Student Vision Board Project


The future of our world is in good hands.

I recently had my two sections of freshmen business students create vision boards, and then had each student take about five minutes and present his or her vision board to the class.

The whole process takes three days of class time, but it is well worth it.

The project serves many purposes from my perspective.

First, and perhaps most importantly, it forces the students to think about their futures, perhaps more than they have ever done before.

Second, it’s a chance for the students to work on their creativity. Finding just the right image or just the right quote to express some future goal takes some time and effort. Once they have all of the raw material, then the next step is to put it all together into a vision board. I give the students the option of creating a vision board the classic way, using poster board and magazine photos, or using PowerPoint. This semester, most students chose PowerPoint; the ones who did not used Prezi, a similar presentation type tool. I think in college that’s an easier approach, since they do not have access to magazines laying around from which they can cut pictures.

My guess is that this use of PowerPoint is very different from what they are used to, since it is so image heavy, with little to few words. It gives them the opportunity to realize that sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

A third purpose is to give the students the opportunity to practice their public speaking. I tell them that since they are presenting on a topic that they know so well (themselves), they can concentrate their efforts on the nuances of the presentation itself. I then try to provide useful feedback on issues such as voice projection, eye contact, enthusiasm level, body language, etc. I also have all the presentations recorded and posted online and then encourage the students to go back and watch themselves. I tell them that while they will likely be the harshest judge of their own presentation, they should look at their presentation as objectively as possible and look for things they thought they did well and things they would like to work on.  (I record all of my classes so that students can go back and review a class as needed. I also tell them that watching the class videos will be quite helpful on those nights when they are having trouble falling asleep…).

A fourth goal, and this is sort of a combination of creating the vision board and then presenting it, is impressing upon them the power of publicly sharing their goals. By doing so, the students will first likely spend more time up front thinking seriously about their life goals, and then once they share such goals with others, their commitment level to those goals becomes much stronger.

A fifth goal, and another critical one, is that the project enables the students to get to know each other on a more intimate level than a simple conversation would ever do. I think people are often hesitant to talk about what they would like to get out of life and what’s important to them. But they realize that everyone is in the same boat, and as a result are more than willing to share themselves and their goals with the class. An interesting outcome of this process is that some students may realize they have similar interests and goals, and such revelations could potentially lead to collaborations and friendships.

One example of this taking place this semester is that three different students (all male) indicated that one of their goals in life is to visit every MLB stadium. This is likely not the type of info that would come out in the course of normal conversation, but now that these guys know that there are other students who want to do the same thing, who knows where it could lead.

As to the vision boards and the presentations themselves, those three classes are my  favorite days of the semester.

When I hear what some of their goals and dreams are, I come away impressed, humbled, and excited for their futures.

The students are ambitious, many are looking for successful careers in the worlds of finance and accounting; others are hoping to pursue a career in fashion or music; others are looking for a career in sports.

Many of them mention wanting to get married and start a family. They recognize the importance of exercise and eating right, and many of them hope to run a marathon someday. And with all of this in mind, they also note how important it will be to keep their life in balance.

I am also impressed when many of these 18-year-old students openly talk about how important their faith is to them.

Most, if not all, of the students talk about how they want to give back, either through service trips while in college, or later in life.They talk about where they would like to live, and how they would like to be active in their community, their church, coach their kids’ teams, or even start a charitable foundation.

Many of the students talk about wanting to do a study abroad, and to keep travel as an important part of their life as they get older.

They talk about wanting to make a difference, and many point out that they want to work for a company that is socially responsible.

And many of them end their presentation by saying that their ultimate goal is simply to be happy, which is hard to argue with.

After watching all of these vision board presentations, I come away rejuvenated, thinking about how great my job is since I get to interact with students who are so full of energy and excited about their future. I also recognize the opportunity and responsibility I have to be part of helping them achieve their goals in life. That’s part of my vision board.

So thank you to my students for your willingness to share a little bit of yourself with me and your fellow students. I wish all of you the best in achieving your dreams.


Born for the Internet


It’s been a while since I’ve featured some of my favorite commercials, but when I came across the following two videos, I felt they were meant to be shared on my blog.

