What Does an Insurance CE Seminar Look Like?

Thought I’d share with you some of the photos taken in St. Louis at the world headquarters of Enterprise Holdings, the people who rent cars under the Enterprise, Alamo, and National brands.

As one of my clients, Enterprise Holdings hires me to write insurance and training courses and to present seminars, webinars, and other training workshops.  Earlier this week, we collaborated for the benefit of American Family Insurance and had a terrific time!  (The breakfast burrito was excellent, as were the chocolate chip cookies.)

 The gentleman in the photo featured above is Don Ross, Vice Chairman of Enterprise Holdings.  He introduced me to the American Family claims professionals and agents who travelled from across the country to attend the two training sessions I conducted yesterday … and earned this place of honor  by telling me I didn’t need lipstick to look beautiful.  Sigh.  Now if he could only pass his people skills along to a few other people I know…

Many thanks to Mary M.  for always making my trips to St. Louis special.  Thanks, also, to Donna H. for providing me with these photos and to Keith H. for being a wonderful host.

What’s Your Birth Order?

I’m preparing to begin writing the first book in a series that revolves around a family:  two parents and four children.  I’ve researched birth order in the past and agreed a great deal with the opinions of Dr. Kevin Leman, who wrote The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are.  I’m using the information gleaned from his book, and other sources, as I create my characters and–more importantly–their motivations.

Although I’m a firstborn, I admire the traits of the middleborn the most but get along better with lastborns.  Why do you think that is? 

Well, according to Dr. Leman (who’s a psychologist) people get along best with others who are opposites–personality-wise.  He claims  the majority of married couples he’s counseled during the past 30 years have been firstborns, onlies, or a combination of the two.  (I surely fit that demographic!)

Anyway, here are a few of the things Dr. Leman has to say, followed by brief descriptions of traits that are universally accepted to belong to certain birth orders (by people who agree with the concept, of course!).

  • In a family, each child is most directly affected by the next oldest child.
  • Each child typically behaves opposite the next oldest child. However, if he believes he can compete successfully with the next oldest child (and “overthrow” that child), role reversal takes place.
  • All children want attention from their parents and begin seeking it in infancy; if they don’t get it, they seek either power or revenge–in that order.

Firstborn traits:  Goal-oriented, seek control and approval; aggressive; type-A personality; responsible; conservative; organized; serious; self-sacrificing; puts self and others under stress and pressure; perfectionist

Middleborn traits:  Peacemaker; easy-going; peer-oriented rather than family-oriented; excellent people skills; adaptable; agreeable; may feel overlooked, unheard, ignored; compromising; loyal to friends; secretive; risk-taker; may be cynical or suspicious

Lastborn traits:  Creative; charming; manipulative; identifies with underdog; can be too dependent upon others; risk-taker; spoiled; lazy; temperamental; clown or comedian; entertainer; fun-loving; affectionate; reads people well

Only child traits:  (Very similar to firstborn):  Struggles with parental expectations; perfectionist; doesn’t handle criticism well; critical of self and others; confident; doesn’t relate well to peers when a child; self-motivated; fearful and/or cautions; self-centered

So, what say you?

Karma … and Perspective

Do you believe in Fate?  Or What goes around comes around?  Or any of the other phrases and cliches that address the vagaries in life?

I surely do.  I recently spent twelve tortuous days that were an illustration by God:  somewhere, sometime, I did a very bad something.  And He remembered.

On the other hand, if I look that those days from a different perspective:  the fact that they weren’t worse–and didn’t involve a couple of circumstances that surely should have happened–given Mother Nature and the law of averages–I was clearly rewarded for being a saint.

I started out believing Karma had it in for me … and ended being grateful for my wonderful good luck.  As the famous Donald McHenry is quoted in Taking the Mystery Out of Business:  9 Fundamentals for Professional Success:

“Why is it that successful people seem to have a lot of good luck?  Successful people make their own luck by putting themselves in so many good situations good luck seems to follow them.  Ergo: the harder you work, the luckier you are.”

These days, I work real hard at maintaining a positive attitude.  And I’m lucky–it’s working for me.

How’s Karma treating you lately?

A Couple of Characters…

My friend, Lois McElravy, is a national speaker who uses humor to motivate and inspire.  The survivor of a serious brain injury, Lois knows all about challenges and hardships.  She sometimes uses a character, Louis, to help make her points when she tours the country talking to business men and women, brain injury survivors, and a host of other audiences.

