Give Your Brain & Heart a Boost on World Chocolate Day

To prepare for this post, I ate a couple of Snickers Minis.

Cheerful woman eating chocolate © Can Stock Photo konradbakToday is World Chocolate Day. Chocolate is good for the heart and brain, studies show, so if you have been avoiding it to slim down you just may have a stupid heart attack. It also reduces stress in women, which is why chocolate is a popular and heartwarming Valentine’s Day gift.

Forget why you walked into a room? Drink a cup or two of hot chocolate.  Harvard Medical School scientists found that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day reduces memory decline in old folks. It apparently increases blood flow to the brain for two to three hours. But you don’t have to be a geezer to enjoy the benefits. Flavonoids in chocolate have been shown to increase brain power in youngin’s too.

A study conducted in Denmark found consumption of dark chocolate results in a significantly lower risk of being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a dangerous type of irregular heartbeat. The study didn’t say you wouldn’t develop it, only that you won’t be diagnosed with it. Ignorance is bliss, right?

Speaking of bliss, chocolate also is associated with increased endorphins, that feel-good brain chemical. It triggers a neurotransmitter similar to consuming marijuana. A legal high in all states! (Keep this quiet though so the government doesn’t feel a need to regulate or outlaw it.) Chocolate is so powerful that its buzz lasts longer than the most passionate kiss, according to one study.

Which doesn’t mean chocolate will slow you down in bed. The compound theobromine in chocolate is thought to make it a mild aphrodisiac.

Chocolate also contains a substantial amount of magnesium, which reduces stress by suppressing the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

So stop stressing about eating chocolate and instead embrace its benefits to your brain and heart. Give it to a lover and you just may get lucky tonight. World Chocolate Day: Valentine’s Day in July.

Resources:

Sunni, Ahmed Al, and Rabia Latif. “Effects of chocolate intake on Perceived Stress; a Controlled Clinical Study.” International Journal of Health Sciences. October 2014. Accessed July 07, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350893/.

Alban, Deane. “9 Brain Boosting Benefits of Dark Chocolate.” Be Brain Fit. June 19, 2017. Accessed July 07, 2017. https://bebrainfit.com/brain-benefits-dark-chocolate/.

“Health | Chocolate ‘better than kissing’.” BBC News. April 16, 2007. Accessed July 07, 2017. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6558775.stm.

Nordqvist, Joseph. “Chocolate: Health Benefits, Facts, and Research.” Medical News Today. June 1, 2016. Accessed July 07, 2017. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270272.php.

“Study strengthens case for heart benefit in chocolate.” Harvard Gazette. June 26, 2017. Accessed July 07, 2017. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/06/study-strengthens-case-for-heart-benefit-in-chocolate/.

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Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

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Learning Enough about Graphic Design to be Dangerous

My graphic design skills are minimal at best. Still, whenever I write copy for a client’s brochure, flier, or website, I sketch it out to make sure the copy fits. I attended Calibre Systems graphic designer Lauma Wingrove’s workshop this week, titled Build a Flier That Sells, to pick up some pointers to better sketch my ideas and better marry my copy to design.

graphicdesignwordcloudThere’s a psychology behind graphic design, Wingrove said. Color. Placement. Font choices. Shapes. White space. Photos. They all tell the viewer something on a subconscious level and can make or break your message.

One of the biggest mistakes designers make is to cram too much text on a flier. “If it’s not absolutely necessary, leave it out,” Wingrove told participants at the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Coffee & Conversation workshop. Instead, she said, direct the viewer to your website for more information.

When using text, confine it to a maximum of three fonts and consider the hierarchy, Wingrove said. The first level is read by the viewer and should be noticeable and in your face. It should be in a san serif font. The second level is skimmed by the viewer. The third level is virtually ignored.

Make the text easy to read. All caps are difficult for the brain to decipher, as are drop shadows. Diagonal text draws the eye. Straight line text connotes stability and horizontal text connotes movement.

Being a word guy, my notes don’t reflect much on color or shapes. Wingrove did say to choose colors based on their emotional impact. Dark blue, for instance, signifies stability and confidence. Red, in addition to being the color of love, signifies excitement to the brain. Use yellow to be playful and orange to connote affordability. HubSpot has an excellent infographic on using color in graphic design.

Circles, not surprisingly, suggest unity to the brain. Squares and triangles signify stability.

Two other elements are critical to every design. First and foremost is your audience. Who is your audience and what do they need to know? What is going to attract them? Build your design with your audience in mind.

Also, make sure you have a call to action. After all, you’re building a flier that sells.