MTS, a global telecom out of Russia, with a major presence in India, has developed the following videos that feature a new born using the internet like a pro.

Here is the video from 2014:

And here is the video for 2015:

Great stuff, and parts of the videos are not that far from reality. I’ve seen a one year old, my great niece, swipe through the photos on an iPhone looking for her favorite pictures like a pro.

So while no one knows what the internet will be like in ten years, I think it’s safe to say that it will be much faster than it is now, and so easy to use that a baby could figure it out.

On Patriotism (and Pope Francis)


This is the 27th in a collection of newspaper ads written by Harry Gray, then CEO of United Technologies, that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. Here is the text from that ad, followed by a look at how Gray’s words fit in with today’s world and with the words of Pope Francis.

True patriotism is more than getting a lump in your throat when the flag passes by.
It involves determination on your part to see that America remains free.
It involves your willingness to put the best interest of the nation ahead of your own self-interest.
Single interests may be important.
But the art of democracy is the ability to recognize the common good.
The ability to give, not just to take.
231* million people can pull our nation apart or pull it together.
Which way did you pull today?

While I certainly love my country, and think that the U.S.A. is the best country in the world, I also think the world has changed quite a bit in the 30 plus years since Gray wrote his short essay.

The world has become much more connected, and commerce now takes place on a global basis. In the words of Thomas Friedman, the world has become flatter.

So I think Gray’s words reflect a somewhat parochial view of the world we now live in, and rather than thinking about what is good for your nation, we need to think of what is good for the world. To me, it’s just a natural extension of Gray’s argument. Gray asked us to put the interests of our nation ahead of ourselves, and I think today we need to place the interests of our world ahead of the interests of our nation.

After all, the simple fact that you were born makes you a member of the human race, while the country you were born into was a matter of pure luck. So shouldn’t we look at the big picture and think about what is best for the human race, and not just what’s good for our country?

I agree with Gray in that we should think in terms of the common good, but I think today the focus needs to be on the global common good, and just a national common good. Technology certainly makes it much easier for people to feel connected and to devote their energies to this global common good.

For example, I couldn’t agree more with a couple of statements that Pope Francis made during his historic speech to Congress last week:

  • Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world.
  • This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.

Pope Francis is certainly someone who takes a global view of many key issues, such as the two noted above.

He calls for an end to armed conflicts throughout the world, which requires that nations take a global perspective on such conflicts, and not just look at it from their national perspective.

The same is true for the death penalty. He is not calling for each nation to come up with their own laws regarding the death penalty, but for a global abolition of the death penalty. Once again, he is asking leaders of the world not to think of this issue from their national perspective, but from a global one.

While I think there’s a need to take much more global view on the big issues facing us today, I also believe there’s still lots of opportunity for national pride.

I certainly root for the U.S.A during the Olympics or the World Cup, and feel a great sense of national pride when our teams do well.

But let’s not confuse such events with issues like war, the death penalty, poverty, immigration, and the refugee crisis. Effective solutions to such issues need to be made globally, and I think that’s why the Pope’s message is so powerful since he talks from a global, not national, perspective.

*population in 1982; today it is 319 million

An Insider’s Taste of Raleigh


We just got back from a weekend visiting our oldest son down in Raleigh, and despite the rainy weather, we had a great time.

A good deal of the weekend was spent trying different places to eat, and so I thought I’d share some of our dining highlights.

Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill: In one word, splendiferous. Here’s a blurb from their web site:

We based our food on Venezuelan cuisine, while embracing some of the wonderful elements of American cuisine. By introducing the Arepa and some unique South American flavors to the Triangle market, we wish to be perceived as an alternative to the more traditional food concepts. We put forth an enormous effort to make everything you eat “in-house”, thus, avoiding the use of any processed ingredient or pre-made product. Our goal is to cook food that you will love and that is both healthy and affordable for everyone.

We all agreed it was one of the best meals we’ve had in a while (they have vegan and vegetarian options). The arepa is like a pita bread stuffed with burrito ingredients. The arepa is Venezuela’s daily bread, but it is made out of corn, not wheat. I am a huge fan of Chipotle, but I think I might prefer these arepas. While there is only one location right now in Raleigh, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple more opened by the time of our next visit. Both times we went there, there were lines. Could this be the next Chipotle??

