December  2005

Volume XI Number 4

Be Happy -- and Smile!


My friend Joe is one of the most positive and life-affirming people I’ve ever met.  I recently told him that a colleague had asked me if I was happy in my new role, working on my own and for The Five O’Clock Club.  Joe said, “Well, there is happy,” holding his thumb and index fingers about one inch apart, “and there is HAPPY,” extending both arms as far apart as he could.


As someone who struggles to measure “happy” with clients on a daily basis, I was taken aback by my own reaction of tentativeness and caution when entering a new situation.  Yet, if others identify this, I quickly turn it aside. 


For example, Ed, my dentist of over thirty years, commented, in response to my detailing some on-going health concerns, “You’re just getting older.”  I smiled, and reminded him he was eleven years older than I, saying that I wasn’t complaining, but rather informing him as my health-care provider.


So, I’m struggling with that size-of-“happy” thing, and I’d encourage you, my readers, to think of what impacts your “happy” rating.  I’ve been paying attention to smiles -- my own and others.  Do you ever think about the things which cause you to smile?


I recently saw a young man the day after he was released from two week’s psychiatric hospitalization following some suicidal ideation.  He told me how happy he was that friends had helped him get treatment and how great it was to smell the falling leaves, to taste his grandmother’s cooking, and even to ride the Staten Island ferry.     


Perhaps the paradox of life is the commingling of happy and sad.  As I write this on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I can hear my neighbor, Zack, raking leaves with his ten-year-old grandson.  Zack is a natural with kids --- both of mine still go see him when they are home, and Sean is clearly happy to spend time with him. But I cannot help but think that Sean’s Dad would have been there, too, had he not perished on 9/11.


I smile when I think of Skye, my administrator's West Highland Terrier, who enjoys visiting me. He has decided that he likes to go with me to the compactor.  When I pick up the trash, he jumps up to go, too. Though I'm a life-long cat fancier, Skye's happiness (if dogs can be happy) makes me smile.


So, smiling and happiness can come from very serious things, from chance observations of others, and from silly dogs like Skye.  Kate Wendleton, in The Five O’Clock Club books, says it’s important for job seekers to have three episodes of fun a week. I would encourage you to, as the John Denver song says, try to identify with what makes you happy, and to feel that happiness -- big or small -- and smile.


In that spirit, I wish you all a good holiday season and a better 2006!  


Snail Mail vs. E-mail?


If you are receiving this by postal mail and are willing to change to e-mail, please let me know at

Consulting – Wading in Dangerous Waters


In the past few months, I have seen -- personally and at The Five O’Clock Club -- a number of individuals from the consulting industry.  Ranging in age from 25 to 55, with a wide diversity of focus and experience, they represent, collectively, a real danger sign for job seekers.


When I was an internal consultant, and then later at a large international firm, the most exciting part of the job was the interplay with smart creative people, both clients and colleagues.  Problems needed to be solved, change needed to happen -- oh, those were the “glory days.”


My clients, both those still employed as consultants and not, tell stories of “virtual” teams, direct supervisors unmet, mentors unassigned, abusive degrading treatment, and interest in only the constant expansion of billings per engagement.  The firms regularly  accept attrition rates of 40% or more annually, because there is apparently a never-ending supply of people expecting to learn good stuff and either make highly lucrative partner status or land a great job at a client.


Of the five clients who come to mind, all are or were with major firms with billings in the hundreds of million.  It seems a classic case of the “shoemaker’s children,” and for those targeting these industries, it is an area to watch out for, at the least. 




Books I’d Recommend


Team of Rivals:  The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2005, $35.00.


The Republican primary campaign of 1860 was, by any standard, an emotionally-charged, hard-fought struggle, pitting New York Senator Seward, Ohio Governor Chase, and Missouri elder statesman Bates against an Illinoisan who had lost a Senate race two years before. 


Goodwin tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s nomination and election and then of his studied cultivation of these three rivals, which led to each becoming a Cabinet member. Lincoln, Goodwin tells us, was able to enlist these “strong egos” because “the qualities we generally associate with decency and morality   -- kindness, sensitivity, compassion, honesty and empathy -- can also be impressive political resources.”


She documents the discussion in the Cabinet. For example, leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation, “The division within the Cabinet was manifest,” yet Lincoln allowed much disagreement, even confronting five Republican senators, who were demanding the immediate resignation of Secretary of State Seward.  While Lincoln met with the Senators, he “brought the Cabinet to rally around one of their own.”


Goodwin, who won the Pulitzer Prize for No Ordinary Time, only to be criticized for poor attribution, goes over the sources with great care in over 100 pages -- with the result that reviewers have not picked any nits. 


With a character as frequently profiled as Lincoln, Goodwin’s ability to weave a complex story without sensationalizing it is impressive.  This is a Lincoln described by a woman who had personal contact with the Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Johnsons, all subjects of her earlier books.  One senses that she has carried that relationship focus to Abraham Lincoln.


If you, or someone you know, is a follower of American Presidential history, this is a great read, and one that will certainly bring to mind more current White House occupants.