Omelets ‘N Stuff

When I used to travel with the New York Jets we stayed at very nice hotels.  So nice, in fact, that they always had a dedicated chef to prepare omelets at our pregame meals.  If one wanted an omelet, one simply had to tell what individual ingredients that were needed.  One could either point or simply state, “bacon bits, cheese, mushrooms, etc.”  I loved it.  I could tell that so much preparation had gone into this professional demonstration of omelet making. 

Previous to this I made littleggs3121_005237e effort to prepare for my omelet making.  I would simply crack the eggs, dump them in the pan and stir them up quickly and then make a beeline to the refrigerator to find the ingredients that I wanted.  I would have to navigate this impending disaster by cutting up ingredients and shredding cheese all the while trying to keep the eggs from clumping or burning.  Let’s put it this way, I had about a 50% success rate.  I was never prepared.  I was just “hoping” that it would all work out.  If often turned into scrambled eggs with clumps of things in it.

Pros prepare.  Amateurs do not.  Pros make wonderful, delicious omelets.  Amateurs make clumps of burnt egg matter.  So, you probably already understand the point I am making.  As Coach Wooden used to always say, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”  Preparing is beneficial in so many ways.  It buys to margin for those unexpected distractions.  It allows for better B-plan outcomes.  It builds confidence.  Think about those times that you went into a test prepared versus those times you did not.

Relationships thrive when everything is well thought through and planned. Thing about the worst vacation you have ever had.  It probably fell apart due to lack of planning.  What do you mean Disneyland is closed this week!?  Don’t get me wrong, the unexpected happens, but those who prepare and have some crisis planning make better omelets.  When was the last time that you had a fire drill in your home or place of business? 

Good business requires planning, preparation, crisis management and worst-case scenario policies.  It’s not even about dealing with disasters.  Excellence requires planning.  Well-designed plans make the work easier, more efficient, and the result is a better product or service.  When hiring someone, look for the most organized candidate because this yells of preparation and planning.  When choosing a consultant, look for attention to detail, this screams of planning.  Whether you are making breakfast or hiring a new CEO, find the one who plans.


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Just One Degree: A Lesson From The Office

When Greg Daniels decided to adapt the British television show The Office for American viewers he wanted to be true to the original but bring something new to the table.  So, he did.  Talking head interviews, mockumentary format, long lenses and parabolics:  The Office was reborn in America.  It had staying power.  The show was a hit for most of its nine seasons.  How could anything be new and fresh in the United States?  The show’s producers hit on this idea.  They decided to turn atypical American comedy format one degree to the side.  This subtle shift, in their minds, became something completely different in the minds of television viewers.  Whatever your view of The Office may be, there are important principles here.  Be different, create a niche, and commit to one thing.  Turn your ship one degree.

Offering something unique in business is critical to gaining new customers and clients.  Creating a value proposition that no one else can replicate will bring interest.  This goes for any line of work.  One degree from the center line may be all it takes.  Have you created a niche product or service for your business or organization?  This goes for one personally as well.  What can you bring to the table that no one else can?  We were all created uniquely different.  Relish that.  Just like every person’s fingerprints are unique, so each is gifted and talented in his or her own way.  Turn your ship one degree.

A commitmentsteve-carellt to a one degree shift is manageable and critical to every area of our lives.  If you are not where you want to be in your relationships, then commit to just one positive change.  If your company needs a makeover, commit to one initiative at first.  If you find yourself in need of spiritual nourishment, commit to one hour of prayer.  If you want to nurture your relationship with a child. commit to one daddy or mommy date a week.  Having problems with your spouse?  Commit to one change and do it.  Incremental shifts over a long period of time produce great results.  Change the course of your life one degree and you will completely change its trajectory.

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Defining Moments

Do you recall those times when you made a decision that turned the tide of your life?  It is like your future hinged on a choice to do this or to do that.  Each one of us has these moments.  They shape us and mold us and send us in a particular direction.  They happen in our personal lives.  They happen professionally.  One meets the right person, makes the right call, finds the right job posting.  Most people are currently trying to decide some course of action.  These decisions ultimately change the direction of their lives.

