3 Reasons You Need to Stop Following the News

March 27th, 2012

This is amazing to me, but I’m on day nineteen of a Daily News Blackout.

I have literally not checked any of my daily sources of news (other than the weather and the blogs I follow) for almost three weeks. And no, I’m not on vacation.

This might not sound like a big deal to you, but I have a serious news habit. It’s embarrassing, but some days I will “check in” as much as thirty or forty times a day. Crazy. So checking in zero times is really hard.

And this is actually my second attempt. I first started a couple of months ago but fell off the wagon a few weeks ago. (Curse you, Republican primaries!) But I’m back on it again, and it feels great.

Now, before you freak out on me, I haven’t shirked my civic duties. I still know what’s going on. I’m just not giving it my attention Every. Single. Minute. Of. The. Day.

I’ll be sitting at my computer working on something, and every few minutes I get this impulse: Hmm, wonder what’s going on? So I take a little tour of my computer. Quick check the news. Scan scan scan. Stock prices. Okay. Quick check email. Scan. File. Read. Trash. Back I come.  Except, I’m not really back. I forgot what I was working on.

Same thing continues when the work day is done. I’m sitting at dinner. Suddenly, there’s the impulse again: Hmm, wonder what’s going on? So: iPhone out. Quick tour. I’m back. And what does that get me? Knowledge Points: Plus Two (maybe); Honey Points: Minus Twenty (definitely). I’m down eighteen points!

It would be one thing if the news was filled with relevant and helpful information. But it’s not. It’s negative and sensational–and it has no direct bearing on my life. It’s the worst possible combination: It stresses you out but there’s nothing you can do about it.

The funny thing is, checking the news like this feels like I’m doing stuff. Handling things. Staying on top of the situation. But the truth is, I get very little done. And it costs me a lot.

So I’m done with it. And so far, it’s great.

Here’s why I think you should try it, too:

• It Hurts Your Work
• It Bums You Out
• It’s Contagious 

It Hurts Your Work

Creating is like digging. The first ideas you get are the obvious, surface ones that everyone finds. It takes time to get down to the good stuff. Every time you break your attention, you start over again at the surface. Do it regularly and you’ll never create what you’re capable of.

Also, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” Our ideas are triggered by the last thing in our attention. (You’re thinking about one thing. Your next thoughts are a riff on that.) When you put negative, sensational stuff into your mind, guess what comes back out?

It Bums You Out

Constantly following the news is like wearing “depress-o-matic” glasses: everything looks dark and hopeless. It’s like the Matrix in reverse. The virtual world is frightening. The real one is inspiring. (Want proof? Watch this TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_diamandis_abundance_is_our_future.html) So the news not only bums you out, it disconnects you from reality. That can’t be good. :-)

It’s Contagious

Do you want to be the kind of person who lifts people up or pulls them down? I thought so. Me too. (Up!) When you’re coming from a lower level, it brings others down, too. It just does. You don’t want to be that person. And the rest of us need you to not be that person.

Bonus Reason: You Don’t Need It!

Question: When was the last time something happened “out there” that you honestly couldn’t have waited a few days to hear about? I’m not talking about tornado warnings, tsunami alerts or nuclear crises. This is just your daily (or hourly) dose of news. How often have you needed to know right away?

Answer: Practically never.

Repeat after me: I don’t need it. I don’t need it. I don’t need it.

It may feel like you do, in the same way it feels like you need that next cup of coffee or that jelly doughnut. But you don’t. You really don’t.

My “Expert” Program

Okay, if you’re thinking three weeks into my second round doesn’t make me an expert, you’re right. But hey, I’m three weeks ahead of you! :-)

Here’s what I’m doing to kick my news habit and still stay informed.

1) One Day a Week

I’m limiting my news intake to one day a week. I also follow quite a few daily blogs and, of course, the weather. But no headlines. And no politics.

2) Read “The Week”

On my designated news day, instead of any “dailies,” I read The Week Magazine. I get everything I need to know in all the areas I’m interested in–and it’s great. Takes about an hour. I totally love it. It’s on the iPad now, too, which is even better. (I don’t get anything for promoting them, by the way, if you’re wondering.)

3) Mark a Dedicated Calendar

I print a blank month calendar in iCal and tape it on a wall in my office. If I’ve been successful for a full day, the following morning I mark an “x” in that day’s box. It’s surprising how well this little tactic works. There’s only one box missing an “x” so far this month.

That’s it. That’s my program. You don’t need to do exactly what I’m doing, of course, but whatever you do, you should really give it a try. Once a week. It’s all you need. Get your mind back, get your attention back. Do great work. Love your life.

