Friday, August 30, 2013

Hold your Tongue

J.R. and I were reminiscing about the historic days at Accenture.  Different offices (Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland) had distinctively unique cultures before we combined them into an all Ohio practice (those were the days when Accenture was still organized geographically).  Yet the power of Accenture globally was the "one firm" concept and shared values across the globe.  The centralized training at St. Charles Ill. was instrumental in defining that standardization.  The interpersonal training that every employee received (in addition to the technical and functional training) help each of us as individuals improve our styles.

One of the most important things that I personally learned in both client relationship building, and selling is determining when to "hold your tongue".  Too often we want to communicate our personal agenda, knowledge, and advice only to discover it is not desired, needed or even necessary.  Knowing your audience is critical to understanding when they will really listen to you and understand the point you are delivering.  This becomes critical in both presentations and even one on one discussion.

It is so tempting to want to redirect a conversation to something YOU want to say (or hear yourself saying) that has little to do with the objective of your conversation.  Being able to step back, hold your tongue (and even the thoughts) is a discipline that can be the difference between a yes and a no.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Preaching Hypocrisy

I blurted out "We are all hypocrites" in the debate with J.P. last night.  "I agree with that", J.P. replied.  He then added "Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue."  This is actually a quote from François de La Rochefoucauld a noted French author of maxims and memoirs.  He was a pithy 17th century blogger/tweeter with his five hundred and four  moral maxims - one liners. 

Maxim 218 : L'hypocrisie est un hommage que le vice rend à la vertu.
  • Hypocrisy is an homage that vice pays to virtue.

Hypocrisy is commonly thought of not practicing what you preach.  But this is not the true sense of a Hypocrite.  If a person  doesn't attempt to hide or deceive you into thinking that he does practice what he preaches then he would not be a hypocrite.  He would instead be the person who states "Do what I say, not what I do".  

Maybe that is the definition of a preacher. :) 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

YOU - First or Last

Whenever the word "YOU" begins your statement ---- be careful.   There are just some words and phrases that should not be uttered.  Examples:

"YOU ought to ...........

"YOU should ............

"YOU are ..............

"I told YOU so"   (this one has a bonus -  the selfish word "I" combined with the declarative "YOU")

The reality is that none of us wants to be told what to do; what we are; or what we did wrong.  The ability to give advice in a positive constructive way is a gift. The best advice comes in form of a question .... 

"Have YOU considered .......

"What would YOU do if .....

"How do YOU feel about ......

and if your advice was not taken (e.g. I told you so)  ---

It's not about being right ..... it's about rightly being.

So - consider ending your statements with YOU instead of beginning them with YOU.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Clothes Line

We all have troubles, problems and stresses.  Coming to peace with those emotional bumps is one of the secrets of maintaining your
 health.  There are many techniques each individual uses to cope:

(1) Give yourself time to vent (yes you are allowed)
(2) Use Gratitude and counting blessings to neutralize the negatives
(3) Exercise
(4) Focus on helping others (redirect the thoughts)
(5) Take action (small steps) to solve the problem (Just do it)
(6) Write down the problem (journaling)
(7) Seek social support (find a good listener)
(8) Laugh
(9) Put your problems in perspective

"If I took all my problems and hung them on the clothes line and if my neighbors did the same .....  I would keep mine"

Monday, August 26, 2013

Inside Lock

In "What's so Great about Christianity, there is a reference to Hell - where God is eternally absent. Dinesh D'Souza states that the atheist rejects God and reluctantly God grants him his wish. "In a sense the gates of hell are locked from the inside."  The atheist locks God out from inside seemingly unable to leave.

G.S. (from Sunday Fellowship Small Group) quickly spoke up "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." from the Eagles song Hotel California.  That song has had numerous interpretations and the writers have purposely been vague about it's origin other than the excesses of the music industry. Freely entering the pleasure dome ("This could be Heaven or this could be Hell") can result in an inability to leave it behind ("but you can never leave").   

Inside locks (usually dead bolts) are designed for an individual to be able to leave - but requires action.  But for every inside lock there is a outside perspective looking in.  A person knocking at the door awaiting your response.  But it takes a key (or action of unlocking) to open the door. 

Find the key. Check out. You can leave. Heaven can't wait.

