Tag Archives: goals

I want fries with that!

StorefrontFriend and colleague Jack Falvey is now writing daily investment tips*—I’ve mentioned that before. In today’s he describes briefly the McDonald’s success story. One sentence jumped right off the page for me. “Hunger to succeed is the kind of hunger McDonald’s satisfies.” Jack was not only talking about investor success, he went on to note, “…without federal or state funds, the most successful youth training program on earth is teaching adolescents to show up on time, wash their hands, smile, make a neat appearance, and to ask with great expectation, ‘Do you want fries with that?’”

Where Jack wrote “hunger,” I saw “passion.”

Earlier this morning another colleague and I had a short but interesting conversation about an upcoming event designed to “raise awareness” of one of the many issues our society suffers. I confessed that I’m tired of programs for causes that are focused on “raising awareness.” Too often there’s little hunger and there’s no real passion. As a result we engage in activities that allow us to feel better but accomplish very little. It’s like feeling a little bit hungry and nibbling on a cracker. Or a small order of fries.

Just tell me when do we go from being “mildly interested” and aware to being passionate? Do we truly believe putting a bumper sticker on our vehicle is going make a difference? Help me understand how changing my status on Facebook for an hour is going to help.

During my years of consulting, I was never hired by an organization to “raise awareness.” In fact, those companies were usually painfully aware—perhaps not always of the root problem, but they knew there was one. I recall one organization that was having trouble “getting people to come to work.” Absenteeism and turnover was so high entire lines could not be started in the morning.

I can assure you, I did not recommend a program to increase awareness of the problem. We did not print bumper stickers for supervisors and company vehicles saying “Help stamp out absenteeism.” It took real passion and effort and sometimes drastic measures.

See, if you’re only a little bit hungry, it doesn’t take much to satisfy that hunger. A cracker might do it.

The McDonald’s story Jack tells includes some dismal failures in the early days of the company. Jack makes it fairly easy to see that success only came after a husband and wife put their last dollar into their store. “They invested their lives.”

I would say they were pretty hungry. So hungry they didn’t peruse cookbooks or debate where to eat or change their Facebook status to “I’m a little hungry.” They literally had to eat now. It became an obsession. There was no other option.

All of this reminded me that today I’ve been nibbling around the edges of the cracker. Maybe if I stopped nibbling I’d get hungry enough to remember what I’m passionate about until I feel the pangs of hunger that drive me incessantly and almost insanely to eat a big meal—to dine on the sweet success of achieving some things I care deeply about.

And not only do I want a big meal, I also want fries with it. When we care enough to want it all we know we have to go beyond raising awareness to making something happen.

*Investor Education Briefs is an online investor education program provided by the Institute for Politics at Saint Anselm College. It goes out each business day of the year at no charge. The editorial opinions of Jack Falvey, a Fellow of the Institute and a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s, are provided for investor education only and are not offered as financial advice. Anyone may enter or exit the program at any time. There are no tests or academic credits involved. It is designed as a modified massive online open program which will recycle and be updated every twelve months.

Mr. Boomsma, You Need To Focus!

Picture a second grader with a scholarly look–glasses that tilt as kids’ often do; an appropriate lack of front teeth revealed by a smile reflecting a sense of accomplishment. We’d just finished reading a book together. She’d read flawlessly.

When we stood to return to her classroom, another class of young scholars entered the library. They were calling out greetings as they passed and this served as a distraction as I attempted to push my chair under the table. I didn’t notice that I wasn’t succeeding because the chair simply didn’t fit.

After watching me in frustration for a while, she placed her hands on either side of her face mimicking the blinders horses wear. “Mr. Boomsma, you need to focus!”

I chuckled at the maturity with which she attempted to resolve my problem and teach me a lesson. I thought I was busy. She rightly recognized I wasn’t  busy. I just wasn’t doing such a good job of handling multiple priorities-priorities that I had actually selected unconsciously.

It’s at least interesting that a seven-year old had that insight. Many people observing the situation would have thought I looked busy. But  had I focused on any one of the tasks at hand I would most certainly have succeeded. All I was really trying to do was push in my chair, keep track of my reader friend and acknowledge some other friends arriving on the scene. Like walking and chewing gum at the same time, these were manageable tasks.

It’s been several years since she taught me the lesson and I still use her gesture to remind myself I need to focus. Occasionally I use it with others. She is, after all, correct. Most people who complain about being busy just need to focus.

The flip side of this is the claim, “Be patient! I can only do one thing at a time.”


