May 032016
 

Everything is become more complicated and interconnected. When faced with a difficult decision, almost everyone adds more detail, weighs more aspects, analyzes the problem to the n-th degree, and creates complexity. I personally work to sell solutions that create timely, valuable, and actionable insights from data, a topic that is truly large, complex and ever-growing, given the explosion of “big data” as zillions of devices connect to networks and every aspect of business becomes digitized by computers. The result is thousands of topics from hundreds of vendors and millions of powerpoint slides.

Every data analytics vendor dilutes its message with every word added to every powerpoint slide. Every company uses the same buzz words, every slide says much of the same, and the final slides always says the preceding 100 slides prove that this vendor’s specific solution is the best decision.

I believe there is great opportunity for a bold optimist that decides to zig when everyone else is following the zagging herd: simplify the message while everyone else complicates it.

If I was the customer, I would limit each presentation to 30 minutes, with 20 minutes of presentation and 10 minutes of question and answer. I would limit each vendor to the top 5 reasons their solution is best for my company. I would limit the number of powerpoint slides to 10, and the number of words per slide to 20.

bruce-lee-simplicity

Would less be better? Of course it would, because each vendor would be forced to distill their message to the essential. The customer could better compare each vendor’s solution at its core essence. TED presentations are phenomenal and each is limited to 20 minutes.

This applies to all aspects of life, and it offers you great opportunity to shine. If you are a lawyer, are you better off with a rambling 40 minute final argument or a 5 minute hard hitting one? If you are a teacher, is it best to spend hours on one topic or boil it down to the essential while students are still paying attention?  If you are a preacher on Sunday, will the congregation pay better attention to 40 minutes of fire and brimstone… well, you get the picture. I have found that if you “train” your target audience that your message will be short, they will pay close attention because they appreciate your approach.

Anyone can become the Master of Succinctness with effort and expertise. People love those that can make their point, with impact and simplicity.  Less is more, when done well. Your career will flourish. I’m still amazed that the Gettysburg Address was less than 300 words, yet most big data analytics slides have 100 words of broken English on each.

I.M. OptimismMan

PS. In case we forget, here is the Gettysburg Address, all 272 words of it…

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Apr 072016
 

Over the years, I have often written about the essential requirement to be 100% committed to whatever you are doing. Overcoming adversity demands it, and every one of us will run into plenty of adversity. In my life, I learned this painful lesson as a freshman in college, when — and this is most definitely not my proudest moment — I literally threw away a full ride scholarship because I was not committed to doing my best and doing what it takes to succeed academically. The good news is that after enough anguish and self-appraisal, I learned the lesson. I decided that if it was to be, it was up to me, and no excuses matter. I adapted and I overcame.

My little story pales in comparison to Inky Johnson’s story, for Inky has overcome exponentially greater adversity than I have. This is a story well worth watching, and in my opinion, more than once. It is essential to watch it when you have 10 minutes without distractions. I hope that you enjoy it. I hope that it gives you food for thought. I hope that it changes your resolve to give every day and every endeavor 100% commitment:

inky-640

Anyone with enough will, and enough belief, and a purpose beyond themselves, can achieve greatness and make a positive impact on others. Anyone.

I.M. OptimismMan

PS. Here is part 2 after you have absorbed part 1.

Nov 272015
 
jordan-resize

The following video is worth watching: it is not about optimism per se, but I have found that if you have your black belt in optimism, nearly everything contributes to your self-chosen outlook.

Josh Luber’s talk will expand your thinking and appreciation for limitless possibilities. Human “logic” and cooperation is extraordinary, and the rise of interconnectivity and ‘big data analytics’ networks millions of minds together in surprising ways. If you work in marketing, this presentation is 5-star fascinating.

Yes, if you are wondering, I am a bit of a sneakerhead, although my participation is limited to the search for the perfect pair to wear, and not at full retail, if I can help it.

I.M. OptimismMan

Mar 152015
 

Can you think differently? Really creatively? Can you ask “why am I doing things this way?” or “why am I doing this at all?” at a truly atomic level?

In many things — business, school, life — we seem stuck on rails, unable to stop doing things the way we have done them, the way they have been done for prior decades — even if we have many proof points that question whether we are on the right track.

