Don’t Let Technology Rule Your Life

I grew up in Norman Rockwellian small town America at a time when you could play in the woods for the whole day and your parents didn’t think twice about it. Most of the time, we were building forts or playing sports or games in the street, our driveways, or our backyards. Our play was imaginative, competitive, and relational and we were super active.          

Kids today, on the other hand, have cell phones, computers, video games, iPods, and a host of other electronic devices to entertain and educate them—many of which I’m probably not even aware of!

Technology has improved our lives in dramatic ways. It has made our work far more efficient and communication more rapid and widespread. We are far more connected, at least on the surface, because of these advancements.

There is a downside, however. For every plus, there is a minus or two that we should be considering for the social, psychological, and physical health of our younger generation. For example:

  •  Our world is getting more impersonal as it becomes more technological.
  •  We text or email rather than talk.
  •  Our lives are more distracted because of our numerous interruptions and our attention spans have shrunk.
  • We are spending less time reflecting and using our imaginations.
  • We lose the ability to read body language and social cues in other people.
  • Our waistlines are growing as we’ve become more sedentary.
  • We sleep poorly, as online activities keep us up too late and the constant stream of information makes it difficult to turn off our brains.
  • We are being consumed by “busyness” and it is affecting our responsiveness to true priorities

I know I’m probably sounding like Fred Flintstone, but I believe there’s some middle ground. When I hear about car accidents occurring because of drivers’ texting, or when I observe my daughter’s friends’ texting when they’re supposed to be enjoying each other’s company, I think the pendulum may have swung too far.

Remember that time is a precious asset and that relationships are designed to be personal.  Your brain was designed to be active. Your body was designed to move. Don’t let your electronic devices interfere with any of that!


How is technology affecting your time allocation and personal interaction with others? Have they impacted your quiet time and productivity? What are some ways you’ve found to creatively “unplug” for refreshment?

Be a Lifelong Learner

School’s out!

I’m not sure who loves to hear those words more—kids or teachers! I guess all those seniors out there finally found the cure for their senioritis. 

But, just because school’s out doesn’t mean learning has to go out the window, as well. Education isn’t just for classrooms! Lifelong learning is a pursuit that will serve kids well for the rest of their lives.

I grew up living the simple life in small-town Wisconsin. It was a childhood I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I spent most of my free time either playing sports or hanging out in the woods with my friends. But, while that got me through high school and college just fine, I began to notice something early in my career…most of my peers were more intellectually well-rounded than me. I especially noticed it at gatherings when politics and world affairs were discussed.

I knew I had some serious catching up to do, especially considering the growing number of client meetings I attended. Thankfully, once I committed to stepping up my intellectual game, my confidence grew. It made a huge difference in my investment management career where I evaluated successful leaders.

In this global, knowledge-based economy, students need an insatiable appetite for learning. This means not only expanding their career/major subject knowledge, but also having diverse interests. Encourage them to explore other subject areas  that challenge their minds or satisfy their curiosity.

Summer vacation is a great time to expand your horizons and try something new. Here are some ideas for the young people in your life (or for yourself!):

·      Check out the free summer concerts happening in cities all over; discover some new music

·      Learn a new sport or revisit one you haven’t played in awhile

·      Catch up on current events by reading newspapers or magazines (print or online)

·      Volunteer for a charity

·      Read a book that wasn’t assigned to you

·      Write a book (why not?)

·      Go places: the beach, the park, a museum, the library, the zoo

·      Enjoy the outdoors: try rock climbing, go biking, go kayaking or paddleboarding, go for a hike

·      Job shadow someone who is employed in a career field you’re considering

Encourage the young people you know to stretch their wings a little, to be lifelong learners. It’ll help them advance in their career and make them more well-rounded and dynamic people.


What are ways you’ve encouraged learning in your children or student outside the classroom? How about for yourself?  How do YOU keep sharp and keep building your repertoire of skills and information? Please comment below and let us know your thoughts and suggestions.

HOW You Say It Matters! (Part 2)

In last week’s blog, I shared four things we should consider to avoid miscommunication. One of these is the form of delivery our communication takes, especially when dealing with a highly charged topic.


 Writing letters, emails, or texts is certainly easier than speaking about sensitive subjects in person. The distance provided by written forms can offer a protective shield. However, if the receiver doesn’t accurately perceive your intended tone, it can be an unmitigated disaster.


 Whenever you’re dealing with sensitive subjects or feelings, it’s generally much better to talk it out rather than write it out. Here’s why:

A friend of mine once sensed a growing distance with another friend and was feeling improperly judged. Rather than talk about it personally, my friend decided to write a letter. After reading the draft, I implored my friend not to send it, for fear it would be misconstrued. Unfortunately, my advice was ignored, and in the aftermath, their friendship was severely damaged. My friend made the mistake of assuming the receiver would insert the correct tone when reading the letter. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way.


 This is a classic example of what can happen when you use written communication in a situation where face to face (or at least over the phone, if face to face is not possible) would be better. When speaking, you’re in control of your tone of voice and body language, and there’s less chance of misinterpretation. At least if happens, you’re there to correct the situation through give and take. In contrast, written correspondence leaves far too much to chance and takes much longer to rectify if your words are misunderstood. It’s a risk to avoid if you can.


