Archive for September, 2009

Thousands of authors, poets, philosophers, life coaches, psychologists, sales trainers and more have been written about and lectured on the power of our “inner dialogue”.  I agree with all of these thinkers. We can train our minds just like we train our bodies. We have to consistently remind ourselves that we create and own the outcomes of our lives. In business, “mind set equals market share”. We need to free ourselves from the constraints of negativity and embrace a more positive, creative, and repeatable action plan that guides us toward financial and personal fulfillment.

Heard this all before? Are you bored yet?

Sometimes even great words lose meaning when we hear them too much or fail to incorporate them into our daily habits. They become noise rather than nuggets of wisdom. So, let’s have some fun today. Let me tell you about my morning to add perspective and hopefully, some value for all of my readers.

“Oh no, heeeeere we go!

I woke up and visited my daily checklist. The first task that I felt compelled to put on paper was taking my car to the shop. The “check engine” light has been on for a long time and I needed to get it looked at, both for vehicle safety and because I can’t be issued a registration sticker without passing emissions testing. I also needed some brake work.

“This might leave a mark!”

So I took the car to the shop and was surprised to find out that my key contact, who promised to give me a great deal, was on vacation and would not be back for a week. I explained my connection and “VIP status” to a barely-English speaking mechanic, and I’m not sure he got my point. Chances are good that the repair estimate will be much higher now. Bummer, but I’ll speak with the owner later.


I left the car and walked a mile back to my house, only to realize that I was locked out. My keys were still on the key ring in the ignition. Fortunately, because it’s a beautiful day here in Boston I left my windows open to get some great fresh air circulating through the house. I also had a ladder under my back porch. Solution: break into the house and revisit the checklist. Lots to accomplish today.

“Urge to kill growing!”

Not so fast. As I ascended the ladder, a neighbor, who lived a block away and didn’t recognize me, threatened to call the police and made a big, loud scene.  It took me and several other neighbors (who were drawn over by the commotion) ten minutes to convince her of my identity and homeowner status. Crisis averted.

“Double D’OH!!”

I got back on the ladder and promptly fell off, landing in a not-so-pleasant way on my head and shoulder. It was a short drop and I’m fine (thanks for wondering). I tried again and was successful. So here I am, writing about my ordeal while I wait for the mechanic to call me back with his diagnosis about the car.

“Goshdarndiddly, it sure is a wonderful day!”

Most people would say that this morning absolutely sucked.  I admit, I’m only human and the notion did cross my mind (hence the subtitles). But here’s my spin.

  • My car will soon be safe and legal.
  • I got some much needed exercise.
  • I had an opportunity to try out my high school Spanish
  • I was complimented on my pronunciations (if not the vocabulary)
  • I made a new friend in the neighborhood.
  • People are watching my house.
  • I have a very hard head protecting a still functioning brain.
  • I need to bring the ladder inside so nobody else breaks in.
  • My “ordeal” was really an opportunity to share and teach.
  • I was inspired to write this blog post.
  • People will smile and laugh when they discuss my adventure.
  • I don’t feel at all angry, miserable or unfortunate.

I encourage everyone to think of this post when adversity strikes. You do control how you react to and learn from external circumstances. You really can make lemonade out of lemons. Today, and every day, when you feel that “woe is me” is the only option, try “WOW is me!” instead. See if it makes a difference in your life and work.

Many thanks to Chris Farley (RIP), Homer Simpson, Stewie Griffin and of course, Ned Flanders, for allowing me to borrow some of their work for my subtitles.


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For those who are seeking elective office these days, social media is all the rage.

Candidates are rushing to build Facebook and Twitter followings to facilitate fundraising and volunteer recruitment. Combined with personal calls, “Robocalls”, street signs, traditional media, networking events, e-newsletters, direct mail and old fashioned “shoe leather”, they see social media as another important communication tool at their disposal. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that very few politicians understand what makes social media effective, and I have yet to see a single campaign utilize Web 2.0 “best practices” to maximize results. I contend that those candidates who finally “get it”, and make the commitment to execute properly, will gain a huge competitive advantage over their opponents.

So, why would politicians not use a potentially winning resource to its fullest potential? Here are five reasons.

1. This is still relatively new.

I’ll start by cutting everyone some slack. There is clearly a learning curve that needs to sort itself out. I don’t expect politicians to “get” the nuance of social media right away. Social media can be counter-intuitive at times, and if you haven’t studied it, your traditional mind set will set up barriers to exploration and discovery.

