Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Unexpected Pleasures of Painting

Last Saturday, I asked my new roommate, J, to help me paint her bedroom. Much to my surprise, she agreed to help me. To show my appreciation for her generosity, I offered to give her three days of free rent. I could have hired a painter to paint my second bedroom for $100 (not including paint and supplies), but I chose to ask J instead because:
  1. It would give me a chance to get to know her better (I estimated the paint job would take at least four hours).
  2. I would save $17.00. 
Before she arrived, I spent an hour adding blue painter's tape around the perimeter of the baseboards and the ceiling. I also spread tarp over most of the floor. When J arrived at 8:30 AM, she helped me move the mattresses out into the hall way. Then we got to work. I used the roller paint brush and J used a smaller paint brush to paint the corners of the room and the areas right above the baseboards. Much to my surprise, I found the act of painting to be quite relaxing and almost meditative. J and I worked nonstop for two and a half hours. Then we took a one-hour lunch break and returned to the bedroom to add the second coat of paint. After another two hours of painting, we finished the paint job and it took us almost an hour to clean up. 

During the paint job, I learned that J has a health condition that severely limits what she can eat. She is an omnivore, but she is not supposed to eat highly processed foods. When she first inquired about becoming my roommate, she asked me if it would be okay to cook in the kitchen every day and I told her that was fine. At first, I thought she enjoyed cooking, but the truth is, she has no choice. Most restaurants do not serve the kind of food she can eat so she cooks all of her meals. Fortunately, she can work from home five days a week so  that definitely makes things a lot easier for her. 

I also learned that J's husband lives in Brazil and is not allowed to leave the country until he receives his green card. J plans to visit him later this month right before she moves into my condo. J works as a computer software engineer for a company that is headquartered in Boston, MA. Because her work schedule revolves around the East coast time zone, she works from 7:00 AM to 6:30 PM Pacific time, Monday through Friday. When I found out about her work schedule, I said, "Wow, you work really long hours!" But she told me that during business hours, she is allowed to run quick errands to break up her long work day. If you could work from home five days a week from 7:00 AM to 6:30 PM with a one-hour break for lunch and a one-hour break for dinner, would you accept that kind of work schedule? I should add that J earns over $80,000 per year. 

I really like J. She's only 30 years old, but seems to be extremely mature for her age. When I found out how much money she earns, I asked her, "Wouldn't you prefer to rent a one-bedroom apartment on your own without a roommate?" But she told me that she and her husband are trying to save money so that when he receives his green card next year, they can buy a house in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has never lived in the East Bay (she used to live in Silicon Valley), but chose my condo because she wanted to experience what it's like to live in the East Bay. Also, housing tends to be less expensive in the East Bay compared to San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Marin County. 

The next day, when I removed all the blue painter's tape, I was dismayed when I realized that some of the white paint had dripped onto the brown baseboards. If I had hired a professional painter, that probably wouldn't have happened. So I decided to paint the baseboards the same color as the walls and they look fine now. Looking back, I'm glad I asked J to help me paint her bedroom. I got to know a really nice young woman and I saved a little bit of money. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Becoming Wise

Last Tuesday night, I attended a talk given by Krista Tippett, a Peabody Award-winning journalist, National Humanities Medalist, and author of Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living in San Francisco. Wisdom is not a cheap, throw-away word. It has heft and substance, but what exactly is wisdom? I believe it’s not quite the same thing as intelligence although I would argue that intelligence is a prerequisite of wisdom. It’s also not quite the same thing as being knowledgeable. I’m sure everyone knows someone who is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge, but simply possessing a tremendous storehouse of knowledge is not very helpful if you don’t know how to properly apply what you know. My friend, Peter, is an applied mathematician, which is a fancy way of saying that he formulates and figures out how to apply mathematical methods, models and theorems to solve practical problems in science, engineering, business, computer science and industry. Of course, you need a certain amount of knowledge to be wise, but you don’t need encyclopedic or dictionary knowledge.

