‘Stretch Your Comfort Zone’ is Key Message in Concordia University Chicago Presentation

Yesterday, as part of the Concordia University Chicago College of Business Guest  Speaker Series, I shared key principles that have been integral to my professional and personal journey.

Many of the students in attendance are studying marketing. (Photo courtesy of Concordia University Chicago.)

Among those principles:

*Stretch beyond your comfort zone on a regular basis;
*Ask for help and seek out mentors in your field of endeavor:
*Value all people–not only those you think can help you;
*Look for ways to add value to others, without seeking anything in return.

Photo courtesy of Concordia University Chicago.

Speaking of stretching comfort zones: I shared a poster from my time, a decade ago, as the alter ego “Super Shopper Spotter” in the Village of Oak Park’s effort to spur on local shopping within the various business districts in the community. You can see the poster in the hands of the student in the image immediately on the left.

Thank you to Cathy Schlie, Marketing, Communication, and Events Manager for the College of Business, as well as professors and students who turned out–it was a most engaged audience and I appreciated the interaction and interest.

In light of the prominent role that business and personal networking has had in my career, it is fitting to note that Cathy extended the invitation for me to speak a few months after we met at an Oak Park – River Forest (OPRF) Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event at the River Forest campus.

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Humbling honor to give PR boost to `Jeanne’s Journey for Hope’ support of Joliet boy

In a lifetime, most people don’t spend more than a few months in a hospital—and some can measure those stays by a handful of days, or perhaps weeks.

Dominic Hamilton.

It’s a different situation for 6-year-old Dominic Hamilton. Over the past 2 ½ years, the Joliet boy has been a regular patient at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Dominic has medulloblastoma, a common brain cancer in children, and endured the difficult process of chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, and proton radiation.

This is how I introduce this year’s effort by Jeanne’s Journey for Hope, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping families facing financial hardship as a result of a cancer diagnosis. Read more at the Joliet Patch, ‘Jeanne’s Journey for Hope’ Rallies Around 6-Year-old Joliet Boy.

For the past six years, it has been a humbling honor to come alongside the Kurinec family and other supporters of JJFH. Learn more at the Jeanne’s Journey for Hope website.

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Trump: A Reflection & Indictment of Our Times

A few weeks ago, a funny thought occurred to me: maybe President Trump is the perfect leader for our times.

Now, don’t get me wrong–I don’t mean funny in the “ha-ha” sense, since the closest Trump’s administration can be linked to humor is that it has been one protracted punch line in an utterly, outrageously cosmic joke.

And I don’t mean perfect in the “apex of moral code and personal conduct” sense, since it has been exhaustively documented beyond a shadow of Fake News doubt that Trump is quite the opposite.

But a few truths flashed across my mind and provided a glimpse into how Trump can be seen as Quintessentially American, 2019 Edition. So I was inspired to write a piece, “Trump is a Reflection and Indictment of Our Times,” that the Daily Herald recently published as a letter to the editor.

If clicking on the link isn’t for you (or if you are coming upon this post well into the future, and the link is perhaps no longer in effect), here is my opinion piece in its entirety:

Consider: most phone calls are from spammers trying to sell or bait or otherwise trick us into forking over money for questionable products, at best. Sure sounds like Trump and his long scandal- and scoundrel-tinged history of dubious business dealings.

Most social-media posts are an incomplete reflection of life, at best. And it is not breaking new ground to note that social media has been manipulated to sow discord and division. Again, that is reminiscent of a certain orange-haired septuagenarian whose last name rhymes with “stump.”

And most people don’t dedicate nearly enough time to expanding their minds by reading anything that requires intellectual rigor or may challenge the worldview they have developed thus far in life. By a zillion accounts, there are few things that more aptly describe President Trump than the above statement.

In short, this country has grown soft and fat. Ergo, Donald J. Trump is on his rightful throne as the King of Soft and Fat. He’s soft mentally (Holy Toledo!), he’s bloated temperamentally (Unholy Twitter feed!) and let’s stop there, since I won’t resort to his (highly ironical) penchant for body-shaming.

