April Fools Day Reinforced One Thing… We are the Headline Nation

gotcha-headlineI don’t know how many people I spoke with yesterday or chatted with online that told me they got suckered. My daughter even told me of a story line that had people on Tumblr all up in arms on April Fools Day. Sadly though, no one ever clicked the linked to see that the headline and story was a hoax. In this, it got me thinking about how much April Fools Day shows all of us that we indeed do live… in the headline nation.

The following is an excerpt from my book Strategistics. Download ebook today by clicking here.

WE ARE THE HEADLINE NATION

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” – David Ogilvy

Have you ever clicked on a link because the text in the post caught your eye, only to feel ripped off and used because the story didn’t really add up to the intrigue of the headline? Welcome to the headline nation where all one needs to do is create intrigue regardless of fact or fallacy.

A recent survey found that only 44% of Google news visitors scan headlines, but don’t click through. The habit is similar on Twitter. You scan the feed for interesting tweets. Now granted, you are following certain people for a reason and you trust the content they publish is something that is legitimate for your taste and speaks your language. However, you are unlikely to open every link they post unless of course, it intrigues you.

I recently came across a story about Ryan Holiday, a 25-year-old marketing director for American Apparel . The 25 year old styles himself as a “media manipulator.” Conducting an online search as to what this means,

I found this definition: Media manipulation is an aspect of public relations in which partisans create an image or argument that favors their particular interests. Such tactics may include the use of logical fallacies and propaganda techniques, and often involve the suppression of information or points of view by crowding them out, by inducing other people or groups of people to stop listening to certain arguments, or by simply diverting attention elsewhere. (Wikipedia)

He essentially made stuff up to see if anyone would print it. Guess what? They did. What a mess. I read another headline that sought to tie a mass-murderer with a particular political group. Intrigued, I clicked the link to the article. As I read through, I learned the headline was mere speculation, and the source even admitted that the person they were focused on may not even be the same person. Think about the number of people who won’t ever click that link. Many people will take the headline and run with it without knowing the full story.

In a world where stories are broken in 140 characters or less, all it takes is one effectively written message to set sail into the minds of millions of people around the world. Maybe we don’t have time anymore, but does this mean we don’t care about the validity of headlines? We are busy people, and we need content in consumable bite sizes. Even YouTube videos become long winded around the 3 minute marker. People may never get to your link let alone click through to find your message.

Point: Get to the point

The way to create a headline that will truly meet the importance of your message and position it to get in front of as many people as possible is to:

Be creative Be factual Be focused Be intriguing

You could also ask a question in the headline; point to a section in the article, video, podcast and ask what others think. In our world where knowledge is doubling every 72 hours, the headline is vastly becoming the bottom line.

I spoke with a friend of mine who was struggling with getting any traction for their blog posts, even though the content was solid. The first thing I looked at was their titles, or headlines, for the posts they were casting into the Twitter and Facebook world. I encouraged them that when they tweeted specific blog posts or posted them on Facebook to pull out the best line of the article and posting it with the link.

The results?

“When I started posting quotes from my articles that spoke to the main point of the message— the ‘golden nuggets’ so to speak—all of a sudden people started responding . My quotes were getting reposted and shared; I received comments on my blog, and I gained new followers as I engaged back in response .”

They found new traction that not only reached people with the headline, but also pulled them in to get to the bottom line. Make your headlines count. Understand that many will click on your link and many will not. With this understanding, you will control the “game of telephone” that’s playing around the world and within the headline nation.

My aim with my book  Strategistics is to lay out an infrastructure based on what I see is absolutely critical in understanding the psychology of our audience and those we seek to reach beyond our audi- ence. In the chapters ahead, I will build upon this infrastructure with application that will help you drive your message in this fast paced headline nation.

To begin, I want to introduce you to one  of the most important concepts I have learned in the past decade… the concept of the frozen perception. You can read this chapter in its entirety, by clicking here.

