Monday, December 31, 2007

JWN: Follow Up or Lose Out

Follow Up or Lose Out

The art of the follow up is the most crucial aspect of making a meaningful connection with somebody. What good is the first conversation you had with someone if you don't follow up and have another?

I have a stack of business cards on my desk that represents relationships I've started. Some are from the recent past that I've followed up with and stay in front of on a continual basis with my new system. However, others are from conferences or leadership events from my past that have fallen through the cracks because before I didn't take relationships as serious as they should be taken. Those cards motivate me and I guarantee every one of them will eventually know my name. It's only a matter of time.

Life is about the relationships you have. I say this frequently because it is a core value that is near and dear to my heart. It is true that I am a firm believer in some quality alone time to reflect and learn about yourself. But, there is something about a nice dinner or some drinks with a friend (or two or three) that makes life worth while.

Ben and I talk about this quite a bit because it usually hits us after a good VIP conversation. We learn at least one new thing from everybody we interact with; especially from our VIPs. It has been the most positive real life learning experience I could have chosen to embark on.

There is a key to these interactions though; the follow up. It is imperative to have a consistent and effective method for adding value to the people in your life. One of the ways that Ben and I absolutely get a kick out of is connecting people. The only way you can do that well though is by knowing who you know.

I manage that with a few methods. One is an incredible memory for people. I've always had it and I can dig up information out of the depths of my mind pretty handily. In the recent past as I've met more and more people through my efforts, I've had to create a system for managing facts about people. This is through a note card system.

When Bill Clinton was in college at Georgetown he kept an index card on every person he met. Each day he would write personal information about those people on their card and file it away. After I learned about this system I developed my own. Who may have a card in my file! (Really, I'm not a stalker.)

I do this because I generally care about you and because knowing who you are is important to me. That note card will help me effectively add value to you in the future. If I know who you are, then I can connect you to somebody I may meet tomorrow. That's just one power of relationships.

In October I spoke to a group of about 170 students at the Future Business Leaders of America District 8 Conference. One of my topics was "follow up." I got the students thinking about the importance of "who knows you" rather than just who you know.

Here is what I told them; re-packaged just for you!

NOTABLE: Who you meet doesn't matter if you don't follow up!

So Joseph, "How do I follow up effectively?" Well, here is my "Follow Up Success Time Table:"

1) Email - As soon as possible

2) Personal Note - Within 48 hours

3) Phone Call - Within two weeks

4) Periodic Value Adds - As often as possible but at least every three to six months

NOTABLE: Ben and I add value through the eZine you're reading right now.

These steps will help solidify a relationship with your new contact. In your interaction always reference personal information because it shows that you listened. You've got it buddy, you HAVE to listen!

Finally, stay true to the final piece of advice I bestowed upon the impressionable young minds in early October;

"Be passionate. Be genuine. Add value first!"

ACTION PLAN: Develop your own system to remember facts about the people you meet. Follow my "Success Time Table" and you will solidify a relationship with your new contact. Remember to periodically stop in to add some value.

Think about who you are and who you want to become. Find people in your dream job. Get in front of them and follow up!

For more information on how to make a powerful first impression, click here! For more information on how to small talk for a BIG effect, click here!

Best to you, ~JWN

Deborah S. Norman

A Mother's Love

Deborah Norman is my mother. She has been an incredible role model for my two older brothers and me as long as we’ve been alive. Over the past 28 years she has raised three motivated and honorable sons; not an easy task at all. While doing this she pursued her career as an educator of America’s Youth. Currently, she is employed as a math specialist at Palmer Elementary School in the Windsor Central School District. Her leadership and passion for effective education has recently helped the school reach some outstanding results. It is my pleasure to feature the woman who brought me into this world; sacrificing much along the way to make sure my brothers and I were raised well. (Your efforts continue to be appreciated mother). Enjoy and put heart in Debby’s insights on parenting and education, ~JWN

VIP: What are some of your thoughts on parenting?

DSN: I feel like the biggest way I learned to be a good parent was from my parents; my mother especially. She was a very good role model of good parenting. She was very intelligent and gracious to all people. Growing up she was wonderfully attentive to the family but she wasn’t an indulgent parent. We always had what we needed but she didn’t give us too much.

