Just for Today

Today, I will share with you a list I wrote in my notebook more than 25 years ago.

Its title is “Just For Today.”  I am not the original author of this list, but I don’t also know who is its original author. I may have copied it from some book, magazine or may have heard it from somebody. I may have liked it so much for me to put the contents into my trusty notebook.

Today as I read it again, I  noted that each line of the list gives strength and progress. I also realize that  I have tried to do most of what it says, everyday.

Here is the list.

This day I’ll do these thirteen (13) promises.”

  1. I will live through the next twelve hours and not try to tackle all of life’s problem at once.
  2. I will improve my mind
  3. I will learn something useful.
  4. I will learn something that requires effort, thought, and concentration.
  5. I will be agreeable,  I will look my best, speak in a well modulated voice, and be courteous and considerate.
  6. I will not find fault with friends, relatives or colleagues.
  7. I will not try to change or improve anyone but myself..
  8. I will have a program, I might not follow it exactly but I will have it.
  9. I will save myself from two enemies—hurry and indecision.
  10. I will do a good turn and keep it a secret,
  11. I will do two things I don’t want to do. Just for the exercise.
  12. I will believe in myself.
  13. I will give my best to the world and feel confident that the world will give its best to me.

-Just for Today

It may be difficult to do all the 13 items listed above within one day. Perhaps doing it a thing at a time will help, if only to get the ball rolling. But give it a try.  It is worth the effort.

 

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What to Do When You Can’t Remember a Person’s Name

It is item number one in a charismatic leader’s toolkit: (1) calling people by their first names; (2) having firm handshakes; and, (3) sharing an interesting anecdote or two about the person they are talking to.  Do #1, #2 and #3 and the person you are talking to will feel important. The reason is simple: remembering a person’s name tells him that he is special enough for you to remember him. A firm handshake will seal the impression that you are warm with the person; and; recalling an anecdote about him makes him feel at ease and comfortable.

The most basic of the three of course, is the ability to remember a person’s name. Fail to do it and you will be put in a most awkward situation. At worst, your career may be in trouble.

Imagine if this happens to you.

  • You are in a cocktail party with friends and some pretty lady walks up, greets you by your first name and waits for you to introduce her to your friends, but you can’t remember her name!
  • You are chatting with some friends, when you notice that a prospective client of yours is walking towards your group. Obviously, he wants you to introduce him to your friends: The problem? You forgot the guy’s name.
  • You are running for public office and in the middle of your campaign speech you are supposed to mention a good thing or two about the political leader in the area: and then you realize you forgot his name.

What to Do When You Forget a Name

Most people  feel more offended to have someone say their name wrong than simply being asked for their name again. So, my rule of thumb is not to try to guess the name. That leaves me with two choices: to face the problem head-on or to gamble with the situation.

If I decide to be honest, it is as straightforward as this: I will just politely and apologetically say, “I’m terribly sorry, but I’ve forgotten your name. What is it again?” This will spare me from sinking into a deeper hole since the more time we spend together; the more offended he will be when he realizes I don’t know his name.

However, if I will decide to push my luck a bit further, I have the following options:

  1. The simplest option is to ask the person, “Excuse me, what was your name again?” The person will likely respond with their first name. I then respond with a charming laugh and a smile, and say, “Oh no, I meant your last name.” Of course this little trick can backfire if they respond by asking, “My first or last name?”
  2. As the person walks up and waits for me to introduce him to my friend, I would say to the person, “Have you met my friend Orly?”  Most of the time, the person will say to Orly, “No I haven’t. Nice to meet you, I’m Triccie.”
  3. When the prospective client is about to join my group, I will turn up to him, stick out my hand, and say my name. “I am Nic. We met at the Ad Congress last month.” They’ll likely respond in kind by saying their name. And if he or she had forgotten my name too, by taking the initiative, I remove their burden of anxiety as well.
  4.  I may also decide not to make any introductions at all. I could just continue to talk, laugh and drink with the person. But  before we part ways, I will ask if he has a business card so that  I will have something I can take out and review at home.
  5. Finally, if I were a politician and I forgot a key political leader’s name in the middle of a campaign speech, then I better wiggle my way out of the situation via a joke, a song and  dance act or whatever antic that will make the situation light and funny. Failing to do this, I might as well consider backing out of the election contest. Such a situation will not only embarrass the political leader but will also show the crowd how suddenly I forget things – my election promises included.

Alright. Now it’s your turn. What tricks do you use to remember people’s names? Share them with us in the comments.

 

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Leadership Lessons from Migratory Birds

“The stork in the heavens knoweth her appointed time; and the turtledove, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming.”                                                                                         — Jeremiah (8:7)

Last weekend, I saw 2011’s first set of southern hemisphere-bound migratory birds.  It looked like a flock of geese and the grace at which the birds cut through the horizon was spectacular. The sight is one of the benefits of people like me, who frequent places that are along the route of these migrant flyers.

