Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Book of Verses

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám (Persian: رباعیات عمر خیام‎‎) is the title that Edward FitzGerald gave to his translation of a selection of poems, originally written in Persian and numbering about a thousand, attributed to Omar Khayyám (1048–1131), a Persian poet, mathematician and astronomer. A ruba'i is a two-line stanza with two parts (or hemistichs) per line, hence the word rubAYOT (derived from the Japanese language leaves for “a million”), meaning "quatrains".

Here is one of my favorite verses of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám from this translation:
“A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Guns, Violence, and Statistics

Many people jump up and down whenever the topic of guns, gun violence, or gun control is brought up. Personally, I have to believe that our Founding Father’s believe that a well armed population is the best counter balance to a corrupt government. For as Thomas Jefferson once stated, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” In actuality, when people think of the causes of the American War for Independence, they think of slogans like “no taxation without representation” or a cause célèbre like the Boston Tea Party. In reality, what finally forced the colonials into a shooting war with the British Army in April 1775 was not taxes or even warrant-less searches of homes and their occupation by soldiers, but one of many attempts by the British to disarm Americans as part of an overall gun control program, which included seizure of firearms and powered. So, for this very reason it is understandable why the Founding Fathers made the 2nd Amendment, the second most important in our Constitution. But aside from that, we have to take the emotion out of the discussion of guns and actually look at facts, and being an engineer, I like dissecting numbers and statistics, so this is what this article will do, bit by bit.

OK, here are the fact: There are 30,000 gun related deaths per year by firearms. That is not disputed as a fact of American life, sadly.

What is never shown or talked about though, is a breakdown of those deaths to put them in perspective; as compared to other causes of death.

• 65% of those deaths are by suicide which would never be prevented by gun laws
• 15% are by law enforcement in the line of duty and justified
• 17% are through criminal activity, gang and drug related or mentally ill persons
• 3% are accidental discharge deaths

So technically, "gun violence" is not 30,000 annually but drops to 5,100. Still too many!! So let’s see how are those deaths spanned across the nation?

• 480 homicides (9.4%) were in Chicago
• 344 homicides (6.7%) were in Baltimore
• 333 homicides (6.5%) were in Detroit
• 119 homicides (2.3%) were in Washington DC (a 54% increase over prior years)

So basically, 25% of all gun crime happens in just 4 cities. All 4 of those cities have strict gun laws so it is not the lack of the rule of law that is the root cause. Maybe it is gang violence and the lack of the historic family unit with a father and a mother, or poor schools, or lack of job opportunities? Whatever the root cause, we are left with 3,825 deaths caused by guns in the rest of the Nation, or about 75 deaths per State.

That is an average number because some States have much higher rates than others. For example, California had 1,169. Alabama had 1. Putting this in quantitative amounts, California alone accounts for 25% of the gun deaths alone. So, with the four cities and California you now have 50% of the gun deaths in the US.

Now, which State has the strictest gun laws by far? California of course but understand, it is not the tool (guns) driving this. It is a crime rate spawned by the number of criminal persons residing in those cities and States.

So if all cities and states are not created equal, then there must be something other than the tool causing the gun deaths.

Are 5,100 deaths per year horrific? Absolutely, but how do they compare with other known causes of death?

All death is sad and especially so when it is in the commission of a crime but that is the nature of crime. Robbery, death, rape, assault; all are done by criminals to victims and thinking that criminals will obey laws is ludicrous. We are not here to debate the reason why they are criminals, but just realize without some major intervention that criminals will behave as criminals do, and often violently. That is why they are criminals.

But what of other causes of death? Remember total gun deaths is 30,000/year, and it has been shown that it is really 5,100.

• 40,000+ die from a drug overdose – THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THAT!
• 36,000 people die per year from the flu, far exceeding the criminal gun deaths
• 34,000 people die per year in traffic fatalities (exceeding gun deaths even if you include suicide)

Now let us look at the really big numbers of deaths caused by preventable actions:

• 200,000+ people die each year (and growing) from preventable medical malpractice. So in actuality, you are safer statistically in Chicago than with dealing with a doctor!
• 710,000 people die per year from heart disease. Time to stop the cheeseburgers!

