Optimism, Joy, Hope, Capitalism, and Christmas Cards

Well I just need to move right on with my business here and complete the work of another blog posting. I need a little pick-me-up-optimism after that last post. So, where do I see optimism, joy, and hope? I see it everywhere in life and in business and especially in capitalism. Our great American corporate culture of business innovation, capital markets, and public investment is inspirational when you look at it all with the right perspective. Oddly enough, a place where I draw great strength and optimism a lot lately has been in the news. I haven’t read much of the coverage. I haven’t really been taking journalism too seriously for the past few years. But, it was hard not to notice the Wall Street Journal article touting business men and women drawing strength and rationalization for corporate behavior from Ayn Rand’s writings. Yes, I gather strength and a certain rationalization from her writings. Especially the approximately 32 page long section of Ayn Rand’s book, The Fountainhead, which I sometimes reference to business colleagues. I find it immeasurably helpful in business, in life, and in corporate affairs at my Christmas Card company. I will attempt to paraphrase it ever so briefly and concisely:

The protagonist, architect corporate businessman Howard Roark, is wary of business clients and their inflated corporate egos. He is feeling a bit beaten down and comes to a turning point in his career and his profession. He, if I recall correctly, is depressed. He is feeling downtrodden and oppressed by the amazing business world and corporate achievements of the “world” represented in towering glass and steel buildings. He gazes skyward and wonders how and where he will make his impression on this world. He feels a futility as he is gazing upwards at the towering structures of corporate America. What business does he have thinking he could ever be in the company of the great architects and working men that had labored to create the amazing skyscrapers he stood beneath? Towering structures of steel and glass loom over him, belittling him. But then, suddenly, revelation comes to Howard. His perspective shifts his paradigm of the world, its businesses, corporations, and monument changes. He is enlightened. He suddenly sees all of mans’ accomplishments as a legacy, as a communal continuum of excellence and achievement. He sees his work in a new light. His legacy is to add to the amazing achievement in whatever small way. His perspective is shifted from one of jealously, belittlement, and comparison of his to theirs to a perspective of inclusion, ownership, and pride in their accomplishments as his and ours. He suddenly gains a beautiful appreciation and admiration instead of an oppressed feeling of smallness and irrelevance.

Ayn Rand’s writings have long been misinterpreted bent and twisted. In fact, back in her day she was accused of being a socialist. Her theories of “Objectivism” do have a twinge of communal versus individual. But there is real power in these pages I refer to in The Fountainhead. I will make it my business when I get off of this airplane to find the passage and update this post. I will have to make it my business to reread that section. I wonder how accurate my recollection is? I wonder what the law is about copywrite? If I want to contact the company that published this book will the Corporation’s lawyers let me post an excerpt? I’d think it would help their business to let people like me tout passages in this manner? I wonder if all of the publishing companies “company lawyers” react the same way?

I think I might have to make it my business to write some more about Ayn Rand and do more justice to her beliefs and how they fit in the company of Corporate America and Capitalism. It’s a topic I enjoy and I think you might want to make it your business to come back and read some more and share your opinions and comments with me.

Until next time,
A much cheerier traveling guy

City Scenes at Christmas Time

I’ve always loved New York City at Christmas time. Seeing all the holiday shoppers bustle by, laden with packages for their loved ones. I especially treasured how beautiful the city looks when dusted in fluffy white snow, just like a scene from a movie.

There really is nothing like visiting New York City at Christmas time. There is so much to do there and I have so many fond childhood memories of skating at Rockefeller Center and going to see the Rockettes put on their spectacular show at Radio City. I always look for Christmas Cards that remind me and my recipients of the fun that can be had during the holidays.

Of course, whenever visiting the city you do not want to miss the tree lighting ceremony. There is that truly awe-inspiring moment when the tree is first lit and you can hear an audible gasp amongst the crowd. You just know you are witnessing something really special that relatively few ever get to experience. My mother, who grew up in the city, is no longer a fan of making the trip and this makes me sad. For the last five years, I’ve tried to convince her to go with me, but to no avail. She does not like the hurried pace and traffic noise. I can understand why this may not appeal to her and had almost given up trying but, this year, I was feeling a little inspired.

So on the first cold day of the season as we were sipping our hot cocoa and trying to decide which holiday card to send, I started to talk about the good old days. I painted her a mental picture of a city scene all decked out at Christmas time with lights twinkling and holiday music playing. I told her how we could go in the city during the early morning hours when the noise was more of a lull and slipped in a promise of a trip around in a horse drawn carriage and guess what? She finally agreed and we plan to go visit the tree this year. After that, we’re off to the department stores for a little Christmas shopping and then some lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. Of course, we will end the day with the carriage ride I promised as we tour the city in style. I can’t wait!

