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Say “Yes” to Opportunity

20 May

May is National Military Appreciation Month – in which we honor, remember, recognize and appreciate all military personnel and their families. This past Saturday, May 19th, was Armed Forces Day; and this year, I had the honor of attending the retirement ceremony for Captain Rick Myllenbeck, USN, at the Navy Memorial in Washington, DC. Rick retired after 42 years (that’s right, 4-2 years) of military service that began on May 19, 1976.

I cannot do justice to Rick’s career in a short blog post, so here is a great article about him that appeared in the local newspaper a few years back:

While Rick and I were both stationed at the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) at the same time following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we didn’t actually meet until he and his wife, Elizabeth, opened Sonoma Cellars – a wine tasting room in Alexandria, VA – in September 2015. I’ve had many opportunities to talk with Rick since then; over a glass of wine at brunch, or while enjoying a cigar on Tuesday night.

There were many warm, wonderful and profound messages offered at Rick’s retirement ceremony, but the one that stuck with me came from Rick himself – say “yes” to every opportunity. While his remarks were directed at the young service men and women in the room, we can all learn from Rick’s sage advice.

Saying “yes” to opportunity has allowed me to travel the world, experience new cultures, get a world-class education, start several businesses, help many others to start their own businesses, and stand on stage telling stories. And it is the prospect of saying “yes” to more opportunities that keeps my outlook positive about the future.

Why is this so important? In general, I find life is richer, fuller, more vibrant. I’m an introvert, so trust me when I say my natural tendency is to say “no” more often than not. But I cannot deny that the most fulfilling moments of my life have occurred when I said “yes” to an opportunity. (Note: I’m not saying you need to say “yes” to every social engagement or business venture, but taking the time to reflect on them before reflexively saying “no” can open new doors to new experiences and adventures you many never have considered.

Here are a couple of articles on the benefits of saying “yes” to opportunity:

What will you say “yes” to this week?


A Thought for the Weekend

21 Apr

“Wouldn’t life be so much more fun, productive, and sexy if we fully embraced our magnificently delightful selves?”

– Jen Sincero (You Are A Badass)

The Politics of Tamales

11 Apr

I’m finishing up the 2017 edition of The Best American Travel Writing and wanted to share this great story about immigrants, food, business, economics and politics by Kathryn Schulz that originally appeared in the June 2016 edition of The New Yorker:

My hometown of Great Falls, MT even gets a mention!

What Is “The Future of Work”?

21 Mar

I’d like to share an interesting blog post from The Aspen Institute: The 411 on the “Future of Work” published March 17, 2018 & authored by Mark G. Popovich, Maureen Conway & Joyce Klein.

Is the gig economy, that is a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs, just the next evolution of our work force? Or is it something entirely new?

I’m interested in your thoughts – comment below. Thank you.



Live a Good Life!

4 Mar

Charles LaughingOn the occasion of my 48th birthday, I’d like to share a great article by John Rampton that appeared in “Entrepreneur” (online) on February 13, 2018:

10 Ways to Turn Your Life Around for the Better

Sage advice for all of us!

Hustle – Good, Hustled – Bad

17 Feb

Note: I would like to acknowledge and thank my fellow Veteran small business owner, Fred Wellman (, for his LinkedIn post on 2/15/18 that inspired this blog entry.

hus·tle (pronounced: ˈhəsəl)
verb: 1) to sell or promote energetically and aggressively, 2) to sell something to or obtain something from (someone) by energetic and especially underhanded activity.

A few years back, I was part of a “reduction in force” at work due to federal budget cuts and contract cancellations. I had worked in government contracting for about a decade at this point, was pretty sick of it, and was looking for a career change. I considered becoming a financial advisor, but the company I was interviewing with wanted me to spend 2-3 years selling life insurance before it would sponsor me for my Series 6 and Series 7 licenses. Their sales formula was 200 cold calls equals 10 customer meetings which would generate 1 policy. I would be expected to follow this formula on a weekly basis. All of my activity would be logged – if I met certain sales targets, I would receive cash and prizes; and if I failed to meet my targets, I would be chastised and ridiculed in front of my co-workers.