One thing that has always amazed me from moving up here to New York is that when people hear you’re from West Virginia the stereotype is that you are from a hillbilly town and your father is a coal miner, but in truth my father (Ralph Stickle) was a Ph.D. Research Chemist for Union Carbide and my mother was a former teacher. So, I actually came from well educated parents. Education was always highly valued in my family growing up.

We always had dinner together and there were always interesting topics of conversation. If a new topic that my dad didn’t know came up he would get right up from the table and go to our set of encyclopedias and bring one to the table. He would continue to embellish the conversation with whatever facts he picked up from the encyclopedia. That was a very common occurrence. You always got the feeling from the two of them that education was important. They never really preached about it being important, they just modeled it.

You could tell by the way the lived that they valued family, education, and the community.

My mother (Pamela Stickle) was really someone special.

VIP: What are some of your secrets to parenting success?

DSN: A few years ago I actually sat down and thought about this. I had never really done that before but I got asked to help teach a parenting class at church which went six weeks long. They asked six people to teach one lesson and I was one of them.

The biggest thing that always kept coming to mind was that it wasn’t just one big thing that you do but it is the paying attention on a day by day basis to what is going on with everybody. People get so busy with their lives; especially if they are involved with a whole lot else besides their family. It is easy for days or weeks to go by and lose touch with things that are going on.

I really felt that the thing that kept things on track the most was paying attention. You’ve got to pay attention and take the small problems that come up and keep them small. Try to notice the small things that might be bothering your children, maybe physical or mental, and keep them small by addressing them early on.

My mother said this to me when I had two small children, “Make sure that when you tell children to do something, they do it.” In other words, don’t let your children get away with things too much. She noticed that. I think Chris was two and Jack was four. She was not a critical person or a criticizing type of person.

I was a little hurt when she said it because I realized she wouldn’t have said it unless she noticed that I had weakened at times. But I am appreciative because it made a great impact on my parenting style.

The essentials are love, kindness, and attention.

Reading to your children a lot when they are young is important. I would read to my sons several times a day and they all became good readers. One even became an English major in college (laughing). It exposes them to new worlds.

Another key thing is being interested in your children’s pursuits. With that let your children know that they can depend on you in all those many ways; that there will be groceries in the house, that they can be picked up when they need you, and that if you say you are coming to something you show up.

There are a lot of people in this world that say they are going to do something but don’t really follow up.

VIP: What are some values you tried to instill in your sons?

DSN: Value family and learning. Have a sense of humor because that helps you get through a lot of rough spots. Have an ability to forgive others. Be caring about things. Have faith. Be able to admit your mistakes, short comings, or disappointments and make yourself move forward. Rest a little while, get back up, and try it again.

If you try it again, just about every time you’ll make it happen. That builds a tremendous strength within you.

VIP: What are some of the difficulties of parenting? How did you overcome them?

DSN: I always wanted to be a mother and I always wanted to be a teacher. Even though I loved being a parent there were some tough times. Some of the things that come to mind are probably not what you might expect.

One of them is getting tired. There are a lot of times when you are a parent that you get very tired trying to keep up with all that you have to do. It’s a full time job. In fact, It’s a 24/7 job; especially when your children are young. You don’t always get the rest you need but you have to keep going anyway.

It’s easy for people to say, “Well you’re tired, so you rest,” but that’s not the case when you have small children. Or even when you have teenagers. No matter how old they are, if you know they are out you don’t really sleep until you know they are home safe. There is no getting around being tired. It’s part of the job description.

It’s important to note though that when you are tired problems always seem bigger but after you rest you can put them into perspective. It’s amazing how at night things can seem overwhelming, but the next morning they don’t seem nearly as great.

Another difficult thing is juggling everyone’s schedule. When you have three busy children like I had, juggling transportation and the logistics of that can be challenging at times. You just need to try to be fair to everyone and let them get accommodated for what they want to be involved in.

Also, income is a big difficulty; especially during the key formative years from birth to age six. Those are usually years when money is harder to come by because you are so busy with the small children.

VIP: Three boys. How’d you manage that?

DSN: A teacher at school just had her second little boy and somebody said, “Gosh, another boy.” And she said, “Yeah, I don’t know what that will be like.” So, I told her, “Rest assured, you’ll laugh a lot.”

I think you manage that by keeping a sense of humor, laughing a lot, and making sure they get a lot of exercise. I really feel like exercise for boys makes everything go smoother. Everyone is getting rid of that energy in a good way.

