Reference forms and the references that reference them.

I recently applied to join the coaching staff of a local high school to work with their volleyball program.  As is customary, I had to fill out a lengthy application and submit a few references.   In this day and age, they need to make sure I do not have a criminal record or appear on any sex offender list.  (FYI, I do not). I’m grateful for the background check and thorough nature of the application process.  At the same time, I am amused at the necessary reference form.

By definition, a ref·er·ence is:

  •  A person who is in a position to recommend another or to vouch for his or her fitness, as for a job.
  • A statement about a person’s qualifications, character, and dependability.

The school’s particular reference form is adequate and generic.  See for yourself, below.  I just question whether it is a truly effective tool for weeding out bad seed.

It is good to know how long you have known the applicant and under what capacity. It is smart to learn what you can about the applicant’s character, judgment and maturity from their friends or former colleagues.  It’s best to know if they are dependable before you go depending on them.  I think it is wise to try to discern someones strengths and weaknesses before you hire them.  Anytime you can hear from a co-worker or former employer, it can give you insight that the personal interview cannot provide.  Nobody wants any surprises with a new hire.  On the form above, the best question is whether the person giving the reference would hire the applicant.  If the reference form had only one question on it, it should be that one.

I don’t have a problem with the need for references.  I’m glad they ask for them and I hope they contact them with any follow-up questions.  What confuses me is why we place so much emphasis on the reference’s opinion of the applicant.  I mean, isn’t the reference always loyal to the applicant?  Is the positive reference truly an indicator that you are about to hire a positive applicant?  Aren’t we all able to answer most questions in a way that hides our true feelings while still being positive and honest?  Should we really blindly trust the opinion of the applicant’s closest friend?  How do we know that the reference isn’t a sex offending, ex-con, drug dealing pimp who was offered $20 bucks for the positive reference?

If I want a job and you need a reference, naturally, I’m going to introduce you to someone who thinks I hung the moon.  I will send the form to those who owe me money or to those whose child I pushed away from an oncoming train.  You want to hear how great I am?  Ok, let me find the 5 people (or 500 people) who actually think I am great and I will let your opinion of me be formed by them.

However, at this stage in my adult life, there are undoubtedly a few people walking the planet who dislike me.  I might even have some out there who hate me.  Needless to say, they will not be getting a reference form to fill out.  Who wants their opinion anyway??   Maybe a prospective employer!?

In the future, a prospective employer should ask each applicant for four references.  Some from people who like you (allies) and some from people who do not (enemies).  Then, once the forms are back, the employer (or his committee) can read through the true nature of a candidate, not just the positive version they are portraying through positive, loyal references.

Company assets and reputations need to be protected.  Sensitive client information and trade secrets need to be protected.  More importantly, children/youth (and the organizations that deal with them) need to be protected.  For these reasons, reference forms need to be filled out and follow-up phone calls need to occur.  How many young people could have been protected from various abuses over the years had schools/organizations had better forms and better screening processes?  How many young people could have been saved from unnecessary trauma and scars if the hiring organization did a better job of researching the character and evaluating the integrity of those they hired?

Below is a sample reference form.   The questions are a bit more probing and require straight-forward, honest answers.  No reference form will be fool-proof or be able to reveal the bad eggs instantly.  But maybe we need to do a background check on the references as well as the applicants?

How about you?   What question would you want to know the answer to before you offered someone in your company a job?

Living life in-between trapezes

The circus recently came to my town.   Every time I see it advertised, I think about going.  Every time they come, I never attend.  What keeps me away are the clowns.  Honestly, they freak me out.  I’m also allergic to peanuts and I hear there are peanuts everywhere at a circus.  But mostly it’s because of the clowns.   I remember attending as a child and what fascinated me the most (besides the bearded lady) were the trapeze artists.

There are two things I like about the trapeze artists.   First, I like that they call themselves “artists.”  I’m not sure why but that title amuses me.  However, seeing that they are able to “create by virtue of skill a work of aesthetic value”, I won’t argue with their title.  It does make me wonder if we should start referring to Spiderman as a web artist or Tarzan as a vine artist.  I guess since their swinging is more utilitarian, the artist title eludes them.  The main reason I like watching trapeze artists is because of the life lesson they teach me, every time they fly.

