“[NCLB] has sucked the joy out of teaching”

Student and Teacher
Creative Commons License photo credit: Wonderlane

As noted elsewhere, my wife is a teacher.

Because she’s in a district where the NEA (ie: teachers’ union) is the exclusive negotiating agent with the district, she must belong to the union in order to teach.

The net result of this is a lot of NEA mail, plus a magazine or two, plus a few bucks out of her paycheck that she’ll likely never see again.

Anyhow, I often flip through their publications if nothing else to see if they actually include information to help the teacher members do their jobs better. More often than not, its political this and that, unfortunately. Sometimes there’s a gem or 2.

This month, I didnt get past the reader mail page before I was struck by this July 6, 2006 remark from the California Teachers Association President, Barbara Kerr: “[NCLB] has sucked the joy out of teaching. But we believe that to moan and groan is not enough – we need to be activists.”

Now I have no argument with teachers being activists, which I assume means “standing up for what you believe in and trying to do something about it.”

Because my wife is a teacher, I know a lot of teachers. I havent talked to a single one whose gives me the impression that the joy has been “sucked out” of teaching their students because of NCLB, or anything else.

Ms Kerr needs a big time attitude adjustment, a pair of cojones, or she needs to find a new career if NCLB has truly “taken the joy out of teaching” for her. I cant imagine that this “lack of joy” isnt reflected in her teaching in the classroom, but I hope she is a big enough person to compartmentalize those feelings so as to conceal this situation from her students.

Yes, I realize some of you will call that a run on sentence and throw out my remarks as a result. Think: Baby< ->Bathwater. FYI, my mother was an English teacher. Imagine how she feels after reading that…

Do I agree with every part of NCLB? Not even. There’s a lot of disconnected-from-reality Beltway crap in there, but a lot of the same comes from the NEA every month. No one has the exclusive on being disconnected.

Bottom line – Should teachers allow NCLB to put them into a mental state where they dont even get joy from their teaching anymore? If that’s where it puts you, its time to “cowboy up” or move on.

Radio Shack

Class-less.

300+ Layoffs via email. What do you expect from a company that hires a new CEO to turn them around…and gets him from that well-known turnaround story…..KMART? Oh and Kmart got him from Sears, another retail masterpiece.
Radio Shack blames their recent poor performance (85% drop in quarterly profits) on “poor sales of wireless phones”.

How about blaming them on the real reasons: Forgetting who their customer is. Moving into a commodity business (cell phones). Stopping the collection of customer addresses and the resulting mailings that regular customers appreciated and looked forward to. On and on and on.
Duh.

Business startups – 5 myths of starting a business

Recently, I was in a mastermind meeting with a government business development expert who spends lots of time counseling new entrepreneurs who hope to start, or hope to make a success of, a business. He works for a public-private business development group.

3 of us grilled him for over an hour.

My question for him was “What keeps you up at night?”

Aside from his little boy, he is sometimes kept awake at night by these 5 myths entrepreneurs have about starting a business:

Myth # 1) People thinks it’s easy.

My friend says within 5 minutes of starting a discussion with a new entrepreneur, he’s talking about break-even analysis and other finance-related items and suddenly, things don’t seem so easy to his client anymore.

After some questions about finance, legal structure, paperwork and other must-do things, if the prospective business person thinks THIS seems hard, then they may want to reconsider.

Making payroll, keeping up with taxes and paperwork, marketing, sales, fixing a toilet, managing employees and keeping customers happy – all at the same time, every day….that’s what’s hard. Talking about break-even analysis is child’s play compared to juggling all of that.

Don’t get me wrong, the rewards are worth it. Just don’t expect it to be easy. It’s not. NO ONE who owns a business will tell you that it’s easy, and I won’t be the first to start, noting that I’m writing this at 12:23am.

Myth # 2) People think there are lots of social programs (such as grants) for new business owners, offering startup funds.

Obviously, they are thinking of Matthew Lesko, the goofy guy who screams on your tv about “Free government money!!! $5000 to go to school, and $7000 to start your own business” and so on.

There are some grants available, most require matching funds, but most of these programs are to help EXISTING businesses with employees grow (hire more people) or improve the jobs of their employees through skills training. You might stumble across one, but please don’t assume that you will just fall into a pile of free government money. You won’t.

Myth # 3) People don’t think they need to seek professional help (legal, financial, marketing, etc).

Business mentor Jim Rohn says “Poor people have big TVs. Rich people have big libraries”.

The point is, not only do you have to educate yourself, but you also have to get professional, skilled help for some things.

Don’t play a lawyer on TV or on your own business.

Don’t pretend to be a CPA unless you have experience or training in accounting. Even then, a fresh set of eyes is often worthwhile.

