Archive for the 'Grow' Category

Bucket List Includes Rock & Roll Show

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I admit I don’t have much of a bucket list, besides keeping the floors mopped until the kid spills decrease.

And while I was born in Music City the week Elvis died, I don’t consume a lot of new music. My older sons laugh at how few artists are in my repertoire.

And I definitely don’t think of myself as a rocker, unless it’s on the front porch.

Still, I consider one band iconic. While the group is labeled a rock band, its work cuts across genres and decades. With its latest release, the four-man act has had a Billboard chart-topping album in each of the last four decades.

My wife was a fan long before I. So, she wasn’t a tough sell when I asked her to rendezvous with…drumroll, please…U2. “I was going With or Without You,” she said.

U2’s sweeping anthems have captured generations of music lovers. The songs land the band on Super Bowl halftime shows and outsized music festivals. Think “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

U2’s current tour is called eXPERIENCE & iNNOCENCE. At the concert, we didn’t hear all the classics. We did experience the heart and soul of U2’s vision and its mastery of technology and artistry.

While U2 scales every rhythm and melody to entertain at the highest levels, its lyrics are what draw me in, particularly the Biblical allusions. Lead singer Paul David Hewson (a.k.a. “Bono”) pens them.

“See the bird with a leaf in her mouth, after the flood all the colors came out” (from Beautiful Day)

“You broke the bonds, and you loosened chains, carried the cross of my shame” (from I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For)

Historical references reflect how much attention these guys pay to the world around them. They are always on a mission and are deeply affected by human suffering.

“Sometimes, I wake at four in the morning when all the darkness is swarming, and it covers me in fear…Sometimes, I’m full of anger and grieving, so far away from believing that any song will reappear” (from The Little Things That Give You Away)

Bono’s honesty keeps U2 rolling, real and relevant. He connects grief and terror from his youth with events of today. The death of his mother and the 1972 shootings in Northern Ireland impacted his young innocence.

And now, through experience, Bono entreats Americans to restore the American soul. There’s even a song by that name.

On the new album, he writes, “The slaves are lookin’ for someone to lead them, the master’s lookin’ for someone to need him, the promised land is there for those who need it most, and Lincoln’s ghost said, ‘Get out of your own way.’”

“Free yourself to be yourself,” he encourages in the song, Lights of Home.

“I want to be useful,” Bono said recently in an interview with Rolling Stone. “That is our family prayer… It is not the most grandiose prayer. It is just, ‘we are available for work.’ That is U2’s prayer. We want to be useful, but we want to change the world. And we want to have fun at the same time.”

While making good music, Bono and company appear to be keeping the faith, just not to themselves.

 

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

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7 Ways to Improve Education

You’ve heard of the dog days of summer. Well, welcome to the dog days of school.

Standardized tests are almost done, but the standardized calendar is not. Daylight lingers longer, but attention spans do not. It’s a good time to review what works well and what wears us out.

Boerne ISD has its online parent satisfaction survey open through Friday. Superintendent Tommy Price is also assembling committees to set a new strategic direction for BISD. As the conversations unfold, here are seven ideas for improvement:

  1. Group elementary students by their birth quarter. In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell highlights the significant difference between success rates of people born just after an age cutoff and those born months later.

Teaching to the lowest common denominator is a common temptation in education. Grouping students of like ages, down to the month or quarter of their birth, will challenge high performers and help those who need extra attention.

  1. Teach more values. In a politically correct, pluralistic society, we’re better at teaching skills than values. I want my kids to have both.

If kids get values (honesty, hard work, discipline, service over self, respect for authority, etc.), they will acquire skills, even if it’s after they leave home. Knowledge and information aren’t limiting factors in our interconnected world. Character and wisdom are.

  1. Help kids develop a fierce mastery of technology. Boerne resident Kelly Newcom, author of http://www.BraveParenting.net, says smartphone pitfalls (pornography, bullying, addictive behavior) have dramatically increased incidences of suicide, self-harm and depression among kids nationwide.

Schools should carefully monitor and/or restrict device use on campuses and buses. Reducing dependence on smartphones will help kids master offline communication skills and sharpen the original supercomputer: the human brain.

  1. Transition to school uniforms. As decorum slides in our image-obsessed society, a move in the other direction would serve students well.

Uniforms work in third world countries and inner city charter schools. They work in pricey private and parochial schools. They will work in BISD. Let students express their independence and creativity in their work products, not in their attire.

  1. Close the gap between elementary and secondary start times. Elementary students shouldn’t have to go to school in the dark for half the year and then go to bed in the light the other half.