Christmas Cards worth Keeping

The other day I was busily running around the house doing the “honey-do’s.” I’m not sure if that expression is sailor talk? I’ve no idea where it came from other than all of my friends who are sailors call them that. A Honey-do is the around the house chore, often completed on the weekend at the expense of some other activity with friends. Why’s it called a “Honey-do”? Because the person asking for the things done is normally “Honey” and when speaking to you they are saying “Honey do this, Honey do that, Honey are you done yet? When you are done, Honey, can you do this over here!?” I digress, this post was not supposed to be about Honey do’s, but rather what happened to me the other day while doing things for honey around the house. I had a surprisingly unexpected and reflective moment.

By late afternoon, I had achieved quite a few things. I’d thrown out innumerable children’s toys that were missing pieces. I’d picked up clothes strewn all over the house. I’d stuffed the summer things from the attic into the basement storage closet, and I found myself approaching seeming completion of the Honey-do list, which by the way is impossible. Think asymptote…look it up if you don’t know the definition. It’s almost as obscure as the word fungible.

Anyhow, seriously my last trip to the attic, avoiding successful completion of the honey-do’s, I wandered over to another area of the attic and started cleaning up random things. I had found an old file box. It was white cardboard with black ends and a little string that wraps around to keep the box shut. The top of the box was dusty and slightly discolored with age. I recognized the box as something I had cleaned out of my Mom’s home years ago. As I unwrapped the string and opened the box I remembered what it was…this box represented the very last “thing” that I possessed containing items from my deceased father. Sadly, he died a painful and slow death on September 21, 1985. I was barely a young man and it was a very difficult time.

So here I was, just more than 22 years later in my attic sitting on the floor in front of a file box with the last few things from my deceased dad. I opened the box to see what I had once only barely glanced at. The file box contained papers. It was only about one third full. I had never done anything before except just glanced inside. I really had never wanted the torture of revisiting his death and I think I feared that there might be something in the box that would only open more questions than provide answers. Whatever was in that box on those papers that my father had kept wouldn’t bring him back. I wasn’t even sure they were papers he had kept. For all I knew they were random papers lying about gathered and thrown into a box.

I reached in and rummaged around. There were mostly 8½” x 11″ business stationery-type documents…a lot of my Dad’s work stuff. Only really now as I write this do I fully realize that this box contains items cleaned from my father’s desk, from his “junk/memento” drawer. I have one of those too, something I guess in common with the man now dead for more than 1/2 of my life and really all of my adult life. There were letters, memos, faded pictures and press clippings. Things my father was proud of. As I thumbed the papers deciding what to read first, I found a small collection of envelopes. I chose one as the first item to read from this long avoided box of mystery. I pulled from the envelope a small piece of lined paper that was wrapped around a greeting card. I was surprised and smiled slightly, I think. A greeting card…I hadn’t expected it. The envelope wasn’t a shape that I expected to contain a card and it was hiding within the lined paper. The card was from my grandmother to my father. It was a Christmas card. “Merry Christmas my dear son” it read. I paused, staring into the attic rafters for some time just thinking. I turned the envelope over to look at the front. It was postmarked December 16, 1978. I thought, my Dad kept this, a simple Christmas card. It really meant something to him I dreamily pondered.

I went on to find a dozen or so greeting cards. They were all Birthday cards and Christmas cards, mostly from my grandmother to my Dad. I don’t know how long I was there just sitting in the attic thinking, skimming through papers, photographs and the cherished greeting cards. Soon though, it did occur me to get back to the chores. Company was coming for dinner and I needed to have my business taken care of before they arrived. I closed the box up and left it in the middle of the floor. Our company came and we had a nice time.

The next day, before heading to the office, I made my way up to the attic with a permanent black marker and I wrote on that box “Under no circumstances should this box ever be thrown out!” I will head back up there someday to peruse and read some more. But for now, those dusty old personal Christmas cards my Dad kept are just more of the things I keep for sentimental reasons, my last connection to someone I barely know but miss dearly.

Sadly I find myself here 22 years later, on a plane to Las Vegas, tearfully typing.

Sending a Photo Christmas Card – It is So Fun with a Growing Family

For my wife and me, it is very important and enjoyable to make the effort to reach out to family and friends…to stay in touch, catch up, and extend our wishes during the festive holiday season. As our lives continue to change and as we grow as a couple and a family, this has become more entertaining every year. We now have two children and for the past three years, we have been sending our Photo Christmas cards with a picture of the most adorable kids in the world…ours!

