Thursday, December 20, 2007

How well do we communicate?

While living on the farm, plant pathologists from Kansas State University conducted research on our farm and others in the area. My dad also invited them to hunt. Jerry loved hunting doves, while Jim’s favorite was pheasant hunting. My sister and I each gave up our upstairs beds whenever we had guests.

Jim was the first in the United States, and second in the world to clone a plant. Jerry was world-renowned as well, having been at Cornell University before coming to K-State. What makes these ground breaking scientists even more remarkable than just their academic achievements, were there ability to communicate their knowledge comprehensible to most all. Jim explained cloning in terms and descriptions I could understand as an 8th grader. Jerry was able explain his discovery of new crop diseases in the same style.

Jerry did not recognize Christmas, my parents did. They would send his family a Christmas card, while Jerry would send them a card in the middle of January. This did not interfere with their business relationship or friendship. Jerry continued to stay at our home. It is Jerry and Jim whom offered my dad a job in Manhattan when farming was no longer a viable option for my parents. Honest, effective communication allowed their friendship to thrive.

One of the advantages of living in a university town; is getting to know professors, department heads and administrators personally. Living in Manhattan, KS in the 1980s, competing, and coaching in athletics, I met various parents whom I may not have otherwise met. One parent, Dr. David Mugler, was the long time Assistant Dean of Agriculture at K-State. He once informed me that when employers interviewed at KSU, they know the prospects have the necessary technical knowledge. I believe this is true of most all colleges.

One of the vital questions the employers desire to attain in an interview is, 'How well do you communicate’.

How well do we communicate? You, like me, would probably receive a variety of responses. Some would say quite well, my friends at times say I communicate poorly; other times I am told I communicate 'too well' (ha).

Christmas and New Years are quickly approaching. Are you prepared to effectively communicate to your family and friends, that you may only see annually, what they mean to you? We never know if we will have another opportunity in 2008. Are you prepared to efficiently communicate to your boss, employer, peers, employees, and board of directors how much you appreciate them, along with the role each play in achieving the desired success attained by symbiotic efforts?

I know I communicate much better now than 30 years ago when a speech pathologist came to Gaylord Grade School to work with me and a few others who ‘creatively’ enunciated various syllables and words.

I hope that improvements in communications exist in 2007 from 2006. Would you agree we seek greater improvements for 2008 and beyond?

How well do you communicate your gratefulness this Christmas? Feel Free to Practice!

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Final Stretch

We are in the final stretch of 2007

This past summer I was running a five mile race in a small Nebraska town. Most of the participants were much younger, they were college athletes. With a mile remaining I was in tremendous pain; my back hurt with every step, I nearly vomitted due to the effect on my stomach. The pain was not from racing, I had slammed the door of my suv into my right quadricep the previous day after vacuming the interior. My thigh muscle instantly cramped up, causing the muscles in my back to contract, which in turn resulted in the leg feeling good within a few hours but the back still in agony nearly 30 hours later. It is interesting how the body functions, with one area affecting a different muscle group.

(One of the keys to succeeding in running and life, is differentiating between aches that can be ignored and those that require medical attention. Our health is most important, when in doubt, see a physician.)

To make a short story long, I was in third place. The second place runner was nearly 200 yards in front of me. I take much pride in finishing races strongly, particularly in the last half mile. I slowly began to increase the pace in spite of the pain. With 880 yards to go I had closed within 150 yards of the second place individual. Reminded of my experience and pride in catching people in the last half mile, I began driving for the finish line not yet in view.

300 yards before the finish, we made our last turn in the race. We had caught up to the 2 mile participants. The 2nd place individual swung wide on the corner, he led by 50 yards. A mother pushing a stroller was at the corner, she stayed to the outside. Using 30 years of racing experience, I dashed between her and the tree marking the course boundary. I burst into a full sprint, quickly moving into 2nd place, passing the college runner nearly half my age. The sprint continued until I was well in the finishing chute.

In helping with numerous State and NCAA National and Regional cross country championships, I have seen an amazing amount of runners let up before they cross the finish line.

As we begin our final stretch of 2007, we must also sprint for the finish line. We should review our 2007 goals. Have we achieved all of them? If not, is it still possible to attain them? If we have reached all of our 2007 goals, is there another level of success within reach? Often the temptation is to cruise through December.

My friend Dan, a successful salesman, tells of an instant where he was several thousand dollars short of his sales goal on the last day of the term. He had nothing in the hopper, most would stay home feeling sorry for themselves. Dan says he jumped in his car, drove to a town 40 miles away with a manufacturing plant. Prior to visiting the plant, Dan stops at a convienence store to purchase a caffenated beverage.

Without thinking he grabs his sales book, only realizing he is carrying it upon openning the store's door. In a hurry, he keeps the book in his hand instead of returning to the car. Once inside, a casually dressed man asks what is in his book. He explains he is in sales and about to visit the plant in town, and brought the book into the store by accident. Upon further discussion, the casually dressed man explains he owns this convienence store. The person he normally orders from had failed to visit in some time. He then inquired if he could order from Dan. That order elevated Dan's sales above his goal. Dan sprinted toward the finish line, passing his competition in the final stretch.

We may be tired, we may ache, we may doubt, but keep pressing on! Focus on the Victory!

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