Why the Good Old Days Seemed So Good

September 23, 2011

This weekend I will be missing my high school reunion.

There in the brisk, rarefied air of Colorado, my former classmates will come together on the site where we once ruled the world. All weekend—especially late into Saturday night—my friends will reminisce about those Camelot years, that special time we now call “the good old days.”

I wish I could be there for three reasons. First, I really like the people I went to high school with. Second, I would find it reinvigorating to relive those special days that were filled with so much fun. Finally, I feel a need to defend my reputation when Kenny, the quintessential storyteller, regales our alumni group with wild stories that are always embellished and often fabricated.

Yes, those were the good old days, and they were good for the following reasons:

My selective memory

I am certain those high school days were not as wonderful as they now appear when relived through filtered memories and creative storytelling. Having a selective memory helps me to forget the bad and focus on the good. I prefer it that way.

To make today one of tomorrow’s “good old days” I will deliberately focus on the positive and minimize thinking about whatever might be lurking in the dark, sinister shadows.

Read the rest of this entry »


Career Transition, Blog Posts and a Presidential Hug

July 7, 2011

Three months ago I learned that my job at the American Red Cross would likely be eliminated.

Nationally, the Red Cross has been undergoing a massive, top-to-bottom reorganization that will affect every person affiliated with the organization. The restructuring will reduce expenses and increase revenues, all with a focus on keeping the mission relevant in a rapidly-changing environment. To their credit, our national leaders have openly shared the unfolding changes via e-mails, online videos and frequent conference calls.

Anticipating that my position would be among those eliminated by the end of the summer, I shared the discomforting news with my wife and family. Then, with the clock ticking towards the start of a new fiscal year, I launched an under-the-radar job search. I first revised my resume and LinkedIn profile. With the full understanding and support of my boss, I shifted my networking into a higher gear and sent e-mails to a couple dozen strategically-placed contacts. I was encouraged by their immediate offers to help.

Prior to launching the public phase of my job search, I developed personal business cards, a career-highlights brochure and an assortment of collateral materials to use when the appropriate time came. Read the rest of this entry »


A Thank You from Joplin

June 26, 2011

A favorite memory from Joplin came in the middle of an uneventful afternoon in the Red Cross shelter.

A young girl turned 11 years old.

Because she and her family lost their house in the tornado, the shelter’s dining room provided the best place for a birthday celebration. To make the occasion special, a friend baked a cake and brought it into the shelter. The bright smile on the girl’s face demonstrated how happy she was that someone remembered her birthday.

When she saw me, she eagerly asked if I would like a piece of her cake. I said, “Yes, but only a small one, please.” She cut into the cake and handed me a piece three or four times larger than my definition of small.

I thanked her, honored to be including in her party.

As I ate the cake, I took special note of the girl’s sweet spirit. I imagined how she and her family had made other plans to spend the day in a completely different way. Not only did the tornado blow those plans aside, it destroyed the house where the girl and her family lived. Now, they were living temporarily in our Red Cross shelter. Read the rest of this entry »


Quotes I Love

September 29, 2010

Quotations inspire me. They focus me. They motivate me.

I like the way an eloquent quote can elegantly reflect the light of resplendent wisdom. To me, each quotation has special value.

I collect quotes as a gem collector might gather precious stones. Like gemstones, quotes were never meant to be hoarded and stored in a dark, out-of-sight vault. Rather, they are most appreciated when shared and displayed for the enrichment of all.

If you also appreciate quotes, I invite you to meander through this collection of my favorites, categorized by these topics:

  1. Being Creative
  2. Planning and Goal Setting
  3. Being a Leader
  4. Learning, Teaching and Being Well Educated
  5. Understanding Life’s Transitions
  6. Marketing Effectively
  7. Achieving Success
  8. Creating a Compelling Vision
  9. Overcoming Adversity
  10. Chuckling with Yogi

How to Succeed in the First 90 Days

April 14, 2010

I know several people who will be starting new jobs this month. As the economy improves, I’m hoping the same good fortune awaits a couple dozen of my other professional contacts who are currently between jobs.

Starting off on the right foot is essential for ongoing career success. When I began my current job in 2006, I bought and read an invaluable book called The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. Anyone making a fresh start would be well-advised to buy his or her own copy of the book and study it.

The book lists 10 things you should accomplish during the first three months in your new job. Within the book each step is discussed in detail, but for your convenience I’ve summarized those steps here:

  1. Promote yourself. Mentally break away from the mindset of your old job and think of your new one as a promotion that will require new ways of achieving success.
  2. Accelerate your learning. The learning curve may be steep. There will be so much to learn in your new environment, so do everything you can to quickly absorb what you need to know.
  3. Match strategy to the situation. Diagnose the business situation accurately and then quickly develop a customized plan of action.
  4. Secure early wins. You need a few early successes to build credibility and to create momentum. Early on, identify ways to create value. Read the rest of this entry »

Giving Thanks in the Tough Times

March 24, 2010

If you’re like me, there are times in life when you wonder if you’re caught in a bad dream. You want to pull the covers over your head and sleep it off, hoping you’ll awake to a completely different reality.

