Posts tagged “Uncategorized

I’m Good … I’m a Leader … Really!

I recently read an excellent article on resume writing.  It was so excellent that I now can’t find it which is usually the way things work.

The really good stuff I forget to tag or file away.  All the mediocre stuff ends up stacked up on the desk, clogging up the inbox, filling up the hard drive and overwhelming the Delicious file.

But I digress.

The point of the article on resume writing was that people waste valuable resume space — and more importantly valuable resume reader time — telling people about personal characteristics that are either (a) presumed; or (b) best judged by someone other than the writer.

How many of you have read — or have! — resumes that include phrases like …  “hard worker” “detail oriented”“team player”“self starter”.

You read those things and you think to yourself “gosh, this person thinks pretty highly of him or herself.”

And you wonder when you are going to read a resume where someone writes:

“sometimes I’m lazy” … or …

“I’m tough to get along with” … or …

“I am capable of doing exceptional work but every now and then I need a good kick in the ass or else I’ll blow it off.”

Fact is we  often promote character traits that most people should expect of someone.  Like being honest, punctual, dedicated.

More importantly, we are rarely honest with ourselves about anything that concerns ourselves.  And while we may think that we are all these things, could it be that we are somewhat biased?

Shouldn’t others be the judge?

I often work with corporate clients on positioning and messaging their corporate brand.  Inevitably they will want to include the term “leader” in the messaging mix.

Funny, I’ve never have a client who wants to be a “follower” … they all want to be a “leader”.

But shouldn’t that be the judgment of others, not the brand?

Better to talk about your accomplishments, philosophy, and what you stand for.

Then letter others make their own judgment about who you are.

The JuiceBar Jobs Program

This morning I read the Washington Post and found out where all our money is.

It is with all those companies that aren’t hiring.

Apparently they are sitting on $1.8 trillion in cash.  In fact, they have 25% more cash on hand today than they had prior to the economic meltdown!

By contrast, I’m sitting on … well … not nearly that much.  In fact, like a lot of people I’m trying to cut back because experts tell me that I should have more cash on hand.  My new found frugality is upsetting a lot of people.  Guess who is most upset?  The same companies that are sitting on $1.8 trillion in cash!

Companies are saying they are not hiring people (despite having $1.8 trillion cash on hand) because there is ‘uncertainty’ in the market.  There is uncertainty because people are nervous.  People are nervous because they are afraid the companies with $1.8 trillion aren’t hiring and in some cases still laying people off.

We need a way out.

So here’s the JuiceBar’s deal with corporate America.

We’ll buy your stuff if you hire our neighbor.

We can even set up a formula.

If we buy an extra 100 cases of Crest, P+G hires back one mid-level manager.  15 gas grills from Home Depot equals an extra cashier.  Five flat screens and LG has to hire back one technician.

And I’ll only refinance at these incredibly low rates if the bank agrees to hire two recent college graduates with English degrees.

The history and English majors need our help.

And with $1.8 trillion you could buy a lot of them.

Happy Dependence Day

We can learn a lot from the Declaration of Independence. Happy July 4th.  On this day we  celebrate being ‘free’.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

The authors  go on at length describing the reasons for which they declare themselves to be ‘free’ of King George.  It is a very healthy list that culminates in “a prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Good.  We all can agree that independence from tyrants is a good thing.  But that was not the end of it.  While we often focus on the the things that founders wanted to be ‘free’ from, we don’t pay enough attention to how the framers closed the document:

And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

So in severing their dependence from King George, the founders declared their dependence to be elsewhere — depending on Divine Providence and each other.

This idea of dependence is lost in much social and political thinking these days.  People claim that individuals, left to their own, can decide and do better than business and government.  But as Mark Lilla recently wrote in The New York Review of Books, this type of groupthink has its own pitfalls.  Indeed, there’s little in history to suggest that left alone, the individual can go very far.  The question is not independence vs. dependence.  The question is what things go in which category.

So let’s celebrate both.

I don’t want to be dependent on a single client or the next paycheck.  I don’t want to be dependent on government subsidies or tax loopholes.  I don’t want to be dependent on dumb luck, chance, or one-trick gimmicks (although I’ll likely accept if offered).  I don’t want to be dependent on a single offering, service, investment, or option.

