Monthly Archives: December 2013

Getting Comfortable with Auld Lang Syne

champagneAt Comfort Colors, we like to be comfortable. It’s part of our name, after all. But we are not always comfortable with tradition; we tend to question why we do the things we do rather than just march blindly along. Auld Land Syne is an excellent example of a questionable tradition. What does this phrase even mean? Why do we sing it on New Year’s Eve?

Many of you will recognize the melody. Some of you may even know the first verse. Here are the song lyrics in their entirety (taken from: http://www.examiner.com). Let’s take a look:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot/
And never brought to mind?/
Should auld acquaintance be forgot/
And auld lang syne?

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear/
For auld lang syne/
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet/
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp/
And surely I’ll be mine/
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet/
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes/
And pou’d the gowans fine/
We’ve wandered mony a weary foot/
Sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae sported i’ the burn/
From morning sun till dine/
But seas between us braid hae roared/
Sin’ auld lang syne.

And ther’s a hand, my trusty friend/
And gie’s a hand o’ thine/
We’ll tak’ a right good willie-waught/
For auld lang syne.

Wow. Have we’ve been taken in by some ancient alien conspiracy? “Ye’ll be your pint-stowp?” “Pou’d the gowans fine?” What language is this? Och aye! Why it’s Scots, of course! The ancient song is about times gone by and tearful reunions. Though sung for ages, the lyrics were first written down by Scottish poet Robert Burns. He thought the piece should be documented and sent it to the British Museum in 1788. The poem is set to a beloved traditional folk melody. Wikipedia tells us that  it is also sung at funerals, graduations and other momentous occasions. Apparently the Boy Scouts even use it to close to jamborees.

OK. There’s the ‘what’. We went to the source (none other than the BBC) to find the ‘why’. The song emigrated along with many Scots to Canada and the US in the 19th Century. The melancholy nature of the tune reminded the new North Americans of their homeland.

The song created a bit of controversy during the American Civil War – it caused homesickness and the desire for reconciliation among the troops (not great traits for soldiers in battle). “However, after…surrender…General Grant ordered the band to play it, recognising that the country and the soldiers had been through a tremendous upheaval and that now was a time for healing.”

Auld Lang Syne also had a powerful emotional impact during the Christmas Day Truce in World War I. “For a brief moment the guns fell silent and troops from both sides left the trenches to swap souvenirs and sing songs.”

And then there’s Hollywood:
“Charlie Chaplin used Auld Lang Syne for a New Year scene in the Gold Rush, a 1925 silent film.”
“Shirley Temple sang the song to a dying soldier in the 1937 John Ford film Wee Willie Winkie.”
Quotes from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-25402099) Read the full story here.

And then there’s When Harry Met Sally:

Now that we have a little more info on its roots, Auld Lang Syne has a deeper meaning. We’ll sing with a little more fervor this year! Thank you for making it a great one. Lang may yer lum reek! Happy New Year!

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Santa Stories

father_christmasWhat are your Christmas Traditions? For those who celebrate, Christmas traditions can be as unique as each celebrant. Here are a few ‘traditional’ Santa (St Nicholas, Père Noël, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Christkindl, or Grandfather Frost) stories for your merriment:

Top 10 Santa Legends from Around the World

Similar to Santa Claus in style but quite different in appearance, the Befana is a witch-like character who has become a big part of yuletide celebrations in Italy. Her back-story varies, but the most popular version describes her as being a kind woman who gave food and shelter to the three wise men while they were en route to visit the baby Jesus…Much like a traditional Halloween witch, the Befana is portrayed as an old hag who rides a broomstick, and she typically wears a black shawl and carries a bag of gifts.

Crumpet the Elf: A Holiday Tradition

“I had two people say that to me today: I’m going to have you fired. Go ahead, be my guest. I’m wearing a green velvet costume. It doesn’t get any worse than this.”

Sinterklass

The medieval attire of Sinterklaas’ assistants, the Zwarte Pieten, is equally mysterious, leading one to conclude that they must have been stuck in chimneys for an awfully long time. Hence the sooty faces and time-warped costumes. ‘Zwarte Piet’ (literally: ‘Black Peter’) remains the subject of debate… The City of Amsterdam is actively facilitating this discussion and is keen to remain in close contact with all concerned parties.

Krampus – the Christmas Devil

“Krampus is the dark companion of St. Nicholas, the traditional European winter gift-bringer who rewards good children each year on December 6. The kindly old Saint leaves the task of punishing bad children to a hell-bound counterpart known by many names across the continent — Knecht Ruprecht, Certa, Perchten, Black Peter, Schmutzli, Pelznickel, Klaubauf, and Krampus.”

7 Interesting Facts about Santa Claus – get the details here

  1. He was real… sort of
  2. He’s only been ‘Santa Claus’ for 200 years
  3. Satire first sent Santa down a chimney
  4. “Twas the Night Before Christmas” introduced the reindeer
  5. Coca-Cola created the modern Mr. Claus
  6. The department store Santa is a 120-year-old tradition
  7. Santa was a bachelor until the late 1800s

Merry Christmas from everyone at Comfort Colors! We wish you a happy and comfortable new year!

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Helping Others: 100 is the Lucky Number

Tis the season for giving. We give Christmas presents, we give year-end reports, we give our opinions, we even give out our belts to the next notch as we indulge in the joys of holiday excess. But there is one thing we give very little of: our time. This precious commodity is the most important gift we can share.

gift-givingWhen it comes to giving of ourselves, 100 is the magical number. This is the optimal number of hours we should dedicate to helping others. This magic number turned up in a Fast Company article on 10 Simple, Science-Backed Ways To Be Happier Today. It was number 6 on the list, during the holidays, the folks at Comfort Colors like to move this one closer to the top of the list.

