April 25, 2009

2 Ways to Approach Setting Goals

There's that old joke. What do you call the guy that graduated last in medical school? Doctor.

The sales trainer I was listening to made a compelling argument. He challenged his audience to always aim to be the best and to compete against the larger field. "Don't settle for being number one in your market. Aim to be number one in the country. It's like winning first place in your local marathon versus winning first place in the New York marathon."

That's where I started to question his assertion. I've run three marathons, and my goal was never to finish first. It was simply to finish. Now before you say that I missed his point, I know he wasn't saying it's not good enough to finish a marathon, you should go for first place. What he was saying was keep pushing yourself, and one way to do that is to get out of your smaller pond and compete in a larger one.

But his metaphor got me thinking. There's a difference between "be number one" goals and "complete it" goals. So I did a quick audit of my current goals and discovered that most of mine are "complete them" goals. The only "be number one" goals I could think of were to win a recent reading contest and beat my son's high score on Flight Control (hardly a worthy goal, but it does consume a great deal of my time).

What type of goals do you set? Leave your comments about how you determine whether to be number one or simply complete the goal.

April 16, 2009

5 Noticeably Different Signs

Daniel Pink's Pecha Kucha presentation on Emotionally Intelligent Singage raised my attention on the various signs around us. Here are a few that caught my eye in Washington, D.C.

REPETITION > This sign was in the elevator at the National Cathedral. Apparently, it was very important to stress that most of the floors are "closed to the public."

LECTURING > Gina saw this sign in the women's restroom at Fort Ward. I love signs made at the local level. I hope this sign solved their problem.

HISTORICAL > This sign was on display at U.S. Postal Museum.

RESPECTFUL > "Respect" and "Honor" are on a lot of memorial signs.

LAUGHABLE > I guess they had a serious problem with sunbathing at Fort Ward.

April 14, 2009

How Not to Design Directions

Here's a poorly designed information board from the National Park's Department.  Clearly displayed content, but unfortunately it's all behind the roped off area.

April 10, 2009

6 Lessons from Playing Yahtzee!

Last night was game night at our house. Each family member got to pick a game. I was last, and when I went to the game closet to find one we hadn't yet played, I spotted an oldie but a goodie back in the corner collecting dust, and Yahtzee was introduced to a new generation.

I like Yahtzee, but I had no idea how much it had to teach me about life. Here are 6 life lessons I learned from playing Yahzee!
**WARNING -- I felt compelled to come up with 6 to match the numbers on the dice, so some are a little lame**
  1. When in doubt, go for Yahztee > at one point Henry (12-years-old) was going for a Full House. On his first role, he had 2 fives and 2 ones, so he was only re-rolling one die. I paused the game, pulled out my soap box, and proceeded to lecture him on the benefits of going for a Yahztee instead of a Full House. Yahztees are worth more points, and you have more safety nets if you don't get it - your fives or ones, Three of Kind, Four of Kind, and even your Chance. Full House is something you take when it happens, but you don't chase it. Okay, so it wasn't my finest parenting hour, but the strategy is spot on. Go big or go home. Go for Yahztee!
  2. Stay on schedule > the upper section of the scorecard is cleverly called, "UPPER SECTION." Here you record your Aces, Twos, Threes and so on. If you get a total score of 63 points for that section, you earn a 35 point bonus. That happens when you get at least 3 of every number. It's important to stay on schedule, but obstacles get in the way. When that happens you have to make up for lost time and role 4 of a larger number to make up for any deficits. Know where you are at all times, and work to stay on schedule.
  3. The obvious answer isn't always best > I was behind on the Upper Section when I roled a Yahztee of 5 sixes. The obvious answer was to mark my score in Yahztee because it's worth 50 points. It wasn't until my next turn that I realized I could have scored more points by recording my 5 sixes in the Upper Section. It would have only been 30 points for the 5 sixes, but I would also earn the bonus of 35 points since that would put me "back on schedule." I could have earned 65 points instead of the 50.
  4. Balance is important > a good score on all the boxes is worth more than a great score on some boxes and bad score on most boxes. Remember the balance of the die; both sides add up to seven. I know. It's lame, but I did warn you, and it is true - balance is important!
  5. Minimize your loses > when the bad rolls happen, and they will, cut your loses and move on. A zero in your Aces box does less damage than 2 fours in your Fours box. Missing three Aces only puts you three points behind schedule, while only missing one four puts you four points behind schedule.
  6. It's a game of luck and strategy > the tag line on the box serves as a good motto for life. My grandfather used to say, "Life is a series of near misses" which roughly translates to life is a game of luck and strategy.
Next time some asks you for advice, pause dramatically, give them a reassuring smile, and state with confidence, "Go for Yahtzee!" What life lessons have you learned from Yahtzee or other board games? Share your lessons in the comments.

April 6, 2009

Remember, You Asked for This

At the end of last week, I was talking to a C-level executive who has been in his position about 18 months. I asked how he was liking his relatively new role.

He said he was enjoying it, but that there were many challenges he hadn't anticipated. Then he went on to say, "When I first got the job, I wrote myself a note that said, 'Remember, you asked for this.' Every now and then when things get frustrating, I pull it out and reread it."

When I get back to my office on Wednesday, one of the first things I'm going to do is write myself a little note.

April 2, 2009

There's Two Sides to every Assumption

Several of the people I knew from high went to the same college as me. One day I was talking to a friend about another friend of ours from high school.

I said, "I know Jill and I were never really close in high school, but here at college she doesn't want to have anything to do with me. Everytime I see her, she totally blows me off." At this, my friend started laughing uncontrollably. "What?" I asked.

"Todd, she says exactly the same thing about you."

So the next several times I saw Jill on campus, I made sure to be extra friendly. Sure enough she returned the friendliness in kind. Whenever I catch myself making negative assumptions about someone else, I remind myself how wrong I was about Jill.