Various issues affect scheduling: bus routes, parental work schedules, morning and evening activities, student performance studies, etc. Still, start times closer to 8:00 am are ideal for all ages.

  1. Shorten middle school block periods. Hour and a half classes are too long, especially for boys. Teachers try to break up the monotony, and block schedules help with moving teachers between campuses, but we need a better way to organize the day.

7. Let the adults be adults. In our “customer is always right” world, the chief / tribesman line can get blurry.

Today, university students sit on regent boards and high schoolers help select principals. A mix of perspectives is beneficial, so long as the wisdom and expectations of the aged prevail.

***

Basic parenting is faltering in some circles. Educators are being asked to pick up the slack. They need our support and encouragement. They also need our input. The dog days of school are a great time to offer it.

 

Kevin Thompson writes frequently for The Boerne Star. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

Christmas from the other side

“God loves you!” the smiley face stickers say, and He does, but it doesn’t always feel like it. There is still longing, questioning, wondering about how this or that of life will pan out.

“God loves you!” is a good message, but it is incomplete. To interpret life’s challenges, “Satan hates you!” must be part of the equation. It’s a backdrop that makes “God loves you!” significant and meaningful.

If all we have is smiley faces and religious cliches, we end up attributing the dark stuff of life to ourselves: the failures, the brokenness, the despair. We don’t see the enemy at work or the battle at hand.

“There’s something wrong with me,” we’re convinced.

By now we know the story of the manger, that earthy account where greatest becomes least.

We treasure the silent night because it tells us that no matter where we go, the divine has gone before. He is not far off. He is very near. God with us. Emmanuel.

I know these things in my head. I don’t always feel them in my heart, and I’m not sure why.

When it’s hard to grasp what child is this, it is helpful to see Christmas from heaven’s perspective.

You can find the account not in Matthew but in Revelation, Chapter 12. It is quite graphic.

“The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.” (verse 4)

Upon delivery, the baby is snatched up to God, while the dragon is hurled down to earth.

The dragon, we are told, is Satan “who leads the whole world astray.” Enraged at the woman, he goes off to make war against the rest of the woman’s offspring. (verse 9)

Tell me: What kind of beast would steal a newborn from a birth canal???

Exactly. One who hates your guts.

“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy,” John 10 says, even while angels sing, “Joy to the World.” Now, that’s low. And that’s who we’re dealing with here.

None of us lies outside the devil’s purview. We are all targets of his anger.

“Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” (verse 12)

Thankfully, we are also targets of the one who came upon a midnight clear. He defends us from accusation.

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of Christ. For the accuser of our brothers who accuses them before our God day and night has been hurled down.” (verse 10)

The first Christmas turns out to be less silent of a night than we first thought. It was actually a night of great war.

The battle’s victor entered the womb humbly and lived his life courageously. His enemy prowls in pride looking for souls to devour – but only for a time.

That’s the full story. Satan wreaks havoc on the earth, but God sends a rescue. Come, let us adore him.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

My philosophy on selling

Regardless of our respective occupations, we all sell something. It may simply be ourselves, our ideas, or our opinion on where to have dinner.

Selling is a fundamental part of life. Most people hate that idea.

Dating back to my first job at a fireworks stand, I have been selling.

“Might I interest you in these Morning Glory sparklers? They are ideal for small children because they have easy-to-light tissue paper wicks and longer handles to prevent burns. Plus, they change colors as they burn down!

“We buy them for half a cent each. I’ll part ways with this bundle of six for only $8.99.”

Okay, that last part wasn’t in the pitch, but the margins certainly were.

Through years of studying and practicing the art of selling, I have assembled the following philosophy on the topic.

Without energy, work ethic and determination, you’re dead on arrival. Energy isn’t everything, but it’s the impetus that gets everything else going. If you’re selling for a living, it helps to be heavily motivated by financial reward.

Sales is a numbers game. Play the percentages. The more at bats you get, the more hits (and home runs) will come, assuming your fundamentals are sound.

Organization is key. Work hard and smart. Daily routines are critical. “I only make cold calls when I feel like it, and I make sure I feel like it every morning at 9 am.” There’s no substitute for discipline.

Identify decision-makers. Qualify well. Probe. Ask the tough questions to figure out who can actually buy from you in a volume that makes your time worthwhile.

Persuade the supporting cast. Be diplomatic. Treat the receptionist like the CEO. Think politically. Smart decision-makers want buy-in from their key staff members.

Get to the root of the pain. Ask questions; listen well; understand process. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Be interested before you try to be interesting.

