Author Archive

Do you remember the dreams you had as a child? Maybe you wanted to be a fire fighter or a police officer or a nurse. Or maybe you wanted to sail the oceans or fly like a bird. Whatever your dreams were, can you remember how you felt if anyone tried to tell you that you could never achieve that dream? That can be devastating for a child. This holiday season, how would you like to help make a child’s dream come true?

We spend so much of our income and treasure on things that are soon forgotten after the holidays. While we live in a land of abundance, we use so little of what we have to make a difference in others’ lives. Now you have an opportunity to do something that will not only change lives, but also save lives. Read on to see how you can make a difference in the life of a child, starting today.

“Blossom is in big trouble. Her grandfather warned her not to go beyond the village gates. After all, no caterpillar in Twig Valley has ever ventured there and returned to tell.

“For centuries the caterpillars of Twig Valley have lived with a Dark Cloud over the land. For as long as anyone can remember, no caterpillar has ever become a butterfly. In fact, no one thinks about being anything more than a bug that crawls in the dust of the ground.

“Until Blossom.”

Born to Fly is an illustrated children’s book about pursuing your dream. The story features a strong girl as the hero who faces not only the evil Dream Thieves but also her own fears. In her quest to follow her dream, she learns valuable lessons (the hard way, of course) that will inspire girls and boys alike to pursue the dreams in their own hearts.

Born to Fly is published solely as an ebook and is available for iPad, Kindle, Nook, Sony, and other readers. Proceeds go to the Born2Fly Project, a 501c3 nonprofit that works to fight global child trafficking.

Born to Fly author Diana Scimone is a journalist whose work chronicling human rights and justice has taken her to more than 40 countries from Sudan to Zimbabwe. She founded The Born2Fly Project in 2003 to meet some of the many needs she has seen among the world’s children. Today, Born2Fly’s only focus is working to stop child trafficking through an awareness and prevention program currently being tested in five countries.

“Each year more than a million kids get lured into trafficking including in the U.S.,” says Scimone. “Some are just five years old. Our goal at Born2Fly is to reach kids before the traffickers do — and we’re hoping that sales of this new book will help us do that.”                                                                                   

If you would like to help Born2Fly make a difference in a child’s life, here’s what you can do:

Given the speed with which information travels on the Internet, company leaders can no longer remain in secluded enclaves when company information leaks. When a misstep causes an uproar, it’s amplified by the abundance of channels, the ease of no-cost information sharing, and the imperative some feel to share/spread information and opinions widely via social media.

“What’s really going on here is that the fundamental rules that have governed how relationships work are being re-written…” says Charlene Li in her new book, Open Leadership: How Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead.

The imperative for business, then, is to redefine how those relationships will operate, according to Li, since “devolving into chaos or, worse, letting things take their natural course are certain recipes for disaster.” Foremost in an organization’s list of things to do should be to develop guidelines and specify the commitment they expect from these new relationships.

Li, co-author of the popular Groundswell which she collaborated on with Josh Bernoff in 2008, is Founder of Altimeter Group, a California-based strategy consulting firm.

“Open Leadership: Having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals.”

In her latest book, Li takes businesses step-by-step through building and executing on an open social strategy. From demonstrating the need for companies to become more open; to defining what that means with the 10 Elements of Openness; creating an openness strategy; measuring the benefits of being open; detailing the guidelines, policies and procedures some companies are using to be engaged; through to the nuts and bolts of managing an open strategy, Li’s style and interesting real-life examples keeps readers engaged in this process.

But even the perfect strategy isn’t enough without leaders who are open to execute it, Li explains. “Leadership will require a new approach, new mindset, and new skills. It won’t be enough to be a good communicator. You will have to be comfortable sharing personal perspectives and feelings to develop closer relationships.”

Li details characteristics and skills necessary for effective leadership, identifying and nurturing this talent in an organization, and how to lead and recover through a failure. The book wraps up by examining how leaders are transforming their organizations to be more open out of economic and marketplace necessity.