For too long in our culture, we have settled for the shortcut and self-deception. Likewise, we settled for Trump as president.

Will this menace continue to retain support from a majority of Republicans and Republican leaders, whether it’s grudgingly, cynically, ignorantly, gleefully or otherwise? Or will a breaking point be reached between now and the Republican National Convention next August?

We already have a clear view of the president’s character. Between now and then, we will learn more about the character of America, and especially the Republican Party, in its response to “Donald being Donald.”

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Oak Leaves’ Real Estate Roundup Steers Clear of Exploring `Why’ of Slumping Sales Locally

What? Who? When? Where? Why? How?

In simple terms, those questions drive story-telling. Beyond the “what?”–which obviously covers a lot of essential ground–the most vital question to answer is “why?” Tackling the “why” of something that has happened or is happening requires expertise and insight and nuance and, yes, even sticking out your neck with speculation.

It’s a high-risk, yet also high-return query to address. And the risk is lessened when you solicit input from people with the right qualifications to roam into rumination territory.

On the other hand, leave out the “why?” and you may have a story, but you almost certainly lack oomph and impact. OK, thanks for telling us what we already could have found out ourselves–just the facts, ma’am.

With all that as preamble, it was a disappointment to see the Oak Leaves this week swing and miss, right out of the gate, on a story on local real estate sales being downright  desultory. The piece was largely a recitation of statistics with Realtors offering quotes that didn’t advance the story but simply re-hashed the numbers.

This was epitomized by the piece’s opening paraphrasing of a Realtor. This individual, magically given the authority to speak for all her professional peers, indicated that Realtors “don’t really know what’s causing slower sales this year.”

“It is an anomaly for us this year,” the Realtor is quoted as saying. “We’re used to very robust sales, I don’t know why it’s different this year.”

Sure enough, in a literal sense, these professionals don’t “know” with any absolute precision. But there are plenty of top Realtors on the front lines who collectively are talking to thousands of buyers, sellers, and tire-kickers. And they most certainly have at least a few pretty good ideas, based on what these folks are saying, of what’s miring the market.

The consensus of Realtors that I know is that higher property taxes have had a chilling effect on sales. For one thing, even if someone can afford to purchase a home, they cannot stomach covering both the mortgage and the sky-high property tax bill. There are countless other factors at play, too, and journalists serve their audience better when they dig in and press for those particulars.

It’s not all about price tags. There is the matter of value, so that paying more isn’t such a concern when there is a belief that what you receive in return more than covers those additional dollars and cents than you’d shell out elsewhere.

In the case of Oak Park and surrounding communities covered in the story, there are a variety of “X” variables, such as:

*Crime, or the perception of crime. Oak Park, for example, isn’t Chicago in this regard–but neither is it Mayberry.(for those who recall The Andy Griffith Show);

*Academic reputation. Good schools are routinely cited as the top factor in attracting newcomers. On the flip side of that coin, schools seen as mediocre can repel people. Are schools locally being viewed less favorably than schools in communities that are in the mix when prospective residents house-hunt?

Unfortunately, the reporter didn’t talk to enough Realtors who delved much below the surface to get at the “why.”

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A Beer With Baron: Enjoying a 10th Round With Mark Bazer, Creator/Host of The Interview Show

The brilliantly stupid film Zoolander…ESPN’s Mike Greenberg…and the topic of vandalism—all make cameos in a sprawling chat that I had last week with Mark Bazer of The Interview Show.

As I mentioned to Mark in my opening remarks, he was on my list of candidates in part because he has blazed the trail so well for interview shows in bar settings. And as I learned more about him, the more we discovered uncanny parallels in our personal and professional lives.

Although we didn’t cover it during the segment, one example is that we both attended Spinal Tap’s May 1992 concert at The Riviera in Chicago. Pretty safe to say that no other Beer With Baron guests were at that one.

With some improvisational twists and turns along the way, see how this 10th (and longest) round of A Beer With Baron all somehow comes together. (And for a review of the previous nine rounds, as well as previous “Oak Park’s Own” segments, check out the “Related Posts” links below.)

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