One of Life’s Small Treasures – An Auto Mechanic You Can Trust!

I drive a 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport (SUV). I think Hyundai manufactures a reliable vehicle that is an excellent value. I purchased this one from a used car lot when my 2006 Honda Pilot crapped out a couple of years ago. All things considered, the Hyundai has been good to me.

Any self-respecting American consumer knows you don’t go to a dealer to get your car serviced. I’m sure most would agree it is a ripoff of criminal proportions. But, it’s not just the ridiculous prices they charge. In my experience, the attitude at car dealer service centers is atrocious.

Everyone has a story about a negative experience dealing with a car dealer’s service center. For my first few years living in Texas, my car troubles were few and far between. When I had an issue, I took my cars to places other than dealerships, which always seemed to be an overpriced hassle. However, I had urgent car situations during the last several years, first with the Honda and then the Hyundai. I was crunched for time in both cases, and the dealer was the most convenient alternative. Actually, I was too lazy to vet a trustworthy mechanic.

My Honda had a window stuck in the down position, and it was raining. I stopped by the dealer with what I thought was a simple, inexpensive request. I asked the service guy if it would be possible for them to raise the window so it would be stuck in the up position. I figured this would be an easy temporary fix until I could figure out an affordable alternative. When I asked the question, the guy looked at me as if I was a Martian. He responded with a one-word answer — NO! I fought the urge to rev the engine, drop it into drive, flip him the bird and try to burn some rubber on my way out. Instead, I calmly asked what it would cost for them to fix it. He said, begrudgingly, “I’ll have to do an estimate.” As you would expect, they wanted $800 plus! I looked at it and said two words, “Not interested,” and drove off. I ended up looking it up on YouTube. It took me a while, but I fixed the window for the cost of a part – $50.

A similar situation occurred last summer. There was a recall on an engine part in the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, which required service provided by a Hyundai dealer. Coincidently, my air conditioning had stopped working thinking it might just need a freon refill. In the interest of time, I figured why not kill two birds with one stone. Silly, me! When I dropped off the car, I asked them to look at my air conditioning. Later that day, I got a call to inform me it would be $950 to fix it. I said fahgeddaboudit and picked up the car to have someone else look at it. That’s when I decided to visit Coit Auto Center.

For Service You Can Trust – Coit Auto Center

I’d been driving by the Coit Auto Center for years, and it always seemed to be busy. For some reason, this place never came up on my radar when I had a car problem. Then, on a whim, I pulled in. Rami (the owner/manager) greeted me with a smile from behind the counter. I explained that my air conditioner wasn’t working. His response was pleasant, short, and sweet. “If you have a few minutes, we’ll look at it right now.” In less than a few minutes, they checked it out. Rami assured me there was nothing structurally wrong with the A/C; it just needed freon. So for $70, they did the freon refill. Fifteen minutes later, I was on my way home, grinning ear-to-ear.

Recently I had another situation with the passenger side seat stuck in the reclined position. So, again, I took it to my new favorite mechanic, and he asked me if I had a few minutes for them to take a look. They quickly diagnosed that it needed a new part and recommended I purchase the part off Amazon and come back because it would be significantly cheaper that way. I mean, who does that these days? In both instances, Rami and his team at Coit Auto Center saved me significant time and money while addressing my minor car issues.

Rami is THE MAN at Coit Auto Center

I don’t understand why more service providers don’t take a page out of Rami’s playbook. It seems so simple:

  • Consistently optimistic customer-first attitude
  • Demonstrate a sense of urgency equal to that of the customer
  • Do the little things that truly make a difference

Rami is smooth. He makes it look easier than I’m sure it is. No wonder Coit Auto Center is always busy. It’s not rocket science.

Posted in Customer Service, perceptions | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Fans Will Be The Biggest Losers

I heard a faint creaking sound in the distance last Thursday. It was Arnold Palmer rolling over in his casket. This occurred right around the same time the first pairing teed off, at the LIV Golf Tour event at Centurion Club outside of London. The LIV Golf Tour is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in conjunction with the Saudi Arabian government, initially pledging $400 million to start the league. LIV Golf has used mega-million dollar contracts to lure players from the PGA. According to reports, Phil Mickelson’s deal is $200 million and Dustin Johnson’s contract is $125 million. To give you some perspective, that $125M is more than Tiger Woods’s career earnings on the PGA Tour ($121M). That’s before DJ puts a tee in the ground on the LIV Tour! Johnson only earned $75M during his 12 years on the PGA Tour. I’m biting my tongue to guard against a sarcastic rant.

The PGA Tour has been the gold standard since it was formed in 1968. Greg Norman who is now the CEO of LIV Golf had moaned for years about the PGA Tour’s policies; some of it justified, most of it not. While he achieved notoriety and had tremendous success, during his years on the PGA Tour, he only won two majors. His career earnings totaled $15 million, give or take a couple hundred thousand. Greg parlayed his golf fame into multiple businesses and according to Forbes (2020), his net worth is $400M. In spite of his flair on the golf course, I haven’t been a fan of his since he ignored my autograph-seeking 6-year-old son, at a charity golf event.

