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Archive for October 2008

Stand up and lead, Part II

Yes, the world has changed. Times have gotten tougher, but so have we. Ten years from now, you will be able to look back on these days and see people you know who emerged with tremendous success because they stepped up and made the significant contributions that helped turn things around. Right now is your greatest moment to see how you can be one of the people who pitched in and made a difference.

But, you have to stop whining about how tough things are, about how much times have changed, about how bad it is out there. I am telling you – this is your moment. This is your greatest opportunity to step forward and demonstrate what you are made of. Your brilliance is needed, so figure out what you have to offer and position yourself to offer it.

There are chain-of-command and office political dynamics that may interfere with your ability to gain position to make a difference, but figure those things out. Make the connections you need to make by being visible, volunteering for extra assignments, and being a positive force with ideas and energy.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you made a conscious decision to get in front of these challenges and be a player?
  • What are your greatest strengths? What can you contribute?
  • Are you viewed as a “go-to” person? If so, are you delivering the goods? If not, what do you need to change?
  • If you were the big boss, what would you change to make the company more successful during tough times?
  • How can you stretch beyond your defined role to take an active role in the solutions process?
  • Do you have access to the people who can help you implement some of the ideas you have?
  • If not, how will you expand your network to include those people?
  • How can you best communicate your thoughts and ideas without being shut down?
  • Are you working hard enough?

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Stand up and lead

I was on an airplane with someone who was in a loop lamenting how much our world has changed since before 9/11. It is true. Before we felt the vulnerability that came from being attacked on our own soil, we lived very different, sheltered lives. Those were the good old days, and we didn’t even know it. In the years since, we have been shaken by betrayals from our government, big business, our banks, insurance companies and more. We used to feel secure, self-assured and protected. Now, most people feel uncertain, fearful and lost.

It is so easy to feel overwhelmed and want life to go back the way it was, but it won’t. It just won’t. The world evolves, times change, people change, and we never get a do-over. Yes, life used to be simpler, and that we didn’t realize how good we had it. But things can always get more challenging, so we should step up and enjoy this moment for what it is.

The greatest leaders in history all emerged during times of strife and adversity, in moments when there was a desperation for someone to stand up and lead. There is so much opportunity right now, but few people see it. Instead, they seek cover, holding onto whatever security they think they have and hoping against reality that things will just work themselves out.

They wait. Somehow, things will get better – they have to – but you have to ask yourself what you are doing to fix things. If your company is struggling, what are you doing that is creative and courageous that will turn things around? If you aren’t stepping up and volunteering ideas and strategies, you remain part of the problem, not the solution. But, to create more success for yourself (and others), you should make a conscious decision to become part of the solution. You can make this decision if you are a senior manager, a junior manager or an entry-level employee. Just look at the situation from where you are and decide to make a contribution that will advance your company and, in the process, your career.

Access: Denied

I don’t know why it happened, but what I am about to tell you is something very disappointing in my life: My username at was de-activated, and it’s been almost six months since I have been able to tweak the arch-conservatives who so predictably spout off their ignorance.

Like, when polls show Obama up, they always write that polls are meaningless and that they are foisted upon us by the mainstream media as a means of forcing the outcome of the election. If McCain is up, they cheer these same pollsters, saying that McCain is doing a fabulous job and hailing Joe the plumber. If McCain goes back down,  what do you expect? It’s all a part of the plot. Every single failing of the Bush Administration is the fault of the Democrats. Every one of them.

Yes, that is allegedly the home to the compassionate conservatives. When Bill Clinton went into heart surgery, they mocked him and wished him dead. Real compassionate. You should have seen their glee over Ted Kennedy’s brain tumor.

Here is what was posted about Obama going to visit his sick grandmother:

“You can yell at me if you want, but I am cynical enough about this guy that I suspect he’s going to milk his sick grandmother for all the sympathy votes he can scrounge up. I’m wondering if this sick grandmother is going to die two days before the election.”