Unless you have proven to be an accomplished marketer to the market your new venture is focused on, get some help. If nothing else, speak with someone to help you lay out a plan so that you aren’t shooting arrows in the dark. Even the best world-class marketing people are constantly learning from each others’ seminars, courses and the new strategies and campaigns of others that have proven to work. You’d be crazy to assume you are done learning, whether it’s marketing or some other aspect of your business.

Myth # 4) I really don’t need to keep the state and the Feds happy with a bunch of paperwork.

Uh, yes, you do. It helps to get professional help with this stuff because, quite frankly, the paperwork can be a nightmare even if you don’t mess it up. People who are experts at it can save you a lot of time, and possibly penalties and even more costly errors.

Myth # 5) I need a bunch of money to start a business.

If you can’t run a business with a little bit of money, making do, solving problems and being innovative, you’ll have problems running it with a lot of money at some point down the road. Why? Lots of money hides problems, makes your life so easy that when problems occur, you tend to solve them with money. Later, when the money has been spent, then what do you do?

Don’t fall victim to the myths. Just get out there and make stuff happen. Sitting around till the timing is perfect is kind of like sitting around and waiting for the perfect time to have kids. Isn’t ever going to happen, so start moving on your dream TODAY.

Remember, the biggest difference between those who do and those who don’t is TAKING ACTION.

Your business vs. Brad and Angelina

On my way to Cleveland yesterday, I stopped into one of the little stores in Salt Lake’s airport to grab a pack of mints. While I was there, there were 2 people about my age scanning a People magazine, talking excitedly about of all things…Brad and Angelina.

Now I don’t claim to be “Mister Wanna-Be-On-Top-Of-Hollywood-Gossip”, but I get all the Brad and Angelina I need between sound bites on CNN and time spent in the line at my favorite Columbia Falls grocery store. Even better (yes, Im kidding), my wife had a drama class in high school with Brad, so my degree of separation from Hollywood is smaller than most people would want. Exciting stuff, eh? 🙂

So we have 2 presumably mature adults taking time out of their lives, time they’ll never have again to spend doing anything else, and theyre using it to talk about Brad and Angelina??? This is a topic that you cant go even 1 day without hearing about Brad and Angelina breaking up, having babies, fighting with Jen or what-ever, unless you don’t pick up the paper, see CNN, walk through the grocery store, etc.

Are these the same 2 clients that you think will get sick of hearing you if you send them a monthly newsletter? I dont think so.

You’ve got to rise above the level of generic noise that your clients hear. You’ve got to provide some quality information, good news, ways to help your client get more/better use out of your product, provide a secret or two, etc. You don’t have to become the publisher of the New York Times, it’s just a little newsletter. Even 1 page is better than nothing, because if nothing else, it shows your clients that you are thinking about them and trying to help them. Get started today.

I wonder what Jennifer Aniston is up to today…

“Do as I say, Not as I Did”

Do As I Say, Not As I Did!: Gaining Wisdom In Business Through The Mistakes Of Highly Successful People

I read this a while ago and was a little disappointed in it, but I think that was because I read it the same day I was returning from a visit with the Glazer-Kennedy gang, which tends to make any other material pale by comparison. I’d be interested in your comments about it. That’s not a slam on Carol’s book, instead, it indicates the level of quality of the info coming from Dan and Bill.

Anyhow, the lessons in this book are instructional, but the dogear score was only 5.
Give it a shot and let me know what your dogear was for this one.

Psychocybernetics


In Caddyshack, Chevy Chase’s character advised Danny Noonan (the caddy) to “see your future…be, be your future”.

Good advice. Untold numbers of successful people attribute visualizing their success in their minds prior to achieving that success – sometimes day after day for years.

Jim Brown came out of the visualization closet and said he and some of the Cleveland Browns used to meet the day before a game and get their minds right – and attributed his amazing success to his attitude and visualization.

This is the premise of the rather old book written by Dr Maltz, Psychocybernetics. Its not really the kind of book that gets dogeared, instead, its a book that you end up reading repeatedly to remind you how/what to do when incorporating visualization techniques.

Its just something you need to read and do. Its one of the ways extremely successful people, athletes and executives achieve more than others.

Do they talk about you? I hope so.

They should be. I’m talking about your clients.

One of the most powerful tools in marketing is the testimonial. Yet they are used by so few…

Put yourself in the shoes (phew!) of the prospect.

She can listen to you, try and believe you, hope that you are paying attention and addressing her concerns (I sure hope you are) OR she can read what another business says about you.

Which is more believable?

