Thursday, October 31, 2013

#517 an extra boost

One year, by pure happenstance, I had a dental hygienist appointment on Halloween.  I left the office with sparkling, clean teeth and did not really have the desire to spoil that feeling right away.  As a result, I consumed a lot fewer calories and was able to pass on the inevitable treats in the office that day.

I stuck with the October 31 appointment for many years.  It was a simple way for me to garner some extra willpower to avert temptation.  While I don't do it any more, today I find myself wishing that I did.

Think about the events or situations where you need a little extra fortitude to get through.  Is there something as simple as scheduling an annual appointment to help boost you?  Buying the Halloween or Easter candy that is your least favorite so you aren't apt to eat any leftovers?  Making the item for the potluck that others find delicious, but you could easily pass up?

In the office, you could schedule your toughest meetings at 11am to give people an incentive to wrap up for lunch.  Maybe you bring a treat to the meeting to give everyone an unexpected smile (and glucose boost!) before you begin.  Or you review a proposal with a colleague before the meeting so you know you are going in with an ally.

There are many very small steps you can take to give yourself a pill of confidence.  Think of it as a vitamin that you are intentional and consistent in taking daily.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

#516 trash talk

Before I moved to Iowa, I lived in St. Louis for seven years.  During that time I became a huge Cardinals fan and have remained so today.  My sister has lived in Boston for the last decade and even though she wasn't a sports fan when she moved there, she has somehow gained an affinity to the BoSox.

When we learned that both of our teams would be competing for the World Series, we began listing out a series of wagers that would be appropriate spoils to the victor.  When the Cardinals pull off a miracle and win this Series, my sister is going to be the guest author of a blog for me.  (We settled on a fancy pedicure for her, not that it matters!)

As a result of the extra incentive, there has been a rash of texts back and forth after every game.  You can imagine what a field day (no pun intended) she had with the obstruction call.  Yesterday I was getting texts about how her toes were getting excited.  It has all been in good fun.

We are not alone in our enthusiasm; even symphony orchestras can get into the trash talking (watch the fun, three-minute video at the beginning):

The World Series will be over Thursday night, but there are always more sporting events or other occasions to engender a little ribbing.  This type of friendly competition is good for morale and spirit in the office setting too.  Pick a side, any side, and put some gusto into supporting "your" team.  Even if you win nothing beyond bragging rights, it makes the journey to get there a whole lot more fun.

-- beth triplett


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

#515 pruning

Over the weekend, I spent some time outside cutting all the hostas and trimming back all the bushes in front of my house.  In anticipation of our city's Free Waste Day, we filled five lawn and garden bags with all the remnants of summer.  If I look just at the yard, the bareness makes me question my motives.  But if I look in the bags, I see the dead leaves and branches that were best removed.

Often with gardening, the focus is on planting and growing, but pruning plays an equally as important role.  Cutting things back often allows new plants to emerge with vigor.  Come springtime everything will be fresh and able to bloom with much more space and intentionality.  There is room for the new with the old out of the way.  

I think this analogy applies in organizations as well.  Often we focus on adding and tending to what we have planted without regard to cutting back some of the initiatives.  Maybe you  would be well served to have a metaphorical Free Waste Day in your organization and see what you can toss into the bag.  Maybe it is cleaning out a storeroom, purging old files, re-evaluating a program or revisiting an out-of-date process.  Surely there is something that warrants some pruning.

-- beth triplett

Monday, October 28, 2013

#514 rule 7.06

If you're following baseball at all, you know that the Cardinals won Game 3 of the World Series on an obstruction call which allowed the winning run to score in the bottom of the 9th inning.  The Boston Red Sox third baseman was on his stomach on the field as the Cardinals runner was trying to get by.  Whether he intentionally was in the runner's way or not was of no consequence and the umpire ruled it an obstruction, allowing the runner to advance.  

As you can imagine, such an obscure call at such a crucial point in the World Series caused a flurry of debate and doubt, but the call stands amidst the protests.  The call overshadowed the brilliant catch to start the sequence of events and throw out the first runner at the plate, and if the Cardinals win the series it will live in infamy as the play that cost the Sox the title.

