Little Lessons

The Third Option

Posted by Mark Fallon

Mar 29, 2019 5:01:00 AM

"Just because we can't find a solution doesn't mean that there isn't one.” – Andrew Wiles

Are you faced with the dilemma of choosing between two undesirable options? Then reject them both, and create a third option.

For example, just a few weeks after moving into my new house, I noticed that the light above the kitchen sink was loose. After taking a closer look, I realized that I would have to strengthen the supports for the electrical box and possibly replace the fixture. However, I realized this late Sunday night, and I had an early flight out to a client Monday morning. There would be time to fix the light when I returned.

Tuesday evening, I was heading back to the hotel when my cell phone rang. It was my wife letting me know that the light above the kitchen sink had dropped from the ceiling and was being held up only by the electrical wires. I guess the light didn’t want to wait for my scheduled repair.

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Topics: success, persistence, reactions, challenge, little lessons, problem solving

Create Your "Did-It" List

Posted by Mark Fallon

Feb 22, 2019 5:01:00 AM

ToDo List
"Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense." - Thomas A. Bennett

I’m a man of many lists. Writing topics, speaking topics, long-range goals, short-term goals, prospect lists, customer lists and shopping lists. And of course, the daily “to-do” lists.

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Topics: hard work, goals, persistence, challenge, wins

Patience is a Skill

Posted by Mark Fallon

Nov 10, 2017 5:00:00 AM


“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As a young man, I wasn’t known for being calm and serene. I would get upset at real and perceived wrongs, even when they were trivial. I thought I was right in my rage, and was convinced that I was full of what Aristotle called “righteous indignation”. Actually – I was just full of myself.

I drove my car fast, and paid several speeding fines. I made many decisions impulsively, and paid the consequences for poor choices. I was convinced that patience was a “natural” trait, and I didn’t have it.

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Topics: improvement, persistence, planning, attitude, positive

The Little Things

Posted by Mark Fallon

Oct 20, 2017 5:00:00 AM



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Topics: persistence, friendship, thankfulness, attitude, positive

Working the Problem

Posted by Mark Fallon

Feb 24, 2017 5:01:00 AM

“No matter how bad a situation, you have to ask yourself, ‘What do I do now?’” - Robert L. Howard, Medal of Honor Recipient

Flat Tire.jpgHave you ever put off taking care of something because “it’s just a back-up”?

For a while (a long while), I’ve known that I needed to get my spare tire repaired. The sensors create an alert every time I start my car. It’s just the spare, so I wasn’t too worried.

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Topics: improvement, persistence

The Great Unknown

Posted by Mark Fallon

Dec 2, 2016 5:01:00 AM

“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

trail tunnel.jpgI like schedules. My travel itinerary is on my Surface, my Droid and a printed calendar that hangs in the kitchen. I set an appointment every few weeks just to look at my calendar – 2 months back and 2 months ahead. What have I done and where am I heading?

I love project plans – of all types. When I was in the military, I excelled at drafting operations orders (OPORD). During ROTC, we once drafted an OPORD for a training run through the streets of Boston, ending at our rival ROTC unit at another college. They were shocked when a group of cadets came through the front door, chanting “Delta!” and “Suffolk U!” as we ran through their hallways. A well-organized, well-executed raid. I think it was the first time we received both a commendation and a reprimand for the same action.

In my role as a consultant, I love the start of new projects. The opportunity to map out a major undertaking from start to finish – assigning roles, setting due dates and establishing milestones. Confirming the timelines against competing projects and responsibilities. Then hopefully, delivering the project on time for the client.

Creating a training plan for a race gives me the same thrill – the spreadsheet is a blank canvas waiting to come to life. I look back at similar races, comparing my current fitness level to the past. Then I take into consideration the season’s probable weather, known travel plans and other factors. I’m able to start the training cycle with confidence that I have a plan to show up at the starting line fully prepared.

With all of this planning, I can be sure of only one thing – I have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow.

None of us know what will take place in the future. Not tomorrow, not next year, not even in the next 5 minutes. Our past experiences suggest what will probably happen, but the unknown has a sly way of making an appearance at the most inconvenient time. The sun will probably rise in the morning, however it might have gone supernova 8 minutes ago. Or, there may be a check for a million dollars in today’s mail. We’ll find out soon enough.

Understanding that we can’t predict the future doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare for the future. In fact, the opposite is true. We can be organized and flexible at the same time. A good plan starts with a goal in mind. When something unexpected occurs, we can adjust the plan to regain the path to our objective.

