Book Review: A Question of Love


A Question of Love

Plot:

After Laura Quick’s husband Nick just disappeared, she found herself wrapped up in a world where she is the star of her own quiz show. One day, her old flame Luke became one of the contestants and they started to date again. But things became different the second time around – with his 6-year old daughter and an ex-wife always in between them.  Laura became mixed-up with all the questions on whether to start her life with Luke or face the truth about the life she thought she once knew.

The Highlights:

I like the original quiz show idea. I also like the part where Luke suddenly popped up as a contestant. Laura’s sisters had very different story lines yet they somehow connect to the main character.

The Lowlights:

I wasn’t convinced of the reasons why Nick just ran away. When they had a chance to talk again, there was no closure. There were question marks all over.

I remember reading from somewhere (a different source) that “when we cannot change a situation, we must change ourselves.” But Laura’s situation is SO changeable! For instance, the first time that Luke’s ex-wife’s character dropped some hints that she’s leaning to be a “psycho,” Laura should be quick in just running away. All the time that she spent with Luke, she should have read the bold neon sign like a “warning” to her. I mean, come on! I also didn’t like the reason why Laura and Luke broke up the first time. If that reason is being used, there should be no 2nd chapter for the 2 of them.

Tom’s character was never a solid picture from the start and then suddenly up to the last part, he became the significant character. There was really some serious inconsistencies in the story.

Rating: 2 star

My 2 Cents:

This is the first book by Isabel Wolff that I read. It should be a feel-good story but overall, I thought the story was shallow. It was engaging at first but not even halfway, I found my excitement inch down dramatically. Reading the next couple of chapters, I felt that the author just wanted to end the story abruptly. Pacing was inconsistent all throughout the book. I had to drag myself to finish reading (or just toss ) the story.

I still plan to read another Isabel Wolff book to give her another chance, hoping that I’ll be entertained and satisfied with her next story.

Here’s hoping….

Breakdown, Breakthrough


Don’t be caught in bad memories. Don’t be lulled in sweet memories. Memories can’t be changed, but your future can be.

Good Morning!

I like mornings. They remind me of beginnings, a blank canvass waiting to be painted with vibrant colors. I like to believe that mornings – like beginnings – bring good things that bring hope. Before the sun smiles down at the world, I always want to be the first one to avail of the unfolding moment.

Sadly, not all people are so enamored to welcome the day like I do. Who can blame them? With plenty to do, most people equate living a day with following a set routine instead of looking at it with brimming potentials.

Carpe diem, a famous saying goes. To help us seize the day, practice is needed. The moment that we open our eyes, we should treat the day as something so pristine and practically untouched by anything that has come before it. Is it possible? Yes it is! Remember the days when you just jump out from your bed because you have this idea that is so unique you don’t want anything to come your way – not even brushing your teeth or taking a glance at the mirror – just to do what’s on your mind? It felt great, wasn’t it?

Today, just the thought of waking up still alive, breathing fresh air, and seeing my love ones (still in deep slumber, though) got me excited. And I’m still looking at dozens of weeks more, hundreds of days, thousands of hours, and so many minutes that are out there waiting to be explored and filled up in my heart’s content. Just that thought excites me no less. If that doesn’t. I don’t know what else.

I have much to look forward to this day alone. I know there’s a new moment and opportunities that will greet me today, probably bumping each other shoulder to shoulder, waiting for me to choose and pick the first thing to shape up to experience. But at the  same time, I will humble myself and say a little prayer to accept this gift of today thereby allowing myself be shaped by them.

Everyday, I aim to fulfill these aspirations:

1) To be. To find that part of myself that helps me to be calm and peaceful amidst the darker days. Chaos are here to stay. But I don’t need to stuck in the rut. I can always take the high road.

2) To see. Awareness will help me see things clearly. It helps me determine the right direction to take.

3) To be true. #s 1 & 2 will help me get through it.

These past few years, I have learned that faith in ourselves is a hallmark of who we are. A humble spirit helps to find simple goodness that we can bring out everyday.

As the sun peeps out from the clouds this morning, I finally understood what Jerry Maguire said: “Breakdown, Breakthrough.”