I want to be independent of fads, phobias, freaks, and phonies. I  want to be independent of my vices, foibles, and addictions.  I want to be independent of my own whims, vanities and stupidities.

I want to dependent on the military and police to arrest the bad guys and keep me safe.  On farmers to figure out a way to feed me and the rest of the world. On teachers to help educate my children and my grandchildren.   On financiers to help lend me money when I need to invest.  On bankers and money managers to keep my investments safe.  On judges and lawyers to administer justice.  On  engineers to find a sustainable and affordable way to keep the lights on.  On people smarter than I to invent the next new thing.

I want people to depend on me.

I want my customers to depend on me for good products and services.  I want people I meet to depend on me for ideas and advice.  I want community, friends, and family to depend on me for help and support.  I want my wife and children to depend on me being a good husband and father.

Like the founding fathers, I want to depend on God and my fellow man.
Independence alone leads to self indulgence; a cruel master.   Accepting dependence through serving others is the highest delight.

What do you depend on?

Depend wisely.

A letter from my Kindle to my iPad

Dear Ms. iPad,

You trollop!  You tramp!  You gold digger!

You shallow hussy!

I had the promise of a real, meaningful, and lasting relationship and you tore it away from me.  You are a cold, merciless, unrepentant whore.  I hate you.

The JuiceBar was mine!  He loved me.  He adored me.  He couldn’t keep his hands off me.  He would cradle me like a baby and snuggle up close to me everywhere from the bedroom to the board room (Yes!  He had me in his office!).  He even bought me svelte, belting leather clothes that accentuated my lines and kept me warm on those long flights and lonely nights.

The JuiceBar used to show me off.  I remember how he almost cried when he thought that a forgetful moment almost lost our relationship.  Now I’m the one doing the crying.

I sit here and watch his eyes light up when you light up.  You and your edge to edge touch screen.  Your backlit glow.  I see his hands reach out for you and softly caress that cold, cold metal back of yours.

Then there’s the worst.  There’s that constant stroking.  Watching his fingertips continually stoke and tap and stroke and tap and stroke and tap.  His fingers never stop.  He has his hands all over you all the time … even in public!  It makes me want to vomit.

I am what he really needs.  With me we read, we learn, we think.  We enjoy the simple things.  Yes it may be spartan to you but it is what true love and true living is all about.

But with you it is all just fun and games.  And with those disgusting hyperlinks you let him explore sights and places that are wasteful, wonton, some even trashy.  No, for you it is all fun and games, excitement and finding the next thing that will make him go “ooooh.”  You are nothing but the ephemeral fleeting pleasure of the moment.

I hope he drops you and that glassy painted face of yours breaks into a thousand pieces.  Better yet, I hope some future strumpette steals his heart and makes you hurt as much as you hurt me.

You’ll get yours.  I promise.

Jerry’s Kindle

A Presidential Tweet

If a picture can say a thousand words?  But can a poster replace the history of the presidency?

I’m looking at a pencil that has all the pictures of the presidents on it.  I think I bought it at one of the Smithsonian museums.

There’s a whole slew of these guys.  They look eerily the same.  Neatly arranged rows of old white men (I bought the pencil before Obama).   Some were heros.  Others were rascals.  But they look so similar.   I think they all came from the same gene pool.

I’ve got a slew of books at home by and about the presidents.  I’ve even read some of them.

People dedicate their lives to studying the presidents, analyzing them, writing about them.  They are the cornerstones of any history text book.  They are the measuring and reference points for much of our own personal history.

And now it has all been boiled down into one convenient 38×24 infographic poster.  Yours framed for $320.

This is such a relief.

I was afraid I was going to have to read Doris Goodwin’s Lincoln.  Or Jim Burns’ Washington.  Or Gary Wills’ Madison (actually since I saw the HBO show the chance that I would actually read the Madison book was pretty slim).

I did read Primary Colors but that wasn’t supposed to be real.

But back to the poster.  I’m in awe.  The entire history of the presidency …  and entire history of electoral decision-making … all small enough to be framed.  I don’t have to read it, just look at it.  I don’t have to put it in a library, I can hang it on a wall.

