Friday, February 29, 2008

A Little Leap Year Donation

*****UPDATE - On March 1st we reached the February fundraising goal of $1,000 for the Children's Hospital in Austin, Texas. Thank you to all the readers of this blog who made donations, large and small.


I have always loved February 29th. It is just cool cuz it is unique.

I began the month by asking readers to donate money to the Dell Children's Medical Foundation (just a little money, whatever they could afford) to celebrate my daughter's 6th birthday. Together we raised $670, most of those in $10 and $25 donations from those who regularly read the "Some Assembly Required Blog".

One reader emailed me and said she was happy to donate because she easily gets $25 of value from reading the posts on this blog. WOW, that made me smile.

The goal was $1000 for the hospital in the month of February. While I am thrilled with $670, we have this extra day because of Leap Year, so I am going to make one last plea for your help.

To impact the world of charities/non-profits, you do not need to be a millionaire. Just regular folks who will contribute little amounts make a big difference.

Your helping me raise $1000 through small amounts of cash will not have a material effect on the overall research at a large hospital, but what if 1000 people found a way to raise that same sum of money? Now that is HUGE.

We all make a difference. No one individual is insignificant when we work together.

Thank you for clicking here and reading about The Kate Singer Endowment for Cranio-Facial Surgery and making a contribution to help these amazing doctors in Central Texas with their good works.

Have A Great Day.


****UPDATE - On Feb 29th the amount moved to $745 that has been raised. Keep it coming. just $255 more and we hit the goal .... and that would be way cool.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Read My Article In The February Bulldog Solutions Newsletter

If you care about marketing stuff you should subscribe to the Bulldog Solutions Newsletter.

This month I wrote an article called "Beyond Networking: Building Your Personal Brand". I hope you like it!


66 Tips For Better Networking - #59 - High Expectations

Route 66 - The Journey Toward Success

High Expectations

The universe has a funny way of delivering to you what you expect. If you think people will treat you poorly, they will. If you imagine that you will succeed, opportunities that lead toward success will materialize.

"The Law of Attraction" has become the term used by many to describe this phenomenon. Most associate The Law of Attraction with the saying, "like attracts like": that a person's thoughts (conscious and unconscious), emotions, beliefs and actions attract corresponding positive or negative experiences. I believe that if you have high expectations for yourself and others, that all will perform at a higher level. Mystical law or simple math I am not sure.

The phrase is closely associated with "New Age" beliefs and practices, and has gained widespread notoriety in the recently popular book and film "The Secret".

The Law of Attraction has been criticized for the misuse of the scientific term "law". I am not suggesting that if you think about a BMW one will magically appear in your driveway, but there does seem to be a correlation between positive thoughts and positive actions.

When you interact with other people in the business community, what do you expect? Do you instantly like most people and expect them to become your friend? Or are you guarded and wonder how they will try to take advantage of you? Your thoughts about how you judge others will impact the relationship that you will build with them.

If you have high expectations for your employees, co-workers, bosses, clients, and others....and let them know that you expect greatness from them, you will find they will usually rise to meet those goals. People want to excel and impress those around them, and will try hard (consciously or subconsciously) to live up to your impressions of their abilities.

The same is true for yourself. Do you expect to achieve more in life than you have before? I do. I know in my heart that I will sell more books and give more professional speeches year over year, and that my message will impact others. I also know that I am going to help my employer reach new heights. I have high expectations of what I will deliver to the world over the long run. You should too.

I love the expression: "If you think you can or think you can't....You are right". That says it all. Believe in yourself and set high expectations.

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Presidential Politics - Should A Republican In Texas Vote In The Democrat's Primary?

I believe in my heart that it is a bad idea for business bloggers to stray over the line and talk about politics. Sure, you can post cute pics of your kids and puppies, but if you blog about John McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton (wait, does she use "Rodham" as part of her name now? What do the polls say she should do?), or Barrak Obama on your business blog you are going to be in trouble.

I am in trouble.

I am crossing the line on this post and cannot promise I will not do it again between now and the November election.

The truth is that I used to LOVE politics. Excitement always filled the wind throughout a presidential election year, as I love to study the way these people speak, position and pontificate. Yet this year it just came up flat (like the Academy Awards show last Sunday. Boring!). There were nearly 20 people running for president at one point last year and none of them inspired me to care.

I would classify myself as a middle of the road on many issues, but right of the center line. That being said, I believe we need more than policy in our leaders and have always longed to vote for someone who had that charisma that people credit to John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

I was not born yet when Kennedy was president, and I was too young to understand the process when Reagan ran the first time. Alas, I just never understood the appeal of Bill Clinton (but I never "HATED" him. I never "HATE" someone who is an elected official regardless of if I supported them or not. I believe they all get involved for the greater good, and I am old school on this issue and feel that we must have some degree of respect for the office even when we disagree with the person).

So here is my dilemma. I find myself more and more interested in supporting Barak Obama. While I do not know enough about him, he is a far more liberal candidate than I would normally support, and is still very young (and thus unproven). Yet there is something there. I can't put my finger on it, but it is there. Some call it "Change", others call it "Hope". What ever it is, I want it.

So why a dilemma? Well the primary in Texas is next week, and I have traditionally voted in the Republican primary (although I never vote strait ticket in the general election). I am not sure it is right for me, traditionally a Republican, to cross over and vote in the Democrat primary, even though by Texas State rules I can show up and vote in either primary. Plus, I cannot be 100% sure of what I would do if given the choice between Obama and McCain come November.