At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.  — Jean Houston

3 Business Learnings for Customer Retention From the 56th Grammy Awards


Grammy Trophy

photo credit: billboard

The 56th Grammy Awards held last January 26 was a stunning delight to millions of people around the world. All in all, there were 82 major awards given during the annual celebration of the music industry at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. But most people are not aware that the Grammy Awards are not only for the musically inclined. Even business owners can benefit from watching the event by adopting these business strategies. Among things that they viewed from the artists, performers, nominees and winners can be adopted on how they run their business particularly in building up customer retention.

Here are some of the most important business learnings about customer retention from the 56th Grammy Awards:

The Legends

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr

Photo Credit: Fox News

The performance of the Beatles, Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, is something that almost all people looked forward to seeing. As they rocked the hall with Starr on the drums playing “Queenie Eye” while McCartney sang, the audience was reminded of the Stars’ impact on them. That night, the Beatles duo was treated special and received the lifetime achievement award. The audience clapped as they bowed their heads after their performance. Some even shed tears. But all of them rocked their hearts out as the award was given. To the Beatles, it was not just a night of thanking the music industry. It was the night they were recognized all over again like the first time they played their music on The Ed Sullivan Show 50 years ago.

The Learning

Just like in any company, long-time customers should be treated extra special. Those who have been with you through ups and downs should also be given sort of “lifetime achievement” awards. How do you do that? Try creating some product promotions for them or special discounts. Or how about a hand-written note just to tell them that you value their business?

One other thing that they will appreciate is that if you will find the time to understand the reason why they stick with your business all throughout the years amidst the growing competition. Is it your personable approach? Is it your promotion? Your free delivery? Have a keen eye on details so you would know how else you can enhance your business dealings with your loyal customers.

The Repeat Customers

Bruno Mars and Alicia Keys

photo credit: rap-up.com

There are musicians who are obviously the crowd favorites. Just as their names were announced, you could almost hear the audience say, “I knew it!” when Bruno Mars who was awarded the Best Pop Vocal Album and Alicia Keys for the Best R&B Album. So why are some performers already anticipated long before the announcement? Because of their consistency. Throughout 2013, these artists were consistently introducing hit songs one after the other. No wonder, they deserved the deafening applause of the audience.

The Learning

In business, some customers are consistent. It may be over the years or throughout the year that just ended. Perhaps they are bulk purchasers or maybe just paying for your service throughout the year. Whatever it is, these customers should also be valued. How can you do this? Review your records. Before the customers make another big purchase, you can call them up and spend a few minutes, really knowing what they look for in your service. Value their suggestions and feedback. Do they want the bulk orders delivered right at their doorsteps? Do they have specific instructions for delivery? Make an extra effort to adopt their suggestions. Repeat customers like them are a goldmine.

The New Surprises

Grammy New Surprises

Everyone was surprised to learn that new artist Kacey Musgraves’ “Merry Go Round” was hailed as the Best Country Song. The 26-year old singer-songwriter defeated the much popular yet equally talented Taylor Swift who sang “Begin Again.” There were also Macklemore and Ryan Lewis who were hailed as the “Best New Artist.” Their song “Thriftshop” won as the Best Rap Song. But what seems to be the best surprise is the Song of the Year. Lorde, the 17-year old singer from New Zealand, beat more popular artists like Katy Perry, Sara Bareilles and Bruno Mars with her unique rendition of “Royals.”

The Learning

New customers may also take us by surprise. They may be new but they have already know what they want and what they are looking for. As business owners, you have the responsibility of satisfying their needs. Why not offer them something that they can’t refuse? Experience shows that a package deal is always something worthy of time. Think of other ways to attract new customers, something that they will stick into and never turn their heads and look the other way.

Bottomline

Customer retention, like music, can be easily applied to all kinds of customers – be them a legend, a repeat customer, or a new surprise. The bottom line is to really get to know your customers. Mapline helps with analyzing your customers. Data analysis brings insight that builds customer retention. By adopting these 3 simple Grammy lessons, you’ll be heading to more successful customer retention.