Think relationship, not transaction. Figure out what’s important to your clients in business and in life. Add value in those areas through thoughtful conversations, business referrals and resources (articles, books, etc.). It will set you apart from other chatterboxes.

Keep your client’s best interest at heart. Argue against yourself if it’s what’s best for your customer. It will pay off… in the long run.

Trust takes time. Don’t give up. The first time you call on a prospect, you’re a stranger. The second time you’re an acquaintance. The third time you’re a friend. The fourth time you’re a friend he wants to do business with.

Prioritize benefits before features. People naturally think “WIIFM” … What’s in it for me? How will this make my life easier and more productive?

As successful politicians say, “Ask for the vote.” Ask for the sale directly. Press for a decision. Your prospect won’t be offended if you do. She’ll be offended if you don’t. She’ll think you think she’s not worth doing business with.

If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, move on to something you do. It’s impossible to fake it long enough to be successful.

At the end of the day, you’re not really selling. You’re helping. And everyone loves to be helped, especially with their sparkler selections.

 

Write to Kevin Thompson at kevin@kwt.info.

Fed brings economic insights to Boerne

Investors in the Boerne Kendall County Economic Development Corporation convened for a semi-annual meeting two weeks ago. On the heels of the Federal Reserve’s third short-term rate hike in less than a year, the event’s guest speaker was timely.

Blake Hastings, de facto leader of the San Antonio branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, addressed the meeting of about a hundred Boerne, Texas, business leaders.

Hastings started with macroeconomic data about the national economy. He specifically addressed the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet which ballooned from less than a trillion dollars in assets before the financial crisis to more than $4 trillion afterward.

Of course, Fed leaders didn’t call its balance sheet ballooning “money printing.” They called it “quantitative easing,” which sounds more like a gastroenterological process than an economic term.

During multiple rounds of “QE,” the Fed bought trillions of dollars of bonds (Treasurys and mortgage-backs). As Mr. Hastings admitted, it was an experiment of historic proportions.

Early on (ca. 2011), the Wall Street banks that sold bonds to the Fed took most of the cash proceeds and deposited them back at the Fed itself. There was simply not enough loan demand at the time to lend the money out in the marketplace. Plus, the Fed paid a quarter of a point on the deposits!

Since then, the economy has improved and the big banks are making more loans. The Fed’s balance sheet shows bank deposits have decreased by $500 billion in the last five years. Conversely, currency in circulation has increased by $500 billion.

It appears we have two problems on our hands: (1) an increasing number of dollars floating in the economy brings inflation risk; and (2) the Fed still has more than $4 trillion in bonds on its balance sheet.

A friend smarter than I summarized three possible solutions to the latter problem, a quandary  inexorably linked to our $19 trillion federal government debt. You can either grow your way out, inflate your way out, or default your way out.

Mr. Hastings and his Fed colleagues are clearly hoping for years of steady economic prosperity in order to grow our way out. This proposition seems too good to come true.

What’s not too good to be true is San Antonio’s recent economic performance. Hastings rattled off a number of encouraging performance indicators for our area.

San Antonio’s four per cent unemployment rate is below that of Texas and the nation. Military City’s job growth increased by three per cent in 2016 despite a lackluster oil price. We have seen similar employment gains thus far in 2017.

Stock prices of San Antonio-based companies trend above the S&P 500, though the margin is narrowing. Overall, San Antonio’s economy continues to track above its long-term growth average and has since 2011.

Hastings noted that Austin’s job growth has stalled for want of skilled labor. He issued a word to the wise: educated human capital is the single best predictor of an area’s economic prospects. He encouraged listeners to prioritize workforce training.

A diversified employment base saved Texas and San Antonio when oil dropped seventy per cent three years ago. Will it be there to save us at the next bust, oil or otherwise?

 

Follow Kevin Thompson at www.kwt.info.

 

How Economic Development Happens

Last week, the Boerne / Kendall County Economic Development Corporation (BKCEDC) announced a major hotel project to be constructed on South Main Street across from Wal-Mart.

The probable Hilton/Doubletree property will cost $25 million to build and will feature 130 rooms, 7,500 square feet of conference space and resort-style amenities. In exchange for its investment, the developer will receive significant hotel tax rebates from local taxing authorities.

BKCEDC also announced that the Boerne City Council approved a medical office building project in the same South Boerne (“SoBo”) area. The $13 million project will likely include physician offices, an imaging center and an ambulatory surgical center.

Together with the Buc-ee’s travel store announcement late last year, BKCEDC has scored a string of economic investment to our area, along with no shortage of opinions.

