Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Some breakfast table wisdom and another day's wrap-up

But first, your daily slideshow. Near the end I went San Diego scenery crazy, so enjoy!

We had our sponsoring professor breakfast this morning, and there were a few nuggets of wisdom passed around our table that I wanted to share with everyone.

First of all here's my sponsoring professor; he was really busy and could only be here for two days. Such is life.

Our table consisted of myself, several other students, a guy named Rick who is currently in the industry and Dr. Charles Bennett from St. John's University's College of Risk Management (check out all his designations here). Here are the things we talked about.
  • Lead with questions. A direct offshoot of From Good to Great that I keep mentioning. Rick said, "Don't be afraid to say you don't have all the answers. Just tell them you'll find out the answers or let them know how to find the answers for themselves."
  • Differentiate yourself as a leader. The Chairman of insurance broker Willis, Joe Plumeri, differentiates himself by his wardbrobe and his personality. He rocks a short, pink tie like nobody's business, and he is one of the most boisterous, engaging, piercingly sharp people in any room. This picture doesn't have a pink tie, but believe me, he was working it last night. And his tie knot was HUGE. Ridiculous. But the takeaway here is that, to establish yourself as a leader, you have to find ways to differentiate yourself from the rest of your employees. Not in an arrogant way, but in an identifiable way that is at the same time endearing and empowering. Like wearing one of these to work like I plan on doing.
  • Talk shop: Don't just focus on talking business all the time. Talk college alma mater football, talk golf, talk politics (with a splash of humor to keep from stirring the pot too much), talk current events, talk music, talk anything. Be personable and persistent. Not annoying.
And since I've delayed posting this, I'll recap the day so far also.
  • The aforementioned sponsor breakfast.
  • Morning session on speaking risk management. It was all about how to communicate the urgency, the effectiveness and the relevancy of risk management to your boss, to your colleagues, to your employees and to your friends. It's a dynamic profession, and it's exciting. Don't believe me? Just ask!
  • THE MOST BORING KEYNOTE PRESENTATION EVER (!!!) for lunch. It started with a terrible spinach salad and ended with a dry, monotonous keynote presentation. Proof positive that, even if you have a Presentation Zen-style PowerPoint that is engaging, funny and informative, you are the one who makes or breaks the presentation. Ouch...nails on a chalkboard. I don't want to talk about it anymore.
  • Had an "educational roundtable" discussion which basically involved a hypothetical ("based-in-fact") case study of a junk foods company. Successfully cemented the fact that I will never be an employee benefits office because I can't deal with workers comp cases. Booooring.
  • Wine and cheese reception in the exhibit hall where we had our choice of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon or (gasp!) merlot. I hadn't seen anything but the former two all trip, so it was a decent change. I also got a hole-in-one on the virtual Tiger Woods golf game, but the video was of me following that up with a splashdown right of the same hole. Oh well.
  • Reception sponsored by the nation of Bermuda (yes, that's right) and their "capital of risk" financial campaign. Sushi, quesadillas, "Dark 'n' Stormy"s, prime beef cuts and all...great stuff.
  • We're heading to the House of Blues to check out Aon's reception with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy as the headliners. I'll let y'all know!
For now, here's Garr Reynolds' take on a handy career advice book:

Sometimes it happens

Risk management can never truly compensate for the glories of human error, I guess.

Formatting sucks

PS: I have no idea what the hell happened with the formatting on the below post. I apologize, but it's late.

Call this my multimedia post

It seems like it's been forever since the last time that I actually wrote about anything on here. So I'll give you a little rundown with some text, a few slideshows, and some videos. Enjoy!

Here are some pictures from yesterday and last night. You'll see me with childhood friend and almost-graduated U of Bama student Vanessa Rolf. There are also some from the "Aquatic Odyssey" and the AIG-sponsored dessert reception at PetCo Park.
  1. Went to the Aquatic Odyssey where they had mermaids, a girl with water fountain fingers, a live band, eight bars, more tables of food, two bars made of ice and thousands of risk management and insurance professionals. For the record, never ever drink a dry martini -- or any martini for that matter -- at a rate faster than calm sip. Trust me.
  2. We got to walk on PetCo Park's infield grass and dirt. Well, we actually followed the security girl while she kicked other people off the field and took pictures when she wasn't looking. They also had a pretty sweet wiffleball cage and some amazing bananas foster. with Myers's Rum. Awesome.
  3. Crashed something fierce on top of my bedsheets and woke up around 3 feeling awful cold.

