I was meeting with a new client yesterday and I asked him how he gets most of his customers. He said almost all of them came from “word of mouth.” I then explained how the New Marketing is also “word of mouth.” I then touched upon Blogging, using audio and video over the web, online social communities and more. It is technology that is the foundation of the New Marketing but it is Word of Mouth that powers it.
I told him that ten years from now the internet (especially as it concerns marketing and communications) will appear like the equivalent of the Model T to a Porsche 911. I can’t wait to get in the drivers seat.
I was paying some bills last week when I got to two Verizon bills – one for home and one for the office. I glanced at the amount of the home one and it was about $3.00 more than usual. Then I looked at the office invoice and saw that it too was about $3.00 more than usual. So, I wondered, what Verizon is up to now.
Surprise! When I looked inside at the details, I found that I had been billed for a “Shortfall Charge.” I have Verizon as my long distance carrier. It seems Verizon has come up with a scheme to charge people who choose their long distance service $2.00 plus the taxes bringing it to $2.46 a month for NOT making any long distance calls.
Here’s how it works. If you don’t make any long distance calls you get billed the $2.46. If you make calls that are less than $2.00 total a month, you get billed the difference. That about $30 a year you will pay for not making any long distance calls using Verizon. I told my butcher this story and he said he was going to start charging all his customers a monthly fee for not buying enough beef. Then he laughed and was still laughing 15 minutes later and shaking his head at Verizon’s arrogance and stupidity.
Verizon just doesn’t get it. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars on mass media advertising trying to convince people to use their services while, at the same time, coming up with schemes like this that totally turn people off. Call them up and tell them you never agreed to a change in your plan and let me know what they tell you.
When I was 21 years old, I had the wonderful fortune of working alongside a man who was already considered a legend in his field. Later, the world would be introduced to him via a hit motion picture. His name was Carl Brashear but I called him Chief – short for Master Chief Carl Maxie Brashear U.S.N. You may never have heard of him but there is a good chance you have seen the movie or a TV program about his life. His life inspired the movie “Men of Honor” and it stars Cuba Gooding Jr. as Chief Brashear. It also stars Robert De Niro, Charlize Theron and Hal Holbrook. But, this article isn’t about the movie. You can check that out for yourself and I recommend you rent it soon.
This story is about never giving up. There is already a lot of media talk about how 2008 is going to be a difficult one for business. And, you know what? If you believe that then I can pretty much guarantee it will be – for you. But, if you focus on a goal and tell yourself that you will never, ever give up then I can pretty much guarantee it will be a fine year – for you. So much of what happens in our lives has to do with how we believe and what we value. Chief Brashear epitomized the belief that you never give up. Here is a little of his story.
When he enlisted in early 1948 the Navy had barely been desegregated and after basic training he was assigned to an officer’s mess hall as a steward who served meals and polished the officers’ shoes. But, he wanted something more in life and while watching some divers working one day off an aircraft carrier, he decided that he was going to become a deep sea diver. He applied to school but was told that there were no “colored” divers in the Navy. He responded that they were about to get their first. In 1954, he became the first African American to attend and graduate from the US Navy Diving & Salvage School. He later became a Master Diver and a Master Chief Petty Officer, the first in the Navy.
I met the Chief under strained circumstances. I was planning on being discharged from the Navy in November of 1970 after serving a little over three years. I wasn’t supposed to be discharged until a year later but I was one of thousands who qualified at that time for an early discharge. I was looking forward to starting my career as a civilian photojournalist when out of the blue, I got new orders. It seemed the USS Recovery ARS-43 needed someone with my set of unique qualifications and rank (at least that’s what my commanding officer told me) and I wasn’t getting out early. Instead, I was going to spend another year at sea and I would most likely be going to the Mediterranean for six months. I wasn’t happy.
A few months after I had already reported to the Recovery, Chief Brashear was getting orders to report to the same ship to assume the role of Master Diver. It’s funny how life works out but the coincidence of us getting orders to the same ship would change my life. I wouldn’t appreciate how much until years later.
Shortly after getting settled onboard, I started getting to know the people I would be working with. One of them, a First Class diver by the name of George Caswell brought me up to date on the life of Carl Brashear when we heard he was going to be the new Master Diver.
He told me the story of how in 1966, Chief Brashear had been working on the USS Hoist. They were recovering a nuclear bomb that had been lost when two of our planes collided while refueling near the Canary Islands. During operations a rigging line broke and a metal pipe flew and stuck Chief Brashear’s left leg below the knee and nearly sheared it off. He spent the next two years rehabbing his leg which was amputated. But, instead of being discharged or taking a desk job, Chief Brashear was determined to be reinstated as a diver. In April 1968, he became the first amputee to be certified as a Navy Salvage & Rescue Deep Sea Diver. Two years later he and I were to meet up on the Recovery.