 

Strategy Is No Longer a Game of Chess


Harvard Business Review:

Finally, an article about strategy on widening networks. We at Mapline always believe that strategy can only be effective if companies dig deeper and try to understand networks that may affect their business. They can plot different sets of network (talent, partners, consumers, et.al) on a map and visualize the connections. This simple tool helps companies to bring out the best in strategy.

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

Legendary strategists have long been compared to master chess players, who know the positions and capabilities of each piece on the board and are capable of thinking several moves ahead.

It’s time to retire this metaphor. Strategy is no longer a game of chess because the board is no longer set out in orderly lines. Industries have become boundless.  Competitive threats and transformative opportunities can come from anywhere.  Strategy, therefore, is no longer a punctuated series of moves, but a process of deepening and widening connections.

The first person to think seriously about how businesses function was Ronald Coase.  In his groundbreaking 1937 paper he argued that firms gained competitiveness by reducing transaction costs, especially those related to information.  In his view, firms could grow until the point that organizational costs cancelled out transactional benefits.

In the 1980s, Michael Porter built on this idea and made it more possible for managers…

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Customers – The Real Winners in Small Business Week


Marga Dela Cruz:

Small businesses are the backbone of community. But without the loyal customers. there would be no small business in the first place. We salute you, customers!

Originally posted on Entrepreneurs & Leadership :

“A customer that you inspire, is a customer you will keep.” – Anonymous

On its 51st year of celebrating the National Small Business Week, the US Small Business Administration came up with a timely theme, “Innovate and Inspire.” Small businesses have been the backbone of our community, inspiring new ideas to new businesses to bloom, like chain reaction, extending links to new businesses that fill the needs of millions of customers. They also perpetually giving opportunities to millions for employment. So this week from May 12 – 16, the entire nation is one in supporting this eventful celebration.

During this week, programs, seminars and training are promoted in different states like California, Kansas, New York, and DC. The activities help increase awareness on how small businesses can innovate and inspire. After all, their new tag line is “the lifeblood of our economy.” Recent study shows that this industry provides 2…

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A Day in a Life of a Mompreneur


mompreneur

Photo Credit: savingmompreneur.com

5:15 AM: The familiar sound of a popular pop music filled the air. When the rest of the world was still sleeping, she forced herself to reach out to her cell phone and stopped the alarm before it starts screaming again, afraid to wake up the rest of the family members. She tip toed her way out from the bedroom, and started preparing for breakfast, without even taking a glance of herself in the mirror. She made sure that the coffee was hot, pancakes  were delectable and fruits freshly squeezed for a refreshing juice.

6:15 AM: She went up again to wake her kids up, Danny, 16 and Jena, 13. “It’s time for school, don’t be late,” she said for the nth time. She walked back into her bedroom, found her husband already in the shower. She picked up his favorite business suit from the closet and laid them gently on the bed.

6:30 AM: The whole family enjoyed their hearty breakfast. This family bonding was what she had ever looked forward to everyday. It was the perfect place and time for her to spend quality time with the people that matter most in her life. As usual, Jena was teasing Danny about his classmate, the newly-transferred be-dimpled girl who sits next to him. Danny gave his little sister a scornful look as he sheepishly looked past his mom. She, on the other hand, hid her smile, thinking that her son had grown up so fast! Jena, on the other hand, was struggling with her Math homework. The morning became “Mom to the rescue” for the youngest member of the family. She patiently taught her daughter how to remember the math formula to solve the problem.

7:00 AM: Hubby and the kids kissed her goodbye. She could have been in a pensive mood today, but no! On the contrary, there was an undercurrent of happiness filling up her day since she opened her eyes. After all, she’s a busy mompreneur and aside from looking over at her family’s needs and best interests, she also finds time to be a successful entrepreneur. So right after washing the dishes, she cleaned up their 2-story house.

8:00 AM: She took off her hat as a domestic goddess and quickly spent the next 30 minutes in the shower, soaking her body in a warm, relaxing bath. She felt the need of some “me, myself & I” time and she embraced every bit of it!