Hungry Howie’s Pizza: One of the things our son says he misses from home is the pizza he grew up with, and has not been able to find a place down in Raleigh that compares. However, he did say that he has started to enjoy Hungry Howie’s flavored crust pizza, and so we had to give it a shot. While they did not offer a true tomato pie which I’ve gotten used to eating, the pizza I did have was quite good, and the rest of may family enjoyed what they had as well.

New York Bagel and Deli III: Our son told us to skip the hotel breakfast, and he took us out this great bagel spot in Cary. I love bagels, and my multi-grain bagel was one of the best I’ve had. The line was out the door, but it moved quickly and we were sitting down enjoying our everything bagels, cinnamon bagel, and multigrain in just a few minutes, along with a good cup of coffee.

Baker’s Dozen Donuts: A small donut shop with lots of varieties. There was nothing for me, but my wife and two sons say these are among the best donuts they have ever had. My favorite thing about the store was this poster they had hanging on one of the walls:


Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop: This is a national chain of soda and candy shops (you probably could have guessed that by its name). Our son told us about the wide variety of root beers that Rocket Fizz had, so we stopped here to pick up some root beer to go with our pizza. We picked up eight different brands of root beer, and we liked seven of them. We didn’t do a formal taste test, but that’s on our agenda for the next visit. There is a Rocket Fizz store in Philadelphia that I may be visiting soon…

Thanks to our son’s knowledge of the area from the many years he has spent down there, as well as his work as the editor of the Raleigh Public Record, we felt like we were given an insider’s tour of some of the city’s hidden treasures. We can highly recommend all the places noted above for a casual, yet tasty dining experience.

Happy 34th Anniversary!

wedding on steps

September 26, 1981 is one of the best days of my life. It was on that day that my wife Mary and I got married.

I still remember the details – the rehearsal dinner at the Beaver House, the wedding at St. Matthew’s, the reception at the ski lodge at Shawnee, our wedding song was “If” by Bread, and our honeymoon cruise to Bermuda on the Volendam.

We were relatively young (I was 24 and Mary was 23), naive, and in love.

We were excited about our future life together, and it has turned out to be better than either one of us could have imagined.

We have been blessed with three incredible sons, James, Joey, and Patrick, and a wonderful group of relatives, friends, and neighbors.

And while we’re not as young as we were on that special day, we’re still a little naive, and a lot in love.

So thank you Mary for 34 wonderful years; I look forward to the next 34.

The Fact That We Need Fact-Checking Sites Says a Lot


With all of the news coverage devoted to the candidates for next year’s Presidential election, fact checking web sites such as,, and Fact Checker have been working overtime.

I’ll admit that I have used these sites over the past few years to check some of the statements made by candidates running for office, and as you might expect, some statements made were true and others not so true.

I took it for granted that these fact checking sites played a key role in the political process, acting as a type of independent auditor.

But then the other day I was struck with an entirely different view of such sites – why do we even need the fact checkers? What does it say about our political process and the people that run for, and hold, political office?

It seems as if we take for granted that not everything a politician is going to say is going to be true, and so we need an independent party to figure out the facts versus the fiction.

Since such fact checking is by necessity done after the candidate has already made the statements for which he or she will be fact checked later, it allows the candidate to say almost anything he or she wants with little repercussion at that moment.

I can’t imagine what life would be like if we had to have fact checkers for other professions.

What if we had to fact check every statement made by a doctor, a teacher, a college recruiter, a mechanic, or a gardener? It seems as if nothing would get done, we would spend all of our time fact checking.

Fortunately life is not like that because I think we inherently trust people, except for politicians.

And that’s a shame. It’s one of the most important professions, since politicians are the ones who can affect real change in society.

And so rather than feeling good about the fact that we have fact checkers, I view it as an indictment of both the political process and the people who are part of it.

I’d love to see an election where there would be no need for fact checkers because the candidates simply told the truth.