One of my most obvious examples is managing public companies for results every 90 days. The “quarterly results squeeze” invariably results in a whole host of problems, including net margin compression, motivation destruction, loss of quality employees, loss of quality in general, investing only for the short-term, and all kinds of foolish wasted time and energy. Yet, almost every public company continues the sad practice unabated. It hits the company that is struggling hardest of all, which helps many good firms auger into the dirt, unable to pull up from the dive.

This TED video is a great test to see if you are able to think differently on a large scale. I believe Ricardo is a wise luminary who tests most people’s ability to take a leap of faith. I’m sure others will see Ricardo as flat out crazy.

ricardo-semler

I think his ideas, ideas that have actually been tested in his company and in education, should be considered, given the dismal results many of our current paradigms in business and education are delivering.

Most importantly, all of us have opportunities to do things differently, to question everything in our own personal sphere of influence. What is a topic in your like that you should ask “why” three times in a row on, and what can you try to do better, to do differently?

Please watch the video, and then decide — are you able to truly think differently, or are you cemented in the status quo? You are not on rails — you can, if you believe that you can. Choice is all powerful.

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:

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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 022014
 

To be a true optimist who makes an impact, you must believe certain things must improve and that proactive action must be taken. Not every corner of any society, ours included, is rosy. Simply having faith that things will eventually get better is not good enough. For things to get better, we have to think about the uncomfortable topics, discuss them, debate them, and even argue about them — we have to demand progress so that we can move toward resolving them.

Some issues are disturbing, if one gets deeper than the simplistic and often out-of-context sound-bytes from Washington DC’s politicians, as quoted by the USA Today and Headline News.

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One of these issues is why America has had an 8-fold population explosion of prisoners, going from 300,000 to well over 2,300,000 in just the last 40 years? This is a difficult issue, but it never seems to hit the top ten discussions of any presidential election.

Chino

I believe another difficult issue that cause many Americans to look the other way includes inequalities and injustice in our legal system. This includes the staggeringly disproportional incarceration rate of black young men and the question of whether God gives us the right to levy the death penalty as a valid tool of justice.

There are other, smaller, but equally perplexing “justice” issues as well. Let us not forget the extraordinary financial damage our justice system dispenses with frivolous class-action suits and I continue to be perplexed at the political and legal support for patent-troll companies, full of lawyers who do little but stifle innovation while enriching themselves.

For justice to get better, we have to make progress on all these fronts, and most of these topics are not comfortable ones.

Below is an extraordinary talk by Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who is a leading spokesman about many aspects of injustice, especially as it comes to race. I highly recommend listening to Bryan, and contemplating the topics. It helps that he is such an accomplished orator. There will be no progress unless all of us first understand the issues — beyond just the sound-bytes — and then take action, sooner than later.

bryan-stevenson

We can solve anything if we are willing to take it on. I find it hard to fathom why the USA, the land of opportunity, should lead the incarceration of the developed world.

I.M. Optimism Man 

PS. Here is one more chart to think about:

Incarceration_rates_worldwide

Jun 022013
 

Power is what the world wants. Specifically, power in the form of electricity, because it is efficiently transported and applied to nearly any required purpose. While the world’s 1 B greatest consumers are starting to worry about green power, conserving power, and the possibilities of running out of fossil fuel power, the other 6+ B of earth’s human inhabitants simply want more power and an affordable price.

Why are 6B people so power hungry? Because power transforms daily life for the better in so many ways. We take the empowerment for granted, just as our kids take the internet and Googling something for granted. Hans Rosling sums up the why in ten fantastic minutes here:

So, what happens when we run low on oil and the price of electricity rockets higher? What happens when solar power comes into its own, at a steep price too? Fracking and nat gas isn’t a permanent solution, although it helps the near-term energy independence outlook for the USA. Will the pessimists who are predicting the end of civilization as we know it, actually win? I think not, not if we embrace the young, new Optimistic Few, a generation of optimists who want funding to pursue new answers.

Consider Taylor Wilson’s ideas. He is one of the OptFew worth listening to:

To the Optimistic Few, there are always ideas, limitless opportunities, and plenty of silver linings. I believe that my kids — our kids and grandkids — will lead a much better, more promising lives than we enjoy today. Stop listening to the critics, naysayers, and doomsday gang. They are wrong, and it is worth the effort to speak up and correct them when you can.

Life is good.