 “Suddenly ill just 3 weeks before the election. Hmmm. Color me skeptical. Maybe she started to talk about the missing birth certificate and somebody shoved something down her throat…”

“Her death would bring him an additional 3% points.”

 Really nice, compassionate people.

You can look at the actual video of news stories where people are quoted in context, but these folks on the website will misquote it and slam it- and call anyone who defends the truth a dumbass.

So, I’d just get on and jab them a little, just to annoy them. Like asking how Christian they were being while wishing people dead. Little remarks like that.

At some point, that website apparently decided I didn’t belong anymore. I’ve communicated with the webmaster several times and have not gotten an explanation.  Could it be that the banner-carrier for the right wing is actually censoring me? I actually find it a little humorous because they can’t take a little ribbing. And forget their belief in the First Amendment.

Whatever.  I’ve got to go read the Huffington Post now.

It makes me want to vent…

I’ve been so disgusted by some of that mob behavior I’ve been seeing on television at political events. We are better than that. Then again, trying to simultaneously paint someone as a terrorist and a socialist is bound to stir up the masses who are looking for a place to vent their anger.

I would like to vent, too. But I am trying to keep my emotions in check. It is getting very hard.

My best friend’s home was burgled two weeks ago and everything was stolen. She can’t get an insurance adjuster to even return her calls. She lives in a nice neighborhood in St. Petersburg where there have been more than 20 burglaries in the last six months. I want to vent about that.

The new tenant I carefully vetted before renting to her bounced one rent check (and has yet to cover it) and was three weeks late with another rent check. Since we are now eleven days from the first of the month, let’s see what the odds are that she will cover the bad check and be on time for November. I want to vet about that.  

The investor who bought the home in front of me sacrificed his house to foreclosure. Granted, he over-leveraged the home – put $150,000 in improvements in it when he bought it, but took so much out of it with equity lines as the market value climbed that he pocketed almost $250,000 for the house he actually lives in. He lost the investment home months ago. I saw him there one week ago, digging out the landscaping for himself. I guess he figures the bank won’t notice.  I want to vent about that, too.

It’s all starting to wear on us. Those of us who pay our bills and don’t over-extend ourselves are the ones getting nailed by having to bail out those whose bad judgment or greed left them unable to pay their bills. It grates on me that I’ll be bailing out people who are living in homes nicer than mine that they couldn’t afford.

I’m afraid that tough times are going to make us lose faith in each other.  

All these burglaries? The police shrug. Bad economy, more crime.

Bounced rent checks? I know. Bad economy. Inflation. Money is tight.

An educated man coming to dig up plants from a yard that is no longer his? Well, that says a lot.

It makes me want to vent.

About my richest friend…

Several weeks ago, I wrote about my close friend, a very rich man who had destroyed his life with alcohol and anger. He was in an intensive care unit, paralyzed with a major brain bleed. At the time, there was a question of life or death. He lived.

But, what he has and what they expect he will always have is not good. His family has been told he will need 24-hour care for the rest of his life. He is paralyzed with very little progress. He can’t communicate much of anything.

How could this have happened? This man was generous, kind, funny and unbelievably successful. But, he had a dark and brutal side that tormented others – and himself. To be honest, I always thought his drinking would kill him. Seeing what is ahead for him, I kind of wish it had. This kind of life is worse than death to him. I saw him a week ago and he was in a nursing home, strapped to a wheelchair, frustrated with his inability to speak and furious that he could not have a drink. At night, they zip him into a bed with a canvas “cage” around it so he won’t try to get up. He’s paralyzed, so he can’t stand or walk. But his arms are strong enough to move him around and cause him to fall out of the bed.

I’m a little shell-shocked after seeing him. We first met in 2003 when he was a student in a nonfiction-writing course I taught at the Maui Writer’s Retreat. He was the millionaire with the attitude, a spry-looking guy who wouldn’t take his sunglasses off. I am not sure if he was trying to act cool or hide something. But, we got a brother-sister banter going and afterwards, he hired me as his personal writing coach. One side of him would charm me crazy. The other side was verbally abusive. There were days when I should have quit, but I didn’t because the money was so good and I didn’t have to live with him. He was just like having a boss that was a real jerk, only he paid me way better.

