When the Goin’ Gets Tough

When the Goin’ Gets Tough

ImageThe heart of any business or personal success is the team you have working on each and every detail.

Look at the Louisville Cardinals team and how those young men banded together to bring home the Midwest Regional trophy while teammate Kevin Ware was carried off the court after suffering a horrendous broken leg. While teammates convulsed in shock and tears streamed down the faces of thousands who watched Ware’s leg snap, the team pulled it together and rallied to put the lid on the regional championship.

I am working with a team of volunteers from Sustainable Cherry Hill and staff members from Cherry Hill Township to put on for the South Jersey region, the 4th Art Blooms Earth Festival. Everyone has a part to play. Volunteers worked with the township police department on safety and route planning for the family-fun bike ride that opens the festival at 9 a.m. Today, I met with John Martorano of Magnum Computer Recycling to find the easiest site location so visitors to the festival April EF2012_20120428_0327th can bring e-waste for safe recycling and disposal. I worked with the Cherry Hill Food Outreach Council which will have a donation station at the festival for non-perishable foods. One of our volunteers has coordinated the entertainment schedule to include several chorus and dance groups and musicians to perform throughout the event. It’s an amazing experience to work with people and maintain a ‘can-do’ attitude so everyone achieves most of what they hope for.

Attitude is everything when it comes to a project involving many people. To have even one team member who seems to work against the grain, can ruin the experience, if not the event, for everyone. The Louisville Cardinals could have folded after they saw what happened to Kevin Ware. The injured Ware yelled to the team to win the game as he was carried out of the stadium. Some hiccups can threaten any event and lead you down the path of ‘CAN’T-do.’ With the team I am fortunate to be associated with – township and Sustainable Cherry Hill – plus our amazing sponsors and supporters – the Cherry Hill Earth Festival and the family-fun bike ride Saturday, April 27th – will be another step toward helping the community and region focus efforts on sustainability in home, work and play.

When You’re Away, Are You Really Gone?

I’m bbaaaackkk. Vacation is a beautiful thing. It clears the mind and refreshes the soul. The question is, how can you maintain that vacation state of mind once you get back to your life and work? I wish I had a great, insightful answer. I’m sure if I did, I’d be depositing a lot of checks and signing book deals.

The best I can offer is: try to add scenes from your vacation to your list of happy places to help you get through the day. Your happy place is where you go when life and work start closing in on you. The back of your neck gets tight. Deadlines abound and you feel as though you never went on vacation. Just stop;IMG_1877 close your eyes and remember something special from your vacation. For me it will be the sight of the clear, blue sea and the feel of the soft, white, warm sand under my feet. Also, my husband taking on the Flowrider and our encounter with Carlos the dolphin will be happy places for me.

Remembering all the happy places throughout your life help you get through the tough times. Think about the serenity, smiles, laughter and beauty that you see in all the places you visit.

It is those thoughts that help me tackle work as I get back to the routine this week. Normally, I will blog on Tuesdays and Fridays. So, I missed Tuesday and blogged today, Wednesday. The sky did not fall; no blood was shed; no lives were lost. I ended up working ten hours today and did get a lot done. Tomorrow is another day. Now, I rest and visit my happy places.

Toot Your Own Horn – Brag Without Bragging

A former boss of mine once told me “Brenda, you just don’t toot your own horn enough.” This is a boss I respected immensely – and still do today – for his knowledge of broadcast journalism and his ability  to get to the point, hone and craft talent and be a positive, professional force.

It’s a Noisy World

He was right; I did not toot my horn. I believed my work stood on its own merit and people would see the quality of that work. In today’s fast-paced world, you have to rise above all the noise that is out there. Today’s business world is all about tooting your horn and rising above the din of the junk that should NOT be recognized. The adage – ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease’ applies today.

How many times have you seen a product, author, business owner, etc. quoted in the media and you wonder HOW did that person or product get so much coverage? Public relations is about tooting your horn in a positive way whenever possible. You can’t sound preachy or as if yours is the only opinion or thought that matter; you need to be credible, knowledgeable and confident in making the pitch.

I’m the best!

