Saturday, September 15, 2018

Time for Change

“The only thing that is constant is change.” – Heraclitus

Things are not the same today as they were yesterday, very different than they were a few years ago, and entirely different than they were decades ago. Our world, communities, and culture are changing fast, and with them our businesses must change too.

I’m not talking strictly technological or strictly procedural. No, the change we’re caught up in is a matrix: an intricate pattern woven together from strands representing every facet of our business environment, each evolving in its own right as time marches on.

Never before have the mores around us been so questioned. “Why is this the way it is?” “Why do we do this the way we do?” “Where did this practice come from, and why is it necessary today?” We’re in the middle of a reevaluation renaissance.

Einstein famously said, “Question everything.” He also said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” It’s time for change.

I have a new team member starting next week—someone who spent many years, many years ago, working by my side in a similar business. She’s incredibly quick and will be up to speed in no time, but through her update process I’ve been reflecting on all the changes that I’ve seen since she and I last worked together.

Most noticeably, our systems have been revolutionized. Many of the ways we keep records, generate reports, and process clients are new. The way we market to our communities is quite different, now focusing on creating bonds through social posts and interaction. And the majority of the audience to whom we now market have needs and points of view entirely different than those of the generations before them, so we shift our offerings, adjust our services, and adapt to meet the demands of the new market.

The way we communicate has matured from traditional phone calls and the occasional email to a myriad of messaging platforms, putting access to our clients literally at our fingertips, and their access to us just as handy. The on-demand world we now live in has challenged us to show up, putting our best face forward no matter where we are.

Many of our newer profit centers are ones that would never have entered our imaginations a few years ago, and many of the ones that were our primary focus back then have all but died out. Some of the products we sell are inventions of just the past couple of years, and some of the products we sold just a few seasons past are now obsolete.

At times, big shifts in technology and policy irreversibly transform the market. When that change happens fast, as it often does, our human nature causes us to mourn the loss of consumer demand for what we traditionally considered to be a core strength. We saw a dramatic example of this when the world went digital and our clients moved toward doing things themselves through online means. We cried for years about that perceived loss, but once we dried our eyes enough to see clearly, we realized that in that change existed fresh opportunities. We had to transition our business models to adapt and grow in the new climate, and it wasn’t easy. But we did it. And now our mix of services has made us much more diversified, and therefore more resilient

I was listening to someone very wise speak the other day. They were addressing a situation in an organization where it seemed like a lot of progress had been made to bring the group into a new, more positive era of growth, but then leadership shifted, new programs were cut back, and the progress they had made seemed as if it had all fallen apart. They remarked that sometimes, when we take a step back, it only serves to build momentum for the next giant leap forward.

If you’ve had a setback, use it as an opportunity to build momentum for that next big step. Be stubborn and refuse to give up without a fight. Throughout history, some of the most amazing and inspirational stories, inventions, and innovations have come as a direct result of what was initially thought of as a setback. I can attest to this personally, much stronger now because of fighting through challenges that could very well have taken me down had I not been so stubborn.

If you’ve felt stuck, maybe it’s because you’re carrying too much weight. Get out of the driver’s seat for a moment and look at the situation from a new vantage point. Maybe you need to unload some unnecessary baggage, or maybe you need to rock back and forth a few times to create wiggle room and build fresh momentum to get unstuck.

If you’re struggling to adapt to changes that have come so rapidly in recent years, months, and even weeks, don’t lose faith. And don’t lose your footing. Take a breath, reevaluate, and reinvent. You’re never too old or too established to adapt.

Change is happening whether we like or not; it’s happening whether we’re ready or not. It can zip right by and leave us in the dust or it can catch us in its wings and carry us to brand new heights.


Originally published in MBC Today Volume 20, Issue 2, on March 15, 2018. Also published on the AMBC blog on September 15, 2018.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Words Are Like Weapons

My dear friends, Seema and Fahim Mojawalla of Social Media & Design Coaches LLC, shared something the other day that I want to share with you. This is an important message ... and one that I often find myself in need of.

Please check out the original post here and be sure to follow my friends' blog while you're there. Every week they share something great!