If you have ever watched a trapeze artist, you will notice that they begin on a platform, swing on a bar, leap to another moving bar and return to the opposite platform.  In theory, it sounds easy.  It even looks rather easy.  I can tell by the massive net below that it is not.   There is also a lot of pressure to the routine.  Many components have to work together perfectly in order for it to be successful.  You must begin your initial swing on time.  While in motion, you only have one opportunity to grab the other moving bar – literally a moment.  If the bar was not swung properly, you fall.  If you do not grasp it firmly, you fall.  If, in the leap, you slow the momentum – you will not make it to the next bar nor the next platform.  And if you are trying to do this in the circus, tens of thousands of people are watching you.   Pressure!

In order to go from one platform to the other, you must use the swinging bars.  Unlike Tarzan’s vine, however, the swinging bars never touch.  In fact, at the height of their respective swings, they are still several feet apart.  The only way you can go from one bar to the other is by taking a “leap” of faith.  In other words, you have to let go.  And for that brief moment in time, you are in-between trapezes.

Many times in life – before you can truly go to the next level, you have to leave the one you are currently on.  You cannot begin one job until you have left the other.  You don’t get Prince Charming until you dump the Jester.  You can’t get to second base until you have left first.  You get the picture.   Most times, we want to grasp the newer trapeze (or job, relationship, etc) before we let go of the older one.  It’s not that we really like the older one, it’s just that it’s comforting to us.   Who wouldn’t want to get to second base without leaving the familiarity of first?  It’s safer that way.

Life doesn’t work like that.  God didn’t design it that way.  And you can cry, complain, kick, scream, whine or pout – until you leave the one trapeze you will never make it to the other.

Bartolomeo, Giovanni Pellegrino and Giacomo Columbus were three brothers who grew up in northwest Italy in the 14th century.  Ever hear of them?   Probably not.  Know why?  Because they stayed at home – comfortably perched on their familiar platform.  If you paid attention in school, you know their brother, Christopher.  In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue and the rest is history.  Because he was willing to reach for a new trapeze, a new land was discovered.   Before he could “discover” America, he had to leave the comfort of home and live for a season in-between the trapezes.   In-between trapezes is scary.  Ask anyone who has lived there.  It frightens us because it is unfamiliar territory.  But the unknown is only scary because it is unknown.

Several years ago I treated my step-Dad to a hot air balloon ride for his birthday. Neither of us had been on a balloon ride before and neither of us had a fear of heights. That is, until you are 3,000 feet above the ground in a glorified wicker basket. Up there, the winds are strong. Up there, the earth is far. Up there, even the tall buildings are small. And the only thing keeping us from crashing to the ground like a meteor was a wicker basket, rope, hot air and balloons. What crazy person invented this form of travel?? To be honest, it was exhilarating. The view (as you can see below) was breathtaking.  Was there some risk? Of course there was! But as recent events have shown us, there is risk in everything we do – even going to the movie theatres. I just know this… you can’t see the sunrise over the horizon from your La-Z-boy recliner. You will never rise above your circumstances while you are laying in your bed of excuses.

So, which trapeze are you on?   Why are you still there?  Because you want to be or because you are too afraid to leave it?  Is it time to swing on?   It will be a scary leap.  Yes, there will be a moment in time (it could be weeks or months) where you are “in limbo.”   Yes, you will have that feeling of insecurity and fear.   But that doesn’t mean you aren’t safe.   Remember, there can be a tremendous difference between being unsafe and feeling unsafe.  To understand that difference, go to your nearest amusement park and ride their scariest ride.  For about 3 minutes of your life, you will feel unsafe.  The truth is, you have never been so secure.  Just because you feel like you will be ejected doesn’t mean you will be.  There is a big difference between perceived fear and actual fear and too often our perceived fears keep us from living the life we want to live.  Fear can be a paralyzing force in our lives.  It can, if we let it, strangle our faith and bind our feet.

As George Addair once said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”  

So, what do you want?   To meet that person?  To travel to that country?  To begin a new career?

Why are you letting fear stand in your way of grasping it?   Life change is just a leap away.  Life in-between the trapezes is calling your name.  A new platform awaits.  Go for it!

“I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’  And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.  That shall be to you better than the light and safer than the known!’  So, I went forth and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.” – M. Louise Haskins

Here is a picture of my Facebook friend, Allison Maslan, spending some time in-between trapezes. As an entrepreneur and life coach, her passion is helping people take the leap they need to reach that next platform in their business or life. For more information about her visit

Hey GLAAD, “Lighten up, don’t pucker up!”

It is no secret that men and women are very different, in almost every way.   From what I have heard, men are from Mars and women are from Venus.   My personal experience with that gender confirms that they are from a different planet.  But women aside, I find myself trying to understand different segments of society as well.  Like the Real Housewives of anywhere.   Are they for real?  I don’t understand them or the people who watch them.