If you look up the word, wisdom, in the dictionary, what will you find? According to the American Heritage Dictionary, wisdom is the “understanding of what is true, right or lasting.” It’s also “common sense, good judgment, learning and erudition.” That definition didn’t feel entirely complete to me so I was intrigued when Krista broke down her definition of wisdom into five ingredients. In today’s posting, I’ll explore the first three ingredients. In a future blog posting, I’ll discuss the other two. According to Krista, the breeding grounds of wisdom include words, body, love, faith and hope.

I majored in English at Indiana University so I’ve always had a lifelong love affair with words. When it comes to wisdom, Krista believes that words should open imaginations rather than shut them down. Think back on conversations you’ve had with loved ones and important people at work. If the person you’re speaking with is constantly shutting you down, how can wisdom be transmitted and shared? I love this quote from Krista: “The world right now needs the most vivid, transformative universe of words that you and I can muster. The words we use shape how we understand ourselves, how we interpret the world, how we treat others. Words make worlds.”

The world of wisdom would not be complete without the second ingredient, which is body. Krista defines body as the physicality of who we are and the world around us. “The body is where every virtue lives or dies. Our physical selves, as we are learning, are so much more than merely physical. They carry trauma and joy and memory and our capacity for opening or closing to life and one another.”

Closing to life can be just as important as opening to life. Back in 1988, I worked as a Financial Consultant for Merrill Lynch in San Francisco. I sat in a cubicle so more often than not, I met clients and prospects in their homes and offices. On a late Friday afternoon in December, one of my client appointments in Oakland took much longer than I anticipated and by the time I started driving home the sun was setting. I wasn’t that familiar with Oakland and in 1988, there was no such thing as GPS. I ended up getting lost so I pulled into a gas station so I could ask for directions on how to get to the Bay Bridge. The gas station was deserted except for a group of scruffy-looking young men hanging out near the entrance. As I pulled into the station, they started walking rapidly towards my car and they did not look friendly to me. I felt my skin become cold and clammy, which was my body’s way of telling me that I needed to get the hell out of there now. Fortunately, I found a safer street where I could pull over and I figured out how to get home by looking at my map. We tend to take our bodies for granted, but ignoring the deep wisdom your body imparts can be a matter of life and death.

Our bodily wisdom can also help us in areas other than life and death decisions. In early April, I visited Breckenridge and Denver, Colorado. I really wanted to love Breckenridge because I enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. In April, there was still plenty of snow in Breckenridge and I spent several days cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in a pristine, winter wonderland. Denver appealed to me because my dear friend, Diane, lives there. I met Diane the same way I met Bonnie, another dear friend, through my Awakening Joy class. Unfortunately, I developed a permanent side effect of my LASIK eye surgery surgery – dry eye syndrome. Breckenridge is 9,600 feet above sea level and Denver is 5,130 to 5,690 feet above sea level. As you get higher in altitude, the atmosphere becomes thinner (less pressure).  This means that the total amount of water vapor the atmosphere can potentially hold is decreased. Arid climates, smog, pollution and dry or windy conditions increase dry eye risks. Even though the cost of living is lower in Denver compared to San Francisco, I need to live in an unpolluted city on the West Coast in order to maintain the health and comfort of my eyes.

Our bodies are what keep us alive, but I don’t think life has as much meaning without the third ingredient of wisdom, which is love. According to Krista, “love is the only aspiration big enough for the immensity of human community and challenge in the twenty-first century. Love is a virtue and way of being that we have scarcely begun to mine. People who have turned the world on its axis across history have called humanity to love.” I think she was referring to luminaries like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Mother Teresa. I believe that choosing to love another person is one of the most daring acts you can commit because it forces you to become vulnerable and receptive. Let’s face it. In order to receive wisdom, you must be in a receptive state and love helps us become more receptive and open.

If you’re open to becoming wise, I highly encourage you to read Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise. In her book, you can explore the following dimensions of wisdom – words, body, love, faith and hope through the amazing interviews she conducted with the leading thinkers of our day from theoretical physicist Brian Greene and mindfulness researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn to New York Times bestselling author Brene Brown and Brain PickingsMaria Popova.

