Monthly Archives: October 2013

Ten Commandments for Thankful Living

Do you believe yourself to be a thankful person? Do you live your life with a sense of both gratitude and expectancy? If so, you are most assuredly blessed. If not, here are ten helpful suggestions for getting yourself on the right track to living an amazingly blessed and happy life.

1. Be thankful for prayers answered.
2. Be thankful for habits broken or avoided.
3. Be thankful for sins forgiven (both public and private).
4. Be thankful for healings seen and unseen.
5. Be thankful for the storms of life that have blown over or blown out.
6. Thank God for friends both old and new.
7. Thank God for impossibilities that became possibilities.
8. Thank God for gifts given and received.
9. Be thankful for the possibilities that lie within you.
10. Be thankful for hope that springs eternal and never dies.

I have found that it is impossible to be thankful for all of these things without realizing how truly fortunate and blessed I really am. What about you?

Effective Project Management

Are you an effective project manager? When asked a question like this, the perfectly normal human reaction for most of us is to bristle a bit and then answer with a strong, affirmative, “Yes, of course I am!” However, after we’ve had a chance to mull the thought over in our minds, most of us will admit that there areas of project management upon which we could most definitely improve.

What’s that you say? “I’m not a project manager?” Oh, I see. Then you’ve never taken on a project in your life? You see, it’s not necessary to have the title of a project manager to be one. All of us are involved in doing projects every day. Some people build nuclear power plants, others build homes; others are weekend carpenters and electricians doing repairs at home. Some of us like to hike and camp; others manage the household budget. All of these activities require some level of project management skills. Ever make a grocery shopping list? That’s a project plan of sorts.

Let’s use the grocery shopping example to outline some of the basics of project management.

Define the scope of your work. The first step in any project is to define what it is that you are going to accomplish. In project management terminology, this is called a scope of work. In our shopping example, we need to define the scope, or goal, of our shopping. Are we shopping for a day, a week, a month, or several months? For how many people are we shopping? Do we have any company coming for whom we need to plan? Are there sales to be taken advantage of? The list of questions could be longer, but you get the picture.

Define the schedule, resources, and constraints. This is a fancy phrase for defining the limitations with which we are working. Every project can be represented by a triangle. The three sides of the triangle are labeled as (1) scope, (2) time and schedule, and (3) costs and resources. We’ve already discussed that scope is what we are going to accomplish. Time and schedule attempt to answer questions like: How long is this shopping trip going to take? Do I have the time to do it now? If not, when can I schedule it so that I will have enough time? Finally, costs and resources address questions like: Do I have enough money to go shopping according to my schedule? (Maybe I need to wait until payday). Do I need any additional resources? (I might need one of the kids to help me wheel the shopping cart and load and unload the car).

Develop a plan. Once we have defined the project scope and have a handle on resources and constraints, we can develop a project plan. The project plan is nothing more than a detailed, step-by-step list of what we are going to do and when it is going to be done. Using our shopping example, our project plan might span several days, visiting one or two stores a day, with a specific time to visit each one and with a specific list of items we wish to procure at each store.

Execute the plan. Planning is no good without taking some sort of action. We need to take action and start working on accomplishing the plan we have committed to paper. That brings us to a very important point – always…always…always put your project plan in writing! I know people who try to carry project plans in their heads. This almost always winds up in disaster. I can’t go shopping without a shopping list. If I do, I’ll forget something and either wind up going back to the store (wasting time and money) or making someone at home upset.

Monitor your progress. As you execute your project plan, ask yourself a few questions. Am I on schedule? If not, what can I do to get back on schedule? Am I staying within the budget I established? Is what I am doing right now taking me closer to my goal? If not, why am I doing it? As an example – if on my way to the grocery store I stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for a coffee and a doughnut, then I may not be staying on schedule and I may be spending money I hadn’t planned to spend.

Take corrective action. As you monitor progress toward the achievement of your project goal, you will sometimes go off track. The important thing to remember when you get off track is to not waste more time punishing yourself. Use it as a learning experience to help you improve. Also, monitoring progress along the way allows you the opportunity to identify potential problems before they become a national disaster.

Close the project. At the end of your shopping trip, take time to review what you did and how effective it was. Did you find what you needed? Did you stay within your budget? Did you allow an adequate amount of time to get the job done? Was the path you planned to most cost effective from both a time and fuel consumption perspective? What did you learn and what can you do to make it better the next time?

Use this simple process to make your projects, both big and small, more successful and enjoyable.

Success Vs. Value

Albert Einstein said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Do you see both the subtle, and not so subtle, distinctions in these amazing words of wisdom? I think that there are two very powerful things we can learn from this great man:

  1.  When we are striving solely for success, the focus is on ourselves, but when we strive to be of value, our focus is on someone else. Unfortunately, here in the United States we are becoming more and more self-centered and self-focused in our approach to live. We have an ever-increasing tendency to look at life from the perspective of “what’s in it for me?” As a result, we have now filled our nation’s capital with politicians whom we believe will take care of us by providing us with all manner of entitlements. What we weren’t counting on, though, is that the politicians are focused on getting for themselves and not us – so we are paying a heavy price for our own self-centered natures. When it comes to becoming successful in life, a selfish approach never works. It may appear to work in the short-term, but the negative consequences of this approach always come home to roost in the end.
  2.  Success and value are both inextricably intertwined. The interesting part of this “partnership” is that which one we choose to act on determines the length and magnitude of success we will enjoy throughout our lives. Success, true success, is founded and achieved through our service to others – to the value we bring to others. Those who grasp and implement this concept are the ones who move forward, sometimes against amazing odds, to achieve true greatness.

Do you have a dream to be truly successful and to become a great person in life? Then focus on adding value to the lives of others – and you will have both success and greatness!

