Breakfast in Seattle

While traveling for work, on a Sunday morning I needed to leave for my convention by 7 a.m. To my dismay, the hotel’s kitchen didn’t open until 7. The front desk had no alternative options for my morning meal.

I recalled a McDonald’s a few blocks away. So at 6:45 I set off on a brisk walk, praying that Mickey D’s would be open. The streets in downtown Seattle were mostly quiet and the sidewalks, empty; my hope that the Golden Arches would be serving breakfast was quickly fading. I was happy for the experience, witnessing a business directly address a societal issue. Click To Tweet

I approached the restaurant and much to my glee the lights were on. Not only that, but the place was filled with a bustle of activity; they were doing a brisk business. What was unusual was that most of the patrons appeared to be homeless.

Although I was wearing a light jacket, most people had on winter coats (needed to keep warm at night); their clothes were mismatched, dated, tattered, and dirty (the homeless accept whatever clothes are offered, aren’t in a position to color coordinate, and lack access to washing machines). Many carried worn plastic grocery bags, bulging with contents (possibly their only possessions). There was a line at the bathrooms (the homeless generally don’t have access to restrooms at night). And there was a momentary outburst (perhaps alcohol related, but more likely mental illness), but it was quickly quieted by a friend.

The beautiful thing was that the McDonald’s employees weren’t a bit fazed. They treated everyone with respect and courtesy, not shooing people away or insisting that purchases be “to go.” I’m sure there were some non-paying people present too, just wanting to get warm, but that seemed okay, as well.

This is how things should be, but seldom are. Most restaurants don’t want “undesirable” people in their establishment—even if they have money. Bathrooms are off limits and such folk are often tersely asked to leave.

For my part, I was happy for the experience, witnessing a business directly address a societal issue.  In a satisfying way, that was “church” for me that day. In fact, I was so drawn that I returned Monday morning to repeat the experience. Thanks, McDonald’s for doing the right thing.

[For a compelling insight into the plight of the homeless, I highly recommend reading Under the Overpass.]

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

I used to be fixated with knowing what time it was. You might say I was slave to the clock. I was compulsive about checking my wristwatch and the more concerned I became about time, the more often I looked. I think it was the dark side of time-management.

As I planned my daily activities, it was under the optimistic assumption that each task would proceed ideally and without problems. I was constantly checking the time to see if I was on-track or falling behind. But since real-world realities would eventually overtake my unrealistic time projections, I often ended up feeling pressed and stressed. Why subject myself to this constant stress of worrying about the time? Click To Tweet

As a result of the time so frequently, I could generally tell someone what time it was—plus or minus a few minutes—without looking.

One day I had enough and I quit—cold turkey. I took off my watch for good. I made this decision after being on a delayed flight. I was concerned about making my connection and nervously peered at my watch every few seconds. How absurd! No matter how often I checked, I could not affect the outcome. I would either make the connection or miss it. So why subject myself to this constant stress of worrying about the time?

Yes, I still want to arrive places on time and don’t like to make others wait for me, but beyond that time isn’t nearly the stress factor in my life that it used to be.

The question, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” was posed by the rock group Chicago in 1969. In the song’s chorus they follow-up their first question with a second, “Does anybody really care?”

That pretty much sums it up for me.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Lessons for a 5th Grader

I remember channel surfing once when a show caught my attention: “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader.” Although I’d heard about the show, this was my first (and last) time watching it.

Overall, I fared better than the contestant, but then I didn’t have the pressure of a live audience and irksome host. I found it all to be mildly interesting.Remember, today's kids will be tomorrow's leaders. Click To Tweet

What caught my attention, however, was that two opportunities to “cheat” were given to the contestant. If he was unsure of an answer, he could opt to “peak” or to “copy” from his fifth grade classmates—and he did!

How incredibly insane, promoting cheating in the same context as highlighting fifth grade knowledge. With examples such as that, it is any wonder that cheating and plagiarism is reportedly rampant in schools and colleges? How about lying on job applications, embellishing resume facts, fabricating degrees, padding expense accounts, lying to congress, defrauding shareholders, spinning the news, cover ups, and the overall belief that the ends justify the means?

I’m not blaming all this on one simplistic game show, but that game show is perpetuating the mindset that it is okay to forgo integrity in favor of expedience. That conclusion has been building for years. Yet, the elementary school children who are watching this show now have one more example encouraging cheating.

Remember, it is these same people who will be tomorrow’s leaders—and it doesn’t seem that ethics and honesty have much of a chance.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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Are You Absolutely Sure?

The undercurrent to society’s willingness to cheat on just about anything goes back some thirty to forty years. It began with the assertion that there are no moral absolutes, that each person must decide for him or herself what is right and what is wrong. Therefore, if it is left up to each individual, it becomes amazingly simple to justify cheating, lying, stealing, hurting others, and doing anything that brings about pleasure or produces power.