As the United States celebrates Thanksgiving this week, a lot of Americans will be asking themselves what they have to be thankful for. With record unemployment of 10.2%, 23% of Americans upside down on their mortgages and many retirees wondering what happened to their savings, it would seem that there’s a lot to be upset about.

Adding salt to the wound is the continuing debate over the astronomical bonuses that some in the financial sector continue to receive even though their companies have taken taxpayer bailout money.

So what is there to be thankful for this year?

I can’t speak for everyone, but as for me, I’m gleefully happy to say I’m still among the ranks of the employed. We didn’t get raises this year, but that’s ok. I’m also glad to be working with a great group of people who go above and beyond to give to others every year. This year they have collectively donated more than $70,000 to charity as well as providing labor to numerous organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, Relay for Life, and many more. I know I’m blessed to have such kind and generous people to work with every day.

I’m happy to have a nice, safe home in a good neighborhood that is clean and in good repair. Yes, we got slammed like everyone else did when home values plummeted. But we didn’t have plans to move anyway and are blessed that we don’t have to. My prayers are with those who haven’t been as fortunate.

We’re also blessed to have a healthy and growing family. We may not get to see each other as often as we like, but everyone is safe and happy. We’ve had our share of illness and risky situations this year – everything from swine flu to falling through ceiling from the attic – but everyone’s OK. Together we got through it and we are blessed that we have each other to depend on.

But enough about me and my family. I want to hear from you. Tell me, what are you thankful for this year? Remember, blessings come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they remain hidden for while. Look around, think about what has happened over the year, talk it over with friends and family. Then let me know. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Despite years of campaigning, months of debate, and sizzling town hall meetings, Congress is no closer to health care reform than they were when they started.

You  know what bothers me about the health care debate? Well, lots of things bother me, but here’s a few of them.

1. Dismissing other people’s concerns

Obama address to CongressPresident Obama, some Congressional leaders, media and even some very forward-thinking, community-embracing writers, completely dismiss the valid concerns of those who may have less influence in this particular argument. Instead of trying to find out why there is persistent belief that “death panels” will become a reality, or that government will pay for treatment for illegal immigrants, they seem to take the position that, “Those people won’t matter when this comes to a vote, so we’ll just belittle them in public and hopefully they’ll be too embarrassed to speak out again.”

It is a reality that health care is rationed in other countries based on the length of time a person is expected to live. Why is it so hard to believe that as health care costs rise, at some point our government will also determine what type of care will be provided based on whether a person is likely to live another 5, 10 or 15 years?

And if Obama says that his new plan will not pay for health care for illegal immigrants I believe he is being disingenuous (or naïve – either way, not good for a president). Right now, if an illegal immigrant goes to an emergency room for treatment the hospital will charge the cost to Emergency Medicaid. Obama has not mentioned that, or whether that would change in the future. medical_desk200x144

Democrats cannot expect to win agreement on their plan when they continually refuse to admit that others have legitimate concerns that deserve to be fully addressed.

2. Lack of details

President Obama gave a 40+ minutes speech and still no details. The White  House website has few details. The paucity of information makes people nervous. People want to know how a new plan will affect their own pocketbook, and without more details no one can figure that out. After all these months it seems someone would have information on the major points, such as whether a public option would be a part of the final plan.

3. Say what you mean       child - medical        

And speaking of a public option, it used to be a deal-breaker; now, not so much. The plan was supposed to be done before the August break. Then it was okay to go home first and talk to constituents about it. Now, if it takes until December, that’s okay, too. Obama seems to equivocate on other issues as well such as employer insurance mandates, and levying new taxes to pay for plan.

I understand that this outline of specific goals without details for achievement is designed to allow Obama the ability to compromise when it comes time to make a decision. All this waffling does not inspire trust in the decision-making capacity of the person who is supposed to be leading the country. Even lawmakers in Obama’s own party have asked for additional guidance. But you can’t leave the decisions on the most sensitive issues to the end of the game. That will likely cause further disruption, confusion and, yes, even more debate.