That being said, I would not vote in the Democratic Primary "against" Mrs. Clinton.... I would do it to vote "for" Mr. Obama. (I hate the idea of voting against someone, I think you should vote for the better candidate).

I think that Obama as the Democratic nominee would give our country an amazing election season. The debate on the issues and the direction of our nation would be historic, moving and important. The philosophies of the two candidates would be at the forefront, and they both seem to want to be civil.

McCain vs. Hillary would be more of the same bitter and divisive partisan politics that we have experienced for the last few decades. It would continue the "us vs. them", "Red State / Blue State" mentality that divides America. I have fatigue with the Bush / Clinton / Bush years and I want a fresh start. I do not want an "heir apparent" focused race trying to go backwards. I want two candidates who lead us toward the future.

Additionally, I want some of that "Camelot" magic that those who lived in the Kennedy era talk about. This can only come from the Obamas. No guarantees, but neither the McCain's nor the Clinton's will carry that feeling of awe to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I don't know what I will do, but I am starting to care about this election and that feels good. We need the people of our country to be engaged in the process.

Hey, Mark Warner (former Virginia Governor) as your VP and you have my vote, as he was the guy I wanted to run for president to begin with!!

Have A Great Day.


Monday, February 25, 2008

If You Can't Tie Your Tie, Show Up At Starbucks

I like it when I see a worker go the extra mile for the customer.

This morning at the Starbucks on Far West in Austin a young man was buying his coffee dressed in a suit and tie. He could not have been twenty years old and his nice clothes were brand new.

He was going to court for something (yes, I was eves dropping), but what stood out was that he did not know how to tie his tie. It wasn't even close.

Just as I thought that I would offer to help him with his fashion faux pas, Justin, the Bartista at Starbucks who ALWAYS goes beyond the call of duty offered to help him make his neck-wear situation right.

He came around the counter, took the tie, created a great looking knot around his own neck and slipped it over his head and gave it to the clueless but grateful kid.


Good job Starbucks, once again you have hired another employee in Justin who understands the power of helping the customer with more than just their coffee purchase.

Alas, this is why Starbucks has prospered. They hire good people.

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

66 Tips For Better Networking - #58 - Do Not Network Behind A Wall

Successful business professionals often run the risk of creating an artificial wall around themselves and only interacting with those on the same side of the barrier.

What happens to many is that they get busy and find themselves only building connections with people in the same industry, company or geographic region. They do not mean to isolate themselves from the outside world, but they wake up to discover that while they may know a lot of people, there is no depth to their network.

To ensure that you have diversity in your network you need to seek out making real connections with people who have a variety of backgrounds and interests. Do not limit your efforts to those whose careers and interests are the same as your own. While you do not want to exclude those like you (in fact, most of your friends and close colleagues will have similarities), you must make sure that you are looking beyond the norm.

When you have the opportunity to make connections with people in other cities, states and countries, you should work especially hard to make, keep and grow these business relationships. Real friendships take work to cultivate and blossom. This used to be difficult with those who were not nearby, but with all the new advances in interpersonal communications, it is now just as easy to make connections around the globe as it is around the corner.

You should also make friends with folks in industries that are unrelated to your own. Too many people only see themselves as "teachers", "lawyers", "software sales professionals, "java programmers", "marketers", etc... The truth is that most of the skills you use in your daily career would translate easily into other jobs. Because of this, your future opportunities are endless if you have the right contacts.

Tear down that wall. Expand your territories. Welcome others into your world.

Have A Great Day.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Metting On-line Friends

Networking in on-line communities continues to interest and amaze me. The camaraderie that can be built by reading someone's blog, following them on twitter, and watching them via a variety of other social networking and media tools can make you feel you know people whom you have never personally met.

Tonight I was invited to an Austin Twitter Meet Up organized because internet maven Susan Reynolds was visiting Austin. I could not attend due to other commitments, but wanted to drop in for for five minutes to meet Susan in person.

Susan is currently in a battle with breast cancer, and has taken on the courageous effort of sharing her journey with the world on her blog, Boobs on Ice. Her open messages of her struggles with cancer and chemotherapy has launched the internet based charitable efforts know known as The Frozen Pea Fund. In just nine weeks they have raised over $8000 for cancer research and started the paper work to form a permanent 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. Donations have come from those on-line friends and strangers, each giving small amounts.

I believe The Frozen Pea Fund is on its ways to much bigger numbers than $8000. I suspect that this organization, which was born out of Twitter, will take off and become a major force for good. I know this from spending just a few minutes with Susan, as she too is a force for good! I have been reading about Susan and the frozen peas since the fall, and I blogged about the fund raising efforts in December. I am glad I got the chance to meet her in person as she is a true inspiration.

My five minutes turned into twenty, as I delighted in having the chance to meet Susan and others whom I have only known via their digital persona's. These meetings of people who know each other via tools like Twitter happen all the time, and it gives one a chance to make real face-to-face connections. Look for ways to meet up with those you know on-line, you will be amazed at the cool-ness factor.

I wish I could have been there for the whole evening, as they all were having a great time! But I also know there WILL be a next time.

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Radio Podcast Interview with Greg Garrison of The Startup Staffing Group

My latest Blog Talk Radio Podcast is an interview with Greg Garrison, president of The Startup Staffing Group, a vcfo company. We talk about all things recruiting and he has some great advice for companies, entrepreneurs and employees.

