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Archive for January, 2011

I was turned onto a site (PG-13) this week that made me laugh out loud.  This site is about funny and embarrassing text messages sent out due to erroneous auto-corrections made on phones and computers these days.  As funny as I found these messages to be, alot can be learned from them. Take your time when sending a message, think twice about your recipient/audience and most importantly, don’t say anything you didn’t mean to say.

With the advent of text-messaging and emails, so much can be left up for interpretation and even more can be left up to individual mood and preference.  Email is a two-dimensional communication – there is not tone of voice, no body language, just words.  This is unfortunate but it is our reality.

What might you be saying in your daily interactions that someone else is interpreting differently?  What are you saying to your kids, your co-workers, your spouse?  And more importantly, how is what you are writing being interpreted?

Did you know that approximately 2.8 million emails are sent every second and some 90 trillion emails are sent per year?  Around 90% of these millions and trillions of messages are spam and viruses, but 294 billion messages per day are sent by around 1.9 billion email users each year.  With that kind of email traffic, there are bound to be some mis- (missed/messed-up) communications.

I have had a few of my own spell-check funnies along the way for instance, Chrysty Fortner when spell-checked correctly, signs my name as “Crusty Fortune.” I found this out the hard way while asking for a six-figure sponsorship from a prospect!  Just last week I started an email with “Yellow Lewis!” when asking for help with a non-profit business plan, apparently the incorrectly typed word Hellow (Hello) turns into “Yellow,” while I wasn’t looking–obviously not what I wanted to convey.

Aside from the spell-check incidents in my professional career, there have been other times where what I wanted to say was lost in translation or in one case, lost to ALL CAPS!  As the Director of Marketing for a Medicare Insurance company, I used all caps in a message to my new sales team.  It was my first day.  I was excited to meet the staff and to let them know my excitement about the new Medicare Prescription plan that was to be unveiled in 2005.  In my overzealousness to make a large first impression, I sent out
a communication to the Chicago, Houston, Birmingham and Nashville team with MAYBE a few too many CAPS and immediately I was criticized by the staff.  I’m not an easily disliked person and I’ve never been hated by people I work with let alone a group of sales people I was hired to inspire!  It was a disaster and the excitement and drive was lost by the skepticism created by my welcome email.  What a disappointment for me and obviously to them.  The point to all of this is to ask you the question, has WHAT you meant ever been lost by what you SAID or how you said it?”

There are many ways productive communication can break down to alienate your audience:

  • using clichés
  • using industry jargon
  • using slang…

Here are my 10 tips for better communication:

1.    DON’T USE CAPS, even if you’re REALLY, REALLY excited about emphasizing a point

2.    Don’t use lingo, jargon or technical terms

3.    Be yourself; and most importantly use your authenticity to speak/write with passion

4.    Don’t beat around the bush (I know, it’s a cliché, but you get the point)

5.    THINK before you speak and most importantly, listen before you speak

6.    Be thoughtful; it’s not necessarily what you say but how you say it

7.    Keep it short, sweet and to the point; use the carriage return (hard return between points)

8.    Use your subject line as the most powerful (but short) lead-in

9.    Give the recipient of your message a clear idea of what you’re expecting as a response

10.  Remember, what you send can be stored in someone’s archives FOREVER, so don’t say anything you don’t want to come back and haunt you!  And double check what you’re sending before you actually hit “Send.”

So from my silly spell-checker to yours, Yellow and Hoppy Moon day! Make the most of your day today and remember, mean what you say, say what you mean and maybe after reading this post you can avoid the pitfalls of communicationitis.

Yours truly, Crusty Fortune!

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Just when you think you have it all worked out; when you know exactly what the next few months of your life are gonna look like, a Southern wind blows in and changes direction, without the convenience of the weatherman giving you a heads up.  That’s what happened to me in a short twelve hour period last Tuesday.