It is unlikely that your organization has an umpire to make the calls and enforce the rules.  But if you did, would you have received an obstruction call for how you have played parts of the game?  Just as with the World Series call, intent does not factor into the decision.  Even if it is an unfortunate circumstance, your actions can impede the ability of others to do their work as intended and that is defined as an obstruction.

That leaves it to you and your people to play with integrity and make your work as fair as it can be.  Be your own umpire and call yourself for obstruction if it's warranted -- even in the bottom of the 9th inning of the World Series.

-- beth triplett

MLB rule 7.06 explains the obstruction call in Game 3 of the 2013 World Series -- MLB News/Fox Sports on MSN

Sunday, October 27, 2013

#513 impromptu

On Friday, we had 14 prospective student visitors in our office.  That's a lot for us in a day -- each one requiring our visit coordinator to set up a tour guide, individual appointment with faculty in their major, a meeting with the coach if the student is a possible athlete and time with an admissions counselor.  With 14 in one day, it involves a lot of juggling and logistics.

About 2pm, a family walked in with a student and her friend -- and no appointment.  They were in town and happened upon our campus and thought they would stop in.  Within 10 minutes, Viv had rounded up a tour guide and while they were seeing campus she set up appointments with a faculty member, someone from athletics and admissions.  She made it all look effortless to the family, but it involved some scheduling heroics.

And it also represented a true sense of our campus to those students.  Even though it was late on a Friday afternoon and they dropped in unannounced, we made them feel special.  We learned their needs and met them.  We were genuinely glad that they stopped in.

Not that I would wish more walk ins on our visit coordinator, but it is a great way for a family to peek behind the curtain and see what an organization is really like.  

How can you create an out-of-the-norm situation to test the mettle of a decision that is important to you?  How would your service measure up in a similar situation?  

Anyone can put on a show.  The real authenticity shines when you need something outside of the script.  

-- beth triplett

Saturday, October 26, 2013

#512a bonus photos

See Saturday's Blog #512.  
I wasn't kidding that some people have taken Halloween over the top!!!

#512 tricked into treats

When did Halloween become such a big deal?  I feel like I am the only one in the neighborhood who hasn't "decorated" for Halloween.  Houses have giant blow up decorations that used to be reserved for Christmas but now feature black cats, pumpkins and vampires.  Roof lines and windows are framed with black, orange and purple strings of light.  There are decorations in the yards, windows, driveways and porches.  Our town even had a Halloween parade.

Forbes estimates that Americans will spend $6.9 billion on Halloween costumes, decorations and candy this year!  It is the fourth largest holiday in terms of spending.  Adult costumes contribute $1.22 billion in sales, children's costumes $1.04 billion and the poor, poor pets are subjected to $330 million in costumes.  Candy contributes another $2 billion and nearly that amount is spent on decorations.

The amount I will spend on my costume:  $2 (I found some cute little pumpkin earrings).  Add in about $6 for candy, $8 for two pumpkins and I am done.  Is there a Halloween equivalent for Scrooge?  

As you do your errands this weekend, don't get caught up in the frenzy.  Use your creativity and make your own costume.  Buy a modest amount of candy.  Carve a real pumpkin.  Let Mother Nature add the color for you.  Bob for some apples at home.  Just because a holiday for kids has gone commercial, doesn't mean you need to be bitten by the Halloween spending vampire as well.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Halloween Spending by the Numbers by Steve Cooper,, 10/22/13

Friday, October 25, 2013

#511 genesis

Some of my staff and I did a presentation to our board of trustees yesterday to explain the "genesis and strategic opportunities" of our marketing efforts.  In preparation, we ended up taking a trip down memory lane to dig all the old publications and ads out of archives.  It was striking to see how much clarity we have developed over the past five years as we came face to face with the way our presentation and story have evolved.  

