Monday, June 30, 2008

The Secret to Better Grades is Dancing?

June is a special month. Graduations, weddings, Father's Day, and dance recitals. A time of endings, and new beginnings. A time of happiness and joy, with just a touch of bittersweet.

I've been a proud supporter of local dance schools for over 10 years. I've been backstage volunteer for probably 20 performances with duties ranging from dressing and entertaining 3 year olds to putting on makeup to altering costumes to organizing the entire backstage volunteer workforce. If you have children, just imagine the organizational talents required to keep 150 to 300 young people entertained for 2 hours without missing a single on-stage cue. Its a lot of fun, a bit stressful, but very rewarding.

One thing I've noticed over the years is that the best dancers are also honors students in high school.

Which really seemed confusing when I first thought about it. Consider those girls are at the dance studio 2-5 nights a week dancing for 7-10 hours. This on top of high school classes, PE, and homework. How much sleep can they be getting?

But compare your body to your car. When you car has a tune up and an oil change, it runs smoother, gets better gas mileage, and will last a whole lot longer than a junker that no one takes care of.

Well dancing is even better than a tune up. The more research we look at, the stronger the case is in favor of exercise. Research described in Can Exercise Improve Grades? and Getting students to do more exercise can improve their grades shows a strong link between fitness scores, grades and scholastic test scores.

Physically, strenuous dance improves your blood circulation, increases your body hormone levels, improves the flow of nutrients to your brain, and allows the brain to function optimally. Developing your physical talents builds your self esteem and self confidence. And its just plain fun! And fun is the #1 antidote to stress! Stress is a killer of brain cells as well as your body.

So when the going gets tough, the tough go dancing.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Funny Things I've Seen on Job Listings

Makes recommendations on solutions to leadership.
Do I actually get to solve the pointy-haired boss problem? Would that be a fun job!

Go to college, get a degree, success is assured!

How much is an education worth? What is the best way to reach your financial goals?

I once embarrased myself in a staff meeting by blurting out "Is that all an MBA is worth?"

At the time I was feeling a little stuck in my job. The salary was not bad, but I was not seeing any opportunities for advancement in my near future. I had been contemplating going back to school for an MBA and trying to decide if the dollar cost of the degree, added to the personal cost to my health, and the family-life cost of time away from my family is worth the potential increase in my career advancement prospects. When I heard my manager practically drooling over the prospect of hiring an MBA for an open position, it got my attention. The position in question is a business analyst, who would be paid $40,000 to $60,000 a year. He felt he was getting the best qualified candidate. My thought was why would an MBA accept a $40,000 a year job? Shouldn't they be able to do better than that?

Today I received an advertising email from a degree mill. You know, those on-line "get your degree fast" programs? Since they are trying to entice me to spend my money with them, I would expect their marketing people to put some tantalizing, sweet salary numbers in their ad to get me all excited about getting my MBA online. Well, I have to conclude either the marketing people are really dumb, or most business graduates are just not earning a lot of money.

Here is the deal: If you have a business degree, they tell me the average salary is $52,888. BUT if you get their MBA, your average salary might be $74,038!!!!

I guess compared to McDonalds or Walmart, that looks pretty good. But coming from the high tech industry where even the "monkeys" in our profession earn $50,000 to $60,000 a year, this fails to excite me. My goal is a comfortable 6 figure income with plenty of time to reflect and relax.

So no, an MBA is not in my future. I'm exploring a couple of different ways to better leverage my time and improve my earnings. I'll continue to share these with you in future blogs.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Road to Wealth is Stuff

“He who dies with the most toys win!”

You see it on bumper stickers and so may people you see act as if it is their guiding principle in life. So today we'll talk a bit about material wealth or having lots of stuff.

We live in a free market, consumer-driven society. Some people decry this as the end of civilization as we know it. Others see the economic power as providing the most good for the most people. Others hate and fear us and seek to destroy us. The funny thing is that they seem to hate the fact that people are happy and having a good life. Go figure.

