Mar 042015
 

When given a challenge, we usually forget to sharpen the axe.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

– Abe Lincoln

Are you a student? If you answered no, I believe you have the wrong perspective. Our world is changing ever faster, and I believe you must be a student all the days of your life. Jim Rohn agreed:

Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.

Learning is the beginning of wealth. Learning is the beginning of health. Learning is the beginning of spirituality. Searching and learning is where the miracle process all begins.

sharpen the axe

The axe that I want to help you sharpen is your memory, and not by just a bit. I want to double or triple your ability to remember whatever it is that you want to remember, in a tenth of the time that it might take you now.

How? Learn (and practice (everything takes practice)) a proven technique from the ancient Greeks that has mostly been forgotten in the age of wikipedia. To start, please take less than an hour and watch these three videos, without distractions, without texting your friends, without checking your instagram, facebook, or e-mail. If you are not familiar with the “Do Not Disturb” setting on your iPhone, it is found under Settings / it is the 7th item down from the top on iOS 8.x.

Why invest your time? How much better would your life be if you could look at something just once and then remember it?  How much time would you save?  How much better would your social fabric be, if you remembered every person’s name when you met them, and the names of their spouse and kids too! What if you unfailing remembered the sports that the kids play and the schools that they go to, where the parents work, what they do, and what they are focused upon the last time few times that you spoke to them?

Why three videos? Because this is a new concept to most of us — and three times from three perspectives helps one learn and understand, when you are a newbee.

Video 1 — Joshua Foer

Joshua-Foer-Feats-of-Memory-Anyone-Can-Do

Video 2 — Idriz Zogaj

IZ-mem

Video 3 — Daniel Kilov

daniel-mem3

Sharpen your axe and chopping down trees becomes a heck of a lot easier.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. I just bought the Kindle version of Dominic O’Brien’s book. I’ll give you an update in a few months. I’m on my way!

Feb 182015
 

Pessimists often think that there is little opportunity to succeed in this world, but I, and all true optimists, see millions of opportunities everywhere.  The real trick is to pick one and focus on it until you finish what you started.

Here is a great example, and one that should be of interest, given that sooner or later, most of us wind up visiting a hospital:

nicolai

Go find a problem to solve. This young man did.

I.M. Optimisman

Feb 102015
 

I continue to believe people don’t see the wonder and advancement in the world because short term “bad news” stories overwhelm the long-term stories of progress and hope. Below is a great article that appeared in the USA Today. I have recreated it here, because I suspect that the USA Today doesn’t keep articles around for the long-term, and this story should remain available 10, 20, or even 50 years from now.

I.M. Optimism Man

Here is a link to the USA Today article. We will see how long it works.

50 reasons why this is the greatest time ever

Originally published in the USA Today
by Morgan Housel, The Motley Fool 11:44 a.m. EST February 2, 2014

I recently talked to a doctor who retired after a 30-year career. I asked him how much medicine had changed during the three decades he practiced. “Oh, tremendously,” he said. He listed off a dozen examples. Deaths from heart disease and stroke are way down. Cancer survival rates are way up. We’re better at diagnosing, treating, preventing, and curing disease than ever before.

Consider this: In 1900, 1% of American women giving birth died in labor. Today, the five-year mortality rate for localized breast cancer is 1.2%. Being pregnant 100 years ago was almost as dangerous as having breast cancer is today.

The problem, the doctor said, is that these advances happen slowly over time, so you probably don’t hear about them. If cancer survival rates improve, say, 1% per year, any given year’s progress looks low, but over three decades, extraordinary progress is made.

Compare health-care improvements with the stuff that gets talked about in the news — NBC anchor Andrea Mitchell interrupted a Congresswoman last week to announce Justin Bieber’s arrest — and you can understand why Americans aren’t optimistic about the country’s direction. We ignore the really important news because it happens slowly, but we obsess over trivial news because it happens all day long.

Expanding on my belief that everything is amazing and nobody is happy, here are 50 facts that show we’re actually living through the greatest period in world history.

1. U.S. life expectancy at birth was 39 years in 1800, 49 years in 1900, 68 years in 1950, and 79 years today. The average newborn today can expect to live an entire generation longer than his great-grandparents could.

Brooklyn_NYC_Newborn_Baby_Photography

2. A flu pandemic in 1918 infected 500 million people and killed as many as 100 million. In his book The Great Influenza, John Barry describes the illness as if “someone were hammering a wedge into your skull just behind the eyes, and body aches so intense they felt like bones breaking.” Today, you can go to Safeway and get a flu shot. It costs 15 bucks. You might feel a little poke.

3. In 1950, 23 people per 100,000 Americans died each year in traffic accidents, according to the Census Bureau. That fell to 11 per 100,000 by 2009. If the traffic mortality rate had not declined, 37,800 more Americans would have died last year than actually did. In the time it will take you to read this article, one American is alive who would have died in a car accident 60 years ago.

4. In 1949, Popular Mechanics magazine made the bold prediction that someday a computer could weigh less than 1 ton. I wrote this sentence on an iPad that weighs 0.73 pounds.

5. The average American now retires at age 62. One hundred years ago, the average American died at age 51. Enjoy your golden years — your ancestors didn’t get any of them.

6. In his 1770s book The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith wrote: “It is not uncommon in the highlands of Scotland for a mother who has borne 20 children not to have 2 alive.” Infant mortality in America has dropped from 58 per 1,000 births in 1933 to less than six per 1,000 births in 2010, according to the World Health Organization. There are about 11,000 births in America each day, so this improvement means more than 200,000 infants now survive each year who wouldn’t have 80 years ago. That’s like adding a city the size of Boise, Idaho, every year.