It would make more sense for each side (including Blue Dogs and Independents) to designate some representatives to sit down at a table with true, workable ideas and hash out a plan that takes into account everyone’s concerns. Then present identical bills to both the House and the Senate and work out the differences.

4. What’s the rush?    medical 11

Presidents have been calling for health care reform for decades. Why do we need to get it done today? What’s so special about 2009?

Isn’t it more important to take the time to make sure it’s done right? To make sure that the solution doesn’t bankrupt the country? That everyone who wants to be included, is included? That we get better health care, not just more health care?

medical -injectionI think these goals are important enough to take the time to breathe deep, consider all the options, ask for more solutions to the really tough problems, and think through the consequences of potential decisions.

Whatever decisions are made – right or wrong — we are likely to be stuck with them for decades. Let’s make reasonably sure that we did everything possible to ensure that the decisions don’t cause more harm than good.

5. Where is our focus?  us-congress-j001

It seems that so many leaders in America are so busy trying to solve the problems with health care that everyone’s forgotten that there are other, perhaps more pressing, issues to be concerned with.

Has everyone forgotten that the economy is in the gutter? That people continue to lose jobs at an alarming rate? That banks are still not lending to small businesses at a time when those businesses are trying to stay afloat?

It seems that the most urgent problem, the one that is affecting people on a global scale today, has been set on the back burner to simmer as if it will get done all by itself. Getting business back on its feet and people back to work would reinvigorate a failing economy and that should be the priority for Congress.  no money

Okay, so that last one doesn’t really have to do with health care, but I wanted to include it anyway. What about you – what do you think? Did I leave something out? Do you have a different opinion about the healthcare debate? Let’s hear it!

We will see if this recent stimulus package and second round of the  bailout  money to shore up the banking institutions will have some oversight to make sure that the money will be used as intended.

Post your thoughts and comments.



I have to say, I’m less than impressed with the way the $700 billion bailout has been handled. Didn’t this whole mess start with a complete failure of the mortgage industry due to its prolific writing of really bad loans to people who they knew couldn’t possibly pay them back? And when those loans (many of them interest only) adjusted, wasn’t it the mortgage industry that insisted they get money from the government (or taxpayers) to pay their own bills, while the homeowners who were defaulting on the badly written loans are just left to fend for themselves? (Nevermind that they are the same taxpayers that the mortgage companies are taking money from.) NYSE


Well, I have a solution to the issue that I believe is simple, direct and gives everyone what they need. (President Obama, you can take this idea as your own. I don’t mind.)


First, loan the banks what they need in increments. Let’s say $100 million to start. But don’t just hand over the money. Instead, make the lender sit down with the borrower and figure out what they need to be whole. For example: Let’s say Joe Citizen bought a home for $200,000, interest-only loan, no money down. Now that home is worth $150,000. Then Joe gets $50,000 of the $100 million to pay down his mortgage, but the money goes from the government to the lender. The lender is then required to write a new mortgage for Joe, at current rates and NOT interest only.


Only after the lender can prove in writing that they have spent $100 million assisting individuals with their mortgages, and that new mortgages have been written at current market rates (low), and that the homeowners are capable of repaying, will the lending institution be given any additional funds. And they must prove that ALL of the money went to help homeowners – no bonuses, big raises, or conferences at swanky hotels.

Washington bill 

If the first $100 million isn’t spent within a year then whatever money is left over goes back into the pool of money earmarked to help homeowners stay in their homes. In other words, if the lending institution wants to hoard the money instead of using it for good, then they get nothing. They will fail, and a bank that is more willing to help Americans stay in their homes will be there to pick up the slack.