A graphical equivalent of an historical tweet of the American presidency.

I love this country.

It is about time

40 years.

That was what impressed me.

After 40 years of marriage people separate.  Wow.  That is a long time to be together only to ‘grow apart’.

I’m not judging.  I’m just observing.

Time can heal.  But clearly time can also divide.  Time can make things better and draw people closer.  And time can erode, dull, and deaden your senses and your passion.

I think about the people I know and the clients that I work with.  I think about what time is doing to them.

For some, it is building them up, making them stronger.  It is a fuel that revs their engines so every new day they stand taller, get bigger, grow wiser.

For others, time is a millstone around the neck.  It is a grinding clock and snapping whip that turns what was or could have been extraordinary into a sedentary, mechanical, and passionless existence.

Those, of course, are the extremes.  Most – whether it is people, or companies, or organizations, or brands – fall somewhere in the middle.

Time is like a lot of things.  I figure it falls into one of those “great slaves” and “terrible masters” categories.

We should all take some time to think about what time is doing to us.

Lazy Daze

I was talking to my brother the other day.  He had been talking my other brother.  Both great guys.  Brothers that people would die for.  Kind, smart, funny, good husbands, wonderful sons.  The whole package.

One of them — I won’t say who — had a great personal observation.

In a discussion about life and this tricky thing called ambition he jokingly said, “You know … my greed is only exceeded by my laziness.”

This is one of the great insights into the human condition.  He could have been talking about me.  He could have been talking about you.  He could have been talking about ninety percent of humanity.  We all want stuff.  We all want nice things.  We want good relationships.  We want.  We want.  We want.

But most of us are willing to work for what we want.  We just want.

This greed vs. laziness paradigm could just as easily be framed as a”[insert anything] vs. laziness” paradigm.

Why do I think so?

Because I read David Shenk’s book “The Genius in All of Us.”  (Actually, I’ve not read it … I just read the reviews)  According to the book EVERYONE can be a genius.  That’s right.  You, my friend, could be the next Einstein.  It is not genetic or nature.  What prevents us from being a genius is … you guessed it … laziness!  Here’s an excerpt of the review on

Shenk argues that the idea we are either born with genius or talent, or we aren’t, is simply untrue. The notion that relentless, deliberate practice changes the brain and thus our abilities has been undervalued over the past 30 years in favor of the concept of “innate giftedness.” Practice, practice, practice (some say 10,000 hours or more) is what it takes.

I am both excited and depressed.

I can be a genius.  Only one thing.  I’ve got to work for it.  10,000 hours of work.  That is 250 weeks of a 40 hour work week.  Five years of a full time job.

That is our problem folks.  Not much is outside of our grasp — not money nor knowledge.

It is just that we have to work for it.

Think I’ll take a nap.

It isn’t the ‘what’ it is the ‘who’

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently thinking about family, work, career, accomplishments, goals … heady stuff like that.  It has translated into several drives into the office in silence … no music, no radio … and many evenings on the back porch staring out over the greenway that separates our small cluster from the houses on the next block over.

Most of this reflection has, I think, been productive.  But some has bordered on the thumb-sucking, navel gazing and Hamletesque type angst that most humans are prone to.

I got some unexpected help and insight from a very dear friend who now is a big muckety-muck at one of the nation’s leading career services firm.  She mentioned a conversation with another important muckety-muck … a person from Harvard … who said that most people get it all wrong.  They frame the entire career thing the wrong way.  What she said I’ll remember for a long, long time.

“The critical question is not ‘what‘ you want to be … it is ‘who‘ you want to be.”

That says so much in just fifteen words.  It is more the motivation than the act.  It is more the idea than the product.  It is more the character than the career.  It is more the identity than the label.

I thought about my clients.  And I realized that their challenge was eerily the same.  Many were all bollixed up trying to figure out the “what” … when their real problem was the “who.”  It wasn’t the product set, the service package, the channel strategy that was their real problem.  Their real problem was that they didn’t have a clear sense of who they were and what they stood for.

These fifteen words haven’t solved my personal life’s riddle.  But they’ve allowed me to see things much more clearly.

So I ask you …

Not what do you do … but …

Who are you?

