Little Lessons

3 Minutes

Posted by Mark Fallon

Dec 15, 2017 5:21:41 AM

I arrived at the Albuquerque International Sunport (also known as the airport) at 4:40AM on Thursday for a 6:05AM flight. I was surprised at the long lines for check-in. Even the counter for frequent fliers was backed up. I wondered how much time I would waste spending in line. So, I timed it.

3 minutes later, I had my bag tag in hand, and headed for the gate.
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Topics: optimism, attitude, positive

Quiet, Yet Powerful Voices

Posted by Mark Fallon

Oct 13, 2017 5:00:00 AM

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” – Malala Yousafzai

It seems that every day, the volume of our conversations gets louder. Headlines using words like “destroy”, “disaster” and “debacle”. Facebook rants with all capital letters, curses, and multiple exclamation points. Twitter threads that go on for more than 20 entries, revealing the ineffectiveness of the 140-character limit.

And that’s just about sports.

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Topics: change, optimism, passion, reactions

Sincerely Positive

Posted by Mark Fallon

Oct 6, 2017 5:03:00 AM


“Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” – Voltaire

It’s not the best of times. Hurricanes and flooding destroying homes on islands and on the mainland. Dozens killed and hundreds injured in a horrific attack on concertgoers. The opioid crisis continues unabated. Tense international disputes involving nuclear weapons. Divisive domestic political fights on a wide range of issues.

And those are just the topics dominating the headlines.

Often lost in the storms are the private struggles of so many people. Parents raising children amidst an uncertain future. Adult children caring for aging parents suffering from mental and physical impairments. People quietly grappling with problems only their loved ones understand.

In each of these stories we encounter heroes. People showing up with boats, supplies and food. Strangers throwing themselves on top of others, offering their own body as a shield from the bullets. Survivors using their status to raise awareness and funds. Individuals who decide to get out of bed, and push through another day of challenges.

Life is tough and difficult and beautiful and precious.

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Topics: change, inspiration, optimism, attitude

Power from Positivity

Posted by Mark Fallon

Jun 2, 2017 5:00:00 AM

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” – Marcus Aurelius

newtons cradle.jpg

For centuries, people attempted to create a perpetual motion machine – a device that once started, would keep running forever on its own energy. Designs were drafted and models were built by scientists and charlatans alike. After all, doesn’t Newton’s First Law state than an object in motion will continue to stay in motion unless acted upon?

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Topics: love, optimism, motivation, attitude

Yes Virginia, There Is a Connie O’Callahan

Posted by Mark Fallon

Dec 23, 2016 5:02:00 AM

These events occurred in 2010. It remains one of my favorite holiday season stories.

xmas tree.jpgMy Bose headphones help me maintain sanity on long, crowded flights. They’re a “must pack” for every trip. I’ve even raved on my blog about my fantastic customer service experience at a Bose store, and a visit to their corporate headquarters.

Imagine my despair on a recent Friday night, as I was unpacking my briefcase, and noticed that my headphones were missing! And my iPod! I used a strap to attach the carrying case to my briefcase, but the catch had slipped. I went back out to my Jeep, hoping the case was on the floor. It wasn’t.

In my mind, I retraced my steps earlier that night. I remembered packing the headphones and attaching the carrying case at the end of my flight. Then I walked through the terminal to the parking garage and loaded my bags in the Jeep. No stops on the way home. The case must have fallen while I was on the plane or on the way to my car.

I started the phone calls. First to the airline, but their “Lost & Found” department was closed until Monday morning. The next call was to Logan Airport. I navigated through the options until I was connected to their “Lost & Found”, which is run by the State Police. The recorded instructions said to leave a voice mail with a description of the item, and if it was found, someone would call me. I went to bed with little hope of seeing my headphones again.

On Saturday morning, I walked into my home office and noticed that the message light was blinking on the phone. The message was from a man with a distinctive Boston accent. “Hello Mr. Fallon. My name is Connie O’Callahan, and I work at Logan Airport. I found your Bose headphones and iPod in the parking garage, and would like to get them back to you. I live in Charlestown, and noticed that you live in Southborough. Perhaps we can meet somewhere in between. Please call me at ###-###-####, so I can arrange to return your property to you.”

I couldn’t believe it! I forgot that I put a business card inside the carrying case. From the time-stamp on the voice mail, Mr. O’Callahan had called before I even arrived home. Because of the late hour, I hadn’t gone into my office.

I called Mr. O’Callahan’s home, and a relative answered. Connie was still sleeping, having worked a double-shift at the airport. I explained who I was, and was told that my headphones were on the kitchen table. They took my number, and said that Connie would call me later.