Greg and I work for the same company, vcfo, and have become good friends over the last few months. I have come to realize that Greg is an industry leader in the areas of recruiting, staffing, executive search and all things related to finding the right talent for your company.

One of the toughest things for a growing business is sourcing and recruiting the best employees. The ability to find world-class people will make or break your business.

Listen to this thirty minute interview to hear more.

Have A Great Day.


Selling 3.0: New Business Models Driving a (R)Evolution in Sales

Last night was the February meeting of TEXCHANGE - Austin Chapter. This round-table discussion group for technology entrepreneurs always provides great topics, expert panelists and lively conversations.

The panel consisted of:

Dave Panos, CEO - Pluck
Justin Halloran, VP Sales - HomeAway
Michael Osborne, VP Sales - Bazaarvoice
Randy Meriwether, President - Meriwether Consulting Group

The moderator was Chris Ostertag, CEO - Hyper9

The conversation covered a wide variety of sales and marketing topics with a keen focus on the ways that the internet changes everything. Companies need to pay close attention to what their customers are saying and doing. It is to a companies advantage to get their customers talking about their products or services on the web. This client driven dialog is at the core of creating true "word-of-mouth" . While many companies fear the free flow of client comments, the studies show that over 80% of what is said on-line about businesses (by their clients) is positive.

Blogs have also become a powerful tool for businesses to start the online discussion. The suggestion is not to write sales oriented posts, but instead real credible pieces (often by customers, vendors, etc...) that will serve as an endorsement about your product or service. When your customers act as your sales team, you win. Setting up ways for you customers to network with each other, on-line or in person, will also help drive your sales.

The panel also touched on other social online networking and media applications. Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, JigSaw, and countless others had best be in your vocabulary. These tools are becoming more mainstream and the new power word is "transparency". Your company cannot hide it's flaws in today's on-line, interconnected don't even try. Be present on the internet and build a community of those who know you.

Much of the discussion had a marketing slant, but that is because the separate worlds of sales and marketing are no longer separate. Sales 3.0 is no different than Sales 1.0, it is still about closing the deal. However how you use the tools that are available today will make the difference in how well you sell. It will allow you to get closer to more people. There is a lot more noise in the marketplace today and before you can get "return on investment" you must get "return on attention". Prospects often will hide behind assistants, voicemail and email. They will only grant you an audience when they feel they know you.

Good sales people are still needed, as are outstanding PR, detailed case studies, and a great website with a strong analytics package. Relying on selling the way you did ten years ago will not lead you to the desired results. Things are changing, you must adapt.

Have A Great Day

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Innovation - Google's Got It, How 'bout You?

Fast Company Magazine's March cover story features The World's 50 Most Innovative Companies. This is an important article for anyone in business, because large or small, we all want our companies to be innovative. The businesses that soar to the top, and those we admire always seem to be those that look beyond the bottom line and reach for creating something exciting.

I have never spoken to a single entrepeneur who says:

"I want my business to grow up to be a stuffy, run-of-the-mill company that takes no risks and where employees just show up to collect a paycheck. I desire to have an organization where my people feel excluded from the decision making and long-term vision. I want this company to stand for nothing and those who work for me to be mediocre in all their endeavors. My goal is to just create another company that is lost in the muck of blah. Being reactionary beats being proactive any day!".

Never, Never, Never does a CEO want that for his company! Yet that is what many companies become.

Google comes in first place on this seventh annual list of fifty. The magazine goes on to interview 15 employees of Google, who share their personal experiences as to what makes this company a spectacular place. In reading these comments, that come from people with titles like "Green Energy Czar", "Director of User Experience", and "Executive Chef" (yes, they have multiple restaurants on their campus, The Googleplex, and require a full time chef to oversee the operations. Kinda cool), you start to see what makes truely innovative companies prosper.

The best quote in the article comes from Tim Armstrong, president of advertising and commerce in North America:

"I tell new employees, 'At Google, there are rocks and a stream. You either become a rock, and the stream goes around you, or you get in the stream and move things along and start adding value.' People here don't start with conclusions. They start with questions. If you're open-platform, respectful of others, and really driven to execute, you'll be successful."

You are either a rock or part of the stream. Wow. Great analogy, and one we can all understand if we have spent any time in the business world. I don't know about you, but I want to be part of the stream! But look around, there are lots and lots of big rocks.

If innovation is our ticket to victory, then we should all learn from Google and the other 49 companies profiled by Fast Company. Apple, Facebook, Nike, Amazon, News Corp., Disney, Target, Whole Foods, Cisco, Toyota, Microsoft, BMW and the others all embrace and empower their people for the power they bring to create tomorrow's success.

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Thursday Teleseminar - Thursday, February 21st

I will be the guest on the Reach Branding Club's monthly teleseminar THIS THURSDAY at 11:00 AM (Central Time).

I will be interviewed by William Arruda, the personal branding guru and the founder of Reach, the leading global personal branding organization. William has appeared on BBC TV, The Discovery Channel and Radio America. He also writes for a host of respected business and career publications and is the co-author of the personal branding book, Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand.

Registration is free, but there are only 200 spaces available. I hope you will sign up and listen in!

CLICK HERE for more information.

