Little Lessons

Searching for the Best

Posted by Mark Fallon

Jul 20, 2018 5:01:00 AM

burger dinner

“The best things in life aren’t things.” – Art Buchwald

It’s common to see signs in restaurants declaring “Voted Best Restaurant of 2018” by the readers of the local newspaper or regional magazine. The restaurant may only be a local pub with 10 tables and 5 booths, but it’s “the best”.

I’ve had people ask me for “the best hotel in Boston”. Before answering, I ask questions – How many people? Any children? What do you plan on doing? What time of year? Will you have a car?

A friend asked me “what’s the best book on leadership?” The closest I could come to answering the questions was to write a blog post with a list of 25 books that had a significant impact on me.

“Best” is a very personal term. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “best” as “superlative of good: excelling all others.”

Excelling in what?
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Topics: emotions, memories, values, Reading and Books, reflection

I Was Never Not Thanked

Posted by Mark Fallon

Nov 4, 2016 5:01:00 AM

“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.” – Cicero

Speaking.jpgThis week, I was able to spend some time with two of my favorite people – Maureen Goodson and Mary Guthrie of the National Postal Forum (NPF). We were in Washington DC to attend a briefing at the U.S. Postal Service headquarters. Arriving early, we used the time to discuss ideas about next year’s conference in Baltimore, MD.

My involvement with the NPF has grown over time. From being one member of a panel in 1995 to delivering multiple classes each year to sponsoring events like the Habitat for Humanity build. With the help of Maureen’s staff, we’re looking to do even more in 2017.

The NPF isn’t the only conference in the print and mailing industry, nor is it the only one I attend. But it is the only one that I’ll go out of my way to support, whether that means leading extra classes, delivering webinars or publishing blog posts. When Maureen asked why I’m so loyal, I had a very simple answer – for over 20 years, I’ve never not been thanked.

That may sound obvious. However, the NPF has thousands of attendees, senior government officials as speakers, dozens of presenters, and Fortune 500 companies as sponsors. It could be very easy to miss a single contributor from a smaller company in the midst of that crowd. But that never happened. And that wasn’t an accident.

It takes conscious effort to create a positive, thankful culture in any organization – a company, a local fundraising group, or a book club. Leaders have to set the example, recognizing the efforts of everyone involved. Everyone has to see the people at the top taking the time to thank all contributors – regardless of level.

And while leaders have to set the example, the entire organization has to believe in the importance of acknowledgement. You don’t have to be a senior vice-president to say, “Thank you” – to a customer, a contributor, or a peer. It’s always correct to express your appreciation.

Of course, this same attitude should extend to our personal lives. We’re all beneficiaries of gifts from others – some small, some life-changing – all important. We need to let that person know we appreciate their actions. Recognizing their support can take the form of a note, a phone call or a simple, sincere expression of thanks at the moment.

The impact of your actions may last a lifetime.

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Topics: values, thankfulness

The Gift of Time

Posted by Mark Fallon

Oct 28, 2016 4:34:34 AM

"The time is always right to do what's right." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Topics: values, love, inspiration

The Risk of Being Judged

Posted by Mark Fallon

Oct 21, 2016 5:01:00 AM

“It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else's eyes.” – Sally Field

Comic Books.jpgI read comic books.

My friends have known this for the last 40 years, but it’s not something I usually share in public. My Goodreads list includes novels, but the majority of books I read are about management, history, science and philosophy. I’m a 54-year-old businessman running a consulting company. As a writer and a consultant, I want people to take me seriously. And serious people don’t read comic books.

Actually, they do. I was recently reminded of my own misgivings and their impact on my life.

Last weekend was the Boston Book Festival. In addition to exhibits of authors, bookstores and publishers, the festival had informational sessions on different genres. The panels are a blend of national and local celebrities, as well as famous and not-so-famous authors. It’s a great opportunity to gain insight to the writers’ approach towards their craft.

The unexpected highlight of the day was a session entitled “BFF Unbound: Not Your Grandma’s Romance”. Filmmaker Laurie Kahn moderated a panel of 4 authors, who shared how they began writing romance novels, the different subgenres in the romance category, and their interactions with readers. I couldn’t believe I’d left my normally ever-present notebook at home.

A common theme was the reluctance of the authors to embrace romance novels – either as a reader or a writer. Several had Master's degrees, one had been an English professor and one was a computer systems professional. They were serious, well-educated people. And romance novels weren’t for serious people.

Actually, they are.

The writers had to get over their own preconceptions of what romance novels were, and who would be their readers. They discovered that romance fiction contained universal themes of the human condition, which could be expressed in many different settings. Their audience were people who read multiple books a week, if not a book a day. Writing romance would be as authentic as any other genre.

Choosing this course of action meant risking being judged by certain segments of society, including their close friends. However, it also meant joining a supportive community of millions of readers who embrace their choices and don’t worry about what other people think. An added bonus – being financially successful in the multi-billion dollar romance novel market.

Too often, we let the judgments of others interfere with embracing who we are – and who we can become. In many ways, social media has intensified these feelings, with people posting disparaging comments about types of films, music or books. Or perhaps putting down others because of what they prefer to eat – or not eat. It can even devolve to insulting other runners because of the distances they choose or the finishing times of their races.

While perhaps meant in jest, these posts can cause embarrassment for their unintended targets. We all have some level of insecurity, and the wrong phrase can magnify our self-doubt. We’re driven further into silence. And farther away from our joy.