So what is the point of stating these statistical facts? It is simple. If the people who focus their attention on banning guns were to instead focus on heart disease, even a 10% decrease would save twice as many lives annually over of all gun related deaths (including suicide, law enforcement, etc.). In addition, a 10% reduction in malpractice from doctors would be 66% (20,000 lives) of the total gun deaths or 4 times the number of criminal homicides. It seems relatively easy to achieve a 10% reduction in these two preventable causes of deaths, so where is the outcry?

So you have to ask yourself, in the grand scheme of things, why is there such a focus on guns? Our Founding Fathers realized that freedom is a messy and risky endeavor. They also understood Government that governs least, governs best. Many aspects of life in a free society can lead to harm or misfortune or death for some people. Driving kills. Smoking kills. Bad diet kills. Drugs Kill. Sports and recreation kill. Travel kills. Living kills. Bottom line, living is a risk filled business.

The core element of any objective to “eliminate” ALL such bad outcomes is to increase control over many, most and eventually all aspects of life. Of course, this does not mean that measures should not be taken, largely in education, to make activities and elements of life pragmatically safe. Look at the wonderful success of the anti-smoking campaign that removed millions of people from even ever starting. But "common sense" approaches cannot be equated to the perspective of those who only seek to eliminate freedoms that are (1) widely accepted by large portions of the or (2) established as points of law.

It is pretty simple. Taking away freedoms under the excuse of taking care of people gives control to governments, which leads directly to tyranny. This is not conspiracy theory; this is a historical fact. Why have we not understood this for so long? Tell me again why is it impossible for any Government not to spill over into dictatorship? The Founders of this great Nation knew that regardless of the form of government, those in power may become corrupt and seek to rule as the British did. As Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

They colonial British tried to disarm the populace of the colonies because it is not difficult to understand; a disarmed populace is a controlled populace. Thus, the Second Amendment was proudly and boldly included in the Constitution, representing and protecting all the other freedoms. It must be preserved at all costs not because it is sacred, but because it is statistically sane. Again, our Forefathers, while not perfect, were incredibly prescient.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Never Give Up

Chester Carlson? Whenever I think an idea or project will not make it, I think of Chester Carlson. Most people do not know who this person is, but he came up with the second greatest invention of the last 500 years (after the printing press); xerography; and he was not even a engineer. There should be a movie made of this guy: grew up dirt poor, lost his parents at a young age; worked his way through college, earning a degree in physics, and law school; invented xerography.

Anyway, the reason I mention Chester Carlson is that even though he thought up xerography and demonstrated it at the Astoria hotel in 1938, the first copy machine (made by the Haloid Corporation who changed it name to Xerox) was not made until 1958! Twenty years later. During that time, there were many set backs, but Mr. Carlson believed that being able to print without water would be a “disruptive” technology, so he never gave up. There were many nay-sayers.

Mr. Carlson got the kernel of an idea while at work as a patent attorney. He noted that there never seemed to be enough carbon copies of patent specifications, and there seemed to be no quick or practical way of getting more. The choices were limited to sending for expensive photo copies, or having the documents retyped and then reread for errors. A thought occurred to him: Offices might benefit from a device that would accept a document and make copies of it in seconds. For many months Carlson spent his evenings at the New York Public Library reading all he could about imaging processes. During that time, Carlson read an article about the little-known field of photoconductivity, specifically the findings of Hungarian physicist Paul Selenyi, who was experimenting with electrostatic images. He learned that when light strikes a photoconductive material, the electrical conductivity of that material is increased. Frustrated by a lack of time, and suffering from painful attacks of arthritis, Carlson decided to dip into his meager resources to pursue his research on his own, setting up a small lab in nearby Astoria and hiring an unemployed young physicist, a German refugee named Otto Kornei, to help with the lab work. It was here, in a rented second-floor room above a bar, where xerography was invented. Otto took a glass microscope slide and printed on it in India ink the notation '10-22-38 ASTORIA.'

