Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

How to Change Your Life in 2012

“To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly.” That quote is attributed to William James, an American philosopher and psychologist working at the end of the 19th century.

What’s flamboyant to you may be barely noteworthy to someone else. When I started my first ad agency, the quote above helped give me the guts to quit my job and jump off that cliff into startup land. To me, it was the most exciting, audacious and bold adventure ever. To those around me, it probably just looked like a lot of work with no guarantee of a paycheck.

Do you want to change your life in 2012? It’s easy to procrastinate on a major life change, but there’s power in making that first move. If there’s a major decision you’ve been weighing or a flamboyant transformation you’ve considered, January 1 can be a useful catalyst.

Life is short. You’ve noticed how these new years come around quicker and quicker? If you want to change your life, get going.

Why the Evergreen Trees Never Lose Their Leaves

Winter was coming, and the birds had flown far to the south, where the air was warm and they could find berries to eat. One little bird had broken its wing and could not fly with the others. It was alone in the cold world of frost and snow. The forest looked warm, and it made its way to the trees as well as it could, to ask for help.

First it came to a birch tree. “Beautiful birch tree,” it said, “my wing is broken, and my friends have flown away. May I live among your branches till they come back to me?”

“No, indeed,” answered the birch tree, drawing her fair green leaves away. “We of the great forest have our own birds to help. I can do nothing for you.”

“The birch is not very strong,” said the little bird to itself, “and it might be that she could not hold me easily. I will ask the oak.” So the bird said: “Great oak tree, you are so strong, will you not let me live on your boughs till my friends come back in the springtime?”

“In the springtime!” cried the oak. “That is a long way off. How do I know what you might do in all that time? Birds are always looking for something to eat, and you might even eat up some of my acorns.”

“It may be that the willow will be kind to me,” thought the bird, and it said: “Gentle willow, my wing is broken, and I could not fly to the south with the other birds. May I live on your branches till the springtime?”

The willow did not look gentle then, for she drew herself up proudly and said: “Indeed, I do not know you, and we willows never talk to people whom we do not know. Very likely there are trees somewhere that will take in strange birds. Leave me at once.”

The poor little bird did not know what to do. Its wing was not yet strong, but it began to fly away as well as it could. Before it had gone far a voice was heard. “Little bird,” it said, “where are you going?”

“Indeed, I do not know,” answered the bird sadly. “I am very cold.”

“Come right here, then,” said the friendly spruce tree, for it was her voice that had called.

“You shall live on my warmest branch all winter if you choose.”

“Will you really let me?” asked the little bird eagerly.

“Indeed, I will,” answered the kind-hearted spruce tree. “If your friends have flown away, it is time for the trees to help you. Here is the branch where my leaves are thickest and softest.”

“My branches are not very thick,” said the friendly pine tree, “but I am big and strong, and I can keep the North Wind from you and the spruce.”

“I can help, too,” said a little juniper tree. “I can give you berries all winter long, and every bird knows that juniper berries are good.”

So the spruce gave the lonely little bird a home; the pine kept the cold North Wind away from it; and the juniper gave it berries to eat. The other trees looked on and talked together wisely.

“I would not have strange birds on my boughs,” said the birch.

“I shall not give my acorns away for any one,” said the oak.

“I never have anything to do with strangers,” said the willow, and the three trees drew their leaves closely about them.

In the morning all those shining, green leaves lay on the ground, for a cold North Wind had come in the night, and every leaf that it touched fell from the tree.

“May I touch every leaf in the forest?” asked the wind in its frolic.

“No,” said the Frost King. “The trees that have been kind to the little bird with the broken wing may keep their leaves.”

This is why the leaves of the spruce, the pine, and the juniper are always green.

Auld Lang Syne Lyrics

Sung at the Roosevelt Hotel on Janurary 1, 1929, Canadian band leader Guy Lombardo started the famous New Year’s Eve tradition of Auld Lang Syne. Guy Lombardo’s orchestra played the song every New Years Eve, in live broadcast from New York, until 1976.  Ever since then, their recording has been played each year as part of the Times Square “ball drop”.

