Questions About the Sandy Hook Tragedy Reporting – What if Our Focus was Different?

There’s no question what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School was tragic. My question is what would the media coverage have been if someone had walked into that same school on Friday and handed out $1,000 to each of the administrators, teachers and students. How long would that story play out at holiday parties around the world?

My point is, great things happen all around us all the time. Even amidst the news of fiscal cliffs, natural disasters and horrific acts by men, the good outweighs the bad (that “good” and “bad” are perceptions is a discussion for another time). Where is the ongoing, 24-7 coverage of that? Show me the reporter sticking a mic in the face of everyone on a beach cleanup day or the person who just created a scholarship endowment to his alma mater that will benefit hundreds of students over the next decade and beyond, asking “how do you feel about what’s happened here?”

I don’t understand the media’s love for scaring people with its intense focus on every sick detail. I also don’t understand the public’s thirst to drink it all in and then seek out more.

When details or facts aren’t yet clear, news outlets will make them up or run with hearsay. Look at just a few things they got wrong in their frenzy to report Friday’s events – the name of the alleged shooter, that his mother was a teacher at the school, and so on. And people latch on to every comment as if their own children’s lives depended on their knowing this stuff. FYI, it doesn’t. Turn off the TVs and stop reading every newspaper and online article you can find.

Please don’t get the impression I think I’m so much better. Yesterday I was reading a few of the articles too, until I quickly got to a point where I thought, “WHAT am I doing?!” This information isn’t making me smarter, more enlightened, better equipped to do anything. It’s just making me want to cry.

So I stopped reading that garbage, said a few prayers and thought about what it would be like if our good deeds were covered as extensively as the horrific ones are. What would our world and our mindset be like if uplifting news dominated the headlines regularly?

Until then, I encourage you to seek out and fill your and your children’s worlds with positive stories that highlight the admirable in human nature. It’s out there in abundance, just not reported on as excitedly by the main stream news and media outlets.

PS: Let’s give gratitude for the outstanding and heroic efforts of the teachers, administrators and first responders who jumped into action on Friday and everyday.

“Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” ~ Anne Frank

The Cyclical Nature of Life, the Economy & Customer Retention

As Election Day in the U.S. draws closer, I feel the need to address a perspective that I’ve not seen anywhere. People in this country, and indeed the world, have been conditioned to 1. Want everything to be “good” all the time and 2. Delivered quickly. Thanks a lot Apple and Amazon and Zappos. (Hey, I enjoy next day delivery as much as the next person, but not everything in life can be delivered that quickly!)

Unfortunately for those who expect that kind of life experience, frustration and disappointment are inevitable. Let’s take the economy. Yes, let’s delicately go there without getting into which party or candidate has the best plan. The expectation that the economy should always be growing, the stock market always going up and wealth always increasing is absurd.

OceanWavesOnBeachIn nature, everything is cyclical. Ocean waves come in AND go out. While breathing, you must inhale AND exhale. Trees grow leaves in the spring and shed them in the fall. These are not things that need thought or study, they just happen. This is how nature works. Everything is cyclical. Furthermore, everything has a gestation period. On average, human babies take nine months to develop before they are born. Carrots take approximately 12 weeks for full maturity. The Grand Canyon formed over a period of 18 million years. Development takes as long as it takes!

So it seems odd that everyone is freaking out about the down cycle of the economy, its length and severity. I am not insensitive to the people who’ve been affected; I get it, it’s very uncomfortable and a lot of people are in a lot of pain. What I’m saying though, is this experience is part of nature’s cyclical system. Humans have attempted to change and manipulate nature to better suit their needs for thousands of years. Sure, we can make vegetables and animals grow faster (hormone injected and genetically modified foods anyone?). It seems to work out much better when we work WITH the environment instead of fighting against.

Of course in many cases nature can be helped along by such things as pesticides, technology, the Federal Reserve System or such. Again, these aides (experiments?) work better when helping the organism or system do what it does naturally as opposed to working against the “evil” that threatens it.

Customer acquisition and retention are cyclical too. Clients will always be signing on for your service or leaving your practice. It’s part of the natural Cycle Imagecycle of business. Recognize and accept that and then take the measures that you can, use the tools available to you, to extend that cycle by saying thank you to clients for business.

Although it would never happen, what if a candidate came out and said, hey, this uncomfortable downturn we’ve been experiencing is natural. Life and the economy are not always going to be happy, pain-free and comfortable. Real growth and innovation are what happen when things are UNcomfortable. Some cycles in life take more than a few minutes or even a few years to turn around. Situations are not resolved as quickly as they are in a two-hour movie. Know for sure though that they absolutely WILL turn around. And they will, no matter who is in office because nature has laws that are not breakable.

I welcome your thoughts and commentary on this concept, but I absolutely will not tolerate any political rants or accusations.