Let’s see. I’m usually doing lots of things at a time. I’m thinking, writing, breathing… My heart is pumping. I’m somewhat aware of some folks nearby talking… I didn’t really think about it, but I’m really quite busy. Fortunately I’m also fairly focused. If not, I could become very stressed over everything I am handling. What if I forget to breath? Now I need to sneeze. I’m so busy! I can’t take on another thing!

Having told on myself (and had some fun), I can perhaps reveal that I suspect a lot of people who complain about “busy” just aren’t focusing. Our wonderful brains do take care of a lot of this for us, but we also have the ability to manage our attention. When we don’t use that ability not only does our stress increase, but our “situational awareness” decreases.  I didn’t notice my chair didn’t fit because I was stressed. I was stressed because I wasn’t focused. It became about everything and that meant it was actually about nothing.

Note, however, there’s an opposite problem when we become too focused. I wouldn’t call it obsessive compulsive. I think it’s more about target fixation. During WW II pilots would sometimes become so focused on their target they’d forget to release the bomb and pull out of the dive. They’d lose perspective and crash into the target.

Somewhere between focusing and being aware of one’s surroundings there’s a sweet spot with a balance. But you don’t find it without looking. It might be under the table where the chair doesn’t fit!

Landing a job after graduation…

Jack F (519x346)Seems like lately I’ve been getting questions about the job search process… well, it is that time of year! Has the process really changed?

Here’s a link to a ninety second piece featuring friend and colleague Jack Falvey–Landing a job after graduation. One of my favorite quotes is “Smart phones make people stupid.” You’ll also be interested in what Jack describes as the most important factor for the first job after college.

When it comes to the business of finding a job after college, Jack wrote the book and it’s good stuff.

That’s one reason I’m honored he wrote the “back cover blurb” for Small People – Big Brains. He thinks it’s good stuff!


Just How Busy Are You?

“Between the great things we cannot do and the small things we will not do, the danger is that we shall do nothing.

–Adolphe Monod

climbing_up_folders_400_clr_9727Lately I seem to be hearing a lot of people complaining about how busy they are. I’m probably guilty myself. I can whine with the best of them–I have plenty of opportunities to learn the skill from the kids at school.

When I was actively involved in human resource consulting, one of the phenomena we often discussed was something called “ritualistic complaining.” In short, ritualistic complaining happens when individuals complain somewhat automatically–without deliberate thought– because it’s an unstated expectation. To watch it happen, get ten people together and ask them about their job. The majority are not likely to announce their job is wonderful, fulfilling and pays great. The societal norm is quite the contrary and we are left rightfully wondering if the complaints we are hearing are, in fact, accurate. Managers need to learn to ignore ritualistic complaining.

Since I’ve yet to discover an objective scale for measuring busy, let’s set the question of how busy we are aside for a moment. A better question might be “what are we accomplishing and are we having fun?” See, I happen to think that “being busy” can be addictive–it’s easy to forget that we make choices. While a little ritualistic complaining about how busy we are is probably okay, unless we’ve totally given up control of our lives and schedule there’s no logic to complaining about the choices we make to do or not do things.

The concern always should be that it’s easy to substitute activity (being busy) with accomplishment. I know at least one person who tries to attend as many community meetings as possible. This allows her to report how busy she is in the hope people will assume she’s accomplishing great things for all the organizations she claims to be working with. I also chuckle over the number of people who apologize for failing to get things done because they haven’t had time. A quick check of Facebook reveals they’ve spent most of the morning posting inspirational messages and pictures of cute puppies and kittens. In what must be the ultimate irony, I recently had some frustration with some folks who were too busy to reply that they were too busy to help with a project!

But let’s not forget; that claiming “busy” is one’s right. I just wish we could be honest–if not with others, at least with ourselves. While I have difficulty feeling sympathy for someone who is busy, I do regret that he or she has given up control of time and purpose.

One person I often work with IS busy by my standard. If I email her at 5 AM I can pretty much guarantee I’ll get an immediate reply–we both start our days early. She always walks rapidly with purpose in her step, rarely complains about being busy and I do not ever recall asking her if she’s “got a minute?” and hearing her say no because she’s too busy. She is not the victim of her schedule; she makes choices and accepts that she has.

We may not like admitting it, but when all is said and done, we tend to become victims of ourselves and our choices. One thing that separates us from the lower life forms is our ability to rationalize, but it’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing when we use it to manage our time and purpose. It’s a curse when we use that ability to rationalize our choices and our failures because it diminishes the power we have available to us.

Pre-publication Announcement

Coming in Spring 2013!

Small People; Big Brains – a collection of stories about simplicity, wonder and exploration by “Mr. Boomsma”… Sign up for an email announcement of the date this entertaining and inspiring book making the point that while we are trying to teach kids about life, they can show us how to live.

Registering creates no obligation–just an opportunity!

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