Tuesday, Aug 31 2010 

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors.  We borrow it from our children.  – Native American Traditional Saying


Six Tips to Better Business Writing Thursday, Aug 26 2010 

by David Silverman

1. Keep sentences short & sweet. The average businessperson prefers to read on an eighth-grade level. Accommodate that preference by keeping sentences to no more than 15 words. If a sentence runs longer, try to carve it in two.

2. Never use a long word when a short one will do. Go back through your memo or report and replace difficult-to-read multisyllable words with one- or two-syllable ones. Examples: Replace “illustrate” with “show” and “facilitate” with “run” (as in “run the meeting”).

3. Write in active voice, not passive. Example: Change “It was argued by the customer that an error was made by the shipping department” to “The customer argued that the shipping department had erred.”

4. Rescue “swallowed verbs.” To many people, “business writing” means turning perfectly good verbs into noun phrases … which may seem professional but only muddies your writing. Examples: Change “submitted an application” to “applied”; and “gave authorization” to “authorized.”

5. Eschew “make” and “made.” Technically, this falls under “swallowed verbs,” but it’s so common that it deserves a rule of its own. Examples: Change “make a decision” to “decide”; “made a recommendation” to “recommended”; “make a copy” to “copy”; “made an error” to “erred.”

6. Abandon weak “there is/there are” introductory phrases. Most of the time, they’re unnecessary and only obscure your sentence’s subject. Examples: Change “There are four copies of this on your desk” to “Four copies of this are on your desk”; change “There is no one who loves his work like Mr. Deeds” to “No one loves his work like Mr. Deeds.”

Business Writing That Gets Results is your hands-on road map to clearer, more concise writing that gets you ahead. No matter what types of documents you produce in your job, you can increase your writing power and communicate more effectively. Get your copy now…

Tuesday, Aug 24 2010 

The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase: if you pursue happiness you’ll never find it. – C.P.Snow

Monday, Aug 23 2010 

Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.
– Dale Carnegie

Magic Muscle-Cramp Cure Thursday, Aug 19 2010 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

After a long day of gardening last week, I awakened with an intense muscle cramp in my leg that was so painful I might have been worried — except that I knew what I could drink to make it go away (you won’t believe that I could it get down at 3 am — I’ll tell you what it was in a minute). But sometimes muscle cramps aren’t so easy to get rid of and, in fact, sometimes they are a sign of a serious illness. And, of course, not everyone knows about my magic cure… so I thought this was a topic you might like to know some more about.

Who Gets Muscle Cramps?

Muscle cramps are a common problem — medically speaking, a muscle cramp is a sudden, involuntary contraction of one or more muscles that can be very painful, sometimes leaving tenderness for up to 24 hours after the cramp subsides. Aging and overuse of the muscles are two common causes, but other triggers can include dehydration… low blood sugar… calcium, sodium and/or magnesium deficiency… underactive thyroid… kidney or liver dysfunction… peripheral vascular disease (which restricts blood flow to the legs)… nerve compression… Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)… brain tumors/cancer… multiple sclerosis… well, you get the picture.

What you need to know

To get some useful advice, I contacted Barry Wiese, DC, a board-certified chiropractic neurologist in private practice in Rochester, New York, whose specialty work with geriatric patients and background as a marathon runner have given him especially unique expertise on this topic. Cautioning that there is no surefire, works-every-time solution, he told me how to differentiate a run-of-the-mill (if excruciating) cramp from one that you must tell your doctor about.

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself:

Are my cramps random? According to Dr. Wiese, a cramp that comes on suddenly and inexplicably is usually not a problem. Noting that the majority of random cramps are no big deal, he suggested that it’s fine to try the “old standby” cures, including eating a banana (for potassium)… drinking more water to counter dehydration… light stretching of the affected area… self-massage… and heat packs to relieve pain and tenderness.