What does it mean to lead?  It often means coming alongside those people who are in the midst of their defining moments.  Sure people have to decide for themselves and ultimately they will reap both the benefits and consequences of their decisions.  But wise counsel and trusted friends go a long way in pointing the right direction.  Leadership is often defined as influence.  There are times when people need you the most.  They need your wisdom and most often, your listening ear.  Leadership is personal and direct.  It is loving and caring.

Great leaders are sensitdefining moments_page_1ive to those around them.  They are able to see defining moments and be where they are needed most.  Often servant leadership is used to describe this mutual care and concern.  Serving and leading are linked to greatness.  Not many understand this and fewer can do it.  It is when your coworkers, subordinates, siblings, spouses, children and friends need you the most that you will prove your leadership skills.  Anyone can lead in harmony, but in disarray and confusion?  That is the true test of one’s leadership.  Don’t be afraid to reach out when you need guidance and the leadership of others.  Trusted mentors are gold.  Be one and find one.

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I saw Greatness!

Yesterday, I saw greatness personified.  Oh, it was not just one person.  There were many.  The Chapel at Crosspoint hosted a fundraising event yesterday.  I saw thousands of people from all over the region support a young boy and his family.  Ben Sauer goes to my church.  He is four years old and has glioblastoma multiforme.  He has cancerouns brain tumors and was sent home by doctors after treatment and surgery.  They said that there is nothing more that they can do.  It is in God’s hands.  So, I saw greatness.  It was not on a ball field, at a rink or on a court.  It was not on stage or on the silver screen.  These were every day folks giving what they could.  So often I have linked greatness with individual accomplishment.  I got it wrong.  Greatness is about community.

Buffalo showed its greatness to me.  I had been skeptical and that was my fault.  The “City of Good Neighbors” probably got that moniker for a reason.  This is what it’s really about.   It is about every business that contributed goods and services for auctions.  It it abouAR-140308999.jpg&maxW=602&maxH=602&AlignV=top&Q=80t every citizen who put together gift baskets.  It is about the fire department that showed up en force to support the event.  There were literally thousands of giving people.  I loved it.

In the former Soviet Union, they designated many cities as “Hero Cities.”  These were cities that fought valiantly against Nazi Germany during the Second World War.  I can think of a few “Hero Cities” in our nation and Buffalo is one of them.  This community redefined greatness for me.

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The Key to Success: Finishing

There are so many books out there regarding success.  They talk about succeeding in business, how to be a great parent, how to be an amazing spouse.  Winning takes on so many shapes and sizes.  Is it about trying your best or always coming out on top?  Is it effort or results or both?  Vince Lombardi once stated, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”  Well, that is fine and good , but how does one win?

Finish the race

Success comes through finishing.

I firmly believe that the best way to win is to be the last one to quit, just never give up.  I don’t just mean quitting in the sense of stopping, I mean quitting emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and certainly physically.  Winners stay in the game mentally until the end.  Losing teams fail because team members quit inside.  They stop preparing.  They stop committing.  They stop competing.  Oh, they might show up, but they quit long ago.

Marriages fail because people quit on their spouses.  Parents can quit, too.  Businesses fail because leadership quits, cuts corners, takes shortcuts.  Oh there are times when one must cut off a toxic relationship or resign from a dead end job.  But, success is about finishing those tasks and challenges that are worth the fight.  Think about the process of writing holiday cards.  Success is not realized in simply writing the note or stamping the envelope.  A sealed envelope sitting on the kitchen table is NOT a success.  One can be happy when Aunt Sally opens up her card and smiles.  Finishing the job defines success.  Where are you taking shortcuts?  In your fitness training? With your family? In your eating habits?  Stop quitting!

Commit and finish.  Keep showing up.


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Congrats Seattle!

For most of my life it has been said that defense win championships and in the era of liberalized rules to help the passing games and offensive fireworks.  Nothing has changed.  Defense wins championships.  Specifically, physical defenses win championships.  The Seattle Seahawks showed once again that football is essentially about hitting, tackling and intimidation.  They were the big boys on the block and Denver, while having shiny yo-yo’s and slinkies could not beat rocks and nails.  The Seahawks reminded me of the 1985 Chicago Bears.  Both teams had marginally good offenses, but exceptional defenses.  At its core, football is won in the trenches.  It is still a game of leverage, strength, and speed.  These are core principles that guide the game.

