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Things that upset a terrier may pass virtually unnoticed by a Great Dane.” – Smiley Blanton

 

The living areas in our home have wood floors and area rugs.  I didn’t pay attention when I noticed annie, our Toy Fox Terrier, avoiding the wood floors: it was cold and perhaps she was warmer standing on an area rug.  However, when instead of her usual mad dash to her dinner plate, she lingered on the family room rug—I realized it was more than a chilly floor.

Annie

Annie

Something has gotten between her ears.  For some reason—perhaps she slipped and fell—she is frightened of the wood floors.  You can see her calculating how to maneuver from one area to the next.  To get to the kitchen, she will run from the family room rug to one under a game table: only to realize she is further away.  Then she will return to the family room rug and continue her deliberations.  When tempted with food, she will bark, spin and pant as she tries to decide how to get to it without stepping on a wood floor.  Eventually, the prospect of food outweighing her fear, she will brave the wood floor and receive her reward.

Annie is baffled by the hallways.  The hall between the dining and living room is dangerous but the one from the dining room to the kitchen is not.  Coming through the front door she rushes to the dining room rug; from there through the “good” hallway, to the mat in front of the kitchen sink; then to the rug under the breakfast table; and finally, to the utility room and her dinner dish.  With a pause to build courage at each stop,  the process is hilarious to watch.

Annie is not the only one to be afflicted by thoughts she can’t get rid of.  It happened to me on the golf course.  A couple of months ago I began to slice short-iron shots.  After some thought, I realized not turning my shoulders occasioned the problem; so I became conscious of making a good shoulder turn.  Last week I met my buddies on the first tee and foregoing any warm up, proceeded to play well for the first three holes.  Then it happened.  I was hitting a sand wedge, when in the middle of my back swing, I wondered if I was turning my shoulders.  At that point I should have quit, gone to the clubhouse and ordered a beer—stick a fork in me, I was done.  Like Annie and the floors, the thought was between my ears and it wasn’t going away.

The fear of failure can deter someone from undertaking a new venture.  I have an acquaintance who hates his job.  He moans about his boss, pay, hours and lack of advancement.  He has written a plan and has funding lined for a new business.  However, he fears the possibility of failure more than he hates his job, so he continues to bemoan his circumstance.  He doesn’t recognize the misery accruing from failure couldn’t be much worse than the unhappiness he is enduring.  

The mindset that there is just one way a job can be done, discourages innovation. There was a mechanic in my sheet metal shop who always found a reason not to use a new fabricating machine.  One night, using a length of chain and a padlock, I made the old machine inoperable, forcing him to use the new device.  After a couple of days of muttering, he thanked me for making his job easier.  

Once a negative thought gets “between the ears,” it’ can be erased through action: if you believe something is dangerous, fix it; beat a problem with practice; list what you believe may be the consequences of failure; and resolve to innovate.

With time, I hope Annie will  no longer fear our wood floors.  As for my golf swing, if I get over the shoulder turn thought, it will be something else: grip, stance, alignment—always something—but that’s golf.

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I was always late. My mother would ask me to do something and I would answer, “In a minute.” She would exclaim, “I’ll be on my deathbed, drawing my last breath, they’ll call and your answer will be ‘In a minute.” 

I have a friend who habitually boarded flights at the last minute. A few years ago, in response to a page he picked up a terminal phone.  When he identified himself, he was asked, “Do you own a 1998 blue Mercedes Benz?” He responded he did and the man on phone inquired, “Do you have your car keys?” After searching his pockets, my friend replied “No. why?” The man responded, “I didn’t think so, since your car is still running in front of the terminal.” Late to catch his flight, he pulled up to the terminal and left the car running. He now allows plenty of time to catch a plane.

I had a boss who held weekly staff meetings at six-thirty in the morning. I would awaken an hour before the meeting and rush to be on time—only to sit and wait for a habitually late employer.  It was obvious he did not consider our time to be of value.  Thinking about how I was treated, I realized my habitual tardiness demonstrated a disregard of others and resolved to make an effort to be on time.

We have many ways keeping time: wrist and pocket watches, alarm clocks, clocks on our computers, automated calendars and clocks on our cell phones. We measure time: the length of a ball game, the time it takes to bake a cake and how long to go from A to B. We record time: the hour and minute the plane struck the World Trade Center, the time of birth and the time of death. We talk about time: when it snowed, the year our team won the national championship and the last time we were together. Perhaps we are obsessed with time because we don’t know how much we have.

