My Thoughts by Rick Stephens

I must be Insane!

Posted in Personal Growth,Satire by Rick on the October 13th, 2010


Einstein was right – I am insane

Trying to learn Spanish – again

1st attempt: 3 years in Panama + 2 years Junior High
What I learned: uno, dos, tres . . .

2nd attempt: 2 years high school
What I learned: Hola, como esta usted

3rd attempt: Retail CD courses (3 of them)
What I learned: Buenos Dias, Como se llama

4th attempt: Berlitz class
What I learned: Eschuchar y repetir

5th attempt: 1 year in home Personal tutor
What I learned: Esto es muy cara

Ongoing effort: 35+ years living in Texas + 4 trips to Mexico
What I have learned: Donde esta el bano

Latest attempt: Rosetta Stone
What I have learned so far: Debo estar loco

To Your Success,


What Did You Say?

Posted in Communications,Continual Improvement,Personal Growth by Rick on the March 14th, 2007

Diana RossI was watching American Idol last night (I know dog, it sounded a little pitchy to me too) and one of Motown’s greatest performers, Diana Ross, was coaching the contestants on their performances. I admire and respect Diana Ross for what she has accomplished, both as a performer and as a person, so I was surprised to hear her explain to one of the contestants that she needed to be careful and “pronunciate” her words correctly while singing. I looked to my wife and said, “Did she just say ‘Pronunciate’?” I thought Ms Ross had inappropriately combined Pronounce and Enunciate to create a non-existent word “Pronunciate.” To my surprise there is a word “Pronunciate.” Though rarely used in our language, it means exactly what Ms Ross meant for it to mean and was used correctly.

Hearing Diana Ross use a strange word caused me to think about the importance of good communication skills in business. I believe that how we communicate to our customers and clients can directly influence our success or failure in business. When consumers hear slang or improperly structured sentences, they may subconsciously discount our credibility as a business owner and make their purchase elsewhere. Structuring sentences and using words correctly can be very influential in this area and it should not be taken for granted.

I am not an English teacher, nor do I want to pretend that I never make mistakes in grammar or word usage, but there are a few very common things that everyone should avoid.

One of the words I have heard many times from otherwise educated people is “Irregardless.” Hearing this said, for me, is like scraping finger nails across a blackboard. The proper word is always, “regardless.”

Another common mistake is the usage of the pronouns I and Me. Many people think that using the word “Me” is inappropriate, when in fact, it is the only proper grammatical word for the sentence. Example: “It is important for you and I to speak correctly” is an incorrect usage of the pronoun “I.” In this case “Me” is the proper word. Another example: “It is important that you and I speak proper English” is the correct usage of the pronoun “I.”

There is an easy way to determine which pronoun to use. Take the other person out of the sentence and see how the pronoun sounds. In the first example the sentence would be, “It is important for I to speak correctly.” You can see that “I” does not work here and is therefore improper in this example. In the second example the sentence would read, “It is important that I speak proper English.” The use of “I” works fine in this sentence and the pronoun “Me” would sound awkward. Therefore, in this example “I” is being used correctly.

It can be difficult to use the English language correctly, simply because it is very complex and at times illogical. The culture we grew up in can also influence how we speak, and if English is not your native tongue, it can be an almost impossible task learning to speak it properly. For those who have learned English as a second language, I admire you and I can appreciate the challenge you must have, and are facing, to grasp its nuances. For those who speak English as a native tongue, it is even more important that it is spoken correctly. Do not accept that your childhood environment or lack of education excuses you from this vital skill. Learn to speak the language correctly and you will impress more often than not. People do notice what you say and how you say it.

An employee of mine was explaining to me one day why the Hispanic cleaning crew in our building failed to follow some cleaning instructions we had left for them the night before. He explained, “They just don’t speak no good English.” “I guess not” I said, and went about preparing his performance review.

To Your Success –
Rick's Signature

Reflections on Time

Posted in Personal Growth by Rick on the January 4th, 2007

Children DreamingHappy New Year everyone. I hope that you had a restful holiday season and have prepared yourself for a productive and prosperous new year.

I apologize for the unusual delay since my last post, but I was also enjoying the holidays, reflecting on the year gone by, and planning for the coming year.

As I was relaxing on the beach in Curacao, (Yes, I was gone for awhile on vacation) I began to think about my goals and objectives for the coming year. As I did so, I began to reflect on the concept of time and how uncontrollable it is. Each year, many of us make New Year resolutions, some that are realistic and some not so realistic, but often those resolutions quickly become lost as life, work, and obligations begin to consume our days.

I don’t want to lecture you on the traditional topic about keeping your resolutions and annual goal setting. I think most of you reading this have had enough of that type of discussion and will either do it or not. But there is one thing I do want to mention with regard to time and how it impacts us all.

We cannot control the passing of time. It will happen regardless of anything we do. I know that seems pretty obvious, but what is very sad is how most of us will develop a dream and slowly watch the years pass by without ever seeing it fulfilled. We should recognize how essential it is to take the first step toward that dream no matter what the circumstances may be in our life. If you don’t, time will take you hostage, and you will someday reflect on the past and say those familiar words, “If I had only…”

Consider the following example to illustrate my point. I have an elderly friend whom I have known my entire life. This lady is very active in her church. During the last 30 plus years, she has become a recognized Lay minister/leader in her home church as well as the community in which she lives. About 15 years ago, we were discussing life’s events and she mentioned to me that if she could do it all over again she would go to Seminary and become an Ordained Minister. I suggested that she do it now. Her response was very typical, “Oh, I can’t do that now, I’m too old.” At the time she was 60 years of age. She could have gone to school for 6 years, obtained her degree, and today she could have been living her dream for 10 years, with many more to come. Instead, she is still doing what she was doing 15 years ago, and continuing to reflect on, “If I had only…”

My friend is not unhappy with her achievements, and in fact, can be very proud of who she is and what she has given to her community. The difference is the dream.

She could have made her dream come true if she had not let her circumstance convince her that it was too late. Time will continue to pass no matter what you do. Don’t let it take you hostage. Resolve to take that first step to achieving your dream, then look back and say,”I’m glad I did that.”

To Your Success,

Rick's Signature

Learning to Learn

Posted in Personal Growth by Rick on the September 15th, 2006

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to listen in on a “Cyber Call”, an informational conference call on the topic of Blogging and Pod Casting. At first the topic did not roll my socks up and down, as I had always associated Blogging and Pod Casting as something young people did when they wanted to download MP3 music or gossip with their friends.

What an eye opening experience that call was. Since then I have had the chance to look at some very good Blogging sites and hear some interesting pod casts, all of which were not even close to my stereo typed vision of what I had previously expected. As you can see, I have joined the ranks of Blogging only a few days later, and have a vision for Pod Casting in the near future.

I want to give credit to my new friend and colleague, Barry Lynch of the Rotten Pickle, for pushing me out of my box and bringing me to the realization that one never becomes too old to learn and experience something new.

I have over 35 years of business experience, and as a consultant, I sometimes forget that I don’t know everything!! What a valuable lesson that is for us all to understand. As Barry put it, while I was speaking 1 on 1 with him last night, “Every now and then you have to step out of the box, but most people don’t even know they are in a box!”

Thanks Barry, I look forward to working with you and exchanging ideas on business.

Checkout Barry’s Web Site, Blogging Site, and Pod Casting Site. Let him know you found him at my site, he will appreciate it.

To Your Success –

Rick's Signature