Frustration, gobbledygook and the state of polity

People are pissed.

At government, that is.

A bit crudely put, but that’s the latest from Andy Kohut and the folks at Pew Research.  According to the USAToday story, some 56% of us are frustrated.  About one in five were just plain mad.

Pew called it the highest anger-and-disgust level in a half-century of polling. It is due at least partially to the cumulative effect of political and institutional failure writ large.

Think of a whole nation of Howard Beale.

blahI’ve got a theory on why.  No, it is not the economy.  Stock market is up.  Unemployment is high but below double digits.  Hey, I’m not saying it is great out there but we seem to be muddling through.  Don’t think it is societal.  Lots of electronic toys, lattes, and other ‘necessities’ out there that people seem to be still enjoying.

I think the reason is a plethora of gobbledygook and a dearth of coherence.

We’ve always had gobbledygook.  It flourishes in both the private and public sectors.

But we’re aflood with it today.  It is everywhere.  And with all the blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, and God knows what social media activity going on … it is a virtual tsunami of gobbledygook.

With that has come a loss of coherence.  Coherence is as rare as liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats.  People say and do things that simple don’t correspond to any framework of real world experience.

Case in point – Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell’s recent prescription for the Democrats on how to avoid defeat at the polls in November 2010.  The article, “How the Democrats can avoid a November bloodbath,” is the latest in their attack on the Obama administration’s strategy on health care reform.  Being pollsters, they rest much of their case on surveys.  It’s ok.  Not terribly compelling or deep.  But ok.  But when they get to the punchline, the whole thing begins to get whacky.  Their prescription for winning in November?  Here ya go …

Winning over swing voters will require a bold, new focus from the president and his party. They must adopt an agenda aimed at reducing the debt, with an emphasis on tax cuts, while implementing carefully crafted initiatives to stimulate and encourage job creation.

Yes that is right.  To win in November we need to (a) reduce the deficit; AND (b) reduce taxes; AND (c) have a jobs program.

Sorta like telling someone deep in debt that they need to pay off their loans while taking a pay cut and buying (on credit) a shiny new hybrid.

Or telling a drunk that the way to sober up is to reduce your beer intake, increase your wine consumption, and buy a liquor store.

This, of course, is our problem in a nutshell — the idea that we can do three things that are IMPOSSIBLE to do simultaneously.   Then when we actually follow the gobbledygook we find that it doesn’t work.  So we gravitate to more … gobbledygook.

Ode to Humility

Blessed are the humble.

Really?  You’ve got to be kidding.  Humility?  Look around.  Any humble brands out there?  Any humble organizations?  Politicians?  Humility has gotten short shrift in popular culture.  And looking around you’d think it in short supply.

You’d be right.

humility_1But it is a value that I’d argue is at the heart of friendship and brand relationship.  It is the connective tissue that allows a brand or an individual to bond with an individual or idea.

Nearly eighteen months ago a good friend and expert in crisis communications, Fred Garcia, wrote this back in September 2008:

… a dollop of humility tempers other attributes, and makes a leader even stronger. Humility helps a leader to recognize that maybe – just maybe – he or she might be wrong; that there may be other valid perspectives; that he or she doesn’t have to be the smartest person in every room, at every meeting.  Humility also helps leaders to connect with others up, down, and across the chain of command; to build organizations and cultures that more likely thrive; to understand the perspectives of other stakeholders.

I thought about Fred’s post when listening to a recent podcast on the same subject.  The title of the podcast was “Winsome Humility.”  A warning to those who may want to listen.  It has a religious bent.  But that bent shouldn’t distract from the wisdom that Dr. John Dixson gives about this simple concept that is at the heart of every strong character.

Dixson’s definition of humility is simple: Humility is the noble ability to hold your power for the good of others.

He goes on to argue that humility makes very a lot of sense.  It is practical.  One person can’t know everything.  It is attractive.  It is part of being kind.  It is effective.  It allows you — as Fred pointed out — to develop strong relationships.

I find it ironic that in the new media world we see so many people (and brands) succumb to baser instincts and use the new media channels to bark, preen, preach, and lecture.

When the real opportunity is in using these new channels to do something much more attractive.

Be humble.