Perseverance and a Sense of Urgency

It’s another beautiful autumn day in the Washington, DC area – blue skies and crisp temperatures. As I thought about topics for today’s post, my mind returned to a day similar to this one back in 2006. I had recently been introduced to the person who would become my first contract baker, the first person to whom I would entrust with the job of producing The Gratitude Cookie for me.

At the time, I was living in south Florida and after exhausting options for finding a baker anywhere in that state, a mutual contact recommended I connect with Harvey Christie, legendarily known by all in Virginia and West Virginia as Chef Harv.

It was on a day like today that he met me at BWI airport and we headed to Baltimore to meet up with Irwin, a broker from whom I would end up buying the cookie machine that would automate the process of making the cookies. Chef Harv and I hit it off right away. I felt really comfortable working with him and optimistic about growth potential.

The cookie machine was manufactured in Germany, so we had to wait weeks for its delivery. Once it arrived, the die that shaped the cookies wasn’t exactly right. So we had to wait longer to have that corrected. I kept pushing Irwin to call the German company and get them to expedite matters; it was getting closer and closer to the busy holiday season. Irwin was an elderly gentleman and he basically suggested I chill out and not get so worked up about this, else I die young.

Chef Harv and the unexpected
I’ve always had a strong sense of urgency, so pushing Irwin to get that cookie die delivered didn’t seem out of character or particularly prescient. When it finally arrived, I went back up to West Virginia and Chef Harv, his crew and I figured out how to run this machine (it did not come with a detailed instruction manual).

We hadn’t actually signed a contract yet when he ran the first “real” batch of 5,000 cookies the week of Thanksgiving. (And thinking about this point now, I’m reminded of how I clearly did not learn my lesson on this topic, but that is another blog post.)

And then on the morning of December 1st, Chef Harv was killed in a car accident. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about how even though I’d known him only a few months, I felt that I’d lost an amazing friend. The fear over what would happen to my business came second.

To the credit of Chef Harv’s team, they pulled off the incredible feat of carrying on, fulfilling all of Zen Rabbit’s holiday orders that season. My clients had no idea what was going on behind the scenes as all their thank you and holiday gifts for customers were shipped and delivered on time.

In the end, Chef Harv’s wife decided to continue the business and we did end up signing a contract. I’ve since moved on to a much better baking partner arrangement, however I’ll always be grateful for this overall experience because of the lessons it taught. For all the business owners reading this, keep on, keep the faith. At some point or another, we all face challenges that seem insurmountable. Prove to yourself and everyone that you DO want and deserve success. And eventually it starts to come to you.

Worthy of the Time of Your Life

I saw a TV commercial yesterday for a new movie coming out in a few weeks, called In Time, where time is the currency. It looks like everyone has a certain bank account of time that they can spend. So for example, a cup of coffee costs you four minutes of life. I’m sure there’s more to this action movie than that, but the commercial, on top of all the articles about and tributes to Steve Jobs I’ve read this week, got me thinking.

What if you measured the value of everything you did against how much of your life it would take? Would you make different decisions or decide differently? Think about evaluating a new project not by how much money you’ll make from it, but by how many hours of your life you’ll be giving up for it.

What if instead of assuming you have “forever,” you came from a place where you worked on a shorter time frame that makes weighing every decision on the time factor real, let’s say one year. So you have one year to spend – 8760 hours – 525,600 minutes. Would you use your time more wisely? Spend it more on what really matters to you and what brings you enjoyment?

Is trolling the aisles and racks of Ross for a bargain a good trade of your time for the savings? It might be if you enjoy the hunt. Is Facebook worthy of the five or ten hours of your life you give it each week? Is working an extra two hours tonight more fun than playing with your child? Constantly ask yourself if what you’re about to do is worthy of your life.

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something…” ~ Steve Jobs

People who’ve been diagnosed with life threatening diseases go through this process of evaluation, but you don’t have to have a diagnosis to put it to work. Maybe a year is even too long a time frame. Start with a month, or even a week. Evaluate from this new perspective and see what happens. See how your choices change. It’s your life. How will you spend the currency?

Going the Extra Degree

Sunday, July 31st is the 212th day of the year. This may only be relevant to people who know about the 212 concept, about pushing things the extra degree. As Sam Parker (originator of the message) says, “212 is a simple message that reminds us of how a small amount of extra effort and attention can have a big impact on results.”

It starts with the basis of water being hot at 211 degrees. Once it gets to 212 degrees, it boils. When water boils, it produces steam. And with steam, you can power a train. That one extra degree makes all the difference.

Challenge yourself. To what can you apply ONE extra degree of effort and make a huge difference? Just when you think you can’t do anymore. Is it one more phone call, one more push up, one more minute of listening to a friend? C’mon, you can always eat just one more (yeah, now we’re talking, right?).

Have you seen the three minute 212 movie preview? Take a look here, (never mind the commercial) and watch it the whole way through.

Then share. What are you pushing one degree further?