Beyond that, I loved him very, very much. He’d had a hard childhood, raised in poverty and constantly beaten by an alcoholic father who eventually shot and killed himself. With that in his DNA, it is surprising that my friend was able to become one of America’s most successful businessmen in the era. But, he knew how to rock and roll a sales force and did it with global reach, taking home millions in his paycheck.

This taught me what those millions were worth. They did not buy him peace of mind from his past. He admitted his self-esteem was terrible. He’d try to buy love with money – and that didn’t work. He had so many resources that he couldn’t hit rock bottom. He’d been in rehab four times, but always went back to the bottle.

It is such a dark story, but it really shows how money does not buy happiness. It does not fill your life with meaning. So, just be happy now, while you can. Life is fragile. Love what you have.

I realize this is way too long, but it’s about the greatest man I know

I wish you could know my father. If I had ten dollars for every time someone has told me how wonderful he is, my IRA would be overflowing and I’d have to force myself to retire. He is that special.

My dad came to this country during the Holocaust, the son of a once-wealthy businessman and a very forceful wife who lost everything to the Nazis. They came here with no command of the language, and with my aunt, all four lived in a one-room apartment behind the candy store they ran. This is, perhaps, standard fare for immigrant stories, but since it is my family’s history, it touches me especially deep. Because of that history, my father has demonstrated a determination and compassion that I have never seen in anyone else. He turned those childhood obstacles into a personal mission of success.

chase the download free Dad went into the military, which put him through pharmacy school. After working as a pharmacist for a number of years, he met and married my mother – who was a teacher and a tremendous businesswoman. Together, they built Germer Drug Store in Michigan, which Dad operated until I was 14 years old.

 The store was in a very nice neighborhood that, overnight, became a crime-ridden and dangerous area. He insisted on staying there to service the community, despite repeated hold-ups. I always knew something would happen to him in that store, and when he would call I would often ask, “Is everything okay?” He’d always reassure me. But, one day he called and I asked that question and he just said, “Let me talk to your mother, okay?” I handed her the phone and heard her say, “You’ve been shot?”

It wasn’t a serious injury, but it really shook us up. They’d talked for years about moving to Florida and a year or so later, they made the decision to move. But, Michigan’s economy being what it always seems to be, the store sold and our house didn’t. Dad took a job with a mall drug store while we waited for our house to sell, and I finally felt he was safe. He wasn’t. Two men came into that store with sawed off shotguns and there was a whole chaotic mess that culminated in a front page story and more worries about his safety.

We moved to Florida when I was 15 and never looked back. He would have been 49 at the time. I am so glad we moved back then because a) Florida is great place to live and b) My amazing mother got to enjoy Florida for 16 years before suffering the terrible stroke that paralyzed her at age 66.

Mom’s caregiving needs were substantial, and Dad was the most devoted nurse she could have asked for. He was always there, at the ready, to help her with anything she wanted. He lovingly bathed her and held her and kept her healthy so that she could live in her own home, in comfort and peace.

In 2001, she started showing signs of dementia, which was later diagnosed as Alzheimer’s Disease. Dad insisted on continuing to care for her and it literally destroyed his back to the point where he has had two major back surgeries and countless steroid shots. Nearly four years ago, we had to face the reality that the time had come for her to go to a nursing home.

It was a hard, painful decision. Dad didn’t want to do it, but she needed more care than any one person could safely give – particularly since she was so severely paralyzed. Once she checked into Freedom Village, she felt safe. Dad felt lost.

I don’t know how he will react to my saying that because he has always taken such pride in maintaining composure, but he did change the day Mom left our family home. Dad visits her four times every day. Those are his happiest hours, even when she is completely unresponsive. She is his wife, the love of his life, and theirs is the most enduring relationship I have ever seen.

