Category Archives: personal growth

Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?


2016 saw many celebrity deaths. With each obit, we flashed back. To Ziggy Stardust, Growing Pains, Star Wars and others.

It’s easy to languish in memories, good and bad, of days gone by. Classic rock, classic movies, Throwback Thursday on Facebook and other time trips are fun. But don’t get carried away.

Today, let’s think about tomorrow, not yesterday. What do you want to accomplish? And when do you want to achieve these goals?

Often, plans are made for a vague “someday.” What are your plans for the NEAR future—this month, this spring, this year?

Do you have specific results in mind? A certain sales or salary level? A career change? A new place to live? A trip to Hawaii? Early retirement?

Do you have a strategy to get there? (No, I’m not going to refer you to a financial advisor—they will find you.) Are you continuing your education? Are you putting as much as you can into your 401-K, Roth plan, etc.?

Are you reaching out to individuals and organizations that can help you advance your career or refer you to new clients?

Are you carefully monitoring your personal health? Your future only happens if you stay alive to experience it.

Learning from the past is important. But being stuck mentally in your glory days can keep you from having a happy future.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” I’ve always thought that was a dumb job interview question. Because most any answer a person gives can be interpreted in a variety of ways. It is, however, a good question to ask yourself. And to answer honestly.

When you have your answer, don’t wait four-and-a-half-years to start reaching your five-year goal. Start today.


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Learn How Much You Don’t Know


In 2009, I participated in the St. Louis Public Relations Society chapter’s training program for PR certification. I attended sessions all over town and gathered knowledge and wisdom from a number of PR pros. I picked up and studied the suggested textbook. Yes, I learned a lot. I was unaware of the full scope of public relations. I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew.

Last month I took a course in Web Analytics at University of Missouri/St. Louis (UMSL). As a result, I am now certified in Google Analytics. I learned how analytics can reveal a wealth of information about traffic to websites. In addition to exercises on the Google dashboard, I had the chance to use Adobe’s Omniture analytics setup.

I may not be ready to be a lead analyst, but I now know enough to be a contributing team member. After completing the course, though, I realize there is much more about web analytics that I still do not know.

Even More To Learn!

This month I took a Social Media Strategies course at UMSL. I am now a Hootsuite Certified Professional.

I’ve been a Facebook admin and have used Hootsuite Pro for several years. Although I knew a lot about social media going in, the course revealed many areas I had not ventured into. I learned new ways that Hootsuite can help me and my clients. I gained insight about best practices for Facebook and Instagram. Again, I learned how much I did not know and how much more there is to be learned.

It feels good when you receive significant enlightenment or have an “aha” moment. My younger kids, both digital natives, have given me useful computer tips, generally without condescension. But every time they share, I am also made aware of how much I don’t know. Always and forever, there is so much to learn.




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What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Have you ever had a client praise you for your good works and outcomes and then, within weeks or months, decide to end your working agreement? Have you ever brought in positive measurable results in a job only to have, shortly thereafter, your employment terminated?

Circumstances change. Budgets get reassessed. Ownerships/partnerships are revised. Measurable results can go south. Clients/employers find candidates they think can do the job better. Or cheaper.

In 2016, more than at any point in my lifetime, it is a “what have you done for me lately?” world in business. A college basketball coach takes leads a team to two straight conference titles. He wins awards! Heaping accolades roll in! Then he has two losing seasons. Goodbye, coach!

I have lost jobs when I was performing at my best and delivering strong measurable results, but my superiors thought someone else could do the job better. (OR just as well, for much less money.)

It happens. Unless your parents own the company or you have an ownership stake, you can be bounced from any gig. Even if, just recently, you were golden. How should you deal with this uncertainty?