Words Are Like Weapons - Choose Yours Carefully

Our son is beginning an internship with a company that sells one of the best knives in the world. They're made here in the USA and in the hands of a professional chef, these knives can slice and dice and create magical concoctions of extraordinary food from ordinary recipes. In the hands of someone who doesn't know how to use the knife however, these knives could cut fingers and toes while trying to cut potatoes or meat.

Similarly, the words that we use in speaking to people everyday make a great deal of difference. If we just think about how the following statements cause pleasure in the first sense and pain in the second sense, we will easily understand that there are two ways to say the same thing, and we should always try to choose that way that gets our point across, without sacrificing respect or kindness.

The first sentence looks like this:

"Look at these amazing young people here."

The second sentence states this:

"Look at these pathetic troublemakers here."

In the first instance, the listeners would more likely be responsive and take action to the person speaking, as well as be more positive and uplifted. In the second instance however, the listeners would be put on guard from the very beginning and would have a negative feedback of the person speaking.

In the world of business, especially when we are placed in a role of employers, managers or leaders, we have a responsibility to use our words wisely.
If in fact we use our words to inspire, motivate, uplift and rejuvenate, we can create a very happy workplace with an extremely efficient workforce, one that is willing to lend a hand in any task and is willing to work together.

Most times, however, we find upper management using derogatory language to their subordinates and as a result, they create friction from the very beginning, causing chaos in the workplace. It starts with the words that are used when speaking to people everyday.

So, this week, we urge you to reflect on your language and your word usage. Just think to yourself, "How would I feel if I was told the same thing in the same manner with the same words that I just used to tell him or her?"

If the answer is positive, then by all means, go ahead and give those instructions in that manner. If, however, the answer causes an uncomfortable feeling, then modify the words into a more positive sentence and notice the difference immediately.

Wishing you much success.

With effervescence and gratitude,

Fahim & Seema Mojawalla
Social Media & Design Coaches
#FahimFix #SeemaSays

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Six Beautiful Words, Five Years Ago

Five years ago, six words changed my life. It was Good Friday, March 29, 2013, and I was on the phone with Lacey, one of my favorite nurses on my oncology team, anxiously awaiting the results of my post-chemo PET/CT scan. She read the results to me, joyfully proclaiming that the scan showed "complete resolution and response to chemotherapy." And as she said those six beautiful words I felt a giant burden lift off of my shouldersrealizing in that moment that I had officially become a cancer survivor.

Five months before that, I had gone to see my primary care provider for a sore throat and a swollen tonsil. My tonsil was starting to get big, visibly protruding out of the side of my throat; it was super weird. My primary had never seen anything quite like it before, and neither had some of his associates—an instructor and student who were in his office observing that day. They were all curious, and one of the associates exclaimed after looking at my rogue tonsil, "That's quite impressive!"

My primary wondered if perhaps it was a virus or something causing my tonsil to react and swell, so he swabbed and tested everything he could but the results all came back negative. By my follow-up visit eight days later, my tonsil had grown about 25% larger. We thought that clearly there must be an abscess that was causing it to grow so big, so fast, becoming so large by that point that it was blocking a good portion of the left side of my throat and affecting the sound of my voice. It was very concerning, so my primary wasted no time and got me a same-day appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT, or otolaryngologist … for short).

I went directly from my primary's office to the ENT's where I was told very coarsely, "That's not an abscess. It's a growth." Just like that, I learned that I had a tumor. My breath left me, but the doctor didn’t seem to realize that he just told me that I likely had cancer. He just plugged forward, business as usual, scheduled a tonsillectomy for a few weeks out, and ordered X-rays to be done right away.

In a daze, I made my way to my car in the parking lot of the ENT's office and just sat there—wondering, worrying, crying, and trying to catch my breath. Then my primary called. We had joked that morning in our worst Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions that "It's not a tumor." But now we both knew that indeed it was, and we both knew what that meant. He consoled me and reassured me—as a physician and a friend—that we'd get the best people on this right away; that I was strong and able to fight this.