Lyrics:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes
And pou’d the gowans fine.
We’ve wandered mony a weary foot,
Sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae sported i’ the burn,
From morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin’ auld lang syne.

And ther’s a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine;
We’ll tak’ a right good willie-waught,,
For auld lang syne.

-Robert Burns

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Take Joy! – Fra Giovanni’s “Letter to a Friend”

“There is nothing I can give you that you have not got.

But there is much, very much, that while I cannot give it, you can take.

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instance. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy!”

– Excerpt from Fra Giovanni’s “Letter to a Friend,” written in 1514

 

The Twelve Days of Christmas Lyrics

There is some debate on when the first day of the twelve days of Christmas takes place, is it December 25 or 26th?  Either way, enjoy the holiday after the holiday and the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas.

On the first day of Christmas, 
my true love sent to me 
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas, 
my true love sent to me 
Two turtle doves, 
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas, 
my true love sent to me 
Three French hens, 
Two turtle doves, 
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas, 
my true love sent to me 
Four calling birds, 
Three French hens, 
Two turtledoves, 
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas, 
my true love sent to me 
Five golden rings, 
Four calling birds, 
Three French hens, 
Two turtle doves, 
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas, 
my true love sent to me 
Six geese a-laying, 
Five golden rings, 
Four calling birds, 
Three French hens, 
Two turtle doves, 
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas, 
my true love sent to me 
Seven swans a-swimming, 
Six geese a-laying, 
Five golden rings, 
Four calling birds, 
Three French hens, 
Two turtle doves, 
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas, 
my true love sent to me 
Eight maids a-milking, 
Seven swans a-swimming, 
Six geese a-laying, 
Five golden rings, 
Four calling birds, 
Three French hens, 
Two turtle doves, 
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas, 
my true love sent to me 
Nine ladies dancing, 
Eight maids a-milking, 
Seven swans a-swimming, 
Six geese a-laying, 
Five golden rings, 
Four calling birds, 
Three French hens, 
Two turtle doves, 
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas, 
my true love sent to me 
Ten lords a-leaping, 
Nine ladies dancing, 
Eight maids a-milking, 
Seven swans a-swimming, 
Six geese a-laying, 
Five golden rings, 
Four calling birds, 
Three French hens, 
Two turtle doves, 
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, 
my true love sent to me 
Eleven pipers piping, 
Ten lords a-leaping, 
Nine ladies dancing, 
Eight maids a-milking, 
Seven swans a-swimming, 
Six geese a-laying, 
Five golden rings, 
Four calling birds, 
Three French hens, 
Two turtle doves, 
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, 
my true love sent to me 
Twelve drummers drumming, 
Eleven pipers piping, 
Ten lords a-leaping, 
Nine ladies dancing, 
Eight maids a-milking, 
Seven swans a-swimming, 
Six geese a-laying, 
Five golden rings, 
Four calling birds, 
Three French hens, 
Two turtle doves, 
And a partridge in a pear tree!

The Gift of the Magi

This time of year it is easy to get wrapped up in the Christmas bustle and forget about the true meaning of Christmas. When I start focusing too much on buying gifts or scheduling elaborate holiday meals, I turn to one of my most favorite stories, The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. My mom would read this to my sister and me when we were growing up and it never fails to remind me to stop and think about what the spirit of the season is about.

The entire story can be summed up in one word – love. It is a story of unselfish love between a young couple. The story reveals what the poor couple gives up for one another during Christmas, which affirms that love is greater than any possession. In fact, the three Magi (wisemen) began the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas when they brought presents to Jesus in Bethlehem upon his birth. Thus, we celebrate Jesus’ birthday every year with the exchange of gifts between loved ones.

