Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Honey Do List

By: Joseph Norman

Trouble figuring out what to do with yourself this holiday season? Does free time from your day job leave you in front of the television, puzzled about what to do next? Well, here's your Holiday Honey Do List to end your year right!

Forget working out, play Wii Fit. Who needs to fulfill that New Year's Resolution with an actual membership to the gym? The average person pays about $100 per month for a gym membership and only goes once every two weeks! Buy yourself a Nintendo Wii and save yourself the guilt.

Join Facebook. College students waste all kinds of time on social networking sites like Facebook. Why can't everyday working professionals as well?

Park your car in a snow bank. I tried this one about a week and a half ago. It gave me at least 36 hours of pure enjoyment. Please note, this may result in unexpected nature hikes back to your apartment, inability to use some of your extremities for a short period of time (i.e. your hands), and the opportunity to use heavy construction equipment to dig your automobile out.

Return unwanted gifts. You know you want to. Just chalk it up, be honest, and ask for the receipt. The money will probably be more useful to you anyway. Worst case, re-gift it or sell it on Craig's List!

Movie marathons. Rocky, Rambo, and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy are personal favorites. Take a few days, forget showering, and watch movies until your eyes go bloodshot or you can't stand your own stink anymore. It's as fantastic as it sounds. Don't take my word for it, try it yourself!

Travel to a foreign country. Ben just left for Chile for a week and a half. Ever thought about leaving America behind and taking the next plane to Japan? Some advise planning an excursion like this, I recommend spontaneity. Japan too scary? How about Mexico or Canada?

Organize a Nude Resolution 5k. Why are so many people against streaking? Is it a legal thing? Even more of a reason to organize an all nude 5k! Mix it up and give the people a little something different to get excited about. Feeling philanthropic? Donate the proceeds!

Build a snow fort. Upon completing your movie marathon, you may want to try to build a replica of a structure in the Battle of Helms Deep from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers or an Afghan village from Rambo 3.

Put on your Sunday best, than go to McDonalds. Enjoy some sophisticated banter with the staff about the seasonal Egg Nog shake, savor the flavor of an Oreo McFlurry, or pick something up off the value menu.

Don't take yourself too seriously. Sprinkling in an occasional slice of ridiculousness into your life is just as important as closing that next deal. Smile big, laugh hard, and enjoy yourself!

May you and yours have a fantastic start to the New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Embracing Fear

By: Joseph Norman

Fear. It’s everywhere. We see it on the television when we come home from work. We hear it from media pundits in regards to our nation’s political and economic environment. For some, it leaves their guts in disarray when they contemplate how they are going to pay the bills this month. One way or another, fear pervades our lives. But, what I’m here to say today is that it doesn’t have to control you.

Fear, like the rest of your emotions, can be mastered. By that I do not mean avoided, simply harnessed for the good it has within it. You see all of the emotions we feel, good or bad, have an intention. It might be easy to assume that good feelings have positive intentions while bad feelings are meant to leave us distressed or discomforted. However, I would argue that all emotions ultimately have a positive intention.

You see, through our own fears we develop the will power to succeed. We get thrown against the wall and pressed harder and harder until we either break or start pushing back. A truth about the human spirit though, is that we never have to break. We can always, and I truly mean always, rise to the occasion.

So, I must ask, “What are you afraid of?” Write a list of five things that currently weigh on your mind and in your gut. I’m not talking about societal insecurities, but rather the highly personal fears that are ruling your daily activities. Mastering them will be a powerful stepping stone for you.

Now, how does one master their fears?

Acknowledge its presence. Often we deny the fear. The problem with denial is that it never leads to a solution. In fact, it only perpetuates the feeling in your life. As Carl Jung knowingly said, “What you resist persists.”

Embrace it. Breathe it deep into your body and really feel that it is there. Calmly, like a tranquil lake, become fully aware of the depth of the fear’s existence within you. The objective here is to clear the fog in your mind that envelopes the fear and causes your resistance.