When the X-ray results came back a few days later, the ENT I had first seen was away, so his partner looked at my file and decided that he wanted to do a biopsy of the tonsil instead of a tonsillectomy. So, on Halloween, I found myself back at the ENT's office while the new doctor examined me, prepped me for a biopsy, and accidentally sprayed lidocaine all over my face before getting it down my throat where it was intended—serving as a much-needed mood lightener, even if my face went a bit numb. Then he used a steel tool to take a chunk out of my tonsil. I can still hear the crunching sound that tool made as it clamped down in my throat. That biopsy confirmed that I had cancer.

My first of many PET/CT scans happened next, followed right away by an appointment with the best oncologist in the area, whom my primary made sure I got in with. On my very first visit, my oncologist performed a bone marrow biopsy and I learned that I have some of the strongest bones he’s ever encountered, having to put his entire weight into the tool he used to dig into my rear pelvis, through the bone, and withdraw a piece of marrow to determine if cancer had spread there yet. It hadn't, but I did have other tumors that were starting in other lymph nodes.

The type of cancer I had was a very rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, so I was sent right away to Boston to consult with one of the top rare lymphoma specialists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. That specialist clarified my diagnosis and told me that the type of cancer I had was one of the fastest growing cancers that they know about. He recommended a very intense chemo regimen, feeling I could handle it since at 33 I was still young and strong. But he also told me that if it had been just a few more weeks my chances of survival would have gone down to only 20-30%. Early detection saved me, and I consider it nothing short of a miracle that the first tumor appeared in my tonsil where I could see it and not in a lymph node that might have gone undetected until it was too late. This specialist would consult with my local oncologist and act as a guide, which meant that I could receive treatment in my home city and not have to stay in Boston. That was a relief.

Chemo was indeed intense. I spent the next four months in treatment, mostly inpatient with one- to two-week stays in the hospital during each cycle. I had a port implanted in my chest to make administering intravenous chemo easier. I often had chemo going around the clock, along with constant saline in my IV, which meant that I constantly had to pee. I had to take rescue medication after some of the strongest chemo rotations in order to bring my body back from the brink that those drugs intentionally drove me to. I received multiple intrathecal injections in my spine, fascinated each time while I watched the live X-ray in the operating room guide the surgeon's ridiculously large needle through my vertebrae and into my spinal cord. Of course, the operating room staff also said I was notorious for singing obnoxiously loud along with the radio as I got high on anesthesia while they prepped me for those injections, so I really can’t trust my memory of what happened during those intrathecal sessions 100%.

I lost every single hair on my head and my body. When I threw up, it was painful because my mouth and throat were often coated with sores, as is quite common for chemo patients. I received a slew of blood and platelet transfusions along with countless shots to help my body make more of its own blood cells to replace the ones being killed by chemo. Every bone in my body ached because of those injections as my bone marrow worked overtime to replace missing cells. When my red blood cell count was low, leaving my system without its trusty oxygen carriers, my breath got heavy and fast—my lungs panting as they did all they could to bring more oxygen to my bloodstream. My skin lost color, crawled, itched, flaked, and ached. (Yes, my skin ached.) I lost muscle tone. I sometimes lost my balance. I often lost my patience. And I lost nearly 50 pounds.

My family and friends rallied. My mom took over daily duties at my year-old business. My dad bought me groceries and drove me to and from appointments. I didn't see too many people, often having to keep myself isolated to prevent catching anything while my system was down, but my parents and best friend came to the hospital whenever they could. My sister, who was living in Texas, came home for a month to be with me. On good days, we'd play cards in the hospital, and on bad days she'd just be there if I needed her. I talked her out of shaving her head for me, though must admit I was incredibly touched when a good friend and his son surprised me by shaving theirs. I received so many cards and care packages, each one meaning the world to me. My mom crocheted me a bunch of hats, as did a dear client of mine, and I wore them proudly.

