There is something to be said for teachers, regardless of your point of view on Unions.

March 15, 2011

With everything going on in Wisconsin these days it’s been pretty interesting to hear the relative discussion of people in public places. I’ve heard some pretty amazing things over the past several weeks (least of which was the young woman who asked if Scott Walker was the governor of Minocqua, but that’s another story). The amount of misinformation and simple lack of information is incredible. This has led to some amazing rumors, theories and conjecture. In the midst of all this “noise” there is a gaping hole in the conversation when it comes to Wisconsin’s teachers. This hole is any discussion about what teachers do for our children. For those of us with children in public schools there is a simple fact: teachers spend as much, if not more, waking hours during the week with our children than we do. It’s simple math. Given the above fact we need to step back and consider what these individuals are going through. It’s no different than what many of us have gone through. Not knowing if we’ll have a job, not knowing how much of our pay will be cut, not knowing what our healthcare will look like, not knowing what kind of career we’ll have in the future. The list of fears and uncertainty goes on and on. Maybe we could stop just for a moment and ask ourselves one simple question: “have I thanked my child’s teacher for taking care of one of, if not the, most important thing in my life?” The system that created our current situation has many areas we can lay blame. Everyone, I’m sure, can agree upon that. However, we cannot forget to see the proverbial forest through the trees. There are many outstanding teachers in our schools. We want to keep these people in our communities. Great teachers lead to great students, great students grow up to be great people and great people do outstanding things for our community. This is what we want for our children. We’re all digital these days. Take a moment and thank those teachers with an email. Consider thanking them by sending an email to their principal. Everyone wants their boss to know they’re doing a great job. Say thanks when you see them. Let them know the difference they’re making in your child’s life, after all, that’s why they do what they do. A simple thank you is a small price to pay for someone who has a major influence in the life of your child. Drop the debate and be human for a few seconds. To Mrs. Sachs and Mrs. Terrell at Lakeview, thank you. Henry and Stella are better people because of what you do every day.


11 Way to Instill a Love of Reading in Your Child

April 7, 2010

One more way the Audio Visual neophyte can get ripped off…

March 31, 2010
We finally broke down and purchased a flat screen TV and let me tell you the amount of research you could do is endless. I found a great formula for this. Find the highest end electronics store you can. You know, those "non-big-box" places where the people working there actually look like they know what they're talking about. Once you've found one of these stores, find one more and just listen.

What I found is, these people will point you in the right direction. Then determine who you want to give your business to (big box, small local, internet retailer etc). For us, we did just that, and got the TV that we wanted (clearly not the TV we needed, I mean, who really needs a 50" television).

Now, we've got this TV all picked out and here comes another piece of the puzzle I had not considered… how to hook it up. Now keep in mind, I'm coming from a 10 year old tube television, no cable TV and VHS player point of view. So the guy says to me, do you need any HDMI cables? My response was, um, I dunno? Not a great response to say the least. So he asked what I would be hooking up to the TV and I mentioned we have a Wii, xbox 360 and a VHS – DVD combo. Again, I get a smirk from the guy when I hit the VHS-DVD combo piece. 

So the salesman points me to a cheap ($40) HDMI cable and says "if you were going to be hooking up a blue-ray player, I would recommend this cable." "This Cable" was a Monster HDMI super-turbo might even do your dishes cable and it cost a bundle. Needless to say, I bought the $40 cable.

Now today, I run across this little article from lifehacker and, once again, I feel like I was taken for a ride. The moral, you're gonna get taken one way or the other, just hope that when you do, it's at a minimal cost to you.

Health insurance Q&A

March 30, 2010

Here’s how you might be affected:

I don’t have health insurance. Will I have to get it, and what happens if I don’t?

Under the legislation, most Americans will have to have insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. The penalty would start at $95, or up to 1% of income, whichever is greater, and rise to $695, or 2.5% of income, by 2016. This is an individual limit; families have a limit of $2,085. Some people can be exempted from the insurance requirement, called an individual mandate, because of financial hardship or religious beliefs or if they are American Indians, for example.