7. America averaged 20,919 murders per year in the 1990s, and 16,211 per year in the 2000s, according to the FBI. If the murder rate had not fallen, 47,000 more Americans would have been killed in the last decade than actually were. That’s more than the population of Biloxi, Miss.

8. Despite a surge in airline travel, there were half as many fatal plane accidents in 2012 than there were in 1960, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

Alaska-Airlines-over-Molokai-cliffs

9. No one has died from a new nuclear weapon attack since 1945. If you went back to 1950 and asked the world’s smartest political scientists, they would have told you the odds of seeing that happen would be close to 0%. You don’t have to be very imaginative to think that the most important news story of the past 70 years is what didn’t happen. Congratulations, world.

10. People worry that the U.S. economy will end up stagnant like Japan’s. Next time you hear that, remember that unemployment in Japan hasn’t been above 5.6% in the past 25 years, its government corruption ranking has consistently improved, incomes per capita adjusted for purchasing power have grown at a decent rate, and life expectancy has risen by nearly five years. I can think of worse scenarios.

11. Two percent of American homes had electricity in 1900. J.P Morgan (the man) was one of the first to install electricity in his home, and it required a private power plant on his property. Even by 1950, close to 30% of American homes didn’t have electricity. It wasn’t until the 1970s that virtually all homes were powered. Adjusted for wage growth, electricity cost more than 10 times as much in 1900 as it does today, according to professor Julian Simon.

12. According to the Federal Reserve, the number of lifetime years spent in leisure — retirement plus time off during your working years — rose from 11 years in 1870 to 35 years by 1990. Given the rise in life expectancy, it’s probably close to 40 years today. Which is amazing: The average American spends nearly half his life in leisure. If you had told this to the average American 100 years ago, that person would have considered you wealthy beyond imagination.

13. We are having a national discussion about whether a $7.25-per-hour minimum wage is too low. But even adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage was less than $4 per hour as recently as the late 1940s. The top 1% have captured most of the wage growth over the past three decades, but nearly everyone has grown richer — much richer — during the past seven decades.

14. In 1952, 38,000 people contracted polio in America alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2012, there were fewer than 300 reported cases of polio in the entire world.

15. From 1920 to 1949, an average of 433,000 people died each year globally from “extreme weather events.” That figure has plunged to 27,500 per year, according to Indur Goklany of the International Policy Network, largely thanks to “increases in societies’ collective adaptive capacities.”

Tornadoes-forming

16. Worldwide deaths from battle have plunged from 300 per 100,000 people during World War II, to the low teens during the 1970s, to less than 10 in the 1980s, to fewer than one in the 21st century, according to Harvard professor Steven Pinker. “War really is going out of style,” he says.

17. Median household income adjusted for inflation was around $25,000 per year during the 1950s. It’s nearly double that amount today. We have false nostalgia about the prosperity of the 1950s because our definition of what counts as “middle class” has been inflated — see the 34% rise in the size of the median American home in just the past 25 years. If you dig into how the average “prosperous” American family lived in the 1950s, I think you’ll find a standard of living we’d call “poverty” today.

18. Reported rape per 100,000 Americans dropped from 42.3 in 1991 to 27.5 in 2010, according to the FBI. Robbery has dropped from 272 per 100,000 in 1991 to 119 in 2010. There were nearly 4 million fewer property crimes in 2010 than there were in 1991, which is amazing when you consider the U.S. population grew by 60 million during that period.

19. According to the Census Bureau, only one in 10 American homes had air conditioning in 1960. That rose to 49% in 1973, and 89% today — the 11% that don’t are mostly in cold climates. Simple improvements like this have changed our lives in immeasurable ways.

20. Almost no homes had a refrigerator in 1900, according to Frederick Lewis Allan’s The Big Change, let alone a car. Today they sell cars with refrigerators in them.

21. Adjusted for overall inflation, the cost of an average round-trip airline ticket fell 50% from 1978 to 2011, according to Airlines for America.

22. According to the Census Bureau, the average new home now has more bathrooms than occupants.

23. According to the Census Bureau, in 1900 there was one housing unit for every five Americans. Today, there’s one for every three. In 1910 the average home had 1.13 occupants per room. By 1997 it was down to 0.42 occupants per room.

24. According to professor Julian Simon, the average American house or apartment is twice as large as the average house or apartment in Japan, and three times larger than the average home or apartment in Russia.

25. Relative to hourly wages, the cost of an average new car has fallen fourfold since 1915, according to professor Julian Simon.

26. Google Maps is free. If you think about this for a few moments, it’s really astounding. It’s probably the single most useful piece of software ever invented, and it’s free for anyone to use.

27. High school graduation rates are at a 40-year high, according to Education Week.

28. The death rate from strokes has declined by 75% since the 1960s, according to the National Institutes of Health. Death from heart attacks has plunged, too: If the heart attack survival had had not declined since the 1960s, the number of Americans dying each year from heart disease would be more than 1 million higher than it currently is.

29. In 1900, African Americans had an illiteracy rate of nearly 45%, according to the Census Bureau. Today, it’s statistically close to zero.

30. People talk about how expensive college is today, but a century ago fewer than one in 20 Americans ever stepped foot in a university. College wasn’t an option at any price for some minorities because of segregation just six decades ago.

31. The average American work week has declined from 66 hours in 1850, to 51 hours in 1909, to 34.8 today, according to the Federal Reserve. Enjoy your weekend.

32. Incomes have grown so much faster than food prices that the average American household now spends less than half as much of its income on food as it did in the 1950s. Relative to wages, the price of food has declined more than 90% since the 19th century, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

33. As of March 2013, there were 8.99 million millionaire households in the U.S., according to the Spectrum Group. Put them together and they would make the largest city in the country, and the 18th largest city in the world, just behind Tokyo. We talk a lot about wealth concentration in the United States, but it’s not just the very top that has done well.