I thought I’d share an article Lois co-wrote with fellow speaker, Steve Weber, not only because it’s interesting but also to illustrate that if you think it’s tough speaking in public as yourself, imagine what it would be like to be Louis or Forrest Gump!  Here’s the link to the article they co-wrote for the national magazine, Speaker Article.

Feel free to share your thoughts about public speaking…

And remember that true friends are just as important on Valentine’s Day as our other loved ones!  I love you, Lois!

My 4th (and probably final) Wagon Train

Have you ever driven cross-country?  Neither have I.  But I have driven 75% of the way across the country … four times!

In October 2003, I moved to Montana where I lived until last February, and it’s a 2,700-mile drive from Attleboro to Evaro, the tiny town 20 miles north of Missoula where I settled in the mountains on 10 acres of forested land.  (I was born in New York City and moved to Massachusetts when I was 11 years old; I’ve lived most of my life in Massachusetts.)

Yes, the picture appearing at the top of this post is what I saw when I stood on the front porch of my Montana house and looked north.  It’s pretty much what I saw when I looked south, east, and west as well–although only between the months of November and April!  A few of my favorite Montana pics, taken by yours truly, pepper this post.

When you head west by car, you can literally feel things calm down:  the frenetic pace of motorists disappears, speech patterns slow, and people become more warm and open.  The landscape, as you’d imagine, changes too.  The rolling hills of New England and Pennsylvania turn flat as you drive between endless cornfields, silver silos, and big, red barns.  Fog embraces you when you skirt Lake Michigan, obscuring the skyline of Chicago, and the wind nearly blows you off the arrow-straight highway as you make your way across the badlands of South Dakota.

When you head east on the way back, the scenery is even more beautiful.  There’s nothing quite like looking down as you drive through  a mountain pass over the Continental Divide at an elevation of 6,300 feet.  The stark beauty of the Crow Indian Reservation reminds you about the history of the wild west and prepares you to drive through the towns of Sundance and Buffalo in Wyoming and Spearfish and Deadwood in South Dakota.

In addition to the awe-inspiring views, the variety of wildlife takes your breath away:  the enormous bald eagle standing right beside the highway, trying to figure a way to chase off the three turkey vultures munching on a carcass.  White-tail deer, mule deer, elks, antelope, coyotes, hawks, marmots, muskrats, raccoons–you name it, we saw it.

I didn’t take any pictures as I completed this fourth, and probably final, trip between Attleboro and Evaro.  I want to remember all the joy I experienced in Montana–not the sadness of leaving it.  They say people are the same everywhere but I don’t believe it.  The people in Montana were the warmest, most welcoming people I ever met.  (Click here for my magazine article, I’m Home, which was published in Three Rivers Lifestyle magazine in 2006.)

My family, however, is here in Masschusetts and they hold a bigger piece of my heart than Montana does.  Which is as it should be.  My family taught me about love, and about following my heart wherever it leads me.  I’m a richer, happier person for having lived in Montana and experienced the last best place.  I’m richer still as I surround myself with my father, siblings, children, and grandchildren.

Home isn’t a place.  It’s a safe haven wrapped in the arms of people who love you.

Why won’t that song get out of my head?

We’ve all experienced the tune that plays over and over in our minds like it’s related to the Energizer Bunny.  Lately, however, the never-ending-tunes have been paying me a visit several times a day.  Every day.  And yes, it’s tunes–as in plural.  About half a dozen songs simply can’t get enough of my attention.

Yes, I’m more of an auditory communicator and learner than a visual or kinesthetic one.  Yes, I can play musical instruments.  And yes, I listen to music often–but not all the time.

What do you think it means?  Is my unconscious trying to tell me something?  Should I sift through the musical messages to find fodder for the new mystery novel I’m writing?  Am I too dense to realize I have ESP and someone’s speaking to me?  Am I going nuts?

Do you know what prompts your never-ending-tune?  What do you do about it?

What self-publishing is … and is not

A lot of unpublished folks seem to think self-publishing is the way to go these days.  Unfortunately, the two people I spoke with during the past few days didn’t really understand what self-publishing is.

So, in an effort to educate those without any publishing experience, here’s a brief outline of some facts I think you should know when considering to self-publish.  Of course, this is only my personal opinion so I’m counting on the rest of you–published and self-published alike–to chime in here to assist the uneducated.

Traditional publishing:  The writer sells his or her work to a publisher, who pays the author for the rights to publish it.  The publisher pays the costs associated with transforming the writer’s manuscript into a book–whether it’s a hardcover, paperback, or ebook.  This includes editing, printing, some publicity, etc.  The author doesn’t pay the publisher anything.  Depending upon whether the publisher is a large conglomerate  or a small press, the writer will either receive an advance and royalties in exchange for the rights to publish the book or will simply receive royalties. 