Lots of cooking is important too. Good hearty meals. Also, again it is imperative to pay attention so you can notice the small problems that develop allowing you to deal with them while they are still small.

VIP: What are some favorite quotes?

DSN: The first one I saw on a poster when I was out in school.

“What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes

This one I saw on a ketchup bottle at Tom Wahl’s. “To do a common thing uncommonly well, brings success.”

Maya Angelou in The Poet said, “I can be changed by what happens to me but I refuse to be reduced by it.”

“If you judge people you have no time to love them.” – Mother Theresa

And, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful we must carry it with us or we will find it not.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

That one I used to have on a poster down in the basement on a concrete wall above the washing
machine. (Laughing). When you guys were little I had come across that. So, I’d be down there in that dingy corner of the basement and I would always see that quote on the wall. I know that one by heart.

VIP: What are some favorite books?

DSN: Practice of Kindness by Rabbi Kushner. It is a bunch of daily meditations about relationships and how people treat each other. And, What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey. It has all different topics.

It has all kinds of great quotes like, “If you feel incomplete you alone must fill yourself with love in all your empty, shattered spaces.” In other words you can’t count on somebody else to make you feel complete. Instead, you have to deal with that yourself. If somebody else helps you with that then it’s a bonus, but ultimately it’s got to come from you.

Cherokee’s Feast of Days. That is a bunch of daily readings that come from the Cherokee tribe. They were very in tune with nature and what keeps the world going.

Also, anything by Norman Vincent Peale is great.

I would like to add a movie as well; Phenomenon with John Travolta. They never list it on his top movies, but as far as I’m concerned it’s his best. I’ve watched it quite a few times and every time it makes me cry and think.

It is truly a picture about triumph of the human spirit. He (John Travolta’s character) gets put through so much from something he can’t control. People look at him funny and people prejudge him but he’s just a nice guy. And, a lot of people become his advocates. That’s why I like it so much. At the end when he is dying they want to do surgery on him but he won’t let them. He says, “That’s not what my life is. There is more to my life than that. I want to get out of this hospital and be with the people I care about my last few days.” He says, “That’s what it’s about!”

VIP: As an educator with an impressive recent track record as an elementary remedial math specialist, what are some of your secrets to success in the classroom?

DSN: I really believe these things after teaching and doing the nursery at church for so many years. It doesn’t matter whether it is a baby, a teenager, or an adult; everyone wants to feel that they matter. Everyone wants to be valued and noticed. Catch them being good and praise their successes.

If you don’t catch them doing good things then they will do bad things to get your attention. It never fails. They want to be noticed and they want to be valued. When they get ignored they will get attention any way they can. That is one thing that like Oprah, I know for sure. I do.

Smile. Pay attention. Teach. Teach again. Teach a different way! In other words, it doesn’t always happen the first time. You have to keep at it. Be creative. Use manipulatives (an active learning exercise) when possible to keep the students involved in what you are trying to do. Don’t give up on anyone. Be kind and never stop caring.

That is my philosophy on teaching and it works no matter what you’re teaching. I really believe that.

Deborah S. Norman

Mother, Teacher

14 Valley Vista Court

Kirkwood, NY 13795

Phone: 607.775.4950


Monday, December 24, 2007

JWN: Recharge the Batteries

Recharge the Batteries

I'm a pretty social person. I like to mix and mingle with the best of them and I do it a lot. But, this past week has had me thinking about an equally important matter; down time. Sometimes you've got to step away from everything and just recharge the batteries.

I finished school last week. It was a serious relief having traveled much of the semester all over the shop; internationally to Ghana and across the northern United States for cross country meets and other functions. If you're wondering what my GPA is, I'm not going to tell you. We'll just say missing a quarter of my classes throughout the semester didn't help. But, I wouldn't change a thing.

What this past week has had me thinking about though, is the importance of taking a little time for yourself. We live in a busy world; especially during this time of the year.

People are running around frantically, buying gifts, sending cards, getting those last hours in at work to wrap up those projects before the start of the New Year. But, I made a conscious effort in the last week to get away from it all and just relax. That's what this time of year is supposed to be about, right?

Ben and I operate in fifth gear most of the time. In fact, he is still hammering because he's doing an internship at a world class company, Blue Tie, Inc. for about 20 days before he heads to Washington DC. That's why I admire him, respect him, and most importantly, enjoy working with him on a weekly basis. We've got big plans and we continuously learn from each other every step of the way.

