Throwing away money

Okay, visualize this.  Every day as you drive home from work, you reach in your pocket, pull out a nickel, and throw it out the car window.  Every day.  Sometimes you throw out a dime.  By the end of the work week, you’ve thrown out a quarter or more. By the end of the month, more than a dollar. Does this make any sense?  Of course not.  But people are doing it.

I know this because I take a walk most mornings and along the way I see pop bottles and cans, beer bottles and cans, liquor bottles.  Each worth five cents. I know people throw these containers out their windows every day because I carry a plastic bag just so I can pick up this refuse. No sooner have I cleaned up the roadway than it is littered again.  I can pick up a dollar or more – each day.  
 
Lazy. Disrespectful. Flagrant. Annoying. The people who throw out trash along the road defy my understanding. For crying out loud, just put it in the waste basket when you get home! Even more astounding is people who throw away money. My husband has seen people at gas stations take bottles and cans out of their vehicles and deposit them in the trash cans just outside the convenience store door.  They could have taken those bottles and cans five steps further and collected the deposit. 
 
Governor Culver over reached during the last legislative session.  He had the door open to add juice and water containers to the Bottle Bill in Iowa. Then he got greedy and added a tax to the process.  As a result, the whole thing went down.  Too bad. We needed that addition. 
 
But I guess this proves one thing. Clearly the economy is not as bad as we’re led to believe if people are still rolling down their car windows and throwing out nickels!

One new idea every day

When I published my memoir, Growing Up Country, my goal was to implement one new marketing idea every day.  With marketing I was finally in my comfort zone! After 30 years in marketing, I knew that even the best product in the world wouldn’t sell one unit if no one knew about it.

I was reasonably successful with that lofty goal and book sales showed it.  Now that I’ve had books in hand for over a year, I’ve backed off demanding ‘one new idea every day,’ but the week doesn’t go by that I don’t think about getting in front of people with my book somehow.
 
My latest marketing approach is to look for opportunities to write about childhood or farm memories. As we Boomers age, nostalgia is a natural and more media are responding to this interest. My book mention comes in the descriptive author tag.  Just last week, I wrote such a piece for the Des Moines Register’s fiftysomething insert.  Titled “Playing in the sky,” my recollection was about Dad and Mom helping us kids build and learn to fly kites. 
 
Whether this piece will result directly in book sales or not remains to be seen.  But what I do know is that having my name and book title in front of my target market pays off over time.  A gentle reminder.  

Just right

Along with many millions of other residents of Planet Earth, I was glued to my TV yesterday watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama.  As a public relations counselor for more than 30 years, I listened to his inauguration speech with one ear tuned to my own reaction and the other ear gauging how the speech would be received by the media and the public.

As President Obama spoke, I listened to the structure, the cadence, the content, the meaning, the message.  I listened for the memorable sound bite.  President Obama is certainly capable of soaring rhetoric, he could stand toe to toe with Martin Luther King, Jr., but in this speech, he did not deliver the one phrase that stands above all else nor did he whip the crowd to a frenzied peak. Was this a mistake?  I believe not.
 
Our new President spoke to the world on the topics and in a manner that were most appropriate to the occasion.
  • He spoke to who he is: “I stand here today, humbled by the task … grateful for the trust … mindful of the sacrifices” 
  • He spoke to a new outlook: “we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord”
  • He spoke to our pride: “there are some who question the scale of our ambitions … but their memories are short. For they have forgotten … what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage’
  • He spoke to the world of a new America: ‘we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals’
  • He spoke to our strength: “I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. … But know this, America – they will be met.’
As I watched the faces in the crowd, I saw that people were drawing from the speech, the day, the experience, just what they needed. Each person would hear the phrase that spoke to him or her. President Obama didn’t deliver one phrase for everyone, he delivered one phrase to each listener’s heart.
 
He was presidential. He was a statesman. He was true to who he is – an intelligent, thoughtful, wise man. A leader.

What do you need?

Recently I stopped at a deli for lunch.  When I walked up, tray in hand, the young man at the cash register said, as they always do, “How are you today? Did you get everything you need?”  I said – as I always do – “I’m well, and yes I did.”  I said this as I fished through my purse for the money to pay. Then, I hesitated, remembering my some-time vow to note and call people by name, so I looked up, caught his name from the badge, and added, “It’s a nice day. And how are you, Jason? Got big plans for the weekend?”

“I’m looking forward to seeing my family. They’re coming in from Colorado. Thank you for asking how I am,” Jason said.  
 
Our little exchange lasted maybe 30 seconds.  But it was his comment, Thank you for asking how I am, that has had me thinking ever since. 
 
We interact with people every day, many of whom provide us some service. I value all these people who facilitate my life, I truly do. But it’s easy to look past them. Easy to be in a rush. Easy to stay lost in my own thoughts, my own agenda, my own problems. Easy to overlook that another human being has just entered the sphere of my life.
 
It is quite likely that Jason did not see running a cash register as the job he’d most like to have in the world. Just as likely that after taking money from hand after hand, he felt more like a robot than a person. So when someone called him by name, he was pulled out of anonymity, validated as a person in some small way. 
 
I am glad he noted that my comment meant something to him.  Because when he did, he made me think about what I need, perhaps what any of us needs. What we really need may be for someone to take a moment to see us – and talk to us – like real people.