Geese in a V-formation

Birds follow a regular migration schedules.  They fly south from late September to December, during the season of the Amihan (the northeasterly winds).  They head back north from March to May, during the season we call the Tag-init.   Understandably, they fly towards the warmer regions during the cold winter of the north and came back to their breeding grounds during spring-time. They do make brief stopovers in certain fishing grounds and swamplands in the Philippines, but do not stay for long in these places.

One can almost be certain whether a flock of birds is about to make a stop-over or is still set to fly a longer distance. Those that are set to land on the swamps and stay a while to eat and rest will break from their flying formation, while those that will continue to fly away retains their distinctive V-formation like those of a group of fighter planes we see in the movies.

The V-shaped formation serves two important purposes:

One reason is that the V formation allows each bird in the flock an unobstructed field of vision. This allows flock members to see each other and communicate while in flight. I am sure that the fighter pilots have learned this technique from a study of the birds’ flight patterns.

The other reason is that the V-formation conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. The birds that follow the leader have an easier flight. The leader breaks the wind resistance, and the birds following can fly more efficiently.  Without the V formation, most migratory birds will never have enough energy to make it to the end of their long migration.

But are the birds following the same leader all the time during the migration?

The answer is no.  It is not the same bird that leads the formation. Every few minutes, one of the birds from the back of the flock will break away, fly to the front, and take over, giving the previous leader a chance to move back and take a break.

Is there something that humans can learn from the migratory birds?

A lot of things have been written about what humans can learn from the behavior of the birds. One of those I particularly liked is that of Tanveer Naseer a business coach and writer who wrote about it in one of his blog posts; (http://www.tanveernaseer.com/migrating-geese-a-lesson-in-leadership-and-collaboration/).  I quote verbatim below that part of his article that refers to the lessons we humans can learn from the migratory birds (which in his case are the Canadian geese).

1. Leadership is about helping others, not just yourself

When the Canada geese travel in V-formation, the lead bird’s job is not simply to guide the other birds as to which direction to fly. Rather, the lead bird’s primary role is to help reduce air drag so that the flock can fly for greater distances without expending more energy.

The same approach applies to the role of leadership, where the function is not to get others to simply do your bidding, but doing whatever is in your abilities to help others succeed in reaching the shared goal.

2. Everyone has the ability to lead

There was a recent survey I read about where the majority of respondents related leadership to a title; that to be a leader in an organization, one had to be a CEO, director, manager, etc. Now if we look at how the geese designate who will take the front position, we see that each bird is given a turn in leading the formation. For the geese, it’s not a question of their position in the pecking order. Instead, it’s a matter of which bird has the ability in that moment to offer the support needed by the rest of the flock for them to reach their destination.

In looking at the behavior of how geese migrate, we can appreciate that leadership is not a position; it’s a disposition that people can exhibit regardless of whatever formal title they might carry in their organization.

3. You can accomplish more working together than working apart

Scientists have found that when geese fly together in the V-formation, they can cover 70% more distance than if the birds were to fly alone. Given the long distances geese have to travel in the spring and fall, it’s clearly advantageous for them to work in a collaborative fashion, with each of them taking turns to reduce air drag while the others rest.

While some in management positions might prefer to focus on maintaining the leverage they have over their employees, the reality is that their business won’t go very far unless they work together with their team and foster an understanding that there’s a shared goal between the company and its employees. As with the geese, pooling the strengths and abilities of a company’s workforce will allow businesses to cover more ground than if they were to leave internal silos in place.

4. Working together means having each other’s back

If you’ve seen the Canada geese flying in V-formation, you’re probably familiar with the fact that it’s hardly a static formation, like what you’d see with fighter jets at an air show. Instead, it’s constantly shifting and changing. This is a result of the fact that the birds in the flock are taking turns flying in the lead position in order to give the other birds a chance to rest near the back of the line. This also ensures that the flock evenly distributes the workload so that they can easily make the long journey to their target destination.”

Similarly, when leading a team or group of employees, it’s important that there’s an understanding that everyone on the team has each other’s back and that the workload will be shared to make sure that no one wears out before the team can reach their objective.

For the Canada geese, the act of flying in V-formation has certainly been vital to their ability to migrate over vast distances as the seasons change. As with so many other examples in nature, this behavior can also serve as a valuable reminder for businesses on how to approach leadership and team collaboration.

 So, aside from the four lessons discussed above, what do you think are the other things we could learn from the migratory birds? Share them to us in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Win Customers

I had this in my notebook for a long time. I am not sure whether I got  it from a book I was reading or from an article in a website. What  I am sure though, is that this set of quotations captures what every brand man has to do to win customers.

Tell me what you think.

 

Don’t sell me clothes,
Sell me sharp appearance, style and attractiveness.

Don’t sell me insurance.
Sell me peace of mind and a great future for my family.

Don’t sell me a house.
Sell me comfort, contentment, investment and pride of ownership.

Don’t sell me books.
Sell me pleasant hours and profits of knowledge.