Have A Great Day


Monday, February 18, 2008

66 Tips For Better Networking - #57 - Keep It Short

Route 66 - The Journey Toward Success

Keep It Short

Be brief when writing or speaking. You will make a bigger impact on other people when you keep your thoughts and ideas concise. This shows them that you are confident in your convictions and that you respect their time. It will also give them the opportunity to join in the conversation.

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Recession Proof Your Career

Many people are witting lately about the state of the U.S. and world economies in newspapers, magazines, blogs and other media. There is much talk of a looming recession, and people are beginning to worry about the future. Companies are laying off workers, the mortgage melt-down is causing more real estate woes, and savings accounts are low (if not empty).

What can one do to recession proof their career? Is there something that can give people a safety net when times go haywire?

I believe that having a strong network of personal and professional contacts is an important part of securing your future. Establishing a good reputation with a wide cast of people is the key to uncertain times.

If you are known to be good at what you do, others will have the knowledge to send opportunities your direction. If you show up on their doorstep after you have lost your job, they do not have the background information necessary to become your advocate.

Greg Garrison, president of The Startup Staffing Group, a vcfo company, says that "networking is how you are going to find the best job the quickest." A staffing and recruiting industry guru, Garrison adds, "The more people who know you, the better your chances of being employed. The first place the a recruiter or hiring manager goes is to those they know".

Think about this for a moment - if you currently do not believe in networking or claim to not have enough time to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with those you meet in the business world, are you short changing your own future? You MUST network to ensure you have options if you experience a reversal of fortune.

I talk to people all the time who are out of work who did not believe that networking was important. When they see all the available jobs being given to those with connections they change their tune, but by this point it is too late.

A few years ago I was asked to have coffee with a woman who was "trying" to network. She had worked for a major computer manufacturer (okay, it was Dell) and had been laid off after five years. She had relocated to Austin for the job, and during her time with Dell had never made any other business connections in Central Texas. She had no network, but she did have a million excuses as to why networking had not mattered in her previous job:

1. She had a steady job with a Fortune 500 company.

2. Her territory was not Texas, so she did not focus on meeting people locally.

3. She had been too busy doing her job to network.

4. Her bosses did not care if she had a network.

5. She was not very social and did not like going to business events.

6. She believed people you meet networking are just out to help themselves.

7. She had a college degree from an Ivy League school and thought that was enough.

8. She traveled a lot for work, so was never in town to make connections.

And the list went on. I don't know what ever happened to her, but she was out of work for nearly a year. She had assumed that because I had a network, I could help her, but there was nothing I could do for her. I know for sure that not one of her excuses helped her find a new career, but if she had a real network of contacts, somebody she had invested time to get to know (in advance of needing them) might have been the link to a great job.

If you want to recession proof your career, then you must dedicate a portion of your time make, grow and keep business relationships.

Have A Great Day.


**In full disclosure, the person I quote above, Greg Garrison, is a friend and co-worker.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Why Developing Young Leaders Is Like Forestry

The Austin Leadership Forum (NOT to be confused with Leadership Austin) was treated this morning to an inspirational presentation by Austin attorney, philanthropist and community leader James Parsons. James is a staff attorney for a local judge, and has always been an active supporter of all things Austin. He is a leader in our community, and his imagery filled talk was titled: "Why Developing Young Leaders Is Like Forestry".

I would like to summarize some of James Parson's thoughts for the readers of this blog:

A young tree does not have the stature or power of a century old oak, but that does not make the sapling less important. The fact is that no matter how tall a Redwood grows, it started off small and green. Sometimes community leaders forget this analogy when surveying people. Too often those who lead organizations, companies and cities forget that tomorrow's leaders are the youths that surround them, and that they need to be cultivated and nourished in order to excel.

When thinking of leadership one must have a long term focus. Five or ten years is not enough time for a tree to reach its potential, but with time and proper care a tree will flourish. James showed photos of the mighty oaks that surround the beautiful Texas Capitol building in downtown Austin that were not present in a picture from 1890. Somebody looked beyond the capitol grounds of that era and envisioned the majesty that would be there over a century later if young trees were planted. The same is true with the leaders of tomorrow.... someone has to take the time to let them take root.

Too often the up-and-coming leaders feel that they are not allowed to have a seat at the big kids table. This can be discouraging and derail the future of the individual and the organization. Established leaders must look for those who can be the leaders for tomorrow and give them the mentorship necessary to thrive. Exceptional leaders are not being "tapped" by those at the top, and this needs to change.

Our cowboy-centric society admires the lone-ranger leader who makes it on his own to blaze new trails. However, the reality is not a leader who is an island. A forest is not just a single tree (Eli Manning did not win the Superbowl by himself, it took his team to get the victory) and real success comes from having multiple leaders who can work together toward a goal. People have different strengths and weaknesses, knowing this is what makes a team soar.

Regardless of your community (a company, city, non-profit, etc....) you need to look around at who is running the show today and who is on deck for tomorrow. Does your group embrace age diversity and welcome new faces? If not, why not? Do you have a mentor and do you mentor others?

Make sure that your leadership (and your personal leadership style) is about more than the individual. Plant the seeds today that can be the forest of tomorrow.

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Guest Blogger - Leslie Morris - Bringing Cisco Contractors Together

Today's guest blog is by my friend and editor, Leslie Morris. I hope you enjoy reading what she wrote, but do not pay any attention to that part about getting the dirt on me! Dirt? What dirt?

There is a great idea in what she writes.... do you belong to a unique group that would benefit from having more access to oneanother? Be the person who brings everyone together.


