Saturday, October 30, 2004

Two Goofy Halloween Jokes?

Halloween is just around the corner, so here are two "jokes" I made up (I think I did anyway) last week.

Who is Frankenstein's favorite actor?

John Tra-BOLT-a.

What is Dracula's favorite sport?


Oh yeah, and one more thing...BOO!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Lament the Mental

Are you wondering what the title of this posting means? Am I suggesting that we should feel sorry for those who are have lower than average IQs (while using a politically incorrect term)? Is it some kind of code? A riddle? Think about it for a moment.....okay.....keep thinking.....

Did you figure it out? If it made you think, then the title had its intended effect. What I'm trying to say is that it is important to stretch your brain. Puzzles are a great way to do this, that's why the title contains an anagram.

Take some time to find what stretches your brain. I often wish I worked with people who weren't so opposed to original thought. A typical exchange at work goes something like this.

Friendly Co-worker: "Why did you do that?"

Me: "I thought it made sense."

Friendly Co-worker: "They don't pay you to think"

I cringe on the inside everytime this happens. Normally I'll just smile and continue on with what I was doing. What I would really like do though is say something like:

"Of course they pay me to think, and they pay you to think too. Do you really think the boss wants you to go to him everytime you are faced with a decision? You probably make hundreds of decisions each day, all of which require some level of thought. If they didn't pay you to think anybody could do your job, and I mean anybody. You have to admit that they do pay you to think now, don't you?"

Next time that's what I will say, I think.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

"The Apprentice?"

I'm watching The Apprentice tonight. I enjoy the show because I believe it's important to glean information from successful people whenever I can. That doesn't mean I agree with everything Donald Trump says, or his demeanor, or any other number of things. I cannot, however, deny his successes, so I'll take what I can get.

There was one thing said that struck me as being a little bit off target. The bow tie wearing Raj made this remark after meeting Michael Bloomberg, the current mayor of New York City. He said "Knowledge is power, and power is a gift that can never be taken away from you". Here are my thoughts on that comment.

First of all, knowledge is not power; applied knowledge is. There are people who have all kinds of knowledge, but still they may lead lives of quiet desperation.

Next, I would have to say that power is usually not a gift, but something that is earned, or won. It is also worth noting that power can be taken away from you. In fact, it happens all the time. People can have too much pride, and fall from grace.

Finally, I think it's important to distinguish between power and leadership. They are not synonymous, but people often confuse the two. Power can sometimes derive from coercion, real leadership never does.

If I were to have a chance to re-write the quote it would go something like this: "Applied knowledge is earned and becomes a gift when it evolves into leadership, and that is something that cannot be taken from you". I know it's a bit wordy, but let's just consider it a first draft ;)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

My Favorite Quote (For now anyway)

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying." Woody Allen

Sunday, October 17, 2004

An Overview Of Constructive Criticism

There is a long-standing rule among self-help authors, gurus, and speakers that basically says "don't criticize". Our mothers put it another way. "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". I would have to agree that most of the time this is a rule worth adhering to, but there is an exception to every rule.

Here are a few guidelines I try to follow when being critical is necessary.

1. The benefit of the criticism must outweigh the initial negative impact of that criticism.

2. The criticism must be beneficial to the person being criticized.

3. The criticism cannot be for the benefit of my ego.

4. It must be done in private.

5. The reason for the criticism should be made clear.

6. The benefit of change also has to be stressed.

7. Ask the question: "Do I need to be critical, or do I really need clarification?".

8. Be polite about it, but at the same time be direct.

9. Last but not least, ask the question: "Does this really matter?"

Once again I will not claim I'm perfect in sticking to these guidelines, but I think they are as close to the ideal for criticism as I'm likely to get.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Food For Thought (Please excuse the cliche)

Quick Note: What follows is to be considered tongue-in-cheek. ;D

Thank you Dr. Atkins, for causing me new levels of paranoia. I have a sweet tooth, I mean sugar in all of its refined glory is my drug of choice. Up until a few years ago this was, at most, a cause of light-hearted ridicule; easy enough to take in stride. Those days are gone, for now.

Now when I eat my sweets (up to four snacks during my two breaks at work alone) I no longer feel the ridicule is so light-hearted. In fact I would have to say I get looked at by people on low-carb diets like I am evil incarnate. This does not make me angry, but I do have to laugh inside sometimes. After all, I do not try to push my dietary habits on them.

Before you think I have lost my ability to be positive, let me say there is one great advantage: When someone brings in doughnuts, treats, or cake for their birthday, I get bigger servings! Also, just because the low-carbers at work won't eat sweets, doesn't mean I won't eat high fat, high protein, low carb food.

I have developed a somewhat witty reply to those who ask "Aren't you on a low-carb diet?". Now I look them in the eye and say, "The only way I'll ever be on a low-carb diet is if I hold my triple chocolate doughnut closer to the floor". That's usually good for a few laughs.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Monday, Monday

Today being Monday meant going back to work for another week. One thing that separates me from the majority of my co-workers is my approach to Mondays. I personally think I may drive people nuts, but I do it intentionally.

First of all, I make it a point to greet each person by name with a cheerful "Good morning". The reaction I get is fairly typical: "Yeah! What's so good about it? It's Monday". The response almost has the underlying message that I must have forgotten which day of the week it really is. I know. However, if someone asks me what's so good about it, I tell them. After rattling off three to five things I'm happy about they typically roll their eyes and walk away.

Second of all, I never ask "How was your weekend?" Too often this leads to a list of the bad things that happened, missed opportunities, or some other complaints. Of course I still want to know how their weekend was, but I ask a different way. Usually it is something like a casual "So, what was the highlight of your weekend?" This automatically shifts their thinking, and I can hear about the fun they had, instead of all the bad.

