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Integrity & Awareness by Paul Burnstein

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


A great snow day in Boulder. See the weather here. Take a look at Boulder webcams here and here.

I was supposed to go to a seminar today, but the weather is preventing that from happening. I was on the road earlier this morning for an appointment and I decided after that appointment, it was probably best to get off the road.

It isn't the coldest day, nor the worst snow storm, but the roads are incredibly slippery. Coming to every stop was a challenge not to slide all over the road and hit the curb and each start from a complete stop was a challenge in staying within my lane and actually getting the car moving again.

I called the lecturer to let him know that I would not be able to make it and he shared that of the 30+ registered, he hoped to get at least 15 people to show. I was not the only one to cancel.

The awareness today is courtesy. I could have just not shown up to the seminar, but I would rather call and let him know I would not be able to make it. This sounds so basic, but I would bet that the majority of registered attendees will not call, but rather not show up and leave it assumed that they did not make it due to the weather. Have some courtesy towards others.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Getting on the Same Page

For the past couple of months now, I have been struggling with an organization that I am involved with. I very much believe in the organization, but I would like to see some changes as it moves forward. I am very vocal about my opinions and I tend to be quite straight forward. Others in the organization do not seem to be voicing their opinions. I felt that perhaps it was time for me to move on.

I decided to speak to others in the organization to see if I was on the same page as them or not. I received an unexpected amount of support and learned that I really am on the same page as the others. I was also told that people would speak up more and support me so that I am not the sole instigator in creating some of the policies the organization needs.

The awareness for today is to recognize that not only speaking up, but going out of your way to listen and process with others can benefit you and those others by ensuring you are on the same page. Hopefully you can make some progress today as well.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Just Answer the Questions

For a couple of weeks now I have been waiting on responses to specific questions I had on a debt financing deal for an international hotel. I sent a few reminder e-mails and was told the information was being collected.

Well, this morning I received a presentation on the deal and some new, general information. I thanked the associate for the update, but I sent back the EXACT same six questions I had already asked.

Either they are trying to avoid my questions or they are not reading my e-mails and simply sending only information they want me to see. This will not go on for very long. I sent the followup information to a private investment bank that I enjoy working with. I know that it will be read, but if my questions are not answered by the promoters of the deal, then my funders will not have any interest in proceeding.

Please be aware of questions that people ask you via e-mail and respond to them. If they are important, they will keep asking for them if you ignore them, then you will be digging yourself a bigger hole to climb out of. If you answer them from the beginning, you will get a much better idea of whether or not you are connected with the right people for whatever it is you may need.

Happy Monday!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Assertiveness vs. Aggressiveness

In grad school, we read a book by Robert Bolton called People Skills. It was a very easy read and I took away at least one very important concept: one can be assertive without being aggressive.

Personally, I still struggle with this as I often feel I am being assertive when others find me aggressive. Awareness is the first step. Beyond that I have found that many people are quite passive and do not ask for what they want. Assertiveness is quite positive and allows one to speak up for themselves by simply explaining what they desire or expect from a specific situation or person.

I have seen the awareness in movies and TV shows recently where a character decides to not be walked all over, but rather asserts themselves for their own personal benefit. It is always a glorious moment where you see a transformation in the character.

I am not advocating aggressiveness, but I am promoting assertiveness. Check in with yourself and see how it feels to really ask for what you want. Let me know how it goes.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Keeping Busy

I know that for most people it is not difficult to remain busy. I find that there is plenty to do each day and that is why it is important to set certain boundaries. Perhaps those boundaries are not working after 7, 8 or 9 or maybe they are to make sure that you take off the weekend or or maybe just Sunday. You need to set those boundaries for yourself.

The reason this came up for me today is that I have been swamped all week and I am still trying to fit in some networking events. As I am sure you all know, the time to look for new business is not when all the old business has run out, but rather while you are busy. I do my best to try and choose which networking events to attend. I have one this afternoon that seems a bit frivolous, but I did tell someone I would meet him there and I want to make sure and help make connections for him. I have passed on other networking opportunities this week as well.

Balance is very important and today I am just trying to maintain that foundation. Sometimes we need be overloaded to remember to take the time for ourselves.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More Cultural Awareness

I have recently become friends with a Japanese man sent to Boulder by his company to study English at the University of Colorado at Boulder's International English Center. He and I have been meeting to practice his English as well as to simply learn more about each other and our cultures.

Last night I took him to the Boulder Chamber of Commerce's Business After Hours networking event. It was a good event (fantastic food!) and he had a great time meeting people and practicing his English.