34. More than 40% of adults smoked in 1965, according to the Centers for Disease Control. By 2011, 19% did.

john-deere

35. In 1900, 44% of all American jobs were in farming. Today, around 2% are. We’ve become so efficient at the basic need of feeding ourselves that nearly half the population can now work on other stuff.

36. One of the reasons Social Security and Medicare are underfunded is that the average American is living longer than ever before. I think this is literally the best problem to have.

tulsa-u

37. In 1940, less than 5% of the adult population held a bachelor’s degree or higher. By 2012, more than 30% did, according to the Census Bureau.

38. U.S. oil production in September was the highest it’s been since 1989, and growth shows no sign of slowing. We produced 57% more oil in America in September 2013 than we did in September 2007. The International Energy Agency projects that America will be the world’s largest oil producer as soon as 2015.

39. The average American car got 13 miles per gallon in 1975, and more than 26 miles per gallon in 2013, according to the Energy Protection Agency. This has an effect identical to cutting the cost of gasoline in half.

40. Annual inflation in the United States hasn’t been above 10% since 1981 and has been below 5% in 77% of years over the past seven decades. When you consider all the hatred directed toward the Federal Reserve, this is astounding.

41. The percentage of Americans age 65 and older who live in poverty has dropped from nearly 30% in 1966 to less than 10% by 2010. For the elderly, the war on poverty has pretty much been won.

42. Adjusted for inflation, the average monthly Social Security benefit for retirees has increased from $378 in 1940 to $1,277 by 2010. What used to be a safety net is now a proper pension.

43. If you think Americans aren’t prepared for retirement today, you should have seen what it was like a century ago. In 1900, 65% of men over age 65 were still in the labor force. By 2010, that figure was down to 22%. The entire concept of retirement is unique to the past few decades. Half a century ago, most Americans worked until they died.

44. From 1920 to 1980, an average of 395 people per 100,000 died from famine worldwide each decade. During the 2000s, that fell to three per 100,000, according to The Economist.

45. The cost of solar panels has declined by 75% since 2008, according to the Department of Energy. Last I checked, the sun is offering its services for free.

46. As recently as 1950, nearly 40% of American homes didn’t have a telephone. Today, there are 500 million Internet-connected devices in America, or enough for 5.7 per household.

47. According to AT&T archives and the Dallas Fed, a three-minute phone call from New York to San Francisco cost $341 in 1915, and $12.66 in 1960, adjusted for inflation. Today, Republic Wireless offers unlimited talk, text, and data for $5 a month.

48. In 1990, the American auto industry produced 7.15 vehicles per auto employee. In 2010 it produced 11.2 vehicles per employee. Manufacturing efficiency has improved dramatically.

49. You need an annual income of $34,000 a year to be in the richest 1% of the world, according to World Bank economist Branko Milanovic’s 2010 book The Haves and the Have-Nots. To be in the top half of the globe you need to earn just $1,225 a year. For the top 20%, it’s $5,000 per year. Enter the top 10% with $12,000 a year. To be included in the top 0.1% requires an annual income of $70,000. America’s poorest are some of the world’s richest.

America-the-Beautiful

50. Only 4% of humans get to live in America. Odds are you’re one of them. We’ve got it made. Be thankful.

The Motley Fool is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news, analysis and commentary designed to help people take control of their financial lives. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

Jan 092015
 

Most of my articles are one-topic-at-a-time but today, I’m simply going to take a random stroll through my brain for the top thoughts I have as I face 2015. I hope that you find a spark in just one or two of them.

We live in the best of times, bar none.

There has never been more opportunity to succeed in a hurry. More than 50% of the humans on the planet have been networked together. Many of us are fortunate enough to carry a magical smartphone that acts as a battery-powered always-on star-trek-inspired ATM to the vast and ever-growing knowledge-base on the network, indexed by Google. The world is not yet a pervasive knowledge utopia, but dang, this is awesome.

Not everyone appreciates it. My kids think that unlimited, always available information at your smartphone fingertips was simply the way it was. They can’t imagine 1984, although I have briefed them on that stone age before 99% of us had cell phones.

Why not make 2015 your best year ever, the year you really take advantage of some great opportunity?

Optimism makes you or breaks you.

If you do not believe in your plan, your vision, and your abilities, you will never get more than a few steps out the starting gate.

Rudy Ruettiger

You have to believe that you can — and — belief is a conscious choice one must make. Has anyone won an Olympic event without believing that she can? Has anyone started a new company that rocketed to stardom without belief? Has anyone performed on a national stage without having faith in themselves? On a smaller scale, has anyone become the captain of their sports team without belief? Would Rudy have had his moment in the Notre Dame sunshine without optimism?

Do you believe? It is not an option if you want to strive for greatness!

Every important mission deserves a plan.

Planning — specifically written planning — with key milestones and target dates, improves a person’s chances of success by a wide margin. Why? Because the act of writing it down helps logical thought. Writing it down helps one’s commitment level. Writing it down helps you visualize the future.  Every plan should answer the “why do I want to do this” question, because why is always more powerful than what.  When you know why you want to do X, the finish line is easier to reach. Having a written plan better enables you to solicit the advice of others, which helps debate the logic even farther. Dates in ink help prevent procrastination.

Sure, plans might change — in fact, they usually do change — but creating a plan (here’s how), having a plan, working the plan, adjusting the plan, is important none-the-less.

Do you have a mission in 2015?  If so, where’s your written plan?

Ideas are sparked by… books… not TV.

