Just A Minute?

or –

Just A Minute!

The great strategist Napoleon has said that he was able to win so many battles because he understood the value of a minute. In The Art of Maneuver he is quoted as saying:

It may be in the future that I may lose a battle, but I shall never lose a minute. … I act not by laws but by minutes.” -Napoleon

Napoleon was talking about how to strategically use timing. That is, a strike on the enemy at just the right time was far more effective than the identical strike at a different time. A maneuver executed at just the right moment, when the enemy was advancing, was far more effective than the same maneuver executed when the enemy was nowhere in the vicinity.

Life is no different for the rest of us. The same rules apply.

When I was a little punk kid I got a really cool electric guitar and I thought I was the 8 year old Ace Frehley of KISS. I jumped around holding my guitar, catching all of the poses and randomly plucking strings in a way that I thought looked cool. Yeah, just like you see in the pic at the right … but without the hair (well, that was the 70s … maybe I did have the hair too — Mom?).

It may have looked cool … but it sounded like hell! Nary a musical note ever came from that guitar until the day it died. Grandpaw always used to watch me with amusement but would kindly say

“learn the timing”, “work on your timing”, “it’s all about the timing” – Grandpaw

Yeah, ok Gramps — whatever! (was what I thought but did not say). You see, Grandpaw wasn’t a guitar player but what he was trying to tell me was that the way to make music was to learn to effectively time the placement of the fingers on the neck with the strum of the strings to make the musical notes. Ha! What did that old timer know???

He didn’t understand that this was hard rock guitar — not that old hillbilly stuff like he was talking about. Hard rock guitar was different — he just didn’t get it. Eventually I moved onto a new phase and forgot about the guitar.

That didn’t stop Grandpaw. On many of my other adventures, whether it was learning to shoot a flying duck, hit a baseball, ski a slalom course, or any number of other things, Grandpaw always said the same thing:

“learn the timing”, “work on your timing”, “it’s all about the timing” – Grandpaw

Gratuitious picture of Bob LaPointe, my waterskiing hero

… again, “yeah, ok Gramps” … whatever … it’s not like you’ve ever skied through a slalom course being pulled 36 mph like Bob LaPoint — what in the heck do you know?”


Well, it took well into my 30s before I realized, um, yeah … right.

Grandpaw was right about each and every one of those things. So was Napoleon. Correct timing of

  • striking the enemy wins the battle
  • maneuvering out of the enemy’s path avoids destruction
  • strumming the chords makes music — not noise
  • pulling the trigger shoots the duck
  • swinging the bat hits the ball
  • acceleration, deceleration and turns gets you through the slalom course

Now here’s my challenge for you: think about how many other things in life depend on the right timing, whether in your personal life or in your professional life. How many times would one minute have made a difference?

  • calling home 1 minute before getting the call of “where are you?” is responsible — one minute later and you’re in trouble
  • calling the client or customer with a status update 1 minute before they call asking for it makes you proactive and responsive
  • filing that document at 4:59 is timely whereas 5:01 means a notice to your malpractice carrier
  • walking into a meeting 1 minute before the other participants makes you appear one way, 1 minute after is quite another (and there may be a strategic reason for either!

These are just a few examples that randomly came to me as I was writing but we all know there are thousands of others.The point is, however, that to some people, having only a minute is often an excuse not to do something while to others, it is an opportunity to do something at just the right time — with only a minute to spare! How you view a minute — understanding that timing that is key to all of life — may just change your life one day. Gramps understood this and finally, after so many years, so do I. Oh, and by the way, timing in playing hard rock guitar is no different than any other, just in case you are still wondering!

Leave me a comment and tell everyone what your example of a 1 minute difference maker would be (and we all know it starts with conception … so move on to something else! haha). Do it NOW — don’t let someone post exactly what you were going to say one minute before you do!