2. Experienced Consultants

Most candidates consult with “experts” who have run successful campaigns before. This makes sense–go with what has worked in the past. Unfortunately, the internet was not around during the Eisenhower Administration, so that “seasoned” consultant may not even know how to check email, let alone plan and implement a social media strategy. This is not a knock on veteran campaigners–they are still critical–it’s just that non-traditional communications need to be approached in a way that is foreign to them. It’s a different strategic process.

3. Time Sensitivity

Many campaigns get off to a late start. A non-candidate often pull papers when he or she sees an opportunity. This adds to the urgency of building a volunteer “army” and raising money. Consequently, the goals of all communication efforts are focused on these necessities. When the goals are limited, the action plan is limited. Building, nurturing and engaging a following over time through commonly accepted Web 2.0 “best practices”– target audience research, personal interactions, great content, humor, etc.–becomes difficult at best. There is simply not enough time to do it right, so candidates invariably become broadcasters and salespeople rather than participants and value providers.

4. It’s all about “ME”!

Social media has been referred to as a giant cocktail party. People will follow you if they think you add value to the conversation and are “real”. Do you want to make friends with the guy at the cocktail party who introduces himself, hands out a business card and immediately asks you to buy his stuff? Of course not. But that’s exactly what politicians are doing on Twitter and Facebook right now. “Look at my photos…Donate to my campaign…Hold my signs…Make some calls for me…Tell all your friends…Join my followers…It’s all about  ME!” This is just as obnoxious as the guy at the party–and exclusively self-centered social media approaches will only alienate prospective voters in the long run.

5. Resources

Even though it’s free to start, effective social media takes time, commitment, strategy, creativity and expertise. Most politicians are understandably event focused and time constrained. They delegate or subcontract specific duties to volunteers and paid consultants. Budgets and staffs are often limited, but candidates want to get on board with this new marketing phenomenon somehow. Unfortunately, tasking interns to broadcast their every move on Facebook is a poor substitute for a fully integrated social media campaign.

Free advice to political candidates

Given “the nature of the beast”, some broadcasting will always be necessary. With that said, it’s clearly time for a mind set change. While traditional campaigning still works, social media efforts, planned and implemented properly, will yield tangible results–money, volunteers, “trust” and votes. So bite the bullet, even if it’s out of your own pocket and the election is right around the corner. Hire Web 2.0 experts. Work with them and try to understand the key strategic differences between old and new marketing.  If your message is compelling and you are perceived as a decent human being, the return on investment will be astronomical.

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Ah, the cry of the Twitter newbie! I’ve heard it several times now. At first, I just smiled and offered some basic tips; but when I thought about it for a while, I saw some deeper relevance.

Where are you going? That’s a really important question to ask yourself or your company before you start “tweeting”.

Are you on Twitter just to see how it works? Are you just scouting the competition? Are you hyping a new product or service? Are you running for office or conducting personal promotion? Do you want to focus on events only? Do you have a target audience in mind? Is your company special in any way? How do you want your “brand” to be perceived? Are you willing to “engage” or are you just planning to “broadcast”. (I don’t recommend the latter, by the way.) What “value” do you bring to the table?

In short, why are you doing this at all? You must be able to answer that question with some degree of specificity or you will waste precious time and resources on a long, winding road to nowhere.

Social media is revolutionizing the marketing business. I believe it’s one of the greatest tools currently available for both B2B and B2C communications. But without strategic planning and careful tactical implementation, “Web 2.0” is far from a panacea. In fact, you can do a lot of damage to your company or brand if you don’t use this powerful medium correctly.

So whether you’re thinking of using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube or any of the others, take the time to first ask yourself what exactly you’re trying to accomplish and why it would benefit your target audience. Focusing on the “what?” and “why?” will help you choose the “how?”. It will limit the parameters of your social media policy, prevent costly mistakes and increase the overall effectiveness and efficiency of your campaign.

Like kids who always ask “why?”, Twitter newbies sometimes say the “darnedest” (and, however unwittingly, “profoundest”) things!

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If you Google search “dog books” today, you’ll come up with 718,000 hits. Variations on key words jack that number up into the millions. There has always been a strong connection between dogs and humans, and the internet is now visited by most Americans, so the numbers are no surprise. More and more books are covering all things canine, TV shows like “Dog Whisperer” and movies like “Marley” are smash hits and the human fascination with the lovable pooch seems to be intensifying. I share that fascination with most of America and, close friends and family excluded, I truly believe that I like dogs more than people!