I won’t be designing brochures or fliers any time soon. My graphic designer, John Body of BodyShots, will continue to marry my words to a layout that sells. Unfortunately for him, I now have enough knowledge on design to be dangerous.

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Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

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Move Your Story File Out of Your Head

Whenever someone asks if I have a story file, I say, “Yes,” and point to my head.

Portrait of a smiling senior woman reading a book at home Old-fashioned style Can Stock Photo Inc.  prometeusBut after attending two storytelling workshops in recent weeks, I have started a written story file. Retrieving stories from a brain that can’t remember why it directed me to walk into a room is iffy at best. I’ll probably miss the best one to illustrate the point I want to make. Having them stored in written form makes it more likely to hit on the right one.

What kinds of stories should go into the file? All kinds, because you never know how they may fit in. For example, here are a few stories from my file that haven’t made it into a speech yet, either because they weren’t available in my head when I was looking for them or I haven’t raised a point yet that they fulfill.

Story 1: I was climbing up a tree-lined mountain trail with a 50-pound pack on my back. I was 11 years old and 80 pounds soaking wet. And I was soaking wet. It had been raining since my Boy Scout troop began the climb. The rain turned to hail. The hail turned to snow, then back to rain. Rivers of water pushed rivers of mud beneath my feet. I slipped and fell, my cold young hands buried in the nearly freezing muck. I began to cry. Our scoutmaster, my dad, pulled me up by my collar. “Real men don’t cry,” he growled. “Get moving!”

Fast-forward 41 years. My 19-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer. We rode the muddy river through hell, up the mountain and back again. One night we nearly lost her. On my way home from the hospital, a river of tears broke the dam. I was crying so hard there may as well have been a blinding thunderstorm outside the car. But the storm was behind the wheel, not in front of it. Unable to see, I pulled onto the shoulder until the storm passed, thunder erupting from my vocal chords as my body shook in violent spasms.

Real men do cry.

OK, that’s actually two stories that make a point. Perhaps I can find a couple more and actually make a speech from it. The next two don’t make a particular point, yet.

Story 2: My wife and I were concerned my dog, Galadriel, would be a danger to our newborn twins. Galadriel by then was about 7 years old and never liked children. She had to be locked up whenever children visited because she would attack them. A day or two after the twins came home, some friends came over to meet them. Galadriel knew the couple and liked them. But when we sent them down the hall unescorted, Galadriel scooted past them, sat at the entrance to the twins’ bedroom, bared her teeth, and growled. It was only when my wife and I came down the hall that our friends were allowed in the bedroom. Those were her pups now.

Story 3: Matt and Peter Viaggio lived across the street from my two older brothers and me. We were good friends. Except when we were fighting each other, which was often. At those times, our parents would forbid us from seeing or playing with each other for a week or a month, depending on the seriousness of the fight. After a few days, however, we were sneaking in play time. I don’t think we fought while we were on suspension—but we would as soon as the suspension ended!

Those three stories are among the first dozen to go into my story file. With more than six decades of memories, there will be many more. What’s in your story file? Have you written them down or are they still bouncing around your head? If they’re in your head, do you remember why you walked into the room?


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

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History of the United States Flows through Fairfax County, Virginia

The history of the United States flows through Fairfax County, Virginia. Two of our Founding Fathers called the county home, George Washington and George Mason. Washington and Mason were the brains behind the Fairfax Resolves, the first document to outline the colonies’ grievances against England.

historic courthouse 600But it goes much further back than that. Capt. John Smith explored the Potomac River area of the county as far north as Great Falls in 1609, shortly after the founding of Jamestown. And, it didn’t end with our first president’s death, either. The first turnpike in America, a 15-mile stretch of Little River Turnpike, ran through the county to Washington, DC.

The Historic Fairfax County Courthouse opened in 1800, the same year as the U.S. Capitol and the White House. And, of course, one of the first land battles in the Civil War occurred at the courthouse, which led to the first Confederate officer to die in the war. A monument to the officer, Capt. John Quincy Marr, stands outside the courthouse. The monument faces north, as do the two Civil War cannons on either side of the monument.

Those are some of the tidbits Jenée Lindner, president of Friends of the Historic Fairfax Courthouse, shared Wednesday at the courthouse during a lecture titled, “Who Was the Fairfax Family? The Colonial History of Fairfax County.” The lecture was part of a series of ongoing events celebrating the 275th anniversary of the county’s founding.