Grandpaw’s Lessons: My New Blog Series

I have decided to start a blog series called “Grandpaw’s Lessons”. The general purpose of this series will be to share many of the lessons that my grandfather taught me as well as how, throughout my life, I always seem to be getting reminded of them—sometimes in a good way, sometimes not! (depending upon whether I learned the lesson)

In an odd sort of way this series has been in the works for many years though I have only thought about writing it for the last week or so. How’s that for nonsense? What I mean is that I remember sitting in the pew at Grandpaw’s funeral and fondly reminiscing about the wonderful life he lived, how he had such a powerful impact on my life, and the many lessons he taught me about life even though I had no idea (or appreciation) that he was doing so at the time. Sitting in that pew I thought it would be a really nice tribute to my grandfather’s life, as well as a benefit to others with whom I shared those lessons, and I began thinking about writing a book with the daily lesson from Grandpaw. Well, that was a few years ago. Given how busy my life is and how many books I have planned to write … but haven’t … guess what? The book remains unwritten though it is the seed of this series. This is for you Grandpaw (Edward Tuma, Sr.).

A few weeks ago I tip-toed into the world of blogging. In my first blog, What I Learned In My First Week Using Social Media, I said:

And I know there is still lots more to learn but if there is one thing that I can say sticks out more than anything else it is this: if you want to effectively use social media for business, do your best to try and be a good genuine person who is honest, uses good old fashioned manners, and shows basic respect for others.”

When I wrote those words I was reminded of the source of what I was saying as I said it: Grandpaw. That was the way Grandpaw lived every aspect of his life, including how he managed his business. Grandpaw had an automobile body shop and never became a rich man though he helped quite a few people when they found themselves in a position of needing help and there were no others around the help. Everyone around Grandpaw always told him he was being foolish because others were taking advantage of him and cheating him but Grandpaw didn’t care because his was a life governed by core principle—true core principles. One that I’ll always remember him saying over and over in response to such criticism from others was, “at least I can sleep at night”. That was Grandpaw’s way of saying “I’m doing what is right regardless of the outcome.” Just imagine if most in our world lived by that standard today …

To those observing (and critiquing) Grandpaw’s life, they would have told you that he could have made more money but when people couldn’t afford to pay, were down on their luck, or just had a really good good sob story for him (and he could see through it), he let them pay whatever they could. Even if it was nothing. That is, Grandpaw gave away a lot for free. If you saw my most recent blog, “I’m a No0b” you know this is one of the things I’ve recently learned about successful social media marketing. Funny thing is, Grandpaw taught me this lesson through example many decades ago. That is how this process has gone. Time and time again over the past few weeks I have these “new” strategies for social media marketing only to sit back and think for a moment and realize that this “new” strategy is no different than the “old way” that Grandpaw taught me. That was the fertilizer.

Last week I read Seth Godin’s blog entitled The New Craftsmanship and that one hit me square in the face—that was even the word that Grandpaw always used to describe himself—craftsman. That moved me so much that I started a draft blog about it that will be forthcoming, perhaps, in a day or two (depending on how much family time I am willing to sacrifice for this project!). That was the soil.

Yesterday, I was reading Ingrid Abboud’s Bring IT! series on her nittyGriddyBlog and really like the way that she uses that and the SuperPost Sunday series in her work. It seems pretty effective to have a themed series. That pushed me a little closer; I continued to think through the idea of doing a series about the lessons that Grandpaw taught me. That was the water.

Then, just this morning, I got up and read a few of the comments on my Facebook status from yesterday:

planting flowers with the family! i love spring! (and it is to me so hush up — don’t care if its still feb!)”

To this, Rob Wieters mentioned that, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, it was still too early to plant. To which I responded that my grandfather had always read the Almanac and, more often than not, it was right. That comment prompted Carol Watts, a family friend who knew my grandfather, to say what a good man he was. That was it—the sunlight that made me say “I’m going to do it, I’m going to begin blogging a series of lessons from Grandpaw!”

I hope you will enjoy reading the blog posts as much as I will enjoy writing them. Oh, by the way, in case you’re wondering about the coffee cup, well, many of my favorite conversations with Grandpaw took place early in the morning before anyone else was awake, sitting at the kitchen table while enjoying a cup of coffee. The cup in the picture was the cup I always used at Grandpaw’s house. Because it is very special to me, I now only use it on special occasions … such as this morning. I miss you Grandpaw but I sure appreciate all of the wisdom you shared with me over the years and know you too would have enjoyed sharing it with others as well. Welcome to the world of blogging Gramps!