It’s a Networking Dilemma

I’m a fairly good networker. I should be by now. After all, I am the editor of Thom’s books. And I’ve learned a lot from him!

But I’m in a networking quandary and Thom has been gracious enough to let me post my query to his blog-reading cognoscenti.

Let me just start by saying that yes, I know that networking is about giving first. And I haven’t given you anything except for indirect access to Thom’s wisdom through his books. If I can be of any assistance to you, please do reach out. Feel free to email me! I’ve known Thom 20+ years so if it’s dirt you’re after, I can be of stellar assistance in that area.

On to the issue at hand...

I make my living as a writer and editor. My primary client right now is Cisco Systems and Cisco employs thousands of non-technical contractors. I had the brilliant idea to start a listserv and create an online community for those people. While my work with Cisco is fun and interesting, the ramp up at the technology giant would have been shorter had I had a community to reach out to. Additionally, gigs open up all the time and the community would be a great place to post those opportunities as well as advertise one’s own availability should one’s engagement be winding down.

So I set up the w9atcisco yahoogroups list and invited the people I know to join. I also asked them to pass the information along to others who work with Cisco. Today the list is 32 members. But it could easily grow to several hundred if only I could reach them!

Today I ask two things of you:

1. Do you have any ideas on how I can find others who are either Cisco contractors or Cisco-approved vendors?

2. If you know any people or businesses who meet the above description, would you please tell them about the w9atcisco yahoogroup?

I genuinely appreciate your help. And I welcome your input on Thom’s books, of course.

Many thanks.

Leslie Morris
New Year Publishing, LLC

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

66 Tips To Better Networking - #56 -Manufacture Your Luck

Route 66 - The Journey Toward Success

Manufacture Your Own Luck

I know I am a fortunate guy. Some of my good fortune comes from hard work and strategery (I love that fake word, thank you Will Ferrell) while other things just fall into my lap.

When I was in college I was a five day returning champion on the game show "The $25,000 Pyramid" (Oh yes, it shows up from time to time on the Game Show Channel). I won $20,000, a trip for two to Brazil, a sailboat and a stereo. Plus more useless parting gifts than anyone would ever want (a year's supply of Triaminic...what was that about?). Many people proclaimed how "lucky" I was, but I never saw it that way. Or maybe it was luck, but I manufactured the situation that allowed me to be lucky.

To be on that game show one had to go through an extensive series of interviews and try-outs. I called the number, drove to Los Angeles (I lived in San Diego at the time) and took a battery of tests. Additionally, I had great word association skills - which were either God-given or taught in the Arcadia Unified School District. When someone said "grapes, bananas, the Brady family", I instantly knew they were talking about "things that come in a bunch". Without the skills and the action of getting my butt to the audition, there could have been no luck.

I recently wrote on this blog about how I scored my family four great seats for the Hanna Montana concert three hours before the show. Many people were surprised, but I had worked my network like crazy to find those tickets. The friend who tipped me off on their availability is someone I have known for about seven years. If I have not become friends with this person in the first place, my kids would have missed their favorite fictional pop-star rock out the show! Other parents commented on how lucky we were to get tickets. Again, not sure it was luck.

You never know who can bring something amazing into your world. All opportunities come from people, which means that if you embrace others, you win. But it must be a mutually beneficial relationship or the other people will not go out of their way to help you. Helping others allows you achieve more.

A reader of this blog left a post the other day telling me I was "lucky" to have a friend who was going to the Superbowl (and invited me to go alone). Again with the "lucky".

I think we make our own luck. Most people never think about this concept and just go through life without trying to influence their destiny. If you want more luck, try the following three steps and see what happens:

1. Expand your network. Knowing the right people has advantages. If your current friends are not providing you with new opportunities, you need to find some new friends! I am not suggesting you abandon the people in your life, just include new folks.

2. Let people know what you want. If you keep your goals and dreams secret then nobody can help you. Like the Hanna Montana tickets, they did not drop from the sky, I had told about forty people that I wanted to take my kids to the show. Only one came through, but that was all I needed.

3. Take chances. You have to try if you want to succeed. If I had not gone to the audition for the game show, I never would have won. However, if I had not been selected as a contestant, my life would have not been harmed. Therefore, you lose nothing by trying. However you could lose everything by not trying. Just go for it.

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Barnes & Noble and Some Assembly Required

A friend of mine in California wandered into a Barnes & Noble in the Bay Area and decided it was about time he purchased my book (I appreciate anyone who thinks of me when they shop for books!). He figured he would have to order it, but viola....they had it in stock.

How cool is that?

If you are interested in getting a copy of Some Assembly Required - Second Edition, check out your local Barnes & Noble. If they do not have it in your local store, they can get it for you in a few days.



I > U ....not in the on-line social media world!

I enjoy going to the grocery store. There are few places where all types of people converge together in this ritualistic scavenger hunt for nutrition. I love to people watch while I fill my cart with various food and household items. This is an good example of an unconnected world in action where anonymity prevails (except for the occasional friend or neighbor).

You know how sometimes in a store you end up in a parallel loop of shopping with someone else? You go up one isle as they come down the same isle. Then you repeat on the next isle, and so on..... You reach for the same tangerines or apples, then see each other again while buying wine. Well I had that experience with a woman who was buying more items than any one one family could consume in a month (but her full cart is not the point of this story). She was wearing a t-shirt that read:

"I > U"

The first few times I passed her it made me laugh inside. But the ninth or tenth time we crossed paths I became annoyed with this woman. Granted she had no idea of my disdain for her clothing choice, but she started to symbolize much of what is wrong with society.