The story is a great reminder to everyone of the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not about gifts or finding the perfect tree. It’s about sharing the time with your loved ones and making sure they know just how you feel.

Wishing you all and your families a happy holiday season.

 

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.


There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”

The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling–something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pierglass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: “Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the “Sofronie.”

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation–as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value–the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends–a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do–oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?”

At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: “Please God, make him think I am still pretty.”

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two–and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

“Jim, darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again–you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!’ Jim, and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice– what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.”

“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

“Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?”

Jim looked about the room curiously.

“You say your hair is gone?” he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you–sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with sudden serious sweetness, “but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?”

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year–what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs–the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims–just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”

And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

“Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.”

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

“Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.


Christmas Time is Here: A Charlie Brown Christmas

It’s that annual Christmas tradition that many of us enjoy every year. The watching of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” For me, the show is more than a chance to simply watch an entertaining Christmas special; it’s an opportunity to go back to the excitement of the days leading up to my family’s big Christmas party. Family, friends and presents. What more could a kid need?

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is good, but without the music, it would definitely be missing something. We all know the trademark song by the Vince Guaraldi Trio and I’m sure I’m not the only person that when they hear it, they’re reminded of childhood. For those of you like me that have heard the song for years and years but never quite sure of the lyrics, here they are for your enjoyment.

“Christmas Time is Here” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
We’ll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year…

Make Your Entire Workforce Your Sales Force

Do you want to grow your business? There really isn’t a company or leader that doesn’t want to grow their business.  An easy way to grow is to have your entire workforce be your sales force.  Here are a few quick ways to turn employees into brand ambassadors and gradually into a huge sales team.

Spend time and resources providing employees education and direction.  Employees need to feel confident in the product or service you offer before they will be comfortable selling it.  Confidence stems from completely understanding the company’s capabilities and knowing what is expected of them as part of your sales team.  Allocate  resources to make sure your employees understand the benefits of what you sell as well as how you want them to sell.  Are they casually bringing up the product or service in social settings or would you like them to make a few cold calls each month?  You need to provide them direction and outline pre-determined goals. 

Don’t just dangle carrots, give them freely! Most people don’t have a ton of extra time at the end of their day.  If you want employees to go above and beyond and help grow the business, develop programs that not only give them motivation but reward their effort and accomplishments. This doesn’t have to be a budget buster but money you spend in this area will be well worth it in the long run.  Some ideas include simple internal contest with prizes and recognition for the most contacts or calls made in a period of time – or recognize the person who develops the most comprehensive plan.  The mechanism or contest itself is not nearly as important as providing consistent recognition and reward for effort.

Provide on-going support.  As we all know, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Changing your workforce into a sales force will take time.  To ensure your employees stay motivated, provide on-going support and update your recognition programs and education materials.  Most importantly, take time to listen and groom your team.  This will be a new challenge for them and they will need your support as they are expanding their skills.

It’s Okay to Feed Your Employees

This is one of my favorite times of year for a lot of reasons, but the big one is because people send us food. The items we received this year include: candy, cookies, brownies, and pickles (they were delicious).  Everyone loves food, your employees included.

Fight the food fear. A lot of companies don’t want to give out food during an event. They’re afraid it will become less about the new brand or website and more about the cupcakes. The employees might be talking about the cupcakes later, but they will also be talking about the new brand or website. They’ll be talking about it because they came to the event.

It’s the bait on the end of the line. Face it, your employees are busy, which is a good thing. Sometimes in order to get them to an event you need to incentivize it. By offering a tasty treat you’re doing just that. The hard part is taken care of. You got them through the door and now you can deliver all the exciting info. Most likely they will be happy to be there too. This makes them much more receptive to new info.

If you run out, run. The only draw back to using food is running out. Make sure you plan accordingly and deliver on your promise. The worst thing you can do is run out. Then the employees have a negative association to whatever it is you were launching. You’re better off having too much food and you can always donate it to a local food bank or shelter.