My new BOOK!!!

My new BOOK!!!
Improve your leadership relationships

My Leadership Workbook

My Leadership Workbook
The Accompanying Workbook

Friday, November 13, 2009

Getting Ready for College

Every year high school seniors and their families across the US, begin the process of applying, writing essays and seeking acceptance to higher education. For many, the hand wringing and worry have just begun. The education choices have never been more plentiful; between universities, colleges and technical schools a student can learn almost anything. From purely academic subjects that develop the whole human being, to the strictly technical topics that teach a very particular skill.

As a student is looking for a school, the Internet can be a very useful tool. Most schools have web pages that allow you to see the facilities the school has to offer, as well as biographies of the instructors and even pictures of the student body allowing the prospective student to get a feel of the school environment. However with the abundance of school choices available, the student has to beware of schools that are not properly accredited. Accreditation is important because accreditation is student’s and the employer’s guarantee a school is really teaching the curriculum they say they are and aren’t just a diploma mill.

I’m sad to say that the diploma mills have gotten smarter and have developed websites for fake accreditation groups. How does a student know one from another? One way is to find the website for a professional organization for your chosen profession and ask them for the accreditation governing body. This will allow you to know the school you have chosen is fully accredited.

After a young adult finds the right school financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants and loans need to be secured. I usually advise young students to find the right school for them, then figure out how to pay for the school rather than deciding what you can afford and then finding a school. The first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) form at . Students will also want to contact the financial aid office for their school as soon as possible.

Both of my daughters are graduating this year so we are deep in the process I have outlined. We have counseled them to dream big, reaching for international opportunity; beginning to think of interesting internships and how they can network to secure such an opportunity. An unorthodox plan can pay big dividends if the plan is well thought out and the student is willing to put the work in to achieve their dream.

Now is the time for taking the SAT, ACT, and applying to higher education. Whether you choose to study Philosophy at a major university or choose to learn to become a car mechanic; dream big, make a plan and become a lifelong student. The reward will likely be more rewarding than you can see today!

“Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream so shall you become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be. One who cherishes a beautiful vision, a lofty ideal, will one day realize it.” - James Allen

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He is an international speaker with two books and a DVD that can be purchased on He can be reached at

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Standing Tall

Editor’s note: The following is a guest column written by my oldest son Mark William Altman II, a 19 year old Junior at Embry Riddle Aeronautical Engineering University.

“He, who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” –Albert Einstein

This last Wednesday I was talking to my younger sister about how school was progressing. She was explaining to me that she had begun to question the callousness that her fellow students felt towards the world, a complete apathy towards school, the government, human relationships, and life in general. Without thinking, I reminded her that these students had been trudging along, mindlessly, head bowed, shoulders slumped to the dull beat of society’s drums for so long that they had become accustomed to the rotten stench of their unused minds, and had forgotten what it was like to stand tall and breathe the fresh air of freedom and innovation. It cheered her up to know that there was someone out there empathetic with her, but I couldn’t help but have a nagging feeling that there was more to what I had said.

As fate would have it, the next day in one of my classes we were discussing International Crime. The most disconcerting topic was that of Human Trafficking. I have always known Human Trafficking is present in the world, but never understood why Americans would allow such a human rights violation to continue unchecked, with barely a word against it. I ceased wondering as my fellow students began an in-depth discussion as to the “economic viability” of addressing this crime against their fellow humans; but they failed to discuss the human cost of allowing this egregious sin to continue. I began to question our societal mores. I was not questioning our society due to the free discussion between students; rather I questioned a society that taught its children that the almighty dollar was worth more than a human life.

We teach our nation’s children to go unquestioning into the workforce, and all levels of civil service, accepting that some people are less fortunate than others. We teach our children that the exploitation of foreign workers is acceptable since the pennies we pay these workers are “more than they usually would earn.” We encourage them to lie, cheat, or steal since “everyone else does it.” Most importantly, we tell them that sitting on the sidelines in life is adequate as long as they “grieve” for those less fortunate, and those who do not receive the basic human freedoms they deserve. We do not intend to teach our children these lessons; rather, we allow the sin of omission to run rampant through our homes. By avoiding these delicate and morally complicated questions we don’t give children time to forge an opinion, instead they are forced, as young adults, into the opinion given to them by society.