These are from Monday morning through Monday night, tracing the breakfast, keynote, exhibit hall, dinner(s) and Hootie concert. The day just kept getting better.
  1. Woke up at the crack of dawn for breakfast and Chris Gardner's keynote about breaking cycles. Quite possibly one of the most engaging presenters I've ever experienced. I got a book signed and a picture...I felt special.Yes, I rocked a bow tie. And it looked good. And the only other guy with one was also a Marsh employee. Good karma.
  2. Yes, I rocked a bow tie. And it looked good. And the only other guy with one was also a Marsh employee. Good karma.
  3. I love Marsh. Period. 'Nuff said.
  4. Shmoozed around the UGA Night reception in the Hall of Fame Room at PetCo Park. It was sponsored by Willis, another global broker juggernaut. Filet mignon burgers are great, by the way.
  5. Headed over to Marsh's event at Dick's Last Resort. I met two UGA grads at the earlier reception, so we palled around the city over to Dick's. They're corporate headhunters (insert vaguely villainous music here).
  6. Came back and got pumped for the HOOTIE AND THE BLOWFISH CONCERT!!! It was awesome! Not only did they play all of their huge hits, they also threw in some "Get Down On It," "Champagne Supernova," "Losing My Religion," and a few more covers. I went absolutely nuts when they said our Athenians R.E.M. were the reason they started a band. I lost my voice as soon as I ran in the door (and I do mean ran).
And I'll leave you with some of the concert videos that I took. It was splendid.

The opening song

Hootie playing "Losing My Religion." That's me in the background screaming and losing my mind. Oh, Athens.

What a defining, classic song. Sorry I could only get 36 seconds of it for you guys.

Talk to y'all soon! As in...tomorrow probably!


Front row at a middle school dream come true!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Chris Gardner's happyness keynote

One quote: "Those guys spent $70 million recreating what I did with nothing." This guy is incredible!

Being stalked by Good to Great

Above is the current RIMS president Janice Ochenkowski giving part of her opening remarks. And she just referenced the book From Good to Great by Jim Collins. So for you ILAD kids...it'll follow you wherever you go.

We're VIPs in PetCo Park!!!

AIG sponsored a dessert reception for all the insurance people at the Padres' PetCo Park. They had bananas foster, my favorite dessert in my whole life! So we all ran onto the field while the security people tried to kick is off. And yes, that IS real baseball dirt on my shoes, thanks.

They have a bar made of ice!

I mean, I've heard of an ice block, but an ice bar?! This is insane! There are mermaids, girls with fountains of water coming from their fingers, ribbon dancers...oh my!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thoughts from the first day or so...and the first installation of my picture slideshow

Picasa slideshow from my first two days so far. The pictures are from Evan (my roommate) and my walk along the marina boardwalk and our group's day trip to Coronado Beach. There's one picture I'll pull out of there and comment on below, so check that out also. Watch the pics, and I'll have a little commentary below.

And the lucky picture is...

That's me at the top of the steps mugging for the camera. Yes, I'm giving a thumbs-up. We're at the Hotel del Coronado at Coronado Beach right outside San Diego. The guy fading into the background behind me is what we like to call "tragedy." He's wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey, cut-off camo cargo shorts, hunks of product in his hair and lots of trashy tattoos up and down his arms. It's too bad you can't see him in all his glory. But, hey, I guess I can't say much because he's staying at a baller hotel on a resort beach in San Diego. Must be nice.