I’m a huge sports fan. I love football, baseball, basketball, and golf. When it comes to sports I’m a traditionalist. I just happen to follow teams steeped in tradition. I acknowledge the need for sports to evolve to keep fans interested and for the various leagues and team owners to remain solvent.

For me, golf has always been a profession where the participants earn every cent they get. This separates golf from most other professional sports where contracts are guaranteed for multiple years. The PGA Tour is comprised of a bunch of independent contractors who don’t get a paycheck unless they make the cut. Many have sponsors who help defray their out-of-pocket expenses, but they have to play at a certain level to make the big bucks. This aspect of the professional game creates drama and fuels the stories of perseverance and the will to win. It also accentuates the agony associated with defeat.

I started hearing the rumblings about LIV golf mid-year 2021. It didn’t have a name then but it became public knowledge that it would be funded by the Saudis and there were a couple of golf’s biggest names involved. As an ardent golf fan, I hoped the idea would never get off the ground. Little did I know the toothpaste was already out of the tube. It’s now a full-blown issue surrounded by controversy and uncertainty about what the future holds.

I’ve followed this debacle closely over the last several weeks. The more I learn, the more disconcerting it becomes. This is such a complex emotionally charged issue it is difficult to discern fact from fiction. However, I do have clarity on several important points:

  • This is all part of Saudi Arabia’s master plan to distract the US (and other countries) from their egregious human rights policies.
  • The Saudi government has unlimited resources to fund LIV Golf and other activities, so the regime can continue the way it governs.
  • The money they are paying players (just to show up) is obscene.
  • In the inaugural event, last weekend, the total purse was $25M Charl Schartzel won and collected $4.75M. The golfer who finished in last place pocketed $120k. Purses for PGA Tour events are between $3M and $15M.

If money is the most important thing in your life, you opt to play on the LIV Tour. What irks me the most is the insulting script LIV has provided for the PGA TOUR players who have defected. When the players are asked why, they give the same repulsive response. This is the right decision for my family, LIV is reinvigorating the game of golf, we are growing the game around the world, it’s unique format is fun and exciting for the players and the fans. It’s weird to listen to these repetitive responses, it’s as if they joined a cult.

I understand free enterprise and the right to make choices. I’m convinced that this is different. It’s about morality and doing the right thing. It’s 2 former PGA TOUR players (Norman and Michelson), with gigantic egos, trying to start a revolution in golf. Both lack self-awareness and compassion for others. The worst part is they have partnered with a devious regime that has an ulterior motive.

The PGA TOUR will be fine, the defecting players, while they have to live with themselves, are financially set for life. Unfortunately, the biggest loser is the fan.

Posted in american values, golf | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Stop The Madness!

I promised myself I’d never blog about politics. I’m going to do my best to keep that promise today but I’m afraid there are no guarantees. Today is an exception.

Again?

I’m an optimist and I prefer to express my thoughts and ideas in a positive frame. Today I’m finding it difficult to do this because of what’s happening in this great country of ours.

This most recent event in Uvalde, Texas left me feeling horrified, angry, sad, and helpless. I always feel this way when I hear about innocent people losing their lives, especially when it involves children and guns. It makes me sick when I think about the pain and suffering those poor families are going through as I write this article.

It’s also caused me to try to understand the bigger picture. Why have we not made any progress in reducing the amount of gun violence in the US? I am so tired of the rhetoric about the 2nd amendment and our “right to keep and bear arms.” I took a few minutes to see what I could learn online about the 2nd amendment and I came away dumbfounded.

I learned that the 2nd amendment is ambiguous:

 “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

It references the state militias that were put in place to protect the individual states from the British and other outside forces. Some also pose that the militias were formed to repress rebellion from the enslaved. It’s unclear if “the right to keep and bear arms” refers to the people in the militia (collectively) or the people as individuals. The intent of the second amendment has been debated ad nauseam over the years. Since we can’t have a Zoom call with Alexander Hamilton to have him explain its intent, our only recourse is speculation.

Regardless, of its interpretation, the 2nd amendment was written and published in 1791. The most common guns included muskets and flintlock pistols. According to the Washington Post, a “Typical Revolutionary-era musket” had a one-round magazine capacity, and it could fire around three effective rounds per minute – in the hands of the most skilled wielder. Its maximum accuracy range had to be within 50 meters. Would you agree that we are in need of a modernized interpretation of the second amendment?

Regardless of what our forefathers intended, our modern leaders have made a mess of things. In my opinion, it’s all about the polarization of American politics which has been reinforced by the media. There is no such thing as bipartisanship. It’s a never-ending vicious battle focused on who is right, not what is right. A message to our leaders: If you can’t get your shit together to save our children, seek other employment… WTF! C’mon people!

I didn’t want this to be about the numbers but I couldn’t help myself after seeing these graphs. They illustrate gun violence is out of control in the US and the matter is urgent and requires immediate action.