I am sure she was innocent, and did not really see herself as superior to all she passed (well, I am actually not sure of this), but the more I thought about it, too many people view others as beneath them. Look around, most people you pass feel no connection to those around them, and maybe just a little better than the rest of us.

And then my faith in humanity was restored. Last night I attended a pre-party for the SXSW Interactive Conference at Mohawk (a local bar). I am honored to be speaking at the conference in March, and decided I should drop by the party and check it out. It was a beautiful night for an outdoor event (Yes, 70 degrees on a February night.... you gotta love living in Austin... except for that thing called August).

Over 200 people showed up to meet and mingle. I connected with dozens of interesting (and very smart) new people. Nobody had the "I am greater than you" attitude, as every attendee was there to have a good time and network. SXSW Interactive draws an eclectic crowd and this local pre-party was foreshadowing of how amazing the five day conference will be next month.

I was taken with the equal footing that entrepreneurs, writers, PhD's, electrical engineers, marketers and trendy-haired college students shared. I met, in person, several local folks whose blogs I read regularly or that I follow on Twitter. It was interesting to meet these folks for the first time, and yet to somehow feel comradeship since we read each other's online properties. This was a sneak peek at into how the popularity of social on-line media is changing the social fabric of society.

The equal footing and familiarity that on-line social media creates can make for a different experience. While I do not believe that on-line relationships can replace the humanity of a face-to-face meeting, it can certainly fast track the bonding between those that share interests.

The benefits from creating on-line communities are continuing to amaze and delight me. At first I thought that social on-line media would drive people apart by falsely making people believe they could avoid building and cultivating real connections. However, when used properly these on-line tools can enhance networking. These communities do not stop at the computer, but instead bleed over into the physical world, where real people find real similarities. And it is just beginning.

Individuals and companies are just starting to see the possibilities. The world is flat. We are all just people trying to make our own way on this big blue ball. I=U.... but I+U=Infinite Possibilites!!! Fasten your seat belts.

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Kate's 6th Birthday - Let's Raise Money For A Good Cause To Celebrate

UPDATE*** So far in February together we raised $660 for The Dell Children's Medical Foundation's Cranio-Facial Surgery Team. I am still pulling for $1000. Your small donation will really help. $25 from just a few people will take us to the goal.

Please consider making a donation to the Dell Children's Medical Foundation in Kate's name to celebrate her sixth birthday. Even a small amount helps the hospital in their efforts to treat children who face a variety of medical issues. CLICK HERE TO DONATE NOW!

Kate turns six-years-old this week, and she is thrilled. She has been planning for the big event for 364 days (she begins preparing immediately after eating cake on the previous birthday). Kate is a beautiful girl who was born with a medical condition known as Sagital Synostosis, where the bones in her head had fused together prematurely. This was a tough time for our family.

At six months old Kate underwent major surgery to remove part of her skull and reconstruct her head. Today she is doing great. The bones grew back and she (hopefully) will never have any side effects from the ordeal. Kate is happy, smart, healthy and a true enthusiast for life.

We were fortunate that it has all worked out so well. My family now donates a portion of my fees every time I am hired to speak professionally. We started the Kate Singer Endowment for Cranio-Facial Surgery at the Dell Children's Medical Center to help fund cranio related research in Austin.

(Kate was treated by the wonderful doctors at Children's Hospital of San Diego. Since that time a new state-of-the-art hospital has opened in Austin. Now, children born in Central Texas do not have to travel across country to find top level medical services!!!!).

I would like to ask the readers of this blog and my other friends to donate this week in support of a great cause. Every little amount can make a difference. $5. $10, $25, $100. Together we can assist others who will face similar issues in the future.

Click here to donate directly to the Children's Medical Foundation on-line.

Thank you for your generosity.

Have A Great Day.


PS - Kate no longer requires medical care and the Kate Singer Endowment for Cranio-Facial Surgery was created to help the medical programs at the Dell Children's Medical Center with research and other needs so they can do the great works that they do to help other children who face similar issues.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

66 Tips For Better Networking - #55 - Connect The Dots

You never know when you might make a connection with another person. You could be of vital assistance to them (and part of networking is helping others, not just hoping they can help you!), or they could impact your future. This is why you should always discover something about those whom you encounter. One never knows when the stars will line up.

I always look for something in common with people I meet. Sure, you can't have a connection with everyone, but when you do find a link, it makes the conversation more exciting.

I recently met someone whose brother was a former student of my father-in-law (my f-i-l was a high school teacher at a private school in California for 35 years). My f-i-l was thrilled to reconnect with this former student, but he was curious how I had connected the dots. I laughed, as this is what I do, I ask questions of people and look for common ground. One never knows what you will discover when you go looking for commonalities.

Even at the Superbowl I was networking. The guy sitting next to me was a huge Giants fan, and since we were both routing for the underdog, we had a connection. From we were able to strike up a very interesting conversation. Bill is a die-hard fan who was raised in New Jersey, whose wife encouraged him to take advantage of a last minute chance to see his team play in Phoenix. Even though money was tight and she would be home alone with their new baby girl, she wanted him to have this once in a lifetime experience. I learned a lot about this guy just by asking questions. It was fun to talk to him, but I did not know if there would any way I could ever help him or vice versa.