In my search for understanding, I have personally met with men from the local Mosque to try to comprehend the Muslim mind and Islam religion.  I have sat down with atheists in an attempt to understand their world without God.  I enjoy conversing with those from an opposing political party, hoping to understand what makes them “tick.”  I constantly ask friends and co-workers a barrage of questions about words they have said or actions they have done, in an attempt to understand why they do or say what they do.

It is in that spirit that I write this particular blog post.  As St. Francis of Assisi once wrote, “Seek first to understand.  Then be understood.”    Those words have guided me for years and I really aim to build bridges with those I disagree with, even when I disagree with them strongly.  Having said that, I really want to better understand and relate to the gay & lesbian community’s outrage and how they must feel this week in regards to all the Chick-Fil-A talk.

Honestly, the folks in the gay & lesbian communities are a mystery to  me – not just in their private lifestyle choice but in their public agenda with it.  I can accept a lifestyle I don’t agree with it just like I can accept a religion I do not agree with.  If you want to bow to your particular god behind closed doors – fine.  I accept that.  I can respect Islam so long as I don’t have to pay homage to Allah.   I can accept the alternative lifestyle too, so long as I don’t have to bow to the gay god.  But why all the anger when someone defends the traditional marriage as between one man and one woman?   What is so wrong with the heterosexual union?  If I’m not mistaken, you wouldn’t be here without it.

By now you have probably heard of the Chick-Fil-A boycott being planned by members of the gay & lesbian community.  From what I can tell, G.L.A.A.D. (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) is supporting the movement.   Chick-Fil-A  C.E.O., Dan Cathy was quoted in the Baptist Press (July 16) saying he was “guilty as charged” for supporting “the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”  He has been quoted as saying in another publication, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.”   It has also been reported that Chick-Fil-A has donated over $2 million dollars to anti-gay groups.

Granted, not every gay and lesbian person may be planning on participating in the boycott nor may even agree with it.   However, GLAAD’s intention and actions do seem to represent the majority of those in that camp.  It should be noted that it is not their boycott that bothers me.  What bothers me is their organization of the “National same sex kiss day” on August 3rd in Chick-Fil-A stores nationwide.  With that background in motion, I am imploring the gay & lesbian community to “Lighten up!” and help enlighten me.

I realize that by saying this and publishing this post, I am kicking the entire bee hive because of a few vocal bees.  I fully expect to be stung as everyone normally is who dares to speak up in disagreement to their movement.  For those that are gay but do not agree with their overall group’s decision or actions, I apologize for lumping you in there with them.  Perhaps you need to be more vocal as well, so we can hear another viewpoint from someone in that camp?

Here are a few reasons why “they” (or you) need to lighten up in regards to Mr. Cathy’s expressed beliefs.

  • As a Christian, Mr. Cathy believes that God’s original plan for marriage was one man and one woman.  Whether you agree with Mr. Cathy or not, you have to admit that he is right about God’s original plan – one man with one woman.   After all, in the “perfect” environment (The Garden of Eden), God created Adam and Eve.  Had God created Adam and “Steve”, the human family would never have been able to continue past the first generation.   Whether you agree with him or not, he is still entitled to his beliefs and he is entitled to share them when asked by the Baptist Press.  Our First amendment rights make that clear.  In like fashion, you are entitled to your beliefs and you are allowed to share them.  I don’t have to tell you this.  You know your constitutional rights better than anyone.  You get on your soapbox often and shout your beliefs to everyone whether they want to hear it or not.
  • Chick-Fil-A is a privately held company.  This restaurant is not a political organization.  They are not publicly traded on the Stock Market.  They are not government supported, run or led.  They are not even a church or Christian organization.  They are a privately held restaurant whose owner happens to be an outspoken Christian.   Chick-Fil-A is famously closed on Sundays.  Why?  Because its christian leadership is trying to follow their personal conviction (and 4th Commandment!) that Sunday is the Lord’s Day and a day of rest.  The point is – unlike most other companies out there, they march to the beat of a different Drummer.   You don’t have to like it.  When you create the greatest chicken sandwich on the planet and turn it into a billion dollar business, you can make your own rules too.
  • They have not and do not discriminate against the gay & lesbian community from eating there.  I am sure you can find some example where a gay or lesbian person was denied from working there.  It’s an isolated incident.  I have been in over 20 Chick-Fil-A restaurants across the country and none have ever treated me with anything less than respect and dignity.  They didn’t know or ask or care what my sexual preference or background is.  They just wanted to know if I wanted “waffle fries with that order.”
  • If you feel so strong about this – then go ahead and boycott the company.   Follow in the steps of Ed Helms (actor from the Office) and refuse to eat there anymore.  I promise you, it will not silence the CEO, change the company’s view or affect their bottom line.  If they can THRIVE in this economy against STEEP competition WHILE being CLOSED ON SUNDAYS, I doubt your few missing dollars will have any impact.  Besides, they are not doing anything wrong.  They are just not bowing to your particular preference.
  • The owners of Chick-Fil-A may think being gay is wrong, so what?  They believe that God intended marriage to be between a man and a woman.  So what?  Chick-Fil-A will still give you a job.  They will still serve you in their restaurant.  They will even let you wear whatever pro-gay shirt you want in their store.  As long as it does not stop you from your constitutional right of eating their delicious chicken sandwich, what do you care what they believe or preach?
  • Aren’t you the group that proclaims everyone should be tolerant?  How come it seems like you don’t practice what you preach?  Apparently Christians are not the only hypocrites in the room.