 

 

A @KaiserChiefs Show Inspired this Chapter in My Book about Building a Viral Community

482428_362285567217878_1899047390_nCOMMUNITY EXPECTATIONS

“Before, I was terrified on stage. I only play guitar during the acoustic songs. After a while, you can elicit certain responses from the crowd, like Elvis.” –Andy Gibb

I recently attended a concert with my teenage daughter. Now, I am sure for many parents it was the type of concert a typical teenager would drag a parent only to arrive and stand towards the back as if to not make things appear awkward for the teenager.

But for me, this was not one of those shows. Are you kidding me? I was just as excited to see this show as my daughter was to catch this band —a group that categorizes themselves as a “post-punk/ art rock band.” Huh? (By the way, the band was Kaiser Chiefs). It was an amazing show that reminded me why I love bands from the UK so much.

There seems to be similar characteristics between the many bands and artists I have followed over the years. It’s these characteristics that cause my favorite groups to stand out among other bands and artists from around the world. What are these characteristics and what do they have to do with building a community or even this book?

These bands:

1. Know how to work a crowd.

2. Don’t just sing to me about a place, they take me there.

3. Set high expectations for audience participation.

Know how to work a crowd

Check out the new record here.

New Record Out Now!

Because rock bands seemingly know their crowd and what they want , the musicians know how to work their crowd. How well do you know your crowd? If you are seeking to build a community to reach this crowd, you better know their interests and what they want. There can be nothing more awkward in the viral world than giving a crowd what they don’t want.

That being said, when a band knows what their crowd wants and delivers it masterfully, it is pure magic. Find the heartbeat of your community, tap it, and see how far you can take them.

Don’t just sing to me about a place, they take me there

20121102-bruce-springsteen-306x-1351859141Any good artist or storyteller understands this. In a recent interview with the iconic singer Bruce Springsteen, one of the statements he made about effective songwriting was to seek to compel others for the things that compel you. If you have ever attended a show by the Boss, you know he doesn’t just sing to you about a place… he takes you to that place in both song and performance.

Are you seeking to identify needs and then to awaken the solutions? If so, with your content development, take me to that place of need. Take me to that place of solution. Articulate the need in a way that is clear and compelling, and then articulate the solution in a way that is clear and empowering. Don’t just settle for sterile content that just recites stuff. Make your content come alive and jump off the screen–this compels action from your community— especially your core community!

High expectations for audience participation

527912_10150762152554747_844563705_nWhat I loved about the Kaiser Chiefs show with my daughter was the band had high expectations for the audience, and they were not going to settle for anything less. So, why should you? If you know what your community wants and deliver it in a way they want it (by taking them to that place and not just talking to them about that place), then why shouldn’t you have high expectations for them to respond and participate?

And for this show, the crowd responded. Even when the crowd got a little tired, those high expectations came shining through to literally get us off our feet by demanding a response. And you know what? Because they knew us and gave us what we wanted… we loved every second of it and it drove us to new heights with our participation.

Too often, I see communities online just going through the motion on auto-pilot. Sure, maybe they are providing good information, but in my honest opinion… what a waste of time. Why stop there? If the metrics of social media is to share, then why wouldn’t you want to cultivate a community that has high expectations?

You know them, you give them what they want and how they want it, and you take them where they want to go. Are you satisfied with your audience lurking–by only clicking “Like” on a post or simply just reposting or retweeting something as is?

Yes, these are good things. But have higher expectations. When you post something you want your crowd to share, you want your expectations for your audience participation to include not only sharing that post, but maybe also:

  • A quote they found interesting from the post.
  • A quote from them as to why they are sharing the post.
  • An engaging question for their community as why they should read the post.

Cultivate a relationship with your crowd that would cause them to not only participate in your community, but to share the community in an engaging way designed to take your message from being in the moment to expanding to a movement.

Chapter Application

1) Do you know your crowd? Describe them.

2) How are you conversational with your crowd?

3) What expectations do you have for your community?

This post is an excerpt from my book Strategistics: How to Architect Your Message for Viral Success. You can purchase a download copy of the book here.

