Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Adaptability- Cowboy Rick's Lessons in Career Mobility

     What happens when an immovable object meets an irresistible force? You might end up with Cowboy Rick. You can find Cowboy Rick every night towering above the boardwalk at Ocean City, Maryland. He's not especially tall. Cowboy Rick  stands above the crowd because he's perched on a milk crate.  It's part of his job as a street performer. Rick dresses up as a rhinestone cowboy- painting his face, hands and feet silver.  He pretends to be a statue -- standing shock-still for hours at a time.
     It's amazing to see how many people are transfixed by Rick's act. People crowd around and gawk -- watching Rick as he does absolutely -- nothing. Some pose for photos. Small children react with shock and awe. Most people toss a spare dollar into Rick's tip jar.  No question, Rick has mastered a unique talent. But what caught my attention is how Rick has literally made a career out of adopting to change.

     Mrs. SteveBauerMedia and I met Rick during a recent trip to the beach. We got to talking during one of his breaks. (Hard to believe you need a break from not moving at all.)  For a guy who doesn't move very much, Rick gets around. Turns out he's a musician from Ohio. Years ago, Rick pushed, pulled and tugged his 300 pound piano up onto the boardwalk every night. He had one of the best spots in town but got tired of inhaling fumes from the guy who uses aerosol spray paint to create instant works of art.

     So for a couple of years Rick paraded the boardwalk dressed up like SpongeBob Square Pants. It wasn't long before Rick got a bad case of SBB-SpongeBob Burnout. So Rick moved on and started acting like a statue. Rick says the money is pretty good -- it pays for his globe-trotting. Rick likes to travel.

     And that led to his next career change. Have you heard that Americans are going overseas to save money on medical procedures? Rick says he met a skilled surgeon in India who performs hernia operations at a deep discount. And Rick is planning to move to India and act as a guide for out-of-towners who come for treatment working as sort of a hospital concierge.

     You may think Rick is a screwball. And I'll admit this musician definitely marches to the beat of a different drummer.  But he's not afraid to try something new. Let's face it -- some people find change a terrifying prospect. They can't get over what I call the "what ifs". What if this happens? What if that goes wrong? Whether it's a new job, a new relationship or a new community -- change can bring fear of the unknown. But it can also bring exciting opportunities.

     No, I don't think many of us should try to be like Cowboy Rick. Who can stand still that long? I just want you to think about making changes in your life. Invent a new job. Learn to use social media. Be creative. Get out that project that never got done. Write a screenplay. Learn photography. Or you could visit Ocean City and watch Cowboy Rick round up a crowd. Rick makes a living by not moving a muscle -- but he's not afraid to move on and try whatever's next. Life is short.

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Copyright 2011
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Photos courtesy: Trina Bauer Photography

Friday, July 15, 2011

Reputation Management - Act Like You're in the Big Leagues

      Pro baseball's Derek Jeter recently blasted his 3,000th hit. It's a noteworthy accomplishment since only 28 other players have done it. Jeter becomes the first New York Yankee to hit 3,000. And that's saying something when your predecessors include Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth.

      What jumps out at me isn't just Jeter's mastery of the fast ball- it's his peerless performance off the field. Mantle and the Babe were famous for their baseball exploits but those two also earned reputations as hard drinking wild men.

     The Yankee shortstop's accomplishments are impressive. He owns five World Series rings, five Gold Gloves and is a 12 time All-Star. He earns more than $20 million a year. He's dating models and movie stars. He's got it all. You could hate him for it. But even diehard Yankee bashers admit it's hard not to like Jeter.

     A poll by PRnewswire ranks Jeter as America's most popular sports figure. It's easy to think, "So what?", but it's also easy to lose track of all our fallen sports heros. See if you can link the name with the alleged scandal:

Athlete                          Scandal
1) Roger Clemens            a) Murder Charges*
2) Kobe Bryant                b) Mr. Clean
3) Tiger Woods                c) Steroids**
4) OJ Simpson                  d) Rape Charges***
5) Derek Jerek                  e) Serial Infidelity

Answers: 1-c, 2-d, 3-e, 4-a, 5-b 
* Simpson was accused of murdering his wife but was acquitted. 
**Clemens is accused of lying to congressional investigators about steroid use.
*** Bryant was accused of raping a hotel worker but the charges were later dropped. Bryant admitted to adultery and reached a settlement in civil court.

     Jeter has maintained his reputation as Mr. Clean for years. Sure, his polished image is carefully cultivated. And it's paid off big. He's one of the most marketable sports names around and that translates into endorsements for Gatorade, Nike, Visa and many more.