No one can deny we live in the wealthiest society that has ever existed on this earth. America is the most generous nation on earth. When there is a tsunami, which county bands together as private citizens to raise millions of dollars to help the victims? When earthquakes strike, who takes their privately owned, extremely expensive Caterpillars and other earth moving equipment to clean up the rubble? When hurricanes strike, where do the “chainsaw brigades” come from to cut up the 100 year old trees lying like twigs in the roads? And the riots start, how can a hand full of police possibly protect thousands of citizens at the same time? People need to have the tools to protect themselves.

Now in a different country with a different type of economy, an individual can't just go out and buy stuff because he or she wants to. The government says only government utility workers can own a chainsaw. So if a bad storm knocks a tree down in the road, an entire town may be cut off until that government agency decides they are ready to remove the tree. Worst case scenario, the town is cut off for weeks, the water supply becomes contaminated, half the town dies from cholera, and the government has that many fewer people to worry about. Its a win-win for the government, a big loser for the citizens.

However, in a free society, there's always one or two guys who just think Husqvarna's are the coolest piece of equipment and have one in their garage. The rest of the town might think its a waste of money, but hey, its a free country, so whatever. Then the storm comes, the tree falls down, the guys need to get to work just like everyone else, so they team up with their Huskies and cut that tree down to size. Then a couple of other guys with those expensive over sized pickup trucks haul the chunks of wood out of the road, and before you know it, life goes back to normal.

In case you had any doubts at this point, I'm a big supporter of having lots of stuff.

But does having lots of stuff mean you are wealthy? We'll talk a bit more about that in another post.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

When you've lost your health, the rest doesn't seem to matter

Why do I feel so bad when I have it so good?

Americans are the wealthiest and healthiest people to have ever lived in human history. Don't let the evening news convince you otherwise. Babies who would have never been born even 50 years ago are now being saved by surgery performed in the womb. People who would have once wasted away due to "consumption" can count on their doctor to diagnose & treat tuberculosis, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and Montezuma's revenge.

But there is trouble in paradise. 

Obesity, aging, diabetes, Alzheimer's, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, women's health issues are causing people who should be in their "golden years" to struggle with quality of life issues that in many cases could have been prevented. "Disease management" is the focus of pharmaceutical research and most medical practices. Once the body has broken down, we often need a medical mechanic to patch things up and hopefully get us through a few more years.

But mother was right when she told you an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The tricky part is how to know what the right things to do are.

What if I told you one change in your life could improve your blood pressure, reduce depression, reduce stress, ease stomach problems, avoid weight gain, urinary & prostate problems, female health problems, and even slow your rate of aging? Would you want me to tell you about it, or keep it a secret?

We'll find out next post.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

3 Way Calling - Why and When

When is the sum of the parts greater than the whole? Why are team sports so much fun? Why is synergy such a cool word? And why do I want to do a 3 way call?

With a degree in psychology, I learned pretty early on about Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Once you get through your basic eat/breathe/sleep and safety needs, your most important needs are your social needs. The need for companionship, approval and a sense of belonging are among the strongest human needs. And this, in a nutshell, is why 3 way calling is such an important tool.

But first, what is 3 way calling? 

Mechanically, it is just a way to have you, your prospective customer/associate/employee and a credible, neutral third party together in a conversation. Any proper office phone has a conference call feature. Most cell phones do. And you can even set up your home phone to allow you the ability to talk to 2 people at once. If you don't know how to do this, practice on a friend or family member until it becomes natural. You DON'T want to practice on your prospective customers and associates.

Here is how it works.

You have a product or service to sell. You have a person you wish to sell this product or service to. The person is somewhat interested, but not convinced. Your job is to help them work through any fears, concerns, or objections they may have that are preventing them from saying "Yes" to what you are offering them. By using 3 way calling appropriately, you will address their social needs by letting them see you are part of a larger team and inviting them to be part of the team. You will be bringing in an "expert," which will let them know they are important to you. You will be building trust and friendship with them by taking the time to talk through their questions. If all this is done with a desire to do what is best for the customer, you will either "get the sale" or at least get a few referrals for other possible customers.

Your next step is to say something like the following.

"Mary, I can tell you have a few questions that I'm not able to answer for you. Would you mind if I bring Chris on the line for a few minutes? She has a lot more experience in the area you are asking about and she can do a great job of answering your questions."

When Mary says yes, use your telephone to dial Chris. Chris is someone who has a great deal of credibility and expertise in whatever it is Mary is uncertain about. Mary will be on hold during this time, so please don't make her wait more than 10-15 seconds. Remember how much you hate to be on hold.

