Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Our Christmas letter - 2010

As we reach another holiday season – my 56th, to be exact – Colleen and I are so blessed and thankful to have each other, our good health, the love of our families, and the warmth and fellowship of you, our good friends.

The two biggest news items this year involve Colleen. First, it's become a clich̩ for years that "Colleen is thinking about writing a novel," but this year (drum roll) Colleen is writing a novel Рand is about 50,000 words into it so far Рand it is incredible! It is a psychological thriller based in upstate NY, and she is doing a meticulous amount of research for it. What I have read so far is truly incredible. Stay tuned.

Second, Colleen is now officially retired, according to Social Security, but far from playing shuffleboard. (As her husband, I joke that she is the only senior citizen who still looks like Shakira.) The other big news is that Colleen is on Facebook, jumping in with both feet and reconnecting with family and friends. If you aren't linked to her already and would like to, visit her at or connect through my page,

It has been a great year for me (Rich) as well. On the speaking front, I logged 42 paid gigs covering 20,000 air miles and over 5000 attendees in 2010. As a writer, I ghosted a national top 100 business book, developed several white papers and articles for technology and healthcare clients, continue to do monograph work for the National Cancer Institute, and recently landed a five-year contract to do more of the same. I am proud – and sometimes amazed – at being self-employed for over a third of my 30+ year career, and am thankful to the good Lord and my great clients every day.

Perhaps my proudest moment was developing and teaching a week-long communications skills program for Cornell's ORIE graduate students, taught in my late father's old building of Hollister Hall, that CU plans to continue with me next year. On a more personal note, I am now just a few weeks away from a lifelong goal of finishing my graduate work as a psychotherapist at Northcentral University, and putting "MA, MFT" after my name – a journey that began over five years ago, volunteering on a crisisline.

Some of you who know me well may be thinking, "what, no new book?" (Fair enough, I did have ones published in 2008 and 2009.) Fear not, I actually did complete a new project this year, a business fable entitled "The Last Customer." It is about what happens at a failing restaurant when people start treating everyone like their last customer, with a little divine intervention. A year after I started writing it, it still makes me laugh, and the ending still chokes me up – so either it's really good, or I choke up easily. My agent is shopping it around as we speak.

So how are you? We love to hear from you, and cherish the support and friendship between us and you through good times and bad. Hope you have a happy and blessed holiday season, and a joyful 2011.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Thoughts on tough times

Every time the economy takes a dive, we read stories like this one about people who had great jobs, nice homes and cars, never missed a payment – and then lost everything, after losing their jobs and sending out hundreds of resumes with no response.

I have my own perspective on these stories. Partly because I've been there. Each time I've started my own business, I've gone through long dry spells with no work. I remember all too well what it's like to be down to the last 50 bucks in your checking account, and to have life seem like an endless refrain of "no, thank you." Thankfully, I emerged from those times to become successful.

But part of my perspective also comes from thinking differently. While taking absolutely nothing away from the lousy hand you've been dealt, when I look critically at who gets by and who doesn't – and for that matter, where my own success lies – I often see differences in how people think. So humbly, here is my advice:

-Ask friends what you normally say about your situation. (Really, ask them – because none of us are good judges of what actually comes out of our mouths.) Do you lay out rational options, or are you "Oh-my-God-ing"? Most people I know who remain stuck have a high ratio of Oh-my-God-ing versus thinking their way out of the situation.

-Do you *act* positive? I realize you don't feel positive. You feel like crap. As would anyone in your situation. But do people's faces light up when they see you? Do you make them feel better? Do you benefit them as much as they benefit you?

-Who are your models? Who is already out there doing a fantabulous job of the life that you would like to have? And what are you learning from them? If the answer is "no one," keep thinking.

-How much time do you spend cultivating relationships with successful people, as opposed to blindly sending out resumes? This is the back door where opportunities happen, versus the front door where 500 other people are lined up. And P.S. cultivating relationships doesn't mean asking for work, it means cultivating relationships.

If you learn anything from this blog, please go back and re-read the previous paragraph. Most of my current income comes from relationships I developed long before I ever worked with them – and will continue long after I work with them. To me, success is a by-product of how many people you make happier in some way.

-Have you thought past what you've always done? Most successful people I know, myself included, have had to completely re-invent their careers every so often. If you are honestly doing everything else on this list and still getting nowhere, you just might be looking for love in all the wrong places.

Finally, one more suggestion. Go to a business networking meeting sometime, just to observe people. See the ones who exude confidence and act comfortable in their own skin? And see the ones who are so desperate that they practically have "hire me, puh-leez!" written across their forehead?

Now listen carefully. Whenever I've taken pity on people in the latter group and hired them for something, I've usually gotten burned. Perhaps they were unemployed for a reason. Perhaps their work ethic didn't match their level of desperation. Perhaps they convinced themselves they could settle for something that they really couldn't. Trust me, you don't want to smell like these folks – especially around anyone who has hired more than a few people.

Above all, don't give up on your goals. I realize these are tough times, and sometimes bad things happen to good people. But you are still worth a great deal, and you deserve to ultimately find those things that make you happy. Good luck and keep plugging.