Are my cramps becoming more frequent and/or following a pattern? Cramps that begin to establish themselves in a predictable pattern — such as at a particular time of day or when you walk — may be a worrisome sign that you should discuss with your doctor.

Did I do something that might explain this cramp? If you realize that you are getting cramps often, even predictably in certain situations, start a log of when they strike including time of day… what you’ve eaten… how long they last… how painful they are (consider a score between one and 10)… and what you were doing before and during the episode. Share this information with your doctor.

Should I see my doctor? With persistent or worsening muscle cramps, you need to see your doctor to discuss potential causes and treatments. Though muscle cramping represents abnormal function, it’s only rarely serious, Dr. Weise said. However, he pointed out that “many disease processes include cramping in their list of symptoms… and for many of those, the earlier you get treated, the better the outcome — so it pays to follow a conservative, cautious route until proven otherwise.”

You’ll be asked about your medical history, and your doctor may suggest some tests, including blood work, to find the root cause. Treatment options could range from vitamin B supplementation… to prescription medications, such as diltiazem (a calcium-channel blocker) and baclofen (a potent muscle relaxant sometimes used to treat muscle spasms in patients with MS and ALS)… and possibly even quinine, the malaria treatment, though it’s used only in extreme cases because of the potential adverse side effects.

Kitchen Cures

Of course, you know already that my muscle cramp fell into the “random and not worrisome” category, painful as it was. So now I will tell you about my secret cure… pickle juice! (You could also just eat a pickle.) No, I’m not kidding, and you may be surprised to learn that Dr. Wiese didn’t even find it strange when I told him. I learned about pickle juice from my college field hockey coach, who suggested drinking it — and/or eating mustard — when players complained of muscle cramps. Both contain acetic acid, salts and other ingredients that help neutralize the compounds or electrolyte deficiencies that may cause cramps. Other helpful remedies you may be able to pull out of your kitchen cabinets include apple cider vinegar (mix two teaspoons with one teaspoon of honey into a glass of warm water), which works much like the pickle juice… and chamomile tea, which contains glycine, an amino acid that helps relieve muscle spasms.


Barry Wiese, DC, a board-certified chiropractic neurologist in private practice in Rochester, New York.

Can Relaxation Save Your Life? Wednesday, Aug 18 2010 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

Americans are widely recognized as hard workers, but lots of us aren’t quite up to snuff when it comes to relaxation. In fact, the term “leisure sickness,” which describes a flulike syndrome that workaholics get from taking time off from the job, is in the running for dictionary publisher Webster’s “Word of the Year” for 2010! But far more typical is the vague but persistent sense of guilt that many people experience when relaxing — as if anything that feels this good can’t possibly be a good use of time. Well, you can and should relax about that. In fact, there is a great deal of research demonstrating that regular relaxation — the kind where you really chill out and do nothing — is as important to your health as eating right and exercising.

Many people assume that effective relaxation requires two weeks at the beach, but that’s not at all the case. Research has shown that even little bits can produce bountiful health benefits that we usually associate with visits to the gym and languorous vacations… and in fact, to attain the maximum benefits of relaxation, you need to build some relaxation activity into every single day. To help you find what works for you, here are research-supported relaxation suggestions that deliver actual health benefits in just minutes…

  • Grab some midday ZZZZs. A study at Harvard that investigated the napping habits of more than 20,000 adults discovered that people who took brief naps (under a half hour) two or three times a week reduced risk for coronary disease by 12%. Upping the nap ante, the folks who napped three or more times a week, reduced risk by an astonishing 37%.
  • Just quietly chill out. Yet another study, at New York University, established that “wakeful resting” (otherwise known as just sitting there) promotes memory and cognition function. The study asked students to observe images and then take a short rest while remaining awake. During this nonactivity, they were hooked up to functional MRI brain scans, which revealed that their brains at rest were busily absorbing and consolidating the new information just gained.
  • Get a massage. Many studies have shown that even a brief hands-on session from a pro can elevate the feel-good brain hormones dopamine and serotonin, which are known to slow the heart rate, reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels and contribute to deeper sleep at night. This deep sleep, in turn, enables the body to heal in a myriad of subtle but important ways — for instance, by facilitating the ongoing repair and regeneration of tissue.