Incredibly, Carlson was quite alone in his work, and in his belief that xerography was of practical value to anyone. Following this first demonstration of xerography, Mr. Carlson searched for years in a fruitless quest for a company that would develop his invention into a useful product, and was turned down by over twenty companies, including IBM, GE, and Honeywell, during that time.

Incredibly, no one could believe that a tiny glass plate and rough image held the key to a tremendous new industry. During these painfully long years, Mr. Carlson became discouraged and several times decided to drop the idea completely. Still, he could not abandon this disruptive technology and he stayed thoroughly convinced that the invention was too promising to be left on the scrap heap of history.

Finally, in 1944, Battelle Memorial Institute, a non-profit research organization signed a royalty-sharing contract with Carlson. In 1947, Battelle teamed with a small photo-paper company called Haloid (later to be known as Xerox) to develop a xerographic machine.

It was not until 1959, twenty-one years after Carlson invented xerography, that the first convenient office copier using xerography was unveiled. The 914 copier could make copies quickly at the touch of a button on plain paper. It was a phenomenal success. Today, xerography is a foundation stone of a gigantic worldwide copying industry, including Xerox and other corporations which make and market copiers and duplicators producing billions and billions of copies a year.

So, bottom line: It may take a long time, but if you KNOW something is worth pursuing, NEVER give up! Chester Carlson never did. As a footnote, Mr. Carlson made 1/1000th a cent per copy as a royalty, and when he died, he was estimated to be worth $266 million.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Reason, Season or a Lifetime

It is funny, but recently I have had some friends lament about people who have come and left their lives and they do not quite understand why.  It seemed like everything was going great, they were becoming fast friends, and then poof..they are gone.  That made me remember a story about how people can come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. 

When someone is in your life for a reason, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed or just felt. They have come to assist you through a hard time, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. Then, suddenly, the person disappears from your life. Your need has been met; their work is done. It is hard to explain, but they now are off somewhere else.

Some people come into your life for a season, because your turn has come to share or grow or give back. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They give you great joy. Believe it; it is real. But only for a season, and like the seasons, they change and move one.

Lifetime relationships often are harder but teach you lessons that you will use all your life. Things you must build upon to have a solid emotional foundation. Often it is hard to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all your other relationships. But to have these people in your life, it is something you must strive to do.

Think about the people in your life over the years. Whether they were there for a reason, a season or a lifetime, accept them and treasure them for however long they were meant to be part of your life. And when they are gone, do not be sad for their departure, but be thankful for the gifts you received from them when they were here—for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Quotations By Rumi

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (Persian: جلال‌الدین محمد بلخى‎), also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (Persian: جلال‌الدین محمد رومی‎), Mawlānā or Molānā (Persian: مولانا‎, meaning Our Master), Mawlawī or Molavi (Persian: مولوی‎, meaning My Master), and more popularly in the English-speaking world simply as Rumi (30 September 1207 – 17 December 1273), was a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic. Rumi's importance is considered to transcend national and ethnic borders. His poems have been widely translated into many of the world's languages and transposed into various formats. His best poems are listed below for your convenience.

“I belong to no religion. My religion is love. Every heart is my temple.”

“Your body is away from me, but there is a window open from my heart to yours.”

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

“At the end of my life, with just one breath left, if you come, I’ll sit up and sing.”

“The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don't finally meet somewhere. They're in each other all along.”

“When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you're not here, I can't go to sleep.
Praise God for those two insomnias!
And the difference between them.”

“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.”

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”

“Oh soul,
you worry too much.
You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.
Of anything less,
why do you worry?
You are in truth
the soul, of the soul, of the soul.”

“Only from the heart Can you touch the sky.”

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”

“Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.”

“You were born with wings. Why prefer to crawl through life?”

“The way you make love is the way
God will be with you.”

“Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.”

“Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don't claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.”

“Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy, absent-minded. Someone sober will worry about events going badly. Let the lover be.”

“Every tree and plant in the meadow seemed to be dancing, those which average eyes would see as fixed and still”

“We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust”

“All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there.”