I’ve come to realize that books are far more thought provoking that any other media because they are usually a deep plunge into a topic. I find that I come up with more ideas — usually unrelated to the book that I’m reading — while reading a good book.

made-to-stick

Reading is nutrition for the brain and is darn near magical.

Want fresh ideas in 2015?  How many books will you commit to read?

A/B Testing

Most of us come up with our one best idea and run with it. Yet, there is a lot of evidence that people rarely come up with the best idea without trial and error. I think 2015 should become the year all of us come up with our two best ideas per problem or challenge, and test both. The second one might come in first more often than we realize.  Then, after you know which idea is a winner (lets say B), come up with a new A for the next A/B test and keep fine-tuning and improving.

All it takes is a bit more work to improve your chances of success.

Are you willing to create more than one idea or approach, then test and measure to achieve better success?

Ask for Advice

People love to give advice. Yet often, we don’t ask for it, and when we do, we don’t listen attentively, we don’t take notes, and we don’t mull it over for a few weeks. Wise is the person that can learn from others. There is a lot to be learned if one is willing to ask good questions.

There is also a great side-benefit to asking for advice. People will feel that you value their opinion more. This results in better, deeper relationships.

Why not ask more people for advice?

One Great Resolution

People make fun of resolutions because so few people follow through. Instead of a huge list this year, make just one, but make it stick. Write it down in a plan, with milestones, with target dates. Put a reminder card of this resolution everywhere.  Check off the milestones.  You will feel great when you succeed by December.

What is your one resolution that really matters to you?

Make the right choices and I’m certain that you will have a great 2015. Above all things, please realize that optimism is a choice, and optimism is the jet fuel you need to live large and achieve much in life.

I.M. OptimismMan

 

 

Dec 142014
 

Are you failing often enough?

This is a very important question to contemplate, especially if you are not in the middle of spectacular, unusual successes.

If you are not encountering failure, you are not pushing the envelope of your abilities or the opportunities that are inevitably present in your life. Trying something new and daring is the only way to significantly accelerate and expand your life, not to mention feel challenged and enthused. As Lou Holtz puts it in this video well worth watching, “you are either growing or you are dying” — there is no longterm safety with maintaining the status quo.

Unfortunately, as people age beyond 30 or 35, they take less risks and try fewer new things. It should surprise no one that most leaps in society come from the young. What’s true for people is also true for companies; as most companies evolve, they often transform from bold and innovative to conservative, plodding, and risk averse.

At the core of the problem is a myth about failure: Many believe failure is bad, embarrassing, and should be avoided at all cost, especially here in America. Even more people try to cover up their failures and hide them from others, immediately blocking them from their own minds in the cover-up process. The truth is that taking prudent risks, daring to fail, learning from failure, and treating every failure as an important learning experience is how one keeps failure in the right perspective.

sam-walton

I see failure and substantial success as gauges of “am I trying enough new things” — if I go six months without some spectacular setback or win, the alarm bells go off in my head, letting me know that I’m not trying enough new stuff, not taking enough new risks, and missing out on the successes and failures that come with pushing the envelope. Doing a few percent better this year than last is a clear indicator of wasted opportunity.

You must fail forward:

Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.
– Denis Waitley

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
– Teddy Roosevelt

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.
– JK Rowling

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Before success comes in any man’s life, he’s sure to meet with much temporary defeat and, perhaps some failures. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and the most logical thing to do is to quit. That’s exactly what the majority of men do.
– Napoleon Hill

Forget about yesterday’s failure. Time to try something new, exciting, and at least a little bit risky!

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. Here’s a list of rather famous and successful that failed forward:

Roland Hussey Macy

He failed at selling ribbons, provisions to miners and at a general store before going bankrupt in 1855. His next effort, Macy’s became the world’s largest store.

J. C. Penney

First store went bankrupt when he refused to give whiskey as a kickback for orders from a large customer. Penny went belly up and got a job in a drapery shop that he later purchased and expanded into 1100 department stores nationwide.

Henry John Heinz

Started his first company in 1869 selling horseradish, pickles, sauerkraut and vinegar. In 1875 the company filed for bankruptcy due to an unexpected bumper harvest which the company could not keep up with and could not meet its payroll obligations. He immediately started a new company and introduced a new condiment, tomato ketchup to the market. This company was, and continues to be, very prosperous.

Milton Snavely Hershey

Started four candy companies that failed and filed bankruptcy before starting what is now Hershey’s Foods Corporation. Mr. Hershey had only a 4th grade education, but was certain he could make a good product that the public would want to purchase. His fifth attempt was clearly successful.

Conrad Hilton

Lost all his hotels when he could not pay his bank during the Great Depression. Later, he bought them all back and built a few more. Things worked out pretty good in the end. Just ask Paris.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Famous architect lost his home, Taliesin in Wisconsin and was thrown on the street when business dried up in 1922. During the following decade, he designed some of his most famous projects.

Henry Ford

First two automobile manufacturing companies failed. The first company filed for bankruptcy and the second ended because of a disagreement with his business partner. In June 1903, at the age of 40, he created a third company, the Ford Motor Company with a cash investment of $28,000.00. By July of 1903 the bank balance had dwindled to $223.65, but then Ford sold its first car, and as they say the rest is history

Harry Truman

Opened a shop in Missouri after the First World War only to have it fail miserably. He was further humbled by having to move in with his mother-in-law. Truman later settled his debt for pennies on the dollar when the bank at which the underlying note was written actually went bankrupt itself. He is said to have learned a lot from the misadventure. And it all turned out OK in the in end. You may have heard, he eventually got a good job, in Washington, DC.

Walt Disney

His name is synonymous with Mickey Mouse and the “happiest place on earth,” Disneyland. However, Disney’s career wasn’t always a moneymaking venture. In 1921, he began a company called the Laugh-O-Gram Corporation in Kansas City, Missouri but was forced to file for bankruptcy two years later because his financial backers pulled out. It must have been fate because Disney then headed to Hollywood and became one of the highest paid animators in history.