Beyond that, here are some impressions I've got from my first two days:
  • If you're ever invited to attend a free conference, GO TO IT! We've already had an open-bar reception, and there is at least one more per day for the next four days. The wine selection may not have been great, but I'm not complaining. The going rate for our hotel room is upwards of $450 per night, it's all free, it's in a great location and everyone's incredibly nice. So if you get the chance, hop on it pronto.
  • I've always heard the California girls are the best girls in the world. But if they were a football team, they'd be the Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors so I could shout "Overrated!" at them. They just don't compare to this...or this...or simply the average night in downtown Athens...not even close. Guys, hear me on this one: WE HAVE IT SO LUCKY. You have no idea. I can say I've been to the West Coast where the "beautiful people" are (not LA where the fake plastic people are though), and Athens tops it easily. Stay as long as you can.
  • "Fratty" in Athens means ambiguously gay or old most anywhere else especially here. I only found one other guy with a swimsuit above his knees on the beach today. Nobody had Croakies, no one rocking Sperrys (hardly any flip-flops either, if you can imagine) and no visors. Every guy had a tight t-shirt and board shorts on. Nothing wrong with that, just an observation. No short shorts outside UGA, I guess.
And that's all I've got time for right now, but I'll keep it coming tomorrow!

More pics from SD

My view looking up from a poolside lounge chair at the palm trees. You better love this pic, Adam!!! This is also the new background on my phone.

More palm trees, but now in front of our hotel building. This is the North Tower, and my room is on the 11th floor around the other side looking half out on the bay and the city. By the way, here's a link to our actual hotel, the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina.

Not that I am looking for nice guys or hosting such an event, but maybe they were inviting me. If so, I hear nice guys finish last, so I think I'll pass.

This is the Hard Rock Hotel/Lounge/Cafe. Apparently it's "the" place to be in SD, but there was a private party so we couldn't get in.

The views from our room and the pool

Here's our pool that sits between the North and South Towers. Those tent things in the back are the various spas and massage facilities. And to the right, just outside the frame, is a fake waterfall with a bar on top of it.

One of the many views from our 11th floor balcony.

Looking out over the marina from the balcony.

San Diego skyline...

This is a random fountain across the street from our hotel. There are actually trolley tracks that go through it. Interesting...

This place is incredible! Definitely the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

We're here!

The airport knew we were coming! Some interesting things to write about the trip so far, so look for an update soon! It's beautiful here!

Soldiers on vacation

A whole company of soldiers sitting at the gate to leave for St. Croix for a well-deserved vacation I guess. You're all much appreciated. Go chill and unwind. Y'all deserve every bit of it.

The journey begins

Out of bed at 6:45...on the road by 7:45...airport by 9:15 after a Chick Fil A stop. Thanks again for driving, Adam!

I've been to the Atlanta Airport many times, but I've never noticed the dinosaur skeleton at Terminal South. So I took a picture of it. A little ironic that we have something so ancient juxtaposed against the modernity of the airport...a little non sequitur I guess. More to come soon! Game on, San Diego.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Of marketing to younger kids

On Rocksprings and Broad

Creative...go after the just-turned-teen girl market. Genius. There's a joke about more bars in more places here, but I won't make it.

Tom Cousins - UGA Grad, Businessman and Baller Extraordinaire

Today at 10:10 marked the last ever ILAD class session that I will ever take...at least I think so. We'll have to see about that one. But we hosted Tom Cousins, the Chairman Emeritus and Founder of Cousins Properties, Inc., probably the largest real estate developer in the Atlanta area and in a big part of the Southeast.