While it was a nostalgic exercise for those of us who have been on board for the duration, I think it was more valuable and informative for those on the team who are new.  After sitting through the presentation they have a greater appreciation about how the look evolved and an understanding of the rationale behind it.  I also hope that this project motivated everyone to keep evolving so that in five years we will warrant time on another board agenda.

Whether you are presenting to your trustees or just for your own perspective check, it may be a good use of time to do a retrospective of your organization.  How have you changed in the last X years?  Can you see a noticeable difference in your marketing, reporting, programming or some other aspect of your work?  It's one thing to mentally know that you're improving, but another thing to see the before and after side by side.  The contrast should be striking -- or a lack of change should startle you into action.  Either way, a physical review may be a valuable exercise for you and the people in your organization.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, October 24, 2013

#510 let's play

I was in Chicagoland over the weekend and was astonished to see a sign along the side of the road advertising soccer classes -- for kids 18 months to 5 years old!  We had hardly gone a mile when we saw another sign for a soccer league -- for 3-6 year olds!  I guess after two years of practice, the toddlers need a league of their own!?

Two thoughts came to mind upon seeing these signs:
1.  Soccer continues to grow in popularity in the States.  If there is enough interest for classes and leagues at this age, the sport will be firmly ingrained in the psyche of everyone by the time the kids are of independent fan age.  Before too long, the World Cup may cause a frenzy in the United States.

2.  Regardless of the sport, I believe this is way too young to have actual classes and leagues.  Kids are becoming so dependent on structure -- and other people creating their fun activities -- that they are missing out on the development of an important aspect of independence.  In college, we hear students lament the lack of "things to do", meaning the things someone else planned and hand held the students to take them there.  Let the kids learn how to create their own fun -- at least until they are the ripe old age of 7 or so!!

Think about those signs and what lessons they hold for you.  Is there an emerging trend that you can see and capitalize on in your organization?  Is there a way for you to encourage kids to enjoy the unstructured time that should accompany childhood?  What can you do to create a structure-free zone for your employees so they can model it for their children?  

Adding stress, competition and organized play for tots will have implications down the road.  Do what you can now to let kids be kids, not little adults.

-- beth triplett


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

#509 seasons

Our consultant arrived into town early on Sunday and so I offered to take him to lunch. I chose a restaurant located along the bluffs of the Mississippi River so that he could see the beautiful Fall colors on the hillside.  He recounted his recent trip to Vermont to take in the changing leaves and splendor.

Fall is Mother Nature's special showcase.  If we had the golds, reds and oranges all year they would be taken for granted, no matter how spectacular they were.  No one would go for drives just to see the trees if they looked that way all year.

What lessons can you take from nature?  Is there something that you should hold back and only bring out at certain times of the year so that it is more appreciated?  Could you provide a service or something special at only one point instead of offering it consistently?  

Lots of companies do this now: garden tours in the spring, holiday window displays just in the winter, pumpkin spice flavors in the fall, outdoor dining in the summer and so on.  But what could your organization do?  Think about how to capitalize on the seasons.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

#508 showcase location

I recently visited a museum to see the Princess Diana exhibition.  This was a remarkable exhibit which showcased her wedding gown, home movies, designer dresses, heirloom jewels and a host of photos from her life.  These were the original items, not replicas, on loan from the Althorp Estate for a final worldwide tour.  I was one of the one billion television viewers who watched her wedding in 1981, and it was a thrill to see her gown and be up close to its 25 foot train.  

I live an hour away from this museum and had never heard of it, so as I took in the historical significance of what I was seeing, I began to wonder how on earth this relatively small museum in Davenport, IA had acquired the rights to host this international exhibit.  This seemed like something that would be featured in Chicago or a major city instead.

As it turned out, the exhibition company actually came to the Putnam and asked them if they would be willing to host it.  They were looking for a location that was central to all of the major Midwest population spots to make it accessible to as many people as possible on one of its final stops.  Davenport is drivable from Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Omaha and Kansas City so the curators approached the museum to make it happen.

