Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Talk is Cheap - The Art of Conversation Leadership

Jim McCann, CEO/founder of 1-800 Flowers.com is a friend.  I suspect he has lots of friends - he is so humble an approachable for such a successful person.

He spoke at Canrock Ventures (He is great and entertaining).

He wrote a book - Talk is Cheap - The Art of Conversation Leadership.

McCann was a social worker working in a boys home and needed some extra money so got a job tending bar part time.  He took the job partly because he was shy and knew he needed to learn to talk to people.

There he met the owner of a flower shop.  The flower shop owner mentioned he wanted to retire so McCann suggested he work there part time for a few weekends to see if he liked the business.  He did so he bought a tiny, one location, flower shop.

He went to a conference and met Ted Turner who was just starting CNN.  He scraped together a small ad budget and places some ads.  Then a war happened and all other advertisers pulled their ads and Turner convinced 800-flowers to stay (and I think ran extra ads at no extra cost).  CNN's marketshare soared from 4 to 40% during the war and 800-flowers was the sole sponsor.  Business boomed.

So 1-800 Flowers toll free charges went through the roof and ATT called to see if McCann would do a customer testimonial ad that ATT paid for.  The ad was a success and resonated so ATT asked if they could do another series featuring McCann and then ATT sponsored the olympics.  So 1-800 Flowers was featured on the olympic ads at ATT's expense.  Business soared.

In the book, McCann talks about conversation.  About really listening to people and the power of that.  I know he is sincere in his practice of this art.

McCann talks about conversing.  Across hierarchies, for intimacy (not efficiency), across multiple mediums etc.

I loves that he promotes - "Never Stop Learning".

McCann recognizes that technology (like social media) amplifies a message and in part it amplifies the negative because of the anonymity and ease of it.  It is easy to blast someone who is faceless on Twitter - much harder than doing it face to face.

The book is filled with interesting stories that make it easy to read and really drives points home.

McCann is a natural marketer (in a good way) and it works well since he sells a product that everybody can buy..  Writing a book like this is a natural extension of that marketing.

Great book which I enjoyed even more because of my personal connection with the man.


I am intrigued by the challenge of feeding the world.  Like energy, the lowest hanging fruit (no pun intended) is conservation.  Apparently 40% of the food produced in the US is wasted (I suspect it is actually higher).

I know I personally have always been appalled by food waste.  I think that is why I always make soup.  It is a great way to use close to 100% of the food.

Trader's Joe has an interesting food concept (under a different label)- selling expired food.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What Makes Olga Run

One of my interests is longevity and closely tied to that is health.

I read an awesome book - What Makes Olga Run - The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star, and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives.

It is the story of Olga Kotelko who is breaking all kinds of seniors records in track and field.  The story is made human by author Bruce Grierson who compares his decline (and he is perhaps 50) to Olga's seemingly non-decline.   He is a great writer.

Nobel winner, James Watson, said "men of 50 do not like to fail - that is why they are so boring".  Something to think about.  Walk closer to failure to be more interesting.

My lessons from the book (some with my interpretations)

1 - Move.   We are not designed to just sit.  The Fitbit is perfect for keeping this in sight.  Grierson tells of setting himself up in an easy chair complete with footstool as his work area.  I, also, do this at night.  This is bad.  I need to look at a standup desk.

2 - Break a sweat every day.  The Fitbit can lull one into thinking they are active but I can do my steps without ever breaking a sweat.  It even counts as "very active" when I am just walking at a normal pace (perhaps 4 MPH).  I am fairly good at this but need reminding.

3 - Lift weights.

4 - Sleep.  I am really working on this one.

5 - Be an optimist.  Not a fake optimist but a real one.  This ties to "lighten up" - manage stress (the exercise helps).

6  - It is all about habits.  Design ones that support health.

The final chapter has 9 rules.  One that I like is "Don't do it if you don't like it".  The last one is "begin now".

She is an inspiration.

Good companion reading for this would be another of my favourites - Younger Next Year.

And my heart goes out to my daughter Laura, now in Texas,  who has to deal with a horrific snow storm.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Inspiration from Hella Doman

I had the privilege Sunday of attending the funeral of the mother of a friend - Hella Doman.