The county receives its name from Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. He is the son of Thomas Fairfax, 5th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, and Catherine Culpeper, heiress to Leeds Castle, Kent, England, and of the land that would become Fairfax County. While Fairfax laid claim to the land with his marriage to Catherine, Culpeper County and the incorporated town of Culpeper, about an hour’s drive southwest of the courthouse, pay tribute to her family’s contributions to the founding and development of Virginia.

historic courthouse plaque 600Culpeper met Fairfax when he rescued her after a probate hearing during which she successfully wrested control of her inheritance from her father’s mistress, Lindner said. She was just 19 and a mob of men clawed at her following the judge’s decision. Lord Fairfax picked her up and carried her safely to her carriage. The rest, as they say, is history. (Actually, that’s history too, if you’re keeping score.)

Our nation’s first president is closely tied to the Fairfax family. The family schooled Washington in high society customs and traditions after Washington’s father died when George was 11. Washington and Bryan Fairfax, son of the 6th Lord’s cousin William Fairfax, would become lifelong friends. Bryan Fairfax also would inherit the title of 8th Lord.

Not surprisingly, Bryan Fairfax and Washington had different views of breaking with England. Bryan Fairfax strongly urged Washington not to endorse the Fairfax Resolves. He wrote a lengthy letter outlining his protests that was delivered to Washington the day of the vote, Lindner said. But Fairfax remained neutral during the war.

After the war, the two men socialized regularly. In a sign of how strong their bond was, Martha Washington asked Bryan Fairfax to be chief mourner at Washington’s funeral. Martha was too distraught to attend.

On the other hand, Washington and Mason, an instrumental pairing in the founding of the United States, rarely spoke after Mason refused to sign the Constitution over its lack of Bill of Rights, Lindner said. The eventual Bill of Rights added to the Constitution is largely based on Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was added to the Virginia Constitution in 1776. James Madison, another Virginian, ushered them through Congress. They were ratified in 1791.

Mason’s ideas also crossed the Atlantic Ocean. His Declaration of Rights influenced the French Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen, which was issued after the French Revolution. Not to be outdone, the Fairfax influence crossed the continent when Charles Snowden Fairfax, 10th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, caught the ‘49er Gold Rush fever. He and his wife, Ada, officially settled in Marin County, California, in an area now called Fairfax, California, in 1855.

Fairfax County, Virginia, has had its economic ups and downs over the centuries. It remained primarily agricultural until its growth spurt began in 1930, coinciding with the growth of the federal government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Today its economy is diverse and international, with 400 foreign-owned companies representing 45 countries operating within its borders, along with eight Fortune 500 companies. And the county continues to influence. Celebrity database company IMDb lists 113 celebrities who were born in the county. Olympians and an astronaut also called the county home.

Although the Fairfax nobles have resided exclusively in London, England, for three generations, Nicholas Fairfax, 14th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, will cross the pond to help celebrate the anniversary with his wife, Annabel. While here, he will lecture on what Brexit means to Great Britain and the European Union. The Fairfax history and its effect on the world continues.

Additional sources:

Fairfax History – Page 1. Accessed June 1, 2017. http://marindirect.com/fxhistory/history.html.

“History of Fairfax County, Virginia.” Accessed June 1, 2017. http://www.fairfaxcountyeda.org/history-fairfax-county-virginia.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

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Networking Farmers Build Healthy Businesses

Networking is critical to the success of every entrepreneur. Some hunt, others farm, with the farmers more often than not finding long-term success.

healthfair2I first learned of the networking concept of hunting vs farming when I joined BNI Prosper Alexandria soon after launching my entrepreneurial career. Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI (Business Networking International), describes hunters as those who sift “through crowds of people until they bag the ideal client, the big customer who can turn their business around.”

On the other hand, “Farmers take a different approach. They don’t waste time looking for the right person; instead, like those who plant seeds and patiently nurture their crops, they seek to form and build relationships wherever they can find them. If they get an immediate payoff, that’s fine, but it’s not their principal goal. They know that the effort expended upfront will pay off in a rich harvest later on—much richer then the hunter’s quick kill—and that truly profitable relationships can’t be rushed.”

I witnessed the benefits of farming firsthand Sunday at the Health & Wellness Fair at Cameron Station in Northern Virginia. Mara Benner of Four Directions Wellness, Mellenie Runion of Truly-Life, and Chuck Nally of ILoveKickboxing.com had connected over cocktails at a West End Business Association (WEBA) happy hour and concocted the idea of the health fair.

They formulated a simple format. Four hours. Information tables for each presenter. Chairs for participants to listen to lectures. A collection of tuna for a local foodbank. Goodie bags for guests. Every half hour, one of the original three co-conspirators along with Erin Monico of The Nutrition Connection provided a presentation. Benner, an integrative healing provider, demonstrated stress reduction techniques. Runion, a creator and supplier of eco skin care products, oddly enough discussed natural skin care products. Nally and his team equipped guests with an opportunity to put on boxing gloves and kick and punch a punching bag. Monico, a dietician and health coach, promoted integrative nutrition.