It is time we no longer allow our children to go through this world unquestioningly. We need to teach them as children to ask why our world acts the way it does. Teach them to allow the views of the past to fade into history, and to embrace the change that the future brings. Teach them to be citizens of the world, as well as American patriots. Allow them to stand tall, breathe deep, and use, not just their basic human instincts, but also their higher moral functions. As Americans, we should not allow ourselves to be of the numbers that march unquestioningly to the beat of the drums; we should instead question the legitimacy of authority, and make our decisions based on our own moral beliefs. Most importantly, we should teach our nation’s children Voltaire’s maxium, “Every man is guilty of all the good they didn’t do.”

Mark Altman II is a Midshipman 3rd Class in Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Program and is pursuing a degree in Aerospace Engineering, and is a graduate of Coeur d’Alene High School.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Looking forward to my “Fun Job”!

A couple of weeks ago now I had the wonderful fortune of running into Bill and Zamie Studt. They are a marvelous couple who introduced me to my dream “retirement job”; driving the Jelly Belly jellybean motor home. They drive all around the East Coast of the US to promotional events, handing out jellybeans and meeting remarkable people.

I say this is my retirement job only partially kidding. I would love the job, but I would eat so many jellybeans I might not fit in the RV! My sweet tooth inspired career plans reminded me that many Americans, like the Studts, find themselves working again after retirement.

They find themselves working again for many reasons: financial, wishing to make a difference, or out of boredom seem to be the most common. There are many benefits to working after retirement beyond the obvious financial gain, such as mental health, staying engaged in society, and keeping skills current. Many retirees find they can take a job purely out of interest or enjoyment, in a way they couldn’t when they were younger raising families.

Many businesses hire workers looking for a “retirement job” for a number of reasons: the worker has many directly and indirectly applicable skills, that don’t have to be taught compared to a younger worker, the retirement worker can often afford to take a lesser salary, especially if the job has some of the other rewards mentioned earlier. Working as a substitute teacher for example, allows a second career largely out of the elements, provides an opportunity to mentor a whole new generation, ensures an income, keeps weekends free, and supplies the local schools with subs when a teacher must be out. As long as the retirement worker is in reasonably good health, and is still mentally active, employers have very little downside.

So how do you find a “retirement job”? Many second careers start the way the first career started, through personal contacts, volunteering for causes and organizations you care about, sending out targeted resumes, and interviewing. The biggest difference for most retirees looking for their second career is they are often in the driver’s seat when it comes to what kinds of job they are willing to accept.

Most retirees have some outside income, even if that income will not completely support them or support them indefinitely; and for many they own their home. They also rarely have children they must support. The degree which each of these factors are true dictate just how picky the retiree jobseeker can be.

If you must keep a job for financial reasons, then planning early is even more important; however, the “cooler” or out of the ordinary a job you desire, will also mean more planning. Jobs abroad, jobs where spouses work together such as driving the Jelly Belly RV, and of course opening a business as a “retirement job” all require more planning. So talking to your financial planner and your family is a good idea before making any decisions, especially if the decision involves running a bed and breakfast in Costa Rica!

However, if done with careful forethought, a second career can be rewarding on many different levels and in ways that may have escaped you in your first career. I wish you luck, but in ten or twenty years, the Jelly Belly gig is mine!

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He is an international speaker with two books and a DVD that can be purchased on He can be reached at

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I met Ryan Schoenbeck, my partner in an upcoming leadership event, for coffee the other day to catch up after his trip to Florida. He recounted to me his flight home, on which there were three people in the row behind him, speaking in a vile and negative manner. Of course as he was at 40,000 feet in a 400 mile-per-hour pressurized can, his options to find different company was severely limited. As they continued, he realized their negativity was souring his mood.

After several minutes of trying to ignore this unwelcome exchange, he put on a pair of headphones to soothe his by now sour mood. As he listened to some music, he had an epiphany. How does our mood, the image we project to others, and ultimately the way we interact with those around us affect and effect others?

When a person sneezes, their germs can travel 12 to 15 feet. I find it interesting that this is roughly the distance the normal speaking voice is heard. In our society, it is considered polite to cover our mouth when we sneeze or cough. Of course, this custom developed to prevent the spread of disease.

If a person were to sneeze in public without covering their mouth, everyone around them would at least provide a disapproving look, and someone might even have a few choice words for the offender. I find it both interesting and sad that we rarely take the same care with our emotional health. We insist that others take care not to pass their sickness to us and our families, but we don’t take the same care with our emotional health.

While we might encourage a person to prevent disease by covering their mouth when they sneeze, with a look or even verbally correcting them, we are very unlikely to change their attitude for the better using the same tactic. So how do we inoculate ourselves against unhappiness and a sour outlook?

The first, most obvious way is to look after our own attitude. Are we passing along kind words, positive thoughts, tenderness, beauty, the capacity to dream, strength, a smile? We have plenty to help us, art, literature, music, inspirational and uplifting movies, and the stories of those empowering people that live all around us. My personal favorite are quotes from those who express such an outlook.

