Thank you, Zig Ziglar

The great Zig Ziglar passed away the other week. I realized at the moment I heard of his passing that I had never sent him the letter I had written earlier this year acknowledging him for his contribution to my life. I’m mailing it to his company today, and posting it here for posterity.

Andrew S. Poretz CPC
Certified Professional Coach
New York, New York

August 6, 2012

Personal and confidential

Ziglar, Inc.
5055 W. Park Boulevard, Suite 700
Plano, TX 75093
Attention: Zig Ziglar

Dear Zig,

I’m reflecting on my life as I’m writing a book in the personal development arena that will be part-memoir, and I’m thinking of my personal journey that brought me to coaching and professional development. When I think of the initial match that started the fire, so to speak, I’m brought back to June of 1979. I was a failed college student of 21, and in an act of desperation, I had taken a summer job selling books door to door for the Southwestern Book Sales Company of Nashville, Tennessee. When I arrived in Nashville for a week of sales training, we were handed kits that contained, in addition to training and business materials, several books we were required to read, including “The Richest Man in Babylon,” “The Greatest Salesman In The World,” and “Think and Grow Rich.” At our kick-off event, you were our keynote speaker. By the time of that keynote, my brain was probably exploding from the very new and different information from the books and the training. I remember being mesmerized by you. “I’ll see you not just at the top, but over the top!” Your voice rang in my ears and my mind for months to come. Although the job turned out to be a bust for me, it was also the great beginning. This opening to the Law of Attraction, to the rules of success, to having an attitude of gratitude, eventually allowed my increasingly open mind to explore strange new worlds, as Captain Kirk would say. It eventually propelled me to a long and continuing journey into personal and professional development. I often listen to you on my Audible account. Today, people pay me to coach them. I have an online radio show that has been downloaded many thousands of times. I’m writing a book. While the journey has taken longer than I would have liked and I’m still far from “there” (wherever “there” might be), I’m also still standing, still doing, still striving, and still excited about the possibilities that life has to offer! It occurred to me today that I’d better make sure I personally thanked you while I still have the opportunity.

So, Zig Ziglar, I thank you for all you do, for the great legacy of your many years of service to the world, and personally for the profound change you helped inspire in me. You have my everlasting gratitude.

With best personal regards,

Andrew S. Poretz

New Park Volunteer Opportunities post-Sandy

This just in from the NYC Department of Parks:

Many of New York City’s parks, playgrounds and beaches were severely
impacted by Hurricane Sandy. If you would like to volunteer with NYC
Parks to aid in clean-up and recovery, please review the list of
parks, playgrounds and beaches below that are in need of assistance
this Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. Click the links below to sign up
in your borough and be sure to check back for updates on other parks
in need of volunteers!

Bronx

Crotona Park (Wednesday)
Orchard Beach (Saturday only)

Click here
https://a002-oom03.nyc.gov/IRF/EventRegistration/RegForm.aspx?eventGuid=dc74aba2-09ad-4a4c-a235-964f654fc40e

to volunteer in the Bronx

Brooklyn (Saturday only)

Coney Island

Click here
https://a002-oom03.nyc.gov/IRF/EventRegistration/RegForm.aspx?eventGuid=f9b90bfd-67b0-45e5-bdbe-92b624c47d17
to volunteer in Brooklyn

Manhattan

Fort Tryon Park (Saturday only)
Harlem River Park (Saturday only)
Inwood Hill Park (Sunday only)

Click here
https://a002-oom03.nyc.gov/IRF/EventRegistration/RegForm.aspx?eventGuid=23c3832e-2581-46e2-9225-559de124f9cd
to volunteer in Manhattan

Queens (Saturday only)

Joe Michael’s Mile
Crocheron Park
Queensbridge Park
Astoria Park

Click here
https://a002-oom03.nyc.gov/IRF/EventRegistration/RegForm.aspx?eventGuid=82a57a0e-7ab8-4c9f-a7c0-f5499367a916

to volunteer in Queens

Staten Island (Sunday only)

Kaltenmeier Playground

Click here
https://a002-oom03.nyc.gov/IRF/EventRegistration/RegForm.aspx?eventGuid=1c0260f2-1b1d-4a31-b9de-7321c6adb1f1
to volunteer in Staten Island

Peter Shankman, The Bold Request and Quantum Growth

Quantum Growth. It’s that thing that happens when something really takes off. When your trickle of book sale cash becomes “hand over fist.” When your following goes from hundreds to millions. I got my first taste of Quantum Growth last night, after my interview with Peter Shankman (@petershankman) of HARO fame on my Coaches’ Corner show on BlogTalkRadio (www.blogtalkradio.com/coachandrew), which was also a featured show on BlogTalkRadio. Peter, who is quite a successful guy, is a person of major influence in the world of social media and public relations. He’s also about as nice a fellow as you could ever hope to meet.