  1. Perform at a high level always. Don’t coast.
  2. Make sure the person or persons you report to are aware of all the good outcomes you deliver. Don’t assume they know.
  3. Note that even if you do good work, consultants, corporate types and fellow managers can suggest to your boss/client that your talents may not be as valuable as earlier believed.
  4. Celebrate your wins as they occur. Next time the outcomes may not be so rosy.
  5. Always be thinking about your next work situation. When someone extends a feeler, don’t brush it off. Listen and ask questions. There may be something better out there for you now.
  6. Keep your resume, portfolio and LinkedIn profile updated. You may be, as Sinatra sings, “ridin’ high in April, shot down in May.”
  7. Negotiate employment contracts carefully. Many are one-sided, favoring the employer/client. Make sure there are protections for you in the deal, just in case.
  8. If you are an “HCE” (highly compensated employee), be aware that you may be particularly vulnerable when budgets are slashed.
  9. Don’t get overly attached emotionally to any job. Things change.
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Your Reputation Is Viral


A news story about a virus currently “spreading explosively” throughout our hemisphere caused me to recall an episode from a few years back.

In 2009, a friend mentioned me to a woman whose surname was exactly the same as the virus. She owned a franchised home health care staffing agency and she had a big problem. Some of the people who had worked for her had posted negative comments about the woman, accusing her of numerous bad practices including racism.

The woman emailed me and we set up a meeting. Before we met, I entered her name on Google. I saw the negative comments from the staffers. I also saw court records of a judgment against her and her husband regarding a dispute over money owed to a country club. My search also revealed a record of her divorce from that husband.

At our meeting, I offered the woman a few suggestions. I told her I could help get the ugly accusations off her Google first page and work with her on addressing the issues that were affecting her business. She did not choose to hire me.

Upon hearing and seeing her name over and over in stories about this virus, I was curious and went to Google again this past weekend. When I entered her name, the first item that came up was a forum post calling her “racist and emotionally abusive” and accusing her of being a drug abuser. Ouch.

The second item that came up was her LinkedIn profile. Third was a personal website which was set up some time after I met with her. (It referred to her agency by a different name.)

I was shocked to see the fourth entry was her obituary. She passed away last September. And still, several months after her death, the first thing one sees after searching her name is the “racist” post.

While I am saddened to learn of her passing at age 50, I find it unfortunate that the damage to her reputation lives on. The lesson: reputation management begins early. Following good business practices from day one and addressing issues as they arise is easier than trying to repair reputation problems after they become critical. Rest in peace.

Gym Etiquette and Fitness


This space is for thoughts about marketing, communication and good business practices. Being healthy and fit makes you perform better for employers and clients. So fitness should be part of your overall personal marketing plan. And January is a month when we renew and reset.

Therefore, if you are planning to get back to the gym this month or are joining for the first time, here is a bit of guidance from a longtime gym patron.

  1. Don’t talk on your phone when you’re on a cardio machine. It’s rude. It might be okay to answer one quick question, but if the conversation is going to last more than 30 seconds, step out into the hallway.
  2. Wipe off the machine when you’re done. Even if you didn’t sweat that much.
  3. If there’s a time limit on cardio machines, obey the rules. Don’t be a jerk.
  4. Say hello, or at least nod, to the older and heavier folks at the gym. They may be uncomfortable among the younger, more svelte patrons.
  5. This may be the most important tip: If you have a new combination lock for the locker room, be sure you have memorized the combination before you use it! (Write it inside a shoe if necessary.)
  6. No matter how provocatively your gym mates are dressed, it is NOT okay to ogle.
  7. If you don’t want to be ogled in the gym, don’t dress provocatively. Also, if you need a sports bra, get one.
  8. You don’t have to wear makeup to the gym.
  9. Don’t drop the free weights. If there’s an audible clang, it’s obnoxious. Grunting is also a no-no.
  10. Unless you’re running long distances, eating less is generally a more efficient way to lose weight than burning calories on a treadmill.
  11. Don’t expect to lose 50 pounds in 6 weeks. Unless you plan to stop eating. You may be able to drop that much excess weight in a year.
  12. A personal trainer is a splurge, but often a worthy splurge. If you’re new to a particular gym, at least have an employee walk you through the various machines and stations.
  13. Spinning, Zumba, Bootcamp, etc. classes are good for many reasons. The main one: If you’ve paid in advance, you’re less likely to blow it off.
  14. If you hit the gym after work, remember where you park. It’s tough walking out after dark, into the cold, with wet hair, into a parking lot with dozens of monochromatic cars.
  15. If your gym doesn’t furnish sweat towels or wipes, bring your own.
  16. Enjoy your workout. I see many people in my gym who look less than happy. Try to ride the wave when the endorphins kick in!
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This Is Not Negotiable: You Must Learn To Negotiate

My auto insurance company is currently trying to obtain payment from another company to cover repairs to my car from an accident in July. I was stopped. A pickup truck barreled into my car. My company feels that the pickup driver’s company should pay for my bodywork. The process is called subrogation.