“He is like a man using a candle to look for the sun”

“Something opens our wings. Something makes boredom and hurt disappear. Someone fills the cup in front of us: We taste only sacredness.”

“The lion is most handsome when looking for food”

“Everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart, and that depends upon how much he has polished it. Whoever has polished it more sees more - more unseen forms become manifest to him.”

“We can’t help being thirsty, moving toward the voice of water.”

“It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I've gone and come back, I'll find it at home.”

“I died a mineral, and became a plant. I died a plant and rose an animal. I died an animal and I was man. Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?”

“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”

“Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.”

“You are quaffing drink from a hundred fountains: whenever any of these hundred yields less, your pleasure is diminished. But when the sublime fountain gushes from within you, no longer need you steal from the other fountains.”

“To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes.”

“Return from existence to nonexistence. You are seeking the Lord and you belong to him. Nonexistence is a place of income; flee it not. This existence of more and less is a place of expenditure.”

“Reason is like an officer when the king appears. The officer then loses his power and hides himself. Reason is the shadow cast by God; God is the sun.”

“The Eternal looked upon me for a moment with His eye of power, and annihilated me in His being, and become manifest to me in His essence. I saw I existed through Him.”

“Pilgrimage to the place of the wise is to find escape from the flame of separateness.”

“In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you.”

“Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.”

“One day You will take my heart completely and make it more fiery than a dragon. Your eyelashes will write on my heart the poem that could never come from the pen of a poet.”

“Who could be so lucky? Who comes to a lake for water and sees the reflection of moon.”

“Knowest thou not the beauty of thine own face? Quit this temper that leads thee to war with thyself.”

“Now I am sober and there's only the hangover and the memory of love.”

“The ground submits to the sky and suffers whatever comes. Tell me, is the Earth worse for giving in like that ??”

“Look at Love...
how it tangles
with the one fallen in love .”

“A shadow cannot ignore
the sun that all day creates and moves it.”

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house.”

“All that you think is rain is not. Behind the veil angels sometimes weep.”

“Liberated from suffering and search
I have tied myself to the skirt of God.
If I fly, I look at the summits I ascend.
If I go around in circle
I observe the axis on which I revolve.
If I am dragged by a burden,
I know where I go.
For I am the moon, and the sun is my guide.”

“Oh Sweet Bitterness!
I will soothe you and heal you
I will bring you roses
I too have been covered with thorns.”

“Silence within silence, no words within blank space, nothing on blank page, less within the void.”

“The hurt you embrace becomes joy.”

“You are so weak. Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave
till it gets to shore.”

“How will you know the difficulties of being human, if you are always flying off to blue perfection?”

“How do the birds make great sky circles... They fall and falling they are given wings.”

“Try and be a sheet of paper with nothing on it.
Be a spot of ground where nothing is growing,
where something might be planted,
a seed, possibly, from the Absolute.”

“Water in the boat is the ruin of the boat, but water under the boat is its support.”

“Joy lives concealed in grief.”

“Days of wanting.
Let them go by without worrying
that they do.
Stay where you are
inside such a pure, hollow note.”

“Look at your heart and tongue, one feels but deaf and dumb, the other speaks in words and signs.”

“The delight a friend feels when he hears a friend's voice bring all that matters. There are those who hear within a voice the essence being said, and there are those who can't.”

“Don't look at your form, however ugly or beautiful. Look at love and at the aim of your quest...O you whose lips are parched, keep looking for water. Those parched lips are proof that eventually you will reach the source.”

“Come out of the circle of time and into the Circle of Love.”

"You are searching the world for treasure, but the real treasure is yourself."

"Not the ones speaking the same language, but the ones sharing the same feeling understand each other." 

"Come into my eyes, and look at me through them,
for I have chosen a home far beyond what eyes can see."

"Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain which grows flowers, not thunder."

"There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness."

"The real beloved is that one who is unique, who is your beginning and your end."

"The very center of your heart is where life begins, the most beautiful place on earth."