K-12 School Shooting Statistics

  • There have been 1,924 school shooting incidents since 1970.
  • 2021 had the greatest number of incidents, with 249. …
  • Since 1970, 637 people have died in shootings at schools. …
  • 2018 was the year with the highest number of people killed, including the shooter, with 51 killed. …
  • California, Texas, and Florida are the states with the most incidents.

The statistics only tell a fraction of this human story. It’s about people, just like you and me, who have had their world shattered in a matter of minutes. It’s about those precious, innocent babies (yes they are babies) at Robb Elementary School who perished and all the humans who have lost their lives to gun violence over the years. As American citizens, what can we do? What steps can we take to help create change? How can we help stop the madness in Washington and in our communities?

Thank you for reading my blog. I look forward to your comments.

Posted in american values | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Skills Are Skills

When I look back on my career, I wouldn’t change a thing. My journey has had more twists and turns than Chubby Checker (dated analogy – look him up, Millennials!). I’m grateful to those who have believed in me and helped me along the way.

I’ve been with successful companies and not-so-successful companies. I’ve experienced a variety of different cultures. I believe that culture is everything when it comes to business success.

Few would argue that hiring people with skills is of the utmost importance. Then, when an employee lacks the skills to perform their job at a high level, training is also critical. Years ago, “the experts” professed that skills should be divided into HARD SKILLS like reading, math, and science, and SOFT SKILLS like communication, empathy, and emotional awareness. This resulted in a perception that hard skills were more important than soft skills.

In the past, companies could focus on the hard skills, neglect the soft skills and get away with it. This was especially prevalent in public companies. After all, they had shareholders scrutinizing their every move. In many cases, executives got caught up in pleasing shareholders and overlooked culture and training. They defaulted to a command and control mentality that seemed to work when they were part of the rank and file, besides who had the time to focus on the soft stuff when angry shareholders were nipping at their heels. This approach filtered down through the organization. The common refrain was, “If my boss is doing it, why can’t I?”

Then something happened on the way to increased profitability. It was a seismic shift in the landscape. Boomers were aging and retiring. Gen Y and Z were infiltrating the workplace. This created an entirely different challenge for supervisors who were deficient in soft skills.

The age diversity in the current workforce is the widest ever. It is now common for organizations to have employees who represent four to five generations working side-by-side: 

  • Silent Generation (Traditionalists) born 1928-1945
  • Baby Boomers – born 1946-1964
  • Gen X – born 1965-1980
  • Gen Y (Millennials) – born 1981-1996
  • Gen Z – born 1997-2012

Studies show that each generation shares its own distinct view of the world. Currently, Millennials are a primary focus for business leaders. They’ve been referred to as the WHY generation because of their insatiable need to know why. This group grew up with “mouse-in-hand” while cell phones evolved into handheld supercomputers. They entered the workforce feeling comfortable asking why because they could easily verify the validity of a given strategy by “Googling It.”

As the Millennials continue to establish themselves, they have been outspoken about culture, fairness, and diversity in the workplace. I can’t give Millennials all the credit, but they championed much of today’s social reform. They continue to shed light on the need for business leaders to become aware that “the whole person comes to work.”* In other words, supervisors must demonstrate a certain level of compassion when employees struggle professionally and in their personal lives. Gen Y workers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.** Managers can’t just teach; they must understand how each employee learns and how they prefer to be managed. Telling is no longer effective. It’s now about listening, collaborating, and caring.

The pendulum began to swing in the right direction years ago. Visionary business leaders busted out of the old paradigm and realized that soft skills are not only as necessary as hard skills but critical to bottom-line profitability. It’s time to stop labeling skill types and emphasize all skills equally.

Thank you for reading my blog. As always, I look forward to your comments!

*Susan Fawcett, Founder and CEO of Coaching Insight Out coined the phrase, “We hire for the position, and the whole person comes to work.” Susan is the most intelligent person I know, and she just happens to be my wife!

**The legendary Zig Ziglar, Godfather of the Self Help Industry, referred to this phrase early and often.

Posted in Business | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Impressed at CVS

What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions CVS? If you said coupons, you may pass GO!

I’ve spent years wondering about those damn coupons. Those who frequent CVS know the drill. It takes less time to pick up a few items than it does for the cashier to print out the receipt with multiple random coupons attached. This procedure has baffled me and has caused the brand to become the brunt of bad jokes like this:

Good thing I had a CVS receipt in my wallet…

The men’s room was out of toilet paper.


Last week I needed to pick up more drugstore items than usual. I’m not much of a coupon clipper, however, I just happened to have a receipt from my last visit that was a couple of feet long. I decided to see how much I could “save.” I felt like this required the proper preparation, so I sat in my car and examined the coupons. Each one had its own qualifiers (like good only on Wednesday nights when there’s a full moon and the wind is blowing from the south). Also, it wasn’t clear if I could use them all at one time or only use one per visit. After about 5 minutes of trying to decipher which coupons to use when and on what products, I defaulted to my most common strategy – walk in, look dazed and confused, and hope some kind soul helps me.

