A Mom First

In All Things, A Mom First

A Lesson in Perception from the Mouth of Julian

Strolling through the grocery store the other day, my two-year-old (who was in the cart facing the opposite direction) starts squealing in delight “Look Mom, Look Mom, See ’em!” I turned just in time to see and hear my son follow up with “See ’em! Grandpas Mom, See ’em?”

The two elderly men took it well, especially considering its probably not good etiquette for a small child to point and scream in delight as if he were seeing a couple of lions in the zoo. Not to mention they might not necessarily be grandpas. But I guess it comes down to the old adage that if it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.

Perception is equivalent to reality. Even though no one could know without asking if either of those white-haired guys at the Hy-Vee Food Store were actually grandpas, if my two-year-old perceived that they were, then they were. Whether we like it or not, even by the time we are two, we already make assumptions and judgments about the world around us based on appearances and connections in our mind drawn from experience about what certain appearances mean.

I have tried to teach this lesson about perception to my older sons when it comes to getting jobs and meeting the parents of girlfriends. Often in the past, marketing been used to create an illusion, smoke and mirrors. Marketers’ jobs have been to make a company be perceived a particular way — maybe making the company look bigger than it is, or more innovative than it is, or more caring about the community than it is.

I recently had a discussion with a lawyer and an advertising agency owner at a networking after-hours about social media and what impact it has on credibility. The conversation was centered around this notion that social media and blogs really force professionals to be more credible in their fields. Viewing the blog and Facebook wall posts from business professionals is like glimpsing in through a shop window to see the barber, the tattoo artist, or the chef hard at work. A website may offer a glimpse of the “outside of the building” and gives a certain perception of the company based on good writing and professional graphics just like a freshly painted building on a well-landscaped plot of land. But you still have no real idea about the actual soul of the company or the quality of the people who work there until step inside the doors.

Many companies are nervous about this prospect and try to keep people from stepping inside and meeting their people by not having a social media presence or even forbidding it. Yet the mere absence of any presence may soon do more damage than protect against damage. The perception will soon be like the one people have today when a business does not have a website – old, antiquated, maybe even “a grandpa.”

Thought leaders with original content emerge out of a river of social media experts because of the transparency. In the days of stagnant web sites, as long as you could build an impressive and professional looking website and say great things about your business and every thing your business is expert in, then you could pass a business off as bigger and better than the other guy. But now the perception is if you don’t have social media links on your website and if your Facebook page only has 8 fans and you don’t have a blog then (right or wrong) you are old and worse you also don’t have any credibility to support the claims you make on your website. With social media there comes transparency and its harder to create a “perception” from a complete illusion because now not only can people see you, but they can hear you and interact with you.

Today for some businesses the website has even become less important than the blog and the Facebook page in terms of perception. If you go to a website and it looks a little old and outdated, but the blog and social media are insightful and fresh, then suddenly the old man can be perceived as young and vibrant. So just because your company might look like a Grandpa and be thought of as “old,” social media can completely change that perception. The trick is that in order to get the new impression of being new and fresh, a company really has to behave new and fresh.

Today, more than ever, if you look like a grandpa and you sound like a grandpa, then you probably are a grandpa – or at least that will be the perception.


July 13, 2011 Posted by | education, social media, Social Media Mom | Leave a comment

How School Districts use Social Media to Strengthen Community | GetFreshPR.com

For some time now I have been intrigued by Van Meter Schools in Iowa and their effective use of Social Media to strengthen their school and community. Here is a great article full of tips on how your school can use social media and some case studies on how it has worked for others!

How School Districts use Social Media to Strengthen Community | GetFreshPR.com.