My local agent reminded me that it could take some time before the matter is resolved. He and I chatted about Herb Cohen’s book You Can Negotiate Anything and agreed that we both have found it useful. As Cohen points out, time is an important factor in any negotiation.

If you’re in a hurry to reach an agreement, be it a purchase price for a house or a salary amount for a new job, your position may be weakened. If you can be patient, you may obtain a better outcome. Of course, you may also run the risk of having an offer taken away.

For SAB Miller, Patience Pays Off

The recent brewery merger/takeover provides a great example. AB InBev made three offers to SAB Miller before the fourth offer was accepted. SAB Miller’s willingness to wait earned a greater payoff. (A looming deadline was also a factor in their decision to say yes to the deal.)

Information is another key factor in a negotiation. If you know that a car was delivered to a dealership in March and has been sitting on the lot for six months, you can expect that the dealer to be particularly motivated to sell that car.

In the new film Bridge of Spies, Tom Hanks’ character negotiates a Cold War prisoner exchange. Tension is added to the film’s climax when Hanks’ character overplays his hand. But, based on the information he has and observations he has made, he is confident he will achieve his desired outcome.

What We Have Here Is Failure To Negotiate

One of the smartest individuals I’ve ever worked for sabotaged his career by being a horrible negotiator. When a staff member, vendor, client, potential new hire, etc. came to him with a proposal, he would respond with his own counter proposal. And that would be it—take it or leave it. This shortcoming eventually cost him his job.

We all negotiate big and small things every day of our lives. Some of us embrace negotiating. Others avoid it at all costs. The tension of confrontation can be intimidating. Learning to negotiate confidently is vital to your professional life and your personal life.

What Herb Cohen calls a “win-win” outcome—where both sides can come away somewhat satisfied with the results of a negotiation—should be a goal of most negotiations.

Interestingly, Herb Cohen began his career as a negotiation instructor at an event sponsored by my insurance company. Will the passage of time aid my company’s position regarding my crash or will arbitration become necessary? Stay tuned.

Buy The Book, Even If You Can’t Negotiate The Price With The Bookseller

If you are not familiar with You Can Negotiate Anything, get it, read it and use it.


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Perfectionists, Give It Up!

DaliBeing a perfectionist is a tough path to follow. I know. I am a recovering perfectionist.

I have never achieved perfection, but have often thought that I could do things just a little bit better. I have occasionally been annoyed when co-workers did not share my commitment to perfectionism. This desire for perfection has led to much frustration.

Obsessing over details that are only slightly significant can sometimes cause one to overlook the big picture issues. Getting the basics right is much more important than those tiny details which may not matter as much as you might believe.

A big problem with perfectionism is the resistance to acknowledge any criticism, constructive or otherwise. During my lengthy perfectionist period, if I regarded my work as being perfect (or close to it), any second-guessing could cause me to respond defensively. Taking pride in one’s work is important, but refusing to accept any feedback about it can be counterproductive.

Working in a team situation is particularly difficult for perfectionists. The perfectionist may see input from any non-perfectionists as not useful. If one’s work is perfect, how can anyone else on the team possibly improve it?

If you are a perfectionist, give it up. You will never make it. Realize that nobody is perfect. Best selling books have typos. Network news anchors stumble over words. The top quarterbacks throw bad passes.

Do your best. Check your work. Strive for accuracy. Tend to details. But realize that you will make an occasional mistake. If you’re human, it’s going to happen.

If you can learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them, you will be a better performer and a better person.

(During Summer 2015 I am revisiting some earlier posts. This one was originally shared in December 2011.)