They had the prestige from Diana's name and the exhibit itself; what they needed was access.  It is another example of how first knowing what you value impacts what you are seeking.  

-- beth triplett

Monday, October 21, 2013

#507 to the max

Yesterday was the opening of a TJ Maxx in our town.  You have to understand that this store is the only discount chain of any type within an hour's drive.  Also know that they did a great job of promoting the grand opening -- billboards, several full-page ads in the paper, radio, banners, an annoying-but-effective sticker on the front page, etc.  You knew that with the demand combined with the hype it would be an event.

And how!  They opened at 8am and by 9am the line was literally snaked around to the back of the store!  The parking lot was overflowing well into the afternoon.  They had donuts, coffee, popcorn, balloons, free TJ bags -- and I even got a hug from the very large store manager when I walked in.  It was the biggest party in town.

Overall the mood was festive and people were positive, except for the regional staff members who were critiquing all the things that weren't right and noting what changes need to be made.  In their opinion, they needed another sign behind the checkout "like we did in Danville." Pillows were needed to accent a chair display.  There was not even a trace of a smile even though the store must have been reaching it fire code capacity.

I hope that they wait a day to share their observations and suggestions with the local store staff.  Sometimes in the effort to tweak the small stuff that needs to be changed, people forget to celebrate the big stuff that is going well.  Don't be the one to rain on the parade.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, October 20, 2013

#506 bonus

Last March*, I wrote about a project by a local photographer who took a photo of "That Tree" every day for a year with just his iPhone.  I was among the hundreds who trudged through a soggy field to be in picture #365.

Last weekend, Mark Hirsch hosted a gallery exhibit and did book signings of the finished product.  What started off as a simple rehabilitation project following an accident has taken on a life of its own.  He sold over 2,000 books before he had a book printed.  He has appeared on NBC News, in the Huffington Post, on NPR, the UK Daily Mail, Sierra Club and more.  In short, he's becoming famous with his That Tree exhibit.

While many only know him from his work on this project, I was fortunate enough to work with him on projects for our university long before his media whirlwind tours, and even more fortunate that he photographed me and my beloved dog.  I knew that my Hannah was getting old and wanted a memory of the two of us together.  Mark indulged me.  I had him autograph one of his books, but what I really should have done is have him sign my Hannah picture.

Mark didn't start taking pictures of that tree to create a following; I didn't wade through the mud to be in a book and he didn't take my dog's picture thinking that the photographer would matter.  

You never know when something simple is going to catch on and go viral.  You never know when ordinary people in your life are going to become famous.  What I do know is that doing things for love always produces a better result in the end. 

-- beth triplett
Photo credit:  Mark Hirsch

*See Blog #297, March 25, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013

#505 playing ball

As people age, sometimes they are forced to give up their favorite hobbies.  A group of local men found an ingenious way to continue playing their beloved baseball game.  They created their own diamond (named Geezer Field) and formed the We're Not Dead Yet League.  The best part:  they play nine innings a week!

I smiled when I read that they had taken elements of what they love and created their own rules to make it suit their abilities and needs.  I am sure that they have a grand time playing the game.  

What is something you enjoy doing that you are not able to fully experience for one reason or another?  No time to be in community theatre: offer to help with a school pageant.  Unable to bowl anymore: be like the older sisters in our Mother House and form a competitive Wii "league".  Eyesight failing or no time to read:  switch to audio books or e-readers that can enlarge your type.  

No matter how you do it, don't let logistics keep you from your love.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Extra Innings: Past-their-prime ballplayers relive the glory in their own league.  Telegraph Herald, October 12, 2013.

Friday, October 18, 2013

#504 pet causes

Time magazine ran its cover story this week about Michael Bloomberg, the retiring billionaire mayor of New York City. The article explored Bloomberg's plans now that his tenure in public service is nearing an end.

"I want to do things that nobody else is doing," he said.  His "things" revolve mostly around philanthropy and advancing pet causes.  He has invested $100 million to genetically engineer a better mosquito in the hopes of eliminating malaria.  He has personally spent $109+ million against smoking.  He gave another $100 million to fight against polio in Nigeria.

