Friday, April 27, 2012

Use Compelling Visuals

Last Fall, I attended a session on how to be a coach for the Dale Carnegie course on Interpersonal Communication & Human Relations.  At the end of the two-hour session, the instructor, Vicki, gave each of us a handful of flower bulbs.  "The idea," she said, "is that eventually all of these will blossom, but it may take awhile."


For several weeks, the bulbs sat on a shelf in my garage.  Each day, when I saw the bulbs, I thought about the class and also that I should plant the flowers!  If you don't share knowledge with others no one will learn anything.

After a few more weeks, I planted the bulbs in the planter above.  As Spring started, green shoots appeared in the planter, followed by larger leaves and the beautiful flowers.  I didn't know what kind of flowers would be produced by the bulbs.

At each point along the way, from the time I accepted Vicki's flower bulbs until these tulips bloomed, I thought about what these flowers represented - the belief that others have the potential to grow and blossom into something!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Right Kind of People

The Right Kind of People
A couple of weeks ago, in my post on quotes, I shared that my mother kept of notebook of quotes, poems, and notes.  One of those poems was "The Right Kind of People" by Edwin Markham


Gone the city, gone the day,
Yet still the story and the meaning stay:
Once where a prophet in the palm shade based,
A traveler chanced at noon to rest his mules.
“What sort of people may they be,” he asked,
“in this proud city on the plains o’erspread?”
“Well, friend, what sort of people whence you came?”
“What sort?” the packman scowled; “why, knaves and fools!”
“You’ll find the people here the same,” the wise man said.

Another stranger in the dusk drew near,
And pausing, cried, “What sort of people here
in your bright city where yon towers arise?”
“Well, friend, what sort of people whence you came?”
“What sort?” the pilgrim smiled, “Good, true, and wise.”
“You’ll find the people here the same,” the wise man said.

This poem is an eloquent reminder that we find what we seek.  If our expectation or outlook is negative, that result will follow.  If we expect to find the positive in a situation or in others, that's what we will find.

Walk Behind or Run Ahead
If my wife, daughter, and I go for a walk, it feels like torture for my daughter and she lags behind us as though some invisible force is pulling her backwards.  However, if she has friends with her, she bounds and skips like a doe dancing in the meadow.  I've told her many times that the choice to walk behind or run ahead is mental - you make the choice every day.

Choose to be Happy
Not too long ago I had the opportunity to attend a conference as a Disney resort.  Each morning, as attendees entered the conference area, we were greeted by a gentleman wearing over-sized Mickey Mouse gloves.  This man was happy and welcomed everyone with a friendly greeting.  I told him, "I appreciate you being so welcoming and cheerful in the mornings."  His reply?  "You have a choice each morning to be happy.  I choose to be happy."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Titanic Ideas

Tragic Story
On April 10, 1912, RMS Titanic left the port of South Hampton on its maiden voyage with the destination of New York City.  Over 2,200 passengers and crew were on the ship.  After two days of uneventful and smooth sailing, on April 14 Titanic struck an iceberg and immediately began taking on water.  The 16 lifeboats were haphazardly deployed and many were only partially filled.  In less than three hours from when the iceberg was struck, Titanic sank below the water.  Over 1,500 passengers and crew perished, most freezing to death in the frigid water. This week marks the centennial anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic. Said to be "virtually unsinkable," Titanic has acquired a mythic status as a story of tragic, avoidable loss.

In 1985, Titanic was discovered by explorer Robert Ballard.  A rebirth of interest in the Titanic began in 1997 with the release of Titanic, a movie by James Cameron, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. 

Personal Interest
I have been interested in the story of RMS Titanic since fourth grade.  One of the first books that I owned was A Night To Remember by Walter Lord.  In preparing for his book, Walter Lord interviewed over 60 survivors from Titanic. I still have this book with my signature, as it was in fourth grade, on the front, inside cover.

4th grade signature

My personal copy of A Night To Remember has survived six moves as a child and adult!

