Friday, October 30, 2009

Good Does Not Equal Memorable

Hey Ya’ll, it’s the ARM Dude here! I have a confession to make today regarding a guilty pleasure of mine. As a man in my late 40’s I have tried to keep this a secret for several years now. The shame that my family and I might encounter if anyone finds out has weighed on me considerably. Numerous people in the business of helping people improve their personal and professional lives have written articles or books that reinforce this shame each time I read their materials. A recent article I read talked about the importance of facing one’s fears head on so that you can get them behind you in order to replace them with positive thoughts. I am taking that advice to heart by writing this blog today. Whoa, this is difficult to say but I am trusting that ya’ll will be there to support me through this difficult admission. OK, here I go, “I am a fan of the American Idol Show”.

I didn’t mean for it to happen. I don’t even remember for sure how it happened. I believe it occurred during the tryouts for the initial season of the show. I walked past the TV and saw numerous people auditioning. The majority of those trying out were terrible. So terrible in fact that they made me feel good about my singing abilities. You should know that I am an awful singer. I used to sing every now and then when no one was around to hear. That stopped after having surgery to repair a bum ear. The surgery improved my hearing enough that I could hear just how bad I really am at it. Lip syncing couldn’t make me sound good. Now I “think sing”. This means I silently sing in my head. I am proud to say that I am an awesome “think singer”. OK, enough about my lack of singing abilities, back to my confession.

That initial introduction to American Idol hooked me. Simon Cowell’s harsh and somewhat illustrative critiques kept me watching because I was completely shocked by his brutally honest remarks. In my neck of the woods we were taught that if you didn’t have anything nice to say then say something nice. People from my area understand they still have some improvements to make when they hear you say “That’s nice.” We have learned to get our message across without ripping out the heart of another and shredding all hint of self confidence that they may possess. Needless to say, Simon isn’t from my neck of the woods.

I kept struggling with this secret of mine throughout the show's first season. I kept hearing the voices telling me that I was wasting my time watching tv when I should be preparing myself for the next discussion or presentation with each of my prospects. I kept trying to justify why the time spent watching was beneficial to me.

The justification that I was searching for finally came to me after I had watched numerous seasons. I found that I became less entertained by the audition train wrecks or Simon’s nasty nature. Now I was hooked because it gave me an opportunity to watch individuals react to the extreme pressures that this competition presents. Each week, would present an opportunity to watch how some of the contestants could harness the constructive criticism received the previous week so that they may get better the following week. It is cool to see their individual progress week over week. Other contestants might take a more defiant approach to the criticism received. Invariably, the defiant approach mostly resulted in a regression for that contestant that would lead to their elimination from the show.

I believe the most important lesson I have learned is when a contestant would come out and sing a nice rendition of a song. The judges would respond that they sang it well but it was not something that they would remember. Generally the supporting reason for saying that they would not remember the performance is tied to a couple of thoughts. The contestants were either playing it safe or picked a song that did not allow them to fully demonstrate their talents. The contestant might have avoided harsh criticism but they weren’t doing enough to win.

I have to admit that I am beginning to feel at peace with my decision to get this secret off my chest today. I feel like a great burden has been lifted. Now I can’t wait to speak to my next prospect. I will not play it safe or short change the abilities of my company and the products we market. I encourage everyone to differentiate yourselves from your competition by being memorable. I say this because I am the ARM Dude ya’ll and I want my company and I to be remembered.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Barbie without Arms is not Broken.

Hey Ya’ll, It’s the ARM Dude here. How many of you have ever seen a toy Barbie that is missing both of its arms? This is not something that you would give much thought to but I am sure that most of you have seen this at some time. I’d bet some of you might have been the culprit that removed the arms. It was a toy with moving parts so unless you were a collector you could expect that these parts would eventually snap out of their socket. Barbie’s arms would snap off at the shoulder. This blog is about a living Barbie that had that very thing happen to her.

I began working part time in the Portrait Center at the local Sears store during my senior year in high school. I would spend a few hours each day asking little kids to look at me and say “Fuzzy Pickles” or “Chocolate Spaghetti” in order to get them to smile. Some kids were more difficult to get to smile then others. Either way I would generally end up getting some great shots that would make their family happy.

This was my first job working directly with the consumer. The photography part of the job was a snap. The interaction with the customer was where all of the lessons were learned. I had the opportunity to deal with all types ranging from pleasant to down right mean. This helped me to learn how to address situations without feeding off of the emotions that might be pointed my way. I also learned to expect the unexpected at this job. More importantly, I learned that it was important to maintain my composure and react in a professional manner when the unexpected did occur. This included everything from women beginning to disrobe while asking me to take risqué shots of them to nursing mothers that wanted to talk to me while they nursed their child without a hint of modesty or a cover up. Remember that I am a seventeen year old boy at this time so maintaining composure in these situations was challenging. None of these lessons prepared me for the day I met Barbie.

I met Barbie when her mother brought her in so that I could take her picture. She was about 3 ½ years old and was wearing a pretty little dress with long sleeves. I used to pick the kids up by their arm pits in order to place them on the posing table where they would sit while I took their picture. I did this same thing when I went to place her on the table. Words can not describe my embarrassment when this effort resulted in me lifting two empty dress sleeves into the air while her feet remained firmly on the ground. I immediately realized that this was the little girl that I had read about many times in the newspaper. She had been electrocuted while climbing on an electrical transformer located at the apartments that her family had just moved into after relocating from New York. Her mother helped me overcome my embarrassment while I was trying to calm her daughter’s fear of having her picture snapped. Barbie was very shy and somewhat scared of men due to all of the unpleasant hospital experiences. Fortunately, I had a baby face and long hair which helped her relax long enough for me to get some good shots of her.

I transferred to a new store location after I graduated. The mother tracked me down so I could take pictures of her daughter a couple of more times based on the connection made during our first encounter. I lost touch with them when I left the photography business.

Fast forward to 2008, my wife and I are flipping through the tv channels when we come across the Discovery channel. There on the screen we see a young lady without arms sitting on a bathroom counter while applying makeup with her feet and toes. We watch as she cooks a meal and then we see her get in her truck and drive using her feet. I began wondering what became of that little girl I took pictures of so many years ago. I got my answer a few minutes later as the show described how she lost her arms. It is Barbie. She has grown up to be a mother and an athlete that has made a name for her self in the fitness competition world. Her website is

So why is the ARM Dude writing about a young lady without arms? Because I feel her story is an uplifting one. It is also because this was a lesson that took almost 30 years for me to comprehend. The mother, that had so graciously put me at ease when I was holding empty dress sleeves, had not accepted the doctors’ initial prognosis that her daughter would not survive the trauma caused by the accident. At best, they told her, her daughter would be in a vegetative state for the rest of her life. Barbie and her mother’s motto became “Can’t is not an Option”. It is simple motto that involved heavy doses of tough love from her family. This approach to life has delivered extraordinary results.

I don’t know about ya’ll, but the next time I hear that something is impossible I am going to think about Barbie and her motto.