Another problem with written communication—especially in this digital age—is that you have no guarantee it will stay with the intended recipient. When you send an email, you have no control over where it goes. Who knows where it could end up! (It also means we should think twice before hitting “Reply all!”)


That’s why it’s so important to try and have our sensitive conversations in person. It may be easier to jet off an email or post a rant on Facebook. But in the long term, that’s probably not going to be your best bet.


How do you handle the communication of sensitive or emotional emails? Have you ever written out your feelings in a letter, email, or social media posting and later regretted it? Share your experiences and advice by commenting below; your story could be helpful to someone in our online community!


HOW You Say It Matters! (Part 1)

I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve said, “I didn’t mean it like that!” I’d be a very wealthy man! The sad fact is, the messages we send can be received differently than we intend. And, when it happens, it can be a disaster.


Miscommunication can happen to all of us, probably more often than we’d care to admit. There are, however, some simple things you can do to minimize it.

Four things affect how others receive our messages…and any one of them can be the cause of major misunderstandings if we’re not careful:

1. Word choice – This factor is huge, especially when we discuss sensitive topics or relationships. In these situations, our emotions can interfere with our thinking, and we often use more provocative language that we later regret. In the “heat of battle,” we can be so focused on proving our point that we forget to show tact, empathy, and understanding to the other party. The end result is that things spiral out of control, and frustration and anger take over.


2. Delivery – Sometimes it’s our manner of delivery that gets in the way, even if our word choice is fine. Examples include speaking with a harsh or condescending tone of voice or displaying arrogant facial expressions or body language. No matter what words we use, if the “packaging” is incongruent, our message will lack credibility and rub people the wrong way.

3. Form – Ever wanted to jet off a nasty email when you’re upset or irritated? Don’t be so quick on the draw. The advantage of verbal communication is that the audience hears you speak, allowing your tone to help convey your ideas. In contrast, written communications (e.g., letters, email, texts, social websites) have a major disadvantage because the audience imposes their own interpretation of your tone. Their perception may be light years away from what you intended. If so, you have a big problem on your hands.


4. Filter – Depending on whether your audience likes or distrusts you, whether they’re in a good or bad mood, focused or distracted by other thoughts, your message may not get through in the way you intended. Unfortunately, this happens all the time (especially with written communications), and you can’t control it.

Miscommunication can happen to all of us, probably more often than we’d care to admit. There are, however, some simple things you can do to minimize it:


·      Carefully choose your words (“think before you speak!” works better than “open mouth, insert foot!”)

·      Be sure your expression and words are in sync

·      Strive to be empathetic by putting yourself in the audience’s position

·      Closely monitor the receiver’s body language to see whether he or she may be interpreting your words differently than you intend. If you notice a frown, for example, clarify your comments to ensure you are on the same page.

·      Be a discerning listener when they respond

·      Be quick to apologize for any misunderstandings


Do you pay close attention to how you communicate and how your words are being received? What are some ways you’ve learned to be a more effective communicator? Please share your insights and experiences by commenting below. And share us with a friend!

Value the Ride, Not Just the Outcome

I always enjoy watching the post-game interviews of athletes who have just won championships. Sometimes they’re exuberant. Other times they’re stunned and almost in a daze. Some of them are at a loss for words, remarking that it “hasn’t sunk in yet.” When that’s the case, I often sense a hint of disappointment that they expected a “rush” that’s somehow elusive.

Sometimes when you win, you’ll feel the “thrill of victory”—and there’s nothing like it. In other instances when you reach a goal you’ve worked hard for, you might feel strangely subdued. Then, there are times when you don’t win, but your mood is upbeat. You expected to be bummed, but for some reason, you’re not.

Why are there so many different reactions?

One reason may be that when it comes to life experiences, the journey often has more value than reaching the goal itself. This is because effort, perseverance, character building, and teamwork all play a central role, regardless of the final outcome.  Winning isn’t everything. Not even close.


           Society places a great deal of emphasis on winning. Because of this, many people falsely believe the outcome is all that matters. Their enjoyment is an all-or-nothing proposition. It needn’t and shouldn’t be this way!

           I’ll never forget the student I met in Bogor, Indonesia who asked me the following question after my talk on leadership: “Mr. Dennis, I am someone who only enjoys the destination. Can you share wisdom to teach me how to enjoy the process of life?” I was blown away. That was a deep and mature question from such a young person! She was starting to recognize there is a bigger picture to pretty much everything in life. The question is, how to see it?

During my coaching years, I often felt more satisfaction after a one-point loss with our best effort than after a meager five-point victory against the weakest opponent.  I know it was because I held on to this one truth: the moral victory of doing your best can have just as much lasting value as an actual win. It’s not ultimately about whether or not you win or lose. In fact, sometimes your biggest losses can be the catalyst for something amazing! 

Expectations play a big role too. If you expect to win or achieve a goal and you succeed, the response is more subdued than otherwise. That’s why the thrill of an expected victory doesn’t have a very long shelf life.

Do yourself a big favor and savor the ride just as much as the outcome. You’ll experience the joy of your effort so much more!


Have you ever had a lukewarm reaction to a victory and a surprisingly good feeling about a loss? Why do you suppose that is? Was the effort or the outcome more important? We’d love to hear from you! And, as always, please share us on your Facebook or Twitter, and encourage your friends to sign up for our email newsletter.