It was relatively early on a Tuesday morning. I had my coupons neatly placed in an envelope and decided, as a first step, I’d try to figure things out on my own. It had to be easier than I was thinking, however, it was about to become the opposite! Under 90% of the products, there were additional discount offers posted like “Buy 2, Get One Free”. Suddenly my brain went from confused to bewildered. My impulsive response was to chuck the coupons, pick up my goods, then make like Wayne Gretzky and get the puck out of there. However, that day I decided to restrain myself, remain calm and focus on the mission.

After about 20 minutes, I came to the realization I needed help. So I headed toward the checkout area looking for a friendly face. As I approached, I noticed the cashier was not behind the counter. She had abandoned her post to handle an unrelated task. This seemed appropriate because the store wasn’t busy and she was close enough to the register to take care of the next customer without delay. As I wandered closer, I noticed she was stocking a shelf. She noticed my presence and became concerned that she was in my way. “I’m sorry, let me get out of your way,” she said politely. We then made eye contact and she continued, “How may I help you, today?”

During my career, I spent a lot of time around hourly employees, interacting with them and observing their behavior. I can usually decipher within seconds if they genuinely care or if they are just going through the motions. Once she spoke, I knew immediately, that she was the former. I noticed her name tag read Malisa.

Me with my Customer Service Hero, Malisa. Her smile says it all!


Before I brought up my coupon-a-phobia, we enjoyed a little pleasant chat. Then all I had to do was mention the c-word and she launched into customer service mode! “There’s a CVS app, and I will show you how to use it!” Meanwhile, a couple of customers were on their way to the check-out counter. “Please excuse me, sir; let me take care of these customers, and we’ll continue our conversation in a minute. While I’m doing that, go ahead and download the CVS app.” She rushed back to her post and efficiently handled their transactions with a smile and a kind word for each.

Within a couple of minutes, there was a lull in the flow, so she returned to helping me. She was amazingly thorough and devoted to ensuring I had a complete understanding of the app’s functionality and how it could save me significant dinero. During her mini-seminar, Malisa had her eye out for customers while explaining the nuances of the app and patiently answering my questions.

There’s more to this story. Malisa was hurting emotionally. We somehow got to talking about life’s traumas during our initial conversation. I brought up our newborn grandson having open-heart surgery three days after his birth. She shared that she’d recently been through several traumatic life events, that she had endured one right after the other. She wasn’t complaining. She was simply sharing from a “glass half full” perspective.

I have high expectations when it comes to customer service. Malisa went above, beyond and then some. She’s been an employee of CVS for 2-years, a long time in the hourly world. I can only hope CVS appreciates her as much as I do.

In case you are wondering I purchased $86 worth of stuff and spent a total of $53 thanks to Malisa. For those reading without a calculator in hand, that’s roughly a 40% discount. More importantly, she completely changed my perception of CVS.

I can’t thank you enough for reading my blog. I look forward to your comments.

Posted in american values, brand, culture, Customer Service, perceptions, workplace | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Why Meditation?

If someone had approached me 20 years ago and told me that there’s value in meditating for just 15 minutes each day, I would have scoffed at the thought. I can picture myself hastily walking away, wondering what cult this dude was representing.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been a “self-help” junky, constantly looking for ways to boost my self-perception and maintain a positive mindset regardless of the situation. I read books, attended seminars, and discussed these topics with various people I respected. It was all good in theory; however, the application was always more challenging. I never seemed to master any of it in real-life situations.

Fast forward to today. I’m still looking for ways to improve. However, I can say, without hesitation, that I’m an advocate of meditation! About two years ago, I stumbled upon a book titled Becoming Supernatural, authored by Joe Dispenza. I’d never heard of “Dr. Joe,” but his book was getting lots of play on the internet. The more I researched, the more I wanted to read it. Let’s be real. Who wouldn’t want to become Supernatural?

My intent is not to provide you with a book review; therefore, I’ll do my best to get to the point.

After reading Becoming Supernatural, I went on to read Dr. Joe’s other books:

You Are The Placebo, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, and Evolve Your Brain

His work has opened up a whole new world for me. Everything he discusses is backed by quantitative research. He shares the results of study after study that will convince even the most steadfast skeptics that there is tremendous value in meditating.

Let’s face it, we live in a world of distraction.

With the advent of 24/7/365 news media, we wake up each and every day to “Global Breaking News.” After all, we’ve got to be “in the know.” But then there are millions who interpret the news for us. Their opinions are sometimes baseless and often controversial. It leaves consumers in a state of confusion, without knowing who or what to believe. Our emails are now loaded with messages, including special offers just for you! Seriously? Typically these offers are not special and include stuff you could give a rats ass about. Plus you never know for sure if it came from the Taliban! I’m a fan of social media. However, it too is loaded with distractions. Don’t get me wrong, there is tons of quality content on social (this blog, for example, he said humorously).

Meditation is a way to get away from the chaos. It provides us the opportunity to change our focus from external to internal. I view it as a mini-retreat from my hectic external world. It is a time to let go of worry and enhance my peace of mind.