This guy was impressive, ambitious and interesting. It turns out he is trying to launch a new career in an industry where one of my friends is an expert and national thought leader. Naturally I offered to introduce him to my friend as he would benefit from knowing this person. important part of networking .....finding a way to be a resource for others even if there is nothing in it for you.

It turns out that my camera was broken at the Superbowl, and because I had established a dialog with Bill during the game, he was willing to take a few photos for me and will be emailing them to me this weekend (he already sent me an email letting me know the photos are on their way when he has the time to download them off his camera). Had I not spoken to him I would not have any photos other than some off my phone.

Will knowing that someone's brother was taught French by my father-in-law (an re-connecting them) or that a guy I met at a game is ambitiously pursuing new opportunities make any difference in my life? Maybe, maybe not...but by being able to connect the dots sets up a chance to build a relationship that could be mutually beneficial is what networking is all about. One day it could be one of these people who drop an opportunity in my lap that changes my world. If not, I loose nothing, but the possibilities are limitless.

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Phoenix Always Rises

The FBR (Formerly known as the Phoenix Open) Golf Tournament set a PGA record this past Saturday with 170,802 spectators at the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course in Phoenix. I was one of them. While in Arizona for the Superbowl my friends and I got free passes to the golf event and joined a record crowd to view some golf.

I admit that I am not a golfer and I have only attended one other PGA event. However the FBR is not your father's golf tournament. Imagine the PGA meets MTV's Spring Break. I was shocked by the young Abercrombie-looking crowd, which made it seem that most of the Arizona State student body came out to party, many of whom were oblivious to the golfers and just there to drink beers.

The 16th hole is unlike any other in professional golf. This par three has bleachers encircling the hole. The stands and the open grass area were packed with rowdy fans who even at one point started "The Wave". Yes, "The Wave" at a Golf Tournament. The traditionally polite sport is not accustomed to fans booing and heckling the players, but at the 16th hole anything goes.

With each threesome fans were regularly betting with their buddies on which golfer would be closest to the pin. One, two, three changed hands. One, two, three shots..... money changed hands. And so on, and so on. Oh, I won $23. Thanks Dave and Bob!

Tiger Woods was not there, as he was playing and winning in Dubai. Apparently he wont play at the FBR due to the unruly nature of the spectators.

On Sunday, J.B. Holmes birdied the 18th hole twice in 20 minutes to win over Phil Mickelson. While I missed the Sunday final (because of being at that Football game), being there on Saturday was a fun addition to the weekend.

The experience in the airport on Monday morning was not as nice. A 90 minute wait to check bags followed by a one hour line to get through security. I have never seen so many people in one terminal. YIKES. Once inside the sea of humanity at Starbucks was enormous. I almost skipped getting my grande non-fat mocha. I said almost. Additionally, my plane was delayed by more than three hours. But I am not complaining, as I got to go to the FBR and the Superbowl. To complain about some minor flight delays would be, well....just not right. Nope, I had a great time in Phoenix. End of story!

Have A Great Day.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Networking Your Way To The Superbowl

When you have a diverse network of amazing people you will have unique opportunities that will come your way. Sometimes you don't even know how these events could impact your life..... and worse.... sometimes you could just say "nah, not this time" and miss out all together.

In December a friend mentioned that he and some buddies were going to the Superbowl, since they try to attend when the game is held on the West Coast (they both live in the Bay Area). Having been five years ago to San Diego, they knew that Phoenix, with it's new University Of Phoenix Stadium and the undefeated New England Patriots on the field would make for a historical game (By the way, I think it is a brilliant marketing ploy by the on-line college to purchase the naming rights to a football stadium.... the irony is not lost on me!). But nobody knew just how great this game would be.

My friend casually invited me to join them and I declined. I was concerned about vacation days, costs, and I was not sure my wife would support a boondoggle trip of a boys-weekend at the Superbowl.

When I mentioned to my wife about having turned down the invitation, she was dumfounded. For days she encouraged me to call back and sign on for the trip. Finally, she told me to look at the weekend as an extra Christmas present and to go live the experience of Superbowl XLII. Sara is actually the football fan in the house (get out of the way if the 49ers are playing!), but she recognized that one should go for it when such an opportunity arrives.

Who could have known that I would be attending onw of the most amazing Superbowls ever played?

Tickets were hard to come by, but not impossible. We all worked our networks, including trying to solicit help from a friend's brother who is a former two-time Superbowl NY Giant. We surfed Craig's List for days, watching the prices slowly creep down over the two days leading up to the game. And we talked to scalpers outside the Staduim who were in a race with the clock to get a top price before kick-off would sink the value of their gold-like tickets. The process itself was an experience. We got seats, and without sharing the final price (lower than you might think if you listened to the news reports), I can tell you that in retrospect the end result was worth twice as much as we paid. I shudder to think I had said "no" when invited, and can't thank my wife enough for making me go for it.

Since I did not have any ties to either the Patriots or the New York Giants, I became a Giant's fan as the delegate of my older brother, Bill, who lives in New Jersey and been a fan for decades. My two other brothers, who live in California, were rooting against Bill's beloved Giants, hoping for the Pats to go 19-0. Historical, yes, but you gotta love routing for the underdog, and witnessing a true Cinderella story unfold on the gridiron below. Having a horse in the race sure made a difference, as the emotional highs and lows of this game were stupendous (especially in the 4th quarter).... and probably made me a lifetime fan of the NY Giants! Having someone to cheer for makes watching a game just that much better!

