How can you tell when a recommended strategy will really work? – SCN Encourager

Just remember why the chicken crossed the road.

Take a look from “the other side.”

Yesterday I wrote about one of our major self-induced stressors.

And I hauled out some unnamed (er, uncompensated) experts to help us deal with it.

Apparently it’s common for us to believe that by shoehorning way-too-many items onto our calendars, we can have it all and do it all.

Because we’re nice people, we just can’t keep ourselves from saying “yes” to things more than we should.

We don’t want to disappoint anyone.

And in the end, we help everyone but ourselves.

This non-best practice is undoubtably a major cause of our inner stress and turmoil.

So the experts recommend we say “No for Now” in order to buy some time for us to think about how a “yes” answer might not be the best commitment to make in the long run..

At first, I wasn’t all that sure about their “No for Now” solution.

But in joining my chicken friends and looking at it from “the other side” – I see its full power.

What I mean is… that when you’re on the receiving end of a “No for Now” response, it’s tough to deal with.

That’s how powerful it is.

It puts you on your toes.

Say you’re asking voters to support a bond campaign or you’re trying to attract a fantastic candidate to a key position, the last thing you want to hear is “No for Now.”

It’s actually difficult to be the one who must promote the ACT NOW side of the equation.

While the person responding with “No for Now” is stalling and buying time, you must step in and inject a sense of urgency.

Not an easy assignment.

Our messages grounded in urgency often look like this:

•  It’s now or never.
•  It’s now or allow disaster.
•  It’s now or accept defeat.
•  It’s now or lose the opportunity.
•  It’s now or only let “the Joneses” have it.

You can see the corner every “No for Now” response paints us into.

We’re forced to become masters of contrast to work our way out.

It’s up to us to come up with all of the horrible alternatives and point them out.

This said, I’ll still keep my favorite and highly effective counter-tactic:

•  It’s now or I’ll make everyone around me totally miserable.

This one has proven tried and true since I was two.

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Time. Money. Food. Managing those are a snap compared to managing yourself. – SCN Encourager

At least that’s what the experts say.

And who am I to argue?

I could be the DIT (do-it-tomorrow) poster boy they haul out to scare people into attending self-improvement and time management workshops.


I hope the experts appreciate how much I help them drive up their revenues.

Luckily, I don’t have to shell out big bucks for their obstacle-identification services.

All I have to do is look in the mirror every morning to get a good idea of the work cut out for me.

But the experts do preach a message many of us should heed.

With so many of us feeling stressed and overwhelmed, they point out we’ve got to stop saying “yes” to things without hesitation, so that we can keep our options open for many of the other things we’d much rather do.

Somehow we’ve equated bluntly saying “no” to something as rude.

And it impacts our decision-making.

The experts recommend responding with a simple “buffer” phrase.

“No for now.”

This response will buy you some time to think – without any worries of rudeness – to think about the real-world opportunity costs of your “yes” answer.

So if you’ve ever found yourself saying “yes” to something only to quickly regret how it’s messed up your calendar later, this “no for now” tip could be the perfect antidote.

Since I’m no expert, I can’t predict how successful this strategy will be.

But you’ve got to admit.

It’s easy to remember.

That alone gives it five stars in my book.

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Is the popular “pursue your passion” directive over-rated? – SCN Encourager

Is your inner passion really the key motivator?

Tough questions, for sure.

It’s too bad I’ve got to make my response speedy-kwik.

On the sly even.

Because if Cindy found out I was delving into the topic of feelings, desires, and passions… the teasing around here would be non-stop.


But Drew Houston, the founder of Dropbox said something quite interesting about pursuit of our passions during an MIT Commencement speech.

And it caught my attention.

So much so – I knew I’d have to rev up my courage and risk potential humiliation on the home front to share it with you.

Houston believes must of us are actually kinda “fuzzy” about our real passions.

Of course, he’s not talking about our passions for our family members and loved one.

He’s referring to the unique personal passions we have for our own interests, preferences, and “what we do.”

He said we often talk about being “passionate about this” or “passionate about that” – and may even recommend to others that they “pursue their passion” – without having any real sense clarity or definition about our own passion at all.

[And directly to this point, if Cindy tagged me as Exhibit A she wouldn’t be wrong.]

But Houston offered a way for us to prune the purple haze of our various passions by asking a simple question:

What’s your tennis ball?  

What are you willing to chase… bring back home… and chase again if you have to?

There’s your passion.

Only now it’s clarified.

And if you’re still not sure, ask yourself this.

