Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Living a Monopoly Lifestyle

Need a last minute Christmas gift?  A board game is something that both (fun) adults and children will equally enjoy.  There are timeless classics like;  Candy Land, Shoots and Ladders, Trouble, Battleship, and, my personal favorite, Monopoly.

As a kid I had a competitive mean streak in me that would challenge any professional athletes.  Losing in a game of Monopoly was simply not an option.  If I felt like my chances at winning, via bankrupting my opponents, had been nixed, I simply flipped the board.  Literally.  Pieces, money, properties and cards went soaring.  

As you can imagine, finding people to play Monopoly with eventually became pretty difficult.  

I'm happy to say that I've shed my sore losing with age....and maturity....and many solo Monopoly matches.  There's a lot that can be learned from the best selling board game of all-time, that pertains to success in life.

- Investing In The Best Properties - You already know Boardwalk and Park Place are the primest of prime real estate.  You pay big fake bucks for them, but boy is it worth it.  Let your opponent land on one of those spaces, and you'll see your reward.  Same in life.  Sometimes investing in the best gets you the biggest returns.  And in the end, you'll almost always get what you pay for.

- Chance - Land here, pick a card, and you may become a little richer.  Remember winning first prize in a beauty competition?  Or a bank error in your favor?  Maybe these aren't realistic for you and I, but taking chances in life can often result in positive outcomes - which is why we get excited about "chance".  Sure, something negative may happen, but it's the possibility of something positive happening that gets our juices flowing.  Get out of your comfort zone in 2012, and start seeing new outcomes.

- Pass Go, Collect $200 - You make it all the way around the board, without going bankrupt, and you collect $200.  This checkpoint gives you a financial shot in the arm and allows you to keep on trucking, or thimble-ing, whichever you choose.  Same in life.  Give yourself checkpoints en route to accomplishing your goals, and then reward yourself for reaching them.  

- Be The Banker - Let's face it, the banker is the best job in board gaming.  You have a fake $20,000 at your "disposal".  Come on, be honest, have you ever slipped an extra $10....$20....$5,000 maybe, into your stack?  There's something to be learned about having that kind of power.  It teaches honesty, fairness, and as a kid, it allows your imagination to run wild with the possibility of what you could do if you had all of the banks money.  Work hard to earn and save more, and feel that same wave of excitement as an adult.

There are many other lessons that I took away from this childhood favorite.  From paying utilities, to math, to leveraging "assets" and paying up on my responsibilities.  Think about it, if you owe somebody rent in Monopoly, you can't say "Yea, sorry for the delay, but the check is in the mail, I swear!".  You pay up, even if that means shedding some valuable property to do so.

Some of the nostalgia is being taken away though.  Monopoly now comes in video game form, and with electronic banking.  Instead of cash, you get credit cards!  I don't know about you, but I like the idea of having a sweaty fist full of fake dough and counting the spaces in advance as my fellow players land on a Boardwalk full of hotels!!!  Ha Ha Ha Ha!  Pay up sucker!  Daddy's gonna have a green Christmas!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's More Than Just A Drink

There are die-hard fantasy football nerds.  There are raging alcoholics.  Hard core gamers, reality TV devotees, and movie marathoners.  Facebook fanatics, tech junkies, and text-a-holics.  I never understood or empathized with addicts.....of any sort.  I thought the people who would wait in line for 83 hours, just to get the newest and latest cell phone, were extremists who just needed a friend.  But...I get it now, I understand.

Because that's how I feel about coffee.  Playing with my coffee is like playing with my emotions....and your well-being.  Especially in the morning.  I'm all about living a healthy lifestyle, and try my best to avoid consuming anything that might shave years off my life - smoking, alcohol, drugs, pixie sticks, etc. But, this is one of those things that's just going to have to stay with me, God willing.

Trying to explain to me why coffee isn't good for me is like staging an intervention for a chain smoker, while they're smoking, inside of a cigar bar, while they're gathered with fellow friends to honor the passing of the Marlboro Man.  You don't have a prayer.  Save it.  I'm not saying it's right.....I'm just saying I don't care.

I'll be honest with you - one of the key attractions I have towards my girlfriend was when I found out she prepared the coffee pot in the evening, so that there was nothing to slow her/us down in the morning.  I would love to learn how to set the automatic brewing timer....but I just don't trust technology with something so crucial.  However, the video below is the best adult clip I've come across in quite some time.  Sit back, and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

No Years Resolutions - Goal Setting For 2012

It's that time of year again.  Aside from topping the tree, attending office holiday parties, and spending time with friends and family - it's time to start thinking about New Years Resolutions for 2012.  Reflecting on another year past, while making mental notes of all we hope to accomplish this coming year, is almost as much of a tradition as the holidays themselves.  Before you break out the white board, unwrap this bit of information:  88% of resolutions are not kept and accomplished.