This year, he plans to spend about $400 million on projects of interest, including innovation in European governance, climate change, Planned Parenthood and gun control.

If you were fortunate enough to be able to do things nobody else is doing, what causes would warrant your donations?  How would you use both your wealth and influence to shape the debate and draw attention to issues that were important to you?

Given that most of our bank accounts have considerably fewer zeros in them than Mr. Bloomberg's it is hard to fashion thoughts that are grand in stature.  But he isn't doing any of these projects himself; he is partnering with individuals, organizations and governments to achieve his goals.  

Maybe you can start something today that, even if it never becomes worthy of a billionaire's attention, can make an impact for the better on the world where that billionaire and you both live.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Bloomberg Unbound by Michael Scherer, Time magazine, October 21, 2013.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

#503 pick-up

I love stories about good customer service and smart business moves.  This one qualifies for both.

A colleague's day care center now offers families the option to pre-order fresh take-and-bake casseroles from the local restaurant.  They put in an order on Tuesday and on Thursday night pick up the pizza casserole or Mexican lasagna along with their kids.  What a perfect idea for busy families. Some families ordered multiple meals and found themselves all set for the weekend. It is billed directly to their day care account, so no messing with money or the incessant "what's for dinner?" question.

It works well for the eatery as it creates a new market on the other side of town, and exposes them to working families who are more likely to partake in fresh to-go meal options. It works for the center as they receive a percentage of the orders.  

Another delightful idea with this was the "tasting" night held at the day care center.  The restaurant served up samples of many of their dishes so that Moms could see if their children would like specific entrees.  It's hard to imagine that the Tater Tot Casserole wouldn't be a hit, but you could test out the stuffed shells Florentine, Santa Fe chicken or Teriyaki Salmon.  

What's the next step for the day care?  They are across the way from a dry cleaners -- could they work out a delivery service so it eliminated one more errand to run.  Could they add a cooler with a few convenience store basics to save an extra trip for milk?  Maybe they could add Doggie Daycare in addition to their children sitting services?

Kudos to these two businesses for working out a partnership that benefits all parties.  Think of the other places your clients are going and the money they are spending elsewhere.  Can you find ways to collaborate with these other vendors to benefit everyone?  Saving people time is a great loyalty builder.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

#502 invisible

Our local high school just opened a new football stadium that was renovated to the tune of $10.5 million.  It is as beautiful as you would expect it to be for that price.

My favorite part of the project is a larger-than-life statue of Jay Berwanger.  Who is he you ask?  Why he is the first Heisman Trophy winner and he went to school in none other than Dubuque, Iowa.  A replica of the trophy he won in 1935 has been out of the limelight in their indoor display case.  Now his likeness is prominently displayed at the entrance to the grand stadium, and a granite wall heralds his remarkable story.

The statue has only been there about six weeks, but already it has inspired the start of a new tradition.  As the football team enters the stadium, each of the players rubbed Berwanger's raised shoe.  Maybe they are hoping his talent will rub off on them as they tickle the bronze.  Maybe they are paying tribute to one of the game's greats.  Maybe they are just feeding into superstition and hoping for good luck for their team.

In the beginning, no one knows this movement is taking place unless you are there to witness it yourself.  But if this keeps up, at some point the statue's shoe will be golden -- just like Abraham Lincoln's nose on the capitol steps in Springfield or the Fala dog statue in FDR's monument in Washington, DC.  Traditions initially just happen, but over the course of years or decades the result of them becomes visible to all.

What movement is taking place (or could take place) in your organization that starts out small and invisible, but could gather momentum and gain a life of its own?  It is hard to force such rituals on people, but if you see the makings of one be sure to encourage it.  It is ties like this that create a tight community of shared experiences.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

#501 it's in the mail

I received a letter in the mail last week from an organization called "23 and Me."  It was intriguing enough for me to open it and learn that this company offers a Personal Genome Service.  For the low, low price of $99 (plus shipping, of course) I can receive a report on my DNA and ancestral history.

