Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A New Year - A Blank Page

2010 is here! What is it going to be like for you?

I like the beginning of any new year. We get a fresh page on which to write anything we want. We can create, dream, plan and go anywhere we want to go with a clean sheet.

As usual, I first reflect back on the year just closed. I keep meticulous records of our expenses and can tell you to the penny how much we spent on every line item of recurring expenses, as well as for groceries, meals eating out, clothes, dry cleaning, gas for our automobiles and other expenses. I also review my past journals and remember and reflect on the stuff of life that we have experienced in the past. Sometimes I laugh out loud at the situations in which I found myself, but mostly I’m trying to learn from the past and make my future better and more productive.

Questions I usually ask are:
How can I esteem my wife more?
How can I improve my relationships in my family?
How can I improve my relationship with God?
How can I improve my serve with my fellow human beings?
Where can I cut corners in spending?
What new ventures will I pursue?
What goals have I been pursuing that are worthwhile and should still be pursued?
What goals and dreams should I stop pursuing or have become obsolete?
How can I improve my life, my relationships, and my future?

Keep adding to this list of starter questions if you wish.

To me, a new year is one big do-over. Remember doing that as a child? Maybe you missed a fly ball hit right into your glove, or you fell down just as you neared the finish line and you cried out “do-over!”

So, let’s do over in 2010. Some quality thinking time alone is a great way to begin this process. Let your imagination run wild, with nothing being off limits. What are your wants, wishes, and wanna-be dreams? What did you nearly accomplish in 2009 that you want to do better at in 2010?

I’m making my list and checking it twice. Join me. It’s a journey that will take you places you might not otherwise see and experience.

Michael Biggs is a speaker, writer, speech coach and vocal soloist. He lives in Edmonds, WA. with his wife Carolyn. His company is called Up-Words, “Offering Hope, Encouragement, and Inspiration One Word at a Time”. Michael’s business experiences include Director of Sales and Director of Marketing for three music publishing companies, Regional Director for Sylvan Learning Centers, and success in sales in retail, insurance and real estate. He is available to speak to your business or organization. Please contact him at 206-349-1888 or email him at

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Candlelight of Love

We attended a Christmas Eve service tonight with about 1200 others in Seattle. At the end of the service we passed the light that originated from the Christ candle. Watching the light spread reminded me of the power of love spreading. I made a renewed commitment to spread the light of love from my heart to others with whom I rub elbows this coming year.

I noticed that as the light was spread throughout the congregation, the room was filled with light so bright that each face glowed with the warmth and brightness of all of those love lights. One small candle with one tiny flame, reaching out and touching other candles brightened each face and each dark corner of that large church.

Light crushes darkness
Light chases gloom.
Light dispels despair.
Light shows the way.
Light replaces fear.
Light welcomes.
Light invites.
I want to do a lot more spreading of the light of love.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Christmas Memory

When I was a kid, Christmas was a huge event for me. I loved everything about Christmas-the sights, the music, the gifts, the food and especially the family times when my brothers and sisters from out of town would come to our house.

I am one of ten children, and one of the characteristics of a large family is that you have to share almost everything. I especially know all about hand-me-down clothes.

My brother Donny and I even had to share a second-hand bicycle that we were given. It was a heavy, blue 26” Schwinn ladies model with balloon tires. Being the younger sibling, I don’t remember getting to ride this bicycle very much and longed for my own.

When I was nine, I got my very own bicycle. I remember that Christmas especially, for that was a huge gift in my life.

On Christmas Eve I decided to go outside and shoot some fire crackers before heading in for the night. Just as I lit a whole string of fire crackers a truck pulled into our driveway and the head lights aimed my way. My Dad came out of the house to greet the truck, saw me in the back yard and in his stern voice said, ‘Mike, get in the house right now.’

I didn’t know what was up, but I did notice that the truck was from the Easy-Pay Tire store in town. The Easy-Pay Tire Store was the catch-all store in Lewisburg for everything from tires and auto parts to bicycles, toys and footballs.

I knew that truck was bringing something special to our house for Christmas, but for whom I couldn’t guess.

Thirty minutes later some well-wishers came to our front door to greet Mom and Dad, so while they were distracted, I made a mad dash for the garage. I saw one of mom’s old quilts draped over something that I hadn’t noticed before. I slipped over, raised a corner of the quilt and to my surprise there sat a new bicycle. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life.

Well, I couldn’t stay. I was fearful that Mom and Dad would find me, so I dropped the quilt corner and headed back inside, thrilled with my discovery.