"Light of the World" by William Holman Hunt  St. Paul's Cathedral London
PS.  No locks on this door. The door in the painting has no handle, and therefore can only be opened from the inside, representing the "Obstinately shut mind".  See Wikipedia : Light of the World

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ends and Means

The adage "The Ends justify the Means" is constantly a battle in philosophical war.  J.P. and I have discussed at length the issue of Kantian Philosophy and Individual Freedom.  The conclusion of the Kant's "categorical imperative" and the moral impact that individuals are ends in themselves and should never be used as means to an end, creates a battlefield with philosophical paradoxes and moral dilemmas.

Quickly the philosophical camps divide between the "Ends" group and the "Means" group with the moral battlefield in the middle of the ring. 

My viewpoint:

"Pay attention to YOUR ENDS, and don't worry about the others who are MEAN"

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Deuce

J.R. remembered his Dad's observation when describing the "bottom of the pack":  "Well ....... there's no card lower than a deuce".  This fits the context since in talking about people we sometimes refer to strange behavior as "He's a card" or even that deuce comes close to the word dunce.

However this expression is turned upside down in the Video poker game of "Deuces Wild" (a favorite way to gamble for Wayne). 

So which is it?  "He's a card"?   or   "He's a wild card"?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Happy Birthday Ellen

Today is Ellen's 14th birthday. Celebrating with five other teenage girls, we all had dinner at Ferrari's Little Italy and Bakery followed by cake, dessert and a sleepover at our house.  Well not much sleep until after 2am Saturday morning.  Most of Ellen's high school friends are older - that is in the American age system. 

East Asia age reckoning assumes newborns are one and incremented on the Lunar New Year instead of the actual birthday.  So Ellen actually turned 15 on Feb. 10, 2013 (this year's Chinese Lunar New Year) using this methodology.  She is precisely 15 years, 6 months and 13 days old today.  There is logic to this method since the Chinese start counting your age at conception (no disagreement here about when life starts). Therefore she will turn 16 (in Chinese terms) on January 31, 2014.

Susan hates when I increment my own age on the calendar year, always telling me that I am misstating my age to everyone. My logic is simple - that way I can calculate my age by subtracting the birth year from the current year.  Maybe I have the modified Asian system.

The American Midwest Kansas Age Reckoning system :)   ---  age zero at birth with Gregorian New Year increment.

PS.  Don't tell Ellen she will be 16 in almost 5 months as she will begin to think about driving a car!

Wire Nails

At breakfast this morning with L.C. described his travel story through hell.  The kind of hassles we have all experienced at sometime during our travel careers.  The stressful tie up on the highway, the delayed flight on the tarmac, the packed plane, your tight fit in the seat next to the overweight passenger with less than acceptable personal hygiene issues; connecting flight with no time during dinner; the airport spoiled tuna sandwich; the rude passenger who arrogantly cuts in line; tossing up the sandwich in the plane's latrine; and the bumping landing at the end with lost or delayed luggage.

L.C. concluded the story with "When I got home, I could have eaten wire nails!"

Those back of the woods expressions just pop out of guys like L.C.  They are precious since it took the context of all the above to match the need for the expression. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blankets or Chains of Tradition

Last night was the "traditional" gathering of J.R. and K.M at a Reds game.  This year we switched from the weekday afternoon game tradition to an evening event.  It all started fourteen years ago (when we were worked at Accenture) when J.R. offered up tickets one evening and I pressured K.M. into joining us.  So it was fitting that we "honored" the original genesis of the tradition by duplicating an evening venue.

Traditions can emerge innocently after one notices a consistent pattern each year, or they can be deliberate (like  scheduling one Reds game each year  or our March Madness lunches) based on an event or key annual activity.  How many years or repetitiveness is necessary to call an activity a "tradition".  I think somewhere between five and ten years of consecutive occurrences begins to qualify the occasion as "tradition".   

Sports events can generate the regularity and comfortable common platform that fits well with establishing a tradition.  Hence the excitement of tailgating, and congregating with friends at games.  Holidays and family gatherings almost automatically are considered "traditions".

The Tennis Tournament here in Cincinnati was a tradition in my life for over 30 years. Last week I didn't attend even one match and only watched the first set of the Nadal/Isner final on TV.  Somehow that tradition had worn its way out.  The extra cost of the box seats helped me see the "chains" of that tradition and created a cost/value equation to its benefit.

Traditions create a sense of security and joy - like a blanket and yet can turn into "chains" of duty and boring habit.  Ascertaining the difference is what counts.  Breaking traditions is hard to do.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Eight Year Deja vu

Having two children eight years apart creates a hazy but regular occurrence of Deja vu. Well not actually Deja vu, but just a memory of doing the same exact thing eight years ago (an eight year version of the movie Ground Hog Day).