Now, in the comment section, tell me:

How bad is your news habit? What’s your best story about it? If you’ve kicked it, what specific things helped you the most? Your experience will help others (and me) so don’t be shy!

Thanks, as always, for reading and sharing.

If you find today’s post helpful, forward it to two news junkie friends. They’ll thank you for it. Or at least they should. :-)





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“Is your business a jerk?” or “How to double your referrals in 30 days.”

October 26th, 2011

What difference would it make to your business if thirty days from now you were getting twice as many referrals as you are today? In this post, I’m going to tell you how to make that happen. But first, a question:

Who are you more likely to refer a friend to, someone you really like or someone who’s a jerk? The answer is obvious: You refer the person you like. And therein lies the key to doubling your referrals: Don’t be a jerk.

That’s great news,” you say, “because we’re NOT jerks!”

Don’t be so sure. From the customer’s perspective, most businesses are. They’re self-absorbed, uncaring, and greedy.

But we’re not like that,” you protest. “We really do care! How could people possibly think that?

Easy. Pretend I’m your customer. Here are some common experiences I have of your business:

- Your website talks about your “Amazing!” products, services, and credentials rather than my problems.
- You talk to me in terms I don’t understand.
- You try to sell me things without finding out what I really want and need.
- I’m feeling nervous, unsure, frightened or frustrated but you don’t notice or care.
- When I call or come to your office it feels like I’m putting you out.
- You’re always trying to sell me something more.

See? Self-absorbed. Uncaring. Greedy. In other words, your business is a jerk. Sorry. No wonder you’re not getting more referrals!

What’s really going on here is that your words and actions are sending major “disconnect” messages to your customers. The three messages people need to “hear” in order to feel connected to you are, I respect you; I understand you; I care about you. But the behaviors above send the opposite messages.

Here’s a simple solution – and this is the key to doubling your referrals:

1) Think through every interaction/experience your customers have with your company.

2) For each one, ask yourself these questions:

- Are my words and actions sending the messages, respect, understand, care?
- If not, what can I do differently to send those messages?

3) Do whatever you come up with.

4) Repeat.

Evaluating your customer’s experience from the respect/understand/care perspective will transform your business. Customers will actually like you (your business) – and maybe even love you – rather than thinking you’re a jerk. Most important, they’ll start telling their friends. Voila!  You’ll double your referrals – and then some!

For the next thirty days, take a good look at all the messages your business sends. Cut out any disconnects. Start sending the three connecting messages. Thirty days from now your business will be operating at a whole new level.



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“Don’t Just Talk” featured on Apple iBook store.

September 20th, 2011

Okay, this is only about me, but I had to share. “Don’t Just Talk, Be Heard!” is featured in the “Business and Personal Finance” section of Apple’s iBook store this week. Check it out …

… and note the company I’m keeping. Jim Collins? Dale Carnegie? My goodness. I’m huge! :-)

Anyway, that’s it. Just a little news about ME. Sorry if that’s weird, I’m just super excited.

Next time I promise it’ll be about you again. :-)





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How to repair a bad work relationship

August 4th, 2011

One of the toughest challenges at work is dealing with a bad relationship. It could be with a co-worker, a customer, a vendor, a boss or someone else but something’s gone wrong, the relationship has gotten tense and it just seems to keep getting worse.

How can you get things back on track?

First, know that you have to do it. An ongoing situation like this can be a real problem. It’s a distraction, a big drain on your energy, and the negativity seeps into everything you do.

To fix it, step one is to have an honest discussion with the other person. Fun!

Okay, not fun. But definitely necessary. And you’ll be surprised how quickly it feels better, assuming you go at it with the right approach.

Here’s a guide to get you started:

1) Begin with an observation about the current state of the things. Keep it as objective as possible. “It seems to me we have not been working that well together.”

2) Own up to your part in it. “I want to apologize for whatever part I’ve played in that. I know I don’t always communicate as well as I could.”

3) Show respect and appreciation. “If I’ve ever given you the impression that I don’t respect you or appreciate what you do I want to apologize for that, too, because I definitely do.”

4) Share a positive vision for the future. “I would love for us to work better together and for things to feel better between us, and I definitely think both of those are possible.”

5) Invite them to comment. “I just wanted to share that with you and see if you had any thoughts or ideas for how we could improve things.”

If you have a work relationship in need of repair, beginning your conversation in this way may be all it takes to turn things around. At the very least, it will go a long way towards getting things back on track and feeling better for everyone involved.

Today’s the day! I know you can do it. I know you’re going to be happy you did.

Be Heard!