"Light up the fire of love inside and blaze the thoughts away."

"If you wish to be a mine of jewels, open the deep ocean within your heart."

"Blessed is the poem that comes through me but not of me because the sound of my own music will drown the song of Love."

"Love is a mirror..You see nothing but your reflection..You see nothing but your real face."

“Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words.”

"I looked in temples, churches and mosques. But I found the Divine in my heart."

"All doubt, despair, and fear become insignificant once the intention of life becomes love."

"Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself."

"The cure for pain is in the pain."

"Gratitude is the wine for the soul. Go on. Get drunk."

If you wish for light, be ready to receive light.”

"Love is not written on paper, for paper can be erased. Nor it is etched on stone, for stone can be broken. But it is inscribed on a heart and there it shall remain forever." 

“We rarely hear the inward music, but we’re all dancing to it nevertheless.”

Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.”

“When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of distress and anxiety. If I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without any pain.”

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

“Go find yourself first so you can find me.”

--Jalal ad-Din Rumi

Friday, February 12, 2016

Adversity's Test

During these uncertain times, I like to go back to some of the stories friends, colleagues, and mentors gave me. This particular one deals with how a person reacts when things get tough, or as some like to say, when we are in hot water. I hope you find it as insightful as I did.

Adversity's Test


A daughter complained to her father about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil.

In one, he placed carrots; in the second, he placed eggs; and the last, he placed ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

The daughter sucked her teeth and impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. In about twenty minutes, he turned off the burners. He fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them a bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her he asked. "Darling, what do you see?"…."Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. She smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

She humbly asked. "What does it mean Father?" He explained that each of them had faced the same adversity, boiling water, but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. But after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" he asked his daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"

How about you?

Are you the carrot that seems hard, but with pain and adversity do you wilt and become soft and lose your strength?

Or are you the egg, which starts off with a malleable heart? Were you a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a divorce, or a layoff have you become hardened and stiff?. Your shell looks the same, but are you bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean? The bean changes the hot water, the thing that is bringing the pain, till its peak flavor reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water gets the hottest, it just tastes better. If you are like the coffee bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and make things better around you. Essentially, adversity does not change you, you change the adversity to opportunity.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Man In The Glass

In these tough times, it is easy to get down on yourself and become demotivated by what others have told you or have intimated about your abilities, ideas or success. Just remember, that those who create (either businesses or ideas or art or designs or music or athletic performance) are closest to being god-like. It is during the creation process that we most mimic the Creator and pay it homage. Also, just because you might have outward success, does not necessarily mean you have concurred that monster from within. I came across the following some time ago, and feel it would be appropriate for all those who are experiencing a little self doubt. It might be called "The Man in the Glass" but is appropriate for both genders..
The Man in the Glass (author unknown - circa 1900)
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day,
Just go to a mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that man has to say.

For it isn't your father or mother or wife,
Whose judgment upon you must pass;
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one starring back from the glass.

He's the fellow to please, never mind all the rest.
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed the most dangerous, difficult test
If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years.
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be the heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the man in the glass.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Why We Hate Change

Over the 100,000 plus years we and our brains have been evolving. During that time, our minds have grown past our primitive lizard brains and as such have brought us intelligence; which in turn has allowed humans to accomplish some fantastic things. Even with all that time and evolution, we and our brains are still guided by these four most important motivators: avoiding threats, minimizing energy, seeking certainty (reducing risk) and obtaining rewards (increasing pleasure).

It is easy to see why these four conditions motivate us not to change, because change usually involved reducing certainty while simultaneously increasing risk and expending energy, often without any guarantee of obtaining a reward. Essentially, due to in a large part to our primordial past, when we find ourselves confronted with change, either on a personal level or say at your company, all the fears from our lizard brain are triggered.

So, how can we get past those fears and anxieties that our genetic makeup makes it so hard to accept change on a personal and group level? Well, lucky for us, intelligence again offers seven (7) ways to make change more readily acceptable and addressable to our ‘fear factors.’

