Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions!

Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions!

blank list of resolutions on blackboardMany people contemplate New Year’s Resolutions; some actually make them – either mentally or in writing. During my academic years, I really liked the start of school – new notebooks and binders… and a clean slate grade-wise. Today it is the beginning of a new calendar year that has me thinking of the opportunities that will present themselves in the new year….and those that can be made to present themselves.

More importantly, however, is to keep in mind the basics. What are those basics to make the new year a winner?

Here is my top five “gonna do it…or continue to do it…in the  new year”… resolutions  – in no particular order:

  • Pledge to stay in (closer) touch with those who are important to you. Spend more – and quality –  time with your spouse or significant other, your children, and stay in touch with distant relatives and college/high school friends. Time flies by – don’t let it slip by. I took my daughter to college yesterday and today she graduated a year ago – that is how fast it seems that the time has zipped by. Be mindful of the lyrics to “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin –  lost opportunities to relate and share time with others  that will never return.

  • Get organized. Clean up, sort, file, throw away. In a two words – Get Organized. One stack at a time grab that pile of papers, newspapers, magazines, etc. and sort into three piles:
  1. Toss/re-cycle
  2. File
  3. Back into the to-be-read-or-processed pile

I live in a paper world – and it can get the best of me. I go through this process a few times a year (yes – I am aware of the “only touch a piece of paper once theory” – and it is just that – a theory that rarely works with ALL of the stuff I get). My to-be-read-or-processed pile is aways big – but at least this process winnows out the chaff and junk!

I file a lot of stuff – mainly two categories of it. American Civil War articles by battle or biographic subject. It is a favorite subject/hobby of mine and I have visited, re-visited or plan to visit many of them over the years ahead… so I have accumulated a wealth of source material and add to it regularly. The other category is stuff that makes my family look at me and wonder – such things as the history of Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC  or underwater photos of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I am sure it will all be of continuing interest over time! I give you the green light to do the same!

  • Do something you have wanted to do for some time… but never got around to it. Target a project you want to get done by spring or summer… or at least make headway on it. I want to write an essay on a Civil War direct ancestor of mine. I will get started in January and make weekly progress. What is yours?? Identify it – and put it near the top of your “to do” list. Build a patio? Better organize the garage? Color code your sock drawer? <smile> Whatever it is – identify it – and do it. You will feel better afterwards!
  • Stay – or become – fit. Your body is the carriage you ride in every day 24/7. If you aren’t fit – it will manifest itself – and more frequently as you get older. Exercise and eat what is good for you and sparingly what is not so good for you. Many of mankind’s ailments are self-inflicted through bad habits.
  •  Chill – enjoy every day. Take – or make – the time to enjoy life. Read a great book. Take a walk in the rain or snow. Walk the dog. Visit a museum. Take a local tour. You get the idea. Falls into the category of smelling the roses. As the phrase goes – “we are only passing through”… so enjoy each and every day.

A big “thank you” to all of the loyal readers of this blog – I hope it has been helpful and interesting! More career, job-changing and management stuff coming in the New Year!!

Look out – 2015 is right around the corner!! Happy New Year!!

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10 Guidelines for Success; “The Best Advice I Ever Got!”

Dirk Hoffius

Dirk Hoffius

10 Guidelines for Success; “The Best Advice I Ever Got!”

I recently stumbled over an interesting article entitled “The Best Advice I Ever Got”. I got in touch with the author (Dirk Hoffius)  who gave me permission to share it with you in an abridged manner as well as giving you the link to the entire article. Dirk is an attorney with the law firm of Varnum in Grand Rapids, MI. His title is “The Best Advice I Ever Got”. I added that it seems to me to be 10 great guidelines for success! Read on……………….

1. Do something. In other words – act, make and do. You have three choices in life: you can make things happen; you can watch things happen; or you can wonder, “Hey, what in the world happened?” Do it. Get it done. Turn your energy into plans, actions, and deeds. People will be impressed, and so will you.

2. Find a mentor. Do this as early and as often in your life as possible. You will know your mentor when you meet him or her. He or she will be smarter than you are, more talented than you are, more sophisticated than you are, and wiser than you are. Yet, somehow, for all that, he or she will believe in you. The better your mentor, the faster you will grow.

3. Be nice to everyone. Assume the kid in the mailroom is your future  boss or client, because he or she may well be. You can’t be too nice, but that doesn’t mean you should be a pushover. Nice people don’t finish last; they just don’t talk about winning on the way to the finish line. The more important you get, the nicer you’ve got to be.

4. Be on time. Ninety percent of life, according to Woody Allen, is showing up. People who show up get a 95, and what they do after they show up is the rest of the grade. Be committed to the task at hand because everyone’s time is as important as yours. Agreeing to be somewhere is a promise. Keep it.