Sometimes I wanted visitors, but often I just wanted space. I worked as much as I could, accessing my business computers remotely from my laptop on the hospital bed, and because sleep is tough in a hospital when you have to pee every hour on the hour and have nurses constantly changing your IV, I slept in small stints and caught up on my Hulu and Netflix queues when sleep was impossible. I kept an online journal so those interested could know some of what was going on, even if the more gruesome details were never shared. I brought my own pillows and blankets with me for my stays, much to the amusement of the hospital staff, and had a different loungewear outfit each day—not about to don a breezy hospital gown if I didn't have to.

On days when I had an appetite and felt like I could keep food down, I'd devour as much lemon meringue pie as the cafeteria would send up. I became known to the cafeteria staff as that persnickety guy on the 5th floor who refused to eat from hospital plates and flatware, instead requesting everything be sent up with disposable dishware because just one whiff of or glance at the not-sure-where-they've-been hospital dishes was an instant nausea trigger. And the sweet older foodservice man that often brought my meals never could get my name right. To him, I was Marian.

The oncology team that worked with me, including the staff on the hospital floor where I spent most of those treatment months, was tremendous. I still get hugs when I visit, exchange Christmas cards, and continue to fail to be able to express my gratitude as much as I owe to them. They saved my life.

That battle is over, but the vigil will continue the rest of my days. Over the last five years of follow-up, I've amassed quite a team of doctors, gaining new specialists each time something looks or feels a little funny. I've had biopsies on everything from my bladder to my kidney and scopes shoved up places I didn't even know scopes could go. Eventually, after it was all said and done, I did have that tonsillectomy. My port finally came out after a year, and the scars it left on my chest and neck are ones I wear proudly. My damaged teeth got restored—whitened and filled or filed and crowned—so I can smile as big as I want to now. And yes, I still get incredibly anxious every time I think I may be getting a sore throat.

Oh, it's been an interesting ride. Someday I’m going to write a book about it. But on this day, March 29th, I will always think back to those six beautiful words Lacey read to me in 2013: "complete resolution and response to chemotherapy." And I'll well up, overwhelmed afresh with thankfulness.

#CancerSurvivor #FiveYearsCancerFree #LymphomaSucks #Grateful #Thankful


Public Service Announcement:

Everyone's diagnosis and treatment experience is different. Variables like cancer type, sub-type, stage, overall health, treatment plan, healthcare access, doctor knowledge, age, aptitude, attitude, desire, genetics, insurance, and so much more go into determining what a patient will go through, symptoms they will have, and steps they will take. 

I state this to help the public understand that saying things like, "Oh, I know someone who had that!" or "Yes, my friend went through the exact same thing." or "Well, that type of cancer isn't that bad." is inappropriate most likely untrue. Please don't compare. Just show compassion.

#SoapBox #ItsImportantThough

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Busyness of Business

... and how to not let it devour you

My cousin’s son called me last night about 8:30 as I was leaving a meeting. He’s never been to New York City, and for the past few years he and I have been trying to find a weekend to meet there so I can give him the insider tour … and I can’t wait to do it! But we just haven’t been able to find time. Every Thanksgiving we talk about it, always apologizing to each other about how busy we’ve been, and are never quite able to settle on a date. We decided on our call last night that we would make it happen this winter, one way or another.

Everyone is always so busy. Whether your job is in an office, in a classroom, at home, on a plane, in the field, or in the trenches, life and its responsibilities have a way of filling up every last crevice of our time with one pressing need or another. We get so caught up in getting through each day that we often forget to take a beat and see the big picture; we often forget to simply take a breath.

Busyness is our culture. It’s a never ending, overwhelming, spiraling cycle that we’re expected of others and ourselves to follow and that we expect everyone else to be caught up in too. It’s our normal. But, when it gets out of control, it becomes too much.

I had a great question come in this month to Ask Uncle Marty™ from a business owner who had lost her drive. She was exhausted and, rather than plugging through what she needed to do, she instead felt paralyzed by overwhelm. It’s a topic I’ve tacked a few times before in my column, and one that just keeps coming back. It’s defining our generations.