Throughout all of this, Dad has denied himself so much because he didn’t want to be frolicking while my mom was in a nursing home. If I tried to take him out in my kayak or fishing or anywhere fun, he’d always decline because he believed it would be wrong to do that because of Mom. That is a degree of sacrifice he shouldn’t have made. She wouldn’t have wanted it, but it was his choice.

I noticed his sport jacket the other day and it was tattered and way too worn out for him to be wearing. I told him I was going to take him shopping, and he refused. I mean, refused. Wouldn’t hear of it. But, I am as stubborn as he is and, eventually, I got him to go to Macy’s. I got him a couple of jackets, a few pairs of pants, shirts, etc. He’d emerge from the dressing room with an outfit on and I saw a new life in him. He was proud and vibrant and strong again.


The most selfless man I have ever known was finally enjoying something for himself, and it felt great.

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Why the airlines are not making friends

Well, today I flew US Airways for the first time in a long time. I have gotten used to the fact that the airlines will starve me, regardless of the duration of the flight. Last summer, I flew from Dallas to Anchorage – seven hours in the air – and didn’t get so much as a little bag of peanuts or pretzels. I have been stung by the new rules on baggage where they charge as much as a suitcase costs to check it in. And today? Today was the final indignity.

“Would you like to purchase a beverage?” she asked cheerily.

Purchase a beverage? No, I wouldn’t like to purchase a beverage. I would like for you to give me a beverage, because a 20-cent can of Diet Coke should be included in the $427 I paid for my flight. You’d think, right? But, no.

It is amazing how the cost of gasoline soared so high and stayed that high until we couldn’t afford to pay for it. Then the price went down. But, did the elevated cost of these airplane tickets go down? No. I thought they started charging more because of the gas crisis. Did they stop charging for checking bags? No. I thought that was related to fuel consumption, too.

Oh, she’s back. “Would you like to purchase a snack box?” she asks.

Now, I think they like this. It’s less work for them, and I don’t blame them for wanting less work because I can’t imagine how awful it would be to have to push one of those drink carts up and down these tight aisles, having to give this lady apple juice, that man a rum and Coke and me a Diet Coke and matrix revolutions the download free a plastic cup of ice water.

But, travel is hard. It just is. Parking at the airport is the first challenge. Some of those check-in lines aren’t pretty. Security is awful. Why do these airlines have to make matters worse, making me fret about whether I stuffed my carry-on bag too full to get it in the overhead bin. It is already enough of a hassle without them making us having to starve and dehydrate.

I think the thing that irks me most is that these decisions are made by people in boardrooms who are flying in first class, where the drinks and snacks are free. It shows such a disdain for the rest of us – those who fly coach. They shrink the aisles, cram the seats as close as possible, then stick it to us for untold hours, blaming the bottom line for the inconvenience. Again, I just looked. I paid $427 for this. They can carry my bags, give me something to drink and maybe even hand out some peanuts.

But, they don’t.

If that redneck could make it, why not you?

As a reporter, I once covered the mayor of a large metropolitan city who posed an especially difficult challenge to cable crews covering city council meetings because he could not get his finger out of his nose – even when the camera was right on him. His grammar was terrible and he sounded illiterate. Pure redneck.

Those of us in the press made jokes about the guy, but that nose-picking good old boy led that city into an era of greatness it had never experienced before or since. He was visionary and confident, a tremendous success despite his very obvious shortcomings. Some would think him an embarrassment, but he got things done. He led and people followed.

He must have heard people tell him that he was not polished enough for a career in politics, or that he didn’t have the finesse or savvy to engender the support he would need in order to drive the kinds of change his vision demanded. But, he just went about his business. He chose his greatness.

There are plenty of people who have acquired power and position by simply believing they could do it. Instead of talking themselves out of their dreams, they just figure out a way to make them real.

