My Great Pumpkin Lesson

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I carved a pumpkin for the first time in my life Sunday.  Truly, I never had before.

My young son was feeling sad that he had not yet carved a pumpkin this year with Halloween being right around the corner and all.   He’d carved pumpkins with his mother before, but he wanted to carve one with me.

I was a little nervous about it.  I know that sounds silly.  My son said, “Daddy, it’s easy, you can do it.”

It is something many or perhaps most other people have done.  I never have.  No real reason I guess;  I grew up in the city and maybe that has played a part but I’m also not an artist and it sure looks like it would take one to make a pumpkin look any good.

“I’ll draw the face on the pumpkin for you, Daddy.”  He said.

I worried about the knives but he said, “Don’t worry, I’ll take the little one and you can use the big one.”

I honestly (and please don’t laugh too loud) never thought to think what was in a pumpkin and how making it hollow or carving it out must be something that is hard to do.  “It’s full of squishy seeds and stuff and we need a bowl to put it in…” he said.  He was right; it wasn’t as solid I thought it would be.

We cut and scooped out the pumpkin.  “You do this section Daddy, you are stronger, scrape it all out.”

And then… Oh…what a face he drew!

I carved and sculpted and shaped the face.  “Careful not to push on the holes while you carve the other holes” he said.  Great advice.

I had so much fun.  I loved it.  It looks really cool and very scary.   “You did a great job Daddy.” He said.   I was all smiles.

Something about carving this pumpkin meant more to me than I expected.

I thought what a great teacher my son is.  He eased my fears and took control when he needed to.  He helped me through all the tough parts and even praised me.  But in the end gave me something so much more wonderful that I did not readily see it.

He was, in the carving of this pumpkin, being the teacher to me that I want to be, for him.

Later that day on the long ride back to his mother’s house, he put his hand in mine and said “Thanks for carving my pumpkin with me Daddy.”

No son, thank you.

Till next time,

Grow the Business.

Mark

Post originally published October 2010

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Hear Them Play

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Stereo

I didn’t  expect to break down.  Heck, I didn’t expect anything.

Last Wednesday, I had just walked in the door after work with bag in tow and sunglasses too dark for the basement door I entered through, and saw my son standing next to the old stereo.

“I fixed it” he said.  And he gently put the needle down and a vinyl album began to play.

And I lost it.

I’m not a hugger.  I’m not a crier.   But I remember that stereo.  I remember that sound!  So I did both hug and cry; hanging on to my 17 year old confused and somewhat concerned son.  I held on for a good 2 minutes.  He’s way taller than me and it must have been quite a sight at 6 O’clock at night on a Wednesday in the basement.

That stereo has been sitting in my basement for over a year.  It is more than 50 years old and was my mom’s, who passed away three years ago.   And it was glorious.  I remember it being just about as tall as me though it is not more than 3 feet off the ground.  I remember the music it sang: the operas, the arias, even country and western music and Anne Murray at Christmas.  I remember it all.

But I didn’t quite remember it all like that till I heard it play standing there in that basement last week.     The sound, the crackle of the hi – fidelity speakers, the soft dance and hum of the needle on the record.  It all came back.   And it was too much.  But it was not sadness that made me cry.  It was happiness.  To hear that sound again, to look at that stereo in awe and wonder again like I did as a kid.  To remember in a flash how much time I spent with that stereo through grade school and high school.  It was a good thing to feel.  Wonderful, actually.

I got to thinking about the things we hold on to.  I got to thinking maybe just holding onto things isn’t enough.

I wonder if that old hand carved cribbage board from grandpa needs to be taken from the mantle and put front in center for Friday night game night.   I wonder if that 8 mm camera with the black and white family films needs to be carefully and gently opened and then played for all to see.  I wonder if the dusty photo albums that never get looked at unless someone dies needs to get hoisted out of the crawl space and spread out across the kitchen table offering a backdrop to some great storytelling.

I got to thinking about things we hold onto at work.  I got to thinking maybe just holding on to things there isn’t enough either.

I wonder about that book you’ve had since you were first promoted and that you keep carrying with you from space to space; perhaps that book needs to be pried open and read again as it must have some gems.  I wonder about that dear and trusted relationship with a mentor you always remember fondly, if that needs a rekindling with a phone call or a joyful visit.   I wonder if those memories of the greatest successes you’ve had, faded though they may be, may need your undisturbed and thoughtful review for they have most certainly left lessons worthy to play again.

I’m not sure my son completely understands what happened to his father last week.   I’m not sure I do either.  I know this now for sure;

It’s nice to hold on to things but it’s magnificent to hear them play.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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The Luckiest Man In The World

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I’ve said that every year I’ll republish this post on this date.  How can I not?    Nothing’s changed in the last 5 years except for just one thing;  I feel even luckier.   Happy Anniversary Susan.

 

The Luckiest Man In The World

I admit I’m not an expert on marriage and have the track record to prove it.   But my guess is that you’ll be alright if

You marry someone who feels it is more important to be there for others who have less or are in need, than to be there for everyone.

You marry someone who works hard, never misses a day, and defines her performance only by the happiness of her customers.

You marry someone who when she first met your child of 6 years old, knelt down, looked at him eye to eye, said hello and then gave him a big hug.

You marry someone who loves with all her heart, the movies from the 30’s and 40’s because they always have happy endings.

You marry someone who cries tears of joy almost daily just upon hearing that a total stranger had a baby or if she happens to she see two toddlers walking, holding hands.