Thank it for being there. As corny as this may sound, literally say, “Thank you,” to it. An attitude of gratitude goes a long way when it comes to understanding our own fears and insecurities.

Examine it. Ask it what its intention is for you. What does it want you to do? What is it stopping you from doing? Why might it be wrong? Why might it be right? Is why it might be right a reasonable answer or a complete farce?

Visualize beyond it. Imagine a day without that fear. If there were a miracle tonight while you sleep and dream, such that when you wake up in the morning everything about this part of your life is resolved, how would you feel? What would you see? Experience? How would you know that this miracle had taken place?

Brainstorm solutions. Now that you’ve seen, felt, and experienced a day beyond this particular fear, you have opened your mind to new possibilities. Explore them!

Rinse and repeat. Take the time to repeat this process until you feel complete control over the fear you worked on. Then, try it with the others.

Take control of your life. Become conscious of the emotions pervading your mind and body. Accept them and heed their advice!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Life Lessons from Horatio Caine

By: Joseph Norman

We all have our shows on television that we just can't miss. For some, it's 24. Jack Bauer is brilliant and so damn honorable. Others get a kick out of reality TV; American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. They love having the foresight to pick a David Cook from the beginning, or the stubbornness to insist that Kristi Yamaguchi should not have won in 2008. For me, it's CSI: Miami and the character Horatio Caine, played by the one and only David Caruso.

In an interview with the cast of CSI: Miami on the CBS Early Show, David admits the secret behind his scenes; "The glasses are very important, but it's how you enter the frame, deliver the line, and exit the frame." (CBS Early Show Clip). Jim Carrey, in a David Letterman interview confessed his captivation with Horatio's ability to "put the button on those scenes." (Jim Carrey Video) So, having watched countless episodes and vigorous YouTube videos, here's what you need to know about commanding a presence like Horatio Caine.

Speak low and slow. There is so much power held in the deliberate whisperer's use of their voice. You lean in so you can understand what they're saying and all the sudden you're in a near trance, with all your undivided attention on the speaker. That's how you get somebody to really listen.

Gain trust. Horatio's dedication to his code to "protect and serve" enables him to always be the good cop. People trust him because he's true to himself and the case he's working on. Win people's trust and you'll win their hearts.

Body language is everything. Horatio always cocks his head slightly, showing signs of deep contemplation, and delivers a penetrating gaze, but in a soft way. He never quite looks right at you which creates comfort, but also mystery. You can't help but come back for more.

Deliver memorable one-liners. "I am going to get to the truth." "Looks like we've found our man." "It looks like Miami has a new breed of criminal." "The verdict is in Frank, but the jury is out." "Looks like somebody had a bad day." Being memorable with your word choice and references always makes an impression. Adopt your own sayings and start to sprinkle them into your conversations. Subtly irony works wonders as well. (Some classics...)

Pause uncomfortably long. There's an incredible amount of tension created by deliberate pausing. You're listening to someone speak then all of the sudden they pause mid-sentence. You can't say anything because it would cut them off, but you also know they're not finished yet so you don't want to walk away. It truly creates magic and exercises your completely control of the conversation.

Use props. For Horatio it is the sunglasses. Adopt your own style and use it to spice up your life. It could be a certain piece of jewelry, a way you wear a particular type of clothing, or always having on fantastic shoes. Single out a part of your appearance, kick it up a notch, and make it memorable.

Make your point and walk away. Don't wait for a comeback. Nearly every scene that Horatio is in, he finishes, leaving no room for a rebuttal. The lesson: Always leave people wanting more. It keeps them coming back.

Who says we can't learn a thing or two from pop culture television? Tap into your inner Horatio Caine this week and see what kind of difference it makes in your life. Even if it's just for a few laughs.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


By: Joseph Norman

Do you have a place where you think? And, I mean really think. A place where you can ask yourself the tough questions like, “What are you doing with your life? Why are you doing it? Who are you serving?”