He and I have since communicated a couple of times via e-mail about the event. He was concerned that he had insulted someone because at first he had misunderstood them and had responded to them based on his misunderstanding. I assured him that he had done no harm.

What I was impressed with was his awareness of others around him and his concern for them. I do not see that as often amongst Americans. It was refreshing to know that he was conscious of another's reaction and feelings.

The awareness for today is to simply be aware. Pay attention to what you say and how you act and how those may affect other people. I am trying to work on this one myself!

Monday, February 19, 2007


This weekend I was at a poetry reading. It was a small group and I wasn't planning on sharing anything. I wanted to observe everyone else's experience and see what I took away from it.

Very early on, I changed my mind and shared a Shel Silverstein poem from memory.

“Early Bird”
by Shel Silverstein

Oh, if you’re a bird, be an early bird
And catch the worm for your breakfast plate.
If you’re a bird, be an early bird—
But if you’re a worm, sleep late.

The poem is very simple, but it always reminds me to take perspective into account. There can be multiple truths to a situation based on one's own vantage point. Some times what I see from my point of view can be drastically different than what someone else sees from the other side.

It is important to take this into account and be aware that there is always a different side viewing the same situation with a different set of facts. Think about whether your are the early bird or the worm.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Waiting on Technology

I check e-mail first thing in the morning, every morning. I can admit that I am a bit obsessive that way, but I also do a lot of work via e-mail and need to see if there is anything that needs immediate attention.

This morning I had no new e-mail. Hmm? My personal account did, but not my business account. This is unheard of. I know it is a server problem and at any moment I am going to get flooded with all of the e-mails waiting to be delivered to me. That is a bit nerve racking; I just have to wait for them to come in.

The awareness for today is that sometimes we simply have to wait on technology to catch up to us. I have an opportunity to work on some other projects while I wait for e-mail. Hopefully all of the e-mail won't come in right at 5 pm!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Requests and Responses

Today, as I am trying to update the status of different projects I am working on, I realize that there are quite a few people who owe me responses. This is back to the fact that people send me requests and I reply with the information I would need to move forward and then I don't hear from them again until I chase them down.

I am going to let go a bit and just wait for these people to come back to me. If they don't, they don't and there is no loss to me other than potential income. I definitely have trouble closing out a project without a response. I would prefer a direct response rather than giving up on it because I have never heard back from the other side. The part that really frustrates me is why would the person contact me if they had no intention of following up? I know that it may not be that simple and that they may have been distracted with other work, but come on...have the decency to say so.

Awareness is the key here. Pay attention to what you ask of people and respond when they come back to you.

End of rant.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

I do not have anything important to share today. Even though today is really a Hallmark holiday, I still wish you all a very happy Valentine's Day.

Don't work too hard and make sure and end your day with that special someone.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I know that I am my own harshest critic. I also know that I have a lot to offer the world. We need to believe in ourselves in order to reach our peak potential. If we doubt ourselves, others see that as well.

Some people are born naturally confident and have no doubt that they can accomplish whatever they so desire. I have good days and bad days. Some mornings I am ready to take on the world, while other mornings I am filled with doubt. That doubt does not exist; I create it. By letting go of the doubt and believing in myself, I have been able to accomplish larger feats than expected. I do my best to remember to believe in myself and not create my own limitations.

If you have not already seen it, I recommend renting or buying the movie, The Secret. It is all about the law of attraction and how we bring upon ourselves that which we desire; positive or negative.

I invite comments from you to share on your own experiences with confidence and doubt. Have a great day!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Taking Time to Breathe

I know I have written about this before, but it is important to remember that we are human beings, not human doings. I have been swamped all day and it can definitely be frustrating when we can't get to all of the things we would like to accomplish.

When we take a step back and just breathe for a few minutes, it actually helps us in the long run. Think about the last time you were just swamped with work...did you feel you were able to accomplish a lot or that nothing was getting done? Personally, I know when I feel overwhelmed, it does not feel like I am getting much accomplished whether I actually am or not.

When I take that step back and just breathe for a second, I am able to refocus and step back into my work with a fresh outlook. By taking time away from my projects, I am able to give back more to them.

Take the time to make a to do list (I love using Microsoft Outlook's task lists) and see what really needs to be accomplished today. Prioritize the list and check items off when you have completed them to see that you really are chipping away at the list.

Remember, we do not always need to be doing something. We can simply be.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Cultural Awareness

Last night I was at an international networking event put on by the Boulder Chamber of Commerce ( and the World Trade Center - Denver ( in Boulder. It seemed to be a smaller turnout than usual, but nonetheless, I made some good contacts.