Sam Walton

His first store was a Ben Franklin discount shop that he made among the most profitable and successful in the chain. Walton’s problem was a short lease. When it expired, the building’s owner canceled his lease and took over the store himself. Walton was broke had to start over from scratch. You may have heard, however, that things turned out pretty good in the end. After these early financial difficulties were behind him, he later created the largest company in the world and became a billionaire.

 

Nov 122014
 

I recently read a few articles that got me thinking about co-workers and hiring employees in general. In my job, I become part of virtual teams that self-assemble and de-assemble as needed for a particular opportunity. I am fortunate in the fact that I often serve as the recruiter, and therefore, am in a position to decide who I want on my temporary team to explore an opportunity.

good-team

When you recruit, you wind up picking people that you can count on to get the job done, while being enjoyable to work with. If one of these facets is great but the other is not, you will never pick that person unless you have no other choice in the matter.

Here is my quickly conceived diagram about what I think ‘picking your team’ always boils down to. The best people to work with are the ones that combine all five of these aspects:

people-I-love-to-work-withNow, here is the interesting paradox. When managers hire new people, how often do they hire in terms of “would I really like to work with this person on an intense project for a month or two?” I think a lot of companies often overcomplicate the hiring process — and as a result — make decisions based on obscure details that distract from what truly matters most. Hiring a bad apple is hard to un-do and often causes years of strife. While basic skills, experience, and subject matter knowledge are somewhat needed (and this falls into the ability to get the job done), keeping your eye on the big picture matters most.

This concept is important on a personal level, even if you are not hiring people: How do you rank yourself against this diagram? Consider asking five people that know you well, the five straight-shooters that will give you advice that is not candy-coated. If you come up short in one or more of these areas, why not decide to change yourself for the better? I believe that ranking in the top 10% of these five key aspects can put your career on a new trajectory with exponential benefits over 10, 20 or 30 years. Everyone likes a hockey stick chart, not just venture cap investors.

I.M. Optimism Man

Sep 222014
 

Most commercials offer little value. Once in a while, however, Madison Ave manages to capture an idea brilliantly in just 30 or 60 seconds. Here is one such spot well worth thinking about if you have a daughter:

girl-engineer

I hope that you take it to heart. It is really easy for parents to be protective. We have a kid who wants to build, to invent, to have her own tool box. I believe it is time to let her breathe, even if it costs a few bandaids.

Don’t miss Have a Daughter? Part 1, here.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. I have no idea how this actually sell more Verizon phones and plans… but I’m glad that they funded it.

PSS. Here are the other two parts of my Have a Daughter? Series… Part 1 and Part 3.

Sep 162014
 

Warren Buffett is a smart guy. In my book, it is more important to have great common sense than it is to just be I.Q. rocket-science smart. Mr. Buffett is both – he clearly stood in line several times as God was dealing out common sense before he was born.

warren-buffett-hi-res

As many of you know, I am a long-term investor and I have read Warren’s shareholder letters with great interest for years. I don’t agree with Warren on every front (mostly politics) but he does author a lot of great, common-sense quotes worth thinking through.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.
    ~
  2. Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.
    ~
  3. Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
    ~
  4. It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.
    ~
  5. It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.
    ~
  6. In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497.
    ~
  7. You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.
    ~
  8. The business schools reward difficult complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective.
    ~
  9. Wide diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing.
    ~
  10. It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.
    ~
  11. Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy; profit from folly rather than participate in it.
    ~
  12. We believe that according the name ‘investors’ to institutions that trade actively is like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a ‘romantic.’
    ~
  13. If a business does well, the stock eventually follows.
    ~
  14. You’d get very rich if you thought of yourself as having a card with only twenty punches in a lifetime, and every financial decision used up one punch. You’d resist the temptation to dabble. You’d make more good decisions and you’d make more big decisions.
    ~
  15. Generally speaking, investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents; nobody can tax it or take it away from you. They can run up huge deficits and the dollar can become worth far less. You can have all kinds of things happen. But if you’ve got talent yourself, and you’ve maximized your talent, you’ve got a tremendous asset that can return ten-fold.
    ~
  16. You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you.
    ~
  17. The trick is, when there is nothing to do, do nothing.
    ~
  18. No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.
    ~
  19. Money will not change how healthy you are or how many people love you.
    ~
  20. Never lie under any circumstances.
    ~

neverbetagainst

There’s a lot of wisdom, and great reason for optimism, in less than 500 words.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 072014
 

It is a crowded world, full of distractions, and it is getting louder all the time. People seem to have less time and less interest in listening to anyone. Instant messaging and checking one’s Facebook and Instagram take more and more available attention. It seems like more than half of everyone under thirty is wearing ear buds. Without a doubt, it is getting hard to be heard and understood, yet few skills matter more to your success and effectiveness than your ability to communicate effectively. 

Color-headphones

Do you find that others sometimes miss your message or don’t listen as attentively as you would like them to? There’s a reason, and it is well worth figuring out the root cause. There are ways to rise above, but many people fall into poor communication habits. The result is that less people listen.

Julian Treasure studies sound and advises businesses on how best to use it. He is the chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses — offices, retailers, hotels — on how to use sound. Here is one of his three short talks at TED. We all have habits that can be improved. I think his thoughts are well worth considering:

2014-06-27_1018-julian

As with many things that lead to personal success, improving yourself is a matter of eliminating or at least greatly limiting bad habits while enhancing good habits. In the case of speaking, Julian suggests eliminating your —

  • gossiping,
  • judging,
  • negativity,
  • complaining,
  • excuses,
  • lying / exaggeration, and
  • dogmatism.