We all need to answer these questions consistently in our lives to give us clarity in our direction. Your spot could be a particular chair in your office, a vacation home you or your family has, or even a bench at your favorite park. If you don’t have one, find one! For me, it is the chaise lounge in my bedroom and I’m usually accompanied by candle light. Mood lighting may help you as well!

Why is this important?

The truth is not enough people really think about what they’re doing. We are all guilty off it more often then not. We run a path with reckless abandon because we think that’s what we want. When, in fact, over time we change and desire new things and fresh direction for our life.

Think about this natural phenomenon. A hiker is walking through the woods without a compass. He gets lost and cannot find his way. Everything looks the same so he just keeps walking, waiting for something to strike his memory and provide him with clarity for how he can get home. But, a funny thing happens as this man keeps walking. The earth’s rotation, as slight as it is, causes the man to travel in circles without him even knowing it!

Without stopping to think or use some tools, this hiker could be walking in circles for days. In our own lives we may do this for months or even years without stopping to really think! But, we keep walking…feeling lost and unfulfilled.

Once you have found your place to really think, you now need some ammunition to take advantage the greatest tool we as humans have, our minds! Here are some questions you may find helpful to prevent you from walking in circles your whole life. I’ve picked them up from mentors, business associates and from my personal studies of NLP (Neuro-Linguistics Programming).

If money were no option, what would I be doing? Who would I be helping? How would I be helping them?

What is it I really want in my life? (Some categories: Health, Money, Business, Relationships, Material Things, Living Environment). How will you know when you’ve got it? What will you see? Hear? Feel? Believe? Experience?

What would you want if you knew you couldn’t fail? What would you want if you knew it was ok to fail?

What would you want if it didn’t have to mean anything about you? (Reputation, etc.) What would you want if you knew nothing bad would happen as a result of getting it?

Are you in line with your goals and desires? How can you get back on track?

My challenge to you this week is to give yourself an opportunity to answer some of these questions. Don’t burden yourself with a time limit; just let your mind run free with a pen and pad of paper in hand. Keep yourself from filtering your answers as well! Don’t let your subconscious foil your own unique ability to dream up the life you’ve always wanted.

Know that it is okay to want what you want. It is an authentic expression of who you are so embrace and celebrate it! Get clarity on the person you want to become and don't let complacency get in your way!

Mary Grace Dixon

What is your definition of success?

MGD: My definition of success is one’s ability to reflect on what they have accomplished and feeling that they made an impact (good or bad). However, I also feel that success is never final because there is always room for improvement. This is why I would call something I have accomplished a “marking point” rather than a success, telling me I can move on to my next challenge.

If you could pass any bit of information or one piece of advice onto the world, what would it be?

MGD: There is so much advice I want to give, I’m going to be a teacher remember?

-Never doubt what you are capable of accomplishing. You may not know until you are presented with a challenge, but reflect knowing you did the best you could.

-Think before you speak, one that I have learned the hard way many times.

-Always have a clean pair of dress pants in your closet.

-Never make assumptions based on what others tell you. Learn for yourself.

-Read books. When you have finished one, start another.

-Learn to cook one or two dishes very well.

-Smile as much as you can.

-Laughter really is the best medicine.

-Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be a goofball sometimes.

-Listen to your mother. She is almost always right.

What do you consider your greatest personal strength? Weakness?

MGD: One of my greatest strengths would have to be my compassion. I love making people feel good about themselves and helping them through difficult times. It is a trait I have been fortunate enough to inherit from my mother. It also works as one of my weaknesses, I am often too involved and feel that I have failed when I do not solve someone else’s problems. I need to learn to let go at times.

Having known you for many years now and knowing that you are about to begin your career in elementary and special education, tell me a little bit about your background in and your passion for helping people with disabilities.

