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Thinking

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  • April 4, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Life in the Green Hat
  • in Thinking
Life in the Green Hat

Life in the Green Hat

One of the more fascinating theories of thinking I've ever been introduced to is the Six Thinking Hats of Edward de Bono. de Bono is regarded as one of the world's leaders in the field of creative ...Read More »
  • April 1, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on FONS
  • in Thinking

FONS

As the smartphone has become ubiquitous in well, life, so has the phenomenon FOMO.

You know FOMO—fear of missing out. Appearances seem to suggest we've now become more interested in what's happening somewhere else than is happening in our immediate sphere.

A few days ago I shared something that happened to us. Aprill and I were eating at a local restaurant and, at the table next to us, three people sat together each completely engrossed in his or her own smartphone. None of the three were talking at all. No banter. No sharing of the experience. No noticing the interesting people all around. Just looking at the smartphone screen, living someone else's experiences.

It was simultaneously amusing, annoying and sad. FOMO is real. I am a recovering fomoholic myself.

I believe, however, there is an equally real and equally strong phenomenon that is getting less attention. FONS.

What's FONS?

Fear of not sharing. Here I go, stepping into the formal with muddy boots. I know FONS exists because I am also a recovering fonsoholic. I have been guilty of sharing everything everywhere— on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn.

But why? Why do we share? Further, why is so much of what we share pure trivia?

IMG_0362
A previously unshared photo of me, Christmas 1961. Who in the world really needed to see this?

I have a friend. I'll call him Thad (only because, to my knowledge, I have no actual friends named Thad). I knew Thad for a period of time a long time ago. We shared life, had some laughs and enjoyed a few common experiences. Then as most people do, Thad and I went our separate ways. For many, many years I did not know what happened to Thad. For the sake of complete honesty, I completely forgot about him. Then one day, a friend request popped up on Facebook and Thad had found me. I must say it was nice to reconnect to Thad, to learn what he was up to, and to know that his life had been full and fulfilling. We exchanged a few messages, and Thad starting popping up here and there on my timeline.

That's it. I have not seen Thad. I haven't talked to him. We haven't gotten together to jawbone about life, politics, poetry, music or anything else. We haven't shared a meal or any common experiences whatsoever. Yet, when I share something, there's a chance Thad will see it. There's an even slighter chance Thad will care.

Don't get me wrong. I like Thad. I'm glad we reconnected. I'm happy to see things in his life. But the question begs itself: why is it important to me that Thad and hundreds like him know that I just enjoyed a tomato and avocado sandwich on toasted rye with a kosher dill on the side?

The great philosopher and sage Dr. Phil once said: you wouldn't worry so much about what people think about you if you realized just how little they actually do. It's true.

Still, we want to share. Everything.

Unlike other posts, I don't have a prescriptive. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, that any of us should share more, share less or not share at all. I'm just making an observation. From my point of view, it seems FONS may be even more rampant than FOMO.

  • March 29, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Real Impact
  • in Thinking

Real Impact

The whole secret to our success is being able to con ourselves into believing that we're going to change the world because statistically we are unlikely to do it. (Tom Peters)

Well, that's encouraging. I've written before how much my early career was influenced by the writings of Tom Peters. In Search of Excellence and Thriving on Chaos created a foundation for my thinking that lives on to this day. Both made me explore business and commerce and life in ways I had not been challenged to explore before.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 3.14.00 PM

Which brings me back to the quote above. Look at it again. What Peters writes is true. Statistically, our chances of changing the world are pretty slim. For every Mark Zuckerberg there are millions of us who do what we do without making a major impact on the world.

But I'm also reminded of another guiding principle I've tried to apply to my life. I am not certain where I first heard it. In fact, it's been with me so long I've come to occupy it as my own: just because you can't do everything doesn't mean you should do nothing.

Changing the world is hard. Really hard. No two ways about it. Changing a corner of it? Not as difficult. It's pretty simple really. You pick a corner you wish could be different and you set about to change it. Put in some thought, kick some wheels into motion and before you know it, you'll see evidence that your efforts are producing.

