• In 1833, the birth and subsequent choices of one brilliant man made an enormously positive impact on the world.

    That man was Alfred Nobel, the creator of the most sought after and prestigious set of awards in the world, the Nobel Prizes.

    Alfred NobelA closer look however, at Nobel’s journey will surprise you; the road to this remarkable outcome was paved with one challenge after another reminding us that no matter how difficult and challenging things may be in life, “What Happens next is up to you.” In 1847, Nobel who was a student of science, chemistry and engineering met the inventor of an oily liquid substance that eventually became Nitroglycerine. While nitroglycerine had great benefits, it’s unpredictable and dangerous nature was cause for concern; however, the Nobel family including Alfred continued to investigate it’s potential for commercial and industrial uses.

    The results initially were tragic when Alfred’s younger brother Emil and several other people were killed in a factory explosion. These Disasters encouraged Alfred to try to make Nitroglycerine safe but unfortunately it didn’t come without more tragedy when an another explosion at a company facility took the lives of 15 more people.

    In 1867 after almost 20 years of failure and disappointment, Nobel invented an explosive that revolutionized the mining, demolition and construction industries and made him a very wealthy man; that invention was Dynamite! What makes this story different, intriguing and inspiring is what happens next. Through a calamity of errors and chance events, Alfred found out exactly what people thought of him and his invention. In 1888, after the death of his brother Ludwig, a local newspaper ran a long scathing obituary about him (Alfred) by mistake. This provided Alfred an opportunity granted to few people, to read their own obituary while still alive. He was scorned for being the man who made millions through the death of others, one paper wrote, “Rejoice, the Merchant of Death is dead!” You see what Nobel read in his obituary horrified him. The newspaper described him as a man who made it possible to kill more people more quickly than anyone else who ever lived.

    nobel prizeAt that moment, Nobel realized two things: the first was if he didn’t do something this was the way he was going to be remembered and second and more importantly that this was absolutely NOT the Legacy he wanted to leave behind. Of course, crumpling up the newspaper and those who wrote the article was one option; however, not for Nobel. For him it was time to take positive action and make a positive impact on the world. In 1896 one year before Noble’s death, he signed his last will and testament which set aside basically his entire estate to establish the 5 Nobel Prizes for outstanding achievement in Literature, Science Medicine, Economics and of course Peace.

    As I close this Blog, like Nobel I have two thoughts:

    • The first is thinking about how you want your obituary to read could motivate you to rewrite your life script and change the way you’re currently spending your life.
    • The second thought: no matter how bad things appear or how off course you are in life, it’s never too late to make a change, ultimately “What Happens next is up to you!”
  • I was recently flying to NYC to direct a CEO round table, when on the descent to JFK airport the pilot emerged to say and I quote, “Unfortunately folks, I have some bad news: due to weather in NY, until further notice no planes are taking off or landing at this time. I will keep you updated as information becomes available.”

    Emotional Intelligence mind map, business management strategy
    It’s at these emotional moments in life that our human behavior is on display and a wide variety of actions, reactions and responses unconsciously surface. Frankly, you can learn a lot about a person when they’re introduced to a challenging event and placed under extreme stress and pressure.
    The plane cabin at this point was filled with open dialogue as if we were sitting across from each other around the dinner table. The wide range of confusion, concern and in some cases panic overcame those who were not equipped emotionally to handle this level of change and unknown.
    Emotional IntelligenceI began to think about what Daniel Goleman said in his 1996 bestseller, Emotional Intelligence. In his book, Daniel suggested that EQ: Emotional Quotient (better known as Emotional Intelligence) is actually more important than IQ, our Intelligence Quotient. Why? Because studies show that IQ, a standard measure of intelligence from standardized testing, does not encompass the full range of human intelligence. EQ is a measure of a person’s ability to perceive, control, evaluate and express emotions in difficult times; a behavior that serves us well both personally and professionally. In fact, without getting too technical in order to be Emotionally Intelligent and thus successful in business and in life, it takes the ability to access a certain part of your brain and frankly, that takes some doing.
    Let’s go back to the plane scenario: those who were reacting were using a primitive part of their brain, the one that we access quickly without thinking. You know the part of the brain that tells us to step back onto the curb to avoid an oncoming bus; however, in many cases, this rush of adrenaline compels us to react out of ignorance. Many of my fellow passengers who began to immediately panic, think the worse and make ridiculous comments out loud without thinking were not emotionally equipped to handle the situation.
    When we exercise Emotional intelligence we take the long way around to a part of the brain that evokes thought, evaluation, and consideration. When we respond we respond intelligently. The folks who were breathing, thinking and in many cases saying little or nothing were emotionally strong and in control.

    Here is a quick easy to remember acronym to use next time you’re faced with a difficult, emotionally charged situation:

    the acronym is BRAKE.

