Wednesday, November 4, 2015

18 Laws Of Life (Sort Of)

As we move through life on this great big blue marble, we are often reminded of some immutable laws that we see all the time, but never really think about until we are “in it.” While they may not be the 1st or 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics, they seem to have some bearing on how life unfolds.  Hopefully this list will help you realize them when they happen to you.
1. Law of Mechanical Repair- 
After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch and you'll have to pee.

2. Law of Access Gravity - 
Any tool, nut, bolt, screw, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible place in the universe.

3. Law of Visibility - 
The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.

4. Law of Random Numbers - 
If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal or voice mail; someone always answers.

5. Variation Law - 
If you change lines (or traffic lanes), the one you were in will always move faster than the one you are in now.

6. Law of the Bath - 
When the body is fully immersed in water, the telephone or door bell will ring.

7. Law of Close Encounters - 
The probability of meeting someone you know INCREASES dramatically when you are with someone you don't want to be seen with.

8. Law of the Ghosts in the Machine - 
When you try to prove to someone that a machine won't work, IT WILL!!!

9. Law of Biomechanics - 
The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the difficulty in reaching it.

10. Law of Seating- 
At any event, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle, always arrive last. They are the ones who will leave their seats several times to go for food, beer, or the toilet and who leave early before the end of the performance or the game is over. The folks in the aisle seats come early, never move once, have long gangly legs or big bellies and stay to the bitter end of the performance.

11. The Coffee Law - 
As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

12. Murphy's Law of Lockers - 

If there are only 2 people in a locker room, they will have adjacent lockers.

13. Law of Physical Surfaces - 
The chances of an open-faced jam sandwich landing face down on a floor are directly correlated to the newness and cost of the carpet or rug.

14. Law of Logical Argument - 
Anything is possible IF you don't know what you are talking about.

15. Law of Physical Appearance - 
If the clothes fit, they're ugly.

16. Law of Public Speaking - 
A CLOSED MOUTH GATHERS NO FEET! The contrary applies here.

17. Law of Product Affinity - 
As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it OR the store will stop selling it!

18. Doctors' Law - 
If you don't feel well, make an appointment to go to the doctor, by the time you get there, you'll feel better. But don't make an appointment and you'll stay sick for days.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Don't be a Diva

Divas act like divas because they have tricked themselves into believing that they are not getting what they are entitled to, and, perversely, that they are not worth what they are getting. Why?

When diva receives something they feel entitled to, something expected, a thing they believe they have earned, it is not worth much (like candy on Halloween). And when they do not receive it, they are furious.  Furious in a way that is both irrational and unfounded.

Worthiness, on the other hand, is an essential part of receiving anything. (thing of the difference of a participation award versus actually winning something, say the World Series). When a diva feels unworthy, or insecure, any kind response, positive feedback or reward feels like a trick, a scam, the luck of the draw. It is hardly worth anything, because they decided in advance, before they got the feedback, that they are not worthy.

Both entitlement and unworthiness are the twin narratives that make divas bitter, encourage them to be ungenerous, and keep them stuck. Yes, men and women can be divas..bottom line: Don't be a Diva!

(thank you Seth Godin)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Power and Organization

I read an article some time ago by Seth Godin about Power and Organization. In that blog, Mr. Godin claims that most power occurs because one side is better organized than the other. Labor is usually less well organized than management, criminals are usually less well organized than the police and customers are always less well organized than producers.

I have to agree with the assessment, and actually say that in order for any organization or company to be successful, they need to be better organized than their competition. In a real world case, look and the meteoric rise of Barack Obama from State Senator, to U.S. Senator, to President elect. Obama was better organized than Hillary Clinton, and better organized than John McCain. In essence, his "community service" background allow him to tap the Internet, word-of-mouth, multi-level-marketing, and good old fashioned canvassing to develop a grassroots movement that turned into a ground swell and eventually a movement that essentially changed the face of politics forever.

So if you are marketing a product or service make sure you are first well organized (i.e. have a concrete message that shows the benefits) and then use all the networking tools in concert to your advantage in order to create awareness for your product. Your competition will not know how to handle you.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Invent the Future that Has Already Happened

Peter Drucker once noted that companies that seem to have the most success “invent the future that has already happened.” Nice quote, but what does that mean exactly?