Since time is limited and more cannot be obtained, it is a person’s most valuable possession.  When shared, it is a gift to be treated with respect and received with gratitude. 

Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence — neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish — it is an imponderably valuable gift.” – Maya Angelou

When Farris Bryant became Florida’s governor, he invited me to serve as his page during the 1960 legislative session. 

The governor’s administrative secretary explained if I wanted to get paid, I had to have a Social Security number . He gave me directions to the local social security administration office and by the end of the day I was in possession of a social security number.

For over 50 years, this number has appeared on employment applications, payroll reports and income tax returns. When I tried to use the card to get into the Peppermint Lounge in New York City, the bouncer threw me out by my collar and back of my pants; the owner of the restaurant where I worked while in college had it; the Army used it as my ID number; and it appears on the records of my father’s company.

All the years of paying into the system I never thought about taking money out. It was just another tax, especially when I have been self-employed.  Now I’m one of the “codgers” scrutinizing my bank account to ensure my social security check has arrived.

We undergo changes as we enter each decade of our life: 20’s, entering the workforce; 30’s, fatherhood; 40’s, power and responsibility; 50’s, the first AARP notice and 60’s, a Social Security Administration notice about retirement.  When asked, what surprised him most about life, Billy Graham answered, “How fast it goes by.”  How right he was—yesterday, I was applying for a social security number and today, I am reaping the benefits.

Remember the ad? “Life comes at you fast.” A more accurate wording is, “Life goes past fast.” Because life goes by fast, we cannot afford to sacrifice precious time living in the past, dwelling on problems or fearing the future. After all, we can’t change yesterday, today’s problems will be history tomorrow, and tomorrow we will be in the future we looked towards today.

I’d never been more surprised: my brother Randolph had given me a gold trimmed Rolex watch for Christmas.  I knew his law practice was successful—but a Rolex. Heck, all I had gotten him was a sweater.

When I shook my wrist, I noticed an hour had passed. Puzzled, I again shook my wrist and watched the hour hand spin around the watch dial. After viewing the spinning hour hand, my brother looked puzzled, laughed and confessed: in New York, a guy approached him on the street, and whispered, “Hey bud, do you want to buy a brand-new Rolex watch?’  ‘Just take a look at them, they’re legitimate and not hot.” So my brother followed him into an alley and ended up buying my Christmas present.

Years later Randolph invited Terri and me to be his guests at a German restaurant. As she led us to our table, the hostess was excited about the evening’s entertainment—two contortionists who “put on a fabulous show.”

When introduced, two, thin as a pencil, 80 year-old crones appeared. I thought it was a joke—what could these women do that I would want to see.

They twisted themselves in impossible positions: it was scary, somewhat revolting but riveting entertainment. Afterwards, we stood and cheered.

I have learned “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”  Often things are not as they appear: a Rolex that wasn’t; and emaciated, elderly women performing impossible feats of contortion.

“Judging a book by its cover,” is a mistake hiring managers make.  It is not uncommon for an interviewer to make a hiring decision within the first few minutes of an interview and once a decision is made, the mode shifts: from “inquisitive” to “let’s move on.”  

Some people make a great first impression—however, like the Rio Grande River, they may be a mile wide but only a few inches deep.  Others, make a poor first impression but possess hidden potential.  Candidates have to recognize the importance of making a good first impression and hiring managers need to realize a good first impression does not necessarily identify the best candidate.

A good hiring decision requires moving the process beyond a first impression.  Interview preparations should include:

  • Putting in place a strategic hiring plan that addresses the company’s goals.
  • Preparing a candidate profile that includes education, knowledge and experience.
  • Developing questions that explore a candidate’s ability to carryout the strategies in the strategic hiring plan.
  • Removing personal bias by putting together an interview team.  
  • Assembling the team to objectively grade and subjectively discuss the candidates.

By carrying out this process, company leaders can eliminate the blunder of “judging a book by its cover.”

Quote

When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart.” – Proverb

It is amazing how confidence improves performance. Take golf: a couple of good holes, everything begins to go right—drives are long, approach shots close the hole and putts fall. Record a triple bogey and nothing works: drives slice, approach shots go wild and you can’t sink a putt for love or money. The difference is confidence.

