Sunday, October 26, 2008


By: Joseph Norman

"People can live 30 days without food, but no human can live more than thirty seconds without hope." - Sean Swarner

Swarner is a man who beat cancer twice; Stage 4 Hodgkin's at age 13 and Askin's Sarcoma at age 17. This was virtually a medical miracle. He has since gone on to climb the highest mountain on every continent in the world, including the fabled 29,035 ft tall Mt. Everest. This made him the first cancer survivor in history to achieve such a feat. (

His is a story of persistence, vitality, passion, and most importantly, hope. He has now turned his adventures into opportunities to raise awareness for cancer through his organization; Cancer Climber Association. At the peak of Mt. Everest, he left a flag of countless names of people affected by cancer. Now he is planning a trip to the North Pole and the South Pole, raising money for cancer awareness with his flags, to complete what is known by climbers as the Adventure Grand Slam.

What can we learn from a story like Sean's?

We do not know how long we have on this wonderful place called Earth. Everything can be taken from us in an instant, so we must make certain that our pursuits are powered by 100% commitment from the heart. If you do what you love, then you will make your mark on this world because it will be done in a way that makes an impression.

I got a chance to spend a day with Sean recently and I sensed this spirit in him. He's doing what he loves to do for a cause that he believes in because of how it personally changed his life. That is a beautiful gift to give to the world.

Sean confessed his foundational philosophy, "I'm committed to shouting from the roof tops that there is hope for the hopeless, and miracles up and down the sides of whatever mountains people are climbing in their life."

When faced by challenges in our lives it is hope that keeps us going. Hope for better days. Hope that our efforts bare the fruit we intend them to. Hope that miracles exist and we can achieve our dreams.

Your dreams are not only a possibility. They are an opportunity created by your mind to achieve something beyond yourself. Do not forfeit them with a lack of faith but embrace them with hope!

My challenge to you this week is to examine those dreams that toil your mind day and night. Are your daily actions moving you closer to achieving them? Or, have you lost faith in your ability to accomplish them? Give yourself permission to light the fire inside of you again! Life is too short to pursue things without your whole heart!

Patricia Hackett

Tricia with her boyfriend Pete

I met Tricia when I was a sophomore in college at SUNY Geneseo. Our friendship came on almost immediately and has blossomed since then. I always found her intelligence inspiring, insights on life poignant and her vitality infectious. We recently traveled together with a group of friends to Switzerland before settling into our new post graduation locations. Tricia currently lives on Long Island in Huntington, New York and is pursuing a career in Dentistry.

It is an honor and a pleasure to feature some of the thoughts I’ve been blessed to learn from for many years. Enjoy! ~Joseph

What is your definition of success?

PH: I don’t think of success the way most people do. For me, it’s not about how much money is in your bank account or how many people work under you. Rather than looking at the highs of someone’s life to see if they are successful, I look at the lows. If, at the lowest point in your life, you have people who still want to be near you, you have achieved success. When I fell suddenly ill my junior year of college, everything that ran my life the day before became trivial. It was a wake-up call that life isn’t a to-do list to be checked off or a list of accomplishments to put on a resume. I realized then that the most important thing in life is to have people who will be there for you regardless of your situation. I can only hope that I can be as successful in life as my grandmother, who at 92 years old with advanced dementia still has her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren calling her daily and visiting her often. I hope that the impression I leave on people today makes them think I’m worth visiting 70 years from now.

Tricia with her two sisters

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

PH: Only do something if you can really put your heart into it. If you can’t give something 100%, it’s not that important to you. Downsize your to-do list, and give everything you do your best effort. You’ll be able to appreciate what you put your energy into, rather than just running onto the next event.

Having known you for many years, I know that you have a unique ability to make people feel comfortable around you. What are some of your thoughts and philosophies on friendship?

PH: I’m lucky that I’ve always made friends easily. I guess my outgoing personality outweighs my quirks. Or I talk so much you can’t get a word in edgewise to cancel plans with me. I believe rather than quantity of friends, the most important thing is quality. My high school English teacher would talk about “Fridge Friends”: if you are truly good friends with someone, you can forage through their refrigerator without feeling self conscious or intrusive. True “Fridge Friends” are hard to come by, and it’s important to keep in contact with them – by calling and sending letters from time to time.

Tricia and Joseph reenacting some Shakespeare on the castles in Bellinzona, Switzerland

What do you consider your greatest personal strength? Weakness?

PH: Being one of five kids, I never had my own room until my third year of college. As a result, I learned how to tune things out – be it noise, light, interruptions, or annoying behaviors. The sooner you learn that you can’t change people, the sooner you’ll be happy. Don’t consider working with someone who is different than you as something to “deal with” or “overcome.” I try and see something good in everyone, so I can enjoy their presence. I’d much rather find pleasure in each day of my life than simply get through it.

Without a doubt, my greatest weakness is over thinking just about everything. It’s really just a fancy form of procrastination; I worry about doing something perfectly instead of just jumping in and starting it. I try and curb my weakness into cautiousness, because after all, life is what happens while we’re busy making plans.

Tell me a little bit about your interest and aptitude in biology and what you hope to accomplish with it.