Ellen who is playing JV Tennis (like Jenna did) will start High School tomorrow.  Watching the matches, and attending parent orientation shows how little change occurs in the kids school activities in eight years. Even my routine and activities are similar from eight years ago - a day at the office, weekends at home, Vistage meetings, financial logs ... the list goes on. 

Forecasting change should take this reoccurrence and redundancy in to effect.  Predicting the exact timing of major milestones of change becomes as difficult as predicting an earthquake. But why are we always surprised by the magnitude and suddenness of the event?  Most of these events are probable (within a certain time in life) - K-12; college, graduation, first job, house, marriage, kids, retirement etc.

Eight Year Deja vu will occur for blogging on August 27, 2017 ---- hmmm just three years from now.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Peace of Mind

The concept that we have free will comes into question when you wake up from a night of tossing and turning.  Instead of a restful sleep, the mind has been racing throughout the night struggling with an issue that seems uncontrollable. The brain has a "mind of it's own"  - so to speak :)   So are we really experiencing free will?  Somehow you just can't turn off the inner conflict that culminates into physical discomfort.

Another example is the difficulty in quieting one's mind for meditation or prayer.  Suddenly ideas pop into your consciousness - today's "to do's",  decisions unresolved, feelings, even ambient noise.  The mind seems out of control. 

Yet there are other times the comforting blanket of peace surrounds your soul.  The physical body, soul and spirit seem in perfect alignment and a feeling of freedom from the mind's duty to work comes to a relaxing pause.  What can cause this equilibrium?  Does our free will provide a path to control and initiate this Peace of Mind?

That is the mystery of spirituality.  Who (or What) is really in control?

Is it "Your Piece of Mind"  or "The Peace of Mind"?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Running Around

"Before I begin, a note of warning: the topic we are about to explore may not be suitable for our young listeners (or readers)."   Standard NPR content advisory

As I was telling S.S. the story about "Pets or Meat" and the demise of the rabbit with a club -- he winched.  "Ooooh, that makes the meat tough". 

"What" ...    did you say?

"Well you have to kill the rabbit in the proper way for the most tender meat result"  S.S. said matter-of-factly.

"And how do you do that?"

"Well you slit the throat." he replied.

Clearly, I am just a city slicker and have had no experience in this area.  I do remember the option to see the slaughter of hogs at my old client Hillshire Farms and Kahns during my Accenture career.  I decided to avoid their normal tour of this part of the processing facility (purposely scheduled just before lunch) for all the faint of heart (and Accenture consultants in three piece suits).  However for my staff that wanted to see this (R.T.) the procedure was quick and simple.  Hang the Hog by the hoof; slit and let drain.

This whole discussion reminded me of Mom's story about harvesting turkeys at Thanksgiving.  Chopping the head off and the ensuing scene of the bird running around - headless.   Hence the expression:

"Running around like a chicken with it's head chopped off."

Vegetarians use a different expression - "Running around like a bunny in heat"   - "Pets or Tofu"  :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Crispy or Chewy

I think people fit into two categories in the world of cookies - chewy or crispy (soft or crunchy; thick or thin).  I personally like the crispy cookie.  I could find no statistical studies on the distribution of cookie likes although I'm sure Keebler has the data. 

However some research shows that the same cookie type (e.g. Chocolate Chip) can yield chewy or crispy depending on ingredients and cooking process. 

(1)  Chewy ---- Use brown sugar , bread flour and butter.
(2)  Crispy --- Use all purpose flour, white sugar and shortening.

But the key variable is moisture content (water)  - see "Food Studies: the science of cookie texture".   And the irony is that time and air tries to make them the same:

"As in all scientific reactions, equilibrium is desired, so moisture from the chewy cookies will want to leave and enter the air, while some of the moisture from the air will want to enter a crunchy cookie." 

One thing is certain -  Chewy and Crispy Cookie lovers can both agree in principle - Eat them quickly!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pets or Meat

I had lunch with S.I. (SVP Partner) last week and she smiled when I told her that before I give any advice, I think carefully about whether the person wants a sounding board or a paddle.  She described a tradition with L.H. in screening how to give advice by pre announcing the question  "Pets or Meat"? 

From the movie Michael Moore documentary about General Motors and Flint Michigan "Roger and Me" there is a scene where he interviews a ex GM employee who is in the business of raising rabbits.  He knocks on the door and asks about rabbits - she responds "Pets or Meat".  It is a perfect way of thinking about the range of responses - either listening empathically or responding practically. 