These seven absolutely turn people off to your message. Those who think a that a bit of gossip every week, or little white lie here and a little exaggeration there are no big deal, don’t realize the damage they do to themselves and their longer-term believability.

Focus on four good habits —

  • speaking honestly and from the heart,
  • being authentic (be yourself),
  • do what you say (have integrity), and
  • have love (wish them well) for your fellow man.

Improving oneself is mission-critical but we often lose months, even years, because we are too busy. Jim Rohn’s consistent message was that everyone should “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” One of Stephen Covey’s seven habits was “Sharpen the Saw“, a likely adaptation from Abraham Lincoln’s “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe.” In my opinion, improving your ability to communicate — clearly, concisely, and with impact — must be at the top of your skills improvement quest. There is always room to get better.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jun 242014
 

Regret is often the product of not taking a chance, not embracing an opportunity, when we had it. While people offer a lot of excuses for why they missed out as they express regrets, the underlying truth is most often a failure of courage. If you are not making mistakes, it is a clear indicator that you are not trying enough new things. But it takes courage to try anything new, to embark on any new exciting journey, to try a road less traveled by the rest of the human herd.

The hardest step is always the first — getting started comes before getting motivated — and getting started takes courage.

Nothing gets in people’s way more often than fears, and fears are usually quite silly once one looks back on them and sees them for what they really are. It is often more than just the fear of failure that prevents people from trying the new. Others have fear of success, for with success comes far greater responsibility. Others yet fear change or the unknown, simply because they assume the the unknown is worse than where they are today. Small minded people fear people that are not like them, or people that think differently than them. In every case, those who decide to risk in the face of small fears or large fears, expand their lives and their horizons. This is courage and like every key to success, courage can be learned, courage can be practiced, courage can be expanded through experiences.

skydiving

This is not to say that all fear is bad. Fear is what drives prudent decision-making, in other words balancing the chance of success versus the chance of failure. But those without courage allow themselves to become paralyzed. Fear prevents so many things that are good. A person with a fear of rejection doesn’t stick their hand out and introduce themselves to new people. Similar fears convince people to not try out for the team, to not run for class president, to not put in for that promotion, to not decide to have kids, to not be all they can be. In each of these cases, the upside potential usually outweighs the downside risk but those who have not developed the courage to take risks, shrink away from opportunities.

All the great leaders of the last century have observed the extraordinary importance of courage. Winston Churchill, perhaps the greatest leader during world war two, proclaimed “Courage is the first of the human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.” He is right. I have often written about the crucial importance of integrity. Is it possible to be a person of integrity if you do not have the courage to stand up for what you believe is right? Is it possible to have extraordinary character if you don’t have the courage to stand up to peer pressure? Your faith will be tested, as will your sense of duty. Even your purpose will be questioned and you will have to have to courage to swim against the ever-changing winds of “popular” thinking.

Courage takes practice. One doesn’t typically have the courage to speak in front of an audience of thousands if they have never spoken in front of an audience of five, then ten, then thirty. One doesn’t step onto a basketball court and hit two game winning free-throws unless they have played thousands of games first. The trick is to take every small opportunity you can, at least every one that makes prudent sense along the road of life, so that when the time comes, you have the experience and the courage to give it your best shot.

speaking-well

Fear is often driven by perceived risk, not necessarily actual risk. Irrational fear is driven by an irrational perception of risk and it leads to paralysis or irrational failure. Healthy fear — lets call it apprehension — is healthy, because it is driven by an accurate assessment of risk. It does not immobilize us, but helps us make good decisions when it is critical that we must. A great example is a person trapped atop a burning building. While most of us have a fear of heights, the prudent and courageous person can evaluate the situation, and decide that sliding down a wire over the yawning abyss is less risky than staying put on top of the inferno.

Courage therefore is not lack of fear but rather mastery of fear and risk. Mastery of fear and risk starts with doing your research, your homework, evaluating your situation. Preparation helps an extraordinary amount, yet many people are lazy and do not prepare. Using my example of speaking in front of a large crowd, it is far easier to master your fear and succeed if you have developed great material, written down a crisp opening, made some backup notes to keep in your pockets, and practiced your speech once or twice. Courage is bolstered through preparation.

Preparation may not put you completely over the top, but it makes that last bit of courage far easier to muster. Courage allows a person to become decisive, to grab opportunities that others do not, to take chances when the odds are good.

Take every prudent risk, face the world with courage, and your world will be a far bigger place, with far more expansive horizons, with plentiful opportunities. Don’t listen to your peers for you must realize that smart, courageous people are rare – most everyone you will know will have far more limited horizons than you.

The world can be your oyster if you embrace it. Envision yourself courageous. Take smart risks. Embrace opportunities with little hesitation. Most importantly, realize that courage requires practice.

Here is a quote I love:

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

Embrace opportunities. Life is better when you have the courage to live life large, with few regrets.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. Watch Jim Carrey in Yes Man once a year.

yes_man

May 282014
 

The more information is shared, the faster progress accelerates. Yet, most people hoard and keep information secret, because they believe such info is the source of their power. The idea of “need to know” has an Achilles Heel, namely the assumption that the information gatekeepers really understand who have the need to know what.

The truth is lots of things should be shared far more freely than they are. No, I’m not advocating that everything should be shared with every terrorist-wannabe. But I do suspect that if we could increase information sharing and information interconnections by 80%, we would see a much larger increase in the pace of innovation for society as a whole. The internet is clearly an empowering revolution. Countries like China, Turkey, and others who are trying to slow it down for their own populations will do little but slow their own country’s progress in the end. It is inevitable.

