Looking forward with a new resolve

Happy New Year! It’s that time again; time when our thoughts turn to reflecting on this past year and preparing for 2017. Where did the time go? What did we accomplish? What’s still on the “to-do” list? What’s the plan? It’s the time of year for resolutions.

About 45 percent of us will make at least one resolution for the new year; that firm decision to do or not do something; a decision that equates to change. We resolve to get healthier, be happier, exercise more, earn more money, be a nicer person – and the list goes on. Six months into the year, about half of that 45 percent will be successful. Why? Maybe expectations are too high, maybe they aren’t really the “right” resolutions, maybe we just give up too easily.

That “giving up too easily” part is what I plan to work on this year. Instead of resolutions, I’m starting the year with a new resolve – a firmness of purpose or intent; determination. Seems to me that’s a good approach no matter what business you are in, what stage of life you are at; no matter your circumstances. Easy to do? Absolutely not! In a world where we are told no more than we are told yes, maintaining a firm resolve is a tough task. Obstacles pop up at random to derail our quest. It’s too hard, it costs too much, there’s no time, it’s scary. Yet, I’ve always been told that if you want something bad enough, if it’s truly a dream, you will do what is needed
to achieve it.

When working in teams or groups to generate ideas or find solutions to challenges, I’ve always used the “don’t tell me what we can’t do; tell me what we can do” approach. This year, I resolve to practice what I preach.

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Posted by MJ Thomas

The Spirit of Christmas Present

Christmas Day 2016 is almost here and while many may have “visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads,” I am a bit more reflective thinking about the Christmas Spirit and just what it all means.

Christmas spirit, I’m sure, means something different to everyone. For me, this quote from Santa himself sums it up; “Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.”

It’s not about gifts or material things; you can’t buy it. And no one can give it to you. It comes from within. It’s about giving of yourself – your time and your talents. It’s about patience and tolerance and the willingness to see the good in people. It’s about caring and compassion and goodwill toward our neighbors. It’s about friends and family and loved ones near and far. It’s about being in the moment and being thankful. It’s about “getting it” – knowing that if there were no gifts, no decorations, no lights – the true spirit of Christmas would still shine.  What a wonderful world it could be.

Wishing you happiness, health, peace and prosperity in the true spirit of Christmas now and always.

Posted by MJ Thomas

It’s a week before Christmas and all through the house…

You finish the sentence. After all it’s different for everyone. Some people handle the holidays with total calm; systematically checking things off their to-do-lists – tree decorated, check; cookies baked, check; cards mailed, check; presents bought and wrapped, check. No muss, no fuss. Then there’s the “other” group who seem to need a fast-approaching deadline and a firecracker under their chair to get the adrenaline flowing and get in gear. That would be me. It’s not that I don’t like the holidays: I LOVE Christmas! It’s my favorite time of year. The music, the movies, the colors, the sights and sounds, the family time – I love all of it! I’m also still old-fashioned enough to believe that the official start of the season is the day after Thanksgiving. There are certain things I can expect with this decision. By now crowds, long lines, limited supplies, no parking and too few checkout lanes should be a given. Shoppers, including me, start to exhibit behavior that is a cross between panic, anger and “what the heck was I thinking”.

My decision to procrastinate does not give me license to be mean, rude, pushy or just downright annoying. I get it. I accept it. What I won’t accept are the people who believe the holiday shopping experience revolves around them. They’re the ones who push and shove; are rude and crabby; and totally suck the holiday spirit out of everyone around them.

Get over yourself. What did you expect this time of year? I’m a little fired up because it happened to me at lunch. I’m walking up to the counter to pay for my purchase when I get literally overtaken by a woman who cuts me off at the pass like I’m not even there. She then proceeds to monopolize the salesperson while the minutes left on my lunch break tick away. No excuse me, no I’m sorry, no nothing. Tidings of comfort and joy. Let’s keep it in perspective – you’re buying “stuff” and “stuff" isn’t what the season is truly about.

To paraphrase some words of wisdom from Bill Murray’s character Frank Cross in the holiday classic Scrooged, “…it should be the one time of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a short time out of the whole year, we are the people we always hoped we would be!”

At least, that’s the way it should be. Just saying.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Snow and sleet and ice, oh my!

Let me see a show of hands. Who reading this blog thinks that winter driving is the same as driving at other times of the year? There better NOT be any hands up out there. Winter driving carries with it a unique set of challenges. Makes sense, right? And yet how many how many of us have experienced the nail biter, demolition derby, knuckles clenched on the steering wheel daily commute because some people don’t think the rules apply to them? We’ve all been there.

Since at Sentry we’re in the business of safety and northeast Ohio had its first major snowfall this week, just thought some observations and winter driving tips were a timely topic.

Consider this – an ordinary driver reacts to road situations while a good driver anticipates them. According to Car and Driver magazine winter driving doesn’t have to be as hard as people think; it just takes a little more concentration and awareness. If you’re a visual person like I am, these additional tips from the magazine really drive home the point.

“Drive like you’re tiptoeing on ice, because you might be. Use small, slow motions. Ease on the brakes, drive like there’s an egg under the accelerator, and if you start to skid, steer in the direction you want to go and keep steady, light pressure on the gas. If you’re skidding sideways, the brake is not the pedal to press. It will just make things worse.”

Be prepared for delays on the highway; give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Make sure your vehicle is prepared – windshield wipers work, a gas tank that’s at least half full, make sure your tires are properly inflated and have sufficient tread, make sure all your windows are clear for maximum visibility (not like the people who scrape out a small circle on the driver’s side windshield and head out onto the highway). Don’t brake at the last minute. It takes longer to slow down on wet and snow-covered roads that it does on dry pavement.

By no means is this a complete list of tips for safe winter driving. It’s just a snapshot. Most of all, please use common sense. It’s not only your safety at risk, it’s the safety of others around you.

Be safe.

Posted by MJ Thomas

The power of Plan B

It’s officially the holiday shopping season. Yay, yippee, yahoo. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Scrooge. I love being able to get the perfect gift for everyone on my list and have no problem exhausting all possibilities to get it. Unfortunately, my holiday spirit and “great ideas” for gifts collide with each other at the last minute. Then it’s off to the races; just full-out frenzy. Ho-ho-ho.
Let me interject here that a dear friend and co-worker has already completed her shopping and everything is wrapped and ready to go. Really? Who does that? Maybe I’m a little envious.
But I digress. So instead of really being able to enjoy the experience; take my time; map out my stops, maybe sip on some hot chocolate and listen to the carolers singing, I will be endlessly circling the parking lot for a space, dodging the pushes and shoves of the madding crowd, trying not to trip over product displays strategically placed in the middle of the aisle, waiting in long lines with others of the same last minute ilk and most likely running from store to store because what I finally decided would be the perfect gift for my nieces has been sold out for three weeks. It’s not that I didn’t start out with a plan, it’s that the plan (under the circumstances) may not work. Time for Plan B.
Plan B is basically “a set of actions for doing or achieving something that you can use when your original plan fails.” It’s a way of re-focusing, changing your approach, being prepared for the unexpected and never giving up. Having a Plan B could make the difference between success and failure; both in business situations and in your personal life. It’s being prepared, not missing a beat and keeping things moving in the right direction. It’s being able to adapt when you’re thrown a curve, not panicking in the face of adversity and controlling your own destiny. It’s about giving you confidence in knowing that all your bases are covered. Sometimes you may even need Plan C, D and E!
In my holiday shopping scenario, my Plan B just might be online shopping. But then, what fun would that be? Just kidding.

Posted by MJ Thomas