As much as we look forward to sending out our Christmas Cards with a photo and personalized greeting, we equally anticipate receiving Holiday Cards from family and friends. We look forward to seeing new photos of their family and catching up on new developments.

For us, the Christmas season is a time to reflect and appreciate what you have and to reach out to those you love the most. It is a reminder that friendships and families are to be cherished, preserved, and nurtured. Personalized Christmas cards are a great way to extend holiday wishes to those your care about. And why not show off an updated photo of the kids while you’re at it!

Personalized Christmas Cards – to Imprint or Not to Imprint? That is the Question.

Around this time of year, I have to decide what to do about my Christmas Cards. My first decision is where do I get my cards? Even though I work here, I have to be honest and say that the most impressive Corporate Christmas Cards I came across were the ones we offer. They are classy and elegant, which is totally my style. But I did have to ask myself, are Holiday Cards for businesses also suitable to give to family members? I decided what matters most is the thought behind it. There are so many beautiful Holiday designs to choose from that I can select one that suits my style. You can choose to say Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. You can even say it in more than one language. An abundance of beautiful winter scenes, tree landscapes, ornaments and even fun Santa cards can be found for whatever suits your needs. I can even select one of the many photo cards available.

After choosing an intricate and shimmering ornament design, I gave some serious thought to which greeting and imprinted message I want to send to my friends and family to convey the sentiment of the holiday season. I have a very large family and feel sometimes it’s easier to get greeting cards imprinted rather than handwrite them myself. Some of my family members love to get cards that include a handwritten, personalized message, while others are happy to be remembered whether it be with a handwritten message or an imprinted one. This year, I decided to get my personal Christmas Cards imprinted, but for those family members who love to see that handwritten message, I will take the time to add that extra touch. So, with all that being settled, I’m on to the next item on my Christmas to-do list.

When Sending Christmas Cards, Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Sometimes I really love this expression and other times I just hate it. I love it when it helps me to see the wisdom in sitting down, forgetting the daily grind for a moment and gazing out into the future in a productive way. I hate it when I realize after the fact that yes, I took the time to gaze out into the future but I didn’t follow through and I didn’t plan to make the vision happen. I hate that feeling of unknowingly planning to fail.

So what in the world does this have to do with Corporate Christmas Cards and Business Holiday Cards? Well, actually it has a lot to do with them. To send a holiday card or a gift takes a little preparation and a little foresight. It takes a bit of planning and barring this planning, well…in today’s world you can still be successful is what we are unfortunately being trained to think. We can do everything and anything at the last minute it seems nowadays…Or can we…?

Yes, actually, we can do a lot at the very last minute, but the effort suffers. The joy, thought, and emotion are diminished and worse yet we are training ourselves to flirt with failure. In fact leaving things to the last minute is planning to fail. We do often pull it off in the last minute, skirting failure, but it’s simply just unhealthy and it’s certainly no way to run a business.

So, if we do pull it off and order our Holiday cards at the last minute are we worse for wear? Have we succeeded without flaw, impact, or damage to ourselves or our firm’s reputation? Sadly, the answer is no. Real damage is done. Failing to plan ahead and purchase your Corporate Christmas cards and Business Holiday cards can result in real damage to you and your company.

We order from our competitors every year. We see the problems with quality, shipping, timelines, and customer service. At The Gallery Collection by Prudent Publishing we don’t operate that way. We produce all of our cards 100% in the United States. Our designs are all exclusive works completed by our artisans and available only from us. Our paper stocks are thick and rich, not flimsy and curling. And we fulfill our promise to do a good job imprinting your cards and sending them on time.

Well shucks! I told myself I was going to try and write something that didn’t sound like an advertisement. It’s hard! Our product is so nice. We try so hard. We beg customers to order early so that they can be prepared so that they can plan to succeed and succeed as planned instead of flirting with last minute harried preparations and failure.

I guess I should just wrap-up. Please plan ahead. Please don’t plan to fail. Please order your Christmas cards soon. We want to do a quality job of imprinting and personalizing your cards with your company name. We want for you to take this opportunity to thank your customers with a simple, thoughtful, and low cost option. You really don’t need to torture them with another inedible fruit cake or fatten’em up with more chocolate and candy.

Maybe I’ll write a bit more later on some of the problems we have seen over the years with competitors, service, quality, and their high prices and fake discounts?

Until then…

Holiday Cards for Your Business

What’s the proper etiquette for sending out Holiday Cards? Choosing Holiday Cards for your business shouldn’t be a nightmare, and you can take several precautions to make sure it doesn’t turn into one. Get yourself organized ahead of time. Determine exactly how many cards you need and order a few extras so you don’t find yourself short, or worse, not being able to send cards to all your business associates.