Why Would A Lawyer Waste Time Studying Social Media?

Because I don’t want to look like an idiot!

(How’s that for getting straight to the point?)

I really do hope that someone out there will actually read my blog. When that actually does happen (that’s right, I am believing with faith), I suspect that the first question they will ask after seeing my posts about using social media is “why on earth would Shawn waste so much of his otherwise billable time learning about how to use social media?” And that is a valid question because I am a lawyer, not a professional blogger. So, before I write my next blog about … you guessed it: what I have learned this week about using social media, I decided to go ahead and preempt the inevitable question by answering it now. Because my professional life is driven by serving my clients, they are the ones I really have to answer to so I am writing this as though I am responding to a loyal client–though certainly no one in particular.

1. Social Media Is The Future: One of Us Needs to Understand It

First, I am firmly convinced that within the next couple of years social media is going to change the way business operates as much as did the use of e-mail, the fax machine, the mimeograph (haha–a copier dummy–you remember the ones from elementary school back in the 70s where you used to love to sniff the purple-bluish ink?), carbon paper, the telephone, the telegraph, and of course, the courier pigeon! You don’t believe me? Well just this past week I read an article entitled Email Use Plummets Among Teens (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/08/email-use-teens_n_820121.html) in which it was reported that e-mail use dropped 59% among 12 to 17-year-old age group and, for the 18 to 54 year-old group e-mail use is declining in favor of the use of social media for communications. Those teenagers who are driving you crazy now are your future customers and my future clients and my guess is they are not going to be exchanging many fax communications with either one of us. You and I are both going to be using this in our business and, if I’m going to be able to competently advise you on this issue, it probably won’t hurt for me to at least have a basic understanding of it as well–and the really good news is that you will not even be billed for my gaining this understanding!

2. I Am No Longer Counting on the Yellow Pages for New Clients

Second, while I love you and truly appreciate you as a client, our relationship is not monogamous. I know you have other lawyers and, quite frankly, I hope to keep gaining new clients. One of the ways I hope to accomplish this is by developing a greater presence out in the market-place and social media is a great way to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that you are able to find me in the Yellow Pages but, to be quite honest, I have not opened a copy of the Yellow Pages in years and I suspect that most of my prospective clients are no different.

3. I Prefer to Learn the Ropes Before Making the Mistakes

Third, I know this is a topic that we have discussed many times before. Please understand that I am not pointing fingers that you but simply explaining myself. As I have explained to you a few other times, unless a situation requires immediate action (and most do not), it is usually best to take your time and study the situation, gain an understanding of how it works, plan out your strategy, and then begin executing your plan. That is, learn as much as you can from the work of others and their mistakes before going in and making mistakes of your own! Right now that is exactly what I’m doing. I have no delusions of my becoming the next great social media blogger nor would I trade the wonderful privilege I have of serving clients like you (despite the sarcasm dripping from every other line of this blog, I really do say this with all sincerity).

I love my work. However, I have a lot of learning to do before I become proficient at (A) understanding how to effectively use social media in the business context, (B) actually being effective at using social media in the business context, and (C) actually learn the ins and outs of blogging before I can begin blogging about topics that are of interest to you and your business (since you don’t seem to think this one is). Therefore, since I am taking the time to study this subject matter, I may as well share what I’m learning with others. Moreover, in the event you ever decide to bring your company out of the stone ages, I will be able to direct you to this blog and let you learn what I have learned and not bill you one red cent for the advice! See, no matter what I do, I am always thinking about your best interests.

4. I Really Don’t Want to Look Like An Idiot!

Have you seen anything in the news lately about Kenneth Cole? Oh wait, sorry, I got distracted … where was I? Oh, ok …

Fourth and finally, I really did mean it when I said I do not want to look like an idiot. One of the things I have learned is that there is an unwritten code of social mores in the world of social media and one little faux paux can have you branded as an idiot in no time. You understand what I mean here, right? It’s like we’ve discussed many times before, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure … oh, and speaking of a pound of cure, please don’t forget about that last bill I sent you a few months ago … the children need new shoes.