Now, before you start thinking I’m “out there” on this issue, let me just provide some clarification. I am not some kind of puppy pundit. I do have a life and I’m not crazy. I don’t see or treat dogs as “little people” and I will never use one as a fashion accessory (sorry Paris, it’s obnoxious!). I know what I know about dogs not through books* but through a lifetime of experience, and I have a few opinions on why my interactions have been as positive as they have.

First, some history. As an only child, dogs were the closest things to siblings that I had from birth until my early 30’s. I had two great pals, Scamper, who was a puppy when I was an infant, and Brandy, who immediately replaced Scamper. Each was a “mutt” who lived to be about 16 or 17. Both were loyal, friendly, obedient and playful. I still miss them and it’s been years since the latter died.

Due to my schedule, I’ve never owned a dog other than these family pets, but I will always be grateful to my parents for bringing them into my life. There were, however, several other dogs who had an impact on my “dogs vs. people” outlook . Here’s one quick story. I was doing real estate and sold a house to a couple who had an adorable yellow lab puppy. The transaction was difficult and the listing broker was a dope, but “Lukas” was always there to lift my spirits. I couldn’t stay angry or frustrated with him in the room. After the closing, I told the couple that if they ever needed a sitter, I would be happy to help out. Today, thirteen years later, I remain the only person who has ever watched Lukas for the family. Either I really love dogs or I absolutely define the term “full service broker”! (Believe me, it’s the former.)

Some of my friends’ and neighbors’ dogs also left an impression. In New Jersey, there was Duster I and II, Porsche, Viper, Shauna, Kujo, Buck and Wendy. Here in Mass, there was Niki, Honey (a nasty, snippy “rodent dog” who I “Dr. Philled” back to normal in about 10 minutes), Sadie, Captain, Pooh, LuLu, Whitey (a black lab, go figure), Simba and more. Before leash laws, if my neighbors couldn’t find their dogs, they would call me first before panicking. More often than not, I had a visitor!

So what is it that has made 99.9% of my experiences with dogs so great over the last four (plus) decades? And why is it that, even though I generally enjoy human interaction, this likability index drops dramatically when applied to people? If you love dogs, you probably already know the answers. Here’s my “doggy dozen”:

  1. Dogs “love” unconditionally.
  2. They’re always happy to see you.
  3. They sense that you like them and like you back right away, so making “friends” with a dog is almost never a long ordeal.
  4. They don’t carry grudges.
  5. They are always “there” for you when you’re having a bad day.
  6. If you know how to behave as an owner, they are easily trainable and maintain great dispositions forever.
  7. They are content to just hang out with you for hours at a time without bugging you about anything other than food, water and nature calls.
  8. They don’t over-analyze anything.
  9. They don’t nag you or whine incessantly about a bad day at the office.
  10. They make you smile when you normally wouldn’t.
  11. They are consistent.
  12. They watch your house, and your back.

As I mentioned, there are thousands of publications, videos, movies and personal anecdotes about dogs–so clearly this is not a comprehensive list. I’m sure you could add many more reasons to celebrate their existence. Feel free to post your own “doggy dozen” in my comments section!

* “Soul of a Dog” by Jon Katz is a great book and bestseller. I highly recommend it.

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Politics. It’s an ugly word in social media circles. All the so-called “gurus” advise against talking about it.

Too controversial. You could alienate your friends and prospects. Neck and neck with religion, it is the topic to avoid at cocktail parties. Keep everything positive. Be nice. Show people you care about them. Provide value…I get it already!

But some of us who really care think decisions made and actions taken by elected (and appointed) officials are extremely relevant, not only to our business and personal lives but also to those of our children and grandchildren. If that is indeed true, why is the subject really taboo? Are we “burying our heads in the sand” to avoid confrontation?  Are we too busy to become sufficiently interested and informed? Are we so alienated by “government” in general that we see no difference between the parties? Is losing a current client or prospect more important than losing a future?

Admittedly, I’m a political junkie, but I am also a business consultant, real estate broker, homeowner and taxpayer. I’m single and have no kids, but most of my friends are married or divorced parents. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that politics matters to us, and it probably should to you as well. Every day, it impacts our income, health, safety and overall quality of life–and it will continue to do so indefinitely.

Now, more than ever, there are significant differences between mainstream political parties and candidates in the US. To ignore these differences and hope for the best is both naive and dangerous. Are you immune to political outcomes? If you’d prefer a middle ground to an extreme, shouldn’t you let that be known? Don’t you want to be heard? Our choices today will affect us for decades to come. We’d better choose wisely.