Here’s the scoop (we liked it so much, we thought we’d share the whole thing):

One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.

If we go back to Shawn Achor’s book again, he says this about helping others:

…when researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities—such as concerts and group dinners out—brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches. Spending money on other people, called “prosocial spending,” also boosts happiness.

The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study that explored this very topic:

Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else. Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future.

So spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. What about spending our time on other people? A study of volunteering in Germany explored how volunteers were affected when their opportunities to help others were taken away:

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall but before the German reunion, the first wave of data of the GSOEP was collected in East Germany. Volunteering was still widespread. Due to the shock of the reunion, a large portion of the infrastructure of volunteering (e.g. sports clubs associated with firms) collapsed and people randomly lost their opportunities for volunteering. Based on a comparison of the change in subjective well-being of these people and of people from the control group who had no change in their volunteer status, the hypothesis is supported that volunteering is rewarding in terms of higher life satisfaction.

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.

This last bit is worth another look: “Doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.” We love reliable momentary increases in well-being and wish all of our friends many of them in the new year. Happy 2014!

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Copy Comfort Colors? Accept No Substitutes

George Thorogood is mm-m-m-m-mad. Even if you do not know who this famous 80’s rocker is, it’s likely you’ve heard his hit number “Bad to the Bone.” The reason George is so f-f-f-furious is because Michaels Stores also wanted to be Bad to the Bone. The store made a play for his signature trademark expression. George sued.

boneAccording to the L.A. Times, “Thorogood has marketed a line of clothing, including T-shirts, jackets and hats, using the “Bad to the Bone” trademark, the lawsuit said. He obtained the trademark in 1983, one year after he released “Bad to the Bone” with his band, the Destroyers.”(http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-george-thorogood-sues-michaels-stores-over-bad-to-the-bone-tshirts-20131212,0,3680629.story#ixzz2nMzoPqRB)

This is not the first time a T-shirt design has resulted in a lawsuit. This summer the NSA took issue with some parody t-shirts that mocked their agency. One of the targeted t-shirt designers is now suing the NSA for violating his First Amendment rights. Youtube’s Keyboard Cat creator is suing Threadless, the web-based T-shirt maker, for allegedly infringing his kitty copyright. The pharmaceutical company AbbVie is suing A-List Inc. to stop the sale of “designer drug” t-shirts and sweatshirts that resemble sports jerseys sporting trademarked pharmaceuticals names like “Vicodin” and “Xanax” on the back.  This list goes on.

They say that plagiarism is the greatest form of flattery. Other t-shirt companies flatter Comfort Colors by trying to replicate our heavy-duty, extremely comfortable, inimitable quality and style. Accept No Substitutes.

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Small Business: What did we learn in 2013?

We love lists, especially at the end of the year. Top 10 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions, Christmas Wish Lists, best movies, best books, best fashions, best t-shirts…Even Santa is checking his list a few times to make sure he’s got it right.

checkin-it-twiceAs we wrap up 2013, we wanted to take a look at what we learned in 2013. This year marked the third anniversary of Small Business Saturday, which tops our list of small business accomplishments since most of our customers are small businesses. In this post we look at some of the lists of lessons learned for small business in 2013.

We found a great one from “Business Lessons I’ve Learned as a Small Business CEO” published on Bulldogreporter.com. Here’s the Reader’s Digest condensed version:

  • Be flexible when building your team. You hired Person A to do Job A, but as you get to know him, you find he has talents and skills better suited to another job—possibly even a job you haven’t identified! Be open to switching things up. Your business will benefit from having the right people in the right jobs, and your employees will be happier and more productive when they’re doing what they’re really good at doing.
  • Don’t spend more than you make.
  • If you borrow, invest it in the company. If you’re going to draw a salary from that money, don’t be tempted to take more than you absolutely need to survive. If your lifestyle is a little uncomfortable, you will be far more motivated to do whatever it takes to make your business thrive.
  • Don’t allow marketing to fall by the wayside. One of the most important components of any business plan is its marketing strategy. Too often, people don’t think that through with the same rigor they tackle concerns like projected cash flow and long-term goals.

Here’s another good one from Smallbusiness.yahoo.com

  1. Don’t Jeopardize Your Customers’ Trust.
  2. The Social Conversation is a Two-Way Street.
  3. Auto-Responses in Social Customer Service are Big No-No.
  4. One Social Customer Can Have a Huge Impact.

We particularly like this one “3 Essential Small Business Lessons from Jerry Maguire” from Yfsentrepreneur.com (YSF stand for Young, Fabulous and Self-employed):

  1. “The key to this business is personal relationships.” You’ve likely heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I heard that a lot and it really resonated with me when I started seeing the value of my network in working with vendors. Building personal relationships has been an integral part of growing my business to-date.
  2. “Roll with the punches. Tomorrow is another day.” Anyone who ever started a business or runs one knows there are days when when it rains, and then there are days when it pours. There will always be dilemmas, but thankfully there is always tomorrow to find the solution for them. I’ve had to overcome problems that could have easily taken me out of business time and time again, but I always knew I had another day to fight.
  3. “If [the heart] is empty, [the head] doesn’t matter.” We all have personal problems, and those problems can easily interfere with our work. Some of my better, most thriving moments professionally came when I was very happy personally with my relationships and my family life. However, there were also periods when my personal life wasn’t going so well, and I was fueled to work harder, professionally, as a result. All in all, I’ve learned that when I’ve been happiest, I’ve been able to better focus on my business.

The Jerry Maguire list resonated the most with us at Comfort Colors. And we loved the name of the website. Though we are not as young or as self-employed as we once were, our customers do make us feel fabulous. Thanks for another great year.

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