Thinking for a CHANGE 2010

May 26
I love music. In the shower and car, I am often convinced that I missed my calling and should have gone into performing rather than speaking. (Okay, not for long or too seriously, but I can dream!) So it’s not strange that the AP article profiling Quincy Jones caught my attention. Here’s the end of the story.

The legendary musician and producer attributed his success to maintaining an open mind. “I never turn my curiosity off.” Jones said.

That’s what 77-year-old Jones said. How many years, of the years you’ve lived, have you had your curiosity turned on? I hope you can answer all of them. An attitude of curiosity works wonders when you’re dealing with change – not to mention music.

May 19
Our backyard is heavily wooded – home to a small herd of deer, too many squirrels and chipmunks to count, lots of beautiful birds, and last night for a first appearance at least one raccoon. This spring I’ve been watching the animals disappear from view as the leaves dress the winter-barren branches. Imagine my delight to get an email from John Seidel, a partner at Kurt Salmon Associates, quoting Jim Roth.

“If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree.”

We’re not trees, but we often behave like them. Rooted in place. Behavior dictated by a cycle beyond our control. Growth and survival dependent on weather patterns. Once we’re willing to let go of the parts of change we can’t control, we can focus on what we do control and can influence and take action.

May 12
My friend and colleague from Dallas, Tim Durkin, CSP, sent me a perfect pad of sticky notes.

“Accept Change” they read. “In the end, it’s all money.”

Now, that’s easy for me to grasp. One way or another, my work is about change and the speeches, workshops, and writing I do provides my income, but what about you? I bet if you stop and think, you get paid for your ability to deal with change effectively, too. How would your attitude about a change improve if you thought about that change in terms of an income-producing activity?

May 5
Many of you know that I am a light-hearted person who takes change, not to mention these change messages, seriously. Mostly when I write these, I’m endeavoring to turn deep thoughts into a brief, easily digested read. Today I decided to go for the giggle. No lesson, just a suggestion to grin broadly after you read the following and figure out who it reminds you of.

“Some people have so much trouble with change that every morning they have trouble changing their underwear.”

Go ahead, laugh. You know you want to!

P.S. Thanks to all of you who wrote you own version of Thinking for a Change last week and sent it to us. I’m compiling them all and will be posting them on my blog tomorrow. Check them out. They’re great.

April 28
Running the risk of falling into the same trap as the Wizard of Oz, I’d like to take this edition to pull back the curtain and reveal the Thinking for a Change creative process. It’s actually pretty simple – 4 steps.

  1. Look for interesting quotes.
  2. Focus on one quote and think about its meaning within the context of change.
  3. Write a brief message that includes the quote and your conclusion.
  4. Send your finished musings to Miriam for editing and distribution (remembering if you do not do this in a timely fashion, you will be hearing from her!).

So, to start a new eLetter tradition, enjoy this, the 1st Annual Do-It-Yourself edition of Thinking for a Change. To be nice, I’ve done Step One. The other 3 are up to you.

  1. We’re going to make it, we know that we can. Sure, it’s a challenge and sure it feels strange, but we’re going to try and we’re going to change. -From a song written for Weight Watchers by Billy Barnes
  2. In life you always have a choice. Sometimes it’s easier to believe you don’t. -A line of dialogue from the BBC show Merlin
  3. To do good, you actually have to do something. -Yvon Chouinard founder of Patagonia

April 21
Are you, like I am, a baby boomer? Don’t look now, but we’re getting older fast. (If you’re not a boomer, don’t get complacent. You’re aging, too!) Thinking of the speed at which birthdays are arriving probably made a comment by Ruth Gordon jump off the newspaper page at me.

“There’s a decision we all make: You can choose to get old, or choose to get older. Old is a destination, older is a process.”

What about you? No matter your current age, you’re either getting old or older. What’s your choice?

P.S. A while ago my dear friend and colleague, Marilynn Semonick, CSP, flew to Wausau from Highland, MI and we taped several interviews about change. Last week, she launched her new site, The Success Studio. I have the honor of being her first featured contributor. In addition to the videos, there are several articles and book recommendations. I hope you’ll enjoy looking around her site, listening to our conversations, and learning from Marilynn’s unique perspective.

April 14
Lauren Graham, best known for playing the mother on Gilmore Girls, was profiled by More magazine. She described a lovely ritual she has at the end of each day. Before bed, Lauren asks herself the following questions because as she sees it...

“It’s what you do with your day that matters. Did you do a good job? Did you enjoy it? Did the people around you have a good time? Did you go home feeling proud and energized? ’s> Because all those elements make up your life.”

How are those elements stacking up in your life? Anything need some change?

April 7
One of my favorite management gurus has been and continues to be, Tom Peters. I love his passion (ever see him speak in person?), philosophies (MBWA), and common sense approach to leadership. He has a new book out, The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence. Here’s a taste.