Now, he spoke for about 30 minutes at the Law School and took 20 minutes of Q & A, but I'll just list a few of the highlights and standout quotes from his talk.
  1. ON RELATIONSHIPS: "One day you will be thankful for that, if nothing else." He said this was the primary benefit he received from his days at UGA. In talking about his experiences with WWII veterans, he said they taught him "how to drink, party, play poker and hitchhike." And these relationships he cultivated with the vets are what he remembers fondly.
  2. ON FORMER BUSINESS LAW PROFESSOR A. ALDO CHARLES: "If you don't wanna get 'did,' don't go amongst the doers." I'm not totally positive what this means, but I believe it probably ties in with the next point somehow...
  3. ON INTEGRITY: Question he always receives from students: "Don't you always have to step on people to succeed?" Answer he always gives: "I cannot tell you how contrary that is to fact. And I hope you will listen to what I'm saying." CPI committed itself in the beginning to a culture of integrity, of keeping both written and unwritten commitments, or not bragging but following through. And when you walk into the CPI offices "you can feel it," the notion that everyone is working together to do the right thing.
  4. ON REPUTATION: The ups and downs of the market, the tough times for your company, "that's where your reputation really pays off." That's wear you build your reputation by not selling yourself out, by not cutting the corners and by soldiering on in spite of it all."If there's confidence in you then you'll be needed at these times...and outstanding people will be drawn to you." Good stuff.
  5. ON INTEGRITY (AGAIN): Never say "It would have been legal. Don't just do the legal thing, do the right thing. Don't fudge on the expense account even if everybody does it. Just be different." This last part he says is the key to both financial and life success.
  6. ON CHARACTER: "It will eventually show up, folks!" His example involved an employee he had hired to be the next CEO of CPI. Tom took him to play golf at Augusta National, and he noticed an oddity about the other man's game. When the man would spot his ball, he would place the marker in front; then when he went to put his ball back, he would place the ball in front of the marker. He was fired at the end of the trip simply because this small act showed his true character. Update: The fired man has since been the CEO of a large bank in Texas which is bankrupt. He is also now divorced because he was "running around with his secretary." Go figure.
  7. ON GIVING BACK: "Get involved in community service." All of the employees of CPI had in internal drive that said they "ought to give back," not they they had to or should, but that it was a natural thing. When combined with integrity, service is the key to guaranteed success, he said.
If you've ever been through Atlanta and noticed the East Lake district, the momentous revitalization is one of Cousins' crowning achievements. The Atlanta police chief even said this once violent and desperate community is now statistically safer than even Buckhead. Here's a link to a CNBC video about the development. Check it out, it's amazing.

There's so much more I could write, but I don't want to make this exorbitantly long right now. So I'll leave you with a quote and a stamp that Cousins put on the UGA campus.
"Whatever you do, do something you enjoy. Because once a day's gone, it's gone for good."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Of Nike shorts and springtime in Athens

My roommate Joe and I decided this morning that we would take on a Herculean task: counting the number of girls wearing those Nike running shorts that are so popular right now. It's not that either of us has anything against them, per se, we were just astounded at the number wearing them just at our bus stop (there were two or three). And so the game began.

By the time we had taken the Milledge bus to Snelling, the count had risen to the double digits. The Milledge bus stops are a hotbed of running shorts, so maybe our sample was a little biased. Nevertheless, we were having a lot of fun. Until...

We got on the Family Housing bus to the SLC. Here's what played out:

Buildup: My friend Tamara got on the bus. I pointed out another girl with the shorts to Joe. Tamara asked what we were talking about. I explained our game...
Me: We're counting the number of girls who are wearing those Nike running shorts today.

Girl Wearing Those Shorts Standing Right In Front Of Me: They're really comfortable, okay. They have built-in underwear! [Tangent: that might come in handy for guys sometimes]

I'm not saying I have anything against them.

Girl, Getting More Annoyed By The Second: They fit just right because they're not too short.

Me, Attempting Humor: They might be too short on me! [no response] Because...I'm...a little bigger. [crickets]

Girl: [huff and turn away]

Me: [glad to make it out alive]
And by the end of the day, my count had reached 37. Joe, who had been at work at East Campus Summit all afternoon, contributed 18 more, plus 4 more on his bus ride back home. And just to top off the day, I saw a friend running on my way back from work with the shorts...making our total reach a magical 60. Wow.

At $28 a piece...the things I could do with $1,680 dollars...

Disclaimer: The author has nothing at all against girls in running shorts, especially girls in Athens in springtime. This "game" was just that, a game.

Update: Joe came back and added 8 more to the count. It now sits at 68...we'll see if we can't add a few after dinner tonight.

Update (2): The number now rests somewhere north of 80. I lost count during the flood of girls at East Campus. So there you have it.

