Friday, December 31, 2010

Don't Eat Paste in 2011

According to Google, the average life expectancy in the USA is 77.9 years. OK, since we know that everything on the Internet is always true, let’s go with that. Now, let’s do something interesting. Instead of adding up the years, let’s review our lives by decades. To be clear, a decade is a period of ten years. The word is derived (via French) from the Ancient Greek dekas which means ten. That means that if we are lucky, we have seven or eight decades to make our marks on the world. Here we go!

Decade One
Your first decade is spent pooping your pants, playing with toys, watching cartoons, and getting your first introduction to school. During your first decade, your teeth don’t work so well. In fact, just when you get used to them, they fall out. We learn that eating paste in school is highly over-rated. Decade one gets you a two wheeler bike (ouch, scraped knees) your first homework assignment (you forgot to do it) and your first fight with a bully on the playground (ouch, again). But in decade one Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy are always in your corner.

Decade Two
This is the best! In decade two, you learn everything that there is to learn in life. You officially become the smartest person in the world, and you realize that your parents are clearly idiots. It is in decade two that you have your first drink, your first cigarette (please don’t) and your first, well – your first just about everything. Decade two introduces you to puberty, middle school, high school, and college. Here we learn how to drive cars, get into (and out of) trouble, how to make our parents crazy, and it is in decade two that we have our first “real” dates. In some cases, in decade two you can even get (surprise) your own kids! Yes, decade two is by far the best – you are invincible!

Decade Three
Decade three gets really interesting. You are now usually married (or divorced) with more bills than money. You have a job (career) that you love (hate). You have a home (mortgage / second mortgage) and a new car that runs like a top (it’s in the shop, again). In decade one, you believed in Santa Claus. Now, in decade three, you are Santa Claus.

Decade Four
Decade four is much like three, but with bigger bills. Decade four is where you start losing hair on your head, but it starts growing like crazy in your ears (right guys?). If you are lucky, you have traveled well, and you have memories of some wonderful family vacations. Once again (according to Google) you have had two to three jobs (maybe more) at this point in your career. The days of working for one company for life are long gone. If you are lucky, it is in decade four that your youngest graduated from college, and you are finally “done” with tuition payments. What did you say, Jr? Graduate school? Hey, that’s great! .

Decade Five
Oh my God, what was that noise? Oh geeze, that was my father’s noise! Decade five is the wonderful decade of “losing things”. It is the decade of going bald (hair plugs) knee replacements, and (fill in the blank) replacements. Why the hell did I get that tattoo on my (fill in the blank) back in decade two??? It is in decade five that men run out and get the (Corvette, Harley Davidson, etc.) to make themselves feel better about the things they (lost / are losing). Ah yes, decade five is the decade of making up for the things that we lost, including our minds. Funny how you lose your hearing, but you ears get bigger to compensate (guys).

Decade Six
Ah, retirement. All of those years of hard work, the 401k and the Social Security payments. Now I get to play golf, travel the world, and enjoy myself. What did you say? Bank failures? Bernie Madoff? My house is now only worth how much???

Decade Seven
At some point during decade seven (or eight, or nine...) you will probably find yourself pooping your pants, playing with toys, and watching cartoons. Your teeth don’t work so well. In fact, just when you get used to them, they fall out (dentures). Ah yes, the circle of life. Why do the first and last decades have to be so similar? It is here that we realize that God truly has a sick sense of humor.

As the world welcomes 2011, it might be helpful to think of our lives as a series of decades. If we are lucky, we will have seven, maybe eight (or God willing nine) decades to live our lives. It is our quest to link these decades together, to make them as fulfilling and successful as possible. We don’t have too much control over the first decade, and probably not too much control over the last. It is what we do with the “middle decades” that we will consider our legacy.

I am in the beginning of my fifth decade. I am blessed to have wonderful wife, two great sons and a career that I enjoy. It is the magic of the Internet that allows me to share my thoughts with the world. It is my plan to make this decade my best decade ever. That is my plan - why not make it yours as well?