Earlier this week though, while he was frantically whirling back and forth from Fairport to Henrietta to Geneseo, I stopped him to remind him about the importance of taking a step back. His ADD usually has him all over the place while I like to take a little more time to reflect.

It's easy to get caught up in the pace of life. We are constantly pulled in all directions, all the time. Some of us, like me, take pleasure in that. But, in order to be effective at all of your pursuits, sometimes you have to get away from it completely. That's why companies have vacation time. They understand that people need some balance in their life. I'm not one to define an "impossibility" because I don't like the word, but I will say that it is difficult to maintain the frantic pace of life 365 days a year.

What's my advice then? Get away from it. Go sit down by yourself or with the people you love and recharge. Freshen up. Here are some things you can try:

Watch a movie. I've watched three in the last week. It's been incredible. I usually don't watch TV at all, but I made a choice to sit down and catch a few flicks I wanted to see. For those of you scoring at home I watched The Bourne Ultimatum, Breach, and Along Came Polly. Action flicks, films that make you think, and comedies; that's how I roll.

Read a book YOU want to read. I'm a big reader so my downtime almost always includes a good read. Currently I'm digging through The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle by Dr. Kathleen Reardon. Organizational politics has always interested me. We humans do funny things.

Have a conversation with an old friend or family member. They are always great. Talk about old times or future goals. Let it flow.

Don't think about work. It's time will come. For now, focus on you and what you need to feel good about yourself. You'll know when you're ready to think about work again. Remember though, work should be fun. If it's not, rethink your career path. Find a way to get paid for what you're passionate about.

Work out. Your physical health is a key component to maintaining your mental health. They work together so don't neglect either one.

LAUGH. Probably the most important part and my favorite part of the recovery process. Laughing is like your battery charger. Unlike your elusive cell phone charger though, don't ever lose this one. It heals the soul.

I've tried to do more of these six things since my semester ended and it feels good. I urge you to give it a try in this holiday season. Most of you will probably have a little time away from your jobs so take advantage of it. Recharge the batteries.

I'll close with a catchy line Ben's aunt and VIP enthusiast Joni Daniels likes to say:

"Plug in and power up," ~JWN

P.S. Joni is a personal and professional development consultant and the author of Power Tools for Women. Check out her website!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

JWN: Dear Quote Lovers, Part II

Dear Quote Lovers, Part II

This is another Life and Times of JWN dedicated to the quote lovers. I was chatting with Louise Wadsworth, a VIP and VIP Profiles Enthusiast, the other day and she was commenting on how much she loves the quotes we feature. Thus, I felt it would be fitting to feature another collection of quotes that have recently graced my life. (Click here for Dear Quote Lovers, Part I)

Many of these quotes come from a few sources; Jeffrey Gitomer's Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude and William Sauer's Hip Pocket Guide to Offbeat Wisdom. Gitomer is one of my favorite sales, personal and professional development authors and Bill is a former co-worker of mine at Manning & Napier, Inc. Bill's book was generously given to me by my friend Rob Dunn, another former co-worker of mine at M & N.

Without further adieu:

"Ignore people who tell you, 'You can't'" - Gitomer

"The answer will not come to you. You need to look for it." - from a fortune cookie I got with my Sesame Chicken
Combo at the Main Moon Restaurant in Geneseo, NY.

"Make everyday as productive as the day before you go on vacation." - Gitomer

"Dress the part you want to play." - JWN

"Nobody holds a good opinion of a man who has a low opinion of himself." - Anthony Trollope

"Eighty percent of success is showing up." - Woody Allen

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value." - Albert Einstein

"I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar." - Robert Brault

"Failure is impossible." - Susan B. Anthony

"Don't dwell on the problem; concentrate on the solution." - Gitomer

"Some succeed because they are destined to; most succeed because they are determined to." - Anatole France

"Proper preparation leads to powerful performance." - JWN

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." - Mother Teresa

"A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one." - Mary Kay Ash

"It's not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you." - Gitomer

"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. That is to have succeeded." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

My hope with these collections of quotes is to inspire in some way. Words have a profound effect on me because of their incredible (and often underestimated) power. I have found in my years that what we expose ourselves to, big or small, affects the way we think about the world. That thought process then molds our lives. I choose to keep great words and thoughts around me because I aspire to outstanding things. It just makes sense to me.