So, what do we do? Do we just give up and throw in the towel? Do we disappear for a month and go on a cruise to the Galápagos? Do we change our name to Leslie and live in leisure in Lima with our pet llama, coincidentally also named Leslie? Or, do we just keep plugging along, getting more and more stressed out, digging ourselves deeper and deeper into sleep debt, and just resolve ourselves to live with the consequences?

Frankly, all those things sound good at times (at least the first three do). But we can’t just quit our lives. We can’t up and leave all of our responsibilities behind; we can’t just give up. However, we surely can take steps to make things more manageable…

- We can ask for help. There comes a point in nearly every successful business where the owner needs assistance. And there comes a point in nearly every successful life where partnerships are necessary. So, get help! Find someone—or a team—who can take some of the load off of your shoulders. Hire an assistant. Outsource some of the stuff that takes up so much of your time to a professional that can do it better and faster. Learn to empower and trust your team.

- We can release our stress in a healthy way. Join a gym, take a kickboxing class, or start a yoga practice. Find a good counselor or therapist and make a point to make regular appointments a priority. Set up a regular date night with your better half, or make an effort to go on more dates if you’re single. Meditate, discover a breathing practice, and clear your head regularly.

We can broaden our horizons in hopes of seeing the big picture more clearly. Read more, listen to podcasts, and feed the part of you that’s hungry for new ideas, new information, and new discoveries. If at all possible, travel to places you’ve never been, or at the very least take an extra day after that next conference in Orlando to spend some time with Goofy and the gang.

- We can smile. I know this sounds entirely too simple, but it’s a studied phenomenon that, just as our mood affects our facial expressions, our facial expressions can also affect our mood. Essentially that means that we can force a smile and, in turn, force a mood change. Turn that frown upside down!

- We can add one more thing. Seriously, add one more thing to your routine. And make it a fun thing. What have you been wanting to do, but just haven’t even considered because you’re “too busy?” What if that thing became more important than something else that you do regularly that would take up the same amount of time? What if that thing moved up the priority ladder so that you actually carve out time for it? Whether that thing is joining a local theatre repertoire company, gospel choir, hockey team, ribbon dancing troupe, or book club, what if finding the time for it was as simple as making it important in your mind? Well, it actually is that simple. Try. You’ll see. And the endorphins that that thing releases will make the rest of your week brighter!

A great and enlightened sage of our age, Dolly Parton, once said, “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” So, friends, take steps to relieve some of the busyness from your daily business. Take a breath, take a beat, and take a break. Then make changes to make things better.

Originally published in MBC Today Volume 20, Issue 1, on February 5, 2018.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Be Still...

My good buddy Mary passed away today.

The last time I saw her, I walked into her room on the skilled nursing floor of Good Shepherd Village and found her standing by the side of her bed. I could tell by the look on her face that she was trying to either remember or find something.

We sat down and Mary asked me if I could show her a verse that someone had recently printed out for her.

I found it flopped over on the shelf opposite her bed, printed as large as possible to fill up a full size sheet of paper. I propped it up so she could see it, even if her failing eyes couldn't make it out too clearly.

She had been thinking about this verse and knew it well, but since she couldn't see it and, with moments of clarity coming and going, she wasn't able to recall the words quite right that day. So, I read it to her: "Be still and know that I am God."

She kept repeating the word "still." Then she'd forget and ask me again what it was.

I told her, "Be still."

"Still, still," she said over and over. "I guess that means I should just be quiet."

She went on to tell me about all of the commotion she saw around her daily on the floor where she now lived. She said that everyone there was always so busy and the staff was always trying to keep the "inmates" (as she fondly called her fellow residents) entertained. But she thought she must have a purpose in being there … and maybe that purpose was to just be quiet and wait, hoping that if someone needed help she'd be able to say the right thing. She was sincere in that desire.

In December, Mary celebrated her 100th birthday. In her century of life, she had seen and experienced more things than most of us could ever hope to witness. She had lived through eras of history that seem so distant to us now, but to her were just a moment past.