The announcement was made that the company I’ve been working with for 12 months, Rockhouse Partners, was acquired by a ticketing company; it was a surprise to me.  That same evening, the fans and advocates of “Save My Fairgrounds” made an historic showing at a council meeting to let their voice be heard that their fairgrounds wasn’t just something that could be tossed out with last years funnel cake dough.  They were able to persuade the council in an unanimous decision to STOP the demolition of the 106 year old racetrack and to continue the Tennessee State Fair, world-class flea market and Expo Center–at least for now.  It was quite a day and night from where I sat and with that announcement came change and at least a question I had to ask myself.  Do I have it in me to run the Tennessee State Fair again?

I was a bit overwhelmed on Wednesday but when I stopped to breathe I realized that what lay ahead is an abundance of awesome opportunity; opportunity to carve out what I wanted to do with the two announcements. Sometimes change happens in the form of mergers, acquisitions and council votes…and sometimes, it comes in the form of how we react to it.

Maria Robinson once quoted, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

I like the idea of starting today to make my new ending.  Typically I would assume that we have two reactions to choose from when change is forced upon us: fight it or embrace it.  I’m embracing it with a mindset that is aligned with what works for ME!  What that is EXACTLY is yet to be determined this early in the game, but one thing for certain and to quote Sheryl Crow, “…a change would do me good.”

I started tooling around on the internet to help me through my concept of change.  The Shapiro’s have summed up ways to deal with change pretty darn good:

1. Accept what is! If you can change something, then do; if you can’t change anything, then release resistance and simply be with what is.

2. Take risks. Life is about not having answers, taking chances and risks, and making the most of every moment, all without knowing what is going to happen next.

3. Be your own best friend. It is easy to blame and shame yourself, but now is the time you deserve the most love and kindness of all.

4. Every day is a new beginning. Each time you take a step forward you have no idea what might happen. But nothing will happen if you continue to stay where you are.

5. Keep falling as long as you keep picking yourself up! Making mistakes is not the problem, but not learning from them and moving on is.

6. Nothing is permanent, so appreciate every moment, fully and completely, as it will never happen again.

7. Think with your heart instead of your head. When you come from your heart you come to your senses!

8. Meditate. Take time to just stop and breathe, to remember why you are here, and to find what is of real meaning to you.

9. Don’t take yourself too seriously. A good sense of humor prevents a hardening of your attitudes, and stops your opinions from getting too rigid!

10. Do something for someone else and make giving a part of your life, even if it is just a simple smile and a hug

I think these are extremely simple steps to follow when faced with change.  I also think that believing that change is a good thing and never a bad thing is a great way to think.

So, today as the winds of your life take a swirl or a new direction, know that you are STILL very much the one responsible for how you react to it and more importantly what you do with it.  Life is short…change is inevitable…and fighting it won’t get you what you want.  As for me and what I want?  It’s a work in progress; it’s a beautiful thing to know that it’s up to me.  Change, opportunity, new beginnings…all a part of life and all a part of the next 3 months in all of our lives.  Don’t get too comfortable and don’t worry if the weatherman forgets to predict winds of change in your forecast…I promise you they’re coming so you might as well buy a wind breaker for when it does!

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If you are like me, you know how precious time is.  You’ve also suddenly realized that twenty (or thirty) years have flown by in a flash.   Aside from a dozen or so life-changing and amazing moments I can’t recall everything I’ve done in all those years that mattered, I mean really, really mattered; I can probably better tell you what I haven’t done.

This quote by Henry Van Dyke sums up time best, “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.”

After careful contemplation I’ve concluded that outside of love, time is the most valuable commodity in the Universe.  Time and love are two things we can never have enough of; and they are the two things we spend our lives fighting for and once shared you can never take either of them back.

You may find it odd how many times I write about love in a blog that is about business.  But I find it odd that we don’t talk more about love in business.  Without getting too philosophical, I can tell you that after my recent trip home for the funeral of my friends’ 17 year old son; it’s apparent that time and love are the only two things that matter in the end.