IMG_6001
Suzie Snowflake, rescued in Kentucky, fostered in North Carolina, and soon to be in a forever home in Connecticut.

For us, one of our corners is animal rescue. It's estimated that every day 9,000 healthy dogs and cats are put to death in shelters in the United States alone. That's staggering to me, and quite sad. I wish I could wave a magic wand and save them all. I cannot. But what if we could save one?

As I write this, I'm looking into my backyard and watching Suzie Snowflake, an English setter we're fostering for Another Chance English Setters. She was picked up in Kentucky in February before a giant snowstorm. Volunteers helped transport her to North Carolina where she's lived with us awaiting a final trip to her new adopted home in Connecticut.

Fostering dogs doesn't change the world. But it sure changed Suzie's world, and Maisey's, Harley's, Katie's and 7 others before them. And it will change the world of her new companion who told us I lost my dog a year or so ago, and I miss having a friend. I just want a friend to hang out with me. Here comes Suzie! She'll fit that bill and much, much more.

So I'm taking blogger's license to adapt Peters' quote a bit. Here's my revision:

The whole secret to success is being able to convince ourselves that while we may not change the world, we really can change pieces of it for the better.

Lives better for me.

 

  • March 28, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Simplify made simple.
  • in Thinking

Simplify made simple.

If you've ever read this blog, you know I'm a huge fan of David Cain and his blog Raptitude. David has insights I don't see in other places.

I've read and reread his current post entitled 4 Absurdly Easy Things I Do That Make My Life Disproportionately Better. You should go and read it for yourself.

Perhaps David's thinking and his previous posts have rubbed off on me. I find on pretty regular basis I already do 2.5 of the 4 things David recommends. Without spilling all the beans, here's one of his 4 Absurdly Easy Things I started a few months ago:

4. Putting my phone over there.

Pretty easy. Don't get me wrong. I lapse, and I lapse often. But when I put it into practice, it makes life disproportionately better. I like this passage from his post:

I suppose there are people out there who only pick up their smartphone with the idea of accomplishing some specific task, such as Googling a Jeopardy question, or even using it to phone someone. But I’m guessing most of you have noticed that pulling out your phone can become a kind of reflex, a conditioned defensive maneuver, triggered without deliberation by a boring or challenging present moment. Within seconds you’re in your familiar haven, cuddling with Reddit or Twitter, never having consciously decided to. This reflex is how I know it’s time to give up on a TV series: when I notice myself reading tweets during the quieter scenes, clearly I am wasting my time on this earth.

No smartphone necessary.

How true is this for you? Whether you admit it or not, it may be truer than you think. Aprill and I went to a Charlotte Hornets game a week or so ago. Before the game, we stopped at a creperie to grab a quick bite to eat. Waiting on our food, we noticed three people at the table next to us, each with his or her head buried in the screen of their phone. Three friends enjoying each other's company was Aprill's assessment. I wanted to take a picture, but I decided not to become the fourth unfortunate person in this story.

I won't beat myself up too badly. I'm making strides. Last week, Aprill and I set out for a light dinner and a preview of a new exhibit at one of our favorite museums. We got in the car and, before we got to the end of the driveway I realized I didn't have my phone. I drove on. Three months ago I would likely have gone inside to get it. Instead, I knew the night would be filled with conversation with the woman I love, tasty food, good wine and great works of art I had never seen. It was enough. It was more than enough. Nothing happening elsewhere would be more important to me than what was happening to me in real time and real space.

Still, David's point #4 has caused me to continue an evaluation of not just how I spend my time and how I could spend it better, but to also consider what absurdly easy things I could come up with just for myself.

Give me 30 days and for anyone interested, I'll tell you what I've determined.

Now, I'm going to sit on the floor. (Read David's post!)

 

  • March 24, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Time to quit?
  • in Thinking
Time to quit?

Time to quit?

Don’t quit a job unless you have another one lined up. These are words drilled into us by our parents, society, and probably common sense. But then everywhere we turn, there seems to yet another artic...Read More »
  • March 23, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Using your platform
  • in Thinking

Using your platform

The platform. Everyone has one. Every company has one.