Is this a case of proactively managing your health -- or is it a case of TMI?  I wonder. While some information may lead to positive changes, other knowledge may just lead to anxiety over potential implications.  I will not be sending my sample to a lab!

But more so than the service they are offering, I was struck by the fact that this is an unknown company in California writing me about it.  It is just another example of how fragmented industries have become.  No longer are the medical and clinical laboratory services relegated to just the hospitals and doctors.  You can get your taxes done at Walmart or Sears. No longer do long-standing campuses have the monopoly on higher education.  Entertainment is now delivered by Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and dozens of other providers beyond the television networks.  

Think about a service you or your organization is providing and try to get past the stereotypical ways that your value is delivered.  Someone is delivering a DNA analysis through the mail, without a doctor's order.  It is a new day.  Is there a new market out there waiting for you?  

-- beth triplett

Monday, October 14, 2013

#500 toss a coin

It was Homecoming weekend on campus and both alums and reminiscing abounded.  One alum was showing her husband our library.  "This is where I sat at a table with five index cards," she said.  "Each one had a major written on it.  I tossed a coin and wherever it landed is what I was going to major in." 

I asked her what the outcome was.  "Sociology," she said. "And it has worked out well for me."

Sometimes we expend a lot of emotional energy and time agonizing over decisions.  At the end of the day, if we're choosing between a set of good alternatives tossing a coin may be just as effective as a way to end the angst.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, October 13, 2013

#499 second life

One more thought from the Black List referenced in yesterday's blog.  The ironic part about this project is not that 200 screenplays that weren't originally made into movies eventually were produced, but how the list is developed.

Think about it: 500 film executives -- who had these screenplays on their desk and rejected them -- those same people nominated them for the Black List as one of their favorites.  In other words, they were astute enough to see something in the screenplay that touched them, but chose not to shepherd the script through to production.  I'll bet the execs who had the Academy Award winner in their hand are kicking themselves for not taking a chance on it.

But think about some of the movies on the Black List -- they aren't exactly your typical fare. Slumdog Millionaire -- a poor teen in India plays a game show and wins?  The King of England overcomes a speech impediment through the help of an eccentric therapist?  

Do you have days where you act like the film executives and hear a good idea, but let it slip by you?  Is it because you aren't brave enough or strong enough to champion it?  Next time your gut is speaking to you, think about the Black List.  If you can't push it through the normal channels, can you at least help it have a second life in someone else's hands?

-- beth triplett

Saturday, October 12, 2013

#498 hidden treasure

In 2005, someone saw an opportunity to dig deeper.  Franklin Leonard surveyed 100 film industry experts about their favorite scripts that had not made into feature films.  He published the Black List and it took on a life of its own.  

Since its inception, over 200 Black List titles have been made into films, grossing over $16 billion worldwide.  Black List screenplays have won five of the last ten screenwriting Academy Awards.  They have won 25 Oscars, including two Best Pictures (The King's Speech and Slumdog Millionaire).  You may have heard of some of the other previously rejected works:  Juno, Life of Pi, the Blind Side, the Bucket List, the Kiterunner, Horrible Bosses, the Queen, the Proposal, Frost/Nixon, the Social Network.  Look at the list yourself at:

Today, Leonard surveys 500 film experts and receives an astonishing 60% return rate.  The list has become the go-to place for people to find great scripts and for scriptwriters to find producers.  Overall, it is a win-win for everyone, including the audiences.

Think about where you could look beyond the obvious and uncover a treasure trove of value for your organization.  There is a gallery in town that showcases art not selected for the primary venue.  Publishers could imitate the Black List for books.  The coach could recruit the second best guard or runner.  Schools could seek B students instead of only valedictorians.  Banks could take a chance on those not initially approved for credit.

Everyone wants the A-listers, but sometimes you have to create a list of your own to really find the treasures.

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Meg for sharing!