When the unforeseen happens, and it will, we need to stop and assess the situation. We may have to change the times we have scheduled. We may need to find new resources – people, money, emotional support – in order to complete the plan. We may even have to reevaluate our goals, and reconsider what’s most important to us.

The ability to adapt our tactics to an unpredictable situation is essential to our success. We learn to accept what is out of our control. We take the time to focus on the actions we can control. Then take the necessary steps to enable the future we hope to achieve.

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Topics: success, goals, persistence

The Power of Not Quitting

Posted by Mark Fallon

Dec 11, 2015 5:00:00 AM

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Topics: success, persistence, quit

Ten Miles, The Dip and a Little Help From My Friends

Posted by Mark Fallon

Oct 9, 2015 5:00:00 AM

army_ten_milerIn 2007, I turned 45. Not an age that most of us approach with much interest. Feelings of excitement or dread are normally reserved for ages that end with a “0”, like “30”, “40” or “50”.

Turning 45 made me think about what happened in 1987 – the year I turned 25. Over just a few months, I received my Master's in Public Administration degree, got married and reported for active duty at the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Ft. Benning, Georgia. It was quite a year.

What do I do for an encore 20 years later? My education now takes place outside the classroom – through overcoming challenges in running a business, supplemented with a healthy reading program. To celebrate our 20th anniversary, my wife and I went to Paris. We had a wonderful time, and I remembered enough French to get along.

To pay tribute to my military service, I decided to run the Army Ten-Miler Road Race in Washington, DC, on October 7. The course would start at the Pentagon, with a loop along the Mall, past the Capitol and back. Sounded fantastic.

There was one minor issue. I was in terrible physical shape. On April 2, the day after I signed up for the race, I barely completed two miles. And that took almost 30 minutes. Finishing 10 miles was going to be a challenge.

In a newsletter I published that year, I recommended Seth Godin’s The Dip. In the book, Godin identifies the Dip as the challenge people and companies face after the initial excitement about starting a project wears off. For some people, they can’t see beyond the Dip, and quit. Others work through the Dip and achieve success. I wanted to be successful.

From my experience, I knew that the Dip would probably occur when I hit the 4-mile run mark in training. After that distance, my body would become more aware of the compounded effects of past injuries and the additional weight I was carrying. But recognizing a Dip is only half the battle. I needed a way to make it past the Dip.

In many presentations, I remind my audiences that you never have to tackle problems on your own. It’s a good idea to seek out assistance for tough issues. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of intelligence.

Taking my own advice, I reached out to two friends, Brian Hayes and Ken Benway. Brian and I were cadets together in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at Suffolk University, and Ken was our instructor. They were also both retired Special Forces soldiers. I knew that these two men would support me and help me achieve my goal. Although somewhat differently.

I emailed my weekly progress and received immediate feedback. I could hear the “HUAH!” in Brian’s voice when he wrote back. Each email began with him calling me “Hero”, and ended with “Congrats Amigo!” He also added phrases like “kinder and gentler gets you fatter and slower”.

Equally supportive, Ken’s emails included cautionary advice with reminders to stretch and to not over-train. Also, there were descriptions of his personal training program and links to websites with information on nutrition and physical conditioning.

Soon the “4-Mile Dip” turned into a “blip”. I was hitting my 6-mile, 8-mile and 10-mile training targets weeks ahead of schedule. My goals changed as well. I no longer wanted to just finish the Ten-Miler, but finish with a respectable time.

And I did. On October 7, 2007, I finished the Army Ten-Miler with a time of 1:25:01, an average of 8 minutes and 30 seconds per mile.

I was never alone during those 10 miles. Not just because there were 26,000 other people in the race. Or, because my wife was at the 5-mile mark to take photos and cheer me on. I also had Brian and Ken in my head, continuing to encourage me and remind me that I could accomplish my goal.

We all have goals. And, as Seth points out, we’ll all encounter Dips. But remember, you never have to face the Dip alone.

Be smart, and ask for a little help from your friends. 

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Topics: goals, persistence, friendship

Patience Isn’t a Virtue, It’s a Necessity

Posted by Mark Fallon

Jun 26, 2015 5:30:00 AM

"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish" - John Quincy Adams

patience is a necessityBack in the summer of 2010, I was training for an ultramarathon. My mileage was progressing nicely, reaching 21 miles on my Sunday morning run. Things were looking good. Until they weren’t.