More Powerful Ideas from a Relaxation Expert

For even more healthful everyday relaxation techniques, I called psychiatrist James S. Gordon, MD, psychiatrist and founder and director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression. Dr. Gordon says the way to a saner, healthier and happier life is to practice relaxation at least several times a day. Here are some of his effective techniques…

  • Close your eyes and breathe deeply into the belly. Sit quietly for a few minutes, eyes closed, belly relaxed, and breathe deeply, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. If you can do this twice a day, you’ll find that you can look at the world differently, he says. “We are constantly in high gear — just taking a few minutes like this gives you fresh perspective and actually changes your psychology and physiology.”
  • Go outdoors. Use nature as a no-cost, convenient, personal spa. Numerous studies show that going outside where there are trees and plants relieves stress and sharpens cognition. It’s literally healing — a study of patients recovering from surgery found that those with windows facing trees healed faster and took fewer pain medications than patients without a view.
  • Even brief spurts of movement help. It would take pages to list all the proven health benefits associated with regular exercise — just one of which is that it boosts brain neurotransmitters that help ease anxiety. Research has shown that simply taking a brief walk (indoors or out) can improve your mood… leading Dr. Gordon to advise grabbing any chance you can to move around, for example, periodically getting up from your desk to take stretch breaks, walking up steps instead of taking an escalator, taking a walk after dinner.
  • Build actual activity into your schedule. If you want to maximize your relaxation prescription, you need to engage in regular, extended periods of exercise. You’ve tried but failed before? The key to commitment is finding exercise that you enjoy. As Dr. Gordon observes, “jogging is great for health — but if you hate to jog, it’s not great for you.” You don’t have to be “serious” and “focused” to get the benefits, he adds — consider dancing each morning to your favorite CDs… immersing yourself into the deeply serene environment of a swimming pool for a few laps several times a week … biking around the neighborhood… sampling different classes to try Pilates, yoga, karate or the zippy Zumba dance technique — the list of possibilities is endless.

How Much Do You Need?

Dr. Gordon suggests looking to your life for signals that you’re relaxing well and sufficiently — or that you need a bit more. Signs that you need to increase your “relaxation prescription” include a tendency to be irritated and impatient… difficulty focusing clearly… insensitivity to the needs of others… digestive upset… insomnia… and feeling anxious or depressed. If that sounds like a typical day or week in your life, it’s time to sit down, breathe deeply and contemplate which of the many relaxation activities sound good to you right now — and then do them.

James S. Gordon, MD, psychiatrist and founder and director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, and clinical professor, departments of psychiatry and family medicine, Georgetown University, both in Washington, DC. He is author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression (Penguin), which contains these and many other techniques for relaxation. www.cmbm.org.

Could Terrorists Be on Your Plane? Monday, Aug 16 2010 

by Mary Schiavo

The attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day has once again focused Americans’ attention on air terrorism. Per mile traveled, flying still is safer than driving, but the dangers of terrorism are real. Here’s what air travelers can do to reduce the odds that they will become victims…

Choose your airline carefully when flying overseas. It isn’t just US citizens who often are targeted by terrorists — it’s US airlines and flights headed to the US. All four planes involved in the 9/11 attacks belonged to US carriers… the Christmas bomb attempt was on a Northwest Airlines flight… and the 2001 shoe bomber was aboard an American Airlines flight. British, French, Russian, South Korean and Indian flights occasionally are selected by terrorists as well.
To reduce your odds of falling victim to a terrorist attack on an international flight, favor airlines that are not typically targeted by terrorists… and that are based in countries that seem unlikely to be singled out for political reasons. These include Germany’s Lufthansa, Australia’s Qantas and Japan’s ANA (All Nippon Airways) and Japan Airlines.
Caution: The risk for terrorist attack currently is greatest on flights from foreign countries to the US. These flights offer terrorists a way to target American victims without having to evade US airport security, which is considered to be among the tightest in the world in the wake of 9/11.