No matter what one does there are basic elements that lead to success.  For fundraisers, they are passion, relationships, and commitments.  For actors, they are resilienceindex, commitment, hard work, and self-belief.  Every industry has its outliers and those who just prove to be lucky.  But, the key to your success is finding which core principles must be followed and doing them over and over.  As John Wooden used to say, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” and “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.”

So, congratulations to Seattle and their first championship since “Downtown” Freddie Brown and may we all understand what wins championships in our own lives.

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A Chip Off the New Block

The Philadelphia Eagles dismantled the Chicago Bears last Sunday in a game that meant more in the standings to the Windy City Gridders than Philly.  An unheralded second-year quarterback and a solid run game tore the Bears’ defense to shreds.  While it was not shocking to see the Eagles win, it was the manner in which they handled the Bears that was surprising.  I don’t believe I have ever seen Chicago look so weak on the defensive side of the ball.  The numbers bear this out as the Eagles’ 54 points tied the most points ever allowed by a Bear team.  I can only imagine what Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus and other Bear greats were thinking.

Here is what I was thinking, Chip Kelly’s teams are innovative and fun to watch.  Chip Kelly is the first-year head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.  After a successful stint with the University of Oregon, Kelly came to the League to try his up-tempo offense.  It seems to be working.  The Eagles don’t huddle.  They have limited plays that have multiple options based on “reads” by the offensive players.  In other words, the Eagles must all be on the same page for this to work.  Each play can result in a myriad of options based on what the defense is showing.  They confuse defenses.

Chip Kelly left a great job at Oregon to see if his innovative offense could succeed at the highest level.  He wanted to test his theories in the Big Show and, thus far, he has succeeded.  Not that every game has been an offensive explosion, they have not.  The starting quarterback for the Eagles at the beginning of the season was Michael Vick and for some reason he could not stay healthy and did not thrive in this offense.  The same cannot be said for the Eagles’ current quarterback, Nick Foles.  Foles is orchestrating the offense like it is his personal philharmonic.  He is uncommonly accurate and seems to know where to toss the pigskin each play.Philadelphia-Eagles

The Eagles took a chance on an unproven commodity.  Many college coaches have flamed out in their NFL tenures.  Many schemes that work at the college level just cannot work in the NFL where players are faster, stronger, and better athletes and where coaches invest all of their time on game planning.  When hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line, it is easy to make the safe choice when hiring and go with proven commodities.  Eagle owner Jeffrey Lurie made no such choice.  He replaced the highly successful Andy Reid with a pioneer from the Pacific 10 Conference.

There is something to be learned here.  Most great organizations, agencies, or businesses have had to take significant chances at some point.  When you think of Edison or Ford, you think about pioneering innovators who exemplified “out of the box” thinking.  This is the kind of forward-thinking that has distinguished America for the past 150 years and continues to fuel worldwide business.  Of course, this thinking and pioneering spirit does not come without risks.  Most seemingly great, new ideas are not profitable ones.  In most cases it was not the idea’s fault.  Great ideas often fail because they are thought of by visionaries with little ability to bring them to market.

Greatness comes from offering something new and innovative.  It is a result from creating value.  We can learn from Chip Kelly and the Eagles.  When one looks at the hiring policies of companies, it seems that they are looking for safe hires.  They are looking to fill a spot of plug someone in a predetermined role.  This is legitimate and solid business thinking.  Make sure though, that you leave positions for geniuses and pioneers.  You may not win a Super Bowl every year, but you may just strike gold.

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It’s Quittin’ Time

Leaving a job is often a traumatic experience.  There are so many things to consider.  One is actually leaving a relationship, a business relationship.  In many ways it is like a dating relationship.  By nature it is not a permanent relationship for either side.  Either party may end the relationship whenever it desires.  Both parties invest in the relationship and there is loss when the relationship ends.  It can be an amicable parting or a hostile one.  No matter there is a sense of loss.  So, when does one decide to pack up his belongings and leave?  That depends.

I would say that it is critical to reflect on this decision at length.  It is important to look at one’s goals, aspirations, and future hopes and dreams.  It is critical to consider present circumstances and current needs.  It is helpful to understand past decisions.  Each of these elements must be considered when ending a business relationship.  Everyone has unique reasons for leaving a job.  They are particular to him or her.  For most, the job is no longer the best fit.  Jobs change and people change.  What began as the perfect job can easily change into something that just does not feel right.  It is ok to leave and it is best to leave on good terms.  Give plenty of notice and be willing to train others to take your position.