    Breathe and be calm for a moment
    Relax and think
    Assess the situation without reacting ignorantly
    Know your choice before responding
    Elect to respond intelligently

    After all the chaos ensued for what seemed to be an hour (which was no more than 10 minutes), a calming presence appeared in the form of a flight attendant telling everyone that this was a routine occurrence heading into JFK and no one was in jeopardy of missing their connections due to the fact that their connections were grounded as well. Moments later, the pilot reemerged telling everyone that the weather had moved on and we were cleared for landing.
    brake-acronymNext time you’re in a difficult situation take a moment stay calm and think intelligently before allowing your emotions to get Hijacked.

  • During the Association of Free Community Papers national conference in San Diego this past April, I was presenting a workshop on Attitude. Sitting in the first seat in the first row of my classroom was Gladys “Glady” Van Drie. If you have ever had the opportunity to speak in front of a live audience you know very quickly who is there because they need to be and who is there because they want to be.

    Keynote Speaking Tampa - GladyGladys was definitely part of the latter. She had a big smile on her face, pen in hand, leaning forward in her chair and hanging on my every word. When the class ended Glady was the first person to approach me, like a groupie, she was at my side in a heartbeat thanking me for the great insight and referring to the many takeaways or ‘ah ha’ moments she garnered from my talk. She then began to pick my brain asking me for information about other classes during the conference she could attend that would contribute further to her growth and development; what a sponge for knowledge!
    It was at this point I asked Glady why she had attended my class and more importantly, why she was there at all. You see Gladys Van Drie is an icon in the free paper industry, an owner, a publisher, a successful award-winning entrepreneur and an enormous inspiration to everyone she meets. Surely she had better things to do with her time. It was at this point that Glady with her incredible smile, contagious attitude and the energy of that famous little bunny, handed me her business card and referred to a quote she had written on the back of the card. The quote, “Growing older can be a wonderful adventure if you remember that the key word is GROWING.”

    So why is this important and what does this have to do with this blog on A Work in Progress? You see, not only is Glady an incredible success in business and in life but she is still going strong in the midst of her 80th year on Earth… just extraordinary! And what’s even more amazing is Gladys is never satisfied and always thirsting for knowledge.

    attitude and success quoteInterestingly enough, in my Attitude workshop I talk about why some people succeed while others fail. One reason is a person’s mindset and attitude to always be open and receptive to learning and growing. If you are satisfied with where you are in life, then you’re done learning; in fact the old saying that “If you’re green you’re growing; if you’re ripe you’re rotting” is a constant reminder that it is through learning that we grow and growth is where we can achieve and exceed all of our goals and dreams!

    For me, the constant reminder is a vibrant spirited woman named Gladys Van Drie, a woman who is passionate about being green and growing every day at 80 years young! Truly a work in progress!

  • Time is our Most Precious ResourceI grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just four short subway stops on the LL Train and you were in the “Big City.” I spent lots of time on that train since my family went into the city to shop, enjoy seasonal traditions, and later on for me to go to work as a young high school student at Barnes and Noble. One of the things I did on the train platform to kill time while waiting for the right train to arrive was to follow the train leaving the station through the dark tunnel. I would focus on the light on the back of the train, watching as the light would get smaller and smaller and smaller until it disappeared. I have always been fascinated by time.
    It’s why that great line from “Dead Poets Society” rings forever true – Carpe Diem. Seize the day! As clichéd as it is, we must always remind ourselves that time is our most precious resource and it doesn’t stop for anyone or anything. Like the train, it’s here one minute and in the blink of an eye it’s gone.
    In many ways life is like a jigsaw puzzle. While the final outcome is important, you need to work piece by piece. One critical piece that often derails the path to success is that dreaded four-letter word, time, and how we all too often mismanage it. Know this to be true; manage your time effectively and you will increase your chances of success, squander it and abuse it and failure both personally and professionally is inevitable.
    Perhaps one of the most important questions you should ask yourself throughout the day is, “Is what I’m doing right now the most effective use of my time?” However, first things first, a crucial first step to managing your time is simply knowing how you spend it. Most people have no idea where they spend their time. They have no idea how much time they waste. And, they underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete a task.

    So what’s the answer?

    Experts recommend a daily activity log for several days, taking note of your activities and how long it takes to do them. An activity log is a great tool for keeping track of how you use your time, what time of the day you’re most effective, and to identify and eliminate low payoff activities. So why take time to fill out a daily log and why is time management so important? Let me give you four really good reasons.
    1. Directing your activities in an organized manner gives you a measure of control and order. When you’re in control you have peace of mind, you have less stress, and you are more motivated.

    2. The next benefit is productivity. When you don’t manage your time effectively you have too many activities and not enough time. Time gets away from you, shortcuts occur, and tasks are left undone. When you write down what you need to do, or in other words a To Do list, you’re organized, prioritize, and you allocate the proper amount of time for all your tasks. The result is that your productivity soars.