The point of my blog today is that I realized a lot of people do not take cultural differences into consideration when working with other cultures. This morning I was noticing slight differences in date formats, time zones, work hours, e-mail formality (or lack there of) and even trust issues. There is no one basic rule to cover the entire world. The fact is that we simply need to be aware and accepting that not all countries, regions or cultures do business in the same way.

Personally, I have been very frustrated at times doing international work, but I am learning to be patient and ask the right questions to help move things along. All I ask of you today is that you take some time to be conscious and aware of the differences and do your best to adapt or make compromises as necessary.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Miss Communication

I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine, Miss Communication. No matter how much I avoid her, I have to deal with her often. She doesn't return phone calls, makes me chase after her for e-mail responses and when she does respond to e-mail, she does not answer direct questions asked of her.

I am sure that many of you know her, as she seems to get around quite a bit. Unfortunately, she won't go away, so we all need to deal with her, no matter how frustrating she is.

The awareness that I hope to leave you with today is to consciously think about not inviting her into your lives. Try to do business without her and think about how you are communicating, or not communicating, with others in your lives.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Attending Networking Groups

I was speaking with someone recently who told me she has tried quite a few networking groups, but that she does not getting any business from them; she goes once and if nothing comes of it, she does not go back to the same group. I have often felt the same way, but it isn't quite that simple.

Networking is not an easy, one time thing. When you find a networking group that is a good fit for you, you need to go regularly and build your relationships over time. There are obviously times when you will get work out of an initial meeting with someone, but that is rare and should not always be expected. Attend the groups regularly and keep in touch with people you meet. Over time you will get to know each other better and have the opportunity to do business together because you will built a relationship.

I like my local chamber of commerce ( as well as the Boulder Independent Business Alliance ( for networking events, but I also like trying out new groups as I learn of them. Try your local chamber or check with the American Independent Business Alliance ( to see if there is an independent business alliance near you.

Best of luck on your networking endeavors!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Spell It Out

From Clients:
Regarding a graphic designer, "I thought business cards were included in the cost to design my logo."
Regarding a debt collection agency, "I assumed that I would get a bill each month as a reminder for payment. I didn't think I was being charged."
Regarding an online service, "I thought once the account was cancelled, my credit card would automatically stop being billed."

Have you ever agreed to work with someone and believed you were on the same page, only to find out that you both have vastly different understandings of your agreement? Have you ever signed up for something and not read the complete agreement as to what you were signing up for?

I sure have and man is that frustrating. Through multiple misunderstandings, I have learned to completely spell out the expectations from both sides and also to read any agreements in writing, not simply sign them. This goes back to an earlier post of mine relating to putting agreements in writing, but here I am talking about items that may not be in contract form; work expectations from employers or for employees, starting a business with friends, contracting with a vendor, etc.

I like to believe that people have good intentions, but when it comes down to it, we do not all think alike.

When you agree to do something with someone else, clearly define what your expectations are. Also, summarize and explain back to the other party your understanding of their expectations of you. If you spell it all out and are completely clear, then there is less room for ambiguity.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Enjoying the Weekend

One of my first employer's explained to me that it is important to "work to live" and not the other way around. I have always tried to remember that and to take time off for me, my family or friends, as needed.

Every morning I get up and check e-mail and deal with any work that I know needs handling. On the weekends, however, I try to leave it at that and only deal with items that cannot wait until Monday.

Today is Superbowl Sunday and you know what that means? Yes, it is that big day with all of the great commercials...and that game!

I hope you are enjoying yourself today and taking time to simply enjoy life. We don't always need to be accomplishing something...we can just be. Remember that we are human beings, not human doings.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

E-Mail Awareness

A few days ago I received an e-mail from an associate of mine who has a client looking for funding. The associate and I had never previously communicated and the only reason I call him an associate is that we are both accredited executive associates of the Institute for Independent Business ( I promptly replied with some additional questions, explaining what information I would need to move forward. I received a quick response with an attached business plan and one sentence. It was not addressed to me, nor was there any form of salutation. The most aggravating part was that my questions were not even answered in the e-mail.

Even though I expect a lot of others, this is where integrity and awareness come into play. I understand the informality associated with e-mail, but I don't feel that is an excuse to be rude or ignore people. Say hello to the person you are writing to and thank them in the end. Most importantly, answer direct questions!

If you want to build relationships, don't brush people off. Read e-mails and listen to what people are asking of you. Don't treat others as though they are unimportant; it will come back and bite you.