What tennis ball – and remember Houston is not talking about the special loved ones in your life – are you willing to chase regardless of who is throwing it?

Houston’s perspective is worth pondering, don’tcha think?

And once I’m done writing this Encourager from the dark of my basement, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

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Are people like me placing Amazon’s rapid growth at risk? – SCN Encourager

But I wonder if founder Jeff Bezos has even noticed.

Probably not.

I can’t imagine the 3rd richest man in the world keeping track of every knucklehead.

So that takes me off his radar.

For now.

But still… I’m impressed.

Did did you catch this piece of financial news?

Amazon now has a market value greater than Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Nordstorm, JC Penney, and Sears combined!




Even when I factored in what I spend annually at my favorite shop  downtown – Holland Peanut Store – Amazon’s big lead didn’t change all that much.

So it’s worth noting what Bezos does differently.

A business writer recently reported that while most business leaders concentrate almost exclusively on trying to predict consumer behavior 10 years out, Bezos will often do the opposite.

Bezos strives to enhance, automate, and build upon the behaviors and hopes people have exhibited for years; largely, their desires for good value, speedy delivery, personalized attention, and no-fuss convenience.

His astounding success in the marketplace now makes me wonder if we’d also benefit by shifting our “eyes on the future” every once in awhile to take a reflective gaze at what every generation of parents hopes and longs for.

This isn’t to say Bezos is a nostalgic fuddy-duddy, though.

How could he be?

His well-known investments in drone delivery systems and unique employee-less micro-shops prove that tag wrong.

Plus, there’s always that new Amazon Dash thing.

It’s a trender, for sure.

Every “Dash” is a special button connected a particular consumable household item and you click on it to quickly re-order a new supply direct from Amazon to your front door.

It’s billed as the fool-proof way to make sure you never run out of shampoo, detergents, toothpaste, or Pop-Tarts.

Of course, in my experience, there’s very little that’s actually fool-proof.

Did you notice how Amazon encourages the placement of a “Dash” right by your toilet paper holder?

Jush the button and a re-supply of Charmin will arrive at your doorstep in hours.


In my family this could take weeks!

I can only hope to live long enough to see the day this would work in my house.

Everyone in my family seems to have been born with the knack for always waiting around for someone else (anyone else) to do the right thing when something runs out.

And sometimes these “waits” go on much longer than they should.

This is why I – and the rest of the Pages – are bound to be negative drags on Amazon’s revenue growth projections.

Just because Amazon has made taking responsibility “one-click simple” – doesn’t mean anyone in my family would do it.

Sad, but true.

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The secret to getting a response to your email – SCN Encourager

Replies? Forget about replies.

I’d be happy to just get my emails read!

But apparently – for everyone else in the world – the bigger problem is “not getting replies” to email messages.

Oh well, shows you what I know.

I just hope they know what they’re wishing for.

Fortunately, after studying more than 350,000 emails and their replies (or lack thereof), an Australian research firm came up with a trick to help them out.

I can’t tell you if any of your personal email messages were part of the extensive study.

All I know is mine weren’t.

As even the research firm wouldn’t open any of my emails.

But anyway…

The research firm said that if you end your emails with a phrase of common courtesy, you will only get only get replies in the range of 39-49%.

Here are examples of loser phrases:
•  Sincerely
•  Regards
•  Hope to see you

If you want to score in the 65-70% range of getting replies to your emails, forget courtesy and go right for gratitude. 

That’s it.

Gratitude’s the ticket.

A winning email close will go something like this:

•  I know your time is valuable. Thanks for your consideration.

Now, wouldn’t it be great if every problem had a solution as easy as this one?

I never guessed so many people were troubled by it.

But how I know?

I can’t get anyone to ready my emails in the first place.

But hey!
You just did.
And I’m awfully grateful.

You helped get my week off to a good start.

I hope you’re off and rolling, too!

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Going the extra mile? It helps to be on the right path. – SCN Encourager

This advice seems like a no-brainer.

But it’s not.

According to Peter Sage, an author, leadership coach, and TEDx speaker from England, many of us often seek friendship, love, and adventure by choosing the wrong path.

It’s not that the majority of paths are horrible.

It’s just that some are better than others.

Because every path is adorned with its own “surroundings and people,” we can jeopardize the progress toward our dreams if we aren’t observant and mindful.

Sage describes it this way.

Imagine you get up every morning and must walk more than a mile to get to work.

As you walk, you can’t help seeing what’s all around you.