My final thoughts for 2010: live and follow the “golden rule” whenever possible. And don’t eat paste, regardless of which decade you are in.

Have a Safe and Happy New Year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

It's the story, of a lovely lady...

There's nothing quite like a good story. When sitting at a college lecture, listening to an athlete’s celebratory speech, or talking to a good friend, our ears perk up and our minds click whenever the word "story" makes an appearance.

A good story has the power to take a concept, a philosophy, and an idea and make it into a breathing, colorful entity, giving it life and making it real. It takes hazy notions and turns them into tangible, concrete objects that we can feel, touch, and that we can understand. A good story creates a bond, a connection. A good salesman knows how to tell a good story.

In marketing, telling a story is potent and powerful. When you tell people the story behind your product and company, they start listening. With the help of a story, you turn a cold, impersonal object into a warm and real personal connection. Imagine you supply a service, such as a computer technician. Your story begins when you were just a child and would spend hours taking things apart just to figure out how they worked, fascinated by the intricate technology.

Now, you've been working in the computer repair industry for over 20 years, and you love the challenge of determining the exact cause of the problem and providing a long-lasting, effective solution.

You're no longer just a computer technician. You are now someone who possesses an innate curiosity, a love for his work, and pride in his achievements. And you provide truly unique, individualized service. You've just created an intimate connection with your clients by giving them a real image of who you are, via a story.

What's the story behind what you do for a living? What drives you, what motivates you? What is the story behind your business, or the story behind your invention? How did it all begin? Tell your clients about your history and your mission, and notice how people begin to connect to you and become enamored with your unique expertise and focus. Tell them your story, and make your company and product come alive.

Now, let me tell you a story about a man named Jed...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bunny

Tomorrow, there is a very good chance that you will be celebrating the birthday of someone that everyone in the world has come to know and love. Now, before you think I am being “politically incorrect”, read on…

The Energizer Bunny, the symbol of battery maker Energizer Holdings Inc., debuted in a Christmas themed commercial in 1989 and has, well, kept going ever since.

For more than 20 years, the advertising icon has become famous enough that people who persevere beyond reasonable expectation are often referred to, or call themselves, the "Energizer Bunny." Among the many references from politicians:

• In 1996, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, then 72, dismissed concerns about his age, saying: "I'm like the Energizer Bunny. We've got a lot of juice left in our generation."

• With his 2004 presidential campaign floundering, Democratic candidate Howard Dean promised reporters to keep "going and going and going and going and going — just like the Energizer Bunny."

• In 2005, former President George H.W. Bush said of former President Bill Clinton as they traveled together to raise funds for victims of the Asian tsunami, "You should have seen him going, town to town, country to country, Energizer Bunny here."

The pink bunny, always pounding a drum, always wearing sunglasses and flip-flops, made his debut in Christmas 1989 powering toys for all the good little girls and boys in the world.

The bunny soon showed up in a series of parody commercials for products such as wine, coffee and long-distance phone service, always banging the drum into the commercial to interrupt. Two decades later, he is still going strong.

The Energizer Bunny became an advertising icon. They found a meaningful and differentiating position within the category that is important to the consumer, and what's important for a battery is that it's long-lasting, it just keeps going.

To mark the start of his 20th year, a 40-foot-tall bunny float took part in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York and kept going down 34th Street while other participants made a right onto 7th Avenue.

The message of the Energizer Bunny has remained consistent over the last two decades. He speaks to longevity, determination and perseverance. He personifies the American spirit.

OK, Tom, where are you going with this?

Well, first of all, if you bought anything for anyone (especially toys for the kiddies) that says “requires 2 AAA batteries” on the box, today is your last chance to save Christmas morning. Get your batteries today, or you will be heading out to Walgreens tomorrow morning in your PJs. I am speaking from experience, so trust me on this one.