We can’t force others to behave in a healthy way, but as we monitor our own behavior, we can choose to associate with those who try to live and express themselves in a loving and positive manner. For those relationships we have that are neither positive nor uplifting, we can choose to be loving and supportive that they may also become healthy.

I wish to leave you this week with the following quote from psychologist and philosopher William James, “The greatest discovery in our generation is that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds can change the outer aspects of their lives.” May all of your lives become what you dream them to be, but if that is not to be, be able to say your life fueled and supported the dream of another.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He is an international speaker with two books and a DVD that can be purchased on He can be reached at

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Living with Loss

Like many of you, I have had to deal with loss of various kinds; jobs, loves, money, and now my most profound loss, that of my father. Before he was diagnosed with cancer, he knew he had the disease, before begin given the news it was terminal, he braced my mother and I for the reality he knew was coming. From the day he was given the formal diagnosis, he lived exactly 30 days.

There are people we run into in our lives that we intellectually know will one day pass away, emotionally you just can’t process the thought of them not being there. My Dad was one of those people. Stoic in hardship and inexorable in his ethos, but a lover of sweets and laughter; tough and rarely bending as a father, he was a natural grandfather. His loss has been difficult for all who knew him.

It is from this frame of mind that I offer the following to help you get through the grief in your life in a healthy, even positive, manner. In the first few days, as your grief is raw, try to get through day-by-day or even hour by hour if you have to. If you can’t sleep well, at least get plenty of rest. Keep your regular schedule as much as possible.

Eating with an eye to good nutrition as well as drinking plenty of water will give you energy and provide your body with the nutrients to stay physically healthy as you heal emotionally. Try to exercise, even if you are just walking, as the exercise will help relieve stress. Try to contact a support group that speaks to your loss and allow the loving people in your life to help you.

After the first few days, you may wish to help with the planning of the funeral or memorial service. If the service was pre-planned, then you can create a roadside memorial or plant a tree/flowers in memory of your loved one. However, make sure you check with local authorities or the landowner before you trespass.

In my Dad’s case, we set up a scholarship fund to send Boy Scouts who can’t afford it, to scout summer camp; however, donating to any cause important to the deceased in their name is appropriate. Along these same lines, performing acts of kindness to people you wouldn’t have usually in the memory of your loved one is a private way to honor their memory. Make sure you thank any medical or emergency personnel who cared for your loved one; they would likely have done so if they were able and even if they wouldn’t have, it will make you feel better.

These last few items really will increase your resilience, so try to do a few of them: volunteer your expertise or services to someone less fortunate, take a CPR or first aid class as it has the potential to help someone in the future. Last, make sure you tell your loved ones how much you love them and what they mean to you.

Life is finite and far too short, so most of us will experience the pain of losing someone important. It is my hope you will use these tips to be proactive and increase your resilience, then to heal when needed so you may more quickly get past the pain and only have left the special memories of your loved one.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He is an international speaker with two books and a DVD that can be purchased on He can be reached at

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The School bell has rung!!

Well summer, with its picnics, play, and adventure has come to a close while Fall is rapidly approaching. With its arrival comes the lumbering school buses taking millions of school age children to the greatest gift society can bestow upon them; the gift of education. A large piece of the educative process is the effort of committed, involved parents and one of the tools involved parents use is the Parent-Teacher Night or Open House.

When I was a Senior in High School, both of my parents took me to Open House, met everyone of my teachers, and delivered the same message they had delivered to every teacher I ever had: “He won’t give you any trouble, but if he does, paddle his behind and then call us and he’ll get it again when he gets home.” As you might imagine, my parents never got a bad phone call about me! With the precedent set, my parents did the same for my siblings, who consequently, all graduated from High School and went on to college.

When you take an evening, missing (insert your favorite TV show) to meet your child’s teachers, you are showing them how important education is in your family. When this demonstration is coupled with a consistent message, and actions such as providing a quiet place to do homework and using the district provided Internet software to check their grades, children inculcate the lesson of how important education is to you. Another benefit of attending Open House is the opportunity to establish a relationship with the teachers and administrators in the school.

The research is clear; more than 60 studies have shown that when parents are involved in their children’s education, children do better in school. If a parent is actually involved in the school, such as volunteering in the school or in the PTA/PTO organization, then children go further in school and the schools they attend are better.