Since you don’t live in Montana, there’s no shortage of colorful and tempting distractions.

And in whatever direction you lean, the influences will vary.

For example, Sage says if you choose to walk down a path lined with a farmer’s market, a quiet coffee shop, a library, a fitness center, and a church, you’ll be influenced much differently than if you choose to stroll down a path lined with a donut shop, a candy store, a sports bar, and the tabloid magazine stand.

Even to me, this cause-and-effect trail seems obvious.

Different choices will lead to different environments which will then lead to different circumstances and results.

Although I’m not going to quibble with this notion, I’m pretty sure I’d screw up it all up somehow.

If I traveled to work in the morning taking the route lined with the farmer’s market, library, and the church, I’m pretty I’d come home after work via the route lined with the sports bar, the candy story, and the donut shop.

I wouldn’t be able to help myself.

It’s the code of the knucklehead.

Since I made the wise and healthy choice earlier in the morning, I’d feel I owed it to myself to splurge and “live a little” later in the day.

If I traveled to work in the morning taking the route lined the sports bar, the candy story, and the donut shop, I’m 99% certain I’d come home after work via the route lined with the farmer’s market, library, and the church.

I still wouldn’t be able to help myself.

The code of the knucklehead swings both ways.

I’d feel so guilty about having taken the “guilty pleasures” route in the morning, I’d feel compelled to balance things out later in the day.

No doubt Sage would contend you’re supposed to choose the healthy and wise path and simply let its impactful environment perform its magic.

But I can’t.

I have to live by the code.

Which also includes wishing you a wonderful weekend!

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A shocking fact about first impressions (It’s a whopper!) – SCN Encourager

Frequently our rush to judgment is kicked off by one word

Just one word.

Now this is going to be a hard pill for you and me to swallow.

After all, aren’t we school communicator types at the highest levels of personal and professional maturity?

Where our presumptions, assumptions, and all of our goofy quirks are masterfully kept in check?


Psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo cites a study that floored me.

The fact that Lombardo is considered “the psychologist of celebrities and stars” makes me wonder how I ever came across her… but I did.

What’s done is done.

And once my steel trap brain (more like a metal trash can with a lid) latches onto something, it’ll stay in there until I wrestle with it a bit and then share it with you.

Anyway, the extensive study Lombardo cited concluded this.

When it comes to making a judgment about someone’s trustworthiness, attractiveness, and personality – and we’ve never met or seen them at all – nearly 92% of us will immediately begin formulating our impression about the person on the way he or she says “hello.”

That’s it.

One word is all we need to hear.


Does this study ring true to you?

That just one word alone – delivered to our ears within its unique tone and inflection – will carry this much weight in shaping our opinion?

Well, at least this study clarifies the one word all of us who answer the phone better practice and perfect.

At first I pooh-poohed this news.

Being the consistent wise old skeptic that I am (AKA a curmudgeon).

But now I’m a true believer.

Cindy reminded me I’ve purchased a couple of cars in the past with less information.

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Two phrases guaranteed to boost your popularity – SCN Encourager

These two little gems will work wonders at home and work.

And now is the perfect time to haul them out.

With the excitement of the Super Bowl starting to wane, we’re in a rare calendar lull when big time sporting and media events are few and far between.

You couldn’t ask for a better window for dusting off your conversational skills.

March Madness is still a few weeks away.

So open up your school communicator’s tool box.

Experts in the “win friends and influence people” biz say using both of these phrases frequently will increase your likability.

Likability is important, you know.
It’s the precursor to trust.

I can’t say I know any of these experts personally – as I’m still following my preferred “how not to step in it” cadre of advisors.

But think about what the win friends and influence people gurus are recommending.

Wouldn’t you respond favorably if someone directed these phrases your way?

•  I’d like to hear more …

•  Tell me what you think … 

Even the coldest person warms up when hearing these words.

Now I wasn’t sure about power of these phrases at first.

So I tried using them at particular times at home.


They’re dang near miracle workers.

I was surprised by how touched Cindy was to hear them.

Of course, once again, I couldn’t leave well enough alone.

I had to swerve off-script by saying,

“I want to hear more about what you think, Cindy – but hey, could you toss me the remote? The Redwings are on in a minute.”


I sure didn’t win or influence anyone with that blunder.

But at least you know why I have the cadre of advisors that I do.

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New breaking news… Why YOU love the Super Bowl. – SCN Encourager

I love the Super Bowl. You love the Super Bowl. All of God’s children love the Super Bowl.

Here’s why.