One last thing, the “National same-sex kissing day” stunt you boast about doing is wrong and distasteful.   Just as you probably wouldn’t want Mr. Cathy to flaunt his anti-gay beliefs to you inside your place of business, you shouldn’t do the same in his.  Even if you pull it off, so what?  What do you prove?  That you can kiss in public?   Or does it merely prove you DO have an agenda you are trying to put “in their face?”  To be consistent, do you boycott every store who disagrees with you?  Do you feel the need to kiss in every store that has an outspoken CEO against your cause?   If not, why not?   Your answer would be telling.

I’m sorry that you have a hard time fitting in to our straight culture.  It’s really not so straight anymore, you should be pleased.  I’m sorry that it’s taken years to pass the laws to protect you and keep you safe.   I’m sorry that you feel judged all the time.  You deserve to be loved and accepted and protected like anyone else.   But just as you are allowed your beliefs and practices, Chick-Fil-A and its owners are allowed theirs as well.

Just for the sake of clarity so no one has to wonder “where I am coming from.”  I am straight but have several good friends & family who are gay.  Their being gay does not affect my thoughts towards them or my love towards them.   Though I may not agree with their choice, it does not mean I would ever stop being their friend/family because of it.  If one can only be friends with someone who lives right all the time, I’d have no friends.

Though I am not interested in getting into a debate about whether the alternate lifestyle is right or wrong, I would be open to polite, mature, civil comments on why the G & L community might disagree with this post.   Yelling and name calling and belittling of opinion doesn’t help either side gain understanding.  Hostile or mean comments will probably be deleted.  To be fair, I won’t tolerate abuse from the other side either.  However, if there is an intelligent, articulate, reasonable opinion on why the “National Same sex kissing day” is an appropriate response to Dan Cathy’s remarks, I’d love to hear it.

In the meantime, “Lighten up!”

I am on my way to become WD-40

No one likes to fail.  In fact, most of us do whatever we can to avoid it at all costs.   Winning feels good.  Losing is awful.

I love hearing stories of average people who failed over and over again prior to becoming “great”.

In the library of my Alma Mater there was a study room that I reserved weekly.  On all the walls and under a locked glass cabinet were some of the orginal letters and inventions of Thomas Edison.  During study breaks I would read and re-read the letters.  I would marvel at the pieces of history that changed our world.  I was able to study at night because of this man.  It is reported that Edison failed thousands of times  before he successfully created a working light bulb!  Thousands!!

Did you know…

  • Henry Ford went bankrupt five times before he successfully founded the Ford Motor Company and changed the auto industry forever.
  • R.H. Macy started seven failed businesses before finally becoming profitable with the department store that bears his name.
  • An engineer was turned down for a job by the Toyota Motor Corporation.  Discouraged, he began making scooters of his own at home eventually turning it into a billion dollar business.  His name?  Soichiro Honda.
  • Walt Disney was once fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”  Imagine that?
  • Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for tv.”
  • 27 different publishers rejected a children’s book entitled, To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.   The 28th publisher offered a contract and Theodor S. Giesel became a world renowned author.  You know him today as Dr. Seuss.
  • A recording company refused to sign on a new band named “The Beatles”.  They were told “we don’t like your sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
  • Everyone knows Babe Ruth as a homerun king with 714 during his career.  Most do not realize that he also held the strikeout record for decades (1,330 in all).
  • One of the most powerful stories of failure comes from our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.  He failed as a businessman and went bankrupt.  (It took him 17 years to repay that debt)  He failed as a farmer. He failed in his first attempt to obtain political office. He failed to get elected to Congress – TWICE.  He failed when he ran for the United States Senate – TWICE. He failed the nomination for the vice-presidency in 1856 (He received less than 100 votes). In the midst of all of these failures, his fiancee died and he suffered a total nervous breakdown, keeping him bedridden for 6 months. If anyone is acquainted with failure, it is Lincoln.  If anyone had a good excuse to give up, Abe did.  But he didn’t and as a result, he played an instrumental role in ending the war on slavery.