1.) The first is to normalize resistance to change. We have to explain to ourselves and others in our group, that although our brains are naturally wired to resist change, we can take steps to help our brains make changes more easily. We are NOT slaves to our genetics, instead we, each of us, have the power to fight that resistance if we chose to.

2.) Next, believe it or not our brains are motivated and take action when perceived rewards are greater than perceived threats. Not only do we have to see that the risk-to-reward-ratio is tipped on the reward side, but when we are trying to get others to see so too, we need to Invite everyone affected to explore the benefits of the proposed change, and make sure their perceived fears are mitigated and their possible rewards are maximized.

3.) While change always has a certain amount of uncertainty associated with it, as best is possible, you need to meet yours and others brains’ need for certainly throughout the change process. The best way to do this is to break change down into manageable, small-step milestones, time-lines and action items that can be checked off as they are accomplished. These “small victories” can appreciably reduce the risk associated with any change and add certainty as you measure the progress of change.

4.) Attitude is everything and emotions are contagious. You must first believe in and be enthusiastic about your own change if you ever expect to be able to change the hearts and minds of others. When you lead change, do it with as much passion, excitement and enthusiasm as you can muster.

5.) While some of us are more reward-focused, there are others who actually will only be motivated in knowing that not changing is actually riskier than the change itself. To change these minds, including your own, you will need to clearly explain the risks of NOT changing to those who are more threat-oriented or who appreciate threat avoidance as a priority.

6.) No matter how much we fear a thing, or want to avoid risk and pain, or desire rewards and accolades, our brains are conditioned and wired to celebrate and be rewarded with accomplishment. These rewards have to be both on a psychological and physical level. To institute and secure a long-lasting change, it is imperative to recognize progress and wins as the change is underway and completed, not only on an individual level, but also as a team.

7.) Finally, this might sound a little be pat, but the actual experience of the change is its own reward. These rewards come as we grow through a challenge, bond as a team, discover our unknown strengths and abilities, and begin to see our world in a different light. Yes, change is hard, if it were easy, everyone would do it without trepidation. Sadly, it is those lonely few of us who have the ability to seemingly easily and effortlessly implement change. But even with them, it took practice to make accepting change readily.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

So, What About Europe?

Often we wonder how countries get into bad financial difficulties, and sometimes we need an allegory to explain it.  Hopefully the one below can explain how some of the European countries have gotten into their financial mess?

Helga is the proprietor of a bar.  She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar.  To solve this problem she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later.

Helga keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers' loans).

Word gets around about Helga's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Helga's bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in town.

By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands Helga gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer - the most consumed beverages.

Consequently, Helga's gross sales volumes and paper profits increase massively.  A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognises that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Helga's borrowing limit.  He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.

He is rewarded with a six figure bonus.

At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders figure a way to make huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS. These "securities"  are then bundled and traded on international securities markets.

Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as "AA Secured Bonds" are really debts of unemployed alcoholics. Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.

The traders all receive a six figure bonus.

One day, even though the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Helga's bar. He so informs Helga. Helga then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons but, being unemployed alcoholics, they cannot pay back their drinking debts. Since Helga cannot fulfil her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and Helga's 11 employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINKBOND prices drop by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value destroys the bank's liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community.

The suppliers of Helga's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the BOND securities.  They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds.   Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations; her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multibillion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from the government.

They all receive a six figure bonus.

The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, non-drinkers who've never been in Helga's bar.

Now do you understand?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Five Rules to Being Happy

All of us want to be happy, but few of us actually feel that way most of the time. Of course, we all experience bouts of happiness, but in general, only about 20% of the people are happy most of the time. So, what keeps us from being happy, or more precisely, but experiencing a continuous state of happiness?

There seems to be five mistakes that are common on the road to happiness. Believe it or not, the first one is to try to figure out if we are happy or not! When we try to pursue happiness as a goal, we often want to experience more joy and contentment…than we had before. So, to find out if we are making any progress we start to compare our past state of happiness to our present condition. This creates its own ennui of dissatisfaction. As soon as we start to compare, we move from the experiencing mode into the evaluation mode.