I began this posting with my favorite ingredient of wisdom, which is words and I’ll end my discussion with words, but not just any words. Krista Tippett’s favorite words are: nourishing, edifying, redemptive, courageous, generous, winsome, adventurous, curious and tender. My favorite words are wholesome, intelligence, spirituality, and engagement. These four words encompass my own personal definition of what it means to become wise – leading a Wholesome life with Intelligence, Spirituality and Engagement.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

My Own Personal "Religion"

“The unexamined life is not a life worth living for a human being.”

~ Socrates, in Plato’s Apology

I believe we are pattern-seeking creatures (we see patterns even when they don’t exist) and from these patterns we construct meaning because we are driven to make sense of the world and our place in it. But what if life exists outside of our patterns, outside of meaning. Inspired by learning more about Dr. George Vaillant’s adaptations I created my own personal “religion” which is a blend of humor, altruism, Buddhism, intelligence, and trust (haBit).

There is a difference between joy and happiness. I believe that having the capacity to experience joy becomes a valuable talent particularly in old age. When you are dying and racked with pain, it is hard to be happy all the time, but joy, wonder, curiosity, and humor remain. Old age can become a creative, joyful way to play when you learn not to take everything so seriously. Rather than strive for continual happiness, I think we should learn to appreciate and savor fleeting, serendipitous moments of joy. 

The steadfast belief that my life has meaning and purpose staves off depression. Of course, the black dog of despair howls outside my window occasionally, but like happiness, I realize that unexpected setbacks are only temporary. Through the unconscious and conscious workings of my flexible mind I can frame everything that happens to me within a lesson that is rich in meaning. Learning brings me joy even when the lesson is painful. I realize there is another way of looking at things. I have a brilliant friend named George, who is a renowned biophysicist at the University of California in Berkeley. Meeting George for dinner is always a treat because he is such a delightful and intellectually stimulating companion. His world view is shaped by the skillful interweaving of his wise humor and vast intellect. That is why humor and intelligence are part of my new “religion.”

I feel the happiest when I am with people who know how to make me laugh. During the first half of my life, my seriousness bordered on moroseness, but as I’ve gotten older, I have learned how to lighten up and not take life so seriously. Yes, the world needs to be saved and that is why altruism and Buddhism will always play an important role in my life, but there are also other important facets of life I wish to explore such as passion, romance and love. 

I believe the intellect must be actively engaged in the quest for knowledge. I tend to downplay the value of faith because what we accept as the truth must be objective and evidence-based. Even though I am not a scientist, I admire the scientific approach to life. By performing scientifically valid experiments on individuals (human and non-human agents) as well as natural phenomena, scientists can construct knowledge to formulate an objective view of the truth.

Trust is as important as the truth. People who trust life tend to be happier (having trust that in the end everything will work out for the best). I hope my new haBit will bring more joy into my life! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Lost in Translation

One of my favorite movies was "Lost in Translation," starring Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray. The story works on many different levels as it explores multiple levels of lost translations between a man and a woman from two different generations as they explore the foreign landscape of Tokyo together. 

In the highly regulated financial services world where I work, there are also multiple levels of lost translations that take place between clients and financial advisors as well as financial advisors and the firms they work for. Throw in a basket of complex financial instruments and you create numerous opportunities for misunderstanding and miscommunication. 

What remedy can solve many of these challenges? In a nutshell, it's simplicity. Albert Einstein once said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler." During one of my regular visits to the public library, I found an intriguing book entitled, Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn. In our modern information age, most of us complain about information overload, but I think the real culprit is not just the volume of information we face every day, but the complexity of the information that bombards us. Here are some examples from Siegel and Etzkorn that you might find shocking:

  • In 1980, the typical credit card contract was about a page and a half long. Today it is thirty-one pages." 
  • If you're a homeowner, how well do you understand your homeowners' insurance policy? A 2007 National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) survey revealed that one-third to one-half of insurance policyholders were misinformed about what perils are covered and how much they might receive if they made a claim.
  • Marquis Dunson died in 2002 after his parents gave the one-year-old Infants' Tylenol for three days to treat his cold symptoms. In the subsequent lawsuit, which resulted in a $5 million award, the plaintiffs argued that the warning labels and directions on the Infants' Tylenol label did not make clear that an overdose of acetaminophen, Tylenol's active ingredient, could lead to liver failure.
  • The United States was founded and governed for over two centuries on the basis of a document that is six pages long. That is 0.1 percent of the length of the current income tax code, which currently runs fourteen thousand pages. 