In 2012, when you hear the name Lincoln – you think success.  But if you heard that name in 1856, a different image would have emerged.   When you hear the name Ford, Oprah, Disney, Beattles, or Jordan – you think success.  But there was a time when their name was not synonymous with that.

What about your name?   Do others think “success” when they hear your name mentioned?  If not, it’s ok because your story is not finished yet.  Your success story may come tomorrow.  Or it may come four more failures from now.  Your only mission is to never give up.

The next time you are rejected, think of Lincoln.  The next time you are fired from a job, think of Oprah.  The next time your resume is overlooked, think of Honda.   The next time you are told you are not good enough, think of Jordan.  The next time you strike out with anything, think of Babe Ruth.   He walked away from home plate over 1,300 times – failing to get on base yet again.

I was doing a home improvement project recently and came across a nut I could not get unscrewed.  Though I tried and tried with my wrench, this little nut would not come undone.  I knew I needed some help to get it loosened and I knew of nothing better to use than some WD-40.   I learned that WD stands for water displacement.  The number 40, it turns out, stands for the number of tries it took for the product to become successful.   It is not known as WD-39 for a reason.

Today your name may be WD-39.    Or your critics may call you WD-5.   Your parents may think you are WD-16.   Even your spouse or children might think you are a mere WD-9.   Stop listening to those voices.  You have a mission and a passion and a calling and a dream and you need to go after it.  Don’t stop till you reach your goal.  The only difference between a dream and a goal?   A deadline.  Set a deadline for yourself and watch what happens.

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

The “in home” sales guy…

As an “in home” salesman, I come across all different types of people on a daily basis.  Unlike a traditional store owner that has to wait for someone to walk in his door each day, I have the distinct privilege of being invited into a customer’s home to discuss our products or services.  You just never know what you’re going to see on the other side of that door.  Unlike a friend, you really get to see how people live.  For friends, we clean up and vacuum.  We will dust and put away laundry.  We will wipe  down counters and bring out the cleaning supplies.  After all, we don’t want our friends to discover that we are really disgusting slobs.

But for a sales guy, homeowners don’t spend a lot of time cleaning up for us.  I can’t tell you the number of homes I go in where the homeowner (usually the woman) will apologize for the amount of dust and how busy she was this week.  I always love that excuse.  Sure, we are all busy – I get that.   And I understand that dusting is lower on the priority list.  But that excuse always comes from the woman whose home should be condemned.  I’m always very gracious in the home even though I want to say, “Good grief lady!  How can you live like this??  Where is your dust mask??”  I would never say something like that.  Again.  The truth is, three years of dust does not accumulate because your schedule was busy this week.

I estimate that in the last five years I have been in over 5,000 homes.  Averaging at least three house calls a day, I have literally seen it all.

  • I have been accosted by an overly friendly Saint Bernard the size of Marmaduke.
  • I have been bit by a “friendly” pit bull.
  • I have been hugged by children who just met me.
  • I have been offered jobs.
  • I have been “hit on” by single women and propositioned by gay men.
  • I have seen rooms filled from floor to ceiling with junk.
  • I have been in the homes of hoarders.
  • Once I walked by a parrot’s cage and it grabbed my shirt and wouldn’t let go.
  • Another time a parrot landed on me during my presentation.  (I still made the sale!)
  • Several times I have been “trapped” at a customer’s home because of bad weather.
  • Once I was trapped by an incessant talker.
  • Some homes have had such a pungent smell that I literally gagged as I entered.
  • One customer had so many clothes on the floor in her foyer that I could barely enter without stepping on something.   Humorously, she told me she ran out of hangers.
  • I have met eccentric collectors.  One couple had collected over 400 PEZ dispensers and prominently displayed them in their kitchen.  Another man collected exotic carousel horses.   These gigantic horses were all over his house and imported from all over the world.
  • I had one lady break down and cry in the middle of my presentation as she told me about her difficult life.  Um, awkwaaard!   How do you transition from that??   “So, anyway – our flux capacitor will solve all your severe emotional problems too.”
  • Another woman answered the door totally drunk.
  • Speaking of which, I have been offered a beer on more than one occasion.  As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t drink at your job – we can’t drink on ours.  🙂
  • One woman had full-blown Alzheimer’s.
  • The most shocking was the minister who had forgotten about our appointment.   He answered the door in just a pair of boxers.  Needless to say, I was grateful for his modern-day loincloth.