She started her career working as a message carrier, taking memos between top executives at IBM decades before computers were a mainstream thing. She had a true spirit of adventure and traveled the world, visiting dozens of countries, lands, and people on six continents, choosing to sail on freighter ships instead of luxury liners where she and her husband would get to know the crew and experience the world in ways everyday tourists wouldn't think of. She decorated her apartment with countless trinkets from her travelsmasks from Africa, a statue from Burma, a mini kangaroo from Australia, scarabs from Egypt, brass plates from Greece, a miniature Viking from Norway, and a replica Tommy gun that she hung over her computer deskevery surface cluttered with memories, photo books, and journals. And, of course, she had her pilot's license, flying small planes and soaring free ... just for fun; just because she could.

It was my sincere privilege to have known Mary my entire life, and she's known my family since she and my grandmother were friends as teenagers. When my siblings and I were young, Mary would always bring seemingly bottomless tins of cookies for us when we'd travel together on long car trips. Reminiscing tonight, my sister and I remembered our favorites: the big round ones that looked like white and red tires with icing circling raspberry jam filled centers. Oh, they were delicious.

Over 30 years later, Mary still always made sure we were well fed. When she was able, we'd go out on our special dates to her favorite restaurants, and in recent years when she couldn't get out as much we'd sometimes just grab a late Sunday breakfast together in the dining room at her retirement home, inevitably stopping at every other table in the joint to say hello to her friends. She knew everyone, and everyone loved her.

Mary had done everything and been everywhere. She'd lived a long, full, impactful, trailblazing life. And now, after 100 years of adventure, she just wanted to "be still."

As I left her room for the last timenot knowing it was the last timeshe simply said, "I love you."

I love you too, Mary. You were a dear, dear friend. Thank you for everything.

Be still.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Understanding Misunderstanding: Sometimes It's Not Just a Stupid Question

A few years ago, I had a call at my store from a student asking if I did key duplication and how much it cost. Being a shipping and office services center, I indeed did duplicate keys, at the time only charging $2.99 per key. So, I told her, "Absolutely! It's just two ninety nine per key." All seemed well.

She called back a minute or two later and said, "Wait, did you mean two hundred and ninety nine dollars or two dollars and ninety nine cents?" I was dumbfounded by the question. Making a snap judgment that it must be a prank, I gave her a sassy Seth Meyers-style "Really!?" Followed by a "Grow up." And then I rudely hung up on her. I did not handle the call gracefully, especially considering that it was most certainly not a prank...

You see, shortly after that incident I had another student ask me the same questionseeking clarification on whether key duplication was in the one-figure or three-figure range. And since then I've had quite a few more young clients react in a similar way when they find out how much key duplication costs. In fact, just yesterday someone said, "I thought making a key would be at least $40!"

Here's the skinny: most key blanks cost me between 17 and 29 cents each; it takes less than a minute to cut each one. I charge more than $2.99 now, but even at that price it was still a great margin on a very easy service to provide. And, being in a college town with students constantly moving in and out, I do quite a bit of volume in key making; I've even done them in bulk for some local property managers. Key cutting is a great add-on to my business, and the operation takes up less than three square feet of floor space at my shop. I love it! My prices are slightly higher now, but remain very fair and still less than but competitive with other options in my area.

I've thought about it a lot: how could a good portion of this new generation of people sincerely not know if traditional non-chip key duplication costs $2.99 or $299.00? How do they have no concept of a price range? After all, it's just a tiny piece of metal with a few notches cut into it. Well, the answer is simple: they've just never had to do it before.

A good percentage of the local students with whom I work come from privileged backgrounds, so they're not a representative sample of the population at large by any means. Most were born at the end of the 1990s and some in the early 2000s. Many of their homes used code pads or smart entries, not keys. Or, if they did have keys, likely the kids weren't the ones responsible to have them reproduced. Their cars used fobs, not traditional keys, with average fob replacement costs around $200 from a dealer (and up to $500 for luxury models). And I think it's fair to assume that they've likely had little need or reason to walk by the key machine at Home Depot and make mental notes of prices.