ACTION PLAN: Give it a try! Carry an inspirational quote in your pocket for one week. When a challenge or problem arises, read the quote and then brainstorm solutions. It works!

Don't forget to rinse and repeat. Try to use a new quote each week. Soon you'll be armed with positive thoughts and powerful words which can help you tackle anything this crazy (and wonderful) life throws at you.

To your success, ~JWN

Sunday, December 9, 2007

JWN: Feeling The Holiday Spirit

Over the last few years I've struggled to find the "holiday spirit." My family has been through quite a lot and has become increasingly spread out across the United States. Thus, it's often difficult for us all to come together. And, "coming together" by definition for us has changed. Usually I would not get caught by the holiday spirit until right about Christmas day, but this year seems to be a little different and it has me thinking.

I was walking by myself down the street I live on in Geneseo one evening last week. It was the start of another night in Milne Library doing some "time in the trenches" with the final papers and projects for the semester. One's attitude may generally be a little less festive in this state of academic turmoil, but that was the first night the holiday feeling really hit me.

It was the lights on the houses and the calm of the streets which sent my mind adrift on the "Ghost of Christmas Past," if you will.

NOTABLE: I use the Christmas Story phrase because my brothers and I always watch the Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas. We love the Muppets and we're not afraid to admit it (even if we're all well into our 20's).

Back to my thought provoking walk down Second Street, I recalled times in the old white Toyota wagon driving through the neighborhoods back home and checking out the lights on all the houses. We were never big on the exterior lights at the Norman abode, but we were always captivated by other families' ambitions.

As for the calm of the streets, runs through Windsor (the hometown of my alma mater) with my two older brothers were often tradition. But in some act of cruel punishment to our bodies, we would only venture out after we stuffed our faces with delicious food at old friends' houses. Strange? Maybe. But, us Norman brothers have never claimed to be normal.

My proverbial walk down memory lane on the calm winter night last week sparked these festive memories and had me thinking about this year. Why does Jack (my oldest brother) always have to fly in from Florida at midnight to an airport an hour and a half away? That's the current question that looms on my mind as his December 23rd arrival in Syracuse stands prominent like a road race starting line. This race we can aptly name the Norman Holiday Adventure. And trust me, when some Norman brothers get together it is always an adventure.

The obligatory pick-up has my mood unfazed though because like any great race, no matter the start time this fact remains; "When the gun goes off everything changes. The world changes. And, nothing else really matters." - Patti Sue Plummer. From that point we'll begin an eleven day journey from one end of New York State to the other, spreading some Norman holiday cheer everywhere we go.

Although the reflective walk was great, I'm still a little aloof from the real joy that the holidays can bring. But thanks to my housemates and good friends, Kevin Skidmore and Pete Beuler, I find myself forced into it. They absolutely love Christmas and passion like that is infectious. After Thanksgiving the only music Kevin listens to is Christmas music. As long as I've known him (a little over 10 years) he has stayed true to this tradition. Pete does not hold back on the Christmas music either. I can't get away from it and I now begin to think, "Why would I want to?"

The two of them hung stockings on the fireplace in our living room and brought home a real Christmas tree which now adds a rather delightful scent to the house. As our house is one inhabited by eight men, this new fragrance is a welcome change.

So, what does all this mean for you? Well, here's the challenge I recently posed to myself and now am sharing with you.

HOLIDAY CHALLENGE: Get sucked into the holiday spirit.

We are often cautioned about this as it can lead to forgetting the true meaning of the holidays (which has its own personal significance to you with whatever religion or beliefs you may have). But, I think it can be a good thing. If you are like me in recent years, then you know that it's easy to get complacent and just breeze through this time of year without really taking it for what it's worth. Be happy and savor the moments. Before you know it, you'll be waking up in 2008.

I'm trying to keep the Christmas music on this year, rather then change the station like I usually do. Fortunately, my friends are a big help.

REFLECT: What are some of your holiday traditions and how have they changed? What are some of your favorite holiday memories? What family and friends are in those memories?

The answer to these questions should help you get sucked into the spirit. No matter what trials and tribulations you and yours may be going through, seek out those people that matter and share with them the joys of Christmas Past and the hopes of Christmas Future. And, of course, make the most of Christmas Present with them.