Merriam-Webster defines platform as a flat surface that is raised higher than the floor or ground and that people stand on when performing or speaking. It also defines it as a declaration of the principles on which a group of persons stands.

In business, both are equally true. If you own a business, you have a platform. It may be that you are the most respected plumber in your city. Or, you produce the finest, award-winning craft beer in your state. You may be president of the largest bank, or executive director of a well-respected non-profit.

In every case, you have a platform. Your product, position or status within a company gives it to you.

The question is how will you use it?

5095-200I find these days the answer too often to be very little, if at all.

I also find this tragic.

Bill Gates is the richest person in the world. With an estimated net worth of $80 billion, he and his wife, Melinda, decided several years ago to use their platform to form the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The mission is pretty simple: to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. They are using their platform to help humanity.

Gates' fortune pales in comparison to that of John Rockefeller. At the time of his death in 1937, Rockefeller had assets of $340 billion (in today's dollars). To put that in perspective, his wealth equaled 1.5% of America's total economic output. He used his platform well. He started the University of Chicago, established international funds for health research and gave hundreds of thousands of acres of land for national parks - Acadia and the Grand Tetons to name two.

Most of us, however, do not enjoy multi-billion dollar fortunes. But each of us has a platform - with his or her town, neighborhood, company, co-workers, friends, family, church or other groups. We choose every day how we'll use the one we have.

If you have the best product in your category, how are you using it to do something besides sell more?

If you offer the highest level of customer service, how are you parlaying that into something larger?

If you have a large customer base, do you ever mobilize it for anything other than building your business?

None of those goals is bad. But, to steal a phrase, a platform is a terrible thing to waste. Will you use yours for the benefit of others or for the greater good? Or will you squander it on blather, bluster or blandness? It's a question worth asking. Every day.

Too often, I fear these days the answer is the latter.

 

  • March 22, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on On Terror and Terrorists
  • in Thinking

On Terror and Terrorists

I love to travel. The western United States is probably my overall favorite destination. I love Europe, too. I won't try to pass myself off as a world traveler, someone who's been around the world and back. My family didn't travel very much when I was growing up. I didn't make my first trip overseas until I was almost 40. But I've been fortunate to visit some special places. I plan to visit more.

Brussels in one of those places. Bruges is another. I plan to visit Belgium one day, fly into the airport in Brussels, travel by mass transit around the city and make an excursion to Bruges.

I have not been the victim of a terror attack. I have, however, been impacted by terrorists. We all have. You see, when a terrorist strikes and succeeds in creating terror in the hearts and minds of the free people of the world, the entire free world becomes the victim. It is the objective of the terrorist. It is their goal. To scare the rest of us. To terrify us. To change our lifestyle.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris, 2013.
Arc de Triomphe, Paris, 2013.

Terrorism has changed the lifestyle of much of the free world. It has changed mine.

  • Every time I get on a plane in the United States and around the world, I experience the impact of terrorism. The ease of travel I used to enjoy prior to 9/11/01 is probably gone forever.
  • Every time I call on a client in a major metropolitan area, I experience the impact of terrorism. The ease of visiting office buildings I used to enjoy prior to 9/11/01 is probably gone forever. (A friend of mine once took an elevator in the Bank of America Corporate Center, got off on an upper floor and wandered into Hugh McColl's office. Mr. McColl was, at the time, the President and CEO of the bank.)
  • Every time I make a phone call, send an email, visit a website or transact business with a credit card, there's a good chance it is tracked in a way it was not always tracked.

Keeping all of this in mind, I will not be deterred. I may be a bit more vigilant in my comings and goings. But I will keep coming and I will keep going. And while my heart, my thoughts and my prayers are with the people of Belgium tonight, I will not be terrorized. I refuse.

It is my hope that you will refuse to be terrorized, too.

 

  • March 21, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on The Inevitable Loss of the Sizzle
  • in Thinking

The Inevitable Loss of the Sizzle

I read somewhere that today Apple is set to introduce three new products at one of its media events.

Or maybe it's tomorrow?