Actually the question forces the seeking party into "prefacing" (the term from Ken Druck's book "The Real Rules of Life" - Rule #8  Listening is Love ... How to Really Listen to Strengthen Relationships).  "Prefacing is simply setting the tone for a conversation; it lets the other parties know what you want to discuss, your good intentions, and a desired outcome."

I have to say, I laughed when I watched this scene in the documentary.  It shows the reality of the world of survival.  I'm sure it offended many animal lovers and especially those who love bunnies.  The scene where Rhonda Britton actually kills and skins a rabbit even had me a bit squeamish. This documentary is not for the faint of heart - it was "Meat".

Friday, August 9, 2013

Heaven Board #7

I just got this email from a friend.  Decided it qualifies for Heaven Board #7.

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things "in order", she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

"There's one more thing," she said excitedly.
"What's that?" came the Pastor's reply.
"This is very important," the young woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.
"That surprises you, doesn't it?" the young woman asked.
"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the Pastor.

The young woman explained. "My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part, because I knew that something better was velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder 'What's with the fork?' Then I want you to tell them: 'Keep your fork ..the best is yet to come'."

The Pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come. Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. Cherish the time you have, and the memories you share. Being friends with someone is not an opportunity, but a sweet responsibility.

Send this to everyone you consider a friend...and I'll bet this will be an email they do remember, every time they pick up a fork!

And just remember...keep your fork!

The BEST is yet to come!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Price Sensitivity

As I was reviewing my Direct TV bill for July, I found the classic "renewal" of subscription technic used to keep customers. 

In this case it applied to the NFL Sunday Ticket portion of the bill - getting all the NFL games starting Sept. 8th.  When I "subscribed" last year, I'm sure they told me that my subscription would be automatically renewed (at whatever rate they felt was the "going rate".  Consequently even increases required no proactive approval.  At great scam for those who do not diligently monitor their bills.

So this year the increase was 13.65% (from six payments of $32.99 to $37.49).  That is some hefty inflation rate!  Last year we really didn't take advantage of the package so consequently I called to cancel.  Interestingly, the Rep asked if I would be willing to answer some questions - naturally I replied yes.

"Would you be willing to pay $32.99 for six payments" she asked?  Thinking I heard the question wrong, I said but the payments are $37.49, last year it was $32.99.  She replied yes would I be willing to keep the service for that price?   I hesitated but said no.

"Would you be willing to pay $29.99 for six payments" she asked?  Now I got it.  They are finding out my price sensitivity for cancellation (if price was the issue).  I hesitated longer (I wonder if they capture that data also).  As I pondered this new price point, I now wondered if another offer would be extended.   I replied, NO.

Angela then said she would go ahead an process the cancellation (and credit for the July bill).

In today's high tech and highly competitive marketplace, it is critical that you know when your contracts end (or renewals begin) and make sure you review other providers.  Prices are all negotiable. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Take it with You

I decided to watch It's a Wonderful Life after reading some of the letters by Sandy Costa in his book "Humanity at Work".  During a key scene when George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is faced with a critical business decision about the Building Savings and Loan he looks over at the quote underneath the portrait of his Dad:

"All you can take with you is what you've given away"

The "self" is constantly in an evaluation of give and take.  T.H. (my Vistage Bud) has a motto for his life - "Give more than you take".  And in our balance sheet world that is a good attempt in measuring success.  But the quote above goes further - a goal of complete giving.  Its message goes beyond physical/tangible assets. 

If you were granted a wish to take five things with you (at the end) what would they be?  (see blog 9/13/2009 Five and Five Exercise)

Are those the things that are lasting?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Rules with Grace

Yesterday the technology team met (M.R. J.R. G.B. and P.P.) to focus on helping the SVP Cincinnati investee Family Nurturing Center (FNC).  We are first trying to understand the processes, forms, and reports at FNC.  As we discussed the referral and visitation scheduling process, J.G.(FNC employee) mentioned that she had implemented and new approach for their visitation program -- "Rules with Grace" (for things like tardiness and acceptable cancellations).

The other day M.F. asked me my definition of grace.  My answer:   Grace is when you get what you don't deserve. Mercy is when you don't get what you do deserve.  His answer: "Grace is the power to do God's will."

We say grace each evening before dinner - in that context Grace is a short prayer. I suppose it is called Grace because it is by God's Grace we have another meal.

 Say your Grace - get some Grace - give some Grace.