A few days went by before I received a call back. Connie hadn’t seen the message, and was wondering why I hadn’t called him. When he did call, he apologized for the delay, stressing that he wanted to return my property. I made it clear I appreciated his honesty, and looked forward to meeting him. We agreed that I pick up the headphones during my next trip to the airport.

At the end of my next trip, I went to the parking garage and spoke to an attendant. I asked if Connie O’Callahan was working, and if he would page him. The attendant called Connie on the 2-way radio, and told him I was there. Connie was working in another terminal, but would meet me at the garage office in 15 minutes.

At last my chance to shake this man’s hand and thank him. Connie reiterated that he could tell the headphones were expensive, and wanted to personally ensure that they were returned to me. I expressed my thanks again, and let him know that I appreciated him tracking me down.

If I believed all that I read or saw on the news, airport employees are part of a conspiracy to lose my luggage, harass me or violate my privacy. Certainly they wouldn’t help someone who dropped something in the parking garage.

And Connie’s from Charlestown, the working class neighborhood in Boston that’s the setting for Dennis Lehane’s crime novels and the Ben Affleck movie, The Town. Surely the people who live there are bank robbers and gangsters, not the type of people who find a set of headphones and return them to their owner.

But Connie O’Callahan, the Massport employee from Charlestown, is the hero of this story. Not because he was honest, but because he went the extra mile. Connie took personal responsibility for the situation. Thinking about the other person, he made sure my property was returned.

During this time of year, we’ll be bombarded with many messages. Blended in with the reports of sales and discounts will be stories of people like Connie. Decent, honest people who’ll touch the lives of strangers with their thoughtfulness and generosity. A few of these stories may make the news, but most will take place in the anonymity of our everyday lives.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Connie O’Callahan.

I know. Because I’ve met him.

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Topics: optimism, thankfulness, honesty

The Significance of Our Insignificance

Posted by Mark Fallon

Dec 9, 2016 12:14:32 AM

“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

earth rising.jpgWhat’s a long time? The average person will live about 75 to 80 years. Historians estimate that civilization has been around for 6,000 years. Modern humans have populated the earth for over 200,000 years. The Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago, in a universe that began 13.8 billion years ago.

Yet there have been brief moments of my life that were so powerful, it's as if they happened just this morning.

How big is our sphere of influence? There are over 300 million people living in the United States. That isn’t a large number when compared to the over 7 billion people living on the planet. Even that's small, when you consider that about 108 billion people that have lived on the earth in the last 10,000 years.

Yet there have been individuals that have impacted my life so profoundly, just the thought of them brings me hope and love.

When compared to the entire population and the millennia of existence, it’s easy to feel very small. In many ways, it’s a helpful exercise to restore our humility. It’s easy to get lost in our own egos and overestimate our importance. We should recognize our insignificance in the much larger scheme of the universe.

The odds of us making a significant impact on the vast world is improbable. Any actions we take today will probably be lost to the passage of time. Our names may only be carried on in census records or ancestral databases – until those disappear as well.

In a strange contradiction, that same recognition of our smallness becomes a celebration of our uniqueness. Across the vastness of time, in the billions of years of existence – the moment you are experiencing right now will never be repeated. Throughout all of history and all the billions of people that are living or have lived – there is only one you. And there will never be another.

Faced with this dichotomy, we move forward in an inspired fashion. With sincere humility, we accept our limitations while maximizing our potential. We can’t change the whole world, but we can change the part of the world we inhabit. We can’t influence a billion, a million, or even a thousand people – but we can change the lives of the people we come in contact with every day. We won’t live forever, but we are living in a very special instant. If we recognize it.

Fame, prestige, and historical recognition are anomalies. Life is made up of brief, personal moments that involve just a few people. If we are truly present in those moments, and are truly present for those people, then our significance can’t be overstated.

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Topics: inspiration, optimism

That’s My Fault

Posted by Mark Fallon

Sep 22, 2016 7:28:10 PM

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." - Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) 16th President of the United States

momandme2016.jpgA few weeks ago, I was driving in my car when I caught myself smiling. I was in a really good mood, and realized I was happy. Really happy. I started thinking about how wonderful my life was. Why?

Maybe I was happy because someone had just said, “I love you.” For me, hearing those words never gets old. “I love you” means that someone cares enough to let you know how important you are to them. It means you’re not alone.

But I was alone. I heard those words over a cell phone and the person who said them was hundreds of miles away. This was another week of travel, hotel rooms and solitary meals. I was just reminded that I can’t always be with the ones I love.

Most of us know people who hear “I love you”, but still aren’t happy. These people question the motives of people who use the word “love” often. They dismiss the phrase as a meaningless platitude. Perhaps there are other aspects of their lives that overshadow the positive feelings shared by someone else.