Second, just like the Energizer Bunny, the Christmas Season comes every year. Dependable, reliable, unstoppable. Regardless of your religious beliefs, no matter where you live in the world, Christmas is a time for everyone to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday - the unstoppable, reliable, dependable spirit of Christmas.

The “Christmas Season” which starts before Thanksgiving and ends after New Year’s Day is my favorite time of year. Not for the presents, not for the parties, and not for the great food. But for the pure enjoyment of spending quality time with friends, family and embracing everyone who is truly important in our lives. Of all the birthday parties that I have ever attended, the one that we celebrate every December 25th is by far, my very favorite.

Happy Holidays / Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stop. Look. Listen.

I have always loved gadgets and gizmos. I grew up in the age of Star Trek, Apollo 11, and Color TV. I remember that it was a big deal to make the leap from Black and White TV to Color. Disneyworld in Orlando had its grand opening when I was around ten years old. A trip to Orlando in the 60’s and early 70’s was all about how our world would be shaped and made better through science and technology.

I remember that our family had one of the first “automatic garage door openers” in the neighborhood. Push a button from the car and the garage door goes up and down, like magic. I remember charging the kids in my neighborhood a quarter to push the button. I guess it was my destiny to find a career in the technology space, as I was always looking to be the one who gets to “push the button” on the next gizmo or widget. Anything wireless or “remote controlled” was super cool when I was a kid, that was for sure.

My two sons came home from college last night. Both are in the School of Business at Universities in Connecticut. They have access to all of the latest “gadgets and gizmos” for education. Laptop computers, high speed Internet, iPads and cell phones. Their state-of-the-art college libraries have real-time access to just about everything ever written, spoken, recorded, videotaped or photographed. They can videochat with professors, fellow students, or when they feel like it, with their parents back home. Both boys had the last of their last final exams yesterday. While driving home, they were able to log in from the car and see their final grades for the semester, within hours of handing in their last exam.

We are living during a time of a global network of friends on Facebook, cars with talking GPS, and kitchen appliances connected to the Internet. We are living in the time of instant communication, no matter where you are in the world, including the International Space Station. Walt Disney would be proud to see his vision and dream of “Tomorrowland” come true. Or would he?

Our two sons arrived home at around 11pm last night. We all sat in the kitchen for at least an hour, maybe two. Just my wife, my two sons and our dog Bella. No cell phones, no videochats, no emails. The hot chocolate was made from scratch (no microwave was used). I made it a point to listen, not speak. I make it a point to watch the expressions on the boy’s faces as they described their last few weeks at college. The relief of being finished with exams, and how good it was for them to be home, sleeping in their own beds. They told stories of their experiences, their professors, their friends, their roommates, dorm life, everything. I did not want to interrupt, I wanted to just sit back and soak it all in. No technology was involved in the making of this moment. It was pure human interaction.

There are various quotes about how “money simply amplifies who you are”. The idea is that having access to money makes good people better, and that access to money makes bad people worse, or something like that. I think the same thing applies to having access to technology. Last night was a very “low tech” evening - and yet - the quality of the communication was outstanding. The boys were tired from the driving, and they went to bed around midnight. But I could have sat at the kitchen table all night long, watching their expressions, and listening to their stories of college life, and how technology is playing a role in their world.

I love technology, and I love my job selling and promoting technology. I think that the world is a better place because of the magic of automatic garage door openers, cell phones, and the Internet. The next time you are in the car and you come up to a railroad crossing, you will see a sign that says “Stop. Look. Listen”. That is about as low tech as you can get, regarding something very important indeed (your safety). Try an experiment with your customers, with your friends, and by all means, try this with your family during this holiday season. Stop, look and listen to what people are saying to you. Stop, look and by all means - truly listen to what they are trying to communicate. Let it all soak in, like people used to do in the days before Facebook and texting. Let the magic of today’s communication technology simply “amplify and magnify” what messages you are already sending and receiving. Stop, Look and Listen.

Happy Holidays.