To be truly happy (and there are decades of research on this), you have to be totally absorbed in what you are doing. Think of being engrossed in a good book, solving a tough problem, being in the flow of a sport, or catching up with a great long lost friend. You are in “the zone.” You are so involved in the moment that you lose track of time and pretty much everything in the outside world. Research has shown that when people are in this state, the do not say they are happy because they are too busy concentrating on what they are doing to notice. But in actuality, they are happy. When asked about what they think about these experiences, people usually describe these moments as some of the most enjoyable experiences in their lives.

By looking or searching everywhere for happiness, we often get disrupted in our ability to enjoy what we love doing. We do not get into our flow or find our zone of enjoyment.. We in a sense become less whole. This can often be seen with people being busy, but not being happy. Busy looking for a new job, or friend, or moving to a new state or country and in the process, assessing each new thing but never truly being fully engaged in what you are doing now. Yes, the newness and activity can make you happy for a little while, but it often turns into a vicious cycle that often leads to depression. This depression leads you to begin evaluating your daily projects as less enjoyable and start ruminating about why they are no longer fun.

The second error on this pursuit of happiness is overestimating that impact that any single life circumstance has on our state of bliss. Not only do we overestimate its impact, but the duration of a positive life event. We think having a great job, or moving to an exciting city, or having the perfect relationship, will ‘make’ us happier. How many times have you seen lottery winners lose all their winnings in a short period of time and often say they were happier before? Yes, each new event will give you a bump in excitement or joy, but in a few months, the reality of the daily grind will set in and that shot of adrenaline begins to wear off.

The third error on our quest to being happy is thinking it comes from doing it alone. That happiness is just about yourself as an individual state. While there is some truth about deciding to be or not be happy, looking for happiness alone is a mistake. Focusing on just our own happiness actually makes us less happy. This is not to say that improving your skills, such as with self love, is not good, it is, but happiness is something that needs to be shared in order to be increased, intensified and extended. Just like love. There is a wealth of evidence that shows that the more people try to be happy by themselves, the more lonely they feel, and in some cases this myopic effort leads to depression. Essentially, the more you try to focus on being happy, the less happy you become. Happiness, unlike a skill, cannot be something you establish on your own alone, but something you share.

The fourth mistake is looking for intense happiness instead of just the simple pleasures. Many believe that to be happy that you need strong, overwhelming positive emotions like joy, elation, enthusiasm, passion and excitement. Sadly, research shows that this is not the best path to being truly happy, and that happiness is driven by the frequency, not the intensity of positive emotions. When we aim just for those intense positive emotions, we often miss the small joys that make us truly happy. Joys like a beautiful sunset, or a walk in the woods, the kiss on the nose of a dog, or a good joke at work.

In evaluating how intense an emotion is concerning our happiness, we start to compare it to a higher standard, which make it easier for us to be disappointed. Studies have shown that when people were explicitly searching for happiness, they experience less joy in watching a figure skater win a gold medal or going to a great concert. They were actually disappointed that the event was not more enjoyable or jubilation. In most of the case, people even stated that they would not have felt any better if they had won the gold medal or been the musician playing on stage. And on the down side, studies indicate that an intense positive experience leads us to frame ordinary experience as less positive. So, once you win that gold medal or won a lottery, it is hard to take pleasure in finding a great parking spot or getting all the green lights when you are late.

The last and biggest mistake we make in being happy is thinking that happiness is just around the corner, or it will come tomorrow, or sometime in the future. We do not value being happy right now, right here. Happiness is about being present in the present.

If you worrying about the future or remembering the past; this mental calisthenics will only distract you from being happy. One of the main tenets of happiness is to focus on the present, the here and now, and in developing your joy in the moment. Happiness comes from being completely centered on the here and now. When you live in the present, you are living where life is happening. As I say, “Fear is caused by the uncertainty of the future. Sorrow is caused by the remembrance of the past. Try to keep your thoughts in the present, for the future we will never know and the past we may never understand.” You cannot be truly happy long term if you are constantly thinking about the past or future all the time.