9:00 AM: She was ready to work. Her hair still wet, she turned on her laptop and started reading her emails. Coffee (again) as her trustworthy companion, as she patiently replied to all urgent emails. She called up staff members, suppliers, and distribution centers  to make sure that all the goods are delivered accurately and in a timely manner. Before lunch, she quickly set up a team meeting with her staff, sharing with them the business maps she had created a day before. The map visualization allowed her staff to view the movements of the business, revealing their business connections with their customers and how else they can do better and aim for improvement.

12:00 noon: She took a break from work and grab a quick bite for lunch. She made a couple of phone calls but this time, to her husband (who said he arranged a romantic dinner for her) and to her 2 kids (glad to learn that Jena got the perfect score in Math (she remembers to give her a small treat. Hmm… ice cream maybe?) Well, Danny sent her a text message instead saying that he’s in the Science Lab focusing on their project with his lab partner – the new girl in school! :) Why does her smile never leaves her face when reading that?

1:00 PM: She resumed from her work, calling up customers again and asked for their needs, what orders to take, and what else to do to help them out. She used business mapping tools to help her understand the relevance of her work to the geographical locations of her customers. Then there were also some issues that should be resolved immediately. “I’ll get back at you in no time,” she promised a customer. In less than 5 minutes, she had created a heat map that helped her identify potential risks. She called back her customer and explained several options to her, finding the timely solutions to the customer’s impeding problems.

5:00 PM: Kids arrived home. This time, the snacks are prepared – Danny’s favorite – Nachos! And Jena’s little treat – ice cream.

6:00 PM: She prepared dinner for the kids, reminding them to behave as she will soon meet their daddy in a posh restaurant for a well-deserved dinner.

7:00 PM: This time, the evening comes and the tiredness kicks in, but she shrugs it off, looking forward for a date night with hubby. She had a quick shower, put on a pale pink satin dress, put some make-up on and before leaving the room, sprayed a dash of her favorite scent.

8:00 PM: The place was amazingly romantic. The attendant led her to the table. She was taken aback to see her husband, all smiles at her, probably the most handsome man in the room. They enjoyed everything that they ordered. What she liked most is that they can freely mention anything and everything under the sun. The usual conversation like “how was your day?” or “how’s work” is answered with several paragraphs with different emotions in between.

Life for her as a mompreneur seems to be a flurry of activities and movements. But she doesn’t complain. She’s busy. She likes what she’s doing. And she feels fulfilled.

Starting a Business? Ask These Questions First


Marga Dela Cruz:

The 5 “How” questions before starting a business

Originally posted on Entrepreneurs & Leadership :

By Marga Dela Cruz

2014 is a great year for starting a business. However, financial aid is just one of the many other factors to consider. Ideas are just the icing on the cake. More than that, new entrepreneurs should be prepared mentally and emotionally. Here are 5 questions to ask before starting your own business:

How is my passion for my ideas?

It is an understatement to say that starting a business takes a lot of pressures. There are perpetual questions with no resolute answers like Do I made the right decision? Are my ideas enough? Next, expect frustrations along the way especially when you quit your 8-5 hour job to concentrate on your new business – only to find out that the hours you spend are longer but the initial profits are somewhat lean. So prepare for the long journey to success. Most roads leading to success are…

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A Warm Gaze on The “He Says/She Says” Gap


One of the reasons why psychology books like  “You Just Don’t Understand” by Deborah Tannen and “Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” by John Gray have sold millions of copies is because they target one of the most common problems in marriage today – communication. Most researchers believe that difficulties in marriage arise mostly because of misunderstandings. He says something, she understood differently; she said something, he just shrugged.

This dilemma boils down to having both genders with distinctly different communication styles.

Compete Vs Complement

The history of creation reveals that women are created not just to be a revised male counterpart. Both men and women were exquisitely and thoughtfully designed and that’s not to compete with each other but to complement each other. There are 4 different yet equally important aspects where complement should take place:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Spiritual

Aside from innate differences, what makes communication a struggle between man and woman (especially in marriage) are the complexities of individual upbringing, life experience, environment, moldings of people by culture, and society’s view of  “He Says/She Says.” Because of these influences, many have involuntarily swayed through different labels of how men and women should communicate. But the elusive “typical man” or “typical woman” may exist only in the pages of romance books.