Sure, the prospect is going to have to listen to you and hope you address their needs regardless of whether you have testimonials, but which would you rather have working for you:

1) Your best salesperson talking to a prospect,

or…

2) Your best salesperson talking to a prospect just after the prospect conveniently had a minute to flip through a 3 ring binder full of letters from your clients saying that you hung the moon (or whatever is important for your niche).

DUH. It’s obviously number 2, right?

So can anyone explain to me why so many businesses fail to collect testimonials at all, much less collect them with systematic regularity from every single client?
Can anyone add to that why they might collect them and then NEVER USE THEM????

Double DUH with whipped cream on top.

I hear you, I hear you. “OK Mark, so how do we get them from every client?”

Continue reading Do they talk about you? I hope so.

Blink

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

14 dogears, some worth a chapter of dogears elsewhere.

Chapter four, which discusses the Millennium Challenge and VanRiper’s win (and subsequent fixed loss) is worth the purchase price of the entire book.

The Millennium Challenge (the JFCOM’s military version, not the poverty program launched in early Aug 2006) is an interesting study of Pentagon planning, military tactical/strategic exercises, among other things. Its great to see that this sort of thing is being done…at first.

The guy to admire out of the chapter is this guy, General VanRiper:

http://tinyurl.com/lcjsb goes to his bio in usmc.mil’s biography area. The native URL is 3 miles long and torches K2’s theme under IE. Sorry.

There’s a rather frank interview with him here:

http://tinyurl.com/ekf7o goes to the interview with him at pbs.org (same deal with K2, sorry, same deal with IE).

Its important to understand that this is not a guy who sits and talks about it. This is a guy who has walked the walk, who is so well-regarded that he is leading a military college.

VanRiper was in charge of the mock-enemy forces in the Millennium Challenge (currently described at http://www.jfcom.mil/about/experiments/mc02.htm ) and kicked the good guys’ backsides despite having his communications knocked out, and all traditional resources that he might use taken away or destroyed.

JFCOM has a great exercise on their hands, IF they choose to use it to learn and adapt. A terrible exercise if you are in denial about the results. This sort of choice is not limited to the Pentagon, nor DC. YOU can be just as misguided.
Back to Blink chapter 4: Unfortunately, the good guys changed the rules and forced a win. Its a story of stupidity, face-saving and corruption, not unheard of in Washington, unfortunately. But, it is really interesting reading about what this guy did, now that its several years later with some history under our belts.

Regardless of your politics (its NOT a political book IMO), still worth a read, as is the rest of the book.

That, however, is not the lesson of this post.

The lesson is about the value of testing and NOT assuming anything about the results. Analyze what happened and act on it. Dont ignore the results simply because you dont like them or didnt expect them, otherwise you will likely find that your testing was a waste of time, money and effort. The worst thing is, that you may end up with a serious morale and ethical problems if you take steps similar to those taken by the “good guys” as described in Chapter 4 of Blink.

Another point made in Blink that shouldnt be ignored is the power of your mind to affect the results of what you do. There was several exercises in the book (and discussions of testing that was done) where people were asked questions before taking a test. The questions were designed to make them think negatively about their race, simply by bringing it up (“What race are you?”). The results were sad, but not surprising. YOU control your mind. Your mind very much affects the results of your efforts. Don’t let traditional thought and industry norms control you.

Finally, the book itself. Dont expect to get a bunch of new strategy for critical thinking from this book. Just think. Recommended.

Freakonomics

This wasnt your normal business book, in that there werent a bunch of steps or actions to take, or methods to try, etc like one might normally find.

That aside, this was a supremely interesting book that had me reading cover to cover in 1 sitting. You wont take concrete actions away from this, but it will be a treat to the abstract side, to the part of you that notices things that register days or hours later … if at all. Steven Levitt would be quite an interesting guy to have lunch with.

2 dogears. Neither one actionable. This isnt your normal dogear score. Recommended, despite the low dogear count.

Freakonomics

Think and Grow Rich

The classic 1937 Napoleon Hill book that still motivates entrepreneurs.
For those who dont know the story, Andrew Carnegie offered to give Hill access to his billionaire friends so that he could document the traits of extraordinarily successful people. Hill had to do so on his own time and money, he received nothing from Carnegie except access to “unreachable” people. After 20 years of interviewing Carnegie’s friends and associates, Hill came up with 17 traits that these people had in common. These 17 traits bore the book, “Think and Grow Rich”.
Even if nothing else came out of this book but the mastermind process, it would still be one of the classic books for business people.
If you are a business owner and you arent in a mastermind, find one.

You can find masterminds that are run by professionally trained advisors at http://www.dankennedyssl.com/ibamap/ibamap.php, among other places. The combination of DK mastermind material and Hill’s mastermind discovery is quite powerful. You can even put one together yourself, but Id suggest that your first would be best for you if coordinated by someone experienced in the process.