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“New Dentist”: The Sad Conclusion

June 28th, 2011

After my last post about my new dentist (and communication mistakes), lots of people asked how it turned out. Not to give it away, but it was not good. :-)

There’s a powerful lesson here for the rest of us, too. So it’s worth watching through the end. (Sorry, this one is a little long. (9mins) I’ll get back to shorter ones next time.)




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“My New Dentist” (A study in communication mistakes)

May 24th, 2011

I had an experience with a new dentist recently that really got me thinking about communication mistakes. They cost us so much – no matter what business we’re in. But at the same time, very few people actually do anything about them. It’s a shame, really, because people leave so much on the table.

Anyway, click here for the story and some thoughts on why that is – and how you can avoid the same mistakes in your own life.

(pdf transcript)



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Presentation Skills Training is a Waste!

March 31st, 2011

I was really struck the other day by some YouTube clips I saw on presentation training. They were all focused on skills. But that seems completely off the mark to me. From what I’ve seen, when presentations are boring (which, I’m sorry to say, is most of the time!), it’s not the skills that are the problem, it’s the writing.

Anyway, here’s a little video with some thoughts on the subject. I hope you enjoy it!
(pdf transcript) [ Note: Near the end, I mention clicking the “share button below” to pass this on to others. To do that, you’ll have to watch the video on YouTube, rather than here. Thanks! ]



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Presentation Tips … When The News Is Not Good

December 2nd, 2010

Just a quick note to let you know about a new article of mine that just came out with some great presentation tips in it.

The cover story of the current issue of the TASBO Reporter (Texas Association of School Business Officials‘ quarterly publication) is a piece I wrote called, “Make your next school board presentation a winner.” But the tips apply equally well to anyone, especially if they need to present information their audience doesn’t want to hear. (I hope that’s not you. :-) But if it is, this should help!)

If you know someone in education – or anyone with bad news to share – please pass it on. (Click on the article title below to donwload the PDF)  And as always, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you, too!


Article PDF: TASBO Article



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Do you make this common communication mistake? (Most people do)

December 1st, 2010

Ever get abrupt, bottom-line emails like this?

Hey. There was a problem with those numbers from Tuesday’s meeting. We need to get this straightened out right away. Can you send me the original files so I can take a look? Thanks. DL

This sort of cold, dry communication is very common, especially at work. And it might not seem that bad at first glance, but from my perspective, it’s a communication mistake. Here’s why:

1) It’s a disconnect. Whenever we interact with someone, if we don’t make some sort of human connection, the message it sends is, “I don’t care about you,” which is about the worst message of all for being heard.

2) It diminishes our effectiveness over the long term. Once someone suspects we don’t care about them, they deal with us in a completely different way. They’re guarded, suspicious, much less cooperative. In other words, our influence and impact go out the window. And someone without influence and impact with others is simply not going to be successful.

3) It’s the opposite of what works. In order to be heard, people first need to be open to what we have to say. “Connect, then communicate” is the key to being heard, not the other way around.

The solution? Lead with the Relationship. Meaning, talk to the other person as a person before you get into all the the details and information.

Read the rest of this entry »



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Listen up, guys!

July 14th, 2010

Here’s a great success tip for all the guys out there in management:

Start hearing the women on your team.

Whoa! Calm down! You didn’t think I meant YOU, did you? Certainly not! I’m sure you don’t have a problem with this. It’s all those OTHER guys out there.

Or is it?

Let me tell you a story I heard recently. A client of mine was frustrated because she, and all the women on her team, didn’t feel they were being heard by the rest of the team. (Read: By the men on the team.) So she decided to run an experiment. She had an idea she wanted to present at the next meeting. She enlisted a male colleague in the experiment, and told him the idea too. The plan was, she would offer up her idea first. Then, 15 minutes later, he would offer up virtually the same idea, phrased slightly differently. Guess what happened?

    Response to her idea: “Okay, that’s interesting. Thanks.”
    Response to “his” idea: “Hey, what a great idea!”

In case you think this is an isolated incident, every woman I’ve told the story to says the same thing: “I’m not the least bit surprised.”

Are you surprised? Is this happening on your team? Are you sure? If I were you, I’d make sure, because if it is, it’s costing you, big time. Share this article with the women on your team, or, for that matter, with anyone you think of as being “different” from you. Ask them, “Am I doing this? Are you not feeling heard? What could I do to be better about this?”

The bad news? You might not like what you hear. The good news, though, is that it’s an incredible opportunity for you. There’s a tremendous source of great ideas and passion just waiting to be put to use in helping you and your team stand out and succeed. And the best part is, it’s completely free! All you have to do is start hearing everyone on your team, no matter who they are, no matter how different from you they may seem to be.



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