Peter Shankman

This show happened by way of a great bit of timing, some major generosity on the part of Peter Shankman, and my willingness to make a bold request. On the morning of September 27th, I saw a tweet from Peter, saying, “OK, guys… How can I help you today? Whatcha working on? Whatcha need?” The mere fact of this tweet blew me away. Peter has always been an incredibly generous man, and he does not reserve his generosity for only his closest friends. I immediately tweeted back, “I need people for my radio show who ‘touch, move and inspire.’ And yes, you’re in that category!” While I was hoping he’d jump on it himself, I’d have been thrilled to even get hooked up with one of his influential friends to interview. Instead, Peter responded, “@coachandrew I’ll do that for you. Contact Meagan, my assistant…” along with an email address. THUD! And just like that, it was on. I set up the show with Meagan for October 29th.

A little history. I’ve been doing the show for several years, and have done about 85 shows, interviewing people who “touch, move and inspire.” The shows have run the gamut from your basic life coach, to spiritual coaches, to childhood idols, and even my own dad. I closely follow the stats provided by BlogTalkRadio for my show. For the first couple of years, a good result would be 300 archived “listens” (downloads or streaming plays from the site or from iTunes), with most shows only having a handful of live listeners, with 28 being my highest number. With the exception of one show, with Karen Monteverdi of GreenMountain Enrichment and Empowerment Center (who is now my own coach), which had over 2,800 listens, an exceptional result was anything over 500. In recent months, things have changed. Nine of my top 10 shows have at least 1,000 listens, with the 10th at 951. Going into last night’s show with Peter Shankman, I had one show over 3,000, and two over 2,000. I submitted the show to be a featured show, which I’d never done before. This was bold request number two. When I received a note of congratulations from BlogTalkRadio telling me my show had been selected as a feature show, I got goosebumps from head to toe. I felt like a minor league pitcher who just got called to go to “The Show,” the major leagues. I started promoting the show in the week before.

It’s showtime! Monday, the 29th, was no ordinary day. As it turned out, Hurricane Sandy, a/k/a Frankenstorm, had arrived. New York City was on lockdown, and by 8 p.m., there were millions of people without power. I hadn’t heard back from my last note to Meagan, nor had Peter responded to my tweets about looking forward to our show. I was getting nervous. I opened the chatroom 8:40, and launched the live pre-show feed at 8:45. Normally my guests call in about five minutes before showtime. At 8:55, I sent a text to the last cell phone number I had for Peter. No response — probably not his current number. At 8:58, I tweeted at him to please call in. At 9 p.m., the show started. I announced my name and the show, and that we were in a major hurricane, and we are waiting for our guest to arrive. I killed a minute or two talking about the challenges of the storm, and invited people to call and chat about the storm. I then decided to play a song, and I began to play a cut by Drew Gasparini, my guest of the previous Monday. A minute or so into the song, I saw my virtual switchboard light up with a phone call. The buttons to pick up the call hadn’t properly rendered, which I made mention of, and refreshed my screen. Thankfully, the buttons appeared, and I was able to bring the call on the line. It was Peter! I skipped my own introduction, since I can always edit this in, introduced Peter, and away we went for the next 55 minutes, during which time we were both jarred by blasts of wind from Sandy, explosions, and the word that he might imminently lose his power.

It felt like a really good show, and my post-show feedback from my coach and from others was quite good. Then I went to look at the early numbers, which would include only the live listens at that time. What I saw made me literally rub my eyes. I even logged off and logged back in, to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I had a total of 810 live listeners! This by itself made this a top 20 show. As the night went on, I’d check back to see how the archive shows were going. It was like watching an odometer on fast forward, with something like 150 every four or five minutes. By the time I’d gone to bed, it was nearly 4,000. A mere 25 hours after the show, my tally is 7,889 — and this is over 400 more than it was when I started the article 20 minutes ago!

