Getting Some Brain Food, Or The Start of Something Bigger?

Food for the Body and Soul

A couple of weeks ago, I finished off my involvement with Shannon Park Lego League by hosting the Showcase that had been previously postponed by weather.  That night, I chose to have a steak dinner (a bone-in ribeye steak, please).  Yes, I was hungry, but my soul needed it more than anything to mark the closure of this commitment I made a few years ago.  I think the mind is a lot the same.  It needs to be fed from time to time to keep it sharp.

Last night, I started a Mini-Masters course on Marketing Management at the University of St. Thomas.  A few months ago, I decided to enter this course as a way to broaden my capabilities beyond the technical, leadership and management work I do today.  In essence, it will provide some brain food.  A healthy thing, I think.

As I sat through the 3 hour lecture from the professor, I feel like I may have stumbled onto potentially several other opportunities for me to make Big Plays in my life.  I see opportunities immediately to apply the knowledge I am gaining to my current job, but also it got me wondering if there is a new Big Play I haven’t even though of yet?  Is it a start of a new direction, or a new way to contribute within my current responsibilities?  Only time will tell, but my eyes, ears, heart and mind are open to the possibilities ahead.


The Big Plays Blog Turns 1!

Didn’t think it would happen, but I managed to sustain this effort through the whole year.  For me, that was a notable accomplishment.  Welcome, now, to Year 2.

Whale Watching in Monterey Bay, October 2010

In 2011, I will work a little harder to add content.  More relevant content with greater frequency will be the approach here.  I noticed today that WordPress (the host of my blog site) has a contest to inspire more blogging.  I am going to make a goal of a weekly post.  Hopefully by simply writing it down makes it a stronger personal commitment.  Let’s see how it goes.

Some New (or Old) Advice

Mr. Ted Turner - November 9th, 2010

This week, I had the privilege of attending a conference at which Ted Turner (yes, THE Ted Turner) did a keynote session, which was conducted in an interview format.  The moderator asked a series of questions and Mr. Turner provided his insights on a variety of topics that were relevant to the conference.

Without going into the details of the discussion, he did share one nugget that stuck with me:

“Early to bed, early to rise, work hard, and ADVERTISE!”

I think this is going to be my motto as I go into 2011.  What struck me is that in order to move forward, whether it be my career, or my cause, it’s not enough just to work hard.  You have to be able to tell others what you’re doing and why it matters.

It may be the core essence of The Big Play.  Next, I am going to come up with some strategies to put this idea into motion.  Stay tuned for 2011.  My team and I are going to take our message to the streets.

Big Play: Raising Your Profile

I am not the kind of person that likes doing the same thing over and over again.  Add the expectation of a different result and then you define insanity.  Yes, I know, there are certain things we have to do repeatedly, like take out the trash.  I’m talking about the causes in life that really matter, like career, marriage and family.  As we evolve in these life journeys, there are times that some intelligent risk taking to move the cause forward with the intent of making for a better life for myself and others.  I had a situation a couple of weeks ago that I decided to try to raise the stakes a little bit.  Let me try to describe it a little bit.


Margo Relaxing in Her Favorite Spot


I was shopping at our local big-box pet store a couple of weeks ago.  En route to the register with sixty pounds of cat food on my shoulder, I ran into the principal of my son’s school, Shannon Park Elementary.  He has been a great supporter of my efforts to develop our Lego League program.  I decided to stop and ask him for some more support in my quest to transition the program leadership to someone else, so I could focus next year on building the competitive Lego League program.  He was quick to offer some great suggestions for ways to engage, and the best one was the idea to contact the local paper to do a story about what we accomplished.  Two emails the next day, and we got the interview scheduled.  This previous post talks more about the interview.

Here is the final story for the paper.  I am very proud of the coverage we got out of the experience, and I am hopeful by raising the profile of our program in Rosemount I can inspire more people to get involved to inspire science and technology pursuits with our children.

In this case, we will see if taking the initiative to raise the program’s profile will pay off for me to transition leadership of this program to the next person.  I have some more thoughts about profile raising — stay tuned for future posts.

Feed My Starving Children

This week, my wife Debby caught a whopper of a cold.  As a result, she asked me if I would cover her volunteer assignment at church taking middle school kids on a service project.  I was happy to help her out, but I would be lying if I said I would have rather been doing my own thing.  Visions of watching the Twins game in my recliner were more my speed after a long week at work.  My attitude wasn’t great, but being the good soldier I drove the kids to the packing site of Feed My Starving Children in Eagan, MN.

Feed My Starving Children
Feed My Starving Children

When I arrived, I started to understand what was really going on.  This was a site that was creating nutritionally balanced meals for children who are beyond hungry — they are starving and will die in large numbers.  My attitude changed immediately.

So, the team went to work for a 90 minute shift of packing these meals.  Soy, rice, chicken and veggies are put into a pouch.  It was a high energy experience that went very quickly.  We got into a rhythm (because of the load, upbeat music) and my table managed to pack 10 boxes during our time.  My job was to seal the packages with this machine that heated and pressed tight the end of the bag.

I think the part of the evening I liked the most was at the end when the supervisor announced the tally of the large team effort.  Overall, 52 boxes were filled, which translated to the feeding of 31 children in Guatamala for one year.  Wow.  I am looking forward to my next trip, which I hope will be soon.  I would think this would be an excellent team-building event.  Note to my team:  this may be coming soon!

Enhancing Career Growth – Visibility Tactic #1: The Elevator Speech

I’m going through the performance appraisal process with my team again.  As I am thinking about this process, I am seeing a common thread around visibility.  It is no longer good enough to simply show up, do good work and expect to receive recognition through promotions, high performance ratings, corporate awards or new opportunities.  So, how does one strategically enhance their visibility?

The next series of posts deals with this topic.  The first one of the series is developing an effective elevator speech.  Nothing is better than a great elevator speech.  An elevator speech is a term used to describe the story you would share about what you do that is done in the time it takes to take an elevator ride, usually about one to two minutes.  Great elevator speeches are memorable to those who hear them.  They are crisp, to the point, and usually contain a key business impact within it.  Because they are memorable, they tend to be remembered and will come up when ratings are discussed or opportunities are staffed.  I can’t say I have mastered this skill yet, but I like to think I am moving in the right direction.  What would YOU say if you were on the elevator with your CEO?  Could you capture her/his attention?  Tell me your elevator speech stories!