How can you invent an unknown future that has already happened? I think what he is trying to say is to look for successes in other industries or processes and copy them in yours. Some call this 'translation' of an idea or concept. Case in point, Dell took made-to-order and catalog sales (what Sears used to do with their Craftsman houses in the early 1900s), and applied it their computer manufacturing. Or how Keller Williams combined the success of ERA with Mary Kay’s multi-level-marketing (MLM) approach to become one of the largest realtors in the nation.

Essentially, how you invent the future is to take something that worked well in one industry, and see if it can be translated (moved) into what you are trying to do in another. Great companies are able to “steal” ideas, methodologies, and processes that worked well in a totally different and sometime alien industry and successfully apply them in their own.

In addition, and from my experience, creating a future that has already happened means that you do NOT want to do anything that has to change human nature or be too complicated. You do not want to re-invent the wheel. You do want to invent better uses for it though. That is not to say you cannot make anything new, you just have to make it similar to what people are used to using already. Remember the mantra: “Cheaper, Faster, Better....and Familiar!”

As an example: DVD players. Even though DVDs have superior quality and features compared to VHS tapes, it was not until manufacturers incorporated the same 'look and feel' found on tape players (including the flashing 12:00) that their acceptance in the mainstream became assured.

Humans are funny, we do not to really work hard at learning anything new, but we can learn something new if we feel that the gain will far outweigh the pain (of the learning curve). It amazes me how many people start off their business plans with the phrase, “This will revolutionize the world of….” News flash: Very few things revolutionized the world: the printing press, electricity, flight and maybe x-rays. Everything else took decades and generations before the “revolution” or more precisely the “evolution” took place. (ARPANET was formed in 1968 btw, so do not say the internet was revolutionary in its acceptance).

Still, if you really want to profit from your efforts, look how to use what is already successful in other industries. You may not be able to predict the future, but you sure can create it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Moldy Middle

While taking statistics during my quest to get an MBA and while earning my engineering degree, the professors always emphasized the importance of finding the statistical mean of any population by using the Central Mean Theorem (a.k.a the highest point of the Bell Curve).

As an engineer, this was essential in order to maximize throughput, minimize cost and waste, and ultimately make a better, faster, cheaper widget. A funny thing happened on the way to the dark side of marketing. I discovered that the only thing in the middle of the road was quite literally dead road kill.

I do not know if you remember stores like Bradlees, Ames and Service Merchandise (just to name a few), but they all folded because the environment changed and they were caught trying to service the mythological “average customer.”

Part of that change came when Wal-Mart began its juggernaut with the discount department store. Wal-Mart did two things right: 1) Focused on “mobile” consumers, and 2) Focused on offering goods to cost (not value) conscious customers. In order to get cost down to bare minimums, Wal-Mart made sure for most of its products, it achieved the lowest price possible for its goods. Wal-Mart is not known for high quality, but it is known for low (and often the lowest) prices.

Still, you cannot buy everything at Wal-Mart (like rechargeable batteries, and Pepperidge Farms). So, there is a window of opportunity for competition (Target), that will be in another blog called Differentiate or Die.

In order to be recognized in the business world you have to stand out. Essentially, if you try to service the average customer, you will essentially look like everyone else. You must Differentiate or Die. Everything else is white noise.

Unfortunately, when most companies try to position themselves to service the average customer (the largest area under the bell curve), find that they actually get the fewest customers and the fiercest competition. Actually, when you position your product or service, you first have to carve out a niche in one of a very few extremes.

These extremes include:
Price (high versus low)
Quality (high versus good or average)
Service (personal versus automated or outsourced)
Features (high versus few; or simple versus complex)
Status / Value (High versus mundane)

Notice volume and profit are NOT on this list, since they are dependent on what extremes you choose.

I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but look at some of the successes:

Starbucks: They offer a high value / high status; high price coffee (and ultimately reached high volume & profit). Had they been another “average” coffee shop they would have not reached the status they had.

Dell: The offered a low(er) cost computer, with lower customer services (automation) but with a high feature set (custom made).