June 7, 2011 Posted by | education, social media, Social Media Mom | , , , , | Leave a comment

My Son’s Love Affair with Trucks – Having a Low Tech Morning…Sort Of

I woke up early and began doing some work on the computer. True to every morning for the last several weeks, the Public Works trucks showed up about 7am to do their daily work on the curb replacement project. But this morning it was different, because they had a dump truck and a tractor (I think my dear fiance would say that the tractor is a loader and I hope I am making him proud here) literally right outside of my bedroom window today. I have yet to figure out with all of the pot holes and the constant reminder of budget cuts as the reason for them why we need to have the curbs replaced. I complained a lot at first about the noise every morning and the inconvenience getting around the neighborhood, but I have to say now I will miss the trucks when they go. My 2-year-old, Julian, is absolutely enthralled with them. He wakes up when the trucks get here (another thing I cursed at first) and spends a good half hour just watching them with the kind of excitement most of us experience so rarely in our day-to-day life. Oh for life to be so simple and so full of complete joy every day like the life of a two-year-old.

This morning he was especially nuts over the loader scooping the dirt and dumping it into the dump truck (two trucks!!) and we had a wonderful time talking about them. Then I did a Google image search on all sorts of trucks and my child, only two years old,  and I had school on my bed mixing our real-world, low tech observations with the power of the internet. I facilitated the discussion and he was so excited. This is what we have to capture and keep in our schools, I thought as we surfed the internet.

What will it be like when he gets to high school? Will Julian be like my now 20-year-old? Ethan was in talented and gifted and went to the Downtown School in elementary (where they taught very much like this morning’s school session) but got so bored in high school that he dropped out of traditional school, went to Future Pathways alternative school, and eventually opted for a GED before going off to college. It almost killed me to watch the light go out for him and witness his complete withdrawal. I am determined that this not be my 2-year-old’s experience. I hope he continues to be as excited as he is today about learning for the rest of his life! I will be watching the schools and really shop around this time. I pray the schools will have what he and all kids deserve by then or we might just keep schooling in bed!

May 12, 2011 Posted by | education, Social Media Mom | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Get A Real Education

Here is an article shared by my friend, Twitter @hostiowa. It’s a great article written by Scott Adams, the creator of the comic “Dilbert,” for the Wall Street Journal online April 9, 2011.  Forget art history and calculus. Most students need to learn how to run a business, says Scott Adams…

Why do we make B students sit through the same classes as their brainy peers? That’s like trying to train your cat to do your taxes—a waste of time and money. Wouldn’t it make sense to teach them something useful instead?
The article is fun and interesting and brings up the need for students coming out of college to have practical skills that bring value to the work place. Adams seems to be including himself in that group of “B” students. He majored in entrepreneurship at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. and feels by the time he graduated he “had mastered the strange art of transforming nothing into something.” He did however go on to receive an MBA from Berkeley’s Haas School of Business which he calls the “fine-tuning” he needed to “see the world through an entreprenuer’s eyes.”
If you want to read the full article, it is great and the beginning is an entertaining story from his college years: How to Get a Real Education. But the end of the article he gives a list of what an education in entrepreneurship should include, and what lessons he learned:
Combine Skills. The first thing you should learn in a course on entrepreneurship is how to make yourself valuable. It’s unlikely that any average student can develop a world-class skill in one particular area. But it’s easy to learn how to do several different things fairly well. I succeeded as a cartoonist with negligible art talent, some basic writing skills, an ordinary sense of humor and a bit of experience in the business world. The “Dilbert” comic is a combination of all four skills. The world has plenty of better artists, smarter writers, funnier humorists and more experienced business people. The rare part is that each of those modest skills is collected in one person. That’s how value is created.

Fail Forward. If you’re taking risks, and you probably should, you can find yourself failing 90% of the time. The trick is to get paid while you’re doing the failing and to use the experience to gain skills that will be useful later. I failed at my first career in banking. I failed at my second career with the phone company. But you’d be surprised at how many of the skills I learned in those careers can be applied to almost any field, including cartooning. Students should be taught that failure is a process, not an obstacle.

Find the Action. In my senior year of college I asked my adviser how I should pursue my goal of being a banker. He told me to figure out where the most innovation in banking was happening and to move there. And so I did. Banking didn’t work out for me, but the advice still holds: Move to where the action is. Distance is your enemy.

Attract Luck. You can’t manage luck directly, but you can manage your career in a way that makes it easier for luck to find you. To succeed, first you must do something. And if that doesn’t work, which can be 90% of the time, do something else. Luck finds the doers. Readers of the Journal will find this point obvious. It’s not obvious to a teenager.