Dr. Joe and others have proved unequivocally that meditation improves brain function. This is due mainly to the advancements in medical technology, including brain scans, pet scans, MRI, EEG, etc.

If you still believe that meditation is only for monks, hippies, and cult members, I encourage you to do a little research. I think you’ll be amazed at what you find.

From the Becoming Supernatural Foreward, Gregg Braden, a New York Times Bestselling Author, describes the book as follows:

“It’s the first of its kind manual that does precisely this: it leads us on a step-by-step journey to achieving our greatest potential in body, health, relationships, and life purpose and allows us to make that journey at our own pace.”

Since reading these books and others written by highly qualified individuals, I can say with great conviction, “I’m all in.” I’ve spent at least 15-minutes almost every day, for the last 2 years meditating. Sure I’ve missed a few days for one reason or another, but it has become part of my morning routine.

Whether you are on a mission to change the world or simply looking for a more peaceful existence, meditation is the ticket. There’s so much more to share, which I will do in future blogs! Always anxious to hear your thoughts.

Just type Dr. Joe Dispenza into your browser and fasten your seatbelt!

If someone had approached me 20 years ago and told me that there’s value in meditating for just 15 minutes each day, I would have scoffed at the thought. I can picture myself hastily walking away, wondering what cult this dude was representing.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been a “self-help” junky, constantly looking for ways to boost my self-perception and maintain a positive mindset regardless of the situation. I read books, attended seminars, and discussed these topics with various people I respected. It was all good in theory; however, the application was always more challenging. I never seemed to master any of it in real-life situations.

Fast forward to today. I’m still looking for ways to improve. However, I can say, without hesitation, that I’m an advocate of meditation! About two years ago, I stumbled upon a book titled Becoming Supernatural, authored by Joe Dispenza. I’d never heard of “Dr. Joe,” but his book was getting lots of play on the internet. The more I researched, the more I wanted to read it. Let’s be real. Who wouldn’t want to become Supernatural?

My intent is not to provide you with a book review; therefore, I’ll do my best to get to the point.

After reading Becoming Supernatural, I went on to read Dr. Joe’s other books:

You Are The Placebo, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, and Evolve Your Brain

His work has opened up a whole new world for me. Everything he discusses is backed by quantitative research. He shares the results of study after study that will convince even the most steadfast skeptics that there is tremendous value in meditating.

Let’s face it, we live in a world of distraction.

With the advent of 24/7/365 news media, we wake up each and every day to “Global Breaking News.” After all, we’ve got to be “in the know.” But then there are millions who interpret the news for us. Their opinions are sometimes baseless and often controversial. It leaves consumers in a state of confusion, without knowing who or what to believe. Our emails are now loaded with messages, including special offers just for you! Seriously? Typically these offers are not special and include stuff you could give a rats ass about. Plus you never know for sure if it came from the Taliban! I’m a fan of social media. However, it too is loaded with distractions. Don’t get me wrong, there is tons of quality content on social (this blog, for example, he said humorously).

Meditation is a way to get away from the chaos. It provides us the opportunity to change our focus from external to internal. I view it as a mini-retreat from my hectic external world. It is a time to let go of worry and enhance my peace of mind.

Dr. Joe and others have proved unequivocally that meditation improves brain function. This is due mainly to the advancements in medical technology, including brain scans, pet scans, MRI, EEG, etc.

If you still believe that meditation is only for monks, hippies, and cult members, I encourage you to do a little research. I think you’ll be amazed at what you find.

From the Becoming Supernatural Foreward, Gregg Braden, a New York Times Bestselling Author, describes the book as follows:

“It’s the first of its kind manual that does precisely this: it leads us on a step-by-step journey to achieving our greatest potential in body, health, relationships, and life purpose and allows us to make that journey at our own pace.”

Since reading these books and others written by highly qualified individuals, I can say with great conviction, “I’m all in.” I’ve spent at least 15-minutes almost every day, for the last 2 years meditating. Sure I’ve missed a few days for one reason or another, but it has become part of my morning routine.

Whether you are on a mission to change the world or simply looking for a more peaceful existence, meditation is the ticket. There’s so much more to share, which I will do in future blogs! Always anxious to hear your thoughts.

Just type Dr. Joe Dispenza into your browser and fasten your seatbelt!

Posted in psychology | Tagged , | 2 Comments

A Memorable Experience at the Tax Office

Can you say oxymoron? Sure, I knew you could. I’ve had plenty of memorable experiences with government-run entities — 100% of which were negative. Let’s face it there’s little joy in these necessary workplaces. The “customers” who visit are more than likely to be in a lousy mood, their minds pre-occupied with 1000 things they’d rather be doing. The typical scenario –You get in a line that is moving at a snail’s pace, and you notice everyone has their worst “resting bitch face” on. There are uniformed agents all around, so it feels like you are in line for the cafeteria at San Quentin.

America’s Favorite Pastime!
1 Ticket to Paradise

Finally, you get to the entrance into the waiting area. You say to yourself, “At least now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The door agent refers you to another agent standing by a machine who orders you to enter some basic information, and the machine spits out your ticket to paradise. (right). Then you walk into a large room with hundreds of chairs (one touching the other) and you look for a friendly face to sit next to and there are none to be found.