My whole intent is not to irritate, but rather to help change the mood at work from one of "Oh no! Not another Monday" to one of "It's a fresh week, let's see what we can do". When that happens it benefits everybody.

This leads me to thinking of other questions to ask, or not ask, to elicit more positive responses. To come up with those, all I have to do is ask myself the right question.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

A Brief Description of the Elements of Social Success

Before someone can determine whether or not they are successful in the social realm; they have to be able to define two things: 1) What defines 'social', and 2) what is success within that definition.

Here then, are my brief thoughts on the elements of social success.

1. Self - This means you. You have to be comfortable with yourself before you can be truly comfortable with others. Therefore success in this area would have to, at the very least, include being happy with yourself.

2. Family - These would be people related to you through blood or law. In theory, they have to love you no matter how much you screw-up. In reality though, they may resent you when you do well, and gloat when you do poorly. Success here I think would include having loving, non-judgmental relationships.

3. Community - Includes people outside the family group that you have direct contact with: Friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and neighbors all fall into this group. There are many different levels of interaction in this broad group. That makes defining success a little more difficult. Perhaps the best definition would be a steady improvement of each relationship over time.

4. World - People that fall outside of the other three groups fall into this category. In my opinion it is more difficult to achieve success in the 'world' category than 'community', but it can be easier to measure the impact on those outside your community. Making small changes for the greater good, contributing to charity, and volunteering are good indicators of success here.

In the social, as in all areas of success, success has to some degree be self-defined. I am not as much of a success as I'd like to be in any of the above four groups, but I'm actively trying to improve on them.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

3 Options For Ruts

"Sick of being stuck in a rut, are ya?" I rhetorically asked myself during my morning commute today. That got me to thinking about some different options for handling being stuck in a rut. I came up with the following three ways.

1. Change your actions. I've read this concept somewhere before, but the actual source does not come to mind. In the example of going to work, this concept suggests that you change your route to work. Driving through a predominantly rural area, my past attempts at this method have been mediocre.

On the plus side, I have discovered some beautiful scenery, and learned more about the surrounding areas. The downside to this has usually been getting to work late, and then having to explain to my less than sympathetic boss about the "benefits" of getting out of my rut.

2. Stay put. That's right, stay in your rut. It may not be something you'll read in any success book, but it is a definite option. After all, there may be valid reason for certain ruts. I drive to work the same way each morning because it's the fastest way to get there.

Other ruts may fall into this category, too. Like giving my wife a kiss goodbye in the morning, and saying "I love you", or buying popcorn at the movies. (And no I'm not trying to say the two are equivalent to each other; I'm trying to make a point).

3. Change your re-actions. This is more of a middle of the road approach, but the one I prefer. Yes, I may be in a rut on my morning commute. Changing my way to work is not the best choice, and staying in the rut probably isn't the best either. So the third and best choice for me is to simply change the mental part of the rut.

In other words, controlling my reactions to a rut makes the rut virtually disappear.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Quick Thought - Man vs. Animal

Humans are the only creatures who can consciously reduce stress.

I once had a discussion with my brother about what separates animals from humans. It seemed for each thing I brought up he had a counter-point.

Then a few days ago a difference dawned on me; animals cannot not consciously control stress. They may, with training, be able to supress impulses, but that is not the same thing.

Of course animals are not exposed to the same self-imposed stresses as we humans are. If they were, perhaps over time animals would develop stress reduction techniques as well.

Granted, there were many, many points I tried to make: Animals can't plan for the future. Humans explore beyond their surroundings. Animals don't compete for the sake of competition. There were several more in this vein, but my brother had a counter-point for each one.

I can't wait to talk to him, and let him know that I came up with another one.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

Sure this was a #1 song for Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams, but let's take a look at each of the three elements that make up the title and see how they apply to success.

Too Much
People often refer to "paying a price" for success. Usually they mean that if you focus too much on one area of your life (work for example) then the other areas will suffer (like relationships). I couldn't agree more.

Moderation is the key here. There of course are times when you have to focus more than you may like on a certain area; while that is normal, it shouldn't become the norm.

Too Little
On the other hand, it is possible to do too little. How much effort each person puts into achieving success is up to them. If you are going to give a half-hearted effort, or be lazy, then at least don't begrudge those who do make an all out effort.

Too Late
As people get older there can be a tendency to start thinking that it's getting too late to start trying. Or, in the realm of finances people may wish they had gotten in on a hot stock when it was first issued. Any number of scenarios like these can take place in any of the six success areas.

Don't fall for that trap. Is it ever too late? Maybe. But I can guarantee the effort alone will re-invigorate you, and you will a spark again.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Basic Ideas About Success - Honesty

1. Be honest.

Lying for personal gain is always counter-productive in the long run. Why? Because truth is the foundation upon which our dealings with others are built.

Being a person of your word is a vital element to success. In the words of William Shakespeare: "The good I stand on is my truth and honesty".

Success is not achieved entirely by yourself. On your way to success you will undoubtedly be aided by other people. If you are not honest you will only create feelings of bitterness toward any success you achieve in spiteof any dishonesty.

How does this impact my life? Well, to be honest ;) I have a lot of work to do in this area. I feel it is easier to be objective than it is to be honest.

What really surprises is that sometimes the truth would really not be any harder to tell. So...what is the first step to shifting to a more honesty centered self? My thought is that recognizing the lie and correcting right away is crucial.

I'm not saying I lie all the time, but what I would like to do is be even more honest. Who wouldn't?