New job title

Maybe you’ve heard about the 30-something who went out with a bunch of her buddies one night (this was in pre-covid times). She told them about her new job as a copywriter for a big-city advertising agency.

“Great work!” her friends said. “How did you get it? Did you see it in the newspaper, or on some online job site?”

“No,” she replied, “I predicted it.” Her friends seemed startled and confused, so she explained.

“One of my school buddies told me that whenever I wanted a new career challenge, I should write a news article about myself getting named to that job. I did that a couple years ago, and I imagined all the people I might need to talk to, or write, or meet, who might help me get that job.

“Then I started talking to those influential people. They told the ad agency about me, and last week I got hired. This ‘future news story’ I made up helped me plan a way to make my dream job a reality.”:

One-minute friendships

A friend returned from his high school class reunion. “Did you have a good time?” I asked.

“I saw lots of people I hadn’t seen in 40 years. I’d talk to each for a minute or two, then I’d move to someone else. I’d describe the event as two evenings of one-minute friendships.”

One-minute relationships are common. How many people do you know at work, at your children’s school, or in the community that you see day after day — year after year — but know very little about them?

My Dad suggested a remedy. “At each meeting,” he advised, “give each person you meet something to remember you by. And find something unique about each of them…and remember it.

“Next time you meet, you’ll have an immediate conversation-starter.”

Single themes

When you think back to all the books you’re read over the years, and all the movies you’ve seen…which ones to do you remember best?

The stories that stayed with me are those that offered a single theme or a single goal Every chapter or theme built on to that single premise.

Stories that quickly come to mind or Aesop’s “Tortoise and Hare,” Dickens’ “Christmas Carol,” and Twain’s “Celebrated Jumping Frog.”

Aesop’s story is about a race; Dickens’ tale is about mending one’s ways; Twain’s tale is about a contest.

Today, whenever I sit down to write I ask myself two questions: (1) What is the focus of this story? and (2) What conclusion do I want the reader to draw from it?

Minute mentality

“I’ll be right back, in just a minute,” smiled the TV weatherman. And 60 seconds later, he returned as promised.

How do we spend our minutes each day? We’ve got lots of them, you know…60 in each hour, and 1,440 every day. But do we really concentrate on spending each minute, or do we waste too many?

Before clocks got invented, minutes didn’t mean much. But once folks agreed on standard units of time, and synchronized their clocks, the world ran lots more efficiently. Students showed up for school at the right time, and adult clocked into jobs where they were paid by the hour.

What are your favorite minutes during the day? How you choose to spend them can determine the quality of life you live.

Short sayings, brief insights

We start hearing these little informational nuggets when we’re children. But many of them stay with us…and we occasionally quote them.

“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

“No man is an island.”

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

“Better late than never.”

What do these sayings have in common? They offer advice, or they point out a common human trait.

My personal favorite is “The early bird catches the worm.” But frankly, if I caught a worm, I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

Wonderful words

Did you ever have a teacher who changed your life? I had one, and I still think about him.

He was really good at communicating with students. Without talking down to us, he described complex ideas in ways we could understand. He used simple words and analogies.

But more important, he looked for special skills in each of us. One of the girls was a terrific sketch artist. Whenever we worked on a group project he’d ask her to illustrate our report.

One guy had a unique voice. The teacher encouraged him to speak frequently in class. He became a nationally known talk show host.

What gifts do you see in family members, are in the people you work with? If you point that out with a timely compliment, your words might positively change that person’s life.

Pivotal events

I often work with students who are trying to write college application essays. Many of them try to prepare that essay in the form of a chronology, listing important events in their lives from elementary school forward.

I admit that I did the same thing. But the best essays I’ve seen over the years take a different approach.

These great essays focus on one or two major events that shaped a student’s life, and either pointed them in a positive direction or gave them ideas about what career path to pursue.

The secret: Chronologies present a road map an individual followed. Spotlighting pivotal events, however, can focus on an individual’s gifts, or present life lessons that readers can learn from.

What’s the greatest gift?

A famous man was once asked, “What’s the greatest gift you’ve given your children?”

His reply: “I still give it. Each day, I just try to set a good example.”

A good example is important for us, it’s important for our children, and it will play an important role for future generations, too. For many of us, reading biographies provides good examples, too.

From rags-to-riches biographies, we learn the value of persistence and motivation. From religious biographies, we learn the value of faith and hope. From biographies about educators, we learn the value of study, practice, and passing our knowledge to future generations.

The secret: As you prepare to write a biography, think about the gifts that story will communicate to future generations.

Please teach me something

Folks read for all sorts of reasons. For most of us, our earliest reading is purely for fun.

As toddlers we look at picture books, those with vivid art and simple stories. When we start school, we learn to read basic words and simple sentences. We progress to short “chapter” books, with more complex stories.

We continue our education with more complicated instructional texts. Entering adulthood, we often read for three reasons: to be entertained, to follow a set of “how to” instructions, or to learn something that can improve our lives.

The lesson: What makes good biographies so popular is that they teach through example. We read about famous people who’ve accomplished much or helped others, and we can use their lives as role models.

Sports stars

Like many young guys, I pictured myself as a great baseball player when I grew up. Unfortunately, I had three skill challenges: I couldn’t hit well, I was slow, and I couldn’t throw the ball where I wanted it to go.

But that never kept me away from reading biographies about my favorite players. I marveled at their skills, and wondered what separated great players from the good ones. Sports biographies reminded me that the superstars shared these traits:

= Dedication — The great ones discovered early that they had gifts, and committed themselves to using those gifts.

= Specialization — If they had one stand-out skill, they practiced that skill constantly.

= Replication — Their goal was to excel in a specialty, and excel day after day throughout their careers.

The secret: Have you ever heard that saying that “sports are like the game of life?” I think that’s true. Dedication, specialization, and replication should help most of us excel in our chosen careers.