Maybe I was happy because my business is doing well. Like many companies, the recession hit us hard. With the help of a sales coach, I was able to identify new opportunities and new clients. We’re growing again, with an emphasis on long-term relationships.

Of course, this growth means more work. My coach has helped me develop a disciplined schedule with more sales calls to prospects. New clients have meant more travel. In fact, I was in the middle of a 300-mile drive between two clients’ locations when I was thinking about my happiness. Not the easiest day for a consultant.

And there are plenty of successful business people that aren’t happy. I’ve met corporate executives with great jobs, sound companies and 7-figure salaries. However, they still aren’t happy and make sure the people around them aren’t too happy either. They live to prove the adage “money can’t buy happiness.”

So why was I happy? Because I decided to be happy. I decided that the “I love you” outweighed the pain of separation. I decided that the hard work, long hours, and miles on the road were a small price to pay for success. I looked at my life and decided I liked what I saw.

This doesn’t mean that I have a smile on my face 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I’m human, and have plenty of moments when I’m not happy. Life is hard, and can bring pain and sadness. Acknowledge those feelings, and accept those emotions. A tear is as genuine as a smile.

There’s no timetable for grieving, and there shouldn’t be. We each deal with losses differently, whether it’s a financial setback, a physical injury, or an emotional wound. Reach out to others – friends, family and professionals – for help through the process. Take the time to heal.

But don’t allow yourself to wallow in misery. In the end, you’re responsible for your state of mind. Other people can help, but you must make the decision to move forward. And some people may try to hold you back. Again, you must decide to take responsibility and when necessary, take action.

When I returned to Massachusetts in 1990 after leaving the Army, I worked as a barback while looking for a full-time job. A barback is like the busboy at a bar, with the added responsibilities of hauling cases of beer and changing kegs. It was hard work, and at the end of a long night, I drove home, smelling of dirty dishes and stale beer. I often wasn’t happy.

On the nights I was at my lowest, I’d put Jeff Healey’s Hell to Pay in the tape player, and blast the title cut. I’d roll down the windows, singing along at the top of my voice. My favorite verse:

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Topics: love, optimism

Taking Action

Posted by Mark Fallon

Sep 2, 2016 5:00:00 AM

"You are what you do, not what you say you'll do." - Carl Jung

folded_flag.jpgThe regular drudge of the daily news somehow seems to be worse than it was before. The current political campaigns seem to have sunk to a level never experienced before. The number of bombings, attacks and battles seem to be worse than anything humanity has perpetuated before.

Of course, none of this is true. Newspaper publishers, media magnates and online news purveyors have always led with the “worst news” first. Top of the page and blaring headlines. Why? Because “bad news sells”. People tune in to hear about disasters, not decency.

American political history is full of rogues and egomaniacs. While the current candidates trade barbs, they’re amateurs when compared to the Founding Fathers. The literate – and personal – insults between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson during the election of 1800 would have today’s commentators questioning the candidates’ competency to hold any office.

Terrorist attacks killed approximately 28,000 people last year. A truly horrific number. In 1917, there were one million casualties in the Battle of the Somme. Another million people were killed in the Korean War. There were at least 500,000 deaths during the Vietnam War, including 58,315 Americans.

It’s been worse. Much worse.

Yet, that probably doesn’t make anyone feel better about today. Especially when your news and social media feeds are filled with more reminders of what’s wrong. Friends and strangers alike complaining that all is lost, and that we’re helpless in the face of so much calamity.

This weekend, hidden in a story of a millionaire philanthropist, was the story of Dr. Jim O’Connell. For more than 30 years, Dr. O’Connell has dedicated his life to helping the homeless of Boston. Clinics, programs and personally taking a van out on the streets at night; providing food and clothing to people sleeping in alleys and gutters. Dr. O’Connell knows that he won’t – that he can’t – solve the homelessness problem. But he can get them clean socks.

A group of people on Facebook, separated by thousands of miles, but connected by a love of marathons. A member loses her mother, and another faces emergency surgery. People who’ve never met in person, come together to raise money and send flowers. Expressing love and support for someone in need.

A local veteran passes away. His fellow members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars gather at the visitation. In formation in front of the casket, there’s a reading from the Manual of Ceremonies. Taps is played while the veterans render a salute. On behalf of a grateful nation, the American Flag is presented to his widow. His family, and the community, is reassured that this veteran’s faithful service has not been forgotten.

A pair of clean socks. A basket of flowers. A hand salute.

Seemingly small deeds in the grand scheme of the world. Acts that don’t require much money or power. Something that anyone of us could do on any given day. Certainly these actions don’t make a difference or change the world.

Except they do.

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Topics: change, love, optimism, support

Celebrating the Little Things

Posted by Mark Fallon

Jul 15, 2016 4:00:00 AM

"One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats." – Iris Murdoch

A popular meme that’s available on bumper stickers, t-shirts and posters is: “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” The phrase is often followed by, “And it’s all small stuff.”