MGD: I graduated high school well aware of my abilities when it came to working with children. Not sure if I wanted to pursue that pathway at the time, I began my fall 2004 semester at Broome Community College with a goal of being an educator, but not sure of what kind. I contemplated high school Spanish, History and English, all of which I was never really passionate about, just good at. As I was taking classes, I had a mess of odd jobs that were nothing more than a paycheck to me. It was when my older brother Chris moved back to Binghamton to begin a position at Community Options, Inc., and was looking for help that I began to get some clarity.

This company’s mission is to develop long and short term goals for adults with disabilities that ultimately make them independent members of society. They needed more staff to be trained to work with the individuals in accomplishing their goals, so I thought I’d try it. It was then I realized my passion, I loved every minute I spent with these adults. I left everyday knowing I made a difference in someone’s life. Was it difficult? Sometimes difficult was not strong enough of a word, but I never felt defeated. That’s how I knew that this was something I needed to pursue for the rest of my life. After that, I transferred to SUNY Geneseo and enrolled in their rigorous program, still loving every new experience and constantly seeking more information. I substitute at Community Options when I am home, and also work at Broome/Tioga BOCES. I learn something new every time I work with a child or an adult with a disability, which to me is what being an educator is all about: lifelong learning.

What are some of your short term and mid term goals?

MGD: A short term goal of mine would be to complete student teaching, which is roughly two weeks from now, and graduate in May. I also plan to start applying for teaching positions and to graduate schools in January; the earlier the better. By next fall, I hope to be teaching or in graduate school, but hopefully both. Long term goals for me are slightly more arbitrary, I never like to plan too far ahead because I feel it may distract from new opportunities I didn’t plan on. Ultimately I want to be teaching, married, and have children of course but putting a time frame on it would personally make me feel pressured to meet that goal and possibly settle if I were to be at that “goal point” in my life, and settling to me is unacceptable.

Who are three people from any time period that you would like to meet?

MGD: The first would be Carol Burnett, a woman who truly finds humor in all walks of life. Another would be Temple Grandin, a woman who is a major advocate for awareness and acceptance of individuals with Autism. Lastly, I would want to meet John Lennon, a revolutionary through his music.

What are some of your favorite books? Quotes?

MGD: Books: “Thinking in Pictures” and “Animals in Translation” by Temple Grandin. She reveals her life as a woman with Autism and how she and the rest of the Autistic community see the world. I will also forever love the Harry Potter series. Living vicariously through Harry’s life for a few chapters at a time pretty much got me through high school. Lastly, “Educating Esme” by Esme Raji Codell is a personal favorite. In her book, Codell writes about her first year as a teacher in an impoverished area and I feel it should be required reading among elementary education majors.

Quotes: “Go confidently in pursuit of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”-Henry David Thoreau

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”-Ferris Bueller

“Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted”-John Lennon

Final thoughts?

MGD: Do what you love and settle for nothing less.

Mary Grace Dixon

SUNY Geneseo '09

Elementary / Special Education

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Four Agreements

By: Joseph Norman

This week's challenge is courtesy of Don Miguel Ruiz's simple, but profound book, "The Four Agreements." Taken from ancient Toltec traditions, the code of conduct discussed "reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering."

In our daily lives it is easy to get caught in the hustle and bustle, over promise and under deliver, ride the emotional roller coaster of human interaction, and limit ourselves from being the best person we can be. Miguel Ruiz’s insights provide a fantastic frame for our daily activities which can help keep us true to ourselves and others. By acknowledging and living our deep authenticity, we allow ourselves to have better relationships and more fulfilling lives.

Without further adieu, Don Miguel Ruiz’s “Four Agreements” as described in his book!

Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always do your best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Take these words to heart throughout your week. You may want to start with the one agreement that resonates with you the most. Focus on it each day and examine the results. Are you feeling more fulfilled? Are your interactions more honest and effective? Are you creating a mindset and environment which helps you be your best? If you can answer, "Yes," to any of these questions, then you are developing a lifestyle which facilitates personal freedom!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Timothy Hoskins

I have known Tim for many years, growing up across the river from him in Kirkwood, New York and attending the same church in his home town of Conklin. He has always been a hard working man with a unique ability to go with the flow. To this day, his perpetually calm demeanor impresses me.