5. The magic words. Growing up, your parents made you learn the magic words. “Please,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry.” If you want someone to do something for you, say :Please.” If they do it, say “Thank you.” If you do something and it’s wrong, don’t sit around waiting for everyone to forget about it. They won’t. Say you’re sorry and move on.

6. Never point your finger unless you’re giving directions. There is no payoff for laying the blame on others, events or the weather. There is no time for it and the press of events is far more important that who or what is to blame. Be part of the solution, not the problem. But, never be afraid to ‘fess up to your own mistakes. Strive for fairness in all things. Even more important is to give others the credit they deserve. You will need them for the rest of your life.

7. Stay curious. Ask questions. Whenever anything is unclear to you, never ever worry about appearing dumb. The dumbest question you’ll ever ask is the one you never ask. It was your missed opportunity to learn. People love someone who’s not afraid to ask a dumb question. They were waiting with the answer anyway. Don’t be intimidated by expertise and don’t be afraid to challenge jargon. Jargon is the mask of the insecure, the fortress of the overeducated.

8. Keep is simple. Strive for simplicity in everything. Think about it. Have you r every heard someone say, “I love the guy, he makes everything sound so complicated?” Simplicity means using plain English and always thinking how to make what you say and write  as easy to understand as possible.

9. Love what you do. Do what you love. This is absolutely critical. If you don’t love what you are doing, you probably won’t perform as well as you could. And even if you are successful, you’ll be miserable, so what’s the point? What if you don’t love what you are doing? Maybe you aren’t doing your best because if you do your best, one of two things can happen; you may have a new opportunity or you may find you like the job.

10. Learning is forever. No matter what we do in life, we are always learning and that’s a good thing because the more we learn, the better we do,, and the more we enjoy what we do. More importantly, our careers and our lives do not become boring if we continue to learn, to explore new things, and to grow. The result of always learning from classes, mentors, competitors, and anyone with whom you come in contact, is that someday you can be the best in your field. When that happens, whether you  recognize it or not, you became a mentor.

Americans love lists; these ten things are important if we are to be the  best we can be. They are lessons for life. Everytime we think we “got it” we find we can do better. We can and we will.

Dirk Hoffius

The entire text of this essay by Dirk Hoffius can be found at:

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Pearl Harbor Day – December 7, 1941

The sneak attack on the United States forces at Pearl Harbor, HI by the Imperial Japanese Navy occurred on December 7, 1941. American casualties were 3,581 dead and wounded and the U.S. entered WWII in the Pacific as a result.

For many of you, Pearl Harbor was in a high school history book. For you history buffs, you know the story. The (in my opinion) definitive work on the subject is the book “At Dawn We Slept” by Gordan Prang.

at dawn we sleptIt is a great read… as exciting as any novel you will read. As we mark the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii consider getting a copy and reading the story.

A very short executive summary of Japanese intentions is the plan was to eliminate the U.S. Navy from interfering with Japanese efforts to invade and conquer the oil-and-rubber-rich lands of the southwest Pacific. Their thinking was that by the time the U.S. Navy was re-built, the Japanese conquests would be completed and the Americans would accept it a fait d’acompli (wrong!), as well as focusing on the war in Europe. Despite Japanese planning, they did not know for sure where the American carriers were. In fact they were not at Pearl, escaped destruction and became from the foundation for American success just a short time later at Midway. It was the beginning of the end of the Japanese Navy and hence the war in the Pacific.

If you don’t have the time or interest to read the book, you can find an excellent summation of the events leading up to and including the attack at:

USS_Arizona_Memorial_(aerial_view)The USS Arizona (BB-39) lies on the bottom of Pearl Harbor where a number of its crew are entombed. Oil still leaks from the ship to this day. A memorial straddles the ship and visiting the memorial is a somber event for any travelers to Oahu.

Whether your read more about December 7th, 1941 or not, take a moment today and honor the 2,403 Americans that died that day (and an additional 1,178 were wounded).

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4 Barriers to Getting That Job Offer!

The Shocking Truth About Your Image

Four bizarre reasons customers may not like you (or people may not hire you!)

By Jeff Mowatt

I came across an interesting article that address some of the issues that get in the way of interviewing well and ultimately getting a job offer. The four principles Jeff mentions:

  1. You look different than expected (dress for success when interviewing)
  2. You’re hard to understand (verbal skills aren’t good)
  3. You exaggerate (don’t puff your experience or fib on your resume)
  4. You’re indiscreet (don’t ever bad mouth a past boss or employer)

….all apply to the job seeking process. I found the article a refreshing reminder of the barriers to success and getting job offers. With that said… read on! I have added a comment or two and put them in italics to distinguish them from Jeff’s original article. Many thanks to Jeff for letting me share this with you!