Conquer Fear. I took classes in public speaking in college and a few more during my corporate days. That training was marginally useful for learning how to mask nervousness in public. Then I took the Dale Carnegie course. It was life-changing. The Dale Carnegie method ignores speaking technique entirely and trains you instead to enjoy the experience of speaking to a crowd. Once you become relaxed in front of people, technique comes automatically. Over the years, I’ve given speeches to hundreds of audiences and enjoyed every minute on stage. But this isn’t a plug for Dale Carnegie. The point is that people can be trained to replace fear and shyness with enthusiasm. Every entrepreneur can use that skill.

Write Simply. I took a two-day class in business writing that taught me how to write direct sentences and to avoid extra words. Simplicity makes ideas powerful. Want examples? Read anything by Steve Jobs or Warren Buffett.

Learn Persuasion. Students of entrepreneurship should learn the art of persuasion in all its forms, including psychology, sales, marketing, negotiating, statistics and even design. Usually those skills are sprinkled across several disciplines. For entrepreneurs, it makes sense to teach them as a package.

That’s my starter list for the sort of classes that would serve B students well. The list is not meant to be complete. Obviously an entrepreneur would benefit from classes in finance, management and more.

Remember, children are our future, and the majority of them are B students. If that doesn’t scare you, it probably should.

—Mr. Adams is the creator of “Dilbert.”

April 17, 2011 Posted by | education, Social Media Mom | , , , | Leave a comment

#TED launches exciting new educational initiative! Educators, Students & Creatives

If you are a mom, a parent, a person interested in education or care about the future in the hands of today’s kids then check this out:

#TED launches exciting new educational initiative! Educators, students, & creatives, learn more here: http://bit.ly/ggUKNN @TED_ED.

March 2, 2011 Posted by | education | | Leave a comment

The Case For Social Media in Schools

At the top of my list of concerns as a mom is the education of my children.

Today I found this article: The Case For Social Media in Schools.  Check out the comments and the resources, such as edublogs.com, kidblog.org and edmodo.com. The author will even shock you with a pointer that cell phones are NOT the enemy with an example of how one teacher collected cell phone numbers and improved class attendance and tardiness. Now this is an article that is about thinking outside of the box and embracing technology for the good of our kids.

In 2006, I read a Time Magazine article about how bored kids are with education and how we are falling behind as a country. We need to start thinking outside of the box. An excerpt from this article is below. But PLEASE go to this link and read the whole thing. It is URGENT: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1568480,00.html

There’s a dark little joke exchanged by educators with a dissident streak: Rip Van Winkle awakens in the 21st century after a hundred-year snooze and is, of course, utterly bewildered by what he sees. Men and women dash about, talking to small metal devices pinned to their ears. Young people sit at home on sofas, moving miniature athletes around on electronic screens. Older folk defy death and disability with metronomes in their chests and with hips made of metal and plastic. Airports, hospitals, shopping malls–every place Rip goes just baffles him. But when he finally walks into a schoolroom, the old man knows exactly where he is. “This is a school,” he declares. “We used to have these back in 1906. Only now the blackboards are green.”

American schools aren’t exactly frozen in time, but considering the pace of change in other areas of life, our public schools tend to feel like throwbacks. Kids spend much of the day as their great-grandparents once did: sitting in rows, listening to teachers lecture, scribbling notes by hand, reading from textbooks that are out of date by the time they are printed. A yawning chasm (with an emphasis on yawning) separates the world inside the schoolhouse from the world outside.

For the past five years, the national conversation on education has focused on reading scores, math tests and closing the “achievement gap” between social classes. This is not a story about that conversation. This is a story about the big public conversation the nation is not having about education, the one that will ultimately determine not merely whether some fraction of our children get “left behind” but also whether an entire generation of kids will fail to make the grade in the global economy because they can’t think their way through abstract problems, work in teams, distinguish good information from bad or speak a language other than English.

February 27, 2011 Posted by | education, social media, Social Media Mom | , , | Leave a comment