Over the years, I have discovered that many homeowners believe some “myths” about “in-home” salesmen.  Here are the most common:

  1. Every sales man is a liar.  Granted, a few tainted apples can spoil the bunch but most of us want to make an honest living, earning an honest dollar.  Do not assume just because someone is in sales that they are willing to do or say anything to get the sale.  We tell you what we are supposed to tell you and for most of us, it’s legit.  Snake oil does cure cancer!  It says so on the bottle.   Jeez.
  2. Salesmen are greedy and just want my money.   Granted, many of us are motivated by money but before you climb into your pulpit, so are you.   Why do you work?  For money so you can pay your bills and take care of your family.  We are no different.   Yes, of course we want your business.  But for most of us, we also like the satisfaction we receive of helping you get what you need/want in the process.  Many of us really do want to help improve your life with our products or services.  In exchange, you can help improve ours with some green paper.
  3. We are paid a salary.   What most people do not realize is how “in-home” salesmen get paid.  Many of us are not salaried employees.  We have no guaranteed income.  We travelled to you on our own dime and many of us travelled a good distance to get there.  As an “independent contractor”, we invest 1-2 hours with a customer on our own time with no guarantee of a sale.  Many many days we feel like a volunteer.
  4. We get paid per appointment we run.   Most “in-home” salesmen are paid 100% commission which means that we only make money if you buy something WHILE WE ARE WITH YOU.
  5. All salesmen use high pressure tactics.   Yes, there are some salesmen that are former mafia types that “make you an offer you can’t refuse.”   And sadly, they do not take no for an answer.   But many of us are not wired that way.  Statistically, we have found that if the homeowner does not make a decision in the home while we are with them, they rarely buy later.  This is one reason why we put some “pressure” on you while we are there.  Look at it from our perspective.  YOU called our company and made the appointment.  YOU wanted to learn more about our product or service.  YOU have a definite need/want for what we have.   WE have just given you an hour (or more) of OUR time and expertise FOR FREE.   And WE are held accountable for the result of YOUR appointment with our company.   Every appointment we run is compared against our total sales for the month.   When we are with you and you do not buy – you cost us much more than just our time/gasoline.  You hurt our overall sales percentage which, in turn, affects our income.  Most of us do not put the pressure on you that is placed on us.   HINT: One way to avoid any pressure is to get out your checkbook immediately after our presentation.  🙂

So, on behalf of my “in-home” sales compadres all over the world – may I suggest the following:

  • Do not call our companies to make an appointment unless you are seriously investigating your options.  If you are just curious and window shopping with no intention of making a decision to do this project in the next few weeks, go to google and get your answers there.
  • Only make an appointment if you actually own the house.   You would be surprised at how many phone calls we get from the renters – the people who are not authorized to make major purchasing decisions on a home they don’t own.
  • Have all interested homeowners available when we come.  If you are married, make sure your spouse can attend the appointment.  If you co-own the house with siblings, make sure they can all be there.  There is nothing more frustrating than spending an hour or more OF OUR TIME to discover that you can’t make a decision.  While you were wasting our time, we could have been in another home actually making a sale and supporting our families.
  • Give us time.   Depending on the industry and what we are selling, it takes time to check out your house.  It takes time to measure and take pictures.  It takes time for the small talk.  It takes time to show you our products and explain our services and answer your questions.   Ask the appointment setter on the phone  exactly how much time we will need and then add 30 minutes.
  • Be prepared to make a decision while we are with you.  This is important for 2 reasons.   First, if you don’t decide now – you will not decide later.  You know you want whatever we have.  You know you need it.   Just bite the bullet and get it done.  Secondly, it is in your best interest to do so on the day we arrive.  For customers that decide “today,” we are often in a position to give you the best deal possible.  If the salesman has to come back out to a home to close the deal on another day, that means he cannot be somewhere else making a new sale.  To maximize our time and company resources, we are usually willing to reward you with a discount for simply saying “Yes!” today.
  • Ask for a better price.  The first price offered, though fair, is often not the best price we are allowed to give.  Don’t feel bad about asking for a lower price or adding services to the package.  Most of us who are honest will do whatever we can to help you get what you want at the price you can afford.   We are often willing to give you a MAJOR discount on the spot.  We know if you don’t bite now at the slashed price – you will never bite later when the price goes back up.
  • Be prepared to give a “down payment” of at least 20%.   We ask for this for two primary reasons.  First, it locks in the price that is offered in the home.  Secondly, it is considered a “good faith” deposit and shows us that you are truly serious about moving forward.  When a customer has some “skin in the game,” we find they are more serious about their decision.