When Chris picks up the line, give her a brief description of who Mary is, what she is interested in, and what her objections or questions are.  Then conference Mary into the phone call.

This next step is VERY IMPORTANT.

Introduce Chris by talking briefly about her expertise and why you asked her to join the call. Let's say for example Mary was interested in a weight loss product, but was uncomfortable about having to take pills every day. Your 3 way call might go something like this.

"Mary, I've asked Chris to join us. 

"Chris is a certified nutritional therapist and has been working many years with people who are looking for better ways to manage their weight. She has had  lot of success helping people with this product.

"Chris, Mary has been asking some great questions about our weight loss product. She really understands how weight management can work. But she has some questions about where our product fits in.

"Mary, please ask Chris the question we were just talking about."

Now the next part is for you to be very quiet and let Chris and Mary talk things through. If handled correctly, Chris will have left Mary feeling happy about purchasing your product. Or, if it turns out the product really is not right for Mary, she will know that you care about her and aren't trying to force her to buy something she doesn't want. When Chris hangs up, you move on to the next step with Mary. Either take the order, or ask for referrals. And enjoy the fact that you have made a new friend today.

As Angel Lee says, "Being a millionaire isn't about having a million dollars. Its about having a million friends."


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What is wealth?

Is the key to happiness wealth? Or is the key to wealth happiness? And what, truly, is wealth?

Every good discussion starts with an interesting question. I have found in life that the key to learning is to have a question. Without a question, your mind is like a locked box. The question is the key that opens the world of possibilities. And once your mind is open, you will be amazed at "all the thinks you can think!"

This blog will range from the pragmatic how-to tips & tricks, to hard-nosed scientific research results, to the fanciful,  to the metaphysical. Occasionally, I may even get silly. But ultimately, my goal is to help others in their pursuit of a better life.  To maximize what you get out of life, you need to maximize your health and wealth. So let's start with wealth, a subject near and dear to many hearts.

What is wealth? 

Is it economic, having lots of money?
Is it material, having lots of stuff?
Is it power, the ability to have others do your will?
Is it emotional, being loved by many?
Is it spiritual, having a close relationship with God or your higher power?
Is it a state of abundance, where you simply have more?

Most people think of wealth in terms of their paycheck. And most people do not count themselves among the wealthy. A paycheck is, after all, trading hours for money and there are only so many hours in each day. Each hour you spend working is an hour you don't spend doing something else. In wealth management terms, there is an "opportunity cost" to going to work each day. You lose out on the opportunity to do something better. A future blog posting will talk about ways out, practical ways to improve your income starting today.

My dictionary also defines wealth as "A large aggregate of real and personal property." To me, this means "lots of stuff." Is wealth about how big your house is, or what car you drive, or the new stereo or computer or other fun piece of consumer electronics you just bought? Or might your stuff be actually getting in the way of your ability to develop true wealth? On another day we'll talk about the difference between stuff and wealth-building tools.

In days gone by, being wealthy meant you could own other people, as servants or slaves. Today, many people think being wealthy means you don't have to care about "the little people." Only your needs matter. But a future post will explain a seeming paradox: In order to lead, you must serve.

An older definition of the word wealth means well-being. Is it enough to be loved? Do material things matter at all if people care about you? Or is money a way to buy the love you need? Its no secret that the most popular guy at the bar is the one who bought the last round. But on the other hand, Mother's Day cards the best selling special occasion cards. Yet without wealth, even the most loving mother cannot meet the physical needs of those who depend on her. We'll talk a bit about the thought that "Money can't buy me love" but why even today "Diamonds are a girl's best friend."

While most people think of wealth in material terms, there are those special people who shine with the light of spiritual wealth. Some think a rich man has as much chance of entering heaven as a camel's chance of fitting through the eye of a needle. But with God, all things are possible. Spiritual wealth may require a vow of poverty for some, but if service is truly God's love manifested, perhaps wealth is a measure of one man's ability to serve others. Warning - if you are offended by this sort of talk, be sure you skip that post!

In its purest sense, wealth is about abundance. We will have many happy hours talking about how you can change from a person of limited means, to a person of abundant means.