We are rightfully shocked when one person injures another for the sport of it. Or when upper-middle-class teenagers commit armed robbery for the adrenalin rush it gives them. Or how about an ignored or harassed student who carries a gun to school to take revenge. Each of these instances are real and each has been repeated too many times.

Yet our schools teach, and society reinforces, that each person should choose what is right or wrong for him or herself. This is the result. Each person should choose what is right or wrong for him or herself. Click To Tweet

It’s been suggested that the liberal thinking promoting this philosophy was really advocating that there were no moral sexual absolutes. What they wanted was justification for a promiscuous existence—and without guilt. However, to assert that there are no sexual moral absolutes, but that all other moral issues are absolute, is illogical and nonsensical. Therefore, to justify indiscriminate sexual behavior, their argument needed to extend itself to all moral issues, be it sex, cheating, lying, stealing, or killing.

What we got was a quagmire of moral confusion and anarchy that has permeated our culture and threatened our future. I know that it’s not popular these days to claim that there are moral absolutes, but the alternative is the slippery slope we are on towards mayhem and chaos.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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The Exciting Millennial Generation

It seems that I’ve recently heard a lot of complaints about this “younger generation,” known as the Millennial Generation or Generation Y (those born after 1984—or between 1980 and 2000—depending who’s doing the explaining).Employers moan that Millennials don’t want to work; they arrive late, lack motivation, and do not make good employees.Customers complain than Generation Y doesn’t seem to care and looks strange.

True, each successive generation causes angst and head scratching from their elders.However, with Gen-Y there is an additional factor at play—the emergence of a postmodern mindset.(See What Does Postmodern Mean?) Generally, Gen-Y, and to a lesser extent Gen-X that preceded them, have postmodern perspectives on life, whereas prior generations are more likely modern thinkers.Herein is the rub that causes the above frustrations.

One element of the postmodern outlook is that they want meaningful work and to make a difference in the world.Career, wealth, and possessions tend to have little draw to postmodern people.And this excites me.

I recently asked a 21-year young lass if she would soon be graduating from college.(This was a bad assumption on my part.)She hemmed a bit and then admitted that she had just dropped out of cosmetology school—her second post-high educational effort.She realized that a career in cosmetology would be a shallow and meaningless pursuit.She wants to make a difference in the world by helping those in a third-world country—she leaves in two months. Millennial's want meaningful work and to make a difference in the world. Click To Tweet

Another acquaintance abandoned her career path as a paralegal and is cranking through grad school—so she can join the Peace Crops—and then aid governments in developing countries.Another 20-something friend is wrapping up a yearlong stint in Russia.Even though he’s not yet back to the States, he is already planning on a return trip as soon as possible.A fourth simply desires to travel the world—to help the people she meets.

I could go on and on about this “younger generation” who are set on making a difference, have forsaken materialism, and seek meaningful work—and it excites me greatly—Gen-Y has the potential to make this world a better place.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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What Does Postmodern Mean?

I was talking with a 20-something friend and tossed out the phrase “postmodern.” His ears perked up and he asked what it meant.

“You’re postmodern,” I spontaneously asserted.

“I know; that’s what people tell me,” he replied, “but what’s it mean?”

“First there is one aspect of postmodernity that doesn’t fit you,” I clarified. “Most postmoderns do not accept absolute truth; to them all things are relative. The only thing they accept with absolute certainty is that there are no absolutes.” (Don’t think about that too long—it will give you a headache!) Postmodern is not a life stage phenomenon, but more a lifelong mindset Click To Tweet

“The rest of the profile seems to match you,” I continued. “In general, postmodern people value relationships and relish experiences—for them, the ‘journey is the reward.’ They want work that is fulfilling and allows them to make a difference in the world, but they guardedly balance work with their personal life. They tend to not be materialistic and money doesn’t mean as much to them as a ‘modern’ person. They are decidedly non-religious, but are quite open to spirituality and metaphysical dialogue.”

He agreed with my assessment that he was postmodern.”And what about you?” he asked.

There is a propensity for younger generations to be postmodern and generations people—like me—to be modern. It’s not a life stage phenomenon, but more a lifelong mindset. Being on the tail end of the baby boom generation, I should be modern, but in reality, “I skew towards postmodern.” He smiled at that; I guess that’s why we get along so well.

If you work with or manage postmodern people (typically generation Y or the Millennials, born after 1984), you will likely be challenged beyond anything you’ve experienced.  Keeping this brief overview in mind, might help you to better understand them. But don’t assume they think and act like you (unless you’re also postmodern) or you’ll never really connect with them.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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Dialing for Dollars: Frustrations with Accounts Payable

My least favorite task is making collection calls, but it was again time to do so. Although it took less than an hour, I spent more than a day getting psyched up for this distasteful task. I find that I am quite adept at finding other things to do (which are decidedly more interesting and satisfying) in order to avoid “dialing for dollars.”