I want health insurance, but I can’t afford it. What do I do?

Depending on your income, you might be eligible for Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor and disabled, which will be expanded sharply beginning in 2014. Low-income adults, including those without children, will be eligible as long as their incomes didn’t exceed 133% of the federal poverty level, or $14,404 for individuals and $29,326 for a family of four, according to current poverty guidelines.

What if I make too much for Medicaid but still can’t afford coverage?

You might be eligible for government subsidies to help you pay for private insurance that would be sold in the new state-based insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, slated to begin operation in 2014.

Premium subsidies will be available for individuals and families with incomes between 133% and 400% of the poverty level, or $14,404 to $43,320 for individuals and $29,326 to $88,200 for a family of four.

The subsidies will be on a sliding scale. For example, a family of four earning 150% of the poverty level, or $33,075 a year, will have to pay 4% of its income, or $1,323 annually, on premiums. A family with income of 400% of the poverty level will have to pay 9.5%, or $8,379.

In addition, if your income is below 400% of the poverty level, your out-of-pocket health expenses will be limited.

How will the legislation affect the kind of insurance I can buy? Will it make it easier for me to get coverage, even if I have health problems?

Probably one of the most simple Q&A’s on healthcare reform I have seen. Don’t let the LA Times heading scare you. The article was written by the independent Kaiser Health Group (although, is anyone really independent on this issue)?

12 Types of Cell Phone Users That Drive Us Nuts – – Business Technology Leadership

March 12, 2010

12 Types of Cell Phone Users That Drive Us Nuts

Maybe you’ve seen Bluetooth Johnson, the bathroom texter or Han Solo, a.k.a, the holster master, in action. But hopefully, you don’t see any of these 12 annoying cell phone characters when you look in the mirror.

By Al Sacco

Mobile phones have become unquestionably valuable tools, yet our devices can literally transform us into some pretty darn strange characters—often without our knowledge.

You’ve seen the type: Average Joes who seem unable to remove their Bluetooth headsets; gaggles of giggly high-school girls who only communicate via text, even if they’re standing right next to each other; businessmen who appear to have eyes on the tops of their heads, as they effortlessly glide throve droves of people without ever looking up from a BlackBerry; the list goes on&just check out the slides below.

Then take a good look in the mirror. Do you fall into one of these categories? Remember, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

(Note: You may notice that my cell phone stereotypes are mostly male. All I can say: Good for you, ladies.)

Bluetooth Guy, a.k.a., “Bluetooth Johnson”

You know him, you (just may) love him, the dude who thinks a Bluetooth headset is the single most important accessory an individual can wear to spruce up everyday attire. Walking down the street, sitting on the bus, in the mall and everywhere else, this guy is sporting his Bluetooth ear-piece—and he wants you to know it. I’m all for using Bluetooth headsets while driving—safety first—but please, Mr. Johnson, you’re only hurting yourself in the long run by rocking that silly thing while walking your Pomeranian. We’re not laughing with you.


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Drucker’s Question: What Will You Do Differently on Monday? – The Conversation – Harvard Business Review

February 15, 2010

Over the course of his long career, Peter Drucker headlined countless conferences and huddled with untold groups of executives %u2014 corporate chiefs, nonprofit leaders, and government officials who hung on his every word. But he would have been the first to question whether any of these gatherings amounted to much in the end. “One either meets or one works,” Drucker wrote %u2014 an observation that seems particularly timely following last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “One cannot do both at the same time.”

It was with this in mind, perhaps, that Drucker liked to challenge his consulting clients: “Don’t tell me you had a wonderful meeting with me. “Tell me what you’re going to do on Monday that’s different.”

The Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University, which I run, hosted a CEO Forum last October with about 30 participants from the business world, social sector, and academic community. And from the beginning, we were determined to make sure that the event reflected Drucker’s steadfast desire to turn ideas into action.