By the way, Kaiser Chiefs are releasing a brand new record this week. Pretty stoked about it. Check it out. #eeew

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Frozen Perceptions and Why They Matter to Your Message

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Excerpt from my book Strategistics. Download ebook today by clicking here.

“Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.” – Miyamoto Musashi, Swordsman and Philosopher (1584-1645)

I once spoke at a film camp for high school students on the topic of social justice and social media. I challenged the campers to take my eyes beyond what I could see with regards to the story they were seeking to tell with their camera. In positioning this discussion there, I was able to submit to them the power of the frozen perception. This power can launch us forward or it will hold us back because some frozen perceptions are true, while many are not.

“Frozen Perceptions” is a term of art that describes ingrained perceptual biases, which close a person’s mind from “hearing” the benefits of a product, service or other proposition. -Joel Tucciarone

In politics, a candidate will seek to define their opponents before his opponents even define themselves. This sets the frozen perceptions that stick in potential voters’ minds about the opponents in hopes of swaying voters toward the candidate in the end. In the 1988 elections, vice president candidate Dan Quayle was touted as a John Kennedy-like candidate, thus setting up a frozen perception by attaching his name to a name Quayle’s team felt would gain them additional votes. Of course, in the debate with Lloyd Bentsen, that frozen perception was quickly dismissed with one famous line from Mr. Bentsen:

“Senator,” he said, “I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”

The art of frozen perceptions is often set up by the power of association with someone or something of a more positive, negative, successful, or unsuccessful reputation. To further my example of the frozen perceptions we all have, let’s return to the film camp I initially mentioned where I shared a story about a friend of mine.

With the students at the film camp, I sought to take them to a place only their eyes had seen…

He was a tough looking, but old and weary man in his early fifties wandering around downtown looking for a place to sleep and eat and asking for the occasional handout. This man had once spent nineteen of his years behind bars.

At this point, I stopped and asked: What do you see? The general census from the students: Bum, lazy, worthless

I continued my story… When this man was seven years old, he began to be sexually abused by not just one family member, but all family members except for his mother. By the time he was twelve years old, he was often times locked in a trailer in his backyard for 2-3 days without  food. This launched him into a life in search of significance and trusting nobody. He was completely devalued at an early age by his own family. Living a life with no family and no sense of value led to a life of survival.

I stopped and asked: Now what do you see? Take my eyes there, and in doing so you unlock the frozen perceptions we had towards this man walking down the street looking for food and a place to sleep. Perhaps, what he was really looking for was acceptance, sense of value, and an identity.

Frozen perceptions are everywhere and we all have them. Just turn on the TV or walk down the aisle at your local grocery store. From marketing campaigns to hot topic current events, the perceptions we carry as consumers are being vied for. In using social media, you have the ability to identify what frozen perceptions society has towards your cause, issue, or brand. You can use social media to subtly unlock those frozen perceptions or reframe them in a way that shifts your community’s viewpoint.

In doing this successfully, you can essentially unlock that which has kept your audience from taking action. Unlocking frozen perceptions can propel a person forward by defining what he/ she is seeking to champion, or stop someone taking action based on what he/ she thought was truth.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in Malaysia encountered a major problem when some of its employees at one location decided to tamper with the food and film it. Though corporate had been tipped off on the situation and had completed an internal investigation, turning over all evidence to the police, someone still leaked the video to YouTube. A frozen perception immediately took hold as a large outcry from the public ensued. Though this was an isolated event, and the employees had been dealt with legally, the public believed that if event happened at one location, it could happen at all locations.

The situation began to establish a frozen perception in the minds of the public towards the entire company. KFC Malaysia quickly reacted by utilizing social media tools to address the issue head-on. They quickly set up a landing page on their wildly popular Facebook page which included a written apology, frequently asked questions about the issue, and two videos in both their native language as well as English. On the video, the head executive of KFC Malaysia personally addressed the concern and apologized. This quick response using social media turned the growing tide of negative perception that KFC Malaysia food was unsafe. The company was able to break through the frozen perception and regain the trust of its customers. They even gained additional followers and fans along the way!