You marry someone, a single mother who from her teenage years has raised a beautiful person in her daughter with the crazy belief that “I want to raise her not to be like me”.

Susan, your daughter is just like you and it is the greatest gift you have given her.  My son has known you nearly half of his life and I swear, he loves you as much as I do.

Saturday, I get to marry you.

I think we are going to be more than alright.  It’s a trite statement but there is a reason someone came up with it.  Now, I know.

I am the luckiest man in the world.

****

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Originally published June 9th, 2009

Bailey

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Bailey

Life got in the way of today’s post.

The beautiful lady you see here, her name is Bailey.   And this picture was taken by her Dad (my brother) at the beach yesterday afternoon which is her favorite place to be.

Bailey’s struggle is becoming more than she can bear and her suffering ends today.

I see the saddened emails, texts and even tears from the aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and friends this week who know this day is coming.  Bailey has been a part of so many people for so many years.

But we can’t really imagine how hard this is for our brother James.   Please know we love you and are there for you.

It’s cliche and trite to say that Bailey or any loved pet was such a good girl.    But she really was.   Let me share just one thing about her with you.   My brother works in a pretty tough space helping young adults – many who have seen and felt suffering first hand in their young lives.

For years Bailey went to work with him every day and those young people loved her.   She greeted everyone equally.  She never judged or intimidated or abused these kids.   She offered some normalcy, someone to hug or to touch or to just sit quietly next to.

Oh were we to be so good as she.

 

Till Next Time,

Mark

Say Something Nice (& 3 Ways To Do It)

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Say Something Nice ( & 3 Ways To Do It)

 

Your mother was right about having something nice to say.  Especially if your clients are businesses.

 

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Scrabble

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You can call it volunteering if you want but I just call it “an old fashioned whoopin’ that keeps on giving”

It’s true I’ve been known to head to the local Sr. Center and um… volunteer to play scrabble with some of the folks that hang out there.   My objective is twofold:  give of my time and talent to these wonderful folks and of course, to win.

Scrabble is a great game. It’s a great game for anyone.  It keeps the mind sharp.

Let’s all agree to that helping drive interest in the playing of Scrabble is a good thing – especially at a Senior Center.  Let me make an argument that it’s even better when I do it.   Scrabble in my hands for a mere hour a week, is a series of important life lessons for all of us.

  • Losing never gets old.  Chances are overwhelming that you will lose to me.  (Ok, well 2 weeks ago was an exception – but I’ve got my eye on you Betsy).  There’s no age when losing should stop.  Life is funny like that; the only time losing stops pretty much is when you’ve given up trying something or are no longer literally getting in the game.  My trouncing you is therefore, good for you.
  • Chi is good, really good.   Chi is a word that means vital internal energy.  Good chi is exactly what you want in your Senior Center and exactly what you want in Scrabble.  With me as your Scrabble guide, you’ll get vitally energized when you learn that you can spell “chi” for immense points in two other ways with just two letters as in “xi” and “qi”.  What fun!  When I did this for 31 points, Kathy shot me a look and then spewed out  two other choice letters tied together that I can’t mention, but nevertheless, this is a teaching moment!  – Teaching never grows old, even if we do.
  • Without rules there’s Chaos.   Just because we may have a little more life experience doesn’t mean rules get lax.  I have a lot of personal rules about Scrabble I think are endearing and truly in the spirit of the game.  One rule is that you should never put down a word that you cannot use in a sentence.   Nancy disagreed when I asked her about “el” and then slammed down her 4 page print-out of acceptable 2 letter Scrabble words and said “That’s stupid-  it’s a word! But to make you happy, how about you shutting the el up?”  Funny now but she’ll think about it later and realize how much I’ve taught her.

This week at my suggestion, we’ve added a Scrabble trophy for the winner of the weekly matches. The winner keeps it for the week, snapping and posting photos of you and your trophy around town.  A nice incentive to work hard every week and improve your game I say.   My Scrabble mates liked the idea but suggested if I win, to take a photo of myself and the trophy at the end of a long walk on a short pier.

Not very nice but chi is xi baby– bring it on!

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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The 4 Best Sales Pick-Up Lines Ever

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The 4 Best Sales Pick Up Lines Ever

 

Want to get a date with your prospect?  Want to see if you make those sparks fly?  Or maybe you want to date your current customer and move into a deeper more satisfying relationship.

Pick up lines work great.

My favorite one in college (worked darn near every time) was when I sauntered up to an unsuspecting attractive young lady at the bar and said   “I can play Lionel Ritchie songs on the piano, you wanna hear some? ”

But I’ve grown and realized that pick-up lines aren’t just for your love life.  They’re for work too.

Here are my top 4

“I know people just like you, in fact I spent the weekend in Vegas with hundreds of them” – This one is always good; you’re smart about their business – you went to a trade show in their industry and bragged about it.  You’ll be fun and a good listener.

“You may not know this, but I’ve been watching you..”.   Creepy?  No, not at all.  You’ve been watching them on social media, maybe read their posts or blogs.  You might have even read their financial reports.  You’re the type that makes people and businesses feel special.  You’re a nice talker, not a stalker.

“I’m learning about the most entrepreneurial and successful people,  do have a minute for me to interview you?” This one is always great.  People like to help people and especially if they can talk about themselves too!  You’re sure to get some time and maybe even for way more than a minute!

“Do you believe in love at first sight or should I show you that again?”   Great line to use In your presentation when you are super proud of your stuff –  your product or your solution.  It is very contagious and attractive to be proud so be proud!  You’ll have prospects fawning all over you.

 

 

 

Till next time,

Truly Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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