Self-publishing:  The writer controls all aspects of the publication of the work–and pays all the costs associated with publication.  This includes editing, printing, and publicity.  The self-published author may pay a publisher to handle publication (sometimes called a vanity, or subsidy, publisher) or can handle everything himself or herself.

All the details about book publication are negotiated and spelled out in a contract when a writer contracts with any type of publisher.

The popularity of print on demand services (the publisher prints books as they’re ordered rather than printing a large quantity at one time, before most orders are received) has given many people the impression that writers published by small, independent presses are self-published.  Not true.  A self-published writer may certainly get his or her books to market via print on demand services, but so can an independent press or a traditional publisher.

With the proliferation of small, independent presses, it’s a lot easier for writers to get published these days.  The publication of ebooks is also helping writers get published more easily.

I provided a couple of links for you to check out if you’d like a little more detail.  What does anyone else have to add?

Using Two Monitors

If you’re a writer–or anyone who sits in front of a computer all day–you might want to consider using dual monitors.  I pooh-poohed the idea before I tried it, too.  But I wouldn’t work any other way now.

With the wide screen monitors in the photo shown above (which sit on the desk in my office), I can have 4 documents or screens open at the same time.  This eliminates the need for much of the paper on my desk, including the easel that took up a lot of space in the area I preferred to use for writing notes.  Of course, if you’re not blind as a bat like I am, you might be able to move the easel more than arm’s distance away!

I find the dual monitors especially helpful when I’m conducting online research or when I’m writing and have to copy information or need to refer to details.  The larger the monitor, the large the font size I can use, which really saves on eye strain.  Hint:  my super-smart, computer geek son-in-law informed me you can reduce eye strain by making sure the room in which you sit when working at the computer is neither too bright nor too dark.  I always thought bright light was best but he says it isn’t–and he’s right!  I also found that if the light in the room is indirect (not overhead and not within my field of vision when looking straight ahead) I don’t suffer as much eye strain.

I purchased my second monitor (the one on the right side of the photo) for $99.  Brendon (the genius son-in-law) referred me to an online site where I purchased the video card for my computer.  For under $200 and one beer (that was Brendon’s fee), my monitor was installed and operational in about 15 minutes.  Of course, that was after I ordered the video card online and waited for it to be delivered!

Seriously, you should consider the dual monitors.  Anyone else out there use them?  Care to share your thoughts?

Apostrophe Abuse: A Lesson

I’m seeing a lot of apostrophe abuse lately.  Everywhere.  I can’t pick up any reading material, or look online, without seeing people misusing apostrophes:  In the newspaper, in advertisements, on Facebook and Linked In, and on slates hanging outside front doors, for Pete’s sake!

Here’s the free lesson.  Apostrophes are used for the following major purposes:  (1) To indicate one or more letters have been omitted, as in a contraction: don’t (the “o” is missing); and (2) To indicate possession, as in Linda’s rant about apostrophes.

There are other reasons to use apostrophes, but they are all related to the preceding.  So, how do I see apostrophes being misused? Let me count the ways:

I heard that song in the 1970’s. What’s the omitted letter? Where is the possession? It should be the 1970s.

The slate outside your front door says The Faulkner’s. If you want the sign to indicate that the house belongs to the Faulkners (i.e., possession), I guess it’s okay. But if you want the sign to indicate two or more people named Faulkner live in the house, the slate should say The Faulkners – as in the plural of a singular Faulkner.  (Each of us is exceptionally singular, by the way.)

Merry Christmas from the Smith’s:  Bert, Bertha, Bertie, and Bertina.  NO APOSTROPHE!  The Smiths is the plural of a singular Smith. 4 Smiths = plural; 1 Smith = singular. The Christmas message isn’t about possession.

Now that you get the idea, please report apostrophe abuse by commenting here.  Maybe we can eradicate the damned nuisances.

Censorship and SOPA

I’ve never liked the idea that anyone, especially a government, can tell people what to say.  As a writer, the prospect terrifies me.

Personally, I don’t care for pornography.  But you know what?  No one has ever forced me to watch it.  In fact, I’ve never accidentally “stumbled” upon it, either–unless you count one or two pop-ups on my computer.  And once I had the proper Internet security in place, that stopped!

If you don’t like the idea of censorship, here are a few links I checked out while I researched this SOPA thing.  Hope they help!

Feel free to comment and provide us with additional links and perspectives.