There was a time, not that long ago, that I would have added this event to my calendar. I would not have scheduled over it. I wouldn't stop work. But I would most assuredly have second and third open windows (never a capital W in this company), one broadcasting the event and another with a Twitter feed offering to-the-second updates.

Apple_Logo_2015_03No longer. It just doesn't hold my attention like it used to. It's not because I'm not interested in new technology. Far from it. It's simply this:

I am inundated each and every day with new products, new services, new enhancements, new twists and new turns. Every day, Sunday through Saturday. I cannot read a blog, newspaper or magazine, watch a webinar or visit a website without seeing something new.

By and large, I love it. As a not-even-recovering gadgeteer, I want everything. The competition for my eye, however is intense. Essentially, the world has caught up with Apple, and now it is just one of a great many technology companies vying for my attention.

Don't get me wrong. I love Apple. I'm an early adopter, owning my first Apple product in 1986. I've never owned one of those other computers. I have iPhones, iPads, iPods (still), iMacs, Macbooks. I have been in business 24 years, servicing every client along the way on a Mac. I am an Apple shareholder. I'm writing this post on a Mac. In my opinion, it's still the best of the best by a long shot.

It's just lost some sizzle. Consequently, it's lost a bit of my attention. That's inevitable. Companies, athletes, musical artists, moviemakers, actors, causes - they come and they go in the consciousness of the consumer. You can't stay on top forever. Ask AOL. The hottest eventually is not quite as hot.

So, I will plug along with my day today. Tonight, if I remember, I'll grab my iPad, pull up Feedly and see what's new with Apple....if I remember.

Are you continually evaluating your product or service offering to keep some sizzle in the minds of your customers? If so, kudos. If not, why not?

 

  • March 18, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on The Universal Appeal of the Underdog
  • in Thinking

The Universal Appeal of the Underdog

It's the middle of March. And in the Carolinas, that means one thing.

Pollen.

But it's also when March Madness comes into full bloom. It began yesterday, and already people are talking about two schools—Little Rock and Yale.

Little Rock and Yale are 12 seeds. For the unwashed, that would theoretically make them somewhere around the 48th best teams of the 68 in the field. Theoretically.

Yesterday, they were far better. Little Rock knocked off heavily-favored, Big 10 powerhouse Purdue. Yale beat an equally-favored Baylor team. Baylor and Purdue were 5 seeds, making them somewhere around the 20th best teams of the 68 in the field. Theoretically.

Now, each is the toast of the tournament.

Everyone loves an underdog.

This is one of the things that makes the NCAA College Basketball Tournament so popular. You gotta play the game. When you do, someone will win, and someone will lose. But it's not always who you think.

It's also driving a lot of the new economy. Craft beers, boutique coffee roasters (like Chuck's Roast!), bakeries, local farms—all are part of an economy that says I'd rather buy from the little guys. The underdogs. I want to see them succeed.

It can be a number of things. Better products certainly have a better chance to survive. Higher levels of customer service can be found in smaller companies.

Or perhaps it's the obvious. The underdog has to work harder—or play harder—to be noticed and to gain respect.

Regardless of the size of your company, what are you doing to best your competition today? What will you do tomorrow?

  • March 16, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Winnowing
  • in Thinking

Winnowing

It happens all the time. Everywhere. In nature. In the marketplace.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 10.06.12 AMIt even happens in politics. Fields start with large numbers. Then as time goes by, stories get told, cases are made and opinions form. Some gain traction while others lose ground.

What stories are you telling to make your brand stronger?

What enhancements are you making?

What are you doing to keep from being winnowed out?

  • March 7, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on The Worst Two Words in Customer Service
  • in Thinking
The Worst Two Words in Customer Service

The Worst Two Words in Customer Service

My whole life I've tried to be polite. I was raised that way. Always say "thank you." Hold the door open for others. Eat what you are served. Let others go first. The basics. When I was young, I pr...Read More »
  • February 16, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on The Smart Choice
  • in Thinking
The Smart Choice

The Smart Choice

Disclaimer: This will at first seem like a post regarding politics. I promise you it is not (and there will be a sound, business application at the end). On Saturday, February 13, 2016, Antonin Sca...Read More »
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