Smile bigger and laugh louder. It's going to be a great holiday if you let it be.

A holiday hopeful, ~JWN

Sunday, December 2, 2007

JWN: What's Your Self Image?

Life and Times of JWN
JWN Self Image
What's Your Self Image?

One of the running jokes in my house revolves around my self-belief. Some of my housemates go as far as calling me an "egomaniac." Often I can be found responding in jest, "Well, I've never had a problem with confidence." The constant and hilarious berating by my peers has me thinking at length about the concept of self-belief. Is how we feel about ourselves that important to our success and fulfillment?


Before we get much further, let's look at a few great quotes about the power of self-belief.

"Mediocrity stems from lack of belief more than lack of skill." - from the Little Platinum Book of Cha-Ching! By Jeffrey Gitomer

"Believe!" - Geneseo Cross Country and Track and Field credo

The next is one that I consult and act on regularly because it is the cornerstone of one of my life goals, to be a highly sought after motivational speaker:

"Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must first believe." - Winston Churchill

Back to the house jokes. The truth is I haven't always carried myself well. We all have our own core values that we develop over time. What's unique about this value system is that it is created by the simple disciplines we carry out everyday. That's a powerful thing to think about. What you're doing right now directly affects your success and fulfillment.

KEY QUESTION: How are you investing your time?

My confidence has developed through exposing myself to great thoughts about attitude, leadership, and personal development. I have done this for eight years (yes, eight) and it has been the most fulfilling "best practice" I have consistently applied to date.

At 14, I was a freshman in high school. Confidence at this age doesn't come easily. It was at that point when I started to throw myself into leadership roles, conferences, and literature. Thanks to some great mentors and a passion for personal development that practice hasn't stopped. In fact, as I've grown older it's become a much more voracious pursuit.

KEY FACT: Exposing yourself to great literature and speakers is one thing, doing what they suggest is another. It only works if you do them both. Everyday.

What can you do to develop your positive self-image?

1) Read. Put the words of thought leaders of personal development in front of you. Check out the VIP book list for some great books on leadership, business, and personal development. Some great thinkers that have been influential to me include Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Jeffrey Gitomer, John C. Maxwell, and Hal Urban.

2) Attend conferences. Find two conferences. One that applies directly to your current career pursuits. The other should be one that is about you; how you can lead more effectively, how you can achieve more, how you can be happy with what you have and how you can get what you want.

3) Reflect. Take time to think about yourself and your core values everyday. It can be as little as fifteen minutes, but think about why you do what you do. I've always thought about it, but over the last year I started writing about it.

4) Write. It forces you to process your thoughts by putting them into words. Our words affect our minds and our minds create our reality on the world. Keep a personal development diary. I write the Life and Times of JWN. Learn from it and try out what it says.

5) Make it happen for yourself. Just do it! Take some "you" time everyday. Don't think about anybody else, just yourself and your beliefs. It's not selfish, it's healthy.

One of the most debilitating things we can do is get comfortable in a routine and stop questioning our actions. Ironically, I have developed a positive self-image by getting in the habit of throwing myself out of my comfort zone. I am comfortable with who I am, because I take an active approach in developing who I am.

"People buy into what they help create," is a leadership mantra I use in the organizations I lead. You will believe in yourself if you take steps to create a better self. That belief is the foundation for finding fulfillment in all of your life's pursuits.

How did you better yourself today?

Warmly yours, ~JWN

Sunday, November 25, 2007

JWN: I'm Thankful for You

Life and Times of JWN
JWN Ghana

I'm Thankful for You

Every week I read an email tip from Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone (a JWN favorite book) and founder and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight. This past week the tip was fitting because it talked about gratitude and how important it is to give thanks. Keith reflected on a previous Thanksgiving where he scrolled through his phone en route to his planned place of celebration and started calling friends and thanking them for being in his life. The tip challenged to give it a try. Me being the impressionable young man that I am did it.

I rocked my rolodex's world. It was amazing. It was truly an energizing experience because it feels good to tell people they matter to you and that you care about them. It's also fun to hear their reactions because they are always positive. In many of the instances I just left a message because people were busy with their respective gigs. This allowed me more time so I just called more and more people because I knew that when they listened to my message later it would make them smile. And, after last week's Life and Times of JWN (click here if you missed it) you know that I love smiles.