As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t particularly happy about having to serve another year at sea. But, I made the best of it and quickly gained the support of the operations officer to whom I reported and my commanding officer. In fact, I was given permission to start a ship’s newspaper as we were leaving for a six month “Med Cruise.” Putting out the newspaper gave me a creative outlet and I enjoyed it very much since I had worked as a reporter and a photographer on a daily paper before enlisting. I typed on a manual typewriter using a two-ply spirit master and then ran it off on a ditto machine. The first few issues were mostly about the ports we were visiting with some current event news thrown in. But, it wasn’t long before I decided to start writing opinion pieces. We were somewhere off the coast of Italy when I wrote my opinion about the Vietnam War, President Nixon and the Uniform Code of Military Justice all in one issue.
As newspapers go, it managed to cause one heck of a lot of furor. My operations officer told me it actually caused a shouting match at dinner that night in the officers’ mess. The career men on board (which would include Chief Brashear) were not pleased by my opinions and several shared their opinions of me with me. The next day the captain ended up explaining to me that as a US Navy Petty Officer I was not allowed the freedom to express my opinions about either our commander in chief or the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I think it was my statement that the term “military justice is an oxymoron” that got them most wound up. That was the end of the ship’s paper.
That evening, after word of the newspaper’s cancellation got out, I was on watch in the Combat Information Center (my office) when I got a knock on my locked door. Looking out the peephole I saw it was Chief Brashear. He had never visited me before so I was pretty much expecting he had something to say about the newspaper. But, he didn’t mention it. He just said he was on the bridge and thought he’d stop in to chat. He then wondered if I would like to join him in the boatswain’s locker (his office) after I got off duty to “work out” with him. He had a look in his eye that told me I’d be out of my mind to accept that invitation. He apparently was also not amused by my opinions. I told him I didn’t think I would be joining him and he said okay and that was the end of the discussion. For the next few weeks, I stayed clear of him except when we had to work together and he ignored me except to give me a stare once in a while. Call it détente. But then something happened that changed everything.
The ship was short on its quotient of officers on board and the result was the officers had to stand 12 hours on and 12 hours off watches as Underway Officer of the Deck (UOOD). The UOOD is person who gives the orders on the bridge while the ship is underway. He’s in charge of giving navigation orders, avoiding running into anything, and assuring the safety of the ship and its sailors. One day, the operations officer was complaining about the watches when he flippantly said to me, “You should be standing UOOD watches since you teach us anyway.” It was true that part of my job was teaching new officers some of the things they had to know to qualify as an UOOD. I said I would be happy to do that if the Navy ever decides to let an enlisted person run a ship underway. I didn’t think anymore about it.
Now it so happened that the operations officer was a tenacious kind of researcher. He checked into all the regulations and found that there were none that said you actually had to be a commissioned officer to qualify as an underway officer of the deck. You only had to pass a written test and be certified by the captain. Somehow, he talked the captain into allowing me to take the test. I passed it and the next thing I knew the captain had certified me as a UOOD and I was put on the watch rotation. In those days if we weren’t off rescuing or salvaging, we usually spent time running drills and also shadowing Russian trawler “spy ships” which made for some interesting watches as UOOD.
I was standing one of my first watches (it might have been the first) when Chief Brashear came up to the bridge. We were going through the formal ritual of changing UOOD’s which involved me stating that “this is Petty Officer Poole and I have the Deck and the Conn.” I remember looking at Chief Brashear who had a look of disbelief on his face. He had never seen an enlisted man be given the Deck or Conn underway. It was unheard of at that time.
The following day I found the Chief, once again, visiting my office to chat. He wanted to know how it came to be that I was standing an UOOD watch. And, he wanted to know how he could do the same thing. I told him how there wasn’t any regulation that said he couldn’t and that he could take the same test I took as long as the captain was good with it. I told him I’d help him with the things he needed to know that he wasn’t already familiar with and a few weeks later Master Chief Brashear was certified as an Underway Officer of the Deck.
From that point on we started talking about our lives and our futures when one of us had a night watch and things were quiet on the bridge. I told him how I was going to continue in photojournalism or maybe even studio photography. He told me about his life since being born in Kentucky the son of sharecroppers. He never once complained about the prejudice he faced in becoming a diver. He never bemoaned the loss of his leg. Instead, he talked about never giving up on your dreams and wanting to experience as much as possible in life. I learned that when he wanted to go to First Class Diver’s School, he couldn’t pass the first time because of the math, physics and chemistry needed. He had enlisted with only a grade school education. He enrolled in the Armed Forces Institute and worked for three years to master the necessary science skills. He got his GED and went back to First Class Diver’s School where he graduated third in his class.