Door prizes were raffled off between segments.

The format ensured a continuously lively atmosphere where newly arrived guests never experienced a lull.

Benner told me they were hoping for 50 guests, but had far surpassed that with an hour and a half left in the event.

It was by all measures a successful event. It began with farming and ended with farming, because the event itself was another example of farming. There were no hard sells (though I’m sure sales were made), only information provided in literature, lectures, and demonstrations.

The health fair provided an example of how healthy businesses grow through networking farmers. If you are a hunter, I suggest you drop your bow and begin to plant your seeds today.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

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It Gets Curiouser and Curiouser

It gets curiouser and curiouser.

Donald Trump Shouting, You're Fired © Can Stock Photo doddisPresident Trump fired FBI Director James Comey over something he did months ago, which Trump praised at the time. Comey was not informed of his firing by the president, but instead found out about it when news broke on a TV screen behind him while addressing agents in Los Angeles. President Trump denied the firing had anything to do with the investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 U.S. elections, but made sure to reference the investigation in his statement. He did not reference the supposed reason for the firing, however. The next day, he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office. The U.S. media was blocked from attending the meeting, but a photographer for the state-owned Russian media outlet Tass was allowed in.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer was left to literally hide in the bushes because he was not given ample warning of Comey’s ouster so he wasn’t prepared to address it.

In other news, a reporter was arrested for “yelling questions” at Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

And the president wonders why the latest Quinnipiac University poll, taken before the latest misstep, shows his disapproval rating at 58%, with 51% strongly disapproving and 56% saying he lacks good leadership skills. (Fifty-seven percent trust the media over the president to tell the truth, by the way.)


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

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Hug a Nurse to Celebrate Florence Nightingale’s Birthday

Is it a case of American exceptionalism that we celebrate National Nurses Day and National Nurses Week in the United States instead of International Nurses Day and Week?

Florence_Nightengale_photoNational Nurses Day kicks off National Nurses Week on May 6 (Saturday). The week culminates on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Nightingale is the founder of modern nursing, but she never set foot in the United States. And, in Great Britain, where she did live, serve, and die, it’s called International Nurses Day and International Nurses Week.

Perhaps it does prove our exceptionalism, because the Yankees recognized National Nurses Week first. According to Wikipedia, the United States first celebrated National Nurses Week October 11–16, 1954, to honor the 100th anniversary of Nightingale’s work in the Crimean War. The International Council of Nurses (ICN) didn’t celebrate until 1974, says Encyclopædia Britannica.

The October week is now celebrated as Emergency Nurses Week by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) The ENA is based in Chicago but boasts more than 41,000 members in more than 35 countries. It makes sense to honor emergency nurses that week because many ENA members are war theater nurses and much of what Nightingale accomplished at the Barrack Hospital in Scutari (now Üsküdar), Turkey, was the precursor to professional emergency care. (Full disclosure: the ENA is one of my clients.)

When Nightingale arrived with a team of 38 women in the fall of 1854, the Barrack Hospital was filthy and the wounded largely ignored. She established standards of care, providing not only medical assistance but psychological assistance as well. Because of her efforts, the mortality rate plummeted. She was known to check on patients during the night, earning her the title, Lady with the Lamp. Meticulous records of conditions in the hospital led to later reforms.

Encyclopædia Britannica calls Nightingale “the foundational philosopher of modern nursing.” It notes she established the “first scientifically based nursing school—the Nightingale School of Nursing, at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London.” It opened in 1860. It would be another 13 years before the first school run in line with Nightingale’s principles opened in United States—The Training School for Nurses at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.

The ENA is one of literally dozens of nursing associations in the world. The American Nurses Association is the umbrella nurses association that any registered nurse in the United States may join. But there are also the National Gerontological Nurses Association and Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association. (The older I get the more near and dear to my heart they become.) Then there are the Dermatology Nurses’ Association and International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care. Not to be forgotten are the Society of Otorhinolaryngology and Head/Neck Nurses and Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society. In fact, there are so many specialty nursing organizations that apparently even a National Federation for Specialty Nursing Organizations existed at one point, but that link no longer works.

Nurses should be recognized, locally and internationally, for the tremendous work they do. They are, in my humble opinion, the backbone of the medical profession. So celebrate a nurse. Give them a hug. And thank them for their dedication to our health and welfare.

Happy Birthday, Florence Nightingale. Thanks for getting it started.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

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