Many parents are involved in their child’s education when the child is in elementary school; but involvement tapers off through middle school and by the time the child hits high school, is virtually nonexistent outside attending an athletic contest or other extra-curricular event. Again the research is clear, parent involvement in the high school years had the most positive impact on academic success of the factors studied. The overarching message to a child becomes, “home and school are connected-and that school is an integral part of the whole family’s life.”

You can, and should, ask your child’s teachers for strategies and techniques to help you help your child succeed academically, such as how to keep homework assignments organized and how to set expectations that are high but realistic and constantly challenging. For example, if a child is forgetting to do half of their homework in a grading period, the goal should be to improve to only missing 25-30%, once you have achieved that goal, then move to only missing an assignment very rarely.

For better or worse, one early gauge teachers, administrators, and children use to determine the interest level a family has in the child’s education is whether they come to Open House, so make sure you attend. If there is a very good reason you can’t attend that night, then make an appointment to conference with the child’s teachers to gather the information and chance to connect you missed out on. An education is the best gift you can give a child, and your taxes pay for it, get all you can for your dollar!

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is the author of Leadership For All the Mountains You Climb.  You can book him as a speaker at   He can be reached at

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Taking her fate into her own hands

Last week I had the pleasure of spending an evening with friends, both new and old, in support of FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered). I was invited to the benefit by an incredible woman I met in my acting class. A beautiful, talented, vivacious woman who has shown she is made of iron.

As an organization, FORCE’s mission is to help women find out if they are at a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancers due to genetic risk factors. They also help provide information about the medical options for women living with this higher risk, and provide support for both women and their families in the pursuit of these options. They help underserved populations with everything from information to resources such as clinical trials, while promoting research in hereditary cancers.

Hereditary breast cancer is caused primarily by mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Not all mutations will result in cancer but when each of our copies of our damage repairing genes are damaged then when genes become damaged, cancer can develop. In this case, if a woman knows she has a mutation in the BRCA genes, then she realizes her risk of eventual breast and ovarian cancers rise.

For many women, having this information is certainly frightening and disconcerting, but it is also very empowering. You can’t fight what you don’t know about and in this case information provides these women the opportunity in large measure to take their fate into their own hands. If you have ovarian or breast cancer in your first or second generation family you should at least consult with your doctor about genetic testing.

Due to medical advances, women now have a number of options when faced with this news. If it is determined a woman’s hereditary risk is ovarian cancer then she has several options. One of these options is to take oral contraceptives as this has been shown to lower the risk for ovarian cancer. At the other end of the treatment scale is a “prophylactic oophorectomy” which is the removal of healthy ovaries or she can have a “bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy” (BSO). While some consider these surgeries drastic, they have been shown to be an effective way to lower the cancer risk.

If the genetic risk is determined to be breast cancer, then similar to ovarian cancer risk, there is a spectrum of options. One of these options is close surveillance under which a woman begins self-breast exams at 18 and clinical exams bi-annually at 25. There are also procedures such as MRI and “ductal lavage” that should be discussed with your doctor. While it is possible for men to have breast cancer, even high-risk men are at a lower risk than high-risk women.

The most drastic method of breast cancer prevention is a mastectomy. Today there are many kinds of mastectomies and several options as to reconstruction. Again if you are determined to be at high risk genetically then you should have a conversation, or several conversations with your doctor about these options. You can find further information at

Of course, nothing in this column should be thought of as a substitute for professional medical advice. My intent is to pass along the work of a great support group, to start a conversation amongst ourselves and hopefully prompt many conversations between women and their doctors.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is the author of Leadership For All the Mountains You Climb. He can be reached at

Thank you to Everyone

I wish to thank everyone for the prayers and well-wishes as my father makes his journey through hospice.  He is mostly pain-free and while he would like more time, as any of us would, he is in good spirits and in peace with his journey.  If how to die well is the last lesson the dying give the living, then Dad is providing a heck of a final lecture.

My Mom is doing as well as can be expected and is taking great care of Dad.  For all of us who are married, their love story continues and continues be an inspiration.  We are very lucky to have both of them as parents.

If you get the chance, a message to Mom on Facebook, or if you know her, a phone call or email would be very welcomed I am sure.

I will keep everyone updated as Dad walks his journey, and I’m sure all of you will understand if we don’t get back to you right away, but we will as time allows.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Loss of a Child

Most lives are filled with love and wonderful memories, that are unfortunately punctuated by periods of grief and sadness. For many, the highest joy we can feel is that of having a child; loving, and being loved, so unconditionally. It may be obvious then, the deepest pain we can feel is when as a parent, we lose a child.