You may say, "I don't want to bother someone on their holiday." Well, the kind of friends I like to have are those that want to "bother me" on my holiday. Life is about the relationships you have and relationships don't take holidays.

Keith described giving thanks as a blessing to yourself because of how it makes you feel. How often do we tell the people that make such a meaningful impact on our lives just how important they are to us? Unfortunately, not much. It comes back to the principle of appreciation. Everybody wants to feel appreciated. Giving thanks is a way to fulfill that need we all have (whether we admit the need or not).

NOTABLE: The beauty about giving thanks is that it's win-win. You make people feel great and you feel great doing it.

ACTION PLAN: Get in the habit of giving thanks. How?

1) Send an email to three people a week. This is the easy one that you have no excuse to not do. How long does it take to write a few sentences in an email? You don't even have to lick a stamp.

2) Write a personal note to one person a week. It can be to a friend, family member, employee, client, or whoever strikes your fancy. Tell them that they are an important part of your life, that you recognize that, and appreciate them for that.

3) Make some phone calls each week. Scroll through that contact list on your cell phone and call the first person that inspires a warm memory to pop into your head. Don't second guess it, just push send. Tell them you were thinking about them and that you are thankful for having them in your life. Sound corny? Well, make five of those phone calls and then write me an email about how you felt after you made the calls. It's not that corny anymore is it?

4) Step 1 is good, but steps 2 and 3 are the best. They are more personal. Emails are a cop-out when it comes to giving thanks. I'm biased, but it's true. Again, don't second guess yourself, just do it. I guarantee you will make your friend or associate's day. If copping-out is for you, know that I still support "email thanks." Kind words should never be left unsaid.

Don't know who to thank? Look around you. Who is in the photo on your desk? Who took the photo on your desk? Who is the background on your computer or cell phone? Who did you have dinner with the other week? And, you can never thank your mother enough (or your father).

I like to thank a VIP or a loyal reader with a personal note and a VIP sticker every week. Want one? Email me your address and wait patiently for a thoughtful (and well written) note from yours truly.

Get in the habit of giving thanks and learn to appreciate what you have. We are only on this planet for a limited time and our relationships are what make each day really special. Go try out that action plan. Call who you count on and tell them how you feel. You'll be happy you did it.

Appreciatively yours, ~JWN

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Letter from the Editor

Life and Times of JWN
JWN Celebration
Smiles. Attitude. Results.
I'm going to steal some thoughts from the book I am currently reading;
Jeffrey Gitomer's Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude. Jeffrey's books have had a tremendous impact on how I think about the world and have been a key influence on some of the best practices I use to help me achieve one of my personal philosophies; "Make a consistent positive influence." I'm sure Jeffrey won't mind if I plug his materials (Do you Jeffrey?) and I'm sure you'll be reading Jeffrey's VIP Profile in a future issue. 
Let's start this reflection with a quote that really hits home to me because it has been a thought of mine for many years; "I believe that a smile is the attribute of a positive attitude, both for yourself and the perception of others." - Jeffrey Gitomer
Everyday I test the power of a smile. The result is that often I can be found mixing and mingling with people I have barely met. How do these interactions start?
KEY FACT: I open up the lines of communication with a smile. Check out my article "Small Talk for a BIG Effect" for more on this skill.
It's funny. When I walk with housemates or friends, my frequent casual interactions often solicit the question, "Do you know that person?" It makes me laugh because I almost always reply with the same answer. "No. Not really." What I'm always thinking though is that if I see them again I bet they would remember me and I could probably have a great conversation with them. My favorite part about this story is this:
NOTABLE: A conversation sparked from a scenario like this now happens to me at least once a week.
It's awesome and it's the result of a simple smile. So, why is the smile so powerful? People want to be around positive people. Smiles, as well as being warm and welcoming, symbolize a positive outlook. Answer these two questions:
1) Who do you spend time with?
2) Who do you enjoy spending time with?
Invariably, these questions spark different answers. You probably work or are involved with organizations that have people you may not like. In contrast, the people you enjoy spending time with are probably positive people with great outlooks on life. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's definitely the case. 
ACTION PLAN: Make your second answer your first answer. If you surround yourself with positive (successful) people, you will find success and fulfillment.
Develop and show off your positive outlook with your smile. It will make you the person people want to be around. Try it! I have found the results to be quite powerful.
Smile! It looks good on you, ~JWN