Convincing others that you are the expert is also about listening. When you are networking or at some sort of business-related function, how much time do you spend listening to other people’s business conundrums? You should be listening more than 50% of the time. You have to listen  carefully to hear any problems or issues; take notes when possible (or write things down as soon as possible) and connect by letting the person know you get it. That can be the hook; letting the person know you get it without going on about how you solved a problem in the best  – or worse – avoided getting into a similar problem. Responding by saying, “I can hear that your issues are at a critical stage; I have practical solutions and ideas that can help you,” lets the person know you heard what he/she said and you can help. Simply letting someone know YOU are the BEST in your field isn’t about the person and their business problem; a comment like that is all about YOU.

By listening, observing and understanding the depth of my own expertise, I’ve learned how to let people know I can help them. It’s about saying HOW I can help them; how I can take a load off their busy shoulders and how I can be a benefit to their organization for the long haul.

 

It Takes a Sustainable Village

Brainstorming about sustainability is challenging, invigorating, exciting and yes, exhausting. It’s a complicated topic. Tonight, the South Jersey Green Network led by Sustainable Cherry Hill, brought people from Camden, Stratford, Haddonfield and other communities in and around Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties to hear about best practices and yes, share some of the walls that pop up when trying to establish a Green Team. Sustainable Cherry Hill (SCH) sparked the network a few SJGreenNet_0724 (20)years ago and convening this third tri-county effort brought familiar and new faces to the tables for listening, learning and discussion. Donna Drewes from SJGreenNet_0724 (3)Sustainable Jersey updated the group on the new website and ways to connect with other Green Teams statewide as well as find out about grants and projects; Camden County Freeholder Jeff Nash introduced Chris Waldron, Camden County’s sustainability coordinator who brought a very strong message: make sure when you are explaining what SJGreenNet_0724 (16)sustainability is all about to people who are not on board yet – be sure you tailor that message to them. Sustainability is all-encompassing; it involves how our society will continue for generations to come; sustainability is about education, the economy, transportation, environment, housing, faiths – it’s how everything is connected and how each piece of the puzzle fits.

According to Lori Braunstein, the evening wrapped up with a brief break-out session. Facilitators from SCH and SJ Network  focused the discussions on collaboration.  Each group then reported on the major topics of discussion. People really found that section valuable and seemed to want more of that.

After hearing about successes of Stratford’s Green Team and the collaboration between the school district, business community and other regional groups, there may be more questions than answers for some communities still trying to kick-start their sustainability efforts. Sustainability does take a village; in that room tonight connections were made and the journey continues.

The Art of Letter-Writing

With respect to the greeting card industry, I have never found a sympathy card that truly reflects my thoughts or feelings about the dearly departed. Sometime between the time I attended my first viewing and when a co-worker’s baby died, I realized I had a knack for expressing condolences in a personal, heartfelt way.

Teaching my class business communications sometimes feels like that proverbial salmon swimming upstream. The mainly twenty-somethings are so intent on texting, emailing and using whatever shorthand they can find, most have never written a heartfelt, handwritten note. When I was growing up, I went to Girl Scout camp. I wrote letters home; my mom wrote back (never my dad) and I remember a boyfriend who also wrote to me and I him. I still have a shoebox stashed in the attic with those handwritten missives.

The other night in class, I was telling the students what an art it is to receive a heartfelt note. While handwritten is best, it’s also a talent to be able to sit at the keyboard and write a letter that includes a memory, a story, or a moment in time that brings a smile to the reader’s face and maybe brightens their day.  Losing a co-worker to an accident or a business associate dying suddenly are examples of why you would have to write a letter of condolence. The looks on my students faces ranged from, “not me – I’ll never have to write THAT letter,” to a look of sheer terror – “WHAT would I EVER say?” I explained that again, you are writing to the reader. You want to make that person feel a little better, if only for the time it takes to read the few paragraphs.

I remember when two married co-workers lost their baby. He’d been sick from the moment he was born and fought for a while, but he died. While I was driving to work shortly before the baby’s death, for some reason I had to drive to work a different way. I remember seeing in the sky above the road a formation of clouds in a circle that seemed to create an opening. At that moment, I felt as though the baby was being called from above – for his suffering to end and he was walking into the heavens above. I wrote something like that to the parents in hopes that they could find some peace.

Maybe you remember a great joke the person told or how they had a fantastic laugh; maybe the person wasn’t so nice but had a terrific knack for organizing events or meetings. Tell the story you know in a brief and heartfelt way and the reader will appreciate your effort.