I listened to a psycho-journalist on Saturday and she said 97% of us are all weird in pretty much the same way.

Now, I may have her title wrong… maybe she was actually a journo-psychologist.

But I’m not wrong about her belief that most of us share a strange tendency.

Her reasoning goes like this.
(And yes, once again, I’m happy to point out it’s fully “research-backed.”)

And it has to do with those times we are lucky enough to go on a vacation or take an extended break from work.

It seems that whenever we “get away” – purportedly to relax and have some fun – we somehow manage to still carry along within us a few inner doubts about what’s going on back at work.

For example, let’s say I leave good ol’ Holland (MI) to go Disney World for a week.

The psycho-journalist claims that somewhere in the back of my mind I won’t be able to stop wondering about what’s going on back at work with my boss and everyone else at school, and then I’ll start worrying about what’s going on in while I’m away and what new projects might be awaiting me upon my return.

And sadly, she’s right!

This is why I always try to travel with Cindy whenever I can.

This reduces my anxiety by 50%.
(This is also researched-backed, by the way.)

Because with Cindy in tow I only have to worry about my superintendent adding to my to-do list while I’m away.

Not her.

But this isn’t a complete strategy, however.

I’m so goofy–

Even if my superintendent doesn’t assign me any new projects while I’m away… perhaps preferring to assign them to a co-worker instead (or even an action team of 5th graders)… I’ll fret about that.

What a dope I am.

But this illustrates why we like big time, universal, no-one’s-at-work-and-conspiring-behind-our-back EVENTS like the Super Bowl.

Think about it.

When all of us are united as one and watching the Super Bowl, or enjoying our various Thanksgiving Day dinners, or attending our various celebrations on July 4th, all of our nutty what’s-happening-without-me worries are temporarily vanquished.

We’re paranoia free.

Whenever all of us are basically doing kinda the same thing at kinda the same time, we really don’t have to worry about anyone conspiring to make our lives miserable behind our backs, right?

Everyone is engaged in their own – but similar – activities.

Now how cool is that?!?

This theory is brand new to me.

I had never heard about it before.

But I think the psycho-journalist is onto something.

That there really are unique “moments in time” when we are totally free from all all of our various wonderings, speculations, and worries about what might be happening back home or back at work while we’re away.


The psycho-journalist has not met my daughters.

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Surprise. Sometimes my low standards lead to a higher place. – SCN Encourager

This roundabout is a fantastic way to start the day.


It’s doesn’t happen all that often.

But once in a while, the convoluted path I take in writing a daily Encourager for you and other school communicators actually leads to somewhere worthwhile.

Want proof of this miracle?

(Yeah, I figured you would.)

My roundabout began here – with the insight from Max DePree you’ll see in the leafy and fall-like visual below.

DePree is the retired CEO of Herman Miller, the international design and office furniture manufacturer headquartered in Zeeland, Michigan.

He’s 92 years-old… a fellow west-Michigander and Hope College grad… has written an amazing book about leadership and service.

If you’re able to imagine a Bell Curve comprised of “wise thinkers and leaders,” I’m proud to be on it with him – although his little dot stands alone far to the right, and mine stands alone way off to the left.

Anyway, I’ve always admired how DePree included each one of us in his observation about diversity.







DePree’s words reminded me of this truism by Dr. John Swinton, which clarifies the distinction between including and belonging.









I like this quote, too – a lot.

But as I created the graphic I thought I’d better find out who Swinton is before I just plopped it before you.

What if he was just some guy thinking up quotes while serving time in prison for bank robbery?

Or worse yet – hated my beloved Detroit sports teams?

Well, I’m happy to report that my background check on Dr. Swinton came out clean.

So feel free let him inside of any of your schools.

Now I doubt if he’ll show up at your office door anytime soon, though.

My investigation (AKA my roundabout) revealed that Swinton’s a pastor in Aberdeen, a port city located on Scotland’s northeast coast.

Like DePree, he has much to share.

In this 8 minute YouTube video, Swinton describes how he formed a fresh view of the world early in his career (as a nurse) by serving people with intellectual disabilities, and then feeling called to move into serving people with dementia.

After I watched it, I could hardly believe my roundabout arrived at this man’s digital doorstep.

Swinton has written several books for building your understanding about friends and loved ones who battling dementia, mental health, and end-of-life issues.

Sure, I found it a little unsettling when Cindy added Dr. Swinton to her speed-dial.

But then I took this as a good sign.

I’m interpreting this to mean she’s going to hang in there with me for the long term.

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