The forum %u2014 which revolved around former Procter & Gamble Chairman A.G. Lafley’s HBR piece “What Only the CEO Can Do” %u2014 generated a host of fascinating insights into four areas: shaping the values and standards of organizations; defining and interpreting “the meaningful outside”; determining which business you’re in %u2014 and which you’re not; and balancing yield in the present with investments in the future.

In an earlier blog posting, HBR’s Ellen Peebles noted the tremendous level of passion on display at the session, especially around the issue of social responsibility. For those of us at the Drucker Institute, though, the ultimate question was: Did any of the participants actually make good on Lafley’s repeated reminders to follow Drucker’s do-something-on-Monday dictum?

The short answer: Absolutely.

While we didn’t attempt to conduct a scientific survey, my colleagues and I were thrilled to discover that all four of those we contacted %u2014 Costco CEO Jim Sinegal, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren, Teach for America CEO Wendy Kopp, and Lafley himself %u2014 had, in fact, gone out and done something different because of what they’d heard at the forum.

Lafley, for instance, was inspired by the discussion in Claremont to review P&G’s capital spending and product commercialization plans to ensure that the company was investing appropriately in its mid- and long-term growth. In addition, he committed to monthly talent reviews to make certain that P&G is developing the leaders it needs for the future.

Meanwhile, Sinegal drew on the forum’s exploration of corporate values to think through a pay raise for the bulk of his company’s frontline workers. “Because of the downturn, our employees are having a tough time,” he says. “They deserve a pay increase. Even though it would be painful as a retail business at this moment to approve one, the unfair thing would be not to give them an increase.”

As Sinegal explains it, most of the conversation he had on the matter with Costco’s executive committee revolved around the size of the boost. “At one point, a person in the meeting stopped and said, ‘That says something about our culture right there. All our attention is not on the question of whether to approve an increase, but on how big it should be.'”

Kopp, for her part, also zeroed in on culture. Inspired by a McKinsey & Co. program described at the forum by the firm’s former managing director, Rajat Gupta, Teach for America has now embarked on a formal effort to convert its core values into practice among a new generation of managers. Says Kopp: “We are engaging our whole organization in reflecting on what about our current values is most crucial to succeeding in our long-term plan; what the unintended consequences of our values might be; and what other core principles might be missing that might be important.”

As for Lundgren, he came out of the forum focused more than ever on Macy’s customers. “I need to shift my time and attention to really put a significant amount of my energy and words and visibility behind becoming the ‘chief customer officer’ of the company,” he says. “Whatever we’ve done in providing customer service has been adequate, but not differentiating. We need customer service to be our differentiator.” In recent weeks, Lundgren has visited Macy’s stores in more than two dozen cities to spread this new customer-is-king gospel.

So, how about you? What’s the best idea that you ever took away from a conference or symposium that you actually acted upon? What’s your Monday moment?

Rick Wartzman ( is the executive director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University. He writes “The Drucker Difference” column for BusinessWeek online.

In our working world filled with meeting after meeting we have to ask ourselves this classic question. Maybe the poeple setting up the meetings need to ask themselves “what do I want my audience to different Monday morning/”

Surprised that childhood obesity is a problem?

January 22, 2010
I've been "chewing" on this one for awhile now. 

My son Henry started kindergarten this year. It's a big time for us, first kid in full time school. After Henry's first few weeks in school he discovered this thing called hot lunch. It was our first experience with "all the other kids get too…" Not where I want to be with a Kindergärtner.

So Becky and I told Henry that he could start doing the hot lunch thing. We purchased one of the hot lunch cards and told him that he could pick one day out of the week to take the hot lunch at school. The wonder of the internet and "school transparency" allowed us to have a look at the ol' hot lunch menu and what do you know, they even include nutritional information on the menu! 

Head over to our lovely school menu to have a look for yourself because I'm guessing you won't believe me when I say that there are meals on this menu that are in excess of 800 calories. Let me put that into perspective for you. An average male adult caloric intake should be 2700 calories, for women it's around 2000. For children around Henry's age, the average caloric intake is supposed to be around 1400 (per the american heart association's dietary recommendations for children).