Meantime, I really wish people would get back to writing cards and letters. The U.S. Postal Service is billions of dollars in the red. Hardly anyone writes cards or letters anymore. The impersonal email has taken over. You barely get a printed birthday card anymore. People send those completely ridiculous e-cards. At the holidays, you may get a batch of greeting cards with a family’s yearly letter – we even send one. I’m wondering how long holiday cards will last and people resort to sending e-holiday greetings.

Perhaps you’ve never written a letter or sympathy card from scratch. You probably have those thoughts churning in your brain. The next time the occasion calls for it, think about pulling out a blank card or notepaper from the desk. You may have to dig deep in the back of a drawer, but I bet that note card is there. It’ll take you a few moments. The results will be straight from your heart – to the reader’s. Now, excuse me while I write to my nephew who’s looking for my next letter.

It’s like brushing your teeth

It’s tough enough to keep a commitment to go to the gym a few days a week. To commit to keep a journal, online or otherwise, every day, is nearly impossible. While my career has changed in the past year, I get to do so many new and different things, that there are days I simply run out of hours. I could sit at my desk for hours and get a multitude of things done. The next thing I know, it’s 2:30 and I haven’t had lunch.

Tuesday, I heard a report that you shouldn’t sit at your desk more than 45 minutes or face the problems of being overweight along with other health issues. That apparently applies even if you regularly exercise. The rule of thumb, the report says, is get up every 45 minutes and get that blood going.Not much moss grew under my feet Tuesday. I was out of the house at 9 a.m.; driving to a client meeting and stopping on the way to pick up a gift for some friends; took some photos for the client; the meeting in Ocean County at 11 a.m. lasted until 12:15; I made a few stops on the way home; downed a quick salad for lunch; got ready for the first day of teaching business communications at Rutgers-Camden; left the house at 3:45 to stop to drop off the gift for the friends; got to class just before start time at 4:30; taught until 5:50 p.m.; answered some students’ questions; talked with the next teacher in the room; motored back to Cherry Hill to pick up my son from his bowling match; got home; stir-fried dinner I had prepped the day before; grabbed my Sustainable Cherry Hill notes and got to an executive committee meeting a couple of minutes after 7 p.m.; the meeting lasted until 9 p.m.; collapsed at home by 9:30 p.m.

It wasn’t a record, but I certainly wore a lot of hats yesterday, leaving me with hat-hair. Wonder why I didn’t get to write a blog post?

Today, I caught up. I’m getting some great media exposure for Sustainable Cherry Hill and efforts to link the suburbs with Camden and the Center for Transformation. Cross your fingers that you’ll be seeing the story on TV – soon. Don’t want to jinx it.

Making Progress

Winter can be a dark hole. The daytime hours are so short. before you know it, you’re looking out the kitchen window into the black hole of winter. Now the holiday lights are just about gone, it feels as though it’ll be dark until the end of March when daylight saving time kicks in again. So, how do you get through these short days and long nights? Plan for something — anything. Maybe it’s a great work project you’ve been putting off or something fun like a party or better yet, a vacation.

It seems we always plan our vacations in the winter. It’s very smart, because we always have something positive to thing about and look forward to. Not only is there vacation to get ready for this year, but the launch of our unofficially named vessel, “Mid-Life Cri-Seas.”

Mid-Life Cri-Seas is wrapped up for winter

(Doug had better come up with a better name, because that one is really starting to stick.) I have promised Doug I will get my boating license so I can help him navigate the boat when he wants to water ski. That’s on the winter to-do list for the coming weeks.

I’m also on a mission to stay fit and gosh is that getting more difficult. It seems as though my body wants to fight me every step of the way, but I’m kicking and screaming back at my body every step of the way. My lousy left knee and funky right hip (especially the hip) want to ache and moan as I get on that elliptical two or three mornings a week, but I won’t give up. When I had some personal training sessions for a birthday present a couple of years ago, he recommended this sort of massage gizmo that you use to massage out your muscles. I pulled my quadriceps  last week and thought between that and my right hip I would be on crutches the rest of my life. Well, I used that massage gizmo and “poof” – my quadriceps is better and my hip is not bothering me.

What’s next? Well, the What’s Next Productions, LLC web site is finally up. It’s nothing fancy, but the basics of my consulting services are there along with success stories I’ve managed to carry out for clients in the past months. I also put up a What’s Next Productions Facebook page. Thanks to the “fans” for checking out my page.

Now, if I could only kick my craving for those holiday cookies I baked. Heck, I’ll just have some of that sweet cantaloupe in the refrigerator. Healthy means happy!