I had met her but only briefly and did not know her story.

At the funeral, her story was told by her 2 sons who both were excellent speakers (especially in the circumstances).

She was born in 1925 in Holland.  Her parents separated when she was young (I think 6) so she returned with her mother to her mother's home in Germany.   Then Hitler happened and Hella was Jewish.  Hella was sent alone when she was 14 to Holland on the last train out of Germany.

Her father who had remarried and had a family did not want her so she was placed in an orphanage (despite having 2 living parents).  An uncle visited her there and found the conditions so bad, he insisted that his brother take her out of there so she was apprenticed as a hat maker.

Germany invaded Holland.  Hella,who was 17 by then, was moved to Northern Holland by the Dutch underground.  She was moved from farm to farm.  For a year, she was harbored in the basement of a barn under a cows' pen.

A few years later, liberation happened.

Hella returned home.  The orphanage was destroyed and there were no survivors.  Hella's father and family had died.  She did find her mother.  At age 21, she immigrated alone to NY.

In NY, she became an Xray technician and soon married a Polish doctor who started a modest practice in their basement.  She was the office manager and Xray technician.

She had 2 sons.

Her husband died at age 49 (he was older than her so she was likely not yet 40).  She was left close to penniless and went back to work as an Xray technician.  She followed and invested well in the stock market.  She was highly frugal.

One of her high values was education so when her sons went to university, she sold her house to put one through medical school and the other through law school.

I was moved by the realization of how easy my life has been and how resilient people can be.   And any problems I have seem so tiny.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sleep and Cold Snaps and Content Tidbits.

One thing the Fitbit does is track sleep.  I have less problems getting my steps in than I do my sleep.

There is an interesting article in the NY Times on sleep.  It seems the purpose is to "clean" the brain perhaps (although there is still much to learn about sleep).

And the cold snap has broken so I am worried people will not have enough to complain about.  I actually like cold snaps.  I think they help get rid of germs and insects and keep the ecosystem under control.

And of course, they remind me of my childhood. 


And in researching to see if freezing really does kill germs (it does but not as well as boiling them does), I found an interesting article that using warm warm water for handwashing is a waste of energy.  Thinking the same would apply to showering, doing dishes etc.  I wonder how long it will be before we do away with water heaters.


One of my friends sent me an interesting article on the commodicization of content (articles and writing).  I know newspapers and magazines are having problems getting people to pay for information when so much information is free.

Personally, I also see a trend towards poor content.  Google certainly has their work cut out for them to try to give us "good" content in search results.  I know this from trying to Google if the deep freeze kills germs (plus many other searches I have done).

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Useful Workouts

I love the beauty of snow.

We had a light dusting (about 8 inches with drifts up to 2-3 ft).  So I got a "useful workout".  There is something gratifying about embarking in a physical activity that has an outcome like a cleared driveway.  I get less gratification by spending an hour on an exercycle or treadmill.

I spent 2 1/2 hours shoveling.  It was a workout but interestingly, my fitbit did not count it as "very active minutes".   It did count 4000 steps per hour of shoveling.

Useful workouts:

1 - Snow shoveling (4000 steps per hour)
2 - splitting wood
3 - gardening (lots of different degrees of workout)
4 - mowing grass (although the pollen tends to be bad for me on this one)
5 - Housework (1400 steps per hour) (and arguably less fun than other activities)
6 - Even walking someplace instead of driving would count.

Automation has taken away much of our exercise.  Something to think about.


Interesting tidbits (with links to click if you want the article):

Isaac Isamov's predictions which were science fiction and how true they proved to be.

The 1929 book - Revolt of the Masses explains current social media phenomenon.  A good summary of it is here.

The midwest is bracing for some cold weather.  Apparently some parts of Canada are as cold as Mars right now.

My brother Glen has taken a break from blogging but now has a new post.  Wondering if there is a coincidence with global weather change and him posting.

What makes something go viral.  Comment from a friend on this one:  This article makes a good point:
"...an individual will eventually receive a message if a certain proportion of his or her friends already have that message."

One thing I've learned recently is that I don't go to my inbox to read messages...I go there to delete them. But if my 'friends' keep referring me to something I should look at, I can't ignore that.

Victoria at 9 months