We all have frozen perceptions and so does your customer. Break through those perceptions as fast as you can to gain your customer’s trust and ultimately their business.

Questions to Ponder:

1) What are some frozen perceptions you have about the social media industry?

2) What frozen perceptions might consumers have about your industry? Your company?

3) Brainstorm some ways you could break those frozen perceptions and earn your customer’s trust.

 

Who you are will determine what you measure. #SocialMedia

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Ironically, I got so inspired, I wrote an additional chapter which then made this chapter 37 and not 36.

Excerpt from my book Strategistics. Download ebook today by clicking here.

Who you are will determine what you measure. Did I say measure? I feel in light of all that we have discussed that it is important to spend a brief few moments discussing measurements. One of the best lessons I learned when running several retail businesses was the time I was asked to write an article on conversion rate.

After doing much research on our own conversion rate, I wrote my article on how to effectively look at conversion rate without getting overwhelmed. This article was stocked full of data supporting my theories.

(Click here to see the foundation of that article.)

A good friend and colleague of mine read the article and loved it. But then he looked at me, and challenged me to rewrite it. “But I thought you loved it?” I quickly asked with a confused tone in my voice. “This time, I want you to write this article without using numbers.” He replied. That was moment I got it. I understood the power of the parable. I understood that while some speak the language of numbers, others speak the language of parables. It was a difficult rewrite to accomplish, but in the end, it was a lesson I would never  forget when seeking to communicate objectives to people who are on the same team, but speak different languages. (Speaking left brained language to a right brained audience.)

Seeking measurement for one’s efforts is critical. However, what I find is that though many understand it to be critical, they sadly don’t understand how to translate the measurements or even the first place to look for the measurements. What are your objectives for your message? How will you measure your effectiveness? Will you measure it via any of these?

  • Viral transactions from engagement with your community
  • Overall size and growth of community
  • Reach of influence
  • Financial transactions via donation, purchase, or gifts in kind?

Of course, who you are will determine what you measure.

Are you a…?

  • Movement
  • Merchandise
  • Cause

For many , nowadays I see a combination of either all or two of these. In this case, let’s take a non-profit for example. As a non-profit with a cause to champion, in the end, don’t we truly want to see our cause go beyond something we call others to, and become a movement that others must now be a part of? How do we measure that?

Of course, we need eyeballs to see the message, be inspired by the message, engage the message, and share the message. But, if there is work to do, we also need to support the message and the work that we are providing that will bring solutions to that which we are seeking to solve. I recently spent some time with a large non-profit organization that works within the United States as well as internationally. In speaking with them, what I heard was this: We understand the effectiveness of social media How do we translate it effectively in bottom line numbers?

Reading between the lines, bottom line was code for how much it brought in  financially for the cause. To be honest, it is a fair question and nothing to be intimidated by. If we plan to spend additional resources on new media efforts, we need to ask the question, is it worth it? Again, who you are will determine what you measure. In this case, we can share all the data we want, but what does it all mean and is it moving the ball forward with regards to our overall objectives?

Continuing the discussion with this non-profit, we began to review the data we had available to us. In this case, we looked closely at our Google analytics for the official website not only for current data, but all data as far back as it showed as well.

We also looked at industry benchmarks to how other non-profits were using social media for their cause. I believe industry benchmarks are crucial as to best give one something to line up against. Do you know your industry benchmarks for the medium you are seeking to use? Often times, a simple Google search will lead you to various surveys that have been completed within one’s industry. Secondly, in reviewing analytics for their own website, I was eager to look at the last three years of data.

I do this because I wanted to establish benchmarks for their effectiveness. When running businesses, we would always look at the past three years when preparing our annual budget as to best establish benchmarks. This allowed us to best set our course to attainable goals based on historical data and not from mid air. This paid off two years after taking over a company once that previously had lost over $ 1,000,000 dollars in one year. Through effective benchmarking and goal setting, we were able to reverse that loss to over a $ 100,000 profit.