    3. Confidence is the next benefit of time management. Checking off your To Do list results in building confidence. As you realize that you can start and finish a task you gain momentum and move forward. As your accomplishments grow your confidence grows.

    4. Finally, time management allows you to achieve your goals. It’s nearly impossible to meet your goals when you fail to manage your time. You never get around to doing what’s important, spending much too much time on less important things and taking the path of least resistance.

    Here are some quick time management tips you could use at work or at home.
    1. Close your door, turn off your phone, and shut off the TV.
    2. For the next seven days construct an activity log.
    3. Prioritize. Stephen Covey said, “There is a big difference between what is important and what is urgent.”
    4. Use the three Ds: Do it, Delegate it, or Dump it.
    5. Avoid perfectionism. Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.
    6. Less planning, more activity. Enough said. Stop thinking, start doing.
    7. Avoid procrastination. There is an old saying that, “If the first thing you do when you wake up each morning is eat a live frog, nothing worse can happen the rest of the day.” Your frog should be the most daunting and most difficult thing on your To Do list – the one that you’re most likely to procrastinate on. Eating the frog first will give you energy and motivation.

    Remember, there is nothing more fatiguing than an uncompleted task. So tomorrow and for the next 30 days look at your To Do list, circle that frog, and eat it first.

    In conclusion, keep in mind that time is one of the most valuable and most perishable of all our possessions. The way you use it effectively can change your life forever.

  • I remember like it was today the day that my mother died almost 20 years ago.  The eulogy I gave at her grave site was emotional and heartfelt, however, I struggled to write it.  I share this with you today not as a melancholy reminder of the loss I encountered, but rather, to share with you a concept that I believe in and learned more about after reading the best seller by David Brooks, “The Road to Character.”

    Brooks, in his book, talks about the difference between résumé virtues and what he calls eulogy virtues.  While we spend a lifetime perfecting our résumé virtues, it’s those qualities that are discussed at our eulogy that a far more important, however not focused on, throughout our life.  Even our education system and a billion dollar self-help industry give us strategies to achieve career success, not build character.

 So, when I was asked to speak about my mom I was at a loss.  Why?  Because my mom had only an eighth grade education and had few, if any, skills that would even qualify her for employment.  She didn’t even have a driver’s license and struggled with simple math problems.  Yet, she was one of the richest, most successful people I know.  Why?  Because she possessed traits that are and should always be the measuring stick for greatness.

    CharacterIsTheRealFoundationThose traits or behaviors Brooks refers to as eulogy virtues.

 Today’s blog is simple.  I have taken the concept set out by Mr. Brooks a step further by looking at the word ‘character’ and using it as a guide or map to direct your life towards integrity and moral standards that impact your life and the lives of everyone you touch.  These are words that frankly will not show up on your résumé, however were very much a part of my mother’s eulogy.  I have often said that life is like a jigsaw puzzle; while you focus on one piece at a time, the ultimate goal is to see the big picture.

    Let’s take a look at a simple recognizable word and use it as our measuring stick for success moving forward.
    While there are many words that can be included here, starting with this list, the virtues that you would like for those awarded with the honor to present your eulogy will take you on a path that will lead to happiness and success for you and those around you.

  • They say that a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa can impact the climate in Alaska.  The butterfly effect, as it’s called, is where small causes can have large effects.  Ever get trapped in a room with a mosquito?

    When it comes to people, in many ways we’re alike.  There is little difference.  However, one little difference almost always makes a big difference.  That little difference is attitude and the big difference is whether that attitude is positive or negative.

    William James said one of the greatest discoveries of this generation is that a human being can alter their life dramatically by altering just one small simple thing – their attitude.  And that small change not only impacts your happiness and success, but, it impacts the happiness and success of everyone around you.

    The good news is there is no skill necessary to have a positive attitude; it’s a choice, a behavior you choose in order to impact your life and the lives of others in a positive way.  The challenge is that it takes, in many cases, a renewed mindset – a different way of thinking.

    So why consider an attitude adjustment?  Nothing, absolutely nothing, in life has a bigger cause and effect.  Your attitude influences everything.  It can control the time you get up in the morning, the time you go to sleep at night, what you eat and drink, and the very thought that runs through your head.  Your attitude can make you happy or sad, loving or hateful, and in doing so, control your capacity for success.

    Little Things Make a BIG Difference

    When you nurture and groom your attitude in a positive way you can influence everyone you come in contact with; your family, your friends, your peers, everyone.

    Here is a simple concept — your thoughts direct your beliefs, your beliefs direct your actions.  Guard your thoughts carefully – they’re the origin of a positive attitude.  Your mind is like fertile soil and your thoughts are the seeds you plant.  If you plant crabgrass, don’t expect to harvest magnolias.