Yeah – no thanks.

For years, we’ve been taught that the key to successful sales is ABC (Always Be Closing). For more on this sales technique, I highly recommend watching the movie Glengarry Glen Ross.

Hustle (doing what you do with passion and energy) is a good thing. Being hustled (feeling the need to take a shower after meeting a sales rep) is not a good thing. What distinguishes one from the other? In the former case (hustle) – the sales rep (and we are all sales reps) takes the time to do research and ask questions in order to determine if their product/service is meeting a potential client’s needs. In the latter case (hustled), the sales rep moves from one client to the next as quickly as possible in order to meet a sales target.

Here are a few examples of bad selling (i.e. being hustled) that I have personally experienced this week alone:

1. I received a LinkedIn request to connect; and almost immediately upon accepting the request, I received a message from said individual stating, “Hey Charles, I was looking at your (LinkedIn) profile and it looks like there is a lot of synergy between our two companies. I’d love to see how I could connect with your clients to offer my services.”

I’ve never met this person. In fact, they have had no involvement with me or my organization at all. And notice that this person’s sales pitch was about them, not me (or my clients). Oh, and use of the term “synergy” is a red flag that you are a huckster.

2. An acquaintance made an e-introduction to a person who had just started a small business. When I offered my services to help with their business, I was told they were too busy with their “job” to take any classes/counseling on small business start-up. But would I be interested in learning about their consulting “business” and seeing if there was a way we could work together?

If you are “too busy” to learn about me and my organization, then what level of service are you really going to be able to provide? Again, this person just wanted access to my clients.

3. And finally, another acquaintance made another e-introduction to another small business owner. I invited said individual to attend our free orientation in order to learn more about my organization and what we do.

A week has gone by and I haven’t received a reply to my email. Even a “no thanks” is better than no response.

I have spent the past decade building a reputation (and I hope a good one) as a small business owner, advocate, teacher and counselor. I meet thousands of small business owners each year; and I make hundreds of referrals based on the needs of my clients.

First, I have a responsibility to my clients to provide the best service possible. So, I’m not going to refer my clients to a person who is more interested in the sale than the service.

And I’m done responding to unsolicited sales pitches from people who clearly haven’t done even the most basic research about me or my organization. My advice to these individuals – just STOP!

I understand we are all trying to make a living. But consumers today have choices – lots of choices. Including (and more often than not) ignoring us. Stop being part of the noise. Don’t let your first interaction be an aggressive sales pitch. Instead, turn your energy towards doing some basic research. Ask questions. Listen to what your potential client is saying. And only when you understand their needs do you offer your product or service. If it isn’t a good fit, don’t make the pitch.

In other words, make a real connection. Yes, it takes time to build relationships (there is no shortcut), but those relationships will help ensure the longevity of your business. See my blog post on selling for more advice on building trusted relationships with your clients:

Everybody Keep Calm…

5 Feb

After a 665 point drop on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) plummeted 1175.21 points on Monday (2/5/18) to close at 24,345.75 – erasing all of its 2018 gains. Here’s some insight into what happened:

Market corrections happen. Throw in the fact that stock valuations were near historic heights in an overheated market and you have the perfect recipe for the kind of pullback we are experiencing right now. I know – that doesn’t help calm the fear as you watch your retirement account dwindle.

Perhaps the most important thing investors can do right now is keep their heads amid the day’s admittedly sour headlines. The more investors pull money out of the market, the more it will drop, which means even more investors will react, causing further decline.

Unless you really, really need that money to survive, stay calm and wait it out. Better yet, take advantage of the pullback and buy more shares. It’s too late to close the barn door after the horses have bolted, so instead start putting money into that emergency savings account you had always meant to start.