What’s the result? People have mortgages that they can afford. Banks aren’t left holding the bag for the correction in the housing market. Individuals will have more cash at the end of the month to spend on rebuilding the economy. Banks will have the cash flow they need to feel more secure about lending to businesses again. Businesses will feel more secure and be able to expand and hire more workers. And on and on.


Don’t tell me it’s more complicated than that – I know it isn’t. The issue is to get money flowing, and this solution is designed to do just that. It really is that simple.

We’ve all done it – while driving we see someone speeding, weaving through traffic, or tailgating and we think, “Look at that idiot. He’s gonna kill someone.” Traffic light 1


But according to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Americans blame other motorists for unsafe driving, even though many admit to doing the same dangerous practices themselves. Take red light running for instance.


The Foundation’s 2008 Traffic Safety Culture Index says that more than 70 percent of motorists rated red light running as a serious problem, yet over half of those same individuals admitted to speeding up to get through yellow lights, and 5 percent even admitted to having run a red light on purpose in the past month.


Every 13 minutes, someone dies on America’s roads, but Americans seem complacent about this incredible statistic. If someone died every 13 minutes from a disease, that disease would be considered an epidemic.  


Some communities are instituting red light cameras that take a picture of vehicles as they run through red lights, and send the vehicle’s owner a ticket. This seems to be working to cut down on violations at traffic lights. For instance in Charlotte, NC, the red light camera program has cut the number of red light runners by 70 percent in one year, and crashes dropped by 10 percent throughout the city.


But in other cities, lawmakers and local officials have not installed the cameras because they believe the cameras impinge on drivers’ privacy rights or because critics say the cameras cause more rear-end crashes. In 2005, Virginia Beach cut off its red light camera program and crashes at the four intersections where they had been installed more than doubled in the first six months, according to local police.


So if not red light cameras then what? More police at intersection? Stiffer penalties for those who get caught? Or do the cameras invade a driver’s privacy?


Please share your thoughts and tell us what’s happening in your area.





Click here: The National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running


Click here: Stop Red Light Running Program – FHWA Safety

Whatever happened to customer service? Customer Service 1


Yesterday, I walked into a restaurant and the hostess took me to a booth to be seated. Noticing that there was water on the seat I asked the hostess for something to wipe it up with.


Now, had I been the hostess I would have gotten a cloth and wiped it off for the customer. But the hostess returned with two paper napkins and handing them to me said, “Here ya go.”


That’s just a small, but telling, example of the extent of the decline in customer service that exists in the US. Restaurant customers should not have to clean up the table (or seat) from the previous customer. This young hostess probably didn’t even realize that what she was doing was asking the customer to finish busing the table. But in effect she was.


Other areas where poor customer service seems to be rampant: long delays in doctors’ waiting rooms even though you have an appointment; auto technicians who fix your car just enough to get it running while ignoring other obvious problems (because they are swamped or it’s not the issue you brought it in for); office workers who continually give priority to the customers on the ringing phone even though you walked up to their desk first. This is not a condemnation of all those employed in these occupations, but only a few examples of common challenges that customers face in getting service every day.


Regardless of how often social media sites say they “get it” when it comes to audience engagement and interaction, customer service seems to be a challenge for them as well. Despite the popularization of incidents like Dell Hell, there seems to have been little impact on many companies in the technology realm in terms of paying attention to customer service or making it a priority. Although Dell managed to turn around it’s customer service issues (see IdeaStorm), many sites expect customers who have questions or problems to use FAQs, help forums started and maintained by other customers, or an outside company that may or may not respond to your question (there are no ramifications for them if they don’t respond since it’s not their site that you had a question about).


It used to be that companies thought about how to handle customer service before they launched, before they even opened their doors. Now, it’s left up to the customers to either figure it out on their own, or spend hours looking for a company representative to talk to who may have an ulterior motive (sales) for talking to you.


All this to say that the status of customer service in the US has declined to an alarming low and there doesn’t seem to be any end to it.


In my book, that’s not service.


What do you think? What has your experience with customer service been like?