Certainly, you’ve seen this movie before. It’s like the sequel to Friday the 13th.

No friendly faces here

So what made my visit memorable?

While I was in line, I couldn’t help but notice this smallish older woman behaving strangely. As people entered the dungeon, she was greeting them with a big smile and a heartfelt, “Good Morning!”. This was not some automaton. She was obviously kind, and full of energy. Sadly, the vast majority of the patrons, weren’t responding to her greeting. Some were but it was barely audible.

My visit that day didn’t last long. I was starting to think my ticket number R3673 meant that there were 3,673 people in front of me. Patience thin, I made like Wayne Gretsky and got the puck outta there.

Go figure, when I returned to the crowded lobby, I heard that lone sweet voice still greeting the latest victims with a cheery, “Good Morning”. I couldn’t resist. I had to go up to her and tell her what a wonderful job she was doing. She smiled and said thank you then whispered to me, “Unfortunately my supervisor is very disrespectful!” Apparently, he doesn’t approve of her being cheery and welcoming to people as they enter the building. I could comment on her supervisor, but it would violate the PG-13 rating of this blog! I just told her, the world needs more people like you, keep up the good work. I wanted to hug her; we fist bumped instead. She made my day! I hope I brightened hers.

As I walked to out of the building, I decided my experience with “Little Miss Sunshine” was “blogworthy”. I needed to complete my mission at the tax off office the next day and I was sure I’d run across her again. My goal was to finish my business and wanted to grab a quick selfie with her to include in this article.

I walked in craning my neck to see if she was in the lobby and as far as I could tell she was not. I quickly advanced into the less crowded torture chamber, took care of my business and walked back out into the lobby expecting to hear her pleasantly greeting people as they entered. Unfortunately, all I heard was the other guards barking orders — “This line for car dealers, this line for personal business” blah, blah, blah.

I began walking around to find her. It was obvious I was looking for something so one of the guards approached and asked me with a tone of suspicion, “What are you looking for?” I described my new friend as, “The one who says good morning to people when they enter the building. Is she here this morning?” His response was terse, “No, I have no idea where she is; they probably assigned her to another building or something”. Fortunately, I was able to muster up enough self-control to refrain from kicking him in the shins!

There’s always another side to the story…

Maybe my little lady never shows up on time or she or she’s a constant complainer, or she had done something more egregious. All I know, in the cold, sullen atmosphere of the tax office, she was doing her best to brighten someone’s day…and I respect that.

Posted in change, culture, Customer Service, employee engagement, perceptions, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

That Little Voice in Our Heads

I had an easy childhood, growing up in suburbia at a time when suburbia was the ultimate setting for a middle class family. My Dad, like many fathers in our neighborhood, commuted into NYC on the Erie Lackawanna, leaving the house before anyone was up, and getting home at 5:30pm almost every evening. He made a good living and was, in my mind, the ultimate provider. I have no recollection of ever going without any of the basics. I’d call it comfortable.

Most of the Moms stayed at home (remember those days?) and took care of the day-to-day. My Mom was an evangelist for positive thinking; a walking inspirational quote. “If you think you can, you can!” “Smile and the whole world smiles with you”. “Don’t forget to count your blessings!” “Money doesn’t buy happiness”. “Look at the glass half full!” There were more where those came from. She didn’t always practice what she preached, but her intentions were good.

The litle voice in your head is a bully
Been there

As we all know there’s a fine line between staying positive and “looking at the world through rose-colored glasses”. My family never spent much time talking about the negative stuff. I grew up believing everything would be fine if I focused on the positive and my Mom (especially) swept the negative stuff under the rug. My parents did the best they could. They instilled in us noble, humble values. Positivity never lost its perch at the top of the list. For a long time I blamed them for not talking about the negative. I felt like it left me ill-prepared for the real world. However, I couldn’t be more thankful their focus on positivity.

This is one way – if you’re a pirate with a bird on your shoulder.

I’ve been a self-help junkie for most of my adult life. Most of what I’ve read revolved around life’s bottom line – HAPPINESS. It started when I was a neophyte in business. I was so naïve back then. I thought I’d naturally figure things out and was shocked when I realized not everyone had the same view the world as me!

That little voice in my head had always been with me, it was a whisper, until I stepped out into the real world. In my formative years that voice was on a pretty even keel, but as the years went on, it became louder, more critical and more negative. For years I was under the impression I couldn’t do anything about it. I felt like most people do – I am who I am. My mind and my brain were what they were and trying to change any of it was virtually impossible.

Throughout most of my career I had to deal with that little SOB, constantly harassing me about this, that, and the other thing. Sometimes it would be especially boisterous, cruel, and critical. It called me names, told me I was a failure, and it had the audacity to undermine my positive thoughts.