For dealing with the multitude of annoyances in life, not “sweating the small stuff” is a good idea. We should focus on the important problems or issues we need to resolve, and not be distracted by the little things. Why let something small ruin our day?

Rose.jpgBut for the beauty in our lives – the opposite is true – we need to seek and find the small bits of wonder and joy around us. The fleeting experiences that have the power to bring delight. The many moments that combine to make a happy life.

The challenge comes with celebrating these small occurrences in light of so many pressing problems. Can we celebrate the beauty of a sunrise when we know a difficult day at work lies ahead? Is it possible to focus on a budding flower in the midst of social unrest? Is the embrace of some who loves you as powerful as the pains of loss?

Yes, yes, and yes. Not because the positive events make the grim challenges disappear. And not because we can ignore reality and live in a dream world. Instead, the combined impact of the joyful moments give us the strength to face the demands of life.

However, taking notice of wonder and marvels around us needs to be intentional. We have to be aware of the spectacles happening in our daily routines. We must make the decision to recognize and celebrate the beauty passing us by.

Like vitamins for our body, these moments are nourishment for our spirit. The small glimpses of beauty and happiness have a cumulative impact that shouldn’t be underestimated. The positive experiences build up our personal armor to aide us in enduring the negative. Every joyful incident adds to the well of resources we’ll call on in the future.

Don’t sweat the little things – celebrate them instead.

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Topics: inspiration, love, optimism

Zen and the Art of Airline Travel

Posted by Mark Fallon

Apr 22, 2016 5:44:30 AM

“Though the road's been rocky, it sure feels good to me.” – Bob Marley

plane_sun.jpgEach year, I fly around 100,000 miles on airlines, rent between 20 and 30 cars, and spend 75 to 100 nights in hotel rooms. Long lines, delays, cancellations and missed connections are fairly common occurrences. One day, I spent over three hours in the airport trying to get on a plane for a flight that would only take about an hour. Yet I don't get stressed out over travel.

As a speaker and consultant, most of my work is conducted at client sites. And since a consultant's value seems to rise in direct proportion to the number of miles traveled, most of my clients are not in the Boston area. Add the conferences and other speaking engagements, and I spend almost a third of my life on the road.

No complaints – just the facts. I knew there would be a lot of travel when I went into this business. I traveled a lot in my previous jobs, including my stint in the Army. Trust me, any commercial plane is more comfortable than an Air Force C-130 Troop Transport. Plus, the commercial pilots don't ask you to exit the plane while it's still 1,500 feet above the ground.

My attitude towards traveling has helped me see the good in each day. At moments when others got upset over events out of their control, I look for ways to take advantage of the situation. Instead of venting anger at the wrong people, I’m pleasant to those who can help out. This isn't a case of wearing rose-colored glasses. It's facing the real choices you have, and the impact those choices will have.

Some helpful tips:

Treat the ticket agents with courtesy. The agents didn't overbook the flight and it's not their fault the mechanic grounded the plane. These people can help you within their area of influence. Be pleasant, courteous and respectful when asking for help. Let the agent know you appreciate their efforts. Say "thank you" when you have been helped. Your positive manner will create positive results.

Be pleasant to your fellow travelers. Say hello to the person next to you, hold the door for the person behind you, and offer help to those that need it. If you aren't outgoing, that's okay. Just nod and smile to the person in the next seat. Being pleasant will make the trip nicer for both of you.

Carry a book at all times. Odds are you'll be waiting in lines, you're flight will be delayed, and the in-flight movies won't be that good. Sometimes you may be able to get some work done, but don't count on it. A good book can instruct you, or just distract you. I recommend small books or paperbacks, as you can hold them in one hand while you drag your bags with the other. (Yes, I’ve heard of e-readers, but paper books don’t have batteries that die in the middle of a chapter.)

Enjoy the ride. If you hit turbulence, loosen up your body as much as possible. If you tense up, the movement of the plane could actually hurt you. I let my body go limp and let the motion rock me to sleep. The person next to me on a recent flight likened this to the response of an infant. Babies actually prefer motion and they enjoy being rocked and swayed. Find your "inner infant" and go with the flow.

Relax, and remember, you aren't in control. Most of what occurs in airline travel is out of your control. You can't control the decisions of mechanics, pilots or the security staff. You can't control the weather. The only thing you can control is how you react. When you find yourself getting upset; stop, take a breath, and relax. Don't waste your time and energy increasing your frustration. Stay in control of yourself and your emotions.

Smile at the agent, say "hi" to the person next to you, and open a good book. And please place your seatbacks and tray tables in the upright and locked position. 

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Topics: optimism, humor