Part of this pain stems from our belief the natural order of life is that parents precede their children in death much in the way parents have preceded children in the other stages of life. A friend of mine, who has lost three children, made several beautiful, poignant, observations to me as I prepared to write this column. The first of these observations is, “When you bury your children you bury your future.”

Another observation is, “To bury your children is not normal no matter their age or yours!” While I do not wish to put words in her mouth I believe she is telling parents who have lost a child, they are not going crazy; life has been turned on its head, but eventually, as one expert put it, “you will find a new normal.”

However, my friend also provides us gentle wisdom, “Don't obsess on the moment of their death, focus on their life instead or else you will be defining them by their death instead of their life.” Another parent who lost her 21 year old son to a drunk driver, passed on something I have written in the past in other circumstances, but in this context carry more power, “I am so glad I told him I loved him before he left. It is true be careful of what you say to someone. It may be the last words you speak.”

Both of these parents talked about enjoying talking about their children, the deceased and the living; however, they know that sometimes people are cautious or uncomfortable knowing how to go about it.

I feel the same inadequacy writing this column as one might have in talking to a parent who has lost a child. My advice is limited to the following: if you have lost a child, please seek out a support group. There are many out there, some faith based, others that are strictly secular.

Every parent I talked to that went to a support group found it helpful. Grieving is different for each person, and as such, takes its own path and its own time. There is no “right” way to grieve as long as the bereaved does not engage in destructive behaviors. If you have such concerns, address your concerns openly and honestly with the person and suggest they get professional help through their grieving process.

If you know someone who has lost a child, providing meals for a time and listening to the bereaved parents talk is very helpful. Encourage the remembrance of happy memories and share some of your own. Be aware of milestones, such as graduations, birthdays and anniversaries. A phone call or card can mean so much during these times. If the parents have other children, offer to spend time babysitting or just spending time with those children to give the parents a chance to grieve without the constant worry of taking care of other children.

In the end, the most important advice I have applies to all of us at all times. Love those around you; tell them constantly and unequivocally you love them with your words, and show them with your actions. Life is always too short for anything less.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He is available for speaking events and workshops on goal setting, leadership, team building and romance, and is the author of Leadership For All the Mountains You Climb. He can be reached at

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Road Trip!!!!

With the end of summer almost here and Labor Day coming up, many families will be taking their last vacations for the summer. To save the money for airfare and the hassles of a crowded airport, many families in America decide to drive to their destination. The downside of such trips can include being crowded into a cramped vehicle for hours with everyone just wanting to arrive.

                A couple years ago Dawn and the kids and I drove from Idaho to Michigan for a family reunion. As with most things, we did some things right, but there were few things I wanted a “do over.” For example, I wish we had taken some time to see more things along the way. Of course this would have either added to the length of the trip or limited our time with family. In our case, because the kids do well academically, I would have opted to extend the trip a day or two.

                This brings me to my first suggestion, take plenty of time. Adding a day or two to your trip is not likely to break the bank, or in the case of trips during the school year, cause your kids to become high school dropouts. If you can, arrange to get any schoolwork they will miss before you go and they can do the work while on the road. This has the added advantages of keeping the kids mostly quiet and allows you to help them and be involved in their education process.

                In this same vein, try to stop at places of educative value and places you are not going to see very often. We made the mistake of not going 50 miles out of our way to go to Mt. Rushmore, but one time we stopped at a small town festival we ran across and it was really a lot of fun, with great food and incredible hospitality.

                If at all possible, travel in a vehicle big enough for the length of the trip. We were in our suburban that allowed the kids to spread out a bit.  Please make sure everyone keeps their seatbelts on, trouble can find you quickly on the road.

                Technology has found its way into road trips. GPS has had the benefit of keeping us from getting lost, but unfortunately we miss out on the adventure of getting lost and the camaraderie of figuring it out together. We did not have a DVD player or one of the entertainment center so many vehicles have these days, but one of the kids brought a portable DVD player that had been a Christmas present. I don’t know who bought it for them or how much it was; but when the kids got tired, or Dawn and I wanted a little time to talk to each other, that person was my nominee for “Person of the Year.”

                On long trips, we have found it a lot of fun to take one route there, and another route home. We haven’t found it to take that much more time, the new scenery makes it seem like two trips in one and well worth the effort. A little planning allows you to take advantage of more scenic destinations along the way.

                Long trip or short, family or fun, school year or summer vacation, road trips with your family can be a fun and fairly inexpensive way to spend quality time and see some of the wonderful sites our nation has to offer. My family wishes you all a safe trip with the sun in your face and a fair wind to your back. Bon Voyage!

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center.  He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is the author of Leadership For All the Mountains You Climb.  He can be reached at