“I think we’re realizing that life is not this great intellectual construct. It’s remembering the simple things your grandmother taught you, getting through the day, and helping others get through the day.”

What might happen if you, your team, and (think big for a moment) your organization decided to change some little behaviors that would build (or re-enforce) a reputation of being the most helpful people on the planet. Now, that’s change we could all live with!

March 30
Friends of mine, Jason and Kim Kotecki, who speak on the important topic of Fighting Adultitis, asked for memories of April Fool’s Day pranks. I could hardly type fast enough to put this particular story down in an email. It occurred that you might enjoy my childhood memory, and I'm hoping it will remind you of one of yours.

When I was young, March 31st found my brother, Ken, and I emptying the sugar bowl that sat on the kitchen table and filling it with salt. On April 1stwe waited for Dad to pour his first cup of coffee, stir in hissugar, drink deeply, and spit it out vigorously! I can’t remember how many years we did this, it seems to me that it was close to forever. To this day, neither Ken or I actually know if he braced himself, drank, and spit or if he knew exactly what he was doing and simply did it with enthusiasm for our thrill. Periodically, this memory surfaces as one of those things I wish I had asked my dad about before he died, but then I realize I’m glad I didn’t. Some things should remain mysteries.

The love of traditional events, like April Fool’s jokes, endures because of the need we humans have for a few certainties in the midst of change. Thursday’s April Fool’s Day – give it your best shot!

March 24
I’m not certain if I’ve written about my love for science fiction in these emails. Well I do – love it and read it. So it’s not surprising that I focused on the Sunday Chicago Tribune article profiling Kim Stanley Robinson, a prolific science fiction author. He is interviewed about his approach for the world’s future – utopia or disaster? His response was enlightening.

“So I always make the point that you can’t say, 'Is it too late?' That is the terrible question, because either answer promotes inaction. If it’s too late, you don’t need to act; if it’s not too late, you don’t need to act.”

Change can offer people a similar dodge. If you think a change is coming too late, why bother acting. If you think a change is premature, why bother acting now. That’s why I love reading science fiction – it challenges you to think – even about change.

March 17
I hope the weather has been as nice where you are as it has been here in Northern Wisconsin the last week. The sun has re-entered our lives, the temperature has risen into the almost-no-jacket range, and the promise of spring can be believed. Now, before I get carried away, there’s a high probability that we’ll get some plunging temperatures and another snow storm before it’s really spring. That being said, today the sun was shining and it was in the mid sixties. Reminded me of a Benjamin Franklin quote.

Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen, keep in the sunlight.

Ben was smart. He provided a model that works for weather in Northern Wisconsin, for most change initiatives, and for life in general. If it’s a sunny day when you read this, or even if it isn’t, go for a walk and see what sunlight, real or imagined, does for your attitude.

March 10
For the last four days, I’ve been in Colorado Springs, CO, with two of my friends and colleagues, Marilynn Semonick, CSP, and Lenora Billings-Harris, CSP, where we presented a program together for the ASAE Great Ideas! Conference. It’s been a terrific conference featuring keynotes by Guy Kawasaki and Daniel Pink. Sunday night we snuck back to our room to watch the Oscars. What fun to see Barbra Streisand present the first Directing Oscar to a woman, Kathryn Bigelow. Since Lenora is an expert in diversity and inclusion, we were both interested in Jodie Foster’s interview, written before the Oscar’s were distributed.

“Directing is the one area that hasn’t changed dramatically at all in the film business for women. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, I don’t think it’s a plot to keep women down. I think it’s really like race psychology. It’s very hard to hand $8 million to someone who doesn’t look like you.”

Maybe now that’s changed a little for women in films. Lenora asked me to ask you: are their people in your organization that don’t get opportunities because they don’t look like the people handing out the opportunities? Or maybe a better questions is: does your organization actively seek to bring in talented people who are different than the folks already inside? You might find a behavior worth changing.

March 3
Will it impress you to know that I know who is and that I have some of his music on my iPod? During an interview on CBS Sunday Morning he said,

“When inspiration calls you, pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.”

Seems to me that inspiration is often embedded in change. If that’s true – want to argue? - then when change appears we ought to be racing to catch it and eager to participate in it. Certainly a different view from the more often seen, "run away as fast as you can." Makes me think there could be a new use for MapQuest.

February 25
I had the good fortune to visit the boyhood home of Winston Churchill on a magical trip to England that I took with my mother and my friend, Stel. That glimpse into his early years coupled with the PBS series, Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill, about his American born mother, peaked a long-term interest in his life, work, and writing. Recently I heard one of his sayings quoted in an All Things Considered story. During a difficult time, Churchill said,

“Keep calm and carry on.”