PH: From the time I was young enough to read the paper, I was disappointed the science section was only published once a week. I have to admit I read the health and science news online far more often than the current events – they are just more interesting to me! I don’t know if my success in the sciences is because they come naturally to me, or the fact that I find it enjoyable to study them. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huge nerd. I’d only be half kidding if I said my Organic Chemistry text was a favorite book of mine. I did research in Organic Chemistry Synthesis at Geneseo with Dr. Eric Helms. The process of synthesizing and testing compounds is exciting. However, being as social as I am, I found the lab lonely. I knew I wanted to use my biology degree as more than a wall hanging in my house, but it took a while to figure out the right fit. It goes back to my definition of success – I wanted a career in which I felt that I would really get to know people, while doing what I love. I’ve taken a deep look at several different professions, and recently decided to pursue a career in dentistry.

Tricia paragliding in Northern Switzerland

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

PH: My grandfather, Thomas R. Dore. He died in the line of duty for the New York City Fire Department when my mom was four. Still, he’s shaped my life in so many ways – I grew up in the house that he built.

Leonardo da Vinci. I’d like to see how one person can pursue so many passions concurrently, and be so successful in all of them.

James Naismith. We could play a one-on-one game of basketball, or I could just thank him for inventing the sport that makes winter enjoyable.

What are some of your favorite books? Quotes?

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. The book is even better than the play, which is the longest running Broadway show in history. One of these days I’ll read it in French.

The Tenth Man by Graham Greene. Greene’s writing is simple yet brilliant. His message coincides with my definition of success, and can be read in one night.

“Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” – Confucius

My younger sister, Katherine, signs every email with this. Her seemingly endless energy is the result of doing what she loves to do – help others. She probably volunteers more hours than she sleeps each week.

Final thoughts?

PH: Your mom was right – go play outside, brush your teeth, and eat your veggies. And, recycling never hurt anybody.

Patricia Hackett


Marketing Your Business During an Economic Slowdown

By: Aaron Wheeler, Guest Columnist and Principal of Apex 3 Group

How much does the most expensive roller-coaster on Earth cost? If you guessed in the trillions of dollars you might be close. The name of this wild ride is the American Economy, and the entire US population has been on board as it swept from boom to mega-boom to bust to bailout and finally to mega bust. Although the ride was nothing short of gripping and, in fact, seems to be far from over, most on board seemed extremely reluctant riders as they watched billions in assets evaporate as the vacillating markets rose and plunged.

These destructive movements have had the predictable effect of chilling credit markets and drying up venture capital. The money is no longer available to expand rapidly and companies of all types are left with only their operating budgets to support all business activities. Managers across the country are making hard budget cut decisions, often under tremendous pressure, trimming employee benefits packages, slashing bonuses and laying off large numbers of workers. Every non-essential function is downsized; every essential function is streamlined.

In this difficult economic environment what should be done with the marketing budget?

The reflexive action is to treat marketing as a non-essential function and drastically downsize or even eliminate spending in this area. The underlying reason for this common mistake is that the effects of marketing efforts are dispersed enough that they defy analysis and frustrate short-term attempts to correlate marketing budget expenditures to increases in bottom line health. The health of the bottom line is the factor that hires and fires managers and most of this group have business and accounting backgrounds, with only a rudimentary understanding of general marketing principles.

Slashing the marketing budget is one of the worst disservices that an embattled CEO can do a company. Cutting or eliminating marketing efforts only serves to isolate companies from their customers. This can lead to significant drop in revenue as customers remain uninformed about company improvements and new product introductions. In addition, any negative press that surfaces during a time devoid of marketing efforts, quickly becomes the only information available to customers and prospects.

How then can the essential function of marketing be streamlined?

Many marketing campaign suffer from a grave lack of focus. This sloppy marketing can be likened to setting up a television on every one of the 3,794,066 square miles of the United States, and paying to run ads on each one. Vast amounts of capital would be wasted advertising to polar bears in Alaska and prairie dogs on the plains. A far better plan would involve concentrating the televisions in areas of high population density. Even though fewer televisions could be used the information penetration is far greater since it actually reaches a buying audience. In a difficult economy this focusing is of paramount importance since money that is paid into failing, unfocused marketing campaigns is completely wasted.

Management training is an important first step in increasing marketing effectiveness. Managers need to become intimately familiar with the efforts of their sales teams and make sure that they have all the tools that they need. Management is the interface between the sales, analytical and marketing/branding departments. This requires an effort by management to understand the entire trail of sales, a path that is generated by marketing in the mind of the potential customer and ends with a signature on a sales order.

It is often a good idea to call in marketing consultants during times of economic distress, since outside help is often able to identify issues within company processes that might be overlooked or ignored by an internal audit. Of particular importance are efforts to eliminate conflict and encouraging cooperation between departments, especially marketing and sales departments. In addition, competent consultants can help to train management in assessing marketing plans.

Conclusion: Increase Efficiency

Economic downturns should not be seen as a reason to abandon marketing efforts, but merely as opportunities to increase efficiency and employee accountability. Any "marketing" work that does not result in increased customer awareness of the companies products and services must be immediately cut and supplanted with more focused efforts.