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What I Learned at Disneyland

A trip to Disneyland can produce sore feet, the incurable echo of "It's a Small World" and profound insight on how to communicate.

Okay, the latter may be a stretch, but here's what I learned from my five-day trip to the happiest place on earth, which coincided with "Graduation Night" at the famous theme park: 

1. The world is a crowded, noisy place.

I already knew this before going to Disneyland, but wandering around in jam-packed crowds, waiting in interminable lines and listening to a cacophony of sounds from retro buses, loud bands and rides such as Splash Mountain reminds you of the noise that surrounds us everyday. Even people with headphones get an earful.

It takes a lot to break through the sound barrier so the people you want to reach hear what you have to say. Often it takes communications that appeal to the eye and to the touch to grab the attention of your intended audience. Sensory overload tends to make people resistant to more noise, so another good strategy is to find — or create — a quiet place to convey your message.

2. It's about them, not you.

As the day wears on and the weather heats up, tempers grow short and patience fades away. People have kids to corral and meals to plan. They are operating on overload. The last thing they need or want is a wordy, clumsy intrusion.

If you want to connect with busy people, you need to do it on their schedule, not yours. A clear concise message shows you respect their time. You need to offer something of value to them, not you.

3. Simple courtesy goes a long ways.

Amid a sea of baby carriages, teenagers staring at smartphones and adults looking for the nearest restroom, random acts of kindness are deeply appreciated. I saw people helping a mother find a lost baby bottle and making way for someone in a wheelchair. Their kindness was greeted with warm appreciation. I also saw people shove others aside, walk carelessly through a crowd and ignore signs. They provoked irritation and occasionally even anger.

Extending a helping hand can be a magic moment when you connect with not only the person you help, but with everyone else who witnesses your generous act. Courtesy reflects empathy and self-confidence, good vibes to send out.

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Work Hard to Find Your Passion

You don't really follow your passions. Your passions follow you as you master a subject or a skill.

That counter-intuitive perspective comes from Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Search for Work You Love and was explored in a recent blog post by Jeff Haden, an Inc. Magazine columnist.

"Passion is not something to follow," Newport says, "Passion is something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable in the world."

Newport's view is utilitarian. If your passion doesn't produce a paycheck, it's a hobby, not a career. Hobbies are fine, he says, but careers are built on sterner stuff — mastery of subject matter, development of expertise and honing of skills that people will pay money for.

"Producing something important, gaining respect for it, feeling a sense of control over your life, feeling a connection to other people — that's what gives people a real sense of passion," according to Newport. 

The better at something you become, the more passion you will have for it.

The root of passion is not necessarily innate talents; it is hard work. Even if you have special gifts, it takes rigor and dedication to forge them into skills and passions.

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The Changing Office Environment

Everyone senses the office environment is changing. Just look around. People wearing casual clothes. Or just look around and notice a lot of people are absent and working somewhere else.

Gordon Plutsky of King Fish Media, writing for, provides a provocative look at the office world just around the corner. He contends the emerging office will be a fluid place, with as much work done on people's patios as their office desktop — all because of exploding use of mobile technology.

The fragmentation of roles, Plutsky says, will solidify into a common marketing function with a single aim — revenue generation. Next to the CEO, the most important person in the shop will be the chief marketing officer, whose job will center on perfecting the consumer or client experience to maximize revenue potential.

Here are some of Plutsky's other predictions:

1. Backslapping salespeople will disappear, replaced by people who have the industry experience or special expertise to be valuable resources for customers, who mostly will place orders online. 

2. Cold calling or other disruptive sales tactics will become obsolete. You will need to establish an online reputation for offering insight of value that attracts customers.

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Language of Aging

The percentage of people age 65 or older is growing and so is sensitivity about how to refer to the growing population cohort.People are sensitive about aging, which is reflected in their sensitivity to the language used to describe them.

Census projections indicate one-fifth of the U.S. population will be 65 or older by 2030 and market data says people 50 or older account for a whopping 50 percent of all U.S. consumer spending. That has heightened awareness of how to refer to this growing and gainful cohort of people.

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5 Commandments of Strategic PR

Strategic communication starts with solid research and is propelled by research to test for effectiveness. 

The George Washington University, which happens to be where I took my MBA, now offers a master's degree for online public relations. In describing its program, an online ad describes the "5 Commandments of Strategic PR." Number one is "Know Your Audience," which is only possible through careful listening and observation.

"Public relations in the modern era," the GW ad says, "is fast-paced, highly visible and unforgiving." Amen.

Actually the ad itself is worth posting next to your work space. "PR professionals are tasked with increasing demands and accountability: the ability to think strategically, communicate effectively and lead your organization in an intense landscape."

Whether you seek a master's degree or not, the "5 Commandments" are also worth remembering:

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