What incredible advice. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by a change, take a deep breath and remember those five simple words. It will help, I promise.

February 17
If you’re a woman (or an enlightened man, for that matter) pick up a copy of More magazine. It bills itself as a women's magazine that Celebrates What’s Next. In the February 2010 issue they profiled Mariska Hargitay, star of "Law and Order, Special Victims Unit." In the opening of the article, she is quoted,

“The only reason I have the career I have is that I didn’t quit.”

Got me wondering how many people don’t have what they wanted – career, family, life, health, friends – not because they weren’t lucky, but because they quit. More than would admit it, I bet. Working on a change is hard and quitting is often easy. You can fill in the rest of the lesson from this one.

February 10
All right, I confess. I have a basket of magazines in my bathroom – some of which are old – very old. In an attempt to clean it out, I found myself paging through a September, 2008 Reader’s Digest. I lingered reading an article about the re-building of New Orleans after Katrina. (By the way, how about those Saints!) Part of the article profiled Cherice Harrison-Nelson, a self-proclaimed Culture Keeper, who shared her passion for keeping the traditions of the African American community alive for children of the city. She said of her commitment,

“When you’re called to participate, you’re changed for life.”

My accidental connection with Clarice got me to thinking about the importance of a call to participate. Think of where you volunteer. My guess is you donate your time and talent for a cause that has deep meaning for you. I know I do and it HAS changed my life. How about you? If there isn’t something in your life that has called you to participate, maybe you aren’t listening hard enough.

February 4
Now that we’ve closed up one year and are in the second month of the next (can you believe it?), the subject of resolutions has undoubtedly come up and left you feeling guilty. I’m all in favor of resolutions – the name we use for goals during the end and beginnings of years. I’m also painfully aware of the fact that by now, only one full month into the new year, most of the resolutions made have already been abandoned. My friend and National Speakers Association colleague, Mike Rayburn said,

“Goal setting is not the same as goal accomplishment.”

Okay, maybe it’s not the most profound thing I’ve ever heard, but it is an important thing to remember. Whatever aspirations you began 2010 with, focusing on action to achieve your goals will serve you better than just focusing on the goal.

January 27
There’s a current Subaru commercial running that’s about a couple on a trip – driving, you guessed it, a Subaru. They’ve made several stops and the man realizes that he’s lost his sunglasses. After exchanging knowing looks, they execute a U-turn and start the process of retracing their steps. Several stops produce no glasses. In what seems to be 45 second commercial eternity, they arrive back at the park. As the guy runs back to the car empty handed, he flips up the hood on his sweatshirt and the glasses fall out. The voice-over says,

“Love the road you’re on.”

Now as a person who perches her reading glasses on the top of her head and often can’t find them, I can relate. But what actually lingered was the profound truth embedded in the voice-over. Next time you’re engaged in a change not of your own making, don’t miss the fact that, like it or not, it is the road you’re currently on. Either figure out how to get on a new road, or love the road you’re on.

January 20
I grew up in Chicago and one of my weekly pleasures is to read the Chicago Tribune on Sunday. Recently there was an article that profiled a photographer, Barbara Crane. She was described as one who uses the camera in many different ways and doesn’t limit herself to any one idea or direction. When asked about her work, Crane said,

“I’m chasing perfection. It remains elusive, but the chase is ever exciting.”

What a wonderful perspective. Most of us decide that perfection is unattainable, so we don’t even try - let alone chase it. In this year filled with challenges and change for most of us, focusing on the excitement of the chase is a helpful approach. Thanks, Barbara.

January 13
End of the year newspaper articles often ask influential people to reflect on their philosophies. 2009 was no exception. Listen to Joseph Neubauer, CEO of Aramark as he commented in USA Today on his over 25 year tenure of leadership.

“Working at any company involves an incredible amount of time and effort. If you don’t really enjoy what you are doing, you will never have the passion necessary for long-term success.”

Good for you if you feel passionate about the work you do each day. You’re well positioned for the long term. If you did, but currently you don’t, where did the passion go and what can you do to recapture it? If you never really did and still don’t, you must realize that you’re going to have to find a way to change your situation. Easy – no. Important – yes.

January 6
Happy 2010! I trust your holidays were filled with all the things you hold dear. Just in case you didn’t visit a Starbucks over the end of the year and missed the message on their seasonal cups, here it is:

We invite you to listen to your desires and to renew your hope. To see the world not as it is, but as it could be. Go ahead, wish.

This sentiment was so good, I wanted to make sure you read it after the rush of the season. Now you can pause for a moment and ponder its meaning. Cynicism is easy; it’s optimism that takes courage. No matter what your circumstances, you have the power to make 2010 a terrific year. Let’s go to work.

Chris Clarke-Epstein, CSP 2013 | | (414) 719-0905 | Contact Us