Showing posts from 2011

Your Personal Brand - When Are You Ready?

When I was in yeshiva I learned that the Jews only accepted the Torah when "God held the mountain over their (our) heads." Meaning that we were forced.

At the time the Jews said, "Naaseh Venishma," Hebrew for "We will do and we will listen."(Which is sort of a clue - normally you would listen first and then act, but here there is action seemingly without even knowing what one is doing.)

I asked the teacher,  "If we were forced to accept the Torah when what does it mean that we agreed to accept it? There was a mountain over our heads!"

If someone has no choice, then their choice is no choice at all.

Did a little research and found an interesting response by rabbi/computer engineer Mois Navon.

Basically Navon says that the Jews had already accepted God's authority on their own - it was the Torah part they weren't so sure about.

Navon says that just like children have to be forced to do what's right until they are ready on their own, God ini…

How To Let Yourself Succeed In 2012

Branding works pretty much the same whether it's personal or for a product, service, corporation, nonprofit, or government agency. And although there are bells and whistles that make it superficially different from marketing, advertising, PR or reputation-building, there are certain core concepts that never go away. The most important of these is:

Outcomes are what matter. Not intentions.

This occurred to me last night as I ate precisely 2.5 handfuls of chocolate almonds after dinner (no, not 25 but 2.5 is bad enough!) I have resolved about 50 million times not to eat too much at night, and I know that those handfuls probably cost me in the neighborhood of 500-600 calories - and that is after dinner. But all my resolve to "be good" and not overdo it melted in the face of the tempting treat.

If someone like me, who shares success tips all the time, can't keep a simple resolution like eating a lower-calorie dinner, then it's not hard to understand why many people don&…

Excerpt: "An Open Letter To The Beit Shemesh Spitter"

This letter is a response from Aish HaTorah, a Jewish outreach organization, to a hateful lunatic who doesn't know the first thing about God, or Judaism.
"How dare you spit on an 8-year-old schoolgirl and terrorize her as she walks to school? I don't care what she's wearing; spitting, verbal abuse, and threats of violence cannot be tolerated. How dare you call yourself a Hareidi, God-fearing Jew? Your despicable actions are diametrically opposed to Judaism. You are a thug and a hooligan whose conduct, in the words of the statement from Agudath Israel of America "is beyond the bounds of decent, moral – Jewish! – behavior." Extremists in religious garb are not religious. People who live, speak, walk, talk and breathe compassion and fairness are the ones I follow, no matter what they call themselves.
Read the full letter here:

Are You Secure Enough To Handle An Engaged Employee?

A true story:

Recently I did a demo at work on something technical.

The audience was an informal group of staffers who meet once a week to share information, brainstorm, and laugh. Well not expressly to laugh but it doesn't hurt to work with people who have a good sense of humor.

In any case, I hauled out the laptop and connected it to the monitor and started briefing. What is this, why do we need it, what is the proposed solution...

Suddenly out of nowhere one of the people in the meeting, who works in a completely different area, starts talking about a topic related to the demo. The person brings up a technology-related idea that has unbelievable potential for the agency.

Not being a very formal group we want to hear more about the idea now; the demo can wait a minute. Especially since the idea is just as core to the business strategy as the demo. We are charged up!

Now instead of one person being engaged in one thing, another in another thing, and not much movement on either, we have…

10 Tips for New Leaders, Most of Them From a Wise Friend

Image via Wikipedia
Act the part till you feel it is “you.”Have someone in mind to model yourself after.Dress the part – time to go shopping!When someone is hostile – remember it’s not personal; don’t engage at their level; and don’t be afraid to call them out and remind them to be a professional.Remember that you are a leader now, and it's all about approach (not agitating to be heard).Build coalitions and make sure everyone is informed who needs to be.Timing is everything – ride the wave when you have it, and don’t push things when you know they won’t fly.Document how you make key decisions so that you can defend them later; document meetings, conversations, and accomplishments.Ask for input; challenge people to make your concepts better; do small hands-on demos so that they can see what you’re working on and help improve it.Set up regular meetings, make them open but have an agenda, and provide an incentive for people to attend – especially food.Have a great day everyone - and g…

Hit a Nerve, Make a Billion

Image via WikipediaMy friend was telling me the other day about how she sleeps.

It takes 5 pillows, 2 of them under her head, 1 under her knees, and another 2 at her side.

She has to have a certain kind of cover and it has to be just so.

And if there is a single noise in the room she wakes up totally.

My friend told me that she has been married almost 50 years because she has her bed just the way she wants it. And when her husband brought in his computer and other electronic devices, including an alarm clock that projected the time onto the ceiling, she promptly made sure to get rid of them.