Proctor & Gamble: They segment their product offerings to cover a variety of extremes within a specific segment (toothpaste, shampoos) etc. To date, they are the most successful consumer goods company in the world.

Toyota: They offer extremely good quality, with a rich feature set (high gas mileage, extras, warranty), for a high value customer at a reasonable price.

Of course there are many others. What these companies need to be weary of is the temptation to try to get more market share at the expense of abandoning what made them desirable to begin with. The law of scarcity sometimes is a good thing.

So, if you are starting a new company, or releasing a new product, or looking at how to improve the perception of you existing product, look at what you are tying to do, and see if you are targeting the moldy middle. If you are, make some real effort to move away from that segment as quickly as possible.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

10 Rules for a Good Life

We all want a “good life” but that good life is different for everybody. Some believe it is success at work, or acknowledgement of achievement, or having wealth, or a multitude of friends and being able to travel. Whatever your definition of a good life, there are a few rules that will allow you to enjoy it when your get there. Each one of these can be a book in itself, but only the highlights are given below.

1. Be Nice
Being nice triumphs all. Although no one can be nice all the time, and sometimes you have to push back, but if you have the option, be nice, people appreciate it. The ability to be nice means you give pleasure or joy, have an attractive or good quality, and are kind, polite and friendly. Sounds pretty uplifting, does it not? So, when was the last time you heard someone complain about a little courtesy. Of course, sometimes being too nice has it downfalls, but practicing also has a multitude of feel-good benefits for you. When we help others and do kind acts, it causes our brain to release endorphins, the chemicals that give us feelings of fervor and high spirits -- similar to a 'runner's high. Doing something nice for someone also gives the brain a serotonin boost, the chemical that gives us that feeling of satisfaction and well-being. Plus, studies show that being "nice" means feeling more joyful and better about ourselves in the long run.

2. Be Authentic
Be yourself. As Herman Melville warns, “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” We are all individuals and want to be recognized as such, that is what attracts others to us, our uniqueness. Sadly, we tend to value ourselves and our abilities not from our power of strength, but from someone else’s perspective. Do not try to imitate someone else, focus on your strengths and heighten them. Of course you need to be OK with whom you are, but you also have to realize that you can always improve. You can always better your best, you can always learn to love more, to give better, to expand yourself and your world. Accept your limitations, but do not let those limitations limit your achievements or self worth. “Master yourself, your thoughts and feelings, and you master the whole universe.”

3. Do Great Art
You cannot please everybody. It's a phony concept that flames out. The famed comedian Bill Cosby once said, “I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone." Be thankful you've got your group, your friends, your family, and your fans. There are those who would appreciate you whom you have never met, focus on meeting them, not those who do not care. Make create art who can appreciate your art. Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else, and to make them feel. The art you create is a gift. Of course, you can sell the souvenir, the painting, the book, the recording, but the idea itself is free and the creative property of art is divine. Most art has nothing to do with oil paint or marble. Art is what you are doing when you do our best work. Or as Seth Godin once put it, “Art is not in the eye of the beholder. It's in the soul of the artist.”

4. Be In School Every Day
Education is not Everything, Learning is, and it does not have to happen in school. Still, we can understand why reading, writing and arithmetic are so important. Yes, in the internet era, reading and writing are everything (typing too!). And as for math, you cannot do a deal or really function in the modern world without knowing the numbers. And everybody wants to do a deal. If you really want to have a good life, make learning a lifelong ordeal. In doing so, you will keep gaining insight until you die. Life is a puzzle, one in which you are constantly delivered new pieces, and without new information and know-how, you will not be able to figure some stuff and that will just leave you frustrated. Coupled with experience, age and learning are potent force and is why age equals wisdom and the young may have their youth, but the old have all the happiness.

5. Be Not Possessed by Possessions
Yes, it is nice to own beautiful and priceless things, and most of us collect “objects” because if gives us a feeling or safety, security of superiority. But be careful that you do not let your possessions actually possess you. Sometimes we put more importance on what we own that what we are. Plus when you have stuff, you start to putting a lot of time in protecting things rather that developing your better self. Once you have something valuable you usually have to insure it, provide upkeep for it, and otherwise make sure your investment is honored. There is a line that you cross when the possessions are taking more of your time and energy than the joy of possessing them is providing. Yes, it is a slippery slope, and it can be hard to know sometimes when we cross that line. Sometimes we lose sight of what really gives us joy. As I like to say, “He is richest who wants least,” and luckily for us possessions mean less as you age. With new technology, we have more ways to evolve into a no possessions era; one in which you can rent a ride and you do not even have to own a car, or a house, or really anything. Let loose of the possesses but hold onto the experiences, as experiences are everything.