It's purely a matter of one's frame of reference. For me, growing up in a similar family business to the one I now own, if I needed a new key for my car, house, locker, or mailbox, I would just make one myself on the old key machine that we kept in the back of one of our shops. And my first car, a 1985 white Chevrolet Impala with a V8 engine, suspension like a dream, a giant maroon vinyl bench seat up front, and a fancy schmancy tape deck with a removable face that I paid way too much to have custom installed when I was a junior in high school, didn't even need a key to start it by the time I was done with it. After 200K+ miles, the key starter bit was so worn out that all I had to do was twist the general area around where the key used to go and my baby would start purring. And, after I locked myself out a few times and had to jimmy the door open with a wire coat hanger, I learned that I could screw a spare door key (door keys and ignition keys were two separate things then) behind the front license plate (but not behind the back plate, because that’s where the gas tank was). Life was simple. And I feel like there was always an occasion to make a duplicate key for something or other.

Those experiences aren't anything most in the new crop of young adults have ever gone through. Most have also never had occasion to write a check or address an envelope, so when they come in for the first time and have to mail a rent check to their #oldschool landlord who doesn't take electronic payment, they are completely lost and bewildered. I guide them through the processas Uncle Marty doesand give them a template I've made to show them exactly where the from address, to address, and stamp go on the envelope. They are fascinated by the process and many of them take a copy of the template with them to share with their friendsa novelty for the group.

When they buy greeting cards, at least half of my student clients don't know that the envelope is included with the card at no additional charge; they don't know that matching envelopes designed specifically for each card are tucked in behind the cards on the rack. When they come to the counter to buy the card without an envelope and I point out that they're welcome to take the envelope that goes with it too, most of the time I get a blank stare in return. So, I walk them to the card rack, show them where the envelopes are, and watch their faces light up with excited revelation: "You mean the envelope is free!?"

Many of the students I work with have never packed a box before. They come in to my shop to buy boxes when they're preparing to move, but when they come back to put those boxes into storage or ship them, I'm constantly amazed at how they've attempted to close them. Flaps are bent, folded, and crammed every which way but the way the box was engineered. They use every kind of tape they can find (including Scotch tape, masking tape, and duct tape, none of which are suitable for shipping) and put tape everywhere on the box except over the seam where it should be. It's really quite intriguing. What I think is common sense because it's what I grew up doing isn't common sense to them. Rather, constructing and taping a box is a brand new challenge that they've never had to think about before. And, to their credit, I can attest that they are seriously creative in their solutions to this challenge!

The study of generations is fascinating. I'm fortunate to be part of a team at AMBC that's doing a lot of research in this area. One team member, Sarah, who's a baby boomer with millennial children, is an expert on the millennial mindset. Other team members, Seema and Fahim, who like myself are Generation X, study the topic hard and, because they have both millennial and Generation Z children, bring a lot of insight on the contrasts in thinking, processing, and frames of reference between millennials and Generation Ztwo groups often mistakenly bundled together, but really quite different. 

We study these generations because their spending habits are so varied, and understanding those habits helps our and our friends' businesses market more appropriately and effectively, meet changing needs and patterns, and grow. I won't get into all of that generational generalization now, but I promise it really is an interesting area of research. (And, yes, I did check with #GrammarGirl to make sure I capitalized generation names correctly, the distinction among which is also quite interesting.) (

My point with all this is to remind you and me to consider someone's context when they're doing something that might make absolutely no sense to us or when they ask what we might think is an incredibly stupid question, so much so that we may even assume they're playing a prank on us. Someone may be from such a different background, culture, level of exposure, or generation that something we understand as common sense may be a brand new concept to them. Sure, we may chuckle under our breath or roll our eyes at times, but deep down we must understand that where we're coming from isn't where everyone else is. 

I strongly regret my reaction to that student who called about the $299.00 keys. I belittled her and hung up on her, though she was just asking a legitimate question. It's a hard lesson to learn, but I hope I can understand a little bit more moving forward. Sometimes we think we have a lot to teach someoneespecially someone younger with seemingly less life experiencebut the education works both ways. 

What we have yet to learn is far greater than what we think we already know. 

#AMBC4ME #AskUncleMarty #BabyBoomers #Millennials #GenerationX #GenerationZ


Also published on the AMBC blog on January 19, 2018.