Bedtime came, but I was far from sleepy, which was typical for me on Christmas Eve. To make matters worse, I had to share the bedroom with my Dad because we had a houseful of siblings visiting for Christmas. As was typical, Dad went to bed around 8:30 PM. Finally, around 11:00 PM I knew I needed to hit the sack, so off to bed I trudged. I wasn’t sleepy, but knew I would never be allowed to stay up all night.

After tossing and turning for two hours, I decided it was time to slip out of bed and see what great Christmas surprises were under our tree and in our living room.

Just as I slipped over the side of my bed, Dad’s voice stopped me. “Get back in bed!”

Dad had a deep, stern voice and no one argued with Dad, so back to bed I crawled. I finally drifted off to sleep -- for a couple of hours. Around 3:00 AM I awakened and decided it was time to try again. I could hear a steady breathing rhythm coming from Dad, so I felt the coast was clear.

I quietly put one leg out from under the covers, then the other, then threw back the covers, trying not to make the bedsprings squeak. I finally made it to my feet, gently opened the bedroom door and headed down the hall to the living room where the Christmas tree was.

There she sat -- a beautiful new ruby red bicycle with front and rear fenders, a two-speed gear shifter and a white seat. It was a 24” bicycle and it was the most beautiful bike in the world.

Of course I received other gifts that Christmas but they were all overshadowed by my new bicycle.

Oh, to be a child again. I hope you find the unexpected, the longed-for, and the wanted and needed gifts this holiday season. And I hope some of them are gifts of relationship, gifts of love, gifts of acceptance, gifts of peace and gifts of contentment.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Greetings

From Michael & Carolyn Biggs

The tree is up,
the decorations sparkle,
the lights are glowing,
the sights and smells
of the season abound,
the wish lists are posted,
and anticipation is everywhere!

Peace on earth
Food for the hungry
Warmth for the cold
Rest for the weary
Safety in your travels
Jobs for the unemployed
Economic recovery for all
Light for those in darkness
Companionship for the lonely
Restoration of relationships
Good health for the suffering
Resolutions for the world’s ills
Peace in every area of your life
Encouragement for the discouraged
Grace to endure our human weaknesses
Generous people to help the less fortunate

The blessing of family
The blessing of faith
The blessing of love
The blessing of hope
The blessing of joy
The blessing of music
The blessing of peace
The blessing of giving
The blessing of sharing
The blessing of friends

Friday, December 11, 2009

Eye Contact Matters

I drove through a fast-food drive-in recently and ordered my usual breakfast. As I approached the window to pay, the young man never looked at me. He acknowledged me with a rote comment he must say dozens of times every day to customers, but he failed in the one opportunity he had with me to acknowledge me in a significant and meaningful way.

He told me the proper amount due. He used my credit card and charged the proper amount. He handed my card back along with the proper receipt. But he never looked me in the eye. He didn’t even look up from his cash drawer as he handed me my credit card and receipt. What a shame that he is allowed to do that job all day long, yet he stumbled over one of the most important acts of human kindness that matters the most.

Eye contact lets you know that you are the focus of someone’s attention and that you are noticed. Our eyes are one of the most important channels we have when it comes to communicating and relating to people. By using appropriate eye contact you communicate several things.
I am paying attention
I am beginning to trust you
I acknowledge you
I honor you for these moments we are in conversation
You have my attention
I am present with you
I am interested in what you have to say

In one-on-one conversations, our message is conveyed in these ways?
10% by the words we use
40% by the tone of our voice
50% by our body language and this includes eye contact

Research conducted by Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario Canada, reveals that people in a group discussion will speak up more if they receive a greater amount of eye contact from the other group members.

In our American culture it is considered bad form and we are considered untrustworthy by not making good eye contact. However in some cultures too much eye contact can come across as trying to provoke your listener. I was told once by a very cultured Hispanic gentleman that in his culture eye contact of a prolonged nature is considered a threatening gesture and should be avoided.

In the Arab culture a lot of eye contact is preferred and too little could be considered disrespectful. In speaking with my friend Sina, a Persian, he comments that he keeps his eyes focused on a person’s eyes and mouth during a conversation.

In the Mandarin culture, my friend Annie tells me that a younger person will limit the amount of eye contact when greeting and conversing with someone older than themselves. This is a show of great respect to the elder person.

In the South Asian culture too much eye contact is generally regarded as aggressive and rude.

During a sales presentation to one or two individuals at a time I use eye contact from the very beginning as I greet each member of the party. It is easy to focus on each person for just a few brief seconds and go back and forth without the uncomfortable long glances. Of course, use eye contact when asked a direct question, but include the other members in your group as you give the answer.