If John Lennon were around today, he may have added another line to his classic “Imagine” song:

Imagine there’s no fact checkers, everyone tells the truth.


A Song That Every Teacher Should Hear


His life was cut short at the young age of 38, but Harry Chapin still managed to make a difference.

Harry was well known not only for his musical success, but also for his work as a humanitarian. He was particularly devoted to the cause of World Hunger.

Harry wrote and performed what are known as story songs, stories that often painted everyday people in a sentimental light.

One song that did not fit this mold was “Flowers Are Red”. In this song, Chapin takes a teacher to task for stifling the creativity of one of her students. It’s a catchy tune with an important message.

I think the clip below from the Tonight Show (with guest host John Davidson), along with Ken Robinson’s TED talk, should be required viewing for everyone thinking about being a teacher, or a parent for that matter.

Like Harry, such people have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Could you ask for anything more rewarding than that?

If you’d like to read more about Harry, click here.

Goodbye Summer Breezes…


Today is the last day of summer, my favorite time of the year.

I love the warm weather, the humidity, the long days.

We run into our neighbors more often, and everyone and everything seems to move at a more relaxed pace.

There’s trips to the shore, baseball games, water ice after dinner, and curtains blowing in the breeze.

I’m not sure what it is, but watching curtains blowing back and forth is one of my favorite things to watch.

Perhaps it’s the fact that if the curtains are moving it means it’s warm enough to have the windows open. It’s knowing that fresh air is circulating throughout the house. It’s hearing the sounds of kids playing, neighbors laughing, and lawnmowers doing their thing. If I were asked to come up with one word to describe the sensation, that word would be romantic.

While I know there’s still a lot of days left where our windows will be open, there’s no denying that we’re on that inevitable march towards winter. So as a way to help me recall such a pleasant memory, I got out my iPhone and recorded a 15-second video of the curtains blowing in our family room.

And if that isn’t enough to remind you of summer, here’s the classic “Summer Breeze” by Seals & Croft. They even mention curtains…

So goodbye summer of 2015, and thanks for the wonderful memories.

(Imagine) The Most Elusive Gift of All


This is the 26th in a collection of newspaper ads written by Harry Gray, then CEO of United Technologies, that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. Here is the text from that ad.

If you asked most sane and temperate men and women throughout the world what they wanted most for the holidays, their first choice wouldn’t come in a magnificent box with a fancy ribbon.
They couldn’t find it on a colorful page of a fat Christmas catalog.
They wouldn’t see it glistening out at them from a window of a smart boutique.
Because it’s the most precious and elusive gift of all…
peace on earth.

My guess is that this ad originally appeared around the Christmas holidays, and so I wasn’t sure if I should save this ad until it got closer to the holidays. But then I realized that today is the day that the United Nations has declared International Day of Peace, so the ad fits in quite well with such a day.

Seeing the phrase “fat Christmas catalog” certainly brings back happy memories of the Sears wish book that I would spend hours paging through and secretly hoping I would get everything I wished for in the catalog.

But when you get to the end of the ad, it’s kind of sad to realize that 30 years after this ad first appeared we still have not been able to get the one thing that everyone wants – peace on earth.

I’m certainly not qualified to say whether there’s more or less peace on earth today compared to 30 years ago, but I can say with certainly that we do not have peace on earth.

I’ve often thought that the root cause of civil unrest around the world is economic in nature. If everyone made at least the equivalent of a middle class income all over the world, I think there would be far fewer, if any, uprisings, and the world would be a much more peaceful place.

While that may be simplifying things, it would be interesting to see what would happen if such a scenario were possible.

As I was writing this post, the words to Imagine by John Lennon came to mind

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… 

so I thought I’d go back and read the lyrics to the entire song, to see if perhaps John Lennon could add any insights to this quest for peace. I’ve copied the full set of lyrics below.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

I’m not an expert at interpreting what these lyrics mean, but it seems as if Lennon may be suggesting that if we were willing to give up the ideas of countries, religions, and possessions we could have a world filled with peace, love, and abundance.

If that’s the case, I think I’d be willing to give up those ideas in a heartbeat.

Happy International Day of Peace.