In looking closely at the data for this non-profit organization , we were able to establish our own benchmarks. This allowed us to set reasonable goals as well as be able to navigate ourselves towards reaching those goals.

What we found:

  •  1.07% of website visitors actually made a donation
  • The average website visitor donation was $ 200 annually
  • Social Media drove 12,000 unique visitors to the website in the previous year (that was all that was available.)

Based on those numbers and simple benchmarking, we can determine the following:

  • 1.07% of 12,000 unique visitors via social media is 128.4 people
  • If the average online donor gave $ 200 per year, that would equal $ 25,680 revenue from 128.4 people

Are you following me? What do your numbers look like?

Do you  know where to find your numbers? In knowing these benchmarks, I can then set some goals accordingly. I do this by playing “what if?” in a reasonable manner. If social media can improve its conversion rate for driving unique visitors to the website through strategically planned campaigns designed to lead people from ignorance to who we are, to ownership of what we are, then:

  • + 5,000 unique visitors times 1.07% times $ 200 that equals $ 10,700
  • + 10,000 unique visitors times 1.07% times $ 200 that equals $ 21,400
  • What if we maintained 12k visitors but improved conversion of donors to 2% at $ 200 per donor?
  • That equals $ 48,000 by converting only 112 more people per year.

At this point, it becomes all about architecting your infrastructure to reach these goals. How many campaigns are you running per year? Are they strategically designed and timed to help you meet your objectives? How will you know? What keeps you from knowing? To often we shoot from the hip until someone comes along with questions that cause you to both scramble and do a lot of Google searches . How can you adjust your overall strategy to help achieve your overall goals? Certainly, as we have discussed in this book, we know where we want to take people. But how will we know when we have arrived? Does one ever arrive? Have we established metrics along the path of our execution that will guide us on our way and help navigate us to that place we had sought from the beginning? How do others measure their effectiveness of use within the social media realm?

(* according to the non-profit technology network)

  • Site visitors
  • Reach
  • Audience feedback
  • Registered members
  • Conversions
  • User generated content
  • Revenue (fundraising)

Remember, who you are will determine what you measure. This is all encompassing.

  • Who you are
  • What are you seeking to solve
  • The cost of providing this solution
  • The cost of raising awareness around this solution

As I have said often times within the business world, if you don’t know your business, you will have no business. To properly set metrics for your message, cause, brand, or organization, one must know their “business.” This enables you to effectively set achievable goals that will lead to sustaining your “business” and therefore make life that much better for those you are seeking to provide solutions for. Let me say it again, measurement through the lens of who you are will determine what you measure.

I believe it is important to take this dialogue a step further. Often times within the world of social media, managers are asked to justify budgetary line items that pay for social media management and advertisements. These justifications are made to those who have a bottom-line view of profit and loss. As you have seen here, there are basic ways one can draw direct correlations from social media activity to the bottom-line through the lens of dollars and cents. In having these types of discussions, often a breakdown will happen when the person  overseeing social media and communication is unable to speak this business language because they lack experience .

This is not a knock on them, but rather an opportunity. They get to learn the language of their superior who speaks only in this way because of their years of business world experience. After overseeing several retail companies for a man who earned seven Master degrees, one thing was for certain, I had better learn the language of the profit and loss statement if I ever wanted to see more resources. Though the P& L statement was built based on line items for things like payroll, building lease, cost of product , etc., there were many components of the businesses not seen. These directly impacted the bottom-line and overall health of the companies I oversaw in a major way.

What were these components?

  • Customer Service
  • Overall aesthetics of the store
  • Cleanliness of the restrooms
  • Accessibility of the store to our customers

The list goes on and yes, I did say restrooms. I live in Oregon. In Oregon, one of the most visited tourists spots in the state is the Woodburn Outlet Mall. I once sat in on a marketing presentation there when they disclosed that in all of their surveys about the mall , the number one thing people commented on was the restrooms. And yes… they are immaculate restrooms at that. As this example shows, in the world of brick and mortar business there are so many unseen components not present on a profit and loss statement that definitely impact profit and loss.