He would get excited when I would talk about my future and he encouraged me to do everything and anything I wanted in life. He was one of the toughest men I have ever known. But, he was tougher on himself than anyone else. He didn’t know the meaning of “you can’t do it” and he pushed himself to withstand mental, emotional and physical pain that would break most anyone else because he couldn’t accept giving up. He taught me a lot about not letting someone else take away your dreams.
Master Chief Brashear died of respiratory and heart failure in 2006. How a man with a heart as big as his can die of heart failure is a mystery of nature. His son, Phillip Brashear, said at his funeral that even while dying, his father seemed unwilling to let go of a life built on determination. “Even though his lungs failed him, his heart was still beating.” Carl Brashear showed us all what a human being is capable of accomplishing when he’s faced with overwhelming odds. Think about that when you find yourself thinking about how 2008 is going to be a “tough year” for business. Go rent the movie, “Men of Honor.” You might find yourself saying, “Never Give Up.”
I have the best job benefit in the world by being able to work from home. What do you think that might be? It’s easy – I get to be with my dogs and cats all day.They are wonderful friends and sometimes I get lost in watching them interact with each other. I could tell you plenty of stories but let’s leave it with my last suggestion for 2007.Animals need our help. Thousands are abandoned, abused, and killed each day. If you have a pet of your own, I know you know what it is like to be welcomed home by them; to have them be there for you when you’re having a bad day and to lift your heart.
Before the New Year, do something good for the animals. Maybe you can look up the address of the nearest shelter in your area and send them a check. Or, drop by and ask if you can volunteer your services. You’ll feel great that you did and the animals will love you for it.
Winnie and Bear (pictured above), came from a great Philadelphia area organization that can always use your help. Kitty Adoption Team.
I had a major computer problem over
the weekend when a RAID array decided to die. For those not technically
inclined, imagine you have a bunch of hard drives on your computer and they all
died at the same time. In my case, I wasn’t too worried as I had created a
disaster disk and backed-up the system. At least I wasn’t worried until the
disaster disk didn’t work. As a result, I spent hours with my
technical advisor and even more hours rebuilding the array during the time I had
already scheduled for other things. And, I’m still not sure everything is back.
I’ll find out eventually.
"What does that have to
do with me?" you ask. Well, my suggestion to you is to sign up today for some kind of backup software and use it
regularly. Hard drives are going to crash and accidents will happen. My
daughter’s cat fried her laptop when it knocked over a glass of Pepsi that was
sitting too closely to the machine. Make sure you are putting copies of your
digital photos someplace besides on your one machine. I’d hate to see you lose
years of memories and it has already happened to too many people. Lots of you
don’t have any backups. You know who you are; so buy the software or sign up for
a service that works over the Internet. Do it today; you’ll sleep better
tonight. Google backup software or photo backup services and you’ll find plenty.
Even Windows has backup software, although I’ve never used it.
I responded to a request the other day from a writer
with the New York Times for some tips on "How to Manage Your Email." I
don’t know if she liked my answers because in this age of being more
and more "plugged in" 24 x 7, I’m all in favor of pulling the plug a
lot more often than most people.
Here are some of the tips I gave her:
First, only check email 3 times a day. Once in the morning, mid-day and
afternoon. If someone needs to get you sooner they can pick up the
phone. We hide behind email too often and use it as a way of avoiding
2. Speaking of communicating; if you have
something important to say either call the person or speak with them in
person. Have you ever had someone respond negatively to your email when
you meant no harm? Communication 101 says that the meanings for words
are in people – not in the words. Let people hear your voice or, if
possible, see you if you really want to most effectively communicate.
Avoid sending email just to acknowledge you got an email or to say
thanks or whatever. Someone has to stop the cycle. Use automatic
receipts if you need to acknowledge the email.
4. Use stock
templates to manage your responses to emails. Why create the same basic
response over and over. Many emails use at least 80% of the same words.
Make a copy of these and modify them in Word (or whatever you use) and
then paste them into the email. It’s fast and effective.
taking one day a week "off" from sending non-essential email and pick
up the phone or walk across the hall. It’s amazing what real human
interaction can do for your productivity.
6. Don’t get into the habit of checking your work email before you go to bed at night. It’s a recipe for insomnia!