The eyes can give valuable clues about how a person thinks. *People have different mental maps which drive their behavior. Kinesthetic people tend to look down more, while visually oriented people spend more time looking up, and auditory individuals look sideways. “This is because they each favor one sense to code and sort general information as well as to express it,” writes Nicholas Boothman (*How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less).

Eye cues can tell you more than with whom you’re dealing; they can also tell you with what you are dealing. When people look up and right, they are probably constructing or making up their answers. When they look up and left, they are more than likely remembering an answer.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “When the eyes say one thing and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first.”

Make people feel important. Focus on one person at a time and look them in the eyes.

Michael Biggs is a speaker, writer, speech coach and vocal soloist. He lives in Edmonds, WA. with his wife Carolyn. His company is called Up-Words, “Offering Hope, Encouragement, and Inspiration One Word at a Time”. He is available to speak to your business or organization. Please contact him at 206-349-1888 or email him at

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Show Them That You Care

Our Premise: Remember, every person you meet is wearing an invisible sign around their neck that says, “MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT!”

Perhaps you’ve heard the old adage that says “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I’m not certain who originally made that statement, but it rings true today more than ever.

During my retail sales days I quickly discovered that many customers were reticent at first to trust me and even acknowledge my existence. Unfortunately, people receive such poor service from the typical salesperson that they develop a thick skin when it comes to being willing to trust any sales professional. They need your help, but they have been burned so many times before by bad service that they are mistrusting and will often clam up and offer little to help you uncover their real need.

I soon learned that it generally takes between two and five minutes to begin breaking down the initial resistance of customers. When I was successful at breaking down their resistance and winning their trust, it was because I asked gentle, soft, focused questions about them, their needs and their desires. I was doing what Steven Covey says to “seek first to understand, then to be understood” (Steven Covey Seven Habits of Highly Successful People). I demonstrated that I cared about their needs, wants and desires. Dale Carnegie says this is one way of “speaking in terms of the other person’s wants and needs” (Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People).

What do people with whom you deal want from you? Are you in sales? Are you in people management? If you deal with people you must understand what makes people tick, where their buttons are that need pressing, and make sure you understand what it takes to make them feel important. Listen intently to the words they use and notice their body language so that you can present solutions and resolutions for their needs.

I remember vividly one couple I assisted. After a few words of greeting and asking some probing questions the wife asked me about a mattress that you flip. I responded by telling her that we didn’t have any mattresses on the floor that were meant to be flipped. She immediately responded by saying to her husband, “let’s go down the street and see what we can find somewhere else.”

I saw my opportunity and seized it. I turned my attention to the wife and began questioning her about her attraction to mattresses that needed to be flipped. She began to open up a bit, allowing me to talk about today’s technological advances in mattress making and how the need for the flipping was of an old style with lesser quality products from a past era. I spoke in terms of her wants and needs.

I was able to successfully get her over this mental hurdle and she started trying different beds. We went from one style to another until we hit on a particular bed with a beautiful pattern in the quilting layer that she fell in love with, and she loved the feel of that particular mattress. Nothing more was said about a mattress that flipped, I sold them this high quality single-sided mattress and she was a happy customer.

I listened, I qualified, I allowed her feelings to stand without challenging them, I presented today’s better systems for making beds, I discovered the exact feel and look that appealed to them and I successfully sold them their perfect bed.

Once a customer begins to look at you when you talk instead of avoiding eye contact, know that you are making progress. Some people will avoid looking you in the eye when they don’t know you and if they don’t trust you. Take a stroll down any street or boulevard and notice the amount of eye contact you receive.

Once you gain eye contact and their body stance begins to relax, continue to probe for more information so that you can better serve your customer. Watch for cues in their speech and body language that lets you know you are winning their confidence. To show a customer that I completely understand their concerns I will repeat to them what I heard them say, using their exact words.

Now you know one more way of how to “MAKE PEOPLE FEEL IMPORTANT!”

Michael Biggs is a speaker, writer, speech coach and vocal soloist. He lives in Edmonds, WA. with his wife Carolyn. His company is called Up-Words, “Offering Hope, Encouragement, and Inspiration One Word at a Time”. Michael’s business experiences include Director of Sales and Director of Marketing for three music publishing companies, Regional Director for Sylvan Learning Centers, and success in sales in retail, insurance and real estate. He is available to speak to your business or organization. Please contact him at 206-349-1888 or email him at