Choose flights on smaller aircraft when possible. Terrorists like to target big airplanes. The biggest planes flying now include the Boeing 747, 757, 767 and 777 and most Airbus models. They offer many hundreds of potential victims. Big planes also have much larger fuel tanks than smaller planes, making them potentially more damaging to targets on the ground in 9/11-style attacks.
It’s possible to make most flights of 1,000 miles or less on relatively small planes. More than half of all domestic flights in the US now are on regional jets built by Bombardier (which have just 50 to 100 seats) or Embraer (37 to 122 seats). Flying these smaller planes on longer flights requires making a connection.

Lean toward small US airports rather than large ones. Security was very poor at some small American airports prior to 9/11, but that’s no longer true. Security now is much tighter at all domestic airports. In fact, security can be tighter at smaller airports because security personnel at these facilities often have more time to screen each passenger and examine each bag.

Report any suspicious activity to the crew. Suspicious activity by fellow passengers may include individuals spending long periods of time in the lavatory… congregating near the cockpit… having quiet meetings among themselves… taking an inordinate interest in the flight crew… and possessing any suspicious items.

Reserve a seat near one of the plane’s exits… but not necessarily a wing exit. It’s almost always safest to be seated near an exit in an emergency — passengers near exits get out first. If there is a terrorist with a bomb onboard, however, passengers in the seats near wing exits might be at increased risk. Terrorists generally try to detonate bombs near aircrafts’ fuel tanks, some of which are located in the wings. Naturally, it’s safer to be farther from the bomb.
Note: Passengers seated near the wings have the greatest responsibility to be on the alert for suspicious activity by fellow passengers seated near them.

Avoid traveling to, from or through countries that are not in compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s safety standards. On the Web site of the US State Department (http://travel.state.gov), select “International Travel,” choose a country, then click “Aviation Safety Oversight” to find out if there is a potential problem.
Example: The US Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration has warned that it cannot assess the security of airports in Albania, Azerbaijan and Venezuela, among others.

Exercise the greatest caution when there has not been a recent terrorist attack. Most travelers become cautious right after an attack, but history tells us that terrorists wait months, even years, between attacks on airliners in hopes that security personnel and travelers will let down their guard.

Bottom Line/Personal interviewed Mary Schiavo, Inspector General of the US Department of Transportation from 1990 to 1996. Her 1997 book, Flying Blind, Flying Safe, exposed problems with America’s aviation security prior to 9/11. Schiavo is a licensed pilot and former professor of aviation at The Ohio State University. She currently heads the aviation litigation team for Motley Rice, a law firm based in New York City and Charleston, South Carolina.

The sorry tale of a failed executive Thursday, Aug 12 2010 

from Business Management Daily

Every inadequate executive fails to live up to his or her leadership role in some way. Here’s the tale of one executive who failed because he lacked—or simply didn’t practice—five essential components of good leadership:

1. Vision. If William Roisden had a vision, he never let on what it was.When he assumed the lead of an information-services company division, he relied heavily on a colleague to map out a strategy, which the two of them unveiled to the staff. Overtime, the division enjoyed steady revenues but also steadily declining profits. After his colleague left a year or two later, Roisden (not his real name) let their vision burrow underground, and there it stayed.

Lesson: Visionaries look forward and discern the future. You must live beyond the pressures of the moment.

2. Integrity. Honesty stood out as Roisden’s best characteristic: He told everyone the truth, and he tried to help his direct reports succeed.

Lesson: Integrity and good will form a solid foundation, and they make up for other faults. But good character alone won’t make you a leader. You need the skills.