I’ve had three such times—1) being diagnosed with cancer, 2) losing a job and 3) dealing with my mother’s unexpected death last month.

Journaling is a practice that helps me get through those rough, white-water times. As I write, I deliberately focus on positive thoughts, thinking of all the things I have to be thankful for in spite of my circumstances.

As I’ve tried to mend the hole torn in my heart with Mom’s passing, I’ve developed a lengthy list of things that I’m thankful for. This has already been an essential part of my grieving and healing process. Here’s a partial list of what I’ve come up with so far: Read the rest of this entry »


Journaling through the Tough Times

March 17, 2010

We all experience difficult times in life, and we each find different ways to help us get through those times. Meditation, prayer and physical exercise are common methods we use.

I have found the practice of journaling to be especially effective.

Journaling for Comfort

Last month when my mom died unexpectedly I received an e-mail from a friend and former co-worker. She also lost her mother unexpectedly within the past year, so she expressed her condolences and then passed along some practical wisdom, saying, “A dear friend told me the day after mom died to keep a diary of those first few days. You may think you’ll never want to remember them but there comes a day when you’ll look back on a particular kindness or a surprise visitor and smile.”

Though it’s been less than a month since Mom died, I’ve already filled more than 20 pages in my journal. I also kept a detailed timeline of everything that happened during the first week. I instinctively knew that the events transpiring during that surreal time would soon become a blur and my memory would inadequately recall everything. Read the rest of this entry »


A Tribute to Mom on Her Birthday

March 5, 2010

Mom looked healthy in this photo taken less than a week before she unexpectedly died. (Photo taken by my brother Gary)

.

Today would have been Mom’s 81st birthday. Sadly, last week our family gathered to bury Mom who died suddenly from cardiac failure. At her funeral, I fought back tears to read a tribute I’d written in her honor. With only slight editing, here’s what I shared with family and friends who had gathered to honor the special lady we all loved.

__________________________

Thank you for being here. Your presence means a lot to the family, especially to Dad, Gary and me.

Earlier this week we received ongoing updates on who was planning to be here. We learned that Mom’s brothers, nephews, nieces and grandchildren would be traveling from California, Tennessee, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado.

As the list grew longer, I kept thinking, “This is great! Mom will be so happy to see everyone.”

Then I’d get choked up as my new reality quickly set in. This time we were not planning another family reunion. Nor a 50th anniversary celebration. Nor the wedding of one of Mom’s grandchildren.

Sadly, this is not one of those happy events. We have come here to mourn. We have suffered a big loss, and we are here to grieve.

But we have also gathered to celebrate the joy and the love and the happiness that Mom brought into each of our lives. Read the rest of this entry »


What to Do When United Way Moves Your Cheese

January 6, 2010

I just finished re-reading the classic little book Who Moved My Cheese? It gave me a better understanding of what is happening in the nonprofit community—not just here in Kansas City, but across the nation.

For many years, the national United Way system has been struggling to redefine itself. Its leaders have created new methods for allocating money, and somehow they believe that “moving the cheese around” will make their cause more attractive to donors who have, over the years, found United Way to be waning in relevance.

That logic escapes me. In my opinion, United Way will become less relevant as it leaves gaping holes in human services programs. I guess you could call it their “Swiss cheese model” for meeting human needs. I assume United Way realizes that its decision to cut much-needed funding will actually force established, well-respected organizations such as the American Red Cross to compete more directly with them for contributions from within the same donor pool.

Personal Disclosure

To be transparent, I must disclose two important facts about myself before I continue sharing my opinions.

First, I am responsible for marketing at the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, the single largest recipient of United Way allocations in this region. Though I am employed by the Red Cross, this blog post has been written on my personal time and entirely reflects only my own opinions, not those of my employer.

Second, before coming to the Red Cross I served as the vice president of marketing for the United Way of Greater Kansas City. Because I have always had great respect for the organization and its mission, I am both a Diamond Donor (meaning I’ve given for 25+ years) and I’m also a member of the Leadership Giving Circle. However, in the weeks ahead I intend to reevaluate whether United Way is the wise investment I once thought it was.

By the way, I have many friends who work at United Way. They are exceptionally professional individuals and nothing I say here is a personal indictment of them or anyone else. Read the rest of this entry »


How Soon Will You Be Obsolete?

November 3, 2009

In these strange economic times, too many good people are unemployed. I’m grateful for my job, yet I know there’s no such thing as complete job security. This is a scary time, yet I fear something more frightful than unemployment.

I’m afraid of obsolescence—becoming obsolete, irrelevant and dispensable.

Every employee, every worker and every professional has an expiration date (and I don’t mean a date with death). Like milk in the grocery store, everyone has a “Best If Used By…” label. Everyone has a skill set, a knowledge base or a network of contacts that will be outdated very quickly in today’s fast-paced world. No one buys sours milk, no matter how fresh it once tasted. Neither do employers hire or retain obsolete workers, no matter how productive they once were.

Read the rest of this entry »


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