    It’s said that pessimism leads to weakness and optimism leads to power.  With the proper attitude there will be no person or obstacle that can stand in the way of your success and your ability to make a positive impact on others.

    Remember, it’s not your position in life that makes you happy and successful, it’s your disposition.

  • A few years ago I had some friends over to the house and during the get-together a glass of red wine was dropped on a very plush, off-white living room carpet.  When I had the carpet cleaning experts come out they assured me they could not only remove the stain, but that they could make every carpeted room in the house look and smell better.

    expectations can lead to disappointmentAfter an investment of more than 200 dollars my house looked great.  All of the carpets were cleaned and sanitized.  However, there was one slight problem – the stain was still there, and to say I was disappointed was an understatement.

    Committed to removing the stain I called in another expert who was referred by a friend and had a great reputation.  When he arrived and I showed him the stain he immediately explained to me how difficult it would be to remove the stain and he wanted me to know that before he even unloaded his equipment to start the job.  My expectations at that point were low; however, I told him to give it his best shot.


    The fine line between happiness and disappointment can be our expectations.


    In the first scenario I expected the stain to be removed.  In the second I expected little or nothing.  Those made me realize that in life the fine line between happiness and disappointment can be our expectations.  If the expectation line set by ourselves or by others is placed incorrectly, frustration, disappointment, and, in many cases a rupture in the relationships you have with those around you, will occur – relationships that impact your life both personally and professionally.  Set the bar reasonably and properly and good things can happen.

    fine line between happiness and disappointment can be our expectationsYou see, once the expectation bar is set, everything above the bar results in happiness and everything below the bar results in disappointment.  Calibrating your expectation bar, especially when it comes to the actions and behavior of others, is so important since so often we want from others more than they are ready, willing, and able to give, and almost certainly less than we expect.  Unfortunately, many times our EXPECTATIONS are out of alignment.

    When someone does something that is consistent with their values, talents, and abilities, it rarely matters.  What does matter is what we expected.  When they do what they always do, less than expected, we’re surprised?  We measure what people do and how they act based on what we would do for them; a strategic error when setting proper expectations, since no two people are alike and everyone has a unique set of values and many times a different perspective.

    In the carpet cleaning scenario above the second cleaner not only set my expectations appropriately by under promising, he over delivered with getting the stain out – a result that exceeded my expectations, making me very happy!

  • One of the many great lines in the movie “Apollo 13” came from Ed Harris, playing NASA Director of Operations Gene Kranz.  The famous line was, “Gentleman, failure is not an option.”  He was referring to the three astronauts stranded in space and the importance of getting them home safely.  Motivated by a true purpose was the driving force behind their unwavering pursuit of a solution.  You see, there was something bigger at play here.  The folks at NASA had a really big ‘why’ motivating them to relentlessly figure out how to get those astronauts home.  Here is the simple principle – If you have a big enough ‘why’ in life, a purpose in life, you will always figure out the ‘how.’  A person without a purpose in life is like a boat without a rudder, drifting aimlessly without a direction going nowhere.

    the power of why


    In all walks of life when referring to someone’s success we often hear the words focus and determination.  Merriam Webster defines the word ‘purpose’ as the reason why (there‘s that word again, ‘why’) something is done, a feeling of being determined to achieve an outcome.  There are enormously talented, intelligent people in the world that are unsuccessful because they lack direction.  I read where in World War II if an unidentified soldier appeared in the dark and could not state their mission, their purpose for being there, they were shot without question.  I often wonder if our life depended on identifying our purpose, how much more focused and determined we would all be to reach our destination.  Productivity would soar.  We would take real passionate and meaningful action to reach our outcome.  Whether you’re an individual or a corporation, having a purpose allows you to initiate, evaluate, and refine your talents and abilities helping you find your path in life, ultimately achieving success.

    A friend of mine once told me that the most impactful, motivating speech he had ever heard was just three short words.  It came from his wife when she said, “Honey I’m pregnant.”  He said those few words instantly motivated him because he now had a big WHY in his life, a purpose in his life.  In fact, when your ‘why’ gets bigger you get better because you stop holding back.  You get laser focused and you go all out.  It’s why so often you hear about police officers, firefighters, performing superhuman feats when Failure is not an option!

    Few people if any succeed because they’re destined to succeed.  Most people succeed because they are determined to succeed and that determination is fueled by purpose.

    So as you read this blog ask yourself these questions:

    (1) What drives me each day?

    (2) What gets me up in the morning, and …

    (3) What do I believe so strongly in that I will do whatever is necessary to see it through? 

    You see it’s those who start with ‘why’ that have the ability to figure out how.  The result is that they not only achieve the individual success, but they inspire everyone around them.

    Remember, success doesn’t come from what you do in life; it comes from the power of why you do it.

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