Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a time to remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. We need to extract full value by engaging in our communities.

I had to write a speech for a Memorial Day event tomorrow. The process of researching and writing made me think a little more about what Memorial Day means here in the U.S.

Growing up in Canada, we didn’t have Memorial Day.  In fact, in Canada, last weekend was the holiday and it was Victoria Day. Growing up, however, we always called it the May Two-Four Weekend. Usually it was around May 24, and usually it was camping with a “two-four” (aka, a 24-pack of beer). Canada’s memorial for soldiers and the price they paid is called Remembrance Day, and it falls on November 11, commemorating the German signing of the Armistice ending WWI at 11 a.m. on 11/11/1918.  King George V declared it a holiday thereafter, and throughout the Commenwealth it was called various things, including Poppy Day.

Why Poppy Day? Well, that goes back to the poem written by a Canadian, John McCrae, called In Flanders Fields. It’s a classic poem, written by a medic who served in WWI. It goes like this:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In Canada, we wore poppies to remember those who had died in wars defending Canada (and, presumably, the rest of the British Commonwealth). They placed poppies upon the grave of the unknown soldier on Remembrance Day.

Here in the U.S., Memorial Day really began after the Civil War, with various communities claiming to have begun its practice. Originally called Decoration Day, it was a time to decorate the graves of those slain in the Civil War. Today, Memorial Day is one in which Americans remember those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy today. 

The ultimate way to demonstrate respect for the price others paid is to be *engaged.*  To utilize the freedoms that were won for us.  That includes voting in elections … a freedom many around the world seek but Americans take for granted. That includes freedom of speech … saying what you think and being respectful of the fact that others have that same right.  That includes freedom to worship … how and Who you want.  So … Vote! Speak! Worship! 

At 3 p.m., people are asked to provide a moment of silence for those who died in the uniform. After that moment of reflection and/or prayer, there’s a whole year in which you can remember those who paid the ultimate price for freedom by embracing and utilizing your freedoms, by volunteering and being an engaged member of your community, by respecting and celebrating others. By “community,” I also mean your Social Media community. It’s a great place to use your freedoms to speak and to engage with others. The price that was paid and continues to be paid is too great not to extract full value!

Inputs and Outputs

You need to change what you’re doing if you expect different results.

It’s simple, really.  Change the inputs and  you’ll get different outputs, right?  Or, keep doing things the same way, and you get the same results.

Ideally, before changing inputs to achieve a different, desired result, you’ll research your new inputs and have an understanding of what kinds of results can be expected.  You can’t just mix up some ground coffee and cinnamon and expect a cup of tea. 

The same is true of a communications program.  You can’t just do what you always did if you want to achieve different results. You can’t just go after traditional media publicity hits and place some TV and print ads and suddenly expect to reach the audiences you’ve been slowly losing over the past decade.  You have to change up the inputs because, unfortunately, your audience is a moving target and what worked yesterday isn’t going to work today. 

SO, you have to research where they’re at.  Then you have to create a plan for how you’re going to reach them there … and figure out how to do so in a cost-effective manner.  And now you learn something new!  This new way of talking to them isn’t just a “one-and-done” deal.  You can’t just drop a value proposition tag line on them and move on.  They … talk … back!   AND they expect you to respond!  But … we don’t have a script to respond to their unexpected questions! 

The rules have changed and you need to understand your organization and your products and be able to have extended conversations with people about them.  And since there may be a lot of people with questions, you may have to train a few friends to also have those conversations on your behalf!

I’ve been dealing with various clients who are at different developmental stages along the communication highway.  Some are stuck somewhere on the plains on Route 66.  Some are in the right neighborhood, but caught up on a sidestreet.   Getting on the right highway requires a map or, better yet, a good navigation system.  A plan.  It requires some expertise and knowledge.  The rules of the road.  It requires a good vehicle.  And it’s gonna take some time.

These same rules govern careers, too.  You’ve got to change up what you’re doing if you want different results, right?  Actually, these days, you have to change up what you’re doing just to keep your job!   There can be no complacency if you want to stay employed. 

And all of this is very unsettling. Lots of people don’t deal with change very well. I have to admit, my new, independent career is very unsettling. It requires different muscles than the ones I flexed within the corporate walls of Amway.  It requires me to go out and sell myself … and not just clients.  It requires me to manage time differently.  I’m learning these skills and getting a lot of great advice from people on which inputs I need to change to achieve the results I desire.  Am I on the superhighway of career success?  I don’t know about that, but I think I’m moving in the right direction!