We have all heard compelling rags to riches stories. Remember Bill Clinton’s horrible and humble beginnings, growing up in a poor home with a physically abusive stepfather. Or Oprah Winfrey, who grew up impoverished and sexually abused. Is there any need to make a list like this? Because you may attach to stories of famous people who overcame adversity to become popular celebrities, but the greatest success stories are everyday occurrences, proven when some kid, fresh out of high school, makes his first million, or an immigrant who came to this country speaking no English overcame the language barrier and made a fortune. Are those stories about the smartest people in the world? The most educated people? The people who knew they were tapped by the Divine for special greatness? Or are those stories the inevitable byproduct of what happens when individuals are courageous enough to believe opportunity exists for everyone who dares to grab it?


Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books, including an Oprah pick. She speaks to corporations and organizations on courageous and creative leadership strategies taken from her interviews with the best-known leaders of our times.

The leap.

I hate those books that seem like they were written by used car salesmen who have the secret formula for magic self esteem, and unbridled success and wealth. I hate speakers who do that, as well. So when I talk about how thoughts determine results, realize the message is coming from a recovered cynic who spent her first career in the newsroom as a hard-bitten reporter.

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After I left journalism and decompressed a few years, I encountered others who manifested unthinkable success with an attitude shift that could only have been made because of their self confidence and fearlessness. They  believed they could achieve greatness, so they did.

I remember asking Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams what separates someone who is ordinary from someone who is extraordinary. “The belief that she’s ordinary,” said Williams, who won the Nobel for leading the crusade against land mines. There is so much power and truth in that concept. You are what your mind says you are. Your mind says what you tell it to say.

The biggest step in this process is the buy-in – that decision to stop rolling your eyes and leave disbelief and skepticism behind.

You can find hundreds of books telling you how to manifest great success and wealth if you just believe you can. Unfortunately, most of those books are shallow and cheesy, and ignore the fact that we are feeling, human creatures who unconsciously limit ourselves because we are afraid to dream big, try hard and possibly fail.

Cynicism is deadly to visionaries. It kills the optimism needed to embrace possibility. Why sit at the sidelines ridiculing a dream or a dreamer’s naiveté instead of tapping into that same hope and positive energy to create your own dream? Cynicism is, perhaps, the greatest obstacle standing between you and unbridled self-confidence. Negative people get negative results, so make the conscious decision to stop being negative.

That’s today’s assignment. It’s the first step to extraordinary success in difficult times.


Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books, including an Oprah pick. She speaks to corporations and organizations on courageous and creative leadership strategies taken from her interviews with the best-known leaders of our times.

Leaving the negative behind

When I got my first full-time job as a journalist, I sat catty-corner from a woman who seemed eons older than I was. She was thirty at the time – think of it, thirty! And, I looked up to her because she was savvy, quick-witted and unbelievably sarcastic about the ways of the world. She always had some sort of smart-mouthed take on whatever the subject of the day.

Like an idiot, I consulted her the day before I was to interview Abigail Van Buren (the original Dear Abby) on the telephone. I asked my co-worker to help me come up with some questions Abby had never been asked before.

“Why not ask her how many suicides have happed because of her advice? And, ask about the number of divorces, too.”

That was life in the newsroom. There was always a nasty remark about everything. We knew that when someone gave us a tip, there was always a secret agenda. That people who held themselves up as the most prominent or upright citizens would too often wound up being convicted of fraud or theft or sexual assault on a child. That the world was filled with lies and liars. That there was always a humorous, negative take on everything, because good news really wasn’t news, and we didn’t run into all that many “good” people anyhow.

We’d go to events and never clap for the speakers. We’d be irreverent, and sometimes, disrespectful to people in positions of authority. We always assumed dark, not light. The worst, not the best.

I tell you all of this so you understand that I had to leap from the negative plane where so many of us linger, and venture into the realm of light and possibility, where our true success awaits. If you want positive things in your life, you have to make that leap as well. It is especially important to make that leap if you are experiencing difficulties and need to redefine what is next for you. I’ll explore that over the next week.

But, as you begin to change your world, change yourself. Realize that there isn’t always a negative agenda or a negative outcome. As difficult as things are these days, we’ve still got it pretty good.

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