According to Siegel and Etzkorn, "complexity is costing us money, undermining government and business, and putting our health and even our lives at risk." As a consumer, I think it's time for us to fight complexity instead of complacently accepting it as a fact of life. And the best way to defeat complexity is by demanding simplicity from the companies that serve us. For example, I own a Samsung smartphone. I understand the icons that appear in color on my home screen. But the icon on the bottom left of my phone is not intuitive. It looks like part of a document because it's rectangular in shape with two horizontal lines embedded inside it. When I press on this icon, it pulls up six different options: Add, Wallpaper, Search, Notification, Edit page, and Settings. For a brand new Smartphone user, I would recommend using a different icon instead of the rectangular one. Why not just use the word, "options" or OPT for short? 

On my MacBook Air, on the bottom left-hand corner of my keyboard, are four keys that appear to be similar to each other in terms of function: fn, control, option, and command.  Instead of using descriptive words to describe these keys, I think a pictorial icon would be more understandable. How can a new Apple user remember which key to use in order to perform certain commands such as copying and pasting? The problem with many technology applications and devices is that these instruments are designed by geeks for other geeks to use. That is why I think it's important for design teams to introduce prototype products to real consumers before the initial product launch. A consumer might buy something he doesn't understand, but if you want to turn this consumer into a raving fan, create a product that is so simple that even his ninety-year-old grandmother can understand how to use it. 

Simplicity also plays an important role in how well we communicate. Technology has created greater attention deficit among children and adults. In today's information-saturated world, if you want to get your message across, say more using fewer words. Ernest Hemingway is famous for his brevity. Here is his most famous six-word story: "For sale: Baby shoes, never worn." Using only six words, the story's message is clear. Nothing more needs to be said. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Being Better is Overrated

Explaining your differences as ‘better’ than others seems logical. However, it’s not always effective. For instance, if someone asks you why s/he should do business with you as opposed to the firm across the street – you begin to give them the ‘betters.’ You may not say it by using the word ‘better,’ but it sounds like you will have:

  • Better communication
  • Better customer service
  • Better products

The problem with inferring ‘better’ is that the consumer doesn’t believe it. We don’t believe that something will actually be better! Imagine going to the grocery store and heading down the laundry detergent aisle. If you see a jug of Tide detergent with a big “NEW AND IMPROVED” on it – do you immediately buy it because you are sure that now, finally, your clothes will get cleaner? No, of course not! We don’t actually believe it will be that much better. And, it’s risky buying a different laundry detergent (certainly not as risky as switching financial advisors).

What we need is to be different. If we can, we need to share what is truly unique about what we do – not compare ourselves to others. So, what is unique about you? I would say there is one thing unique about your firm and it’s the people inside. These people can’t be found somewhere else. And, 80 percent of the reason someone chooses your firm is because of you – not your products. In fact, they may not even know specifically which products they want until long after they say yes to doing business with you. Are you talking about what’s most unique about your firm?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Beware of Time Wasters!

An important facet of social intelligence is having good awareness of time, which is related to, but not the same thing as time management skills. It's easy to spot someone with poor awareness of time. My ex-husband's cousin owns a modern art gallery and can talk for hours about modern art -- whether you want to learn about it or not. Before the Do Not Call list was implemented, I used to receive dozens of phone calls from robotic telemarketers who felt compelled to recite their entire sales pitch verbatim even though I was ready to hang up the phone after the first five minutes. I know a few people who think it's important to give you a very detailed prologue to the issue they're discussing instead of getting straight to the point. These people are time wasters. Of course, we all become time wasters every once in a while, but in order to improve your social intelligence, you need to develop better awareness of time. Good awareness of time requires focus, concern for others, and an activated internal clock.