6. Learn to Love Yourself First
Well, essentially having self-love means you have the capacity to love others and be more aware of how your effect other people and the world. Essentially, "you cannot give to others what you do not give to yourself first." If you are not honest with yourself, you cannot be honest with others; if you are fearful, you will make others fearful; if you are courageous, others will gain courage through you; and so it is with love. If you do not love yourself, you can never love another. And we do NOT intrinsically know how to love. It is a learned art, something too few of us have ever mastered. Still, it is the single best coping skill you will ever possess, and most successful people have taken great pains, either deliberately or through trial and error, to develop a deep self-love. Of course there are no perfect partners, but if you develop you own self love, you will at least be able to withstand the slings and arrows of life and love.

7. Have a High Sense of Integrity
Do the right thing. Not only will it make a difference, you will feel better about yourself. Self awareness is the first step to true success, but incredibly, being self aware is incredibly rare. Developing a sense of integrity begins by being brutally honest with ourselves and that takes an unique talent. Our attempts to maintain positive self-views undermine our ability, or willingness, to accept negative feedback from others or even ourselves. We tend to insulate ourselves from having to do any work to truly improve ourselves from within, and instead tend to blame everyone and everything else for our setbacks and failures. From school kids who blame their poor grades on their teachers to employees who blame their poor performance on their bosses, there is no shortage of real-life examples highlighting the default human tendency to distort reality in their favor if it helps them feel good about themselves. This is just delusional. Although the truth often hurts, it is the key to self-improvement and self love, so commit to truly evaluating yourself and seeking constructive, although possibly negative, feedback from people you respect. Ask them and yourself, “What could I do better?” “What am I missing compared to the people I consider the best?” and “What are the worst things about myself?” and take the answers seriously and commit to taking steps to change them. If you want to be a truly loving person, you first have to be honest with yourself.

8. Seek Not Revenge
As Andy Rooney said, “When you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.” Do not worry what anybody else is doing and only focus on what you can change and control and that is you. Yes, Karma exists; and it is a bitch. You may not see it in the instant you wish like in the John Lennon song, but it does happen. If will come to the person who a done that vile act and will come without any notice. I will not be easily seen, and may not be visible to anybody but you, the one who was hurt, but it's real. If you are seeking revenge, you will not let the Universe do what it does best: meet out justice in the end.

9. Value Time
“Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time, you won't do anything with it," as well put by M. Scott Peck. The one thing I have come to realize in life is how well or poorly you spend your time, reflects how happy you are. It is also amazing to me how little people value the one thing they cannot control, or create, or get more of: TIME. Time starts accelerating sometime in your late thirties or forties. If you are not paying attention to how you use your time, chances are you are not going get where you want to go and definitely not be as happy as you want to be.

10. Go to the Unknown
I have a quotation that I use with the many entrepreneurs I a fortunate to meet and mentor, “Go to where you do not know what you do not know. That is where you will find all your opportunities.” The hardest thing you will ever do is to take that step into the unknown, but in order to really make any type of impact, that is exactly where you have to go. I cannot imagine what would have happened (or failed to happened), if the founders of this country (Adams, Washington, Madison, Franklin, Jefferson, Payne, Lafayette, etc.), had NOT taken that first fateful step. They ventured into the space of “what they did not know what they did not know.” Inspiration comes from displacement. Get out of your comfort zone, the rewards are legion.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Forever Cursed