The way people sleep is a core issue. It hits a nerve. In a relationship, given all the things there are to compromise on, it can be a bastion of freedom. And so any sleep-related product that both offers better sleep and a unique and personalized experience has an advantage over the competition.

What is brilliant about the Sleep Number Bed is that in promising an individualized experience, the product…

10 Ways To Empower Government Employees In 2012

Image via WikipediaIn 2011 public servants faced the threat of a government shutdown more than once. Though fortunately these were averted, the sensation of having your head on a chopping block (even if temporary) can leave you unsettled and afraid.

It occurred to me that in 2012 we can empower government employees to have more control over their (our) own fates by implementing some structural changes that would promote and reward for productivity and efficiency - facilitating effective government from the inside out.

A few areas where we can do this in a low-cost, high-impact way:

1. Mentoring: Times are changing quickly and employees need to learn to adapt their skills accordingly. An on-the-job buddy at a higher level can be an invaluable asset in retaining good employees and helping them learn the often-subtle skills they need to contribute effectively. And it doesn't cost anything other than time.

2. Technology training: People who do things the old way when there are faster, che…

Why "Midnight in Paris" is Better Than "Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol"

Woody Allen and Tom Cruise are both make profitable movies as expressions of a brand. And that is where the similarity ends.
Gil Pender, a trademark Woody Allen character - confused, harried, lost and unhappy - takes us on an emotionally riveting journey in Midnight in Paris. He goes into the past as he tries to find a way out of the miserable present. We moviegoers collectively "voted" to make it Allen's most profitable movie ever, now reportedly having earned more than $56 million at the box office. Ethan Hunt, a trademark Tom Cruise character - seemingly perfect, playing the role of a hero operating effectively against impossible odds - led Mission Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" to earn almost $59 million just since its release on December 16, 2011. It's only been about a week and a half, so we can expect it to bring in a lot more. Woody Allen and Tom Cruise employ different strategies to promote their brands. I think Woody Allen's is vastly more effective. …

Whatever They Say, Do The Opposite

The Internet is loaded with career advice.

Everywhere you look there are tips on choosing a major, writing a resume, navigating an interview, diplomatic skills, time management, innovation, project management, leadership, strategic thinking, career dressing, moving up the ladder, and on and on and on.

Some of this advice seems like it was written for shock value, although maybe it's a good thing to challenge the conventional wisdom. We hear that we should "First, Break All The Rules" rather than follow them; that we can earn a full-time income in a "4-Hour Workweek" and not over 40 hours; and even that "Unhappiness is good for you."

With all this advice, you would think that all of us would be rich and famous. Yet the opposite is true. Why are so few people able to advance the way they want to? Lots of things get in the way: health issues, relationship issues, and in the workplace, organizational culture, interpersonal dynamics, power politics, sexism/ra…

Fake Friends & The Fallacy Of An Infinite Social Network

We often hear that you boost your chances of professional success by increasing your network of contacts.
This is true, but only partially.
The goal is to be connected to as many of the right people as possible.
So you do want a lot of people who know you, or know of you, sufficiently to say,
"This person is indeed a credible expert in their field."
You grow this social network through participating in live and online communities oriented toward the subject matter that you wish to gain professional recognition in. In this respect, the quantity of people who are aware of, and respect, your work is indicative of the quality of your expertise.
Your professional network is somewhat superficial and very focused on work. It is important. But even more important is the inner ring. These are the people who know you, love you, and genuinely like you (love and like are not the same thing), and who support you regardless of what professional goals you have.
In short, your inner circle con…

Look around you this Christmas and help someone out

Five minute walk to work, five homeless and hungry people. One dumpster-diving for food.

Enjoy family, friends and gifts this holiday, and the special joy of giving something back.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe gave everyone who visited him a dollar. Imagine what would happen if we all looked for people to visit, and then did the same.

Three Ingredients, One Great Leader

Many people have one or two of these but only those with all three can rise to the top:
A vision of the desired future that is so clear and focused you can see it in your mind's eyeAn incredible determination to see that vision achievedAn emotional connection with the people who must build the new futureWhen leaders put this recipe into action the results are amazing:
Ronald Reagan restored this country to greatnessHoward Schultz built a place of relaxation for the world communityJoel Osteen is helping people find hope and positivity despite life's daunting challenges
Oprah Winfrey helped the wounded child in all of us rediscover strength and powerSecretary of State Hillary Clinton is empowering women around the worldFirst Lady Michelle Obama is reforming our nation's eating habits with nutrition and fitness a prioritySarah Palin and Michelle Bachman are changing our image of female leadership toward a more holistic view that embraces femininity rather than repudiating it

5 Personal Branding Tips From My Sister (The Life Coach)

Heading into 2012, you have the power to change your life and your career. Here's how, courtesy of life coach Cheryl (Sarah) Herbsman, a.k.a. my sister:

#1: Visualize a person who possesses the characteristics you want. You can't change your image unless you replace it with another one.