Oh.. and one last thing… clean your house and put your dogs away.  We are tired of sitting at your sticky dining room table being licked by Spot.

See you soon!   🙂

The bugs of life

When I was in college there was a guy who lived on my floor whose name was “Steve”.   Steve was in none of my classes, did not play any sports and from what I could tell – had no hobbies or interests.  In other words, we had nothing in common.  To make matters worse, Steve was PAINFULLY shy.  He simply would not talk.  The only way you could have a conversation with him was if you asked questions that he could nod yes or no too.   It did not take me long to realize that Steve and I were not going to be friends.  After all, this was college and I was going to make lots of friends and have lots of fun and I certainly wasn’t going to let an introverted nodding mime hold me back from a social life.   So, I did what most people do.  When Steve came around, I politely said hello and ignored him.   I thought he would eventually go away and gravitate towards the less talkative people or those who knew sign language.

He didn’t.

He seemed to like being around me and my group of friends.   Though he never talked, it was obvious he liked being there – as a silent observer of all that went on.   I never understood Steve.   I simply could not relate to him on any level.   Though I wanted to not have to “deal with him”, I had to because he was always there.

As I laid in my bed one night, I kept thinking about Steve and why he kept coming around – but said nothing.   As I pondered these thoughts, I could see a street light out the window and noticed a giant moth fluttering near it.  I watched the bug for what seemed like a long time.  I jokingly wondered if the street light was annoyed by the bugs constant presence.  Then it hit me.

“When you let your light shine, the first thing you attract is the bugs”

Steve was a bug to me and he was attracted to our light.   Maybe it was the light of Christ in us?  Maybe it was the light of humor or social activity?  Regardless, he came around as faithfully as a moth and it bothered me – until that night.   After that night, I realized that bugs like the light and as long as the light is on – they will always be there.   And that they only bother you, if you let them.

As I look back at my life and the people that have invested in me – I came to realize, I too, am a bug.  I too, am a pest to others who have the light I so desperately want to be around.   And only when they endure my presence, am I really able to grow.   Now, when a bug flutters into my life, I smile.  Instead of grabbing the nearest social flyswatter, I let them “land” on me.   Instead of shunning them, I try my best to embrace them.   Not out of pity, but because others have embraced me.

Jesus referred to Himself as the Light of the world.  I get it now.  The bugs of this world constantly landed on Him: Children, Samaritans, Women, Pharisees, Tax Collectors, Roman soldiers, Blind men, Lepers, Sick people, Gentiles, Prostitutes, Disciples, etc.   On our best day, we are merely sinful bugs trying to land on a Holy Light.  How did He handle them?   He shined His light without preference and invited them to land.  All of them.

  • “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’” (Mark 1:17)
  • “And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me…’” (Mark 10:13-14)
  • “And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here’”   So they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take courage, stand up!  He is calling for you.’” (Mark 10:49)
  • “While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean.”  And He stretched out His hand and touched Him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.”   And immediately the leprosy left him.” (Luke 5:12-13)
  • “Come unto Me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest”  (Matthew 11:28)

We have a responsibility to shine our lights.   We do not have the freedom to determine which bugs can flutter near us.  We are to simply shine and allow the Light we have received to illumine pesty flight patterns.   And just remember, as they frustrate you – so you have frustrated someone else.

Take the shot

When choosing a college, I had one determining factor.   I wanted to go somewhere that would allow me an opportunity to play soccer on the collegiate level.   After looking at several local colleges and universities, one of them decided to offer me a partial scholarship to play soccer!  Not being the greatest player, I assumed it was a clerical error on their part and accepted the offer before they changed their mind.  Now I could forever brag to my grandkids, that their granddad was so good that he got paid to play soccer.  In my mind, I was like a professional.  Who cares if the school was St. Mary’s school of the Blind?   They wanted me to be on their team so badly, that they were willing to shell out $1000 per year for me to play.   Back then, it seemed like a huge offer.  I was wondering why we didn’t hold a press conference to announce the news to the world.  Now, it seems like the equivalent of them offering me a Bojangles coupon to play.

One of the things I liked best about the school was the coach.  He was a good man, very funny, down to earth and very well connected in the world-wide soccer community.  While coaching our private Division III school team, he was also doing some coaching for the U.S. Olympic Team.   As a result, every once in awhile we would see an Olympic caliber star on the practice field with us.   Deep down, I know the Olympic stud was excited to play alongside of professional players,  like myself.