Why is it that 9 out of 10, who set out whole heartily expecting to accomplish more in the next calendar year, simply don't see it through?  There's several reasons:

  • Time - A goal without a deadline is just a pipe dream.  Treat goals like you would treat a task on an agenda.  
  • Size - Some goals are too big for us to wrap our heads around.  You've got to break it down into smaller chunks.  Instead of saying "I'm going to lose 25 pounds!" Try, "I'm going to lose 5 pounds over the next 30 days."  Then replicate that over the next five months.
  • Lack of a Plan - It's easy to come up with ideas and goals.  They're fun, exciting, and give us hope.  Coming up with an actual plan to accomplish them - not as much.  However, it's the plan that's the road map to getting you from where you are, to where you hope to be.
  • Discipline - Maybe the biggest contributor to why we treat our goals like scrap wrapping paper thrown to the side is because we lack the discipline to stick with it to the very end.  You have twelve months to accomplish these goals, yet most of us give up before the ice starts melting.
  • Review & Reward - Rarely is a meaningful goal accomplished in one fell swoop.  It's a process.  How do we know if we're getting any closer towards a resolution if we don't regularly give ourselves a status update?  Review your progress weekly, and reward yourself along the way for making positive strides.
  • Keeping it a Secret - The goal you don't accomplish that nobody knows about isn't as big of a deal.  Write it down, share it with those closest to you, who can offer support, and be accountable to someone other than yourself.

Giving yourself a "clean slate" is a great way to give hope and promise to a New Year.  I'm a huge believer in writing down what you want to accomplish, I just don't agree with HOW people set New Year's Resolutions.  Don't wait twelve months to give yourself a clean slate.  Do it EVERY WEEK.

I set Weekly Resolutions.  Chalk it up to this generations short attention span, but setting a goal that stretches out over 365 days is too far out for me to stay focused.  Give yourself a few targets within eyeshot, and a week in which to accomplish it, and watch how much easier it is to stay focused.

Instead of trying to lose a lot of weight - aim to lose two pounds this week.  Or, if your goal is to get out of debt, for example, make it your goal to pay a certain amount each week towards the balance.  If you're trying to improve a relationship, do something each week that will strengthen that bond.  

I often hear sales professionals set goals of making more money this year than they did in the previous.  Look, earning an extra $20,000 this year is biting off more than most can chew.  But doing a little bit more each week, with a plan to increase quarter-by-quarter, makes it much more manageable.  If it's a large goal, break it down to a smaller goal.....and then break it down again.....and then again, and again.  The smaller you make a meaningful goal seem, the more confident you become towards accomplishing it.

Set New Year's Resolutions during any lulls over the next few weeks.  But don't cast too wide of a net.  Put a weekly plan in place, and manage that plan each day, and 2012 could be your best year yet.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Marketing Made Queasy

I know Black Friday is already a week and a half in the rear view mirror, but we all know shop-a-holics show no signs of slowing down until either A: they run out of funds (and even sometimes that won't stop them) or B: it's January 2nd, we're back to work, and the credit card company has an express order on our heads and bank account.  I was one of the not so few that ventured out on Thanksgiving NIGHT, at 10:00pm, to take advantage of some great savings, and avoid the lines that were sure to follow come Friday morning.  Or so I thought.

It's one of those situations when everyone thinks nobody is going....so, naturally everybody goes.  Like the supposedly "slow times" at Disney World.  You show up, expecting to waltz right to the front of the line, get your thrills in, and ride each ride till you reach your food containment limit.  What you get is tens of thousands of other people who thought the same thing, leaving you seriously considering the idea of a mass theme park conspiracy.  They get the crowds, your money, while you contemplate leaving your family to fend for themselves so you can hit every "single-rider" line in the vicinity.

There are genius marketing ploys, and then there are epic failures.  One (of many) Black Friday Fails that I was able to witness was at Perfumania.  Surprised?  Didn't think so.  General rule of thumb for me is anything with "mania" attached to the end of something usually makes me want to run in the opposite direction.  I wont eat from a "BurgerMania" or get a haircut from a "BarberMania" or get a root canal from "DentalMania".  Seriously, it conveys a message of......well.....mania!  And though the Maniac's were in full force this Black Friday, it surely wasn't because this marketing piece below:

I can't understand why a Superman Cologne and Body Wash package would be on clearance......oh wait, that's right, because kids don't wear cologne or use body wash!!  That's not even the biggest fail here.  Look closely at the price tag and you'll see:

Your Price:  $17.95

directly below that....

Suggested:  $00

That's not a typo.  We weren't given a Progressive price gun and able to "name your price" on anything in the store.  This was one of several "gift boxes" that were labeled that way.  I may not have a PHD in marketing, but as a business owner I know that if I charge someone $20 for something, and tell them it's worth NOTHING, business might slow down on any day not Friday, November 26th.

Innocent?  Probably.  But still not forgivable.  I was tempted to take it to the register and confess, "Ma'am, if it's all the same to you, I'd PREFER the "suggested retail price" over the "sale price"."  But, standing in line for 35 minutes to make a point didn't seem to represent the spirit of the season well.  Cooler heads prevailed, and off we went to see what other stores had in store for us.  Most did everything in their power to get our attention, from making employees sing outside of the store, or dressing them up as monkeys, or superheros, or Mr. Claus.  Which, by the way, doesn't work either.

I have yet to buy a new mattress because some out-of-touch manager forced a part-time employee to dress up as a Ninja Turtle and wave to oncoming traffic, while risking life and shell for $10/hr.  Like I said, some ploys are genius, some are failures.  Our job, as a business owner, or any type of professional, is to find a way to connect with potential customers in a way that they find valuable.  During Black Friday, it's about price most certainly over convenience.  In your line of work it may be different.

Maybe showing your customers that your highly accessible is a way you can market yourself.  In insurance, we take an "advisory" approach - saving clients money and time, while protecting their family from financial shortfalls in the event of a injury, illness or death.  That may sound "scripted", but only because it's something we've internalized.  You must find marketing principles that work, internalize them, and then use them to THEIR advantage - not yours.  Doing this will still make you a super hero without having to dress up like one, and you might even hear a client say "Cow-A-Bunga Dude!"