Earlier this year, I hosted a 401(k) breakfast seminar with three other speakers. The day before the seminar, I instructed each speaker to talk for no more than 30 minutes in order to allow 20 minutes for Q & A. Unfortunately, the first two speakers ran long on their allotted time. I approached the third speaker and asked him if there was any way he could get the meeting back on time. Much to my surprise, he did his 30 minute presentation in 15 minutes without ever looking at his watch. It was, by the way, the highest rated presentation of the day. How is that possible?

Whether in a meeting, on the phone, or in delivery of a presentation, there are some key points to not only stay on time, but deliver compelling information.
  • Determine what is the most important information. Then get to the point quickly.
  • Be prepared. Know how long it should take you to describe certain elements of your business, products, or services. Practice, practice, practice.
  • Time yourself. If you find yourself "going long" in meetings -- and even if you think you are always right on time -- check your watch. When you start talking during a business meeting, look at the time. Then check back when you're done. How much of the meeting did your conversation occupy? Was your percentage of the meeting justified with what you talked about?

In the business world, time is critical. It is one of our most precious commodities. Our business and lives could be different if we simply had more time. So, don't let time wasters get away with stealing your time!

Monday, August 19, 2013

How to Increase Your Prospecting Performance

Yesterday, I arrived in New York for Morgan Stanley's week-long Performance Session 2 (PS 2) training. In order to qualify for PS 2, Financial Advisors must be in the top first, second or third tier in terms of production during their first six months. I knew I would qualify for the training because I'm ranked in the first tier (top 20%) of my training class. One of my friends at Morgan Stanley completed her PS 2 training last month, and she shared with me the agenda from the program. While I wish there was more emphasis given to product knowledge and capital markets, I plan to view this week's training as a valuable learning opportunity, and I hope to come away from the experience with some new ideas about the business and myself. 

I know that a great deal of the training this week will be spent on prospecting. I believe prospecting is important even if you're not in sales. As with everything else, a successful prospecting campaign requires developing a strategy or plan of attack. Whether you're prospecting for new clients, a new job, or even a future spouse, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What kind of person (or company) do you prefer to interact with?
  2. What do you bring to the table? What is your competitive advantage or key differentiator? In other words, why should a person (or company) want to interact or do business with you? What makes you so special and unique? 
  3. Evaluate people or companies you have had successful interactions with in the past. What were some of the key qualities of this person or company? It's also important to analyze your past failures when it comes to prospecting. How can you change or tweak your approach in order to achieve a more successful outcome?  
  4. How many prospects do you need to have in your pipeline in order to achieve a successful outcome? If you don't have enough prospects in your pipeline, your odds of success are very low. Conversely, if you have too many prospects in your pipeline, you will have a hard time following up with each one of them in a meaningful way. However, it's far better to have too many prospects in your pipeline than too few.
  5. Are there people you know who could introduce you to the type of person or company you want to meet? Spread the word among everyone you know. Use social media to your advantage. For example, LinkedIn is a great way to build your network of professional connections. 
  6. What is your plan of action? What will you do first, second, third, etc. in order to execute your prospecting plan? Be as specific as possible by including "dates to be completed by" in your plan.
  7. Ask a friend to help you role play an initial meeting with a potential prospect. 
  8. Consult with an expert who has been successful at reaching the type of prospects you're targeting. 
  9. Create a list of questions to ask your prospect in order to find out if there's a good fit between the two of you. Not all prospects are a good fit for who you are and what you're looking for.
  10. Figure out a way to successfully overcome objections. You might meet the perfect prospect, but chances are, you will need to convince that person why s/he should develop a relationship with you. Prepare yourself to receive some resistance and learn how to overcome it. 
After I complete my PS 2 training, I'll share with you any new ideas I pick up on prospecting in a future blog posting. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 12, 2013