College soccer is very different than high school ball or the many travel teams I played on.  For one, it is more intense.   It is way more competitive.  Everyone is faster, stronger, better.  I found myself consistently frustated that I never had time to prepare for a good pass, a good shot, a good chip.  Everytime I had the ball, I was swarmed by an opposing player and rushed into doing something quicker than I wanted to.   My coach noticed that I was not performing up to par and pulled me aside for some advice that has served me well, even in life – ever since.

“Rod, take the shot.  Don’t wait for it to be pretty or look just right.  Just take the shot.  You may not feel good about it – but some of them will go in.”   He was right.   I was waiting for the planets to line up.  I was waiting for other players to roll out the red carpet to their goal and make it easy for me.  It wasn’t going to happen – so I had to just “take the shot” whenever I had the opportunity.

One of England’s best players, Wayne Rooney, taking the most difficult shot in soccer known as the “bicycle kick”.

Life is alot like competitive sports.  It is fast paced.  It is intense.  There is no time.  Other people don’t make it easy.  It is competitive and there are people out there who distract you from doing what you need and want to do.  So, how do you do the things you want to do when you feel you don’t have time to do the things you need to do?  You take the shot.  If you want to paint, you begin part-time – after the kids are in bed.  If you want to read more – you read that book, in 5 minute increments, in the bathroom if you have to.  If you want to be better about reaching out to friends – you make that call while you are driving – even if the conversation is only 3 minutes long – it’s better than not connecting at all.  You stay up late.  You get up early.  You watch less TV.  You “take the shot” – even if you’re not 100% ready.  It may not be perfect.  It may not feel right but at least you are taking the shot and moving closer towards your goal.

What shot do you need to take?  What is keeping you from taking it?   If you are waiting for the clouds to clear first, it will never happen.  Take the shot.  Start today.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretsky, Hockey legend.

“I have to run an errand. Wanna come?”

Every week I have errands to run and over time – I have developed the following philosophy:

  • Never do anything alone (unless you need to or want to) if you can do it with someone else.

Some errands I have to do alone. Sometimes I just want to be alone. Oftentimes, I enjoy the company. The other week I had to run an errand and I decided to ask one of my children if they wanted to go with me. The conversation went something like this:

  • Me: “I have to run an errand. Wanna come?”
  • Child #1: “Where ya going?”
  • Me: “I’m not telling, do you want to go or not?”
  • Child #1: “Is it going to be fun?”
  • Me: “Define fun.”
  • Child #1: “Ya know, like are we going to do
  • something fun or can I buy something?”
  • Me: “Nevermind.”

A little dejected but not surprised, I then approached another child.

  • Me: “I have to run an errand. Wanna come?”
  • Child #2: “Sure Daddy! I’ll get my shoes!”

Child #2 gets in the car and off we go. We had a wonderful time. As we ran our errands, we talked. We listened. I shared bits of wisdom.  We goofed around. We laughed. We enjoyed each other’s company. Our hearts were knitted together. There was bonding and fellowship and fun just by being together.

The errands took a bit longer than I anticipated and while we were out we both got really thirsty. I knew that a Cherry Lime Aide from Sonic could fix that and I knew that a Cherry Lime Aide would be a big deal for this particular child.

With errands complete, we came home both drinking our massive Cherry Lime Aides and I knew what was about to happen.  As hydrated Child #2 walked past left behind Child #1, Child #1 became indignant. “You didn’t tell me you were getting a Lime Aide! That’s not fair!”

As this child threw a mini-tamtrum, it hit me. This is exactly how I often treat God.

Instead of desiring the Giver, I just want His gifts.

Instead of spending time with the Blesser, I simply want His blessings.

I don’t want the everyday friendship with Him, most days I just want the benefits.

God is not like a vending machine. You don’t spend time with Him to get what you want out. You invest in God and THAT ALONE is the gift, the blessing and the benefit. Anything you receive beyond that, is simply additional grace.

Does God give out spiritual Cherry Lime Aides? Absolutely. But He often gives it to His children who aren’t using Him for one. He desires relationship and fellowship. He has errands to run and He wants some company. You wanna come?

Ephesians 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…”

Mark 10:15-16 – “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all. And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.”


It is necessary to point out that I am merely sharing a snapshot from a moment in time. Every one of us have been captured in a negative light in various snapshots throughout our life. Though most children (regardless of age) desire the gift over the giver, I am pleased/relieved to say that this is not something by which either child is characterized.