So what are the unseen components on your analytics when seeking to translate data to dollars for your organization? I found this great list from Social ROE:

  • Efficiency
  • Reputation
  • Differentiation
  • Risk Reduction
  • Client Retention
  • Brand Association
  • Long Term Revenue
  • Environmental Impact
  • Economic Development
  • Opportunity Creation
  • Immediate Revenue
  • Perception Shifting
  • PR and Exposure
  • Client Education
  • Network Growth
  • Building Trust
  • Innovation

This certainly isn’t one size fits all, but I am certain one could pick out several items from this list and show a worthy investment was being made. The point here is that even though who you are will determine what you measure, that is often times only half the equation. The other half is convincing board members, investors, and the like that there is a return on investment with this new form of media. You may not see it directly in the numbers, but you certainly see its effects on the numbers. Reminds me of a quote Billy Graham once said. “I see the effects of the wind, but I’ve never seen the wind.”

Post Application

1) What are your objectives for your message?

2) How will you measure your effectiveness?

3) Will you measure it via any of these?

  • Viral transactions from engagement with your community
  • Overall size and growth of community
  • Reach of influence
  • Financial transactions via donation, purchase, or gifts in kind?

Final Goodbye: 11 years ago this week

996819_10151760668109747_768542988_nThis week eleven years ago was like no other.

Dad was entering his final days having battled cancer and a stroke for the past several months. My wife was having a lump removed and examined for cancer. And I was scheduled to lead the most important meeting my company had ever had in a city several hours a way.

How could I have known?

I got the call on March 12th around 4:30 in the afternoon as I with a caravan of other cars were making our way to Seattle for the big meeting. I remember pulling over on the highway just south of Fort Lewis in Washington state as several of my co workers vehicles pulled over behind me.

They had to take it from here. I had to go home and say goodbye to dad.

All alone in that car I rushed back to Portland and to the nursing home where dad was. When they had called, he had taken a turn for the worse and lapsed into a coma state. “You need to come.” they told me.

I knew it was time to face what I didn’t want to face let alone the stress of not yet knowing as well the results for my wife’s test, I in looking back, was in a complete world of shock. Why on earth did I ever decide to leave home for such a meeting? Certainly, I was the one behind the entire agenda, but what was I thinking? To be honest, I think I was just numb. With dad, you never knew. Sometimes it could be a step backward followed by a few steps forward. With my wife, all you could do was wait. Though I knew I had their blessing to go, to this day, I feel horrible that I even did. I should have been there even to just sit in silence to be company to my wife’s inner anxiety. For dad, perhaps for one more time to say I love you.

The entire drive back to Portland was one big rehearsal of what I thought I was going to expect. Over and over I thought about what it would be like when dad took his final breath.

When I arrived to his room, my family was with him as he laid motionless on the bed with an oxygen mask on helping him to breathe. By then, he was of course still in a coma state. His body was starting to shut down. You could literally both see it and feel it as the end of life began to move upward towards his head from his feet.

After my family went home for the night, it was just myself, my brother, and mom as we stood by dad’s side as he began his final journey from this world. It was surreal.

The nursing home had an eery feeling that night as the dark hallways were lit up outside of each room’s open door by the bright light of the TV’s playing within. It was like every TV in the building was tuned to the same channel. I can’t explain it.

Inside room 42 we shared stories of days gone past and laughed then cried. At one moment sometime in the middle of the night, we said the Lord’s Prayer. At some point early in the morning I walked out to one of the common areas with a couch in front of a window to attempt to grab a quick nap.

What was I thinking? It was only a matter of time.

Back in the room, it was 8am and mom stepped out for a few minutes as I sat bedside next to my brother. I said a quick prayer for my company employees as they were literally just beginning that meeting we had planned so hard for.