It was especially loud and obnoxious when I’d get up in the morning, expressing disappointment in my lack of achievement the day before. I used vigorous physical exercise in the morning to defend myself — it worked, but the results were temporary. I got into reading self-help books (never finished one) but was able to get the gist of each after the first few chapters. I attended seminars featuring motivational speakers, like Zig Ziglar and others whose names escape me. I even attended a class on “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, the philosophy made famous by Dale Carnegie. And NO, he didn’t teach the class – He died when I was still in diapers (1955). These short stints proved to be beneficial but never solved the problem I was having with that little voice in my head.

Now before anyone draws the wrong conclusions, I was relatively happy most of those years. I had my family and friends, who I knew loved me unconditionally. I enjoyed a fair amount of success in my career, I have two incredible sons that continue love me and I think like it when I’m around. I’m so fortunate to have experienced good health throughout the journey. Things are good now, but that obnoxious little Chatty Charlie is still with me. The difference now, is I’ve become much better at managing it.

What allowed me to get the upper hand? SCIENCE! I’ve read 35 books over the last couple of years (more than a couple chapters per book). These books are different than the ones I read early in my career. Back then the authors wrote about their philosophies and they were 98% opinion and 2% mother-in-law research. Now, I don’t think you can get published in the self-help category unless what you say is backed by research. When there’s tons of research done all over the world with mice, rats, cats, dogs, monkeys and all types of humans, they call it SCIENCE!

The scientific evidence convinced me that I could actually manage that yappy little voice, but it would take significant work and discipline. I learned about neuroplasticity and a human’s ability to change the way their mind and brain function. As I continued reading and exploring… quieting the mind, was becoming a recurring theme. Quite honestly, I shuttered at the thought of sitting down for 20 minutes and being alone with my thoughts. Now I’m an advocate and 100% committed to starting my days with a morning meditation. A drastic change for a serial extrovert and truly a difference-maker for me.

Don’t underestimate the power of that little voice. It will continue to ruin your day if you let it. It’s okay to listen to it, because, as much as I’ve blasted it in this article, it can be helpful at times. The key is to let go of its negative rhetoric (noise), and every single day feed your mind with a large helping of positivity!

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Tis the Season…

Written the week before Christmas 2021…

It starts sometime after Thanksgiving when we say to ourselves, “I can’t believe Christmas is right around the corner!” More often, than not it is expressed with a feeling of anxiety and in some cases dread. Is it me or is this attitude becoming more and more prevalent? I was thinking maybe it has to do with getting older. Until the other day… I asked a 30-something “Are you ready for Christmas?” without hesitation, she finished my sentence — “to be over!” The next day I asked another 30-something the same question and he had a similar response. (Sophisticated research, I know!)

What’s causing the holiday “tude?”

It’s the dough…

I get it. Christmas is a pressure-cooker for many. It’s filled with expectations and emotions that run higher than at any other time of the year. Typically, the cash drain is considerable and most Americans find it easily justifiable to break out the plastic. Anything goes when it comes to Christmas, or so it seems.

Then there’s the family…

Instead of a bonus, Clark receives a subscription to The Jelly of the Month Club

I strongly recommend taking a break to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (circa 1989). For the uninformed, this is must see TV. This classic is right up there with A Wonderful Life, White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street. Some may think it is sacrilege to include this on their holiday viewing list. I say the benefits of 90-minutes of laughter are just what the doctor ordered during this time of the year. For enhanced enjoyment pour up your favorite adult beverage while viewing.

Morristown Square

What about the shopping?

Who in their right mind would leave the comforts of their own home to go to a mall? This is when I’m thankful for Al Gore*. If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t have the internet and online shopping. As sad as it is that shopping on main street is becoming a thing of the past and malls are being converted into Amazon warehouses, I’ve never been a fan of holiday shopping.

Case in point. A couple of years ago I had to take a “quick trip” to the mall, for a last minute Christmas gift. The place was packed (duh). The worst part was fighting the traffic on the way out.

I was in the left lane of what I thought was a 2-lane exit. Suddenly it turned into a single lane and I accelerated to merge into the right lane. A woman in a B.A.T. (Big-Ass Truck – lots of those in Texas), for some reason did not want me to get in front of her and she too hit the accelerator. Suddenly, we both slammed on the brakes. She looked down at me in my SUV, flipped me the bird and mouthed the words, F*&# you (multiple times). I motioned to her to roll down her window and she obliged. Before she could get her window all the way down, I smiled and yelled in my jolliest voice, “Merry Christmas to you too!” Ah, yes the joys of holiday shopping.

The Tradition Continues in Morristown

My dislike for holiday shopping began with traumatic events I suffered through as a small child. Here’s one that sticks out… It was a perfectly enjoyable day, the week before Christmas. I was playing at home and got kidnapped by my Mom and my two sisters to go into Morristown, just a short drive from the house. I was not informed the purpose was last minute Christmas shopping. My mother knew, the only way I’d go without kickin and screamin was to tell me we were going to visit the “Morristown Square”. The square was an extraordinary place during the holiday season. From the day after Thanksgiving through January 1st it turned into a magical place for children. The trees were all lit up and the decorations were astonishing to a 6-year old. There was a Santa’s workshop, reindeer, a bunch of elves running around and an occasional visit from the jolly one himself! Talk about a Christmas buzz! I was high as a kite. Much to my chagrin my female loved ones had an ulterior motive. Suddenly, my euphoria turned to dread. The next thing I knew I was being dragged across the street and into Bambergers, for hours of Christmas shopping monotony. I’ve been scarred ever since.