My first attempt at mobile blogging

So here's a picture of our incredible new hammock outside our apartment. I've spent several hours on it and, no, I don' exceed the weight limit. Perfect for napping on a glorious day like today...

Correction: "Tyler's hammock." Are you happy now?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My Blog Roll, Part 1

And so begins my gradual description of some of my favorite blogs, the ones that I have chosen to link on my sidebar over... <-- there. And instead of just saying, "Hey, check these out, they're cool," I'm gonna highlight a favorite post, give some more good suggestions and hopefully by then I'll have roped you into subscribing to another blog. These entries will be in no specific order because the links are organized alphabetically, and I wanted to start with one near the bottom: Presentation Zen.

The Skinny
This is a blog by a guy named Garr Reynolds -- check out his website for some more bio -- who is a world-renowned speaker/presenter. Yes, he teaches at a university, but for the most part he gives presentations...oftentimes about giving presentations. Below is what he would claim is "a 7.5 out of 10," but more than effective nonetheless.

The Highlight

This post is one of my all-time favorites. It's about Carnegie Mellon computer scientist Dr. Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture" presentation. Basically, Pausch was diagnosed recently with pancreatic cancer, a fatal form of cancer that is currently incurable. Yet, as you can see from the picture to the left, he absolutely exudes joy, happiness and life. It's incredible. And instead of wallowing in self-pity, he says that he began "building safety nets" for his family. These safety nets would catch them when they fell in the coming days when he would not be there for them.

If we're Facebook friends, you might have already noticed that I have a quote by Randy on my profile: "Brick walls let us show our dedication." When life shoves an obstacle or "brick wall" between us and our goal(s), that brick wall is only a proving ground for us. We can either look at it and say, "Man, I can't get through that," or we can look up and say, "Maybe I can go over if I try hard enough." The key is that reframing of the problem into a puzzle and a goal in and of itself.

The Last Lecture revolves around the central concept of achieving your dreams, your childhood dreams, your wild out-of-this-world dreams. And also about helping others achieve theirs. When you watch the presentation -- it's very long, but every second is worth the time, believe me -- you can feel the love in the room flowing from all the students, coworkers, family and friends who have all achieved some semblance of their dreams directly or indirectly because of Randy. And his ever-present smile shows the inner peace and joy that he carries with him. Awe-inspiring to say the least. And I dare you not to get emotional when he brings out the surprise for his wife. I triple-dog dare you.

To Dig Deeper
So there you have it. A little piece of my psyche. More to come...

"But inspiration does not come from mere words, it comes from actions and behaviors. Words matter and words and speeches inspire and stories can change the world. However, it's not only the stories we tell, it's really about the stories we live." -- Garr Reynolds

Monday, April 21, 2008

When did this happen?!

How many times have you unsuspectingly walked into class on a normal Monday morning and heard this: "Hey [insert your name here]! Nice picture on the Terry Amazing Student website!" If your answer is anything more than zero times, then congrats. I -- after today in ILAD5100 -- can now chalk it up as once. Stellar.

Now, don't get me wrong, I was fairly excited. Excited in a sort of how-in-the-world-did-this-happen-and-why-didn't-I-know way. Maybe not too excited. I love the picture, mind you; it's one that I've used several times since it was taken last year for Orientation (that's right, the link doesn't work because I am now a washed-up OL07...such is life). But there are a few things that I took issue with.
  1. I HAD NO IDEA!!! I guess they can publish things about me whenever they want, but I would at least like to be given a heads-up of some sort.
  2. Nothing in the whole story was from me personally. All the information was taken off the now-defunct Orientation website, including the picture. Other spotlighted students at least got to put in their two cents.
  3. I don't deserve this...AT ALL. I can't compare with a Rhodes Scholar, Chicago law student, founder of a global charity or one of "the best marketing students in the country." I can talk to freshmen about college life. I got a paper published during my freshman year and subsequently dropped out of that club. Oh well.
  4. I HAD NO IDEA!!!
That's a short list. Here's an excerpt from the email I wrote the Amazing Student contact:
"I realize that the story of my publication in CITS's "Monitor" is probably the most unique informational soundbite that could be on such a website, but I would also like for the story to note my involvement in such things as being a Freshman Orientation Leader this past summer, my current position as a Student Government Association Senator representing Terry, a seatholder on the University Council, a member of ILA's LEAD Certificate Program, recent induction into Blue Key Honor Society and upcoming invited attendee of the Risk and Insurance Management Society's Annual Conference in San Diego beginning this Saturday." -- sent 1:38 PM on April 21st.
We'll see how it goes. I'll update you guys later if you want.