While many definitions of positive economic development exist, most parties agree on the need for balanced growth. Kendall County is the 5th fastest-growing county in Texas and the 12th fastest-growing county in the nation, according to BKCEDC.

While there are many goals of economic development – jobs, utility customers, tax base expansion – no one wants it without a continuation of quality of life.

Most local government and business leaders don’t want to cut off Boerne’s nose to spite its face. They realize the features that drew people here must be preserved if the area is to maintain vibrancy. But it’s a fine line to walk.

On one hand, some want to freeze frame Kendall County. “Boerne, Texas, Gone Forever,” they might say.

On the other hand, desirability involves progress and growth. People want a quaint place to live, but not at the expense of modern goods and services. Hence, the need for economic development.

Economic development is a highly competitive process. Boerne no longer only competes regionally or even domestically for projects and opportunities. It competes internationally.

Economic development takes time. The average project takes two years to materialize. Site selectors examine mounds of financial and demographic data before making decisions. Even then, economic events can skew long-laid plans.

Population density is key. Investors want a certain critical mass of consumers and workers. While Kendall County is growing by leaps and bounds percentage-wise, raw household numbers don’t yet support what some businesses require.

But with more than five thousand new residential lots in some stage of development in the City of Boerne, the landscape is changing quickly. BKCEDC, founded in 2006 by local chamber of commerce leaders and funded by a consortium of city, county and private dollars, is shaping the process.

“As the chief marketing office of Boerne and Kendall County, we position our area as an ideal site for corporate investment,” President Misty Mayo explains. Mayo was second in command at the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation before joining BKCEDC in 2015.

Mayo has three priorities for the non-profit corporation: 1) Retain and expand existing businesses; 2) Relocate San Antonio-area companies to Kendall County; and 3) Recruit and attract regional and national entities to the area.

“In economic development, it’s not the big who beat the small,” Mayo insists. “It’s the fast who beat the slow.”

 

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

12 Productivity Tips for the New Year

The title of the bookette caught my eye: “Shave 10 Hours Off Your Workweek.” The recommendation wasn’t to leave at three. [Insert banker joke here.]

Author Michael Hyatt is the former CEO of a large book publisher. Since retiring a few years back, he has been “virtually mentoring” people, helping them become more productive.

Hyatt would readily admit that productivity starts with the heart. He would likely point to one of his former authors, John Eldredge, whose writing on desire helps people recover what really motivates them.

But many of us need help with the practical. How do I turn goals into action? How do I keep from getting distracted by a world gone mad? How do I create the space necessary to accomplish what is really important to me?

Here are some effectiveness-enhancing ideas from Hyatt’s writings:

  1. Eliminate the word “try” from your vocabulary. Either decide to do something or don’t do it. “Try” is a cop-out word that makes you feel like you’re doing something when you’re really not.

  2. Don’t complain about others. The people who hear you won’t think less of them; they’ll think less of you.

  3. The secret to achieving more is not managing your time. It’s managing yourself and your energy. Time can’t be expanded. Energy can.

  4. Take naps. DaVinci, Einstein, Edison, Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, JFK and Reagan all did. Less than thirty minutes in the early afternoon will focus you for the balance. Pick a place that works for you: an empty office, your car, a janitor’s closet. Hyatt gives plenty of research to support the practice.

  5. Remember the Big Three: diet, sleep, exercise. These are often the first to go when we get overwhelmed. Reality is: if you snooze, you don’t lose. Along with sound nutrition and mind-clearing exercise, rest resets you physically and emotionally.

  6. Become a morning person. Slay the three-headed dragon Lethargy. Attack its spiritual head (Pneuma) with Scripture reading, its physical head (Soma) with exercise and its intellectual head (Nous) with thought-provoking audio books.

  7. Guard your time. Hyatt quotes first century philosopher Seneca. “People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”

  8. Constantly move to-do list items to your calendar.

  9. Make appointments with yourself. Then, when someone asks to encroach on your time, you can honestly say you are committed – to the things that are most important.

  10. Disconnect from the web. Respond to emails and phone calls 2 or 3 times a day, not constantly all day long, so you can focus large blocks of time on your core work.

  11. Triage your activity. In emergency medicine, there are three possibilities for every case (hence, the tri- in triage) :

(A) survival without medical attention;

(B) death even with attention; and

(C) survival with proper attention.

Medical professionals focus on Category C. It’s the same with our priorities. Some will save themselves and some aren’t worth saving. So, elevate those that will make a significant difference if given proper focus.

  1. Say no more. Discover the positive impact of a negative word. Saying “no” is really about saying “yes” to what matters most.

Kevin Thompson writes for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.


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