#2: Develop a phrase that you repeat over and over again, morning and night. You have to train your brain.

#3: Remind yourself that the person you were in the past, is also someone else's idea of who you should be. Your inner self has no limits and you can be whoever you want.

#4: Keep a journal of your feelings during this time. One entry a day is fine.

#5: Do something special to treat yourself during this time of change. You are worth it!

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!

Abusive Subway Customer, We Saw You

Beautiful Christmas tunes were playing in the background and there was nobody but her on the line.

She stood ahead of us. We stood behind and waited to place our order. I assumed it would be quick.

The first sign of trouble involved the bread. "That bread looks hard," she said. "Is that fresh?"

The woman serving her was a native Spanish speaker and stood there for a moment. She waited to be told what to do.

"Get me the other one," said the customer, gesturing at the bread case. "God!"

The customer ordered something involving meat and cheese. This is always of special interest to me as meat + cheese is forbidden fruit to people who keep kosher.

The server put the meat on the bread and the bread somehow tore. She continued to pile on the sandwich ingredients the customer requested.

"Do you see that that bread is TORN?" said the customer. "What is WRONG with you? Are you NEW?"

The server looked up and said nothing.

"Replace that bre…

Chanukah, Freedom, Gratitude

Thanking God for the abundant blessings we enjoy here in America.
Among the most important - FREEDOM.

May we use our freedom responsibly. May we help those enslaved - by poverty, dictatorship, or their own limitations - to find a way up and out.

The joy of freedom is amazingly real to me today, this first night of Chanukah.

Ask A Comedian How To Spearhead Innovation

There is something about Robin Williams that scares the hell out of me. It's that genius-cracked-up thing: The same genes that give him brilliance also make him willing to be just a little bit crazy.

Yet there are two kinds of crazy, the bad and the good. Bad crazy is when you're out of touch with reality and don't realize it. Good crazy is when you realize it and are willing to play.

When I was a kid it was with trepidation that I watched Mork & Mindy on TV. If you don't remember it, the show was a sitcom about an alien ("Mork"/Robin Williams) from another planet ("Ork") who comes to earth in a giant egg and lives with/falls in love with/eventually marries a very "normal" lady, "Mindy."

"Normal" meaning she thinks inside the box. She doesn't even know that there is one.

Like I say, Williams in character scared me. He was And yet I was compelled to watch. There was something about …

Horrible Frustration + Instant Gratification: It Works Every Time (Marketing Technology)

You know how sometimes you can't get the lid off a jar?

It's stuck, so you run hot water over it, put rubber gloves on, hit it with a metal spoon, twist and yank it until finally the lid pops off. Sometimes the liquid in the jar explodes over its lip, and you jump back. You might even drop the jar because it's so exciting to see that it finally opened. And then it falls off the counter and shatters into a million pieces. Which is sort of sad, since not only can't you eat what's in the jar but it's a real pain to have to pick up all those glass pieces.

In any case, yesterday I finally popped the lid off a technology jar at work. Actually a few of them. Considering all the projects involved, the combined effort was more than five years of work. It was like boom - boom - boom, one problem solved; then another; then another; then another. By the end of the day three people had seen it and they were suitably shocked and awed.

I had an epiphany:

The magic formula for ge…

Are you addicted to the problem?

Old joke --

Father: "Why are you banging your head against the wall?"

Son: "Because it feels so good when I stop."

Are most of us really so different when it comes to solving our problems? We actually create them and then we spend our lives flailing around trying to make them go away. In the end we are like Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" - realizing we could have just clicked our glittery red shoes together instead of making such an arduous and dangerous trip.

It's not a new idea that we subconsciously seek out interactions that will force us to confront our own problems. I wish I had a dollar for every psychologist who put their kids through med school on the frustrations of clients who seek out the same kind of painful and often impossible relationships again and again. The person "can't get it through their head" that if you play with your own particular type of fire you are more than likely to get burnt. They do it again and again, try t…

10 Things Bosses Appreciate That You May Overlook

1. Look for ways to add value instead of waiting to be asked.

2. Stay out of the way unless you are needed. Bosses are busy.

3. Work with other people to resolve issues that will affect implementation of an idea before you present it.

4. Ask how they are doing sincerely, not just to score points.

5. Bring them a fully packaged brief but leave room for them to customize it their way for later presentation.

6. Volunteer for crappy stuff that nobody wants to do.

7. Refuse at all costs to participate in miserable negative talk that just drags everybody down.

8. Dress more formally than you think you have to.

9. Take notes in meetings where your boss is present and provide them afterward as a courtesy.

10. Follow up on conversations where a next step is needed - do not wait for them to ask you.


Image via Flickr, courtesy of thebarrowboy

Uncontrollable, Yet Predictable

Brand like a tree lives. It has the appearance of bending and stretching in all directions, suddenly sprouting leaves, decaying and then starting again.