Having recently earned his Masters in Architecture from Clemson University, Tim is currently working in architectural design for Cobb Architects in Charleston, South Carolina. It is truly a pleasure to share some of his insights! ~Joseph

What is your definition of success?

TH: I like to think of success as pursuing a passion in which you can make a living. It’s all about doing what you love and in doing so being able to generate a profit from that. Work is never really work when it’s something you love to do.

If you could pass any bit of information, or some idea on to the world, what would it be?

TH: There are a few things. First, is the age old piece of advice to work hard for what you’re passionate about. I truly believe that if you put in the time and effort your end result will be greater than you originally imagined. Second is to be honest, to the point and concise. There is enough BS in the world already, so just say what you honestly think and make your point.

What do you consider your greatest personal strength? Weakness?

TH: I think my greatest personal strength is my will to be a perfectionist at what I do. It has given me the drive to work hard to achieve a satisfying result that I can be proud of. At the end of the day you have to be proud of your work.

My greatest personal weakness is that I obsess or sometimes focus in on certain details or ideas to the point that I lose sight of the big picture. I need to remind myself to take a step back and revisit the over arching concept so that it doesn’t become obscured and ultimately lost.

Having known you for many years now, I know that you just finished your Masters in Architecture at Clemson University. Tell me a little bit about your passion for architecture?

TH: My passion for architecture came at an early age. I enjoyed building things as a kid from Legos to tree forts. I also enjoyed going to friend’s houses to scope out the interior layout. I just became fascinated with the science of manipulating 3-D space and the art of construction. To me architects must not just be the designers, but the builders; the electrician, the plumber, the surveyor, the historian, scientist, and mathematician. In essence they must know a little about a lot in order to build thoughtful, responsible, provocative architecture. It is only with this knowledge that an architect can design interesting and comfortable spaces that will last for more than 50 years, much like the architecture of the early 19th century. I too have a fascination for knowledge in all these supplemental building areas. So, this theory of the role of an architect only fuels my passion for the practice I have chosen to pursue.

What are some of your short term and mid term goals?

TH: Short terms goals include gaining experience in the practice of architecture to become eligible to sit for my licensing exam and ultimately become a licensed architect. A long term goal of mine is to combine my architecture degree and love for hands on building to open up my own design-build firm. This would allow me to be a part of both the big picture design part of architecture and the hands on fabrication of the details that not only make the building stand, but add to its aesthetic appeal.

Who are three people from any time period that you would like to meet?

TH: The first person I would like to meet would be Alvar Aalto because he was not just an architect but an interior designer. In specific, he was a furniture designer. His love for nature and building things by hand is reflected in his work. I greatly respect what he has done and would love to know how he came up with his designs and how he drew his inspiration from nature.

Another person is Mies van Der Rohe who is one of the most famous and influential modernists whose simple and elegant designs have a trademark appearance that are timeless. He too dabbled in designing furniture and carried over that simple elegant and timeless modernist aesthetic. The last is Bryon McKay Lyons whose inspiration comes from the local vernacular and incorporates this into his unique forms that carefully engage the site and surrounding landscape.

What are some of your favorite books? Quotes?

TH: Some of my favorite books are Swimming to Antartica by Lynn Cox, It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong & Sally Jenkins, and The Amateurs by David Halberstam. They each speak of hard work and determination to achieve one’s goals which is a belief I strongly support. On the architecture side of things my favorite books are Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King and The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson because they speak of incredible feats in architecture and the amazing effect they still have even to this day.