There are lessons here. First, be bold! As William Hutchinson Murray famously said, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” Second, think big! We all have to start with the first steps. Eventually, we can take bigger and bigger steps. My dream guests include Anthony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, Howard Stern, Jack Canfield and Sir Richard Branson. It may not happen tomorrow, but it will happen. The third? Have an attitude of gratitude! One of the things I’ve learned from following Peter Shankman over the years is to do nice things for people, and to be grateful and humble. And to wear a Scottevest. I will never forget this wonderful gesture, and I know I will pay it forward. Thanks, Peter!

Listen to the show here: Coaches’ Corner with Coach Andrew Poretz and guest Peter Shankman

My One Singularly Sensational Moment with Marvin Hamlisch

Back in 1982, working for Showtime in their public relations department, I got a call from a guy named Ed Yost, who was some sort of manager and producer for various artists.  I’d helped in in the past with some odd requests. “Marvin Hamlisch is pissed,” Ed said.  “Nobody called to congratulate him on the ACE Award he won for Showtime!”  The ACE Award was the cable television version of the Emmy Awards, at a time when cable wasn’t quite taken seriously, before the Emmy people included the likes of Showtime and HBO shows for anyone’s consideration.  Marvin won for “Marvin Hamlisch: They’re Playing My Song.”

It was one of those days when everyone was either away or busy or indifferent, and no one seemed interested in handling the situation.  So I stepped up.  “I’ll call him, Ed.  What do you want me to say?”  Ed asked me to call Marvin at home, tell him I was from Showtime, and congratulate and thank him for his fine work.  He gave me Marvin Hamlisch’s personal home phone number, and I did just that, in my most professional pseudo announcer voice.  “Mr. Hamlisch, This is Andy Poretz calling from SHOWTIME!  We want to congratulate you on the ACE Award and thank you for your amazing work!”  “Um, okay.  Thanks, I guess.  Who are you again?”  Marvin was probably not thrilled that an underling like me called him.  I wasn’t the head of the company, the director of programming, nor even held an important position in the public relations department, after all.  But we chatted for a couple of minutes, and Marvin groused a little bit about the whole situation.  I had to lie and say “I loved the show!” when he asked what I thought about it – but at that time, my family did not yet have cable, and so we had no Showtime. 

It’s no lie now though to say Marvin, I loved your work.  You’ll be missed.

He was like a brother to me

While driving in my rented Nissan Sentra in San Anselmo, California on June 27, the theme to “My Three Sons” came on the news. At first I was delighted to hear it, until the announcer shared the reason for it: Don Grady, the actor who played “Robbie Douglas” on “My Three Sons,” was dead from cancer. To my surprise, I started crying, and had to pull the car over and compose myself.

If you don’t know the name, you’re probably not someone who grew up in the 60’s. Don Grady was an actor and musician who was best known for “My Three Sons.” Robbie Douglas had two brothers, Mike and Chip, and when Mike was written out when the actor Tim Considine left the show, Robbie became the older brother, and neighbor Ernie was adopted by Steve Douglas, the widowed father of the boys.

This death hit me hard, for this reason: Don has been my friend on Facebook for the past year. Don’s TV brothers, Stanley and Barry Livingston (Chip and Ernie, respectively) are also my Facebook friends. Unlike Don, I had actually met the Livingston brothers some years ago when a mutual friend brought me to a house party at Barry’s home in Hollywood. Oddly, being able to say I had all three My Three Sons as Facebook friends was even more thrilling than being able to say that I had met two of them.

Don was a Facebook friend in the best possible way. He completely engaged with people, whether they were his personal friends or fans, even if those fans had no conception of him outside of “Robbie Douglas.” He made personal comments, answered mail, and was thankful for all the love that came his way. When he talked about missing his father, I asked him what lessons his father taught him. “Great question, Andrew!” He went on to talk about those lessons, and it was clear he relished his family. Don was a musician, and was happy to talk about his music, and generously offered free downloads of several of his songs. He was a very good musician, in fact, and I let him know it. He was self-deprecating about his music, and I reassured him that as a fellow musician, I know what I’m talking about when I hear talent. He was thankful for my comments. This engaging, combined with the fact that I grew up watching the three TV brothers (and for years in reruns), I felt like I had lost a brother.

