1 mile west of the Chicago Premium Outlet Mall (800) 810 3100
1217living-like-wise-men-pic The photo above was taken of three ceramic wise men that we purchased about 35 years ago at our church’s Christmas craft sale.  We have always treasured these three wise men ornaments.  This is our first empty-nester Christmas, and we pause to chuckle as we recall our kids arguing over who got to hang the wise guys on the tree.  In fact our attorney daughter, Diana, has annually insisted that she is the one to inherit these wise ones after we have passed away.  Sometimes she tries to take them home with her, even though we’re still here. For us, Christmas is one of our two high holidays, and these ornaments have me pondering their special message of Christmas.  The dear couple who crafted these ornaments have been dear friends and mentors over the years.  But like all of us, time has passed and these gentle people are now clients of our elder law firm.  For decades they have quietly worked to care for those around them.  In a way, when you saw this couple, it was if you were looking upon the wise men—since their hands were always bearing gifts to enrich those around them. Well, now they have moved into an assisted living center and they’re not as able to make crafts for an annual sale.  When I recall their lives of overflowing love, charity, and faith, I know that I, too, have been visited by the wise men—wise men who have brought precious gifts to me and to those around me. May all of us who claim the Christmas Creed act in love, to bless the lives of those around us.  May we be wise men! Rick

Recently,  I experienced that it is far more ‘profitable’ to ring bells for the Salvation Army when you partner up with an enthusiastic four-year-old granddaughter.  Let me tell you the story,  which illustrates some key principles on how to get people to say “yes.” It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  My wife, Rose, my granddaughter Lucy, and I stood by the exit door of a major Chicagoland food store.  We were ringing bells for the Salvation Army, which does charitable work for the distressed and dispossessed.  To put it bluntly, we were like beggars on the street.  It was obvious to us that many people were choosing to treat us as “the invisible.”  They would intentionally avert their eyes from us! Rose and I knew that if we could get young Lucy involved with the bell ringing, it would certainly help us to fill our bucket.  It did not take long for Lucy to become enthused about asking people for money—and the results were outstanding! It was fascinating to watch as Lucy implemented her “give me money” strategies.  She whirled, twirled, and danced with enthusiasm while I hummed aloud a Christmas tune.  Every time the exit door opened, she would look people directly in the eye, extend an open hand, and cheerily say, “Happy Holidays!” I had the pleasure of watching people who would have passed us by… stop.  With Lucy standing in their path and with outstretched hand and cheery greeting—they would pull out a dollar bill or their pocket change.  She would take the money and  put it in the bucket slot.  In fact, she quickly became “Queen of the Bucket.”  She would clearly express her displeasure when anyone tried to skip her hand to put the money directly in the slot.  That was her job!  The photo below shows Lucy with left hand outstretched and right hand and arm covering the top of the bucket and the money slot.  (This is a candid shot!) salvation-army-photo-2reduced Why was Lucy so successful in getting people to do what she wanted?  The answer to that question is  important to each one of us who need to get people to say “yes” to our “ask”: 1.    She was in alignment with one of the key marketing principles highlighted by Robert Cialdini, PhD in his landmark book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion—she got people to like her.  Cialdini refers to ‘liking’ as “the friendly thief.”  We will say yes to those we like.  Lucy is a cheery little girl who presents a familiar and friendly image.  That image triggers a positive association in the eye of the beholder.  Nearly everyone knows and loves, or has been loved by, a happy child.  When they looked at  Lucy, they did not want to disappoint someone that they liked; and 2.    She placed herself in their path while clearly and unmistakably confronting people with a straightforward “ask.”  Her body position and her outstretched hand were the request, and behind her stood a red bucket and her smiling grandparents; and 3.    She never gave up, even when she experienced rejection.  When people ignored her or refused to give her money, she simply pulled herself together and got ready for the door to open again.  Isn’t that just like a child?  They will just keep on asking until they get to ‘yes’ (or your discipline boundary). What “yeses” do you need to get this week to be more successful in your law practice, your health care community, or your professional practice?  Think about Lucy’s lessons and how they can help you fill your bucket!  Work to make yourself more likeable and to trigger positive associations within your prospect.  Be more direct in asking for what you want and/or a referral.  Finally, don’t give up!  The first ”no” sets you up for the next opportunity. By the way, this Christmas and holiday season, please give generously to the many charities like the Salvation Army who serve the under-resourced and those who are in great need. Thanks, Grandpa Rick

santa-john I will never take Santa Claus for granted again! Most of us grew up with Santa Claus as a beloved Christmas icon. Maybe you have one or two special Santa memories that you cherish. Did you take your kids to visit Santa and then tuck the photo away as a life-long Christmas treasure?  I sure did! I have always taken it all for granted. I never realized how hard it is for parents of a special needs child to give their kids a Santa moment. At the July 2009, Autism Society of America conference, I met Santa John of Santa America whose mission is to bring “Unconditional Love, Hope and Joy wrapped in a warm Santa hug to special needs children and their families 365 days a year!”  (see Compassionate Santa Services.) Santa America and the Autism Society of America announced a “gentle alliance” that will help children affected by autism and their families have a rewarding experience with Santa for the holiday season.  “Autism is a complex neurodevelopment disability that typically appears in the first two years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.” Santa John told me, “Children dealing with Autism cannot tolerate the noise, crowds, and the wait involved in a Santa visit. Trying to take kids with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to see Santa at the mall is total sensory overload. As the child and his parent struggle to deal with the situation some other well-meaning adult scowl and say sarcastically, ‘Can’t you control your child?’ The true answer is no! They really can not control their ASD child.  Even if  parents try their best to give their child what every other normal family enjoys as an  American Christmas Tradition, the parents and the child are often humiliated and rejected.” Santa-America tenderly serves three groups of very special children:
  • Children in hospice or children with parents or grandparents in hospice; and
  • Children with chronic pediatric conditions  or in palliative care; and
  • Children suffering post traumatic stress due to abuse, violence, or other trauma.
I asked how Santa ‘knows all’ when dealing with such challenging situations. Santa John warmly shared that every Santa America Santa is given very careful training. He learns how to:
  • Identify a child on the autism spectrum
  • Learn to ‘tone it down’ to avoid causing a negative response
  • Learn to use story-telling cards and relaxing techniques
Last Christmas, Santa John and the Kansas City-Autism Society Heartland Chapter gave over 50 families an opportunity to meet Santa and have photos taken with him. Santa John told me that, “visits were scheduled with 3-4 families every 30 minutes. Each family met with Santa in a private room next to a cozy fireplace. Santa had his Book of Good Boys and Girls with a page for each child listing their birthday, friends, teachers, and what they wanted for Christmas. Most importantly, the families knew that everyone there would be accepting of any behavioral differences their child might have.” As I listened to this kind and caring man share his compassion for these special kids, I realized that he is a Santa who is a model of the true meaning of Christmas. Santa John says that what Santa America needs most is for us all to donate to help Santas across our nation deliver gifts of Love, Hope, and Joy.  Click here to donate. Santa John’s amazing personal story will be the subject of next week’s blog.