In deciding how to personalize your greeting cards, try to remember the point of sending them in the first place…you want people to realize you thought of them during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. The last thing you want to do is offend anyone so stick with a design or scene that is generic rather than specific. Here’s something important to keep in mind – some of your customers and clients may celebrate Christmas; others may celebrate Chanukah or Kwanzaa; and some may believe the season is all about Santa Claus and gifts. “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” applies to all rather than choosing a card that reads “Merry Christmas.”

Try to keep the personalization on your Business Christmas Cards simple and basic. A message of one or two lines should be sufficient…most people are too distracted to read a long-winded card around the holiday season. If you don’t have a ton of recipients to send cards to, it would be a nice touch to add a personal note in addition to your imprinted message. But more times than not, this is not realistic. Let’s face it, we’re all a bit short on time especially around the holidays. So consider having your signature imprinted inside your cards. This extra touch will surely impress your customers or clients.

Lastly, try to have them all ready to go in the mail no later than the first week of December to beat the rush (the post office will thank you!) but more importantly your recipients will be impressed by your attention to detail, great organizational skills, and warm holiday wishes.

A Merry Christmas Greeting Card from Shane

I have been thinking a lot lately about a Merry Christmas greeting card I received last year from a distant acquaintance. I will never forget the feeling I had opening it. It is the similar feeling to the one I get when I see a piece of mail addressed to me (provided it’s not a bill). I was with my friend Megan, who is also an acquaintance of Shane. The card was beautiful…a winter scene with a pair of cardinals in flight in the background. “Merry Christmas,” the card read in silver cursive. Before I even got a chance to open it and see what was written inside, Megan exclaimed, “Merry Christmas? Doesn’t he understand that sending out Merry Christmas greeting cards is not politically correct?! How does Shane know that you are Christian?” You have to understand something about Megan – she is dear to me, but likes to make a big deal out of everything.

Although her point was valid, especially in the world today where we try to be inclusive of all creeds and cultures, it didn’t even register to me that Shane’s card could be offensive. I was floored to receive any correspondence from him; I didn’t care what it said on the outside! The fact that he thought of me during the busy Holiday season and decided to reach out to me at all overwhelmed any other feeling I could have had about cards that say Merry Christmas. I think that is what all cards, including Holiday cards, are intended to do. The simple act of purchasing a beautiful card, writing warm wishes on the inside, and walking it to the mailbox filled me with some needed Holiday cheer. I wish I could say the same for Megan!

When she went home that night and looked in her mailbox, she saw that she, too, had a beautiful Merry Christmas card from Shane. Megan showed it to me the next day. This time there were no remarks about political correctness or Christianity. She was deeply touched by Shane’s card. I still have the card he sent me to this day. I also kept the envelope so that I can surprise him with a Christmas card this year, and hopefully make him feel the way I did last year.

Holiday Card Aspirations

My friend Lisa is a fine arts student who dreams of becoming a Holiday card designer. I have been trying to find a way to help her use her skills, or maybe just learn how to get some recognition for her designs which could help her get a job after college. So when I heard of the Create-A-Greeting-Card Scholarship contest, I was really excited to tell her.

Lisa’s driving force is the support she receives from her family, friends, and professors, and she couldn’t wait to get started on her entry for the scholarship. Lisa designed a beautiful card depicting a Christmas inspired living room with a Christmas tree and stockings and greeting cards hanging from the mantle. It was a true work of art, and she told me that she felt like an actual artist and not just a student doing another assignment.

For Lisa, creating an entry for the scholarship contest validated her aspiration of becoming a greeting card designer. She submitted her design and now she just has to wait to see if her Christmas card is chosen as the winner of the $10,000 scholarship prize, which would help tremendously in paying for her college tuition. After all – it isn’t everyday that you find out about a scholarship such as this one.

A Monet Card – A Masterpiece and an Unforgettable Christmas Card

Last year, I received a Personalized Christmas card from my town for volunteering at a community Holiday function. The card featured the lovely painting Near Honfleur, one of Claude Monet’s most famous snowscapes. Normally, I would keep Christmas cards hanging in my office for about a month or so after the Holidays and then throw them away but this one, I felt, was different. This beautiful masterpiece greeting card deserved to be hung in my office all year long, and the compliments I received were overwhelming.

While I could probably never purchase a true original painting by Claude Monet, having Monet cards make me feel like I have a mini art gallery in my office. I am hopeful that next year I will receive another Holiday card that is a stunning reprint of a new famous artist or even another Monet masterpiece.