As a child, I spent a couple of weeks each summer with my grandmother near Dothan, Alabama.  As a member of the American Association of Retired People, she received the AARP magazine monthly.  During the summer of 1985 the news of Titanic's discovery was the cover story feature.  I was excited to read about the discovery, even it was in a magazine for old people (there was not much to do at my grandmother's)!

My parents had a large world map posted on one of the walls in our family room.  Based on the estimated coordinates of the sinking, I marked the map with a small x and the notation "Titanic sinking."

One hundred years later, the hull of Titanic is slowly deteriorating.  At some point, despite the best efforts to preserve it, the ship will fade away.  What will remain are the metaphors or lessons that Titanic represents:
  • Overconfidence - Watertight compartments were thought to render the ship "virtually unsinkable" because designers did not anticipate that multiple compartments would sustain damage.  As the first compartments flooded, the water spilled into the next compartment in a cascading fashion.
  • Training - The crew was not sufficiently trained on emergency procedures.  There were several problems encountered as lifeboats were lowered.   
  •  Communication - Beyond the miscommunications of the crew on Titanic, other ships in the area were not manning their communication stations.  
  • Crisis Management - Because neither the crew nor the passengers imagined that Titanic could sink, there was a considerable delay in preparing the lifeboats.  If there was an evacuation plan, it was not followed and chaos started as soon as passengers finally did realize that the ship would sink.
What other lessons can we learn from the tragedy of Titanic?

Thursday, April 5, 2012


My mother was an English teacher for many years. After her death, my father gave me a small notebook that belonged to my mother. Inside the notebook were several typed pages of poems, short stories, and quotes. In addition to typed content several quotations were pasted, most likely clipped from newspapers and magazines. I was delighted to be given this treasure of information.
For several years I have also been collecting quotes and stories in a journal. In his book, Thinking For A Change, John Maxwell discusses the importance of collecting stories, quotes, anecdotes, and anything you find interesting in order to share with others. Another collector of quotes and anecdotes was Dale Carnegie, of How to Win Friends & Influence People fame. As he wrote, Mr. Carnegie included tidbits from his collection.
If you use a journal or book to write down quotes, it is helpful to create an index of key words with page numbers so you can easily locate the quote later. You could also keep notes in a spreadsheet such as Excel or Keynote, in which case it would be helpful to create a column of key words. Alternatively you could keep quotes in document files, such as Word or Pages, with a different file for each broad category of quotes.
There are many opportunities to include quotes in your daily writing (e-mails) and speaking (conversations or presentations). Quotes are an effective way to begin or end a presentation.
Occasionally, when I hear someone say something that is quotable, I will attribute it to that person only to find out later that it was a paraphrase of some other quote. While knowing the original quote may be helpful, the essence of the quote can be just as effective.
One of my coworkers often said, "A dwarf on giant's shoulders can see the farther of the two" (Andrew P). This particular quote has origins back to the Greeks. I found a similar version by Robert Burton, written in 1621: "A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than the giant himself."
Another colleague is fond of saying, "If you can leave one thing to your children let it be enthusiasm" (Rick E). The original quote is "When a man dies, if he can pass enthusiasm along to his children, he has left them an estate of incalculable value" (Thomas Edison).
Some of my favorite recent quotes are below.
"This is like trying to get socks on an octopus" (TV: Rep. Anne Eshoo, D-CA).
"You have no formal authority but a great personality" (Speaker: Heather W).
"Nothing tends more to promote health of body and of soul than does a spirit of gratitude and praise" (Book: Ellen White, Ministry of Healing, p. 251).
"There is never any harm in asking an honest question" (fortune cookie).
"There are no secret notes that the concert pianist has that the five year-old doesn't have. The secret is in the order and manner in which the notes are played" (Book: Alan Fine, You Already Know How To Be Great).
"You are never not communicating" (Speaker: Steve G).
"The most two wonderful things in the world are a woman's smile and the motion of might waters" (Historical: Leonardo da Vinci).
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