Fill your head with anger and hatred;
Fill your heart bitterness and rage;
Your soul is consumed with vile feelings.
The love you wanted was in your arms
but escaped because you could not come half-way.
And now, it is gone forever
Never to return into your life.
You are lazy and selfish and stupid.
You deserve neither affection nor comfort
For your actions are neither noble nor honorable.
You are destined to live a life of worry and doubt;
Unfulfilled and wanting; desperate and lacking;
Because you cannot ever love or be loved
You bring this curse upon yourself for you
Stay huddled in the valley of a dreamless day to day existence
whose only purpose is the preservation of an illusionary sense of security and safety.
You fear the adventure of finding true, deep, passionate Love.
You fear going into the unknown and the unexplored.
You have given up the dream of what may lie ahead on the heights of tomorrow
For a perpetual nightmare of endless days and nights 
Fearing the loss of a tenuous and unattainable feeling of refuge
Because you have chosen not to grow, nor learn how to truly love,
You are forever cursed.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The 7 Cardinal Rules of Life

While I did not formulate these 7 cardinal rule of life, I have to agree with the essence of their wisdom. This is a good first step to self-love and finding true happiness, and I hope offers some guidance to those looking for a better life. My only hope is that you find them helpful in your quest to a better, more fulfilling, and accomplished life.

1. Make peace with your past, so it doesn’t spoil your present. Your past does not define your future – your actions and beliefs do.
2. What others think of you is none of your business. It’s how much you value yourself and how important you think you are.
3. Time heals almost everything, give time, time. Pain will be less hurting. Scars make us who we are; they explain our life and why we are the way we are. They challenge us and force us to be stronger.
4. No one is the reason for your own happiness, except you yourself. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside.
5. Don’t compare your life with others’, you have no idea what their journey is all about. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we would grab ours back as fast as we could.
6. Stop thinking too much, it’s alright not to know all the answers. Sometime there is no answer, not going to be any answer, never has been an answer. That’s the answer! Just accept it, move on, NEXT!
7. Smile, you don’t own all the problems in the world. A smile can brighten the darkest day and make life more beautiful. It is a potential curve to turn a life around and set everything straight.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Marketing An Elephant

There is an excellent tale, by American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887),  that is based on a fable told in India many years ago. It is a good warning about how our sensory perceptions can lead to some serious misinterpretations; especially when we focus on one part in relationship to the whole.  It also deals with how people perceive things from where THEY stand not from were YOU stand. The tale in entirety follows this post.

While this is an excellent tale about perception, it is also a cautionary tale for anyone trying to market a product to a general population.  While you are trying to "sell" an elephant, certain features of the elephant will be more important and more pronounced than others.  So, what you as a good marketer have to do is figure out what are the most profitable market segments to sell to and then highlight those features prominently, that includes determining if someone wants the "whole" elephant.  In some instances, and if possible, you will have to unbundle your products (sell just the rope and snake), to hit your target market, and when you cannot unbundle, you have to show the value of the chief features of your product, and "just throw" in the other features for free.

In any case, never assume your market is monolithic, but also make sure you just do not focus on one segment at the exclusion of all others.  You DO NOT want to sell an elephant for the price of a rope or a fan!

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined, 

Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind), 

That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall 

Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl: 

"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho! what have we here 

So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear 

This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take 

The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake: 

"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee. 

"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he; 

" 'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man 

Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can 

This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope, 

Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope, 

"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long, 

Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong, 

Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween, 

Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean, 

And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

20 Quips On Life

Here is a list 20 things that on the surface have quite a bit of wisdom, but are just plain funny as well. Some are priceless, and all are pretty humorous. As we all need a little humor every day, I hope these quips turn up the corners of your mouth. All the best and Excelsior everyone!

1. I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness. 

2. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

3. I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.

4. Sex is not the answer. Sex is the question. "Yes" is the answer.

5. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.

6. We live in a society where pizza gets to your house before the police.

7. Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake a whole relationship.

8. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

9. If I agreed with you we'd both be wrong.

10. Men have two emotions: Hungry and Horny. If you see him without an erection, make him a sandwich. 

11. Going to church (temple, mosque) doesn't make you a Christian (or Jew, Muslim, etc.) any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

12. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public (ok, maybe some of us).

13. War does not determine who is right - only who is left.

14. Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand.

15.Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

16.Politicians and diapers have one thing in common. They should both be changed regularly, and for the same reason.

17. Children: You spend the first 2 years of their life teaching them to walk and talk. Then you spend the next 16 years telling them to sit down and shut-up.

18. My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch.

19. The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

20. The Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.