Oh, and if you want to know more about 212, the extra degree, see Sam’s website:

Canadian Postal Strike

You may have heard that the Canada Post has gone on a nationwide strike. For Zen Rabbit customers who want to ship into Canada, that’s not a problem. It just means that your packages will have to go via FedEx International instead of the usual U.S. Postal Service.

Until the strike is resolved, the USPS will not accept any First-Class Mail International, Priority Mail International, or Express Mail International to Canada.

The World Is Freaky Beautiful

This is the title of my friend Evan Griffith’s blog. He and I connected through a mutual contact years ago and then lost touch. Weeks before I moved from South Florida, we ran into each other in the waiting area of our mechanic’s shop (crazy how the Universe works, huh?).  Seems we’d been following similar paths of personal development and self discovery and we had a lot to discuss over a subsequent couple of lunches.

Evan hadn’t yet launched his blog then, but he has now and he’s been quite prolific. Good stuff here and I encourage you to check it out. Especially the May 14, 2011 post, because he based it on one of our conversations about spiritual and life teachers.

The Funniest April Fool’s Day Prank Ever

It’s April Fool’s Day. Typically, I don’t fall for or play pranks on anyone on this day. Yes, I realize I’ve just made myself a good target for some kind of incoming prank. Anyway, there was this one year that I couldn’t help myself.

Working at a marketing communications agency in Sacramento, we were a very creative bunch. When our creative director left the office for a few hours, I put one of those pink “while you were out” phone message notes on his desk. Anita Lyon called and I put a phone number.

He called the number and said, “Anita Lyon please.” I’m not sure if the person on the other end of the phone – at the Sacramento Zoo! – was amused; he might have gotten this call once or twice before. He did say, “um, I think someone is playing an April Fool’s joke on you sir.”

To this day, I cannot share this story without laughing to the point of tears. What is your best April Fool’s story?

The Pain of Writing

Gloria Steinem said, “I do not like to write – I like to have written.”
I’m right there with you sister. I’m in the midst of writing two important works (by important, I mean I know there are people who want and need this information; I get emails and phone calls with questions about it all the time). One is an e-book, the genesis of which goes back almost two years! And yet I have to make myself set aside the time to do it. And then when the appointed time comes, I have to force myself to stay off Facebook and Twitter and actually do the writing. It’s too easy to get lost in “doing research” and avoid composing original thoughts.

What is up with that? It’s not just me. Do you struggle with this challenge too? You’re not alone. I know plenty of writers who struggle with this issue. Is it a fear of not having anything to say? Or conveying the message in an imperfect way? Sometimes it feels like the right words (or any words) are just out of reach.

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” ~Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

One of the strategies I’ve found helpful is to do a short, ten or fifteen minute, meditation to clear the head. There are some good ones at Meditation Oasis. I particularly like podcast #29, Enhance Your Creativity, for helping focus my thoughts before writing. Podcast # 37, Accessing Intuition, works well too. Take a look at the list – they’re all free – and see if there’s something that resonates with you.

Another good approach comes from Nike. Just do it. Close your email. Go offline. Put on the Pandora “spa” channel. Attach blinders. Sit your butt in the chair and start writing. Even if you think it’s crap, keep writing. You’ll edit later. For now, write, write, write. I’ve heard it gets easier the more you do it. Personally, I’ve not gotten to that point yet – something to look forward to. In the meantime, I’ll use a bit of personal discipline and get to work. Someone is waiting. Someone needs to read exactly what it is I’ve got to say.

Year of the Rabbit

Today is the Lunar New Year (also commonly known as the Chinese New Year) and 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit! That’s what this symbol here to the right is, the Chinese zodiac sign for rabbit.

Every animal carries its special energy into the new year. The energy of the Rabbit brings a quiet tranquility, natural grace and sensitivity into this year. Each year the animal also signifies an element (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) and this year is the Metal Rabbit. According to Chinese Taoist thought, “metal” attributes are considered to be firmness, rigidity, persistence, strength and determination.

The Rabbit symbolizes good manners, kindness and solid judgment. (And we can certainly use some more of that!)

Rabbit is a good scholar, with powers of cautious observation, detachment to particular outcomes and the ability to sense and decode the patterns occurring in the world around him/her. As a result, the Rabbit can leap over obstacles, so fewer things are likely to bother you. Expect that you’ll be able to handle challenges successfully and peacefully.

In business, the Rabbit demonstrates win-win negotiations and diplomacy. Since the Rabbit is a good communicator and listener, it’s a good year for making deals, entering partnerships and resolving differences. Rabbits are ambitious, want to advance and move fast when the timing is right however their style is generally more consistent and calm than say the outgoing Tiger.

Not surprisingly, Rabbit years are typically lucky years and historically, money is made more easily in Rabbit years than other years. (Do I hear cheering?)

Gung Hay Fat Choy (may prosperity be with you or Happy New Year)!