Jeff Mowatt

Jeff Mowatt

Whether it’s fair or not, we are often judged on first impressions. This harsh reality is nowhere better seen than in today’s ultra-fast business world where customers size-you-up in a nano-second based on your personal image. Since their impression of you will determine whether or not they want to do business with you (or interview you… or hire you), the impact on your career and on your organization’s bottom line can be staggering.

Ironically, when corporations bring me in to speak at conventions on how to boost customer retention, I often find that there’s been little or no professional training for employees about personal image. Since it’s often awkward to confront employees on these sensitive issues, you need some ammunition to make the task easier. Here are 4 image-related reasons that customers may not like you or your employees. Incidentally, customers will never tell you these reasons to your face — they’ll simply do business elsewhere.

1. You look different than expected.

Customers prefer conducting business with individuals who meet their visual expectations. So if you want to keep customers, dress in a manner that customers expect. A plumber dressed in an Armani suite makes the client uncomfortable. An alderman in khaki shorts would shock the council members of City Hall. A waitress with too much makeup, sporting tattoos and body piercing would likely put off a patron in an upscale restaurant. On the other hand, a bar tender in a conservative suit and tie may appall a customer in an alternative nightclub.

“But that’s not fair!” decry so many employees at the thought of being told what to wear. Again, first impressions may not be fair, but they are the realities of the business world. You hire employees to take care of customers — not for the sake of expressing their sartorial individuality. They can do that on their own time. Your job as a business owner or manager is to create an environment, including staff wardrobe, where your customers feel comfortable.

The most effective way to convey this message to employees is to have a written dress code. When writing your code, it’s best to check with an attorney for the laws that apply in your jurisdiction. The great thing about a dress code is it often weeds out would-be applicants who wouldn’t feel comfortable in that environment. That’s better for everone.

2. You’re hard to understand.

Customers don’t want to strain themselves to understand front line staff. If you or other employees don’t speak the local language clearly, then customers will generally go to your competitors where they won’t have to work so hard to communicate — or to spend their money. This is doubly important when speaking on the telephone, where customers don’t have the benefit of non-verbal communication to help them interpret what’s being said.

This concept has nothing to do with discrimination based on ethnic differences or nationality. It has to do with basic communication skills that are essential to do the job. If it’s a question of improving your knowledge of the local language, then take courses until you’re fluent and easy to understand- not just enough to get by. (If English is not your first language – enunciate very carefully and practice your verbal skills.)

3. You exaggerate.

Don’t exaggerate to tell customers what they want to hear. If a task will take 15 minutes to complete, don’t say, “It’ll only be 5 or ten minutes.” This is called lying. Customers hate that. Organizations that stay in business over the long term, adhere to the age-old adage, under promise and over deliver. ‘Nuff said.

4. You’re indiscreet.

‘Indiscreet’ describes the cashier at a self-serve gas station who chatted with his friends while I entered to pay. He barely stopped his conversation with his buddies to take my money. I felt like I was crashing a private party. I never went back.

While this obvious display of rudeness is relatively rare, a much more common example is when employees converse amongst themselves in front of the customer. Numerous times I’ve been on airplanes when the flight attendants, while rolling food carts down the aisles, are so engaged in their personal conversations that they barely stop long enough to take the dinner orders. Meanwhile every passenger has to listen to their private conversations, whether they want to or not.

To top-off the indiscretion list, far too many employees inadvertently tell customers more than they want to hear. For example, when a customer asks a front line employee, “How are you?”, they really don’t want to hear complaints. It’s just a greeting. Yet some employees take this as an excuse to complain with, “Oh, I’m 60-40″, or as a security guard once told me, “I’m vertical.” (Yikes)! Some employees respond with, “I’ll be great when my break starts.” In other words, the employee will be happy as soon as he or she can get away from their job and us — the customers. All of these indiscretions make customers wish they were dealing with professionals. (By careful of what you say and where you say it. I have heard far too many things I should have NEVER heard in elevators and from the next table over at lunch!)

There is hope.

Awareness of these problems is half the battle. A lot of employees simply don’t realize they’re committing these offenses. Another part of the solution is training. Bringing in a professional trainer to address the employees as a group provides the advantage of third party objectivity, in a fun non-threatening manner. One thing is clear though, if you do nothing about these issues, your business will continue to suffer without anyone else telling you why.

Jeff Mowatt is a customer service strategist, award-winning speaker, and bestselling author. For more tips, training tools or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your team visit

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