Throughout the years, when we hear the word “sensitivity,” we automatically picture women. But if we think hard enough, many men are wonderfully tender with their dealings. On the other hand, logical thinking may be attributed more to men. But in many ways, women mostly have keen, analytical insight. So while it is impossible to label any trait exclusively for “him” or “her,” one thing is sure: both genders should practice insight.

Peaceful Co-existence Vs Outright War

Insight into the partner’s perspective has a very important role to play in marriage. By using this significantly, they can turn their worlds into peaceful coexistence. However, if insight is blinded by each other’s pride, they are on to outright war!

There is a seemingly daily challenge in communication between husbands and wives. For example, the common question like, “How’s your day?” can make or break a relationship. Also, frequent “nagging” questions can be fraught with dangers. Many diplomatic wives learn to refrain from repeatedly asking, “Why don’t you just ask for directions?” when their husbands become lost while traveling. Rather than belittle the seeming peculiarities of a mate and stubbornly cling to one’s own because “that’s the way I am,” loving partners look below the surface. This is not a cold scrutiny of each other’s communication style but rather a warm gaze into each other’s heart and mind.

As each person is unique, so is each blend of two individuals in marriage. A true meeting of minds and hearts is no accident but requires hard work because of our imperfect human nature. For instance, it is so easy to assume that others view things the same as we do. We often fill the needs of others the way we would want them filled for us, perhaps trying to follow the Golden Rule, “All things therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” But nowhere in the rule mentioned that what you want should be good enough for others. Rather, you wish others would give what you need or want. So you should give what they need. Especially is this vital in marriage, for each has vowed to meet the needs of his or her mate as fully as possible.

Whether a couple has been married for a couple of years or more, and even though they feel they know each other quite well, situations erupt that reveal a yawning communication gap that good intentions alone cannot bridge.

 

Be Open to the Wonders of the Mundane


Schaudenfreude – it is a German word that means “pleasure people take in seeing other people’s misery.” Unfamiliar term yet surprisingly, the meaning is too common that we see familiar scenarios everywhere. In our neighborhood, on our way to work, school, et.al., From my vantage point, I guess that is why telenovelas or soap operas exist in the first place. As mournful as it may seem, but the twisted truth is revealed – that people love to scrutinize the garbage of their neighbors. Worse, we love showcasing their insecurities, problems and even their psychological challenges just so we can feel better for ourselves.

The world is filled with charlatans. With a grieving sigh, it is an immutable part that has already been deeply etched into human society. It takes real courage to break free from the bondage of the thick metal chains of having an insatiable appetite to meddle, pre-judge and even have sanctimonious views about others. I dare to differ. I stare into the middle distance as slowly I coerce myself to be open with the wonders of the mundane.

I read from somewhere a great quote which says, “You’re only as respectable as the man facing you.” Looking at others’ faults does not help us come close with having a strong sense of righteousness. Whether we are dealing with the high and mighty or the so-called scabs of the society, we have no right to bask on their weaknesses just to attain a level of righteousness. If that is rightly so, then we are just slipping away from the thinnest layer of moral fiber in no time at all. Instead of feeling glorified as we see others downhearted with their debacle, we should allow our hearts be touched with sympathy. After all, a warm heart is way better than a name that is dragged in the muck.

We may probably dig a big hole from our own backyard to bury our have-nots. Even if we cover them with mud and seen only from six feet under, sooner or later, the stingy smell will lead others banging our doors. Are you afraid that as you open the door, your neighbors will smell your self-taught dignity stinker than your moral bin? So before assuming that you are better than others because of their present situations, chew your lips first before considering the answers.

As the time worn saying goes, “Judge each day not by the harvest that you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” So whatever we give out to others, our impartial God will eventually give back to us a bounty of the sweetest fruits that are rightfully ours. He was always one for respecting others. He was the first to taught us not to act “higher” than anyone, regardless of his position or stature in life.

We vow to do better and be better for ourselves and for others. By doing so, we can ward off the darkness. Being open to the wonders of the mundane will allow us to feel the light of compassion. Because of imperfection we may still feel the heavy pull of our own demons once in a while. When that happens, throw in a monkey wrench with all the breath and depth of our existence. Then, we will surely see a glimpse of glory from the mundane.