99U Conference

At the 2013 99U Conference in New York City, Heidi Grant Halvorson, Associate Director, Columbia University Motivation Science Center, spoke about motivation. Here are some excerpts from her talk:

Upon reading story after story about geniuses, prodigies, and other successful people, Heidi Halvorson found herself noticing that people in the U.S. tend to attribute failure and success not to controllable factors such as work ethic, but rather to innate ability or talent.
  • Do you have a "Be Good" mentality or a "Get Better" mentality? First, there is the "Be Good" mindset: trying to prove yourself and validate your skills to look better (or smarter) than those around you. Alternatively, a person with a "Get Better" mindset focuses on constant improvement -- instead of focusing on perfection they focus on performing better than previous efforts, which gives them room to fail, learn, and grow. In study after study, Halvorson found that a Get Better mentality improved chances of success and happiness.
  • Don't visualize success. Visualize the steps you will take to make success happen. When you encounter challenges with a Be Good mindset, anxiety and depression set in and start to affect performance. Your skills and your intelligence can feel compromised and/or threatened. When faced with similar challenges, a Get Better allows you to focus on improving or refining your efforts -- as well as the external processes -- rather than feeling like your intrinsic skills or intelligence are at stake.
Back in 2000, I came across the concept of "kaizen," which is an approach to one’s personal or social life that focuses on continuous improvement. It's so easy to sit back and tell yourself, "I'll never be as successful as Steve Jobs because I'm not as talented as he is." But the truth is, Steve Jobs worked incredibly hard in order to become successful and he also had some failures along the way -- the Apple Lisa, Macintosh TV, the Apple III, the Powermac g4 cube. It took Jack Dorsey years of experimentation before he finally launched the Web site which ultimately became Twitter. And Howard Schultz failed at his first attempt at creating a communal coffee experience. In 1986, when his first store opened in Seattle, there was non-stop opera music, menus in Italian, and no chairs. Schultz admits he had to make many mistakes to discover what would become the Starbucks we know today. 

Currently, I work as a Financial Advisor for Morgan Stanley. Of course, there are people in my office who seem to be "natural born" salespeople, but not every successful advisor falls into that category. There are plenty of advisors in my firm who have managed to succeed simply by working harder than everyone else. Hard work doesn't necessarily mean you will become successful in financial sales, but it will greatly increase your chances of achieving success. 

All through my life, I have focused on getting better and better no matter what endeavor I pursue. Whether it's trying to earn good grades in school or a promotion at work, I have noticed that the harder I work, the more successful I become. For example, when I was in high school, I tried out for the tennis team and was placed in the #18 slot, the last slot on the team. I felt really embarrassed about being the lowest girl on the totem pole, so I spent the next several months practicing tennis. I practiced so much I developed calluses on my right hand. But all my hard work paid off. After a few weeks, I moved my way up from the #18 position to #9. A few months later, I eventually landed in the #4 position on the varsity tennis team, which is where I remained until I graduated from high school. I didn't set out with the goal of becoming the #1 person on the team. My goal was simply to work as hard as I could so I could become a better player and see where that took me. If I had set a goal of becoming the #1 player on the team, I would have felt really discouraged by failing to reach that goal. And discouragement is the enemy of motivation. 

Another trap that many of us fall into is visualizing success instead of visualizing the steps it takes to succeed. Let's face it. It's much more fun to fantasize about what it feels like to be successful -- the fancy mansion, the luxury sports car, the five-star vacations, etc. But fantasizing about the desired end result before you have achieved it doesn't give you the roadmap you need to succeed. I believe that is why so many people play the lottery. They fantasize about what they will do with all the money they might win because visualizing other things you can do to end up with a lot of money isn't as much fun. 

In addition to Halvorson's recommendations, I think it's also important to remain true to your personal brand if your goal is long-term success. Let's take searching for a job as an example. Most of us have some idea of what our dream job is. But then when we discover our dream job, we feel discouraged when we realize we don't meet the minimum qualifications. But think about the person who eventually wins your dream job offer. That person was not born with all those qualifications. He or she had to work at a number of different jobs in order to acquire those skills. You can do the same thing. Once you have your dream job in mind, write down all the skills your dream job requires. Identify skills or experiences you don't have yet. Then try to find jobs that will help you fill in those gaps. 