In a way, the recent economic downturn and associated rancor has been good for the country. It has opened a dialogue on the role of government in a free and democratic society. It has sparked discussions about liberty, the Constitution, the plight of the poor, business and governmental ethics and many other important issues. For a former political science major who writes a blog called “The Bigger Picture”, this is good news!

The bad news is that as ideological gaps widen, the level of participation increases and an already heated dialogue intensifies. In such an environment, political passion tends to overtake logical debate. This is where I agree with the social media experts who caution me about mixing business and politics on Facebook, Twitter and other venues. Screaming louder won’t solve anything. Personal attacks are both petty and counterproductive. I will lose you if you think I’m a total jerk!

I contend, however, that there is a relatively “safe zone” when it comes to discussing politics via social media. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Socialists, Communists–labels don’t matter in this context. Here’s what does:

  1. Be polite.
  2. Be calm.
  3. Listen.
  4. Be prepared.
  5. Don’t take it personally.
  6. Disagree respectfully.
  7. Find some common ground (if at all possible).
  8. Part as friends (or at least don’t shoot each other!).

I understand that this is a difficult task, especially when diametrically opposed viewpoints collide. If both sides agree to all of the rules, however, it’s the only possible way to successfully mix the “oil and water” called politics and social media.

I would never recommend a focus on politics for my business clients–it’s quite obvious that they should concentrate on their core missions and value propositions. If, on the other hand, a political discussion becomes relevant to their company, customers or community, I would hope that they would feel empowered to express themselves in both a compelling and civil manner.

Taking a stand on key political issues via social media is clearly dangerous in a business sense, but absolutely critical to “The Bigger Picture”.

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One of my ex girlfriends used to speak in cliches. It was irritating and it certainly contributed to our break up, (well, that and the dead bunny…but I’ll spare the details). I mean, really, she could string ten or twelve together without breathing or blinking. Pretty creepy, now that I think about it.

I definitely have to thank her though. (And for the purpose of this piece, I’ll just give her a fictitious name…let’s say… “Glenn Close”). One of her favorite expressions was: “Talk what you know!” I used to find that annoying, especially since I always knew what I was talking about, “Glenn” never did, and she fell back on the cliche to extricate herself from a hopeless, no-win discussion.

But, since I started blogging, I’ve been searching for creative inspiration and this particular personality quirk has lit the proverbial light bulb. I knew there had to be a legitimate reason for me to have dated “Glenn Close”–it just took me a couple of decades to figure it out!

“Talk what you know!”

If you’re with me on Twitter or Facebook, you know I that I pay attention to and comment on politics. I’m often reprimanded by “followers” and “social media gurus” who think it’s inappropriate, mean-spirited or “not in keeping with Web 2.0 best practices”. I understand their point and try to keep my “rants” substantive and polite so I don’t alienate friends or prospective clients.

But every once in a while, (and it has become more frequent as our national debates intensify), someone wants to either argue with me or add supportive talking points “for” me in a public forum, like a Facebook “wall”. To this ensemble of well-intentioned allies, pseudo-intellectuals, amateur comedians and, I’m sorry to be so blunt, total whack jobs, I say: “Talk What You Know”!

If you’re “on my side” and post a publicly viewable, curse-filled short story, complete with 72 misspellings and no supportive data, you’re not helping. Save the babble for your own “wall”! If you want to argue with me, keep to the point, address the subject at hand and try not to spew venom toward me or the referenced “talking head” or political figure.

“Talk what you know!”

If you want to fight about, say, pending legislation, please read it first. If you want to tell me what a jerk I am, please do it privately and back it up with some substance. If you want to make a joke at my expense or criticize another “wall” contributor via comedy, make sure you’re actually funny!

“Talk what you know!”

On Twitter, if you are “tweeting” about “SEO” and you don’t even know what the acronym means, you might want to reconsider. Focus on your area of expertise and provide real value, not “smoke and mirrors”. You will eventually be exposed and “unfollowed” if you ignore this advice! And, (this is one of my favorites), using ALL CAPS does not mean you’re any smarter than the next “twit”.

“Talk what you know!”

I could go on, but you get my point. Whether we agree or disagree, like or dislike each other, a good discussion, opinion exchange or argument must be grounded in fact. Why do you believe what you believe? Prove the flaws in my position. Show me what influenced you when you formed your opinion. I’m a reasonable person…maybe you’ll persuade me…but I’m staying right where I am unless you “talk what you know”.

Thanks for the inspiration, “Glenn”. All is forgiven (except for the bunny)!

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