So one meal off of the school's hot lunch program could be in excess of half of a child's daily caloric intake! And we wonder why kids these days have weight problems? It just seems wrong to me. 

The above noted, I have to admit I tend to be more of an optimist. At least our friends at Aramark provided us with the menu. Now we can, at the very least, guide Henry to the "better" food choices on the list.

On a side note, I find it rather humorous that on Aramark's webpage for "social responsibility" they have a statement there that reads "Together we are enriching lives everyday." Wonder what their definition of "enrichment" is…


1,000 True Fans – Worth the Time Spent Reading

December 29, 2009

I ran across the article 1,000 True Fans in the usual "random reading around the web" type of a way. I was reading the manager-tools blog post on optimization, which led me to this video by Tim Ferris where he mentioned said article.

Now if I can only find something 1,000 people would be willing to pay for…

What Does it Take to be Disciplined?

December 27, 2009

Going through the holidays I find myself wondering about self-discipline. How do people who are extremely disciplined do it? How do they manage to walk past all of those holiday goodies and not simply eat, eat, eat? I for one throw discipline out the window at this time of year, as it relates to nutrition that is.

All of this sugar induced (glucose induced coma to be precise) pondering led me to a simple conclusion. I think we need to be selectively disciplined. Giving ourselves the freedom to choose where and when we want to exert our disciplined selves. Now, you could argue that this could lead down the slippery slope of not being disciplined at anything (after all we can, and often do, select to not be disciplined about anything) and that is the crux of the situation. The ultimate discipline is being able to choose when to "let loose" and then "getting back on track." Knowing yourself and and your boundaries are critical pieces in maintaining the discipline you need to be successful.

It's an amazing situation, really. I've found myself there on many occasions. I'll go for several months of being disciplined working out at the gym. I'll make it there 3,4 or even 5 times a week. Even if it means I have to be there at 4:45 am. Then, I'll miss a day due to work, or injury. I'll rationalize (which, at the time makes pretty good sense) why I can't go. Then I start to think: "sleeping in past 4:45 am feels pretty nice." So I'll miss a few more days. For me, after 3-4 days have gone by I start to feel really crummy. That's when I know I let things get out of hand and I need to get back to the gym.

This same situation holds true professionally. I'll be very disciplined with some project, keeping track of and nailing down every last detail to make sure things run extremely smoothly. I'll  be disciplined about my workdays. Only taking specific breaks that I've set for myself, not wondering off onto the internet or wasting time doing something that really isn't helping me get things done. Then it will happen, I'll hit a rut, get into a funk and I'll start to lose that discipline. I'll find myself tweaking the fringes of my personal organization system (yeah, that's a problem for me, I have issues). Or I'll choose to randomly wander the internet much longer than I should be based on the work I have to do. It's amazing the random things that can suck time away when you're not being disciplined about what it is you're doing.

All of this rambling brings me to one conclusion. You have to be disciplined about one thing to be successful in whatever your endeavors are. That one thing is knowing yourself and how how to intervene as needed. As an example, I simply ask myself one question: how am I going to feel if I make (fill in the blank) this choice. This question is my crutch, my wakeup question that can make or break my disciplinary habits. 

If I ask this question relative to working out, I generally answer the question by thinking "well, I've eaten nothing but garbage for the last several days, If I don't work out I'm going to feel like crap" so I roll out of bed and go to work out. 

If I ask this question in relation to work: "if I waste 30 minutes reading my favorite blogs I'm going to be behind on my (insert project name) and that will force me to do additional work at night or no the weekend which will take away from my family." So, I walk away from my computer, get a glass of water (to refocus) and get back to work.

Answering your one simple question, and really knowing and staying true to "discipline boundaries" can make all the difference when you're trying to lose that extra weight, get that promotion, learn a new skill, be a better parent or friend or sibling or whatever. 

All of this said, I'm going to step away from my computer, take my dog for a walk and get myself ready for the next round of Holiday gluttony (thank goodness the YMCA is open all day today). Post

December 22, 2009

Here’s a good suggestion for all of the mobile managers out there. File management on the run, with limited resources can be tough!