3. Competency. Coming from a government background, Roisden plodded along, lacking much of the knowledge about databases and the still-new Internet that he needed to operate in a cowboy marketplace. He touted his IT experience but didn’t update his skills. Instead, he chewed up time charting and analyzing the division’s numbers: a luxury his small company couldn’t afford.

Lesson: Leaders learn their trade by doing as well as by thinking.
4. Courage. Roisden scarcely ever made decisions. Afraid of letting his people steam off in too many directions, he clamped the lid on their boiling ideas. He didn’t trust himself, much less others. With no apparent vision, he enforced the status quo and, as the months rolled by, brought momentum to a halt.

Lesson: You can’t aim forever. At some point, you’ve got to shoot.

5. Charisma. Roisden spent a lifetime overcoming shyness. While he loved to tell stories—and was good at it—he rarely spoke to anyone besides his direct reports, whom he held in interminable meetings. He never talked with customers. He didn’t have the faintest idea how to look at things from his employees’ viewpoint. He had no contact with his peers except when invited to a dinner.

Lesson: Go out there, and be a player.

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Instilling Pride ~ A Key to Eliciting Excellence Tuesday, Aug 10 2010 

by Michael Beck

Eliciting excellence in others is the essence of leadership, and one of the most effective means of eliciting excellence is to instill a sense of pride in those around us.

Instilling pride has a myriad of benefits – quality of work and workmanship improves, creativity and innovation increases, collaboration is facilitated more easily, and people are willing to “go the extra mile” to do their best. A team or department instilled with a sense of pride will excel simply to prove to others that things can be accomplished that are otherwise thought impossible.

Let me illustrate the power of professional pride with two remarkable stories. The first story has to do with the achievement of casting the V-8 automobile engine as a single block. Everyone acknowledged that it couldn’t be done. But Henry Ford was determined, had assembled a great team of engineers, and had instilled a sense of pride in his team. They worked for six full months with no success. Then they continued to work for another six months with no success. But Ford’s determination and his team’s sense of pride prevailed. Over the next months they devised a means of casting a V-8 engine as one block, an innovation that revolutionized the auto industry.

The second story was reported in the magazine Fast Company in August, 2003. Mortgage lender Fannie Mae asked more than 550 employees to bring down, move, and start up more than 300 business applications. They had to unplug, wrap, and box 577 computer servers, lay more than 1.8 million feet of copper cable and 35 miles of fiber. Department employees were asked to do their “day jobs” all week and then throw themselves into this new task over 13 consecutive weekends, pulling all-nighters on Friday evenings — without even the promise of extra pay.

They did it flawlessly, without a single interruption to the company’s business. The leader of the initiative inspired them, fed them, and instilled a great sense of pride in them. She served about 1,600 pounds of chicken wings to her crews for midnight snacking, Friday-night themed dinners, ranging from New England clambakes to down-home southern cooking, and full-blown Saturday morning breakfasts with pancakes, eggs, bacon, and sausage.

The leader who spearheaded this task is one of those relatively rare inspirational leaders who is able to get people to do extraordinary things. She is a pride builder: a leader who instills self-esteem in workers and builds unflagging support for remarkably tough assignments. Drawing the very best out of people is accomplished by making the emotional bond every bit as important as the monetary one.

So just how do we go about instilling pride in people? As always, I suggest using our own experiences as our best example. In thinking back over the things you’ve done in your life, what kinds of accomplishments caused you to feel proud?

Here is a sampling of the kinds of situations and accomplishments that may have caused you to feel proud:

* Being part of a winning team
* Accomplishing the unlikely
* Being better than the competition
* Doing something successfully for the first time
* Accomplishing something difficult

Having reflected on the kinds of situations and achievements that create a sense of pride in people, let’s examine how to create those opportunities within our organization. The two most impactful means lie with establishing an appropriate culture and effectively developing people.