So why am I writing about these two subjects as if they’re interchangeable?  Because I believe they are.  Time is all we have to give to the ones we love.  Our careers are a means to an end and if we’re lucky, it’s a means to happiness and joy because we love what we do!  Time is something we either manage well or have no sense of.  Love is something that is either a part of everything we do or grossly missing from the picture.  Yes, time is money, but spending time with others is how we show love…an invaluable gift.  If we are lacking in time-management skills it could take away from the time and love we get to share with our families.  It’s that simple of an equation.

Personally, I have some decisions to make about how I’m going to spend my professional time this year.  I have to weigh out the fact that I’m needed to manage the State Fair as a project against the reality that my balancing of  job, life and love could use some work of its own.  I will either be a living, breathing testimony to what I’m trying to convey or I will be a slave to the clock and missing precious time with the people I care most about.

A year ago today I wrote of a new day, a new beginning and a year full of unknown professional challenges.  Right now, as I’m looking at what those challenges are and what they will be again this year, I have to really take stock of my priorities.  The best news of all of this is that I have a choice.  I am the person deciding where I invest my heart, my head and my time. Can I truly make the most of each day so that I have some time and love left to share with my family?

The answer lies somewhere in the commitment I’m willing to make to each day.  I’m not talking about resolutions or crazy quips to get me through each day; I’m talking about a lifestyle that embraces making the most out of each and every moment.  Is it possible, you ask?  I think it is!  Here is a 21-step plan that I’m going to try for 21 days – you can try it, too:

  1. Before you get out of bed, breathe in through your nose and out making a “ha” noise.  Do it five times (it gets your blood circulating)
  2. When you’re standing in your closet looking for your clothes for the day, slide your left arm down your side, then your right…repeat five times on each side
  3. If you can, jump in the shower before you do ANYTHING else in the morning, even before coffee.  Try it!  There’s something stimulating about water and helps you to think more clearly
  4. Don’t get on email or Facebook before work
  5. Invest in a good travel coffee cup and use it for your 2nd cup of coffee during your commute
  6. Try to force yourself to laugh out loud (even if it’s a fake laugh) for at least one minute while you’re driving (it is great exercise for your diaphragm and it releases endorphins )
  7. Arrive to work 15 minutes before you really want to get started
  8. Make sure to make the rounds (quickly, but sincerely) to say “Good Morning” to everyone in your office
  9. When you turn on your computer, answer outstanding emails in that 15 minute window
  10. Try to have “email” times set aside so you don’t get bogged down with the constant interruption every time you hear the “ding” of a new message
  11. Take a break for lunch and if you can, take the stairs, go out on the rooftop or do something that forces you to take in the beauty of your surroundings
  12. Carve out another 15 minutes somewhere to write personal thank you’s or to touch bases with business acquaintances that have been on your mind
  13. If you get bogged down with Facebook, bill-paying or personal business during the day, earmark 15 to 30 minutes to knock stuff like that out.  If your mind is full of things you keep meaning to get done, your head won’t be in the game
  14. Do the hard stuff first: outbound sales calls, proposals, etc. THEN do the more task-oriented functions of your job
  15. Before you leave, make a bullet list for tomorrow putting the hard projects at the top of the list
  16. Stay late if you have to, but leave it at work!
  17. On your way home try not to talk on your cell, listen to relaxing music, breathe and get geared up to give your family your undivided attention
  18. Before bed stretch and recall a few things you were grateful for in your day
  19. Try to go to bed before 10 p.m.
  20. Try the “ha” breathing again while you’re lying in bed
  21. Fall asleep while saying “thank you” for every little thing you are grateful for (your bed, your favorite pillow, your family, your job, your home, your clothes, running water, a furnace, etc.)

It only takes 21 days to form a habit.  I need some new habits; some good ones!  I want the time I give to everyone in my life to be quality.  I want people to think of me as caring, thoughtful and loving…in both the workplace and at home.  I have some work to do but I am committed to finding balance.

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