I love looking at trees because they are naturally beautiful. It doesn't hurt that they remind me how to brand.

Brand Yourself for the Cost of a Paper Plate

The concept of a "brand bubble" is not new. It's a way to categorize consumers based on the types of brands they like and buy.

This morning it occurred to me that you could do your own little "brand bubble" test as a 5-minute exercise in self-discovery. I took a paper plate and scribbled all the brands I could think of that are "me."

The ones I feel strongly about are circled.

Note that "steak" is among my brands. It's not a brand name, but it just really seems to me that we carnivores are in a class by ourselves.

So I'm a Starbucks-drinkin', Merrell-wearing, Madonna-admiring, Lubavitcher Rebbe/Dalai Lama/Joel Osteen watching, Penelope-Trunk reading person who relates to VW but dreams in Christian Dior.

Who are you?

Finding out can save you lots of time, effort and money.

"Invented Occupation" vs. "Invented People"

Yesterday, Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich made a statement regarding the Palestinian people that is factually true, but politically controversial, as follows:
"Remember, there was no Palestine as a state — (it was) part of the Ottoman Empire. I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community and they had the chance to go many places." - Newt Gingrich to The Jewish Channel, as quoted in The Daily Mail
Gingrich's choice of words - "an invented people" - put him on the hot seat across the board as commentators agreed that he had missed the mark in terms of political strategy. For while "facts are stubborn things," the reality is that the Palestinian people are now bonded by a shared historical and cultural reality, and the world community, including Israel, accepts that they are a legitimate people. As (conservative) pundit Charles Krauthammer put it on Fox News, "that tr…

10 Professional Secrets for a Friday

Is it me or is this holiday season even more crazed than usual? I heard recently that someone did a study of consumer vacation habits, and people are taking less time than they are entitled to, probably to keep their jobs but also possibly because when you go away there is just that much more stuff waiting for you when you get back.

In any case, my to-do list isn’t any shorter and there continues to be a need to be as effective or more effective with less time, less money, and frankly less attention from others who might have input on projects, because they are so busy with the overload of items on their plates.

So here are a few tips that have been working for me, most of them recently discovered. I hope they are helpful to you as well:

1. Let your RSS feeds do the social media for you. Don’t be scared of the acronym “RSS,” which sounds horrendous and should have been called “Microphone” or something. It just means that you put good content out on the web (short bursts, easy to read), f…

Idea: Run The Election As Reality TV

Watching Donald Trump talking politics last night (“Why didn’t Obama call me? I would’ve helped him out”) I had an epiphany: We should run the next election like a reality TV show – slash – competition. Imagine how great that would be, on so many levels.
First, a reality TV campaign would truly reflect American popular culture and values. Think about the amazing popularity of these shows: Celebrity Apprentice, The Biggest Loser, Ultimate Fighting Championship, Big Brother, Survivor, Dancing With The Stars, The X Factor, American Idol, and so on. All have the most American of principles in common:
1)Level Playing Field: Have the contestants complete common challenges 2)Humanism: Interview them to let us know who they are 3)Transparency: Follow them around so we can see how they act relatively unscripted 4)Meritocracy: Have an expert panel of judges to critique their performance 5)Democracy: Ultimately, let the people decide! Second, a reality TV election would replace so much negativity with …

Blogging Is Dead? Far From It!

Thanks to blogs + Google Reader + iPhone, lines in the store no longer phase me, ever. I can flip through any number of subscriptions quickly, change them up on the fly, and find out what's going on. Amazing.Over the past few years I've discovered all kinds of useful feeds - ranging from news, to technology, to government and politics, feminism , spirituality and commentary on the Jewish faith. Mostly they're the voices of bloggers. Strong, opinionated voices. Usually not selling anything, but they do promote a point of view and a product when it's useful. One thing I've noticed is that blogs are a lot more interesting than the mainstream news media. To be blunt, this is because they're honest. You know who's talking, you get that they have a definite point of view, you see the same research they see, because they post it (usually, unless they've promised confidentiality.) When there was only "regular" news it was intimidating to challenge wha…