Friday, October 11, 2013

#497 gym dandy

A few months ago, I joined a gym for the first time.  As I watched the miracle of physical therapy strengthen my muscles over time, I got the crazy notion that perhaps that type of training may be good for parts beyond my shoulder.  

I was scared to death to walk into the place.  I had a preconceived notion that everyone there was fit, buff, strong and coordinated and that I would stand out like a sore thumb.  So I hired a personal trainer to teach me what the machines even were, let alone how to use them, and develop a routine that would help me instead of result in a return to physical therapy. 

Today as I go to the gym, I don't think twice about it. I realize that I fit in there as much as anyone else.  We are all in our grubby clothes.  We are all pushing ourselves in ways that cause facial contortions and sweat.  For the most part, we are oblivious to who else is there or what they are doing.  

I also realize that I never want to go to the gym.  But I go anyway and it always feels good to have gone. 

Getting started is often the hardest part.  Whether making that phone call to a trainer to arrange lesson one or today walking into the gym and sitting down at the first machine, there is often more angst in thinking about it than is warranted in actually doing it.

Building strength -- whether in muscles or in organizations -- requires sustained gradual effort over time.  Don't wait to lift that first weight.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, October 10, 2013

#496 a wonderful life

I was asked to write a few words in reflection about a colleague who is retiring.  When I thought about all of the student lives that he has touched and things he accomplished during his career, I wondered about the ramifications of his work.  Had one of his students gone out and started a worthwhile non-profit enterprise?  Had someone gone on to teach the student that eventually will become president?  Did his lessons shape the way another student parents his children?  Did a campus leader become a business leader and impact a community's economy?

I have often wished it were possible (without jumping off a bridge into the freezing water!) to show a "It's a Wonderful Life" view of other people's lives to them or to see one for myself.  I think most of us would be like George Bailey and be gratified by the ripple effect our lives have had and the impact we have made.  

There was recently a commentary about the movie by Entertainment Weekly film critic Owen Gleiberman*.  He writes:  "At the end, its official message is that George Bailey had a wonderful life because he made a difference in other people's lives.  The film's real message, however, is richer and deeper:  It's about how hard it is for all of us, like George, to see the magic of life as we're living it.  What George comes to realize is that even the things he took for granted or the things he didn't like (like that pesky banister knob that keeps coming off his stairway) are part of the the transcendent texture of the everyday."

I guess the lesson is that I should stop wishing for the movie and enjoy the live show.  Good advice for everyone!    

-- beth triplett

*Life Lessons in Real Simple, October 2013, p. 68

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

#495 party on purpose

Last week I was invited to a reception at an art gallery.  The invitation had a subtle reference to the corporate sponsor on the back of the announcement, but it was quite low key.  

The event itself was wonderful.  There was a live musical duet, great art and enough hors d'oeuvres to make a meal. 

But from an impact standpoint, it was a loser.  There was nothing on site that even hinted at who was sponsoring the event.  No banner.  No host at the door.  No corporate employees mingling with the crowd wearing nametags or organizational attire.  Zip.  Nada. Nothing.  What could have been a delightful way to say "thanks for being our client" was instead a lost opportunity.  

My advice:  never hold an event without an express purpose or call to action.  If you can't tell how your organization will benefit from hosting the gathering, you should call the caterer and cancel.  You'll get more bang for your buck by sending a box of donuts to the client's office instead.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

#494 lights, camera...

I recently read an article entitled "Fighting Crime with Technology."  It sounds like an admirable goal, until you read closer and learn that that much of "technology" means surveillance cameras.  In our town alone there are 250 cameras placed at intersections, with 47 more on order. What started as a way to monitor traffic flow has become ubiquitous monitoring, recording life on the street 24/7 with some streams even shown as live feed into the call center.  

The cameras will undoubtedly capture snippets of your life, but what if one was focused only on you for 24 hours or a week?  What would they learn?  Think about how much "better" you might behave if you knew someone was watching what you ate, if you buckled down at work or shopped via your computer, whether or not you exercised, the way you treated other people and how you used your time.  What would your 24 hour video say about your values and dreams?