As it turns out, most of the world had no idea Don was even sick. He never talked about his illness. When people would congratulate him on his youthful good looks in his most recent pictures from 2009, he would be thankful and credit clean living and a good family life. I knew for some time that in fact, he was quite ill, through my friend who was close to Stanley Livingston. It says a lot about his grace and strength that he never turned his illness into a pity pot, and as long as he could, maintained his connection to the many people who didn’t know him, but felt he was like a brother.

My Groundhog Day

In the movie “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray finds himself locked in time, repeating the same day over and over again, thousands of times, until he’s finally learned his lessons and has opened his heart to love. He sees the same people and encounters the same circumstances, gradually learning that he cannot change them; he can only change his actions, his reactions, and the choices he makes in dealing with what comes his way. He recalls every repeat of the day, while the people he encounters are only experiencing this day for the very first time.

Every day I bike to my day job on 34th Street and Ninth Avenue, starting from my apartment on West 168th Street. I leave the house at approximately the same time each day, biking along Broadway, then turning right onto 158th Street, and biking down a significantly steep hill, past the two Riverside Drives (an anomaly of city planning), then to the ramp that takes me to the entrance to the Greenway, a highway of sorts for cyclists. skaters, walkers and runners. Wending my way past the open fields near the Hudson River Sewage Treatment Plan, then the Harlem Fairway, I enter the Cherry Walk. The Cherry Walk is unlike any other part of the Greenway. This section has no lighting at night, is lined with various trees, including cherry trees, and winds a curvy path along the Hudson River, only a few feet from the water to the west, and only a few feet from the West Side Highway to the east. There are geese that make their habitat along various parts of this section, and on turbulent days, the river water will splash hard against the rocks, more like an ocean. There are, throughout this section, secret sculptures made of driftwood. The sculptures are often just pieces of driftwood fastened or arranged together. I’ve seen the artist, a fellow who bikes around his driftwood and goes to work. I once even helped him right his cargo wagon that was attached to his bike, after a wheel broke and the entire thing tumbled over.

It’s usually in the first quarter mile of this ride that the first of my “regulars” appears. An attractive woman, thin, with a face that reminds me a bit of Meryl Streep, with straw-colored hair and no helmet, rides her bike just about every single day in the opposite direction of mine. The first thing I ever noticed about her was the blue basket attached to the front of her bike. I’d always smile at her, and she would either ignore me or give me what seemed like a dirty look. She wasn’t there to connect with anyone. She would always ride slowly but with purpose. I’d usually see her again, hours later, on the way home. We’ve never once traveled in the same direction.

I usually, but not always, see my next “regular” within a half-mile of the blue basket lady. A gray-bearded, big bear of a man, with a black Brompton. I have the habit of always “dinging” a passing Brompton with a single ding of the little bell on the handlebars. I feel it should be like a special salute to other members of our exclusive club, kind of like “the nod” that young black men like to give each other, the nod that says, “Hey brother, I recognize you because you look like me, and I’ve got your back.” Sometimes Brompton owners “get it” and ding me back. For the longest time, Bearded Brompton did not get it. He’d usually not look at me, or wonder why I was dinging him. After many consecutive days, however, he realized that hey, we’re both Brompton owners, and we should salute each other. Again, this “regular” is always going in the opposite direction from me. I’ve run into him all over the Greenway, at various times, and almost always see each other in both the morning and the night. We’ve never shared a word, but only the occasional smile. For about a week, he rode without a helmet, revealing a surprising full head of thick hair, a dashing figure under that helmet, though I’d never have guessed it.

Finally, there’s Fast-Walking Older Lady, a woman I’d estimate to be in her mid-to-late 60’s. She’s petite, with a cute figure and silver/blonde hair. She’s not unattractive, though she’s seen better days. For quite some time, she always wore a ghee, a karate outfit, and would always walk in a determined manner, never allowing her eyes to connect with anyone. Unlike my first two regulars, this one sometimes walks in the same direction that I am going, though more often than not, she’s walking towards me. Also unlike the other two, I generally see her only once a day, in the morning.

I sometimes would see my “regulars” all in a row, within minutes. Sometimes I’d just think, “Where’s Bearded Brompton Guy today?”

There was also a fourth, Red Kerchief Lady. I usually would see her going southbound on the Greenway after work as I rode north. She never wears a helmet, but always wears a red kerchief, red lipstick, and a scowl. My smile has never been returned with anything but an angry scowl. Still, I had made up a song in my mind for a while, “The Lady With The Red Kerchief,” but I never finished it. She now rarely appears in my Groundhog Day.

