Saturday, December 31, 2011


By Julie Rahm

Three cheers for volunteers! As America’s Mindset Mechanic, I inevitably coach non-profit directors who lead volunteers. Leading volunteers can be both challenging and rewarding. When a manager has underachieving volunteers, I first attempt to improve the manager’s understanding. The wise say, “Seek first to understand”. So, it is important to understand why the volunteer volunteers. Even the most minor of issues won’t be resolved if the manager doesn’t understand why the volunteer is there. Six basic reasons for volunteering come to mind.

The first is recognition and feedback. Most volunteers seek to be recognized for their contributions. Public recognition may not be required. The recognition can be quiet appreciation from their manager or from the people they serve. A simple “Thank-you” can go a long way to re-motivate a volunteer. Recognition and feedback cure most of the challenges managers may have with volunteers.

The second reason for volunteering is personal growth. Volunteers learn on the job. The volunteer finds the learning fulfilling enough to keep coming back and contributing more.

Third is giving something back. The volunteer has been fortunate in some way. And now, the volunteer is returning the good fortune.

Fourth is bringing about social change. Many people volunteer for prison programs. These volunteers want to change lives and improve the lot of others. When my husband John was in prison, I first met him there while volunteering. (I’m only kidding about that! It was the Marine Corps.)

Family ties are the fifth reason. Often, people join their family members who are volunteers. When John or I decide to volunteer, we inevitably sweep each other into the cause.

Lastly, people volunteer for friendship, support, bonding and a feeling of belonging. Social needs are fulfilled when people volunteer as a part of a group. Accomplishment as a group can be very rewarding.

During the aftermath of hurricane Irene, volunteers were abundant. Neighborhoods were drawn together as residents came to each others aid. Often, it was those who were hurt the worst that gave the most. Our neighbor’s house was damaged far worse than ours. But, we are still thankful for their electric extension cord that kept our refrigerator alive until power was restored. In another case, a Pamlico County neighbor, who was totally isolated without a car, a phone, or electricity, barbequed the contents of his freezer thus feeding his neighborhood for days.

I also have great admiration for our local first responders. Despite their personal situations, they volunteered all over Pamlico County. A volunteer fireman’s home in our neighborhood was completely trashed by the hurricane. Disregarding the condition of his home, he was at the firehouse for weeks helping distribute food and water.

“Others first” seemed to be the cultural theme in the last quarter of 2011. I hope hurricane Irene gave us a taste of service and a big appetite to continue. Volunteering can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime. The return on your investment will be immeasurable. Visit my websites at and!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


By Julie Rahm

I am married to a former Marine fighter pilot. I say former because John has been retired for three years. In his retirement, John has calmed himself and worked hard to fit into Pamlico County society. He is far less competitive than when he was flying jets for the Marine Corps.

The inherent competitive nature of Marine fighter pilots cannot be overstated. At every opportunity, they are trained to win. As the famous football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”. Marine pilots think like Coach Lombardi. As you can imagine, flying jets from ships in the middle of the ocean during dark and stormy nights is not for the meek. The alternative to success during these events can be catastrophic. However, the drive to compete and win can have unintended consequences.

We were living on base at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. It was Christmas. Lights were hung on most of the houses. Across from us lived the Smith family. They had a particularity beautiful display of lights in their front yard. John and Major Smith were friends since the beginning of time. The two men deployed together on numerous occasions and knew more about one another than men should. However, this season, John grew weary of the Smith Christmas light accolades. Competition reared its ugly head. One expensive trip to WalMart and now, we had the best Christmas lights on the street! Not to be outdone, Major Smith retaliated by adding even more lights. The back and forth competition continued for over a week. It reminded me of the nuclear arms race in miniature. Each fighter pilot was determined to best the other. Eventually, the military police had to direct traffic because everyone was driving into the cul-de-sac to see the two light displays. There were thousands of lights on the two houses. There was some legitimate concern the blazing lights could blind the other pilots attempting to land at night. I am not exaggerating. The end of the escalation was not in sight. Both men were buying all the outdoor lighting for sale in Craven County. And, with John, nothing is over until he says it’s over. But, this aerial combat of Christmas lights was ended suddenly.

John and Major Smith were simultaneously summoned to the Commanding General’s office. The General had a sense of humor failure over the Christmas light competition. After spending what seemed liked hours hearing the General’s perspective on the light competition, both men emerged from the General’s office with new understanding. John described it as “getting my face sanded with eighty grit sandpaper”. Major Smith said his face got burned from the heat coming off the General.

I’m sure the General’s scolding was unpleasant. I was secretly thankful. Christmas is not about the glow of house lights. The spirit of Christmas comes from within and reminds us that love and light reside in all of us. Merry Christmas from your Mindset Mechanic! Visit my websites at and!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Coefficient of Friction

By Julie Rahm

This week, my husband, John was stepping off our boat when his cell phone fell into the water. Even more unfortunate; the cell phone was in his pocket! You see, the steps were wet from the morning dew. When his front foot touched down on the wet plastic steps, his slick bottomed, four-year-old Crocs failed to provide an adequate coefficient of friction. His fall into the water allowed me to use my University of Nebraska physics degree one more time.

The static friction coefficient between two solid surfaces is defined as the ratio of the tangential force required to produce sliding divided by the normal force between the surfaces. Clearly, John has not studied enough physics! His front foot slipped forward. John attempted to regain his balance by getting his back foot down onto something solid. Unfortunately, he stepped down onto the thin air between the boat and pier. At this exact moment, the coefficient of friction gave way to gravity. And, another opportunity for physics!

Newton's law of universal gravitation states that every point mass in the universe attracts every other point mass with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. A simple enough concept from 1687! Had John studied physics instead of PhysEd, he would still have a cell phone! Regardless, he hurled toward the water accelerating at 32 feet-per-second squared until his chest caught the edge of the pier. As you remember, Newton’s first law states the velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force. And, John’s body was definitely acted upon by the static force of the pier! One good bounce and splash, he was in the water and swimming, with his cell phone in his pocket.

As soon as John hit the water, the second law of thermodynamics kicked in. The law asserts that when two isolated systems in separate but nearby regions of space, each in thermodynamic equilibrium in itself, are at some time allowed to interact allowing them to exchange matter or energy, they will eventually reach a mutual thermodynamic equilibrium. You see, when John hit the water, the two systems interacted. John and the water were going to reach thermodynamic equilibrium. Simply, John was going to freeze if he didn’t get out of the water and dry off quickly. He confirmed the second thermodynamic law by uttering, “Wow, the water is cold.” John swam to our dingy platform and pulled himself out of the cold water.

John is no worse for the experience. A skinned shin, a bruised wrist, bruised ribs and loss of a cell phone are minor compared to the other possible outcomes. Life can unexpectedly turn on a dime. So, I encourage everyone to savor the moments of their lives. Enjoy and care for your blessings. Because, in a splash, they can be gone. Can you tell I've been watching late night Big Bang Theory re-runs? Visit my websites at http:// and for more inspiration!

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