Ten Steps To Finding The Right Speaker

The selection of a speaker is one of the most important and challenging aspects of when it comes to creating a successful meeting or event. Selecting the right speaker for your meeting can be a daunting task because speakers are available in every fee range and topic specialty.

How do you make sure that you engage the best person for the job and get the highest value for the money you are investing?

1. Determine the needs of your audience. Thorough knowledge of the needs of your group is essential to selecting an appropriate speaker. Who are the members who will be attending? What are they interested in? What are some of the current goals and challenges they have on their minds? Does the meeting require that your audience leave with specific information? Do you need someone to motivate the group to sell? Are you looking for after-dinner entertainment with a message?

2. Establish your date, time, and budget.

a. Start looking for a speaker as soon as the date for your meeting is set. Many speakers book engagements up to a year in advance, so you will want to get on their calendar as soon as possible.
b. Consider how much time you have to fill and where that time falls in your overall program. If your time-slot is flexible, a professional speaker can often tell you the right amount of time for the job. A professional can also make recommendations about the order of topics to be addressed (i.e., it may not be wise to follow a humorist with an educational presentation).
c. Factor in the fee you are willing and able to pay for a speaker. Your search for a speaker can be very narrow or very broad depending on your budget. Fees for professional speakers vary greatly depending on experience, demand, and the particular niche in which they speak. The range for a professional speaker can go from $2,000 to $25,000 or more.

3. Identify the type of speaker who will best match the needs of your audience. A speaker’s expertise in a given field may be a big draw, but a well-known name does not guarantee a professional presentation. High profile does not always equal high quality. Will your audience and the overall program benefit most from a celebrity, and expert in the field, a popular sports personality, or a best selling author?

4. Locate your resources. Personal referrals are a great way to narrow your search. Ask colleagues and friends for their recommendations. Also, speakers bureaus can be a great way to find out those speakers who are available to speak on the topic you are contemplating.

5. Review your options and interview speaking candidates.

a. Expect a professional speaker to be a partner in your meeting process.
b. Make sure that a potential speaker has addressed groups similar to yours and talk to him about his experience.
c. As for a biography, testimonials, and recordings of presentations.
d. Find a speaker who will tailor his presentation for your group, not someone who gives canned speeches.

6. Select your speaker. Hire a professional and your hiring an ally, someone who will invest himself in the success of your meeting. Consider that you are not just paying for the time that the speaker in on the platform, but also for the hours spent researching, creating, and customizing his presentation. Also, be aware that some speakers may negotiate their fees when they are doing more than one program for you or when they are allowed to sell their products or get copies of your audio and video recordings of their presentations. Always ask about options.

7. Get it in writing. You should have a letter of agreement that clearly outlines the expectations of both you and your speaker. Consider:

a. Travel arrangements and transportation
b. Accommodations and meals
c. Fees, reimbursements, and payment terms
d. Whether you will want the speaker to attend social events
e. If the speaker may say product and, if so, how this will be handled
f. An agreement on any audio or videotaping of the presentation
g. Cancellation policies
h. Audio/visual requirements
i. Any legal implication

8. Work with your speaker. Share information about your group or company, such as:

a. Company newsletters, brochures, and annual reports
b. Key challenges your organization may be facing in the near future
c. Key people, buzzwords, and insider news and views
d. A clear outline of what you expect
e. The size and demographics of your audience
f. Other speakers on the program and the subject on which they will be speaking. (This avoids program overlap)

9. Set the stage.

a. Make sure the room is set up for optimum impact. Consider the number of chairs and how they are arranged. Also consider room temperature and lighting.
b. Stay on schedule. Keeping your program on schedule will allow your audience to get the full impact of the program you have created for them.
c. Make sure you get a good introduction bio from your speaker. The introduction should be short, energizing, and create positive expectations.

10. Evaluate the results. Have your audience complete evaluations on the speakers and his presentation. This will allow you to gauge your results and plan for future programs. Send copies of the evaluations to your speaker.

Playing The Game of Life

Are you attempting to play the game of life without goals? Maybe you are and don’t even realize it. If your goals are not clearly visible, they might as well not exist.

A great French naturalist conducted a most unusual experiment with Processionary Caterpillars. These caterpillars blindly follow the one in front of them – hence the name. He carefully arranged them in a circle around the rim of a flower pot so that the lead caterpillar touched the last. Inside the flowerpot he placed pine needles, which are a primary source of food for these caterpillars. Hour after hour, day after day, these caterpillars marched around the pot. Finally, with an abundance of food less than six inches away, they died from starvation.

Many people make the same mistake of confusing activity with accomplishment and, as a result, they reap only a small fraction of life’s harvest. Are you blindly, without question, following the crowd in a circle to nowhere?

Why not sell your possessions, go to Las Vegas, and gamble it all? The odds are very great that you’ll lose everything, but there’s a chance you hit the jackpot. Believe it or not, your chances are better in Las Vegas than they are in life, unless you learn to set goals and follow a plan.

Do people plan to fail? NO! The real problem is that they fail to plan!!

Since goals are so important, why do only three percent of American people commit them to writing? They are four basic reasons:

  1.  They have been told by others, and by society, that setting goals is a waste of time.
  2.  They don’t know how to or understand the tremendous benefits of setting goals.
  3.  They fear that they won’t reach their goals and that they will be embarrassed.
  4.  They have poor self images and believe that they don’t deserve the good things life has to offer.

Do you have written goals? Are you taking action toward their accomplishment every day? Do you review them regularly? Are they a dynamic part of your life? Are you accomplishing your goals and making the kind of progress you want? If not, contact us right now! Call us at 203.599.1467 or email us at gary@optechs.com. We can quickly get you on the road to achieving your dreams.