Confidence stems from knowing you can perform. Great golfers practice every aspect of their game and spend time conditioning their bodies to withstand the rigors of the pro tour. They have confidence because they have prepared to succeed.

In today’s world, managing a business is an incredibly complex chore. Government regulations, banking relations and dealing with insurance are just a few items on a manager’s list. To effectively operate a business a manager must have knowledge of all the preceding. Staying on top requires planning along with continuous learning—with Learning comes knowledge and with knowledge confidence—confidence that ensures good decisions and success.

Confidence is crucial to success in sales. Like a golfer preparing to compete, a salesperson must prepare to sell.  First and foremost, a salesperson must possess product knowledge—If you don’t know your products you can’t sell them.

Like a golfer exercising in a gym, salespeople prepare for success by working on their health and appearance.  Feeling good provides the mental acumen and positive energy needed to close a sale.  No matter what the product, people are hesitant to buy from someone with a sloppy appearance. Looking successful requires being neat, pressed and well groomed.

The author Leib Lazarow wrote: “Who has confidence in himself will gain the confidence of others.” Confidences comes thorough preparation, knowledge, appearance and good health.

“Man quit, hire another; mule die, buy another: zip bam, by damn, let’s go!”  That was my dad’s response whenever someone would relate a problem.  His point: “don’t be detoured by events—handle them.”

Early one morning, I received a call from a foremen telling me that he was quitting to  go to work for my roofing superintendent.  The call occasioned a double shock: the foreman quitting and learning  my superintendent was my competitor.  I prepared to take the crew leader’s place and the roofing department manager made sure the trucks were loaded and the other foremen properly instructed.

We never missed a beat: the job was completed on time and within budget.  The only casualty was a brand new watch I dropped into a bucket of hot asphalt and is still a part of the roof.  The next week, promising never to stray again, the prodigal foreman returned and I resumed my regular duties.

Years later I was responsible for a large convention and trade show .  Two weeks before the show, our meeting planner suddenly and unexplainably resigned.  Then, I thought it was because of a personal situation—now I know when someone quits before a major event, it’s an indicator of a major problem.

There were two luncheons planned during the convention: during one we had booked the musical group Up With People to appear and a fashion show was to be held at the other.  The day the musical group was scheduled, I noticed a beautiful woman carrying a garment bag; a minute later, I saw two more and then another.  A slender, gorgeous blonde caught my eye, walked over and asked the question that ruined my morning: “I need to change for the talent show; where’s the dressing room?”  Suddenly, it became apparent: the meeting planner had resigned because she booked the music group and the fashion show during the same luncheon!

Zip bam, by damn, let’s go—the models paraded while Up With People sang and the following day we held a “best idea” competition.  Both luncheons were hits: our attendees loved the “musical fashion show” and collected helpful ideas during the best idea competition.

When things go wrong, you can’t walk away, or hope someone will bail you out—you have to play the hand you are dealt.  Keeping a cool head; surveying alternatives; seeking ideas and solutions; making a decision and moving forward are the steps to handling unexpected hurdles.  Zip bam, by damn, let’s go!

Quote

The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” -Theodore Rubin

When our closet is so full we can’t find anything to wear, we initiate a closet purge.  Then, we haul to Goodwill garbage bags full of items that haven’t been worn, shoes with holes in their soles and sweaters purchased for a younger and leaner me.

One of my construction company’s warehouses was cluttered with metal drums containing blueprints. I decided the space could be put to better use and hired a service to haul the drums to a landfill.  Arguing the old drawings were of great value, the manager of our air conditioning department halted the loading of the truck .

I challenged him to find the original plans on a job we installed 20 years before and use them to develop an estimate. It took most of a day but he located the old drawings; only to discover they were roach infested, weathered and unusable.

Clothes that will never be worn and building plans that are unusable are examples of clutter—disorder resulting in confusion and  lost time.  Getting rid of clutter reduces stress resulting from chaos and frees up space that can be used for better purposes.

It is also important to purge the litter from the closet that is your mind. Hanging there are feelings of anger and resentment. Hoarding such thoughts leads to bitterness that poisons your life.  Purging them creates space for positive ideas, dreams and aspirations.

Resentment and Grudges

Resentment or grudges do no harm to the person against whom you hold these feelings but every day and every night of your life, they are eating at you.” – Norman Vincent Peale