Companies fire their employees all the time.  Employees can fire the position they had without necessarily firing the company.  It is often helpful to look for other jobs within the organization.  Who better to understand a company than an employee?  Leaving may not be good bye.  Openings come and go.  People and organizations evolve.  It is no shame to leave a position.  Quit your job, it you have to.  There will be other positions that fit you like a glove.

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Responsibility and Authority

Much is made in business circles about responsibility.  Try applying for a job and one of the first things one will see is a list of the responsibilities for the position.  Of course this makes sense and is legitimate.  People are hired to carry responsibilities to do specific work.   Work equals responsibility.  But, are we missing something here?  Is there something more that needs to be said?

Try being a county sheriff with the responsibility of pulling over speeders.  The sheriff sits quietly in his well-hidden, souped-up K Car with his radar pointed at cars.  One is going 55 in a 35 and the sheriff speeds off with sirens blaring and pulls over the vehicle.  With citation in hand, the lawman asks for registration and proof of insurance.  But, we have a problem Houston.  The supposed sheriff has neither badge nor gun and, in fact, has no authority at all.  He simply cannot do his job.  He might be the sheriff with the responsibility to pull over speeders, but he has no teeth for the job.  He is a lame duck.

This happens in organizations, too.  People with inferior titles and authority are given superior responsibilities.  This is invariably a recipe for disaster.  The person who is tasked with responsibilities to write protocols and procedures is not empowered to enforce them.  This creates a myriad of reporting issues that result in inefficiency and outright hard feelings.  Who is at fault?  The fault lies in the organizational structure that promotes the inequity.  Appropriate levels of responsibility require appropriate levels of authority.  Don’t ask prospective lawmen to handle business without deputizing them.  Front line employees should not be asked to handle management responsibilities without the authority to do so.  Managers should not be asked to battle directors without being directors.  It is like handing a man a steak with a dull, butter knife.   One would rather have a hot dog.

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Will There Be A Super Bowl in 2050?

 I am not convinced that there will be.  Don’t get me wrong, I love football and always have.  I was a Rams fan when they played in Los Angeles and had white horns on their helmets.  I have followed the sport religiously since the late 1960’s, but I think there is a huge problem with the game that threatens its existence in our country.  

Many are familiar of the cumulative effects that concussive episodes are having on football players.  Former gridiron greats like Tony Dorsett, Brett Favre, Terry Bradshaw, and Karl Mecklenberg are currently feeling the effects of years of micro concussions and major episodes.  With loss of memory and a general degrading of cognitive abilities, these men are becoming shells of their former selves.  Some former players are simply dying from the effects of years of head trauma.  Former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson and future Hall-of-Famer Junior Seau became depressed and took their lives.  Steeler great Mike Webster suffered dementia, amnesia, and depression before succumbing to numerous physical and mental ailments.

Recent research has documented that many deceased players who exhibited these symptoms suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease.  Their brains had an abnormally large amount of protein called Tau.  Reportedly these brains did not appear to have the degeneration like those who have suffered from Alzheimer’s, the level of debilitation has been obvious.  And, it seems, this is only the tip of the iceberg.  Who knew at the time that “seeing stars” and getting “your bell wrung” could result in permanent brain injury, debilitation, and death?

So, what is the point?  The point is this.  I think that this issue will only grow both in severity and commonality.  Research indicates that these effects are cumulative and can only be recognized over time.  Time will tell.  The upshot is that football will become too costly to fund.  The costs to human beings in physical and financial terms may kill the sport.  As the truth comes out regarding traumatic brain injuries, parents will become less likely to sign their kids up for the sport.  As more schools and leagues face lawsuits, insurers will begin charging exorbitant premiums to insure the sport.  These premiums will become too costly for many public school systems.  School administrators will have to make choices about the sports they offer and football may be on its way out.

Obviously, this may take decades and in some parts of our country, football is tantamount to a religious experience.  In those places, the cost of these injuries may never outweigh the social benefit of the support to the local community.  But there will be a tipping point.  So, enjoy the sport now.  The players are getting bigger, stronger and faster, but the brain is still as sensitive as ever encased in its tightly-fit skull.  No amount of working out or super-duper helmets can keep a brain from shifting dramatically in these collisions.  The writing is on the wall.

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