When I said amen, I looked up as the nursing home staff had come in to change my dad’s shirt. He was motionless all night except for the oxygen mask assisting his breathing. We were grateful for them to do that.

As they lifted off for a moment dad’s oxygen mask to remove his shirt, it happened.

I can’t explain it other than I felt life leave the room.

Immediately looking at my brother, we knew he was gone. My dad’s journey through this world was over. As I type this even now eleven years later, I pause at the keyboard and exhale.

Five minutes later my family arrived.

Standing outside room 42 visiting with some close friends who had stopped by to say goodbye, my dad’s lifeless body laid still on his bed. I looked up and saw my daughter on the chair next to dad’s bed. To this moment, I’m not sure how she slipped away and got in there all alone. She was only 5 at the time.

“Bye-bye Poppa Bill.” she said as she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

Life. It goes by in the blink of an eye. Looking back on my life, I wonder where time has gone.

I miss dad. I miss his sense of humor. I miss his patience. I miss his ability to tune everything out and just listen. I miss how much he loved listening to jazz.

This week eleven years ago was like no other.

Dad left us. My wife fortunately did not have cancer. And my company put on an incredibly successful meeting.

Thinking back on this day eleven years ago, I wrote in my journal that I had for the first time broke down in front of him. I just hated to see him in such a state. It was just a few days before he passed and the stroke combined with is cancer had forever altered his faculties.

It was just me and dad in that room.

One never know’s when that next breath will be their last. With this, how then shall someone say goodbye without the usual taking for granted that there will indeed be another hello?

It’s simple. I learned it on this night eleven years ago. It’s four words.

Let love be known.

On Tuesday March 11, 2003 I spent my last moments with dad while he was still conscious…

I will always treasure the last moments I had with him on Tuesday evening. It was the last I saw of him when he was conscious. From 4pm and on yesterday he was in a “coma” like state. My last moments with dad were praying with him, him waving bye to my daughter and I as well as doing that “eyebrow” thing and finally his final words to me…

I love you too.” – from my journal

Two days later, he was gone.

Pondering (rant).. when talent gets overlooked

Talent-Management

(This is not about me. Just an observation.)

When you have special talent in your mist, don’t exploit, build. Don’t make excuses, build. Recognize it and then improvise it. Don’t say you don’t have it, because you do have it. Stop saying you like to think outside of the box when you are the box. Stop saying someday when that only reflects a million yesterdays.

As someone who had the honor and the privilege of running companies back in the day, it breaks my heart when you have someone so talented and then you don’t do anything about it.

Heck, every position I had when I went from $6.50 and hour to running the company ten years later never existed before I had it. I was fortunate to have someone see something in me, throw the box out, and invest in me.

But what happened when I got there? I knew that to be successful, I had to build a team of people around me that were way more talented than me.

Guess what? We were successful. It worked. We took a troubled company in a dying industry from over a 7 digit loss to a 6 digit profit in a two year time period.

You know what? There sure are a lot of talented people out there looking to be valued. All the while there are a whole lot of mediocre people out there getting over valued. Perhaps we’ve lost sight of true value in order to play it safe. Or, perhaps we just like the taste of kool-aid.

Whatever happened to valuing experience, maturity, passion, loyalty, and depth? I will also add to this a thought my good friend Marc had to say in the comments (from the original posting on Facebook of this) where he says this about a Michael Jordan quote…

“”Everybody has talent. But ability takes hard work.” The older I get, the more I believe that to be true. I know a lot of talented failures. The successful people I know were the hard workers.”

No wonder why a lot of organizations both non profit and for profit will fail. They don’t know how to build a team beyond the textbook or their ego. They forgot what it meant or even felt like to take a chance on someone with such obvious talent.

I’m all for paint by numbers, but not always when a heartbeat is involved. Successful businesses and organizations are not merely built on algorithms.

If every organization had strong mature leadership, they would recognize talent when they saw it and then you know what they would do? They would do something about it.

That’s my two cents. Want more? Refer to the comments from the Facebook posting of this.