Some of my favorite quotes are:
“Well done is better than well said.” –Benjamin Franklin
“Desire is the fuel of life.” –Unknown
“Thinking gets you the idea, hard work gets you results” -Unkown

Timothy Hoskins

Monday, November 10, 2008

Living Consciously

By: Joseph Norman

Stop running through your life in the dark with reckless abandon! Do you have focus? Are you being mindful of the time and energy you are expending during the day? If you haven’t asked yourself that question, then you’re probably not!

The truth is we only have so much focused energy that we can use each day. That being said, many of us spend it in frivolous activities or we use it in a way that is unproductive relative to our goals or ambitions. How many times have you gotten up from your computer and said, “Wow, where did that last hour go?” It could be YouTube,, or Facebook that you just wasted your time on. Either way, it was not used wisely and you’re no closer to accomplishing your objectives then you were before!

My challenge to you this week is to be mindful of where you are allocating your time. Dr. Nathaniel Branden, psychotherapist and pioneer of self-esteem psychology often has clients do a series of sentence completion exercises to help them live more consciously.

For example, he might give you this stem:

“If I bring 5% more consciousness to my daily activities, I will...”

And, another stem might be:

“If I am 5% more mindful of where I allocate my time and energy, I will...”

Give those two a try a few mornings this week. Complete the sentence five times each morning without regard to repeats from the day before. At the end of the week review the results! Did you make progress towards living more consciously?

The purpose of this exercise is to help you understand that it’s okay to do less if it means you do it impeccably! Don’t let yourself get a reputation of taking on too much and having things slip through the cracks. Instead be known as the person that gets thing done in a fantastic way!

Monday, November 3, 2008


By: Joseph Norman

Recently, I’ve been reading Dr. Henry Cloud’s book Integrity. It’s a topic of particular interest to me because I believe it is the quintessential element of an individual’s success. Today, I would like to share a few points from the text which I find particularly valuable.

First, let’s take a look at the three key things which attribute to a person’s success:

Mastery of a skill or set of competencies. Often people that achieve success are experts in their particular field. They have dedicated time, effort, and passion to developing this skill set and it is now reaping them great rewards.

Have a unique ability for building strategic alliances. This can be misconceived as “networking,” but in reality it is much deeper than that. Strategic alliances are characterized by a mutual relationship based on creating leverage to take what each party does to another level. In other words, one plus one equals three.

And the final and most crucial factor:

Have the character to not screw it up. People often think of character as a safe guard against bad things happening, when in fact it is actually the ultimate determining factor for the opportunity to achieve something. Who a person is will determine if their brains, talents, competencies, energy, effort, deal-making abilities, and opportunities will succeed.

So, how does one measure a person’s integrity? Dr. Cloud has an approach he calls the “wake test.” This is founded on the idea that in everybody’s “wake,” they leave a trail of data which determines their success or failure. A wake doesn’t lie and it doesn’t care about excuses.

One’s wake consists of two categories, tasks and relationships;

Tasks. These are the performance objectives. Is it a wake of goals being reached? Profits being made? Growth of the business or the deal that person was working on? The mission being accomplished? Things getting completed? New ways of doing things being introduced and perfected? A stronger brand? A stronger reputation for the work and company? Or, were the results negative? Misfires? Unreached goals? Disorganization and chaos? Resources or money lost?

Relationships. Would a person say that their lives are better off after their experience with you, or worse off? Did they consider it a blessing that they were associated with you, or a curse? Have people grown as a result of being associated with you? Did your relationship cause them to produce more? Or, have you left people wounded? Less trusting? Feeling put down, cheated, or manipulated? Disappointed, let down, or lied to? And the most important question: “Would they want to do it again?”

My challenge to you this week is to think about the wake you are making in your life. Ask yourself these questions and take a keen eye to the integrity you are bringing to your everyday life. The results may be frightening, but they will be a true testament to what you are really bringing to the table. You must appreciate where you are, in order to understand what you’re doing!

Again, the majority of this information is from the book Integrity by Henry Cloud. For more on the topic, check out the book!