Not sure what I mean? Consider these 7 minutes of thoughts by General McChrystal, a central figure in recent conflicts:

mcchrystal

This applies more to your life than you realize. The more information you find, mine, refine, and share at work, the more you will become invaluable and succeed.

I.M. Optimism Man 

May 152014
 

So this is interesting. We are awake about 16 hours per day. Only 14 hours are “alert and vibrant time” because there is always some wasted time, especially at the end of the day.

How you choose to invest (or spend, or waste) your time matters a lot. My philosophy is found in many of my posts, such as this one — Red Pill Clarity.

Mark-Zuckerberg

Enter Facebook and the other social media players that gain billions based on your engagement. The prediction (and charts) show that 2014 will be the year that the average active social media user will hit 4 hours of daily social media engagement. That is almost nearly a third of one’s day, and the new young moguls want more!

Ipsos-US-Average-SocNet-Time-Spend-Per-Day-Jan20131

Lets not forget the great time killer of the last 50+ years – T.V. The average American watches T.V. 34 hours each week – that’s pretty much 5 hours each day. 500 channels of stuff and nothing good to watch, but watch we do.

Granted, we can assume there is overlap – people play on Facebook and Instagram while watching T.V. – but its a fair guess that 6 – 7 hours of a 14 – 16 hour day are chalked up to consuming shows, posts, and data that will not matter two weeks from now.

man-watching-tv

Face your own reality instead of the averages:
I would simply suggest keeping a log of how much time you spend on social and T.V. for a month or two. Then consider what you could do, if you cut that time in half. How much better shape could you be in? What could you create?

I.M. Optimism Man

PS> I “get” that social media helps keep you socially connective and active. But too much of anything – Facebook, Snapchat, chocolate, weight lifting, basketball, even water – is bad for you.

snapchat-00

I suggest understanding how much time you will allocate for Facebook (and other social media) and T.V. and then sticking to your decisions. Everything in moderation, and planning your use of time in advance, makes for genuine achievement.

May 042014
 

America is a society built on impatience. And impatience can sometimes – only rarely – be somewhat of a virtue. People with ambition are impatient for progress and it helps a fortunate few. America’s impatience has helped it become the only true superpower.

jenny-mccarthyHowever, there is a dark side of impatience, and many Americans seem to not to see it. Get rich quick schemes are everywhere – yet don’t really work. Lose weight in six weeks or less, without much effort, magazines proclaim – this doesn’t work either. Jump from one career to another – or one spouse to another – until you find what you want – well, that doesn’t work either. There is proof everywhere that impatience is not the road to true success.

Yet, people, silly people, want to believe there are effective shortcuts when in fact, there are none.

Our society’s Achilles heel may in fact be lack of patience. Wall Street is a perfect example, where titan companies lose billions of dollars of market cap valuation because they missed a quarterly earnings announcement by 1% versus analyst expectations. Yet these same analysts are often just guessing when they create those expectations. As a result, executives make damaging decisions to “fix” quarterly results, like dramatically discounting deals to customers when discounts were not needed, training customers to wait for fire sales when there really is no fire. Yet, if these same executives owned their own corporation privately and did not report to the whims of the investment crowd, none would act so impatiently and irresponsibly.

You can see it everywhere. Kids in high school are suddenly taking steroids to become stronger and faster atheletes quickly, even though the science clearly shows that there are dire health implications. People go on diets eating nothing but protein and fat that damage their health, in part because they have poor will power, but primarily because they lack patience to lose the weight at a healthy rate. It is a crazy crazy world and impatience’s dark side is very real.

patience-thomas-edison

A wise person is one that exhibits patience when patience is the right thing needed. There are few shortcuts to becoming a nuerosurgeon or for that matter a great salesperson. It takes lots of time, and experience, and learning, and patience.

The more patience you have, the more likely you are to succeed instead of giving up. Time, patience, and a little water carved the extraordinary Grand Canyon. If you decide to accomplish great things, these too will take steadiness on purpose and more patience than most can muster.

There is an interesting phenomenon in regards to patience. Careers that take the most time to train – neurosurgeon for one – are usually great longterm careers without a glut of people in the field. The reason is lack of patience. Few have the patience to study for eight more years after graduating from high school even though, if they had, it would set them up financially for life. Patience and sacrifice are closely related.

The good news is that there is great opportunity for the patient when you live in a land of the impatient. Zag when the others zig. Choose to be extraordinary. Combine initiative and creativity with patience, sacrifice, and resolve. It will yield extraordinary success.

I.M. Optimism Man

Mar 192014
 

We have an efficient society, but far from a perfect one. People like to think the the cream always rises to the top, makes the big bucks, deserves all the respect and accolades. Meritocracy theory rules the day.

The truth is that we do live in a time of extraordinary opportunity. The market for talent, ideas, and creativity does give some people a change to become overnight successes in just 5 – 10 short years. But, there are also many other factors in play. If you ask a few questions at the right time, most entrepreneurial success stories that I hear always have one or more “…and then I got a lucky break…” moments in them. When you dig deeply, you tend to find other moments of extraordinary support from a third party, whether financial, resource, or connections. I have yet to find a person who really went from no where to the top of the world without some good fortune and a bit of assistance along the way.

Meritocracy is good, but if you are wise, you must also clearly see and understand the issues that surround it. The dark side of the coin is that it gives rise to a certain snobbery, a lot of jealousy, and tremendous frustration for those who make the wrong decision when faced with a crucial crossroads moment.

Here is a great little video that delves into the idea of meritocracy and whether it is truly possible. Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success:

alain_800x600

With all thy getting, get understanding.

I.M. Optimism Man

Feb 232014
 

Most people realize the importance of this quote:

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

— Will Rogers

Another famous thought that we all can complete is…. “Don’t judge a book by ___  _________.