     Jeter is careful to say the right things but more importantly he does the right things. Jeter established a foundation to steer kids away from drugs. Above all- Jeter appears to be humble and truly grateful for his good fortune.

     Want to be successful like Derek?

Don't trash talk. Take the high road. You'll look better.

Lead by example. Nobody out hustles Jeter. Bring your 'A' game.

Support your teammates. Everybody wants to be on a winning team. Be a team player so co-workers will want to help you succeed.

Avoid Scandal. Don't be the office gossip. Carry yourself with dignity. Don't do things you wouldn't want to see in the newspaper.

Don't talk down your competition. If they're so bad then why are you playing against them? And you look even worse if you lose.

     I can hear you thinking, "If I had Jeter's talent I'd make sure I had a great rep.- who wouldn't?" Ask Tiger Woods. Sure, Jeter is blessed with an embarassment of athletic riches. But I'm willing to bet he'd be successful in any profession. Here's a Jeter quote from the Baseball Almanac: 

"I want to be remembered as someone who had a lot of respect for the game, his teammates and opponents, and I want to be remembered as a winner. But most importantly I want to be remembered as a Yankee." - Derek Jeter

     How do you want to be remembered? As one of Jeter's sponsors might say, "Just Do It."

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Copyright 2011
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Saturday, July 9, 2011

VERIZON Customer Service Update #VerizonFail #EpicFail

    My Verizon odyssey gets more interesting by the day. As you may recall from an earlier post, my Verizon internet service has been about as reliable as Charlie Sheen’s psychologist.  In other words- not very reliable. To briefly recap: for the past six weeks my Verizon DSL has run on one of three speeds- slow, intermittent & not at all. In fact, I’ve been going days at a time with no e-mail, no web browsing, no Twitter, Facebook- no nuthin! I’ve gotten a lot of comments on my previous blog which was intended to highlight the perils of poor customer service.. 

LF writes:  “In this economy smart businesses are doing everything they can to keep their customers. Unlike Verizon…Apparently they either didn't get the "be nice to customers" memo or they think they are too big to care.”

TP writes: “While very nice and friendly, I have found that their customer service isn't always the best in the long run.”

  Here’s one from BB: “Verizon has been a disaster for eons. I've been their customer since 1994 and still cannot get Internet service on my phone (don't ask!)… As far as I can tell, they do everything they can to make things as difficult as possible for the customer.”

      Good to know that I’m not alone.  Needless to say, I was  pleasantly surprised when @VerizonSupport contacted me after seeing my story posted on Twitter. Score one for the Twitterverse.
@SteveBauerMedia We saw your blog and we'd like to help. Please follow us @VerizonSupport so we may DM. Thank you. ^adh

      I was asked to fill out a form outlining my beef. The result?  Nothing. A week passed without comment. To be fair, my internet service was working (for the most part) during that time. But two days ago my connection to the outside world went AWOL again. Yesterday, I sent a Tweet to @VerizonSupport to ask the whereabouts of my promised help. I actually got a phone call from a sympathetic man apologized for not following up. He said he’d send a technician to my house.
    Today,  the technician did not show up at the appointed hour. But he did call to explain there was nothing he could do. He told me there is a pervasive problem affecting thousands of Verizon customers near my home. It appears the problem involves computer equipment located far from this area. I got the distinct impression that Verizon is trying to fix the problem on the cheap- instead of investing the resources to do the job right. The technician gave me the name and phone number for his supervisor. I called and left a message for her. Barbie- I’m still waiting for the call  back

     Next up I called the PUC- the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission. They can’t help me. That led me to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office. I filed a report there and Verizon has 21-days to respond. Since I’m feeling pretty annoyed with Verizon I also called the FTC. That’s right, I'm making a federal case out of this! A gentleman at the FTC took a report. Sadly, the FTC will not intervene on behalf of us consumers. But my case is now in the files. Next stop- the FCC. They took my report and say Verizon is required to respond to my complaint within 45-days. Why stop there? Hello Better Business Bureau! I filed a report with the BBB and I’m waiting to hear back. I sure hope they call. There’s no telling how long I may have to wait for an e-mail. So that’s the latest on Verizon’s Customer Service. Remember, if you wish to address your concern in English, press one, en Espanol…

     Editor's note: I wrote this blog on Friday, July 8, 2011. I wasn't able to post until Saturday morning because of continuing internet service failures. Since this was written I have spoken several times with people at @VerizonSupport who assure me that equipment upgrades are in the works. I should note that the people there have been unfailingly polite. While I now have (at least for now) internet service- it continues to be extremely slow.

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Copyright 2011
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