My perspective is that it is moral and ethical business behavior to pay all bills by their due date, if not sooner. Therefore, I shouldn’t be put in a position to have to ask people for the money that they freely and readily agreed to pay me for my services. It's moral and ethical business behavior to pay all bills by their due date, if not sooner. Click To Tweet

I have found that my customers fall into four categories:

  1. Most pay their bills on time, every time. (Thank you!)
  2. Some generally pay on time, but need an occasional reminder or a resent invoice.
  3. A few always need a phone call before they pay. (This could be a result of corporate policy or cash-flow issues.)
  4. A couple can’t or won’t pay what they owe me.

I once worked for a company whose policy was to pay all bills, net forty-five. It wasn’t a cash-flow issue, but a desire to operate off other people’s money. This made it most challenging to engage new vendors and keep existing ones happy; they always wanted to be paid net thirty. Another company I worked for had cash flows issues—sometimes majorly so—and paid almost all bills late, sometimes months late; this was an even more challenging environment.

I have decided to treat my vendors the way I want to be treated: I usually pay bills within twenty-four hours. That requires a bit more cash reserves—and many would call it fiscally foolish—but I call it the right thing to do.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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The Price of Information

If I subscribed to every email newsletter and information service that was offered me, there would not be enough time to read them all.

So when a newsletter offer appears in my in box, which frequently happens, I give it only the briefest of consideration before pressing delete. Last week, however, I paused long enough to give one such solicitation serious consideration.

As a magazine publisher, a newsletter about publishing seemed worthy. I looked at the sample issue. It was a PDF file of eight pages in length. Eight pages is a bit too much to read online, yet I dislike printing a document merely for the sake of portability and convenience.

I scanned the contents. One article was of great interest and a second of passing appeal. Perhaps, I considered, this newsletter might be worthy of my time. I clicked on the “subscribe” link and was shocked with what I saw. It was not a free publication, but one with a cost—945 dollars. Not 9 dollars and 45 cents, but nine hundred and forty-five dollars! When I assumed it was free, I was mildly engaged, but at 945 dollars I was appallingly disinterested.Information does have its price, but how much should it be? Click To Tweet

How can someone have try to charge for news that is free and readily available? What impudence.

Yes, information does have its price, but unless it’s unique or protected, the appropriate price in today’s information laden society approaches zero.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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Living Beneath Your Means

My bride and I were recently talking with a young engaged couple and the subject of finances came up. I shared my thoughts and seemingly gave them something to ponder.

I said that most people in the US live beyond their means. They live paycheck to paycheck, are over extended, and one little glitch sends their world crumbling.

A few people in the US “live at their means.” That is, they spend their money wisely, save for a rainy day—which will eventually happen, don’t try to keep up with everyone else (who are actually living beyond their means), are careful using credit, and make careful investments. In short, they live fiscally responsible lives.Should you try to live beneath your means? Click To Tweet

My goal, however, is to “live beneath my means.” That is, to live more simply than what I can afford to. This certainly doesn’t imply that I’ve taken a vow of poverty or anything of the sort—I have been too spoiled to attempt that—but I have sworn off extravagance and am largely content with what I have, be it home, car, clothes, and other possessions. It is very freeing to be not always wanting more and yearning for what is unwise or unwarranted. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals—I do—but they aren’t materialistic in nature. I’ve learned that possessions can weigh you down and often make demands of you: be it time, attention, more money, or worry; plus you really don’t own them anyway—they often own you.

So, let’s keep it simple; it’s much more prudent and a whole lot less stressful.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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Are You Wealthy?

Are you wealthy?Are you wealthy? Your initial answer on “No” is probably the same as mine was, but I’ve since learned that I was wrong.

My eyes were recently opened to a new reality concerning my relative financial well-being in this global economy.

Go to www.globalrichlist.com see how you rank. The site considers your annual income compared with that of the rest of the world.  In this regard, you will find you are indeed quite well off. True, there will be quite a few people more wealthy than you, but many, many more who are paupers in comparison.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, you might be interested to know that if you made $50,000 last year, you would be in the top 1 percent of the world’s wealthiest people.

If you made a mere $3,000, you will still be in the top 15 percent worldwide.

If you made only $900 a year, you would be in the top half.

This has certainly changed my perspective.Are you wealthy? The answer might surprise you. Click To Tweet

Perhaps its time to develop a new attitude. We need to stop comparing ourselves to that small minority who are better off than we—it will only make us crave more.

Instead, we should compare ourselves to a huge majority that are in greater need than us—it will surely make us want to give more.

By giving more, I can make a difference; you can make a difference. We can all make a difference.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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