G out.

What does ready look like? (Lessons from a 6 year old)

breathingWhen my daughter was a little girl around the age of 6, she had $30 to spend. She spent it on helping children who were rescued from sex trafficking. It was then that my eyes were opened to this global tragedy and scourge on humanity.

When asked why she chose to spend her money that way, she responded with.. “As an only child, these are the brothers and sisters I never had. I need to take care of them.”

I learned right then the too-often difference between adults and children were that children still believe they can change the world.

And with this began the journey of asking of myself… what happened?

It has now been a decade. And perhaps with this, I can now stop asking of myself what happened? When did I stop believing I can change the world?

Setting my sights on this day, my world awaits. We all have a role. Too often we say we will finally do something when we are ready. But with this, I ponder… what does ready look like when the only guarantee I have was my last breath?

As an adult, we spend way too many breaths not doing a thing. We make things so difficult, we over analyze, we are so busy doing everything else that we fail to see the need of everybody else all the while being so worried about the thoughts of just about anyone else. (who’ll listen, read a post, or see a tweet)

And still, we do nothing. Or, we just talk.

Until a 6 year old girl would walk into the room with $30.

Time to stop talking and start doing. Can’t let her down. She has high hopes, dreams, and above all.. expectations.

Thanks K for the lesson. Thanks T for being an example. You both are doers that inspire me beyond words. This fueled by the love of I AM, what does ready look like?

That breath I am about to take, that’s what.

That’s My Girl!!

Guest Post: Remembering Grace

2017924_f5201By Traci Simonsen (my wife)

Earlier today I was at the store and a man was shopping with three kids. One of the kids ran in front of me, bumped into me and fell. The man gruffly told me to watch where I was going. I apologized, but in my head I was thinking, “Who wasn’t watching where they were going?” A few minutes later the same little boy was wandering by himself. I asked him if I could take his hand and find his Dad, so we did. When we finally found him, he shortly thanked me and began scolding this little boy. One of the kids was whining they were hungry and the other one was grabbing things off the shelves and putting them into  the cart, and Dad was taking them out of the cart and putting them back. I could tell he was about to snap and asked if I could help him.

He looked at me funny and said, “What do you mean?” So I answered, “Well if you have a list, I could get the things, and you could take the kids to look at toys or tv’s or something. I’d offer to take them, but I am sure you don’t want to leave them with a stranger.” He swallowed hard, looked down  and said, “My wife died of cancer last month. I wish I realized how hard things like this were when she was alive. It’s obvious I am not great a multi-tasking with three kids.” I told him I was sorry, but I would like to help, to which he replied, ” I have a hard time accepting help, but today I will take it if you have the time.” He quickly made a list and I shopped.

When I went to check out, a cashier ran over to me, and said, “A gentleman pointed you out to me and he wanted you to have this.” She handed me a $25 Bath and Body Works Gift Card, and then said, ” He said to tell you thank you and this was one of his wife’s favorite stores. “

This was just a reminder that things on the outside aren’t always what they appear: smiles and unpleasantness on the outside can be tears and pain on the inside. We all need to remember to have grace. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and the day where we celebrate Jesus’ birth: the giver of unending grace.

Pondering My Inner Reindeer….

review_misfits_8Pondering: Remember how we(probably still do) felt about the other reindeer when we sang… “All of the other reindeer use to laugh and call him names.” ???

They’re mean we declared.

What would others sing about us? Too often, probably the same. …sadly until at least the one we made fun of does what none of us could ever do…. rises up and blazes a trail to save the day.

Gulp. If we only knew the real stories and real potential behind those within our crosshairs of criticism.

If cause is the root of that which we take our aim, why do we argue with the effect?

God help me to be pro-people. May I meet people where they’re at and not where I’m at.

Thankfully for those reindeer it ended well. Will it end as well for us? Well, that’s up to our hearts. For that which dwells from within will drive that which we cast about.

And for this I ponder.

Finish well, my friends… finish well.