So it’s time to remember the rest of the lyrics to the song. Tis the season to be jolly fa la la la la la la la la! (Did I get all the las?) I hope your Christmas weekend is filled with love, joy, and laughter.

A funny Christmas story from Wanda Sikes

“I love my family but my family — they’re the type of people that never let you forget anything you ever did… I was in the first grade Christmas play — I’m playing Mary. Now, during the course of the play, I dropped the baby Jesus… They still talk about this. I go to my family reunion, and one of my cousins just had a baby. So I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s a cute little baby. Let me hold the baby…’ And my aunt runs over, ‘Don’t you give her that baby! You know she dropped the baby Jesus!'”

Fun Facts

*Despite the multitudinous derisive references to the supposed quote that continue to be proffered even today, former U.S. vice president Al Gore never claimed that he “invented” the Internet, nor did he say anything that could reasonably be interpreted that way. The initial idea of the Internet is credited to Leonard Kleinrock after he published his first paper entitled “Information Flow in Large Communication Nets” on May 31, 1961.

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Kind Words Do Make a Difference

I love to write. Whenever I have time, which hasn’t been often lately, I write about customer service, sports, and other stuff I think I know a little bit about. 

Back in high school, I was one of only a handful of males, who scored high in verbal and low in math on my SATs. I don’t remember my exact scores but there was a significant spread between the two. I just thought it was because I stunk at math; not that I had any special verbal talents.

During my senior year in high school, Mr. Bianco was my English teacher. (Do they still call it English?) He had high standards and, what must’ve been, a closet full of red marking pens. He was meticulous when reviewing our work. I’m sure he suffered from writers cramp after grading papers. I got more than my share of that red ink. To this day, I hate typos, misspellings, bad grammar, and poor punctuation, thanks to Mr. Bianco.

 During and post college, I rarely wrote unless I had to for a course or an occasional thank you note to my grandmother. Writing for pleasure was never part of the equation. It’s hard for an ADD serial extravert with the attention span of a gnat to sit down, let alone write something compelling. 

As I pursued a career in marketing, writing became more important.  My writing was good enough to get me by, but I never took the time to hone what skill I had.  There were too many other activities to occupy my time. You know, the usual… parties, watching Happy Days, hanging with my pals, playing hoops, going to the shore, smokin cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo. Eventually marriage, kids, career, resulting in the perpetual excuse, “I don’t have time”. 

About midway through my career, I worked for a guy who didn’t understand the concept of “constructive criticism”.  Oh, he had the latter c-word down, but the former – not so much.

I’ve never been a fan of the annual review. This boss wanted your version first so he always started the review with this insidious question: “What would you say about your performance over the past year?” I knew this was his game and went in prepared to answer the question.  I thought I did good. When I concluded, he gave me his perception of my performance invalidating 50% of what I said.

At the end of the session, I realized I’d forgotten to mention what I believed to be my biggest strength – my writing skills. In hindsight, I should’ve quit while I was ahead. I didn’t realize I’d opened a can of worms. He responded –That’s interesting.  I don’t think you are a very good business writer at all.  He continued your writing is too wordy, your key points get lost in the fluff.  You can literally say the same thing with half the words. His direct feedback stunned me. 

Before I had a chance to recover, he did share a valuable nugget. After you’ve finished writing go back and eliminate the words that aren’t necessary to make your point.  It’s like cleaning out the garage, “When in doubt throw it out’”. My business writing improved, so taking the gut punch was worth it.

Social media has fueled my passion for writing.  For a while, when I was between jobs I was posting a couple times a month and a handful of people were reading my stuff. I’d get some likes and a couple of comments which made it worthwhile. Early this year, I stopped posting and didn’t think anyone would notice.

I’m fond of Facebook for a variety of reasons. Politics aside, there is no better way to stay in touch with friends and family. I’ve always been a sort of sappy sentimentalist. When people reply to my comments, I reply to theirs as often as I can, and sometimes results in a relationship renewed virtually. One friend was reading my blogs more often than I realized. We had been responding to each other’s posts for a couple years. Recently, our comments and likes have become more frequent.

A couple weeks ago she reached out to me and asked me if I was still writing. I messaged her back letting her know I haven’t been and provided the age-old excuse regarding my lack of time. Her response was short but sweet. “Do it. You’re Good”.  That’s all I needed.  I’m grateful to my friend for the encouragement. Hopefully she’ll read this and realize it is a long winded thank you note.

A final point… I don’t know if it’s moral decay, political unrest, or the biased media (on both sides). Whatever the reason, our society seems to have forgotten the power of a few kind words. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all took a few seconds each day to encourage a handful of people with a few kind words?  

Posted in american values | 2 Comments