For a period of nearly a year, Fast-Walking Older Lady disappeared. I stopped seeing her on my trip. The funny thing is, I missed her. Worse, I was worried about her. I made up stories about her in my head – she walked every day because she was recovering from a stroke or a heart attack, and she’s not longer here because it happened again. She’s dead, Jim. Or maybe she got tired of the cold and moved to Florida.

Last month, she reappeared. I was oddly elated and relieved. Finally, one morning as I was passing her, I slowed down, and said to her, “You know, I don’t know you, but I was very worried about you, because I saw you every day, and when I didn’t see you, I was quite concerned.” She responded, “That’s so nice to hear, thank you so much. I was away for awhile, but I’m back now.” I still didn’t get her name. But the next day, I said hello to Blue Basket. She said hello back. We now wave or say hi to each other. My little community of nameless people in my Groundhog Day.

So what’s the lesson here? How many of us go through our lives, seeing the same people every day, yet never acknowledge their existence? Do you notice these people who ride the bus with you, shop at the same supermarket, or simply walk past you on a daily basis? These people are part of your Groundhog Day. They’re like some odd extras from Central Casting. So here’s my challenge. Start to notice the people who are around you on a daily basis, but with whom you have never had any contact. Smile, wave, or say hello to them. An even bigger challenge? Introduce yourself. “Hi, I see you every day, and I have no idea who you are, so I thought I should finally introduce myself.” Let me know what kind of response you get!

I’m thinking I should invite my regulars to lunch.

Customer service and the power of Twitter

I’ve learned from the great Peter Shankman the power of getting fast customer support by mobilizing Twitter to get the attention of the right people at a company that’s done the wrong thing.

A perfect example of the power of Twitter in the world of customer service is the recent debacle of daily deal site kgbdeals.com‘s (formerly The Dealist) unfortunate partnership with the now-defunct Digital Doorstep to distribute Fandango Bucks. The daily deals site offered a compelling offer back in October 2011 to purchase vouchers for Fandango Bucks for two tickets worth up to $24 for only $12 (which is now less than the cost of a first-run movie in Manhattan, where I live). I bought four, giving me eight tickets, but I had to use them before January 31, 2012.

The vouchers had to be redeemed through Digital Doorstep, a digital fulfillment company. Pasting the codes would then reveal the Fandango codes needed to apply when purchasing the movie tickets. I used two of vouchers without incident, and preemptively redeemed the other two so that I would have the Fandango codes ready to use. Now, with just days before their expiration, I decided to use them. When on the Fandango site and in the process of purchasing tickets, I discovered that my codes were “cancelled.” Perplexed, I went back to the Digital Doorstep site, where I was informed that the company was no longer redeeming coupons and that I should go back to the deal site in question to obtain a refund.

The kgbdeals.com site was of little help. There was nothing on the site referring to this issue. The “Contact Us” section had only an online form, and no phone number. Googling for a phone number was unsuccessful. The top deal sites Groupon and Living Social both offer toll-free support lines, so this did not bode well. I submitted a report, but got no response or even an acknowledgement in email. I then decided to see if the company had a presence on Twitter. They did. I immediately tweeted them about my problem. When I looked at their Twitter page, I noticed a number of similar tweets, and their responses, which gave a special email address for each person to use to send them particulars of their transaction. Apparently kgbdeals had set up a “Digital Doorstep Response Team,” with a corresponding email address.

I sent to this address the same content of my earlier form submission. Now, within minutes, I had a reply — automated, but a reply — and not longer after, I had a personal reply. It took a number of back and forth emails to get things straightened out, but eventually I was rewarded with a notice that my canceled codes would be refunded $24 within five days. (Notably, there was another email from another person on their team, calling me “Alexander,” saying I’d be getting $48. I let them know, and then they sent the correct one.)

So, thanks to Twitter, problem solved. I’m disappointed, however, that the company still has not bothered to put up any sort of notice on their website pointing people to the solution I found on my own. I’ve discovered that this is often the case: a company does a decent job handling disasters via Twitter, but still allows its old-school customer service people to do a lousy job. (I find it nearly amusing, since I cannot help but think of the Russian KGB when I see the name kgbdeals, and their handling of this mess reminded me of how the old Russian bureaucracy might have handled it.) For that reason, I unsubscribed from kgbdeals.com today.