If you have the chance to go to a Superbowl, Kentucky Derby, Presidential Inauguration, World Series, or other major event that interests you..... don't think "nah".... think "YEAH!". There are ways to get there. Make sure people in your network know your passions and interests. If they do not know what you desire, they will not think of you for such things.

Be prepared to take advantage of opportunities when they cross your path. I am glad I did. Oh, by the way, .... did
I mention how great my wife is? Yes, Eli Manning thinks he was the MVP on Sunday, but in my book the MVP is my wife for making this happen for me!!!

Come back the rest of this week for three more blog entries about my trip to Phoenix and the Superbowl, as too much happened that was "blog-worthy" to put into one post.

Have A Great Day.

Photo taken with my camera phone at kick-off. More pics later in the week, as my camera broke so I only have a few from the phone, but some nice people took pics and promised to email them to me. I hope they do!

Friday, February 01, 2008

It's 10:00....Do You Know Where Your Employees Are?

Are you aware of what messages your staff members are sending out via email and other online social media tools? What are they saying to your prospects? More thought provoking, however, is what images are they portraying on their blogs, Facebook, MySpace pages and other online sites?

All of this impacts the reputation of your company. If you are not thinking about this, you might be in for a big surprise.

The below is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the guilty, but I wish I could link you to the real websites and show you the name of the company this cheeseball works for....but alas, I want to behave with class (unlike our friend in this sordid tale).

While this might be an extreme example, similar things are going on all over the place. If you own a company, or manage people, you need to be aware of what your employees are doing in the online environment...both when officially representing your business and beyond. That being said, there is a lot of positive things happening in the world of online social networking and we can (and should) learn a lot from the Millennial generation . How you properly utilize this digital world can make big difference in the success of your business. Social Media is here to stay and it would be short sighted to assume that the negatives outweigh the positives.


A business professional, Ms. Smith, who works for a fast-growing company received the below email from a service provider (We will call him "Jimmy Jones" from "Acme Company") whom she had never met. The subject line was Acme Company vs. Brand X. Brand X is a reputable and well known company who provides quality services for Ms. Smith's organization.

Dear Ms. Smith,

I understand that you have or are currently working with Brand X. Are they doing everything you would like them to do to? Are you happy with the ROI they are producing? Are they able to tie Productivity directly to your bottom line? Are they working with Managers to mitigate risk and develop the infrastructure needed to grow?

Ms. Smith, I'm not sure if the Acme Company is the answer to your prayers, but I do know that we have the Expertise and Resources you are looking for, for typically about Half the cost of a single employee.

Do you have 15 minutes for us to stop by your office? I am confident that you will see value in the Services we provide. When is a good day for you? Please let me know.

Jimmy Jones
Director of Sales
Acme Company

Ms Smith was appalled to receive such an email from someone who wanted to earn her business. It is not a good business practice to try to attack a trusted service provider no matter what magic bells and whistles your company might offer. Always sell on your own merits, don't do a side by side comparison or attack. This guy is learning his sales techniques from the 2008 presidential election: Hillary Clinton vs. Barak Obama.....John McCain vs. Mitt Romney. Yike Jimmy...get a clue.

A simple Google search produced Jimmy's MySpace page, which takes us to a whole new level of interest in Jimmy and his employer:

Jimmy is 23 years old and recently out of college. His MySpace page is covered with Playboy Bunnies, sexy models (hello cleavage) and other sexually oriented innuendos. Video clips from from random pop-culture movies are posted, including a clip of someone smoking pot from a bong. His screen nickname is "Chick Magnet 345" (not the real name, but equally as cheesy), and all of his 173 "online friends" are young attractive women pictured in sexy clothes or party boys holding beers....with messages asking him about the latest parties...."Cheers!"

I could go on with the description, but you wouldn't believe me. The most amusing part is that he has his company's logo and name (and his income level) readily posted for all to see. It also states he was a business finance major in college...but apparently his school did not teach anything about behaving in a professional manner in the real world. Oh, did I mention he lists "binge drinking" amongst his interests and "Pants Off - Dance Off" amongst his favorite TV Shows (Good Lord, I don't even know what that is).

Additionally Jimmy had no profile on LinkedIn or any other professional online networking sites. Just the MySpace profile, which I am sure Ms. Smith (and most other grown-up women) would find offensive.

I imagine that Jimmy's boss would be horrified about both his out going email to the prospect and his childish MySpace page with the company logo just below the bust line of the stripper's picture. I am also fairly confident his mother would not be pleased either.

This brings up some interesting points to ponder. If you are an employer and have a staff of twenty-somethings working for you, have you educated them on proper sales techniques? Is sending an email like this really a good tactic? Have you ever considered how your staff is using your logo and company information on the internet? When someone chooses to post a public profile on a site like MySpace, does their boss have a right to be concerned about the image it puts forward for their company? Lots to think about on this topic. Is this a generational issue, or does Jimmy need to grow up if he is going to be a sales manager in the business community?

Yes, I swear on a stack of bibles...all of this is true. Only the names have been changed.

Do you know a "Jimmy"? ...... Are you a "Jimmy"? ..... Do you employ a "Jimmy"? Or am I just an old guy who is out of touch?

Have A Great Day.


PS - If you are under 40 years old, you many not get the title of this post. That's okay, I don't know what "Pants Off - Dance Off" is all about either!