It started with a nagging tightness above my ankle. The tightness progressed to pain. My leg hurt so much, I had difficulty walking from one gate to another at the airport. It was time to see a doctor.

I was able to get an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine. He looked at the images from the x-ray and MRI and made the diagnosis – a damaged, but not torn, anterior tibial tendon. We had caught the problem before surgery was required.

The doctor and I talked about my goals. Did I want to continue running, or did I want to take up another sport? I explained that not only did I want to keep running, I wanted to keep running marathons. It was part of who I’d become.

The doctor said that with the right treatment and physical therapy, there was no reason I couldn’t meet my goals. But first, I needed to heal. That mean no running for at least 4 weeks, and then very limited running for the 4 weeks after that. He looked me in the eye and restated, “No running for the next 4 weeks.”

It wasn’t easy. For me, or for the people who live and work with me. But I knew that I needed to follow the doctor’s instructions or I wouldn’t accomplish my objectives. The recovery process would take time. A long time.

It was over a year before I toed the starting line again. But since then, I’ve run 5 marathons and 2 ultramarathons. Patience and persistence paid off.

Recently, I attended a training seminar entitled, “Creating a Successful Speaking Business”. The presenter, Steve Shapiro, is a well-recognized leader in the industry, and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Speakers Association. His level of success is the benchmark most of us in the business strive to achieve.

Steve started with a story about when he began his business. He’d been a vice-president at a national consulting firm, had delivered many presentations, and even had a great video in front of a large audience. He met with a publicist to discuss how long it would take to have a successful speaking business with regular bookings. The answer – about 10 years. If he worked diligently.

How long did it take Steve to reach this level? About 10 years. While persistently working towards his goal. Now he’s able to decide which booking offers to accept, and spend most of his time developing new content for his books and his talks.

It looks like I have a few more years, and a lot more effort, before I achieve my aspirations as a professional speaker.

Success is the result of hard work over a long period of time. Often longer than we expect when we begin our journeys. There will be delays, setbacks and unforeseen obstacles. Sometimes, progress will be so slow, it may not feel like we’re moving at all. Our goals may appear to be further from our reach than when we started.

That’s why patience is so important. We need to be accept the realities of the situation and adjust accordingly. We can acknowledge obstacles, but we can’t let them deter us from moving forward. We must stay the course, and continue the path forward. One step at a time.

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Topics: hard work, goals, persistence

Believe in You

Posted by Mark Fallon

Feb 13, 2015 5:30:00 AM

“Most of us have far more courage than we ever dreamed we possessed.” - Dale Carnegie

Believe in YouDo you remember the first time you rode a bike? Without training wheels? Maybe there was an adult holding on to you as you started forward. Slowly pushing down the pedals to gain speed, worrying about falling over. Suddenly, the hands holding you were no longer there, and you were on your own!

Do you remember the first time asking someone for a job? Maybe it was filling out an application at a restaurant. Maybe it was talking to the owner of the local convenience store. You might have gotten the job. Or maybe you didn’t get the first job, but tried again, and were hired by the next, or the tenth place where you applied.

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? You were young, confused and unsure. Perhaps your partner felt the same way. For most of us, that relationship ended. No matter how nice each person tried being to the other, hearts were broken and feelings were hurt. But we tried again. And again.

There are so many “first times” in our lives. The first day of school. The first time driving a car, taking a bus by ourselves, or trying out for a spot on the team, a part in the play, or being a member of the band or drum corps. Sometimes, we were lucky and had an amazing, positive experience. Sometimes, we suffered loss, frustration or embarrassment. And then we moved on.

We didn’t know what the results would be when we started. It could have been the joy of the wind in our hair or the pain of the asphalt on our legs. We might have been given a job or told to look somewhere else. Uncertainty abounded. But we made the attempt, and continued our efforts until we achieved success.

Tomorrow, or some day in the future, we’ll be tested again. Initially, we might be afraid of taking on the challenge. We may think we don’t have the skills or the strength needed to succeed. We fear failure. To bolster our courage, we seek out role models – other people who’ve overcome the odds.

Instead of looking elsewhere for inspiration, we should look inward. We need to remember the moments when we were courageous in the past. Focus on the times when we faced fear, and went forward anyway. Recognize that we have the strength and the fortitude to overcome any barriers that life may put before us.

We’re capable. We’re strong. We will succeed. We’ve proven it in the past. Now, we must believe in ourselves as we face the future.

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Topics: hard work, goals, persistence, inspiration