Think of your career trajectory as a series of horizontal or vertical steps. Ideally, each subsequent job you land should give you new skills you can add to your resume and increase your chances of landing your dream job. Sometimes, it's important to make a lateral shift in your career path in order to add a new suite of skills to your resume. But whatever you do, don't accept any job out of desperation. Every job you accept should build on your existing set of skills. Think of yourself as a personal brand. For example, if you were a five-star restaurant, you wouldn't add fast food to your menu just because it seems profitable. The jobs on your resume need to fit your personal brand.

Motivation and success are important values in the American culture. What we need to recognize is that lasting success can only be achieved through proper motivation. If you adopt a Get Better mindset, visualize the steps you need to take in order to succeed, and remain true to your personal brand, chances are you will achieve the success you desire. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


My 17-year-old son's favorite TV show is "Breaking Bad." By accident, I found this Breaking Bad promo on the Internet, and I was completely mesmerized by Bryan Cranston's reading of the poem, "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Here are the words:


By Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said--"Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Source: Shelley's Poetry and Prose (1977)

Here is a creative exercise you can try. Continue the story of Shelley's "traveller" by describing other sights he or she might have seen in the "antique land." Here is what I came up with: 

And in the distance, there stands a crown

Clinging to a fragment of bone
The mighty voice that once invoked fear
Died alone without a moan
No threads remain of the royal gown
And yet his spirit is lurking here
In the silence that feels like death
I can almost hear his ghostly breath:
"Where are my people, where is my Queen?
What is this place, what is this scene?"
His words haunt me and fill me with dread
As I walk upon the bones of the dead
The thousands of men he slayed in his life
In order to steal another king's wife. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Social Media: The Basics Part 6 (Instagram and Pinterest)

Instagram is a photo sharing app with more than 27 million users. You can use Instagram for capturing event and office culture photos. You can also leverage the application to run contests and scavenger hunts. Before you begin snapping photos and engaging viewers, create a plan to help you create fans. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • What does my target audience want to see?
  • How can I get them to engage with my photos?
  • What will get them talking about my company?
As you create your visual content, consider the following objectives:
  • Make it exclusive. Post images that can only be seen on Instagram.
  • Make it visually engaging. Instagram users are savvy, creative, and know a lackluster photo when they see one. Don't post a photo unless it has aesthetic appeal.
  • Make it personal. Viewers want to feel like they are part of something so provide an inside glimpse.
The Instagram hashtag is a powerful feature to engage your viewers. Hashtags act as keywords providing a way for people to find photos through a simple search. Hashtages are especially useful as you seek to establish your brand as an industry leader and get more followers. Implement hashtags that are unique to your brand and industry, as well as hashtags that are popular keywords. And remember to use hashtags on all of your posts. 

Pinterest is a virtual scrapbook or pinboard that allows users to share and organize visual imagery. A user can pin anything from around the web and other users can re-pin their images. Users organize their Pinterest pages by categorizing content on boards

For businesses, Pinterest can be a way to curate visual content like infographics, videos, company culture, and even blog posts. Pinterest can help promote creativity, but always make sure that your content is relative to your audience. Pinterest pages can also be used for a landing page for an email campaign, event, or presentation. The boards provide a unique way of organizing content to be visually appealing to your prospect. Make sure you are including a good content mix in your Pinterest boards. Followers will want to see a combination of business and culture content. When pinning, pin the most visually interesting aspect of what you are sharing, like a special banner, slide, or cover page to get the most engagement and to make your brand look like it belongs. Pinterest's search is mainly how people find you and your pins, and it is all about keywords. Load up relevant, popular keywords in the description of your pins. Just like any other social media platform,  Pinterest rewards those that bring fresh content. So while it's very easy to fill a board with re-pins, ultimately the fastest way to increase your followership is by pinning new and interesting items. 

So that wraps up my six-part Social Media series. I hope you found these tips useful. See you on the Net!