Creating a strong, positive organizational culture will attract and retain the right people – people who will be loyal, who will take pride in their work, and who will put forth their best. This culture may be one of success, of excellence, of innovation, of service, or of achievement.

How does one go about establishing a culture? It starts with deciding which values you want the organization to be known for. Don’t think of this so much as some written “Mission Statement”, but rather a pervasive atmosphere that takes hold. It will define the organization. When someone is considered for employment, they “get” what the culture is. When decisions are made, the culture is used as a yardstick. When promotions are run, when work is evaluated, and when marketing collateral is created, they each reflect the culture. This culture will permeate the organization, and people will either identify with it or will move on to other opportunities. The consequence of identifying with this culture – this “thing” that sets them apart from everyone else – will instill a sense of pride and a sort of esprit de corps.

The result, of course, is that an organization filled with people proud of the work they do and the company they work for will put forth their best.

The other means of instilling pride and thereby eliciting excellence lies in how we go about developing people. By constructively helping people stretch beyond their current abilities, knowledge, and/or level of self-confidence, we help them become more valuable to the organization and to themselves. We create the opportunity to allow them to learn new skills they never had, to achieve things they never felt they could, and to feel a renewed sense of accomplishment. Not only does properly developing people achieve all that, but by our very belief and trust in them, it causes them to become more loyal, more responsive, and more willing to accept additional challenges. In short, our efforts cause a sense of pride to blossom in the individual, which in turn, translates into excellence of effort.

In conclusion, creating a sense of pride within the people in your organization and within the organization itself will ultimately elicit excellence. The ways in which this gets accomplished are through establishing a culture of excellence and through taking advantage of every opportunity to develop people. Incorporating these two strategies into your leadership style will yield excellent results and establish you as an effective leader.

Executive Meeting Etiquette – 7 Tips to Help You Shine Monday, Aug 9 2010 

by Collette Carlson

1. Respond: If you’ve been invited to a meeting or a function, don’t wait until the last minute to let organizers know if you’re attending. If you have to cancel at the last minute, call and apologize.

2. Prepare: Always have an agenda ready. Do your homework. Who will be there? What will be discussed? What items might you need for the meeting? Bring your own daily planner so you know your availability, if necessary. If this meeting is outside your office, pack plenty of business cards, arrive ahead of time and bring your client’s phone number in case you’re delayed.

3. Meet hand-to-hand and eye-to-eye: Give a firm handshake regardless if you’re being introduced to male or female colleagues. In addition, maintain eye contact now and during the meeting. When someone is speaking directly to you, looking away is considered rude. If writing notes, glance up often to show your interest and respect.

You’ll be amazed at how effective business etiquette is at getting you out of sticky situations. Mastering Business Etiquette helps you eliminate doubt and uncertainty by explaining what is expected of you in practically every situation. Get your business etiquette guide here…
4. Get down: Make sure you sit someplace where you’ll be noticed and easily recognized. Now would be the time to present those extra business cards you packed. You can place them directly in front of you, or hand them out. If someone reciprocates, do not put his or her card immediately into your pocket. Give the person the courtesy of looking it over.

5. Get up: If you’re being introduced to a newcomer to the meeting, or someone who had been at the other end of the room, stand back up, shake the person’s hand, smile and give him or her direct eye contact.

6. Zip up: When someone else is speaking, keep your lips zipped until he or she finishes. You know this, but do you consistently play by this rule? If you simply can’t control yourself, catch yourself and say, “Forgive me, please continue.”

7. Write: When you return to your office, write down the general gist of the meeting – who said or did what. Did you make any promises to anyone? Follow through to avoid looking like a flake! Even though you thanked the organizer in person before leaving, follow up by sending a thank-you note.

It really is all about how you present yourself. Self-promotion is key in moving up the business ladder, and manners never go out of style.

Business Management Daily. More Business Etiquette Tips

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