Of tragedy striking way too close to home

So this story came on top of the fold for today's issue of The Red & Black. I had heard vague descriptions of the story last night at our Visitors Center spring banquet, but the magnitude and truth didn't hit home until this morning when I woke up to a text from her Orientation Leader this summer. Without revealing a name, he said she was one of the freshmen who stood out during the sessions, and he had seen her many times on campus.

Nothing else could have so successfully put my stressful upcoming week into quite the right perspective as this. But the timing of the accident is what struck me most. In community group last night we talked about the concept of God painting on a canvas too large for us to comprehend or even recognize. The lesson came directly from an incredible talk by one Louie Giglio, a pastor who targets college-age students. If you're interested, the whole talk entitled "When Life Hurts the Most: An Anchor of Hope" can be found in its entirety here. It's amazing, but almost 45 minutes long, so I'll give you a single highlight.

Louie talks about times when you have troubles that are so bad they can wreck you; so bad you don't think you could ever get past them; so bad that you can't believe that a God could even exist. But he says that there is also an "anchor of hope" (hence the title of the talk) that is the fact that God loves us and that he is painting on the aforementioned humongous canvas. We may never (and probably will never) know, in this life, what He means by everything, by all the troubles and by all the hurt. But he is always in control.

I have no idea what Tierra's religious beliefs are/were or if they existed at all, but I know there will come a time when we will see what it all means. Until then, how could God not be watching over someone like this:

"She had this ability to make an individual connection with everyone she met." -- Nissa Shams, freshman and good friend of Tierra.

(c) The Red & Black, 21 Apr 2008, author Amanda Woodruff

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Q: Where have I been this whole time?

A: I have no idea. And no excuse. Now, I don't want to underestimate the impact that my blog absence has caused for all of you guys -- or the two or three of you who have ever actually read this blog. Oh well, I've decided that I will try to do better from now on. For now indulge me as I give y'all a few updates, thoughts, observations, and predictions:


  • Not sure...I don't know why I included this category in my list above. I don't really have anything to put here.

  • The weather here in the ol' G-A is annoying. Annoying like the fat guy who always has the seat next to you on a long plane flight. Annoying like the crumbs and such at the bottom of a cereal box that, no matter how you try to avoid pouring them in your bowl, always seem to flood the top and get mushy with the milk. That annoying. Seriously, high of 58 two days ago, misty and windy yesterday morning, beautiful tropical weather today. What's the deal?
  • Sometimes you get what you ask for. And sometimes what you ask for turns out to not be what you wanted at all. Case in point the Target case study for my leadership class. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to win a $3,000 scholarship for the group, but I'd also love to keep my sanity this week (see above). I hate it when this happens.
  • We've got a lot to look forward to for this season's Dawgs. Below is just one reason.

  • Holy crap! And how about this one?

  • Get excited. I'm buying red pants. Debate ensues. I look good regardless because I still have these. Be jealous. And I don't have any Friday class(es) next semester, so I'll be rockin' the UGA class all across the great Southeast. But not to Arizona State, because I'm poor.
  • The Yankees will right the ship...soon...hopefully. Boy, I hate the Red Sox.
  • I will somehow survive this semester and have an incredible summer in Tanzania and Atlanta.
And that's all I've got for you guys. Time for a Visitors Center spring banquet then my community group. If I blog from San Diego, then I've made it through this next week. If not, then I'm probably just being lazy. Sorry for the lack of pictures...I'll try to fix that. In the meantime, chew on this:

"Georgia is a powerhouse right now, and they were at the end of last year with the way they displayed it in their bowl game." -- Mike Aresco, CBS' senior vice president of programming.