There’s little we can do to change the actions of others. But we can change ourselves. First - before posting that next negative comment – pause and reconsider. If the post doesn’t serve any positive usefulness, why bother? Is it worth making yourself feel good – at the expense of someone else?

More importantly, be proud of who you are – including all of your idiosyncrasies and passions. Stop being concerned about what “everyone” thinks. As long as your joy doesn’t bring someone else pain, then it’s good. Read comic books, watch silly television shows, go for runs before sunrise, or do whatever it is that makes you happy. Look inward, not outward, for approval.

Consider sharing your enthusiasms with the world. Maybe post about a musician you recently discovered, a walk that brought you peace, or an event that made you smile. Your words may help you learn that there are many other people who share your opinion. Or maybe you get to introduce someone to a delight that they’ve yet to discover.

It’s worth the risk.

Book Mark to speak at your next event
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Topics: support, values, Reading and Books

Lessons from My Mother: Consideration for Others

Posted by Mark Fallon

May 6, 2016 5:00:00 AM

“A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally.” - Oscar Wilde

Mother_and_Me.jpgGrowing up, the local newspaper had a “Quote of the Day” feature. Sometimes, my mother would point out a quote that would make her smile. If she thought a quote was one I should remember, she would cut it out and hand it to me. To this day, I still collect quotes that carry lessons.

I was in college when she handed me the Oscar Wilde quote at the top of this post. Up to that moment, I’d limited my definition of a gentleman to someone with good manners. I opened doors for others, said “sir” and “ma’am”, and knew how to order in a restaurant. Now, I had to be considerate of the feelings of others?

For the hardcore business types tempted to skip this article because it’s about soft skills like “consideration” and “feelings”, don’t be so quick. Soft skills have a direct impact on hard numbers – like employee productivity, customer retention and profits. Besides, your mother would consider not finishing the blog as being impolite.

Most of us have memories of our mothers as caregivers who put their own needs last. Raising children, running a household and caring for others. Mothers are special people with an exclusive place in our hearts. And like you, I know that my mother is an “extra-special” person.

Although I’m one of 10 kids, my mother always took time to make me feel that I was the most important person in the world to her at that moment. And I’ve seen her do the same for my brothers and sisters. And she did the same for her 18 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Even with this crowd around her, my mother succeeded at providing individual attention to each person. Attention with consideration for how we feel.

This isn’t to say that my mother never had to correct us or scold us. But even then, she made the issue about us and our actions. Not about her feelings or what the neighbors thought. And she talked to us alone about what we did wrong, and explained the consequences for our actions.

This kind of interaction is a powerful role model for all of us. How do you treat the people around you? Friends? Family? Employees? Customers?

Take a moment to review how you treat others. Honestly consider when you weren’t as polite or as considerate as you could have been. Examine how these events caused negative results. Reflect on how changing your actions would have resulted in more positive outcomes.

Remember - good manners means more than just knowing which fork to use at dinner.

P.S.
Happy Mother’s Day!

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Topics: personal relationships, love, values

No Such Thing as a Little Thing

Posted by Mark Fallon

Mar 4, 2016 5:00:00 AM

“Great acts are made up of small deeds.” – Lao Tzu

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Topics: values

You Have to Be Strong to Be Nice

Posted by Mark Fallon

Dec 18, 2015 5:00:00 AM

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.” – Seneca

Marguerite Ulrich and MeMy sister-in-law Marguerite is a kind person. She thinks of others before she thinks of herself. For her 50th birthday, she chose to run a race with me to raise money for veterans with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorders. She’s someone who opens her home and heart to the world. Marguerite’s also one of the strongest people I know.

My cousin Peter served over 20 years in the Army as an Airborne Ranger Infantry Officer. He volunteered for two tours of duty in Vietnam where he was awarded the Bronze Star multiple times. His command presence hasn’t diminished over the years, and I still call him “Sir” or “Colonel”, and stand up straight when he talks to me. Peter’s also one of the nicest people I know.

Many people mistakenly confuse kindness with weakness or strength with cruelty. The opposite is true. It’s the truly strong who display compassion to others. It’s the toughest people that can shoulder the burdens of another, even while facing their own challenges. The resolute are unwavering in supporting the vulnerable.

It’s equally important to separate the notions of “strength” and “power”. Dictators have power, but are really just weak leaders who must use fear and coercion to force others to follow them. Bullies are able to dominate the timid and the defenseless, but when confronted, their cowardly character is revealed. The egotistical puts themselves first, yet will often find no one behind them.

Those with real strength don’t need to intimidate, threaten or pressure others. Instead, they lead by example, often with quiet, understated potency. They’re able to understand the difference between monetary value and real worth. They will often leave themselves in a vulnerable position – even to the point of suffering injury – to make others safe.

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Topics: leadership, love, values

The Honor in Your Work

Posted by Mark Fallon

Sep 4, 2015 5:30:00 AM

“It may not be my job, but it is my privilege, honor and blessing.” – Mark Case

The Honor In You Work
Mark Case is a teacher and blogger. The above quote is the last line of a recent post he wrote after asking a colleague about how to help students with their social skills. The person responded, “It’s not my job.”
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Topics: success, hard work, inspiration, values

Values Aren’t Geographical

Posted by Mark Fallon

Aug 14, 2015 5:30:00 AM

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Topics: values