most of us are probably somewhere in between those two extremes, with many options available to us. 

I’m grateful for the time with Santa – and the reminder that my contentment in life is not contingent on my circumstances.  I may not chose “homeless” but I sure am choosing health and happiness.  I trust you are as well.

Cool, Unusual and Seasonal Jobs

December 8, 2009

We are entering the busiest selling season of the year.  Don’t sit on your backside, waiting for the perfect career position.  You can jump into an opportunity to get you moving, continue your networking, and create some immediate income.  Here are just a few of hundreds of interesting things available right now:

Manage a Hickory Farms mall kiosk.  Fun surroundings, reasonable pay and 40% off all merchandise.  “We are looking for area supervisors, store managers, and sales associates for the upcoming holiday season.” Hickory Farms

Want to work where people play?  As the ski season ramps up, ski areas have trails snow-filled and groomed, and resorts are busy hiring staff in a variety of capacities. Spending a season or so on the slopes is often an excellent way to fill time between graduating from college and that first “real” job. It can be a mind-clearing sabbatical from the corporate world, or even a way of life when coupled with seasonal summer employment.  Ski to Work

Temporary postal service carrier. No experience necessary. Requires a valid driver’s license. Job to begin in late November or early December and work until late December. Flexible schedule, but must work eight hours a day, five days a week, or more. Must be able to lift up to 70 pounds. Pays $15.62 per hour.  Bring the Mail

UPS – several years ago, my oldest son, Kevin, spent a couple of interesting months in the Christmas season delivering packages for UPS on a mountain bicycle pulling a small trailer.  Great for the quads, meeting people and getting a paycheck! What can Brown do for you? 

A seasonal job is like an audition.  It’s an opportunity for you to show your skills.  And you can bypass other candidates by offering to work flexible hours, including evenings and weekends.  The more available you are, the better your chances of getting hired.  Michael’s Stores, the retailer of arts and crafts supplies expects to hire about 10,000 seasonal workers this year, up from 7,300 last year.  And about 10% of those will be recruited into permanent staff positions.  

Want to be a pyrotechnician, get a Scuba diving job or drive an RV cross country?  There are plenty of creative opportunities out there – just be creative in looking at places like these:  

Don’t wait until January to look for a job.  If you jump into the market now you will have fewer competitors and you may have a chance to demonstrate your abilities – and work right into a permanent position.

Find a Need and Fill it?

December 4, 2009

We all know this as a standard business motto – Find a Need and Fill it.  Inventing a wheel or growing wheat to make bread would be examples of filling a need.  So is “filling a need” the most profitable way to grow a business? 

Remember all the tennis shoes that have been created to give you sure footing – perhaps even wider at the base for steady walking?  Now Masai Barefoot Technology is promoting their $245 sneakers that mimic being barefoot.  The shoes are narrow and rounded on the bottom – making you unsteady but building great gluteus maximus (nice butt) because you are unsteady on your feet.   Reebok is playing catch up with their Reebok EasyTones.  Uh – did anybody think about just going barefoot rather than spending $245?

Why do we pay big bucks for haircuts that make us look like we just crawled out of bed?  Or very expensive jeans that look like they got run over by a train?   Basic motorcycle sales are down, suffering from the economic sluggishness.  Jesse James, maker of custom motorcycles starting at $150,000, has a four-year waiting list. 

Sources tell us Madonna spends $10,000 each month for drinking water that has been blessed by Kabbalah rabbis.  And if you don’t have that privilege you can at least buy the Bling H2O that has made appearances at the MTV Music Video and Emmy awards.  The frosted glass bottles have Swarovski crystals spelling out “bling” on the outside.  The water actually comes from Dandridge, Tennessee – probably out of some farmer’s back yard –but they are labeled “Limited Edition Spring Water” and are sealed with a cork.  They don’t promote health or quality — rather, they promote being the world’s most expensive water.  You and I may not be celebrities but even as mere mortals we can get our own Bling H2O for only $441 per case of 12 bottles or $36.75 for one bottle.

If you fill a “need” you can make a living.  If you fill a “want” you can get rich.

Give until bankrupt?

December 3, 2009

Yesterday a reader asked a great question for here in the holiday season;  “If my spiritual gifts are mercy, knowledge and maybe another gift or two, would that mean that I would be perfectly happy giving until I’m totally bankrupt financially?”

No – if your gift is mercy you will want to manage that gift wisely, meaning you have to have resources to continue giving.  If you kill the golden goose (bankruptcy) you will lose the joy of using your mercy gift.  Think of yourself as a garden hose.  If you just give away the water currently in the hose you will quickly become useless for your intended purpose.  You must be connected to a faucet that is exploding with new water in order to continue pouring out pure clean fresh water on the giving end.

So the best thing you can do to continue enjoying your gift of mercy is figure out how to have an inexhaustible supply of money.    

“Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” —  John Wesley

Give Thanks — for What?

December 1, 2009

I know that with downsizing, reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, dried up venture capital, etc. it may appear to be a bleak holiday season.  We continue to hear from people who have been on the receiving end of “Axed, canned, decruited, deselected, destaffed, negotiated departure, personnel surplus reduction, redundancy elimination,  selectively separated, and workforce imbalance correction.”

But we are also hearing from many people who realize they have been given freedom to pursue their dreams – to find or create meaningful, fulfilling and profitable work.  One lady said she had been given the “grace of interruption” in her work life.  Others are describing these unexpected changes as “reinvention, graduation, repurposed, unencumbered by employment, released to fly free, transitioning from caterpillar to butterfly, and prompted to success.” 

Whatever your situation, this is a great time to be anticipating the beginning of a new year.  In 1937, Napoleon Hill wrote this in the original edition of “Think and Grow Rich:”  “The ‘depression’ was a blessing in disguise.  It reduced the whole world to a new starting point that gives every one a new opportunity.” 

Now I doubt that people going through the depression saw it a blessing.  But it did give rise to thousands of new ventures and fresh career direction for many people.  Maybe now is your time to simply give thanks for being given a new opportunity.