In a way, we are all being monitored 24/7.  Someone is always interacting with our organization or seeing part of our legacy.  You don't need Big Brother to be watching to be your best self.  Just pretend the camera is on and be a star in your own show.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Fighting Crime with Technology by Alicia Yager, Telegraph Herald, October 6, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

#493 shared lessons

It's not everyday that I can read my email in the morning and start out with a smile, but it happened recently when someone shared the following post:

How nice to be recognized for making a difference in ways that I didn't even know.  

Matt's blog entry referenced my #313 as the entry that woke him up.  I had to go back and figure out which one that was!  (I have re-posted it below for your convenience.)  In addition to Matt, I had several others tell me that the wet towel analogy helped them, or they thought it was about them, or it somehow resonated with what they needed to learn.

The ironic thing about that entry was that I wrote it about myself -- I was very upset about something (that I can't even remember now) and I knew if I shared it, others would be sucked into my drama.  So I waited a day and then we addressed the topic without fanfare and moved on.

Today's lesson:  if you have something good to share about someone, make the time to do it now.  A shout out on a blog, a quick email, a personal note or a "hey, thanks" go a long way in refueling someone's spirit and energy.  But if your message is laden with emotion and negative karma that will detract from the core of what you're trying to communicate, then waiting until tomorrow will be just fine.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

#313 wet towel

When someone gets all worked up about something, the temptation is often to share their emotions with the first person around.  Many times this plays out like someone vomiting in a cartoon -- the words just blather out and spew all over the listener.  The original party may feel better, but those who were the recipient of the sharing now have the burden of dealing with the emotions as well.  

Like a stain on their shirt, they may choose to ignore it, but it is there nonetheless.*  More often than not, they don't/can't/won't forget it is there, so the time and emotional energy invested in the issue multiplies.  

It most instances, everyone would be better off if the original speaker allowed for an element of time to pass before sharing.  Time has the ability to decompress emotion and put things into a much more reasoned perspective.  Think of emotion as water being soaked up by a towel. Time is equivalent to ringing out the water, so that the towel may be easily passed on to another without fanfare or incident.  If you hand someone a soaking wet towel, all the attention turns to dealing with the water rather than the towel.  If you have let the emotion pass through, the actual issue may be addressed.

Next time you're tempted to vent or insert drama into a situation, ask yourself if you really need to hand off the towel while it is soaking wet or whether everyone would be better off if you waited a bit before doing so.  I'll bet you know the right answer.

-- beth triplett

*see Blog #230

Sunday, October 6, 2013

#492 pumping prices

The pricing of gasoline has always bemused me.  Why has the practice continued of posting the per gallon price with 9/10th increments,  as if $3.50 9/10ths isn't really $3.51/gallon?  I am also curious as to why vendors still post the prices for standard grade fuel.  I guess I should be glad because it keeps the playing field level.  Almost instantaneously, every station in town shows the same price for unleaded, and drivers can pull into whichever station is most convenient for them.  

Unfortunately, my car requires premium gas.  Of course this adds to the expense of driving, but it also adds to the time it takes to purchase gas.  Why?  Because, unlike with the standard grade where prices are posted, the price for premium gas varies widely by station since it is not emblazoned on the sign.  The same station is not always the cheapest either, so each time I need to fill up I need to check whether the upcharge is 30, 40 or 50 cents more per gallon or ask Gas Buddy where I should go that day.

It makes me wonder how things would be different if the price of other things were posted outside the store.  If there was full transparency would shampoo or jeans or diapers be cheaper?  Why don't pharmacies put in digital display their cost for insulin or Advil or beer?  

The pricing of gas and the sharing of those prices is a legacy from days gone by that the industry has perpetuated.  There may even be a law requiring the per gallon cost be publicized.  Your organization, too, may continue its practice of heralding the cost of your main item or loss leader.  But as a consumer, it's best to look beyond the billboard and ascertain the true cost to you.  It's easy to for everyone to look the same on the sign, but the true cost may guzzle funds right out of your wallet.

-- beth triplett