Don’t sell me toys.
Sell my children happy moments.

Sell good feelings, self-respect, happiness and solutions to my life’s problems.

– Michael LeBoeuf  in “How to win customers and Keep Them for Life”

 

Do you agree? Why?

 

 

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Lessons from John Gokongwei

The first time I heard about Mr. John’s “batel” adventures, was from my former boss and research mentor, Ms Rosie Chew. Rosie was Mr. John’s kababayan and she referred to Mr. John as Robinson. This was probably the name she used to call him when they were still growing up in Cebu. The other times I heard about him was via anecdotes shared to us by his niece and his executives during my stint as a sales and marketing  executive of a major network.

I was amazed by the riches to rags, rags to riches story of the man.  I was awed by how a “probinsyano”  became a major player not only here in the country but also in the Asian region.

About four years ago, Mr John delivered a speech to marketing and advertising practitioners at the 20th Ad Congress in Subic.  I am sharing this here because of the inspiration this story brings to me, and the key points I picked up from his speech:

  • When I wanted something, the best person to depend on was myself.
  • One must teach people to take over a business at any time
  • I succeeded because I overcame my fear, and tried.
  • Sticking to our philosophy of “low-cost, great value.”
  • Think bigger.
  • Create world-class brands.

This is the   speech by John Gokongwei at the 20th Ad Congress last November 21, 2007. I hope you will enjoy this and learn from it as I do.

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Limpya Bota Series 2: The Shoe Shine Box


The Shoe Shine Box

I got my shoe shine box from a cousin during the summer months of 1970. He knew I wanted to have one. I told him that there is an opportunity to earn money shining other people’s shoes. He promised that one day, he will give me a shoe shine box. And on that summer, he did!

Inside the shoe shine box was a shoe brush and a can with a little shoe polish left on it. I bought additional items to complete my shoe shine kit:  a shoe brush, two packs of shoe dye or dyobos –one black, one red. I mixed these with water and put the solution in an empty medicine bottle. I also got a fresh can of shoe polish, two used toothbrushes and an old white cotton T-shirt.

I practiced with the shoes at home; first with the old ones, and later, with the relatively newer pairs.  I simulated various types of grime or dirt a pair of shoes could have, and made sure I ended up with a clean and shiny pair of shoes. Only when I was very confident with my skill did I declare myself ready.

On my first two days as shine boy, I tagged along with Sammy – a neighbor who has plied the trade for more than a year.  Sammy was my on the job trainer. He gave me pointers on how to approach customers and emphasized that I should converse with the customer while shining their shoes.  I also learned from him how to set the price of  shoe shine services by pricing levels based on a pre-agreed quality of polish :  one application of shoe polish was 25 centavos; two to three applications would cost 50 centavos; and a charol (a wet-look finish) was at least one peso. We also charged a premium depending on how dirty the shoes and/or how bad the customer’s foot or socks smell!

As “payment” for his efforts at showing me some tricks of the trade, Sammy made me swear on the following: I will not poach on his regular customers, I will maintain the pricing levels of the shoe shine services; he can borrow shoe shine materials from me during emergencies; and, he can tell people that he taught me how to shine shoes.

For the next four years, I was a shoe shine boy during weekends and holidays! I was charging from a low of 25 centavos to a high of one peso per pair of shoes.  I had my stable of regular customers.  Some of them told me their life’s stories; a few shared to me their fears; and, quite a number talked about their dreams. Normally, I just listened. But when they asked for my opinion, I did not give them straight answers. I normally give my opinion by asking them what-if questions. Or, I share with them anecdotes of what another person did under similar circumstances. I was not the best shoe shine boy in the market, but a lot of customers looked for me when they want their shoes cleaned.

I also introduced my younger brothers to the ins-and-out of making money in the public market.   Rey also braved the alleys of the market as a shoe shine boy for more than two years. But when the fuel crisis erupted, he shifted to selling kerosene on retail. Alan did not want to shine shoes. Instead, he sold fruits and other food products to passengers in the town’s bus terminal.

As a shoe shine boy I stayed in the public market during weekends. In doing so, I met and dealt with various types of people. By observing the actions and listening to the stories of the store owners and the commodity traders, I got a very good idea of how they manage their business:  where they source their goods, their source of financial capital, and the margins they made.

From shining shoes, I earned around ten pesos on Saturdays; and fifty percent more during Sundays. That was a lot considering that in the early 70s, we could buy a bottle of soft drink plus a big piece of bread or a stick of banana cue for 25 centavos. To be sure, I earned more money from selling and attaching spikes to shoes, and from commodities and livestock trading.  In the early seventies, the money I earned on weekends not only covered my day-to-day allowances and other needs, I was also able to share these earnings with my family and my siblings.

I still relish the opportunities that the shoe shine box has opened to me.  In the years after my stint in the public market of my hometown, my playing field has expanded several folds. But the set of skills I learned during my shoe shine box days were all put to good use during my professional and business career.

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