Will is dead on right. Unfortunately, many people do judge books — and other people — by the cover. More specifically, people judge by their first impressions.

If you want to make an impact, if you want to influence people, if you want to leave a legacy by making a difference, first impressions matter. Second impressions matter too — you have to prove your integrity — but I believe first impressions matter most. What’s fascinating to me is that there appears to be a way that you can improve your chances through your body language.

Please watch this thought-provoking video by social psychologist, Amy Cuddy. Her research on body language indicates that we can change our own body chemistry and other people’s perceptions simply by changing body positions. If true, the potential is awesome for any stressful moment, such as walking into a job interview, or auditioning for a part, or in any situation where you consciously want to make a great first impression.

amy-cuddy

What a great lesson to teach your kid. He or she isn’t going to get this lesson in high school.

I.M. Optimism Man

Feb 072014
 

What’s your annual income? Is it more than $34 K per year?  If so, you are in the richest 1% of the world.

To be in the top 50% on the globe, you need to earn $1,225 per year. Top 20%? $5,000 per year. Top 10% is attained by earning $12,000 per year.

2014-02-07_0823-applepie-america

What does it take to make the top 0.1%? Only $70 K!

Around 4% of people on planet Earth are fortunate enough to live in the USA. If you are reading OptimismMan.com, you are probably here. America’s poorest are among the richest people on the planet. Be grateful that you are an American.

Thank you Branko Milanovic (World Bank economist) for the numbers.

I’m thanking my lucky stars (and stripes)!

I.M. Optimism Man

Dec 282013
 

Christmas Day 2013 has come and gone. New Year’s Day is just around the corner. People are starting to think about the bright promise a new year brings. The new year seems to give all of us the courage to make a few changes, to adjust the course of our life. I think all of us should draw a new card annually at the poker table of life.

Unfortunately, people often make a feeble attempt at new resolutions, all the while doubting that they will see their goal through. They recall how they failed last year, and the year before, and the year before that. Many give up and wave the white flag.

As all my friends know, I am a fervent believer in the power of goals. Goals keep you young. Goals keep you learning. Goals give you courage. But I’ve come to realize that what many people need are not new goals, but rather a new found discipline to see them through.

My suggestion is to only pick the one goal you really want to nail in 2014. Just one (for now). Pick a goal that you can accomplish by July 4th. Write it down in, followed by the words “whatever it takes” and then post the message everywhere — on your fridge, in your car, in your wallet, on your screensaver — everywhere. Then commit wholeheartedly to do “whatever it takes.

Tenacity at its best.

Kerri Strug in 1996 – Unforgettable Moment

Whatever it takes is a magical phrase. You can do it — it is only one goal. Chase this goal with all your heart and all your might. Go all in. Aim for June. It will be the best July 4th you ever had, because you will have conquered, you will have proven that you have the right stuff, you have what it takes.

Knowing that you can do “whatever it takes” is empowering. Positive changes, big or small, add up. Don’t waste this opportunity. Make your resolution proving that you have greater tenacity than the average guy or gal. You can, if you believe you can. Commit wholeheartedly to the pursuit.

Tenacity matters. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. A few quotes to consider:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
― Thomas A. Edison

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward.”
― Amelia Earhart

 

Nov 112013
 

This is the best talk I’ve listened to in months. It is well worth the time. And — it’s quite entertaining too — always a wonderful thing.

Let’s make things better. It takes all of us, sharing ideas that make sense, to build momentum. So much of what people believe is often wrong.

I.M. Optimism Man

Nov 032013
 

Fall back. Standard Time is here. My favorite month or two of the year.

Why? Because it is now far easier to get up early and get great things done while others still sleep.

One of the most common excuses we often hear is “I wish I had more time each day… I would write a book… I would start a company… I would, I would, I would…

There is more time. Through a side-effect of an idea that many credit to Benjamin Franklin to save energy (although others claim it was invented by George Vernon Hudson or William Willett), we get a great gift each fall. Clocks are adjusted one hour backwards. All you have to do is continue to get up at the same time you have been getting up. You gain a pristine, quiet, free-of-interruptions hour each morning. Ben’s “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” still applies in the age of the internet.

One of the formulas for success often cited is to burn the midnight oil, to work while others are in bed. I agree. If you want to get more done, you ultimately need to spend more time working on your ideas than the average guy. But instead of late nights (that I should say do work well for some individuals), my theory is to get up early, because you are fresh and the worries of the day haven’t yet overwhelmed your mind.

Too often, people say that they are not morning people. Being a morning person is a choice, a decision, not a genetic excuse.

You have been getting up at 6 am. Starting today, get up at 5 am. It is the same time your body is used to. You can do it because you have been doing it. I have been getting up at 4:55. Now, I will go for 4:00 straight up. Ben has given me 55 great minutes if I use them wisely. Start working out if you have not been. Starting writing that book, or that software, if you have one or both of those goals. Start planning your day before checking your e-mail — you will be amazed at how this simple concept changes everything. Use the quiet, magic hours of the morning to make something great happen. You do have the time to change your trajectory. Do you have the will power?

Never miss a sunrise.

I.M. Optimism Man 

Oct 272013
 

Not everyone succeeds at what they attempt.

Invariably, people often make excuses for why things didn’t work out as well as they hoped. Some of the most commonly accepted excuses is that the other guy or girl had “more talent or a higher IQ.” Yet, the smartest geniuses on earth are rarely the most successful.

Here is a six minute food-for-thought video, especially if you are a parent and want your kids to have successful lives:

Now, how do you teach the lessons is an open ended question. Please write me if you find ideas that really work.

I.M. Optimism Man