I.M. Optimism Man

May 252013
 

Are you tired of all the bad news? I am. Between the Eurozone, the newest flu, North Korea’s sabre rattling, the burgeoning national debt, the partisan quagmire in Washington DC, the IRS targeting the Tea party and any organization with the word Patriot in its name, and the tragedy whenever a Kardashian breaks a fingernail, it is hard to watch any evening newscast or even late night parody of the news.

The news media is hopelessly biased, and not just in the liberal vs. conservative, Democrat vs. Republican kind of way. The media believes one formula sustains and accelerates it’s own financial success: Bad News Sells Newspapers (and drives TV ratings, and Internet banner ads). Sensationalism is the business model.

News Flash: The world — yes the entire world — is rapidly improving.

It is a big story. The problem is that few people realize it. It doesn’t sell ads, so the news conglomerates don’t put in on the menu. Instead, our teleprompted news media talking heads make sure that everyone worries on a daily basis and tunes in at 10 pm.

The big fret goes on, day in and day out, on whether we will have enough to send our kids to college; enough to travel the world like we always wanted to; enough to provide domestic security, defense, health care, and welfare; enough to buy our Lipitor, Crestor, and Norvasc; and enough to retire on. If the collective people were to awaken to all the positives, employers would invest more and hire more, which leads to faster innovation that creates more opportunities, which leads to an economy that grows more, which leads a greater haul of taxes skimmed from the people, which helps our representatives in government right our listing financial ship. Stop fretting.

Below are two related videos regarding some of the greatest news of this decade. Ask yourself why so few know the story — in our online, connected age, not being acutely aware of one of the biggest stories of the decade is clear evidence calling for the indictment of mainstream news companies. Watch both videos and you can’t help but become more optimistic:

Bono focuses on improvements in poverty:

Hans presents world health evidence that is quite clear, and coincidentally supports my overall belief that “whatever gets measure does indeed improve.” Watch this video:

Be optimistic. The world is not ending. We are not running out of power. We are not melting the ice caps. We are getting better. Progress that matters is all around us, but you must proactively look for it, because the media refuses to cover the long-term positive trends in favor of the short-term worries and sensationalism.

I.M. Optimism Man

May 062013
 

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
— Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo was spot on right when he made this observation.

Those of us that have made a great living with successful professional sales careers know that less is more: finding the one aspect that really matters to the prospect is priceless while pursuing a sale. If you find that one item, professionals don’t dilute it with a fog of other features, functions, and benefits that cloud the decision.

The problem is that simplicity is often difficult to distill. Finding a perfect, clear message that motivates people in just 7 – 10 words is what makes or breaks a pricey highway billboard campaign. There are lots of very expensive television commercials but few communicate as well as this one. Finding a perfect 90 second elevator pitch makes or breaks many budding entrepreneur as they pursue angel or venture cap funding. Finding the simple but powerful theme behind your product line that resonates is often the difference between success (what does BMW stand for?) or failure (what does Saab stand for?).

How can we apply this important concept to our daily lives? We are all selling something all the time, no matter if “it” is a product, a service, our company, our personal capabilities, our kids, or ourselves. The video segment below offers an important clue, an important change of thinking that can have big positive ramifications as to how you approach your messaging.

Simon Sinek has simplified how to sell, how to market, so that all of us can become far more effective. It comes down to focusing on why, first and foremost. Why is all powerful, yet 99% of companies, 99% of people start with what, then how, and finally and often optionally, why. Speeds, feeds, horsepower, megawatts, gigabytes, megahertz, and fiber-connect are not what blows people out of the water and gets them to join your side.

Think differently. Start with why. Think better.

I.M. Optimism Man

Apr 262013
 

Why is there such a partisan quagmire in Washington these days? It seems worse than ever before.

I can’t say that I often agree with blue state überliberals. In fact, I have a hard time with the fervent extremists at both ends of the American political spectrum, although I clearly lean toward conservative tenets. But, here is an issue, presented by a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, that does open one’s eyes.

It is well worth watching Lawrence Lessig with an open mind. Let’s start making some progress in America.

As a small side-note, if you enjoy studying the effective use of presentation aids and public speaking in general, as I do, Lawrence does a great job in keeping his audience engaged by using powerpoint / media effectively, something few accomplish well — there is a lot to learn for all of us that speak to groups, and he offers a glimpse of one way of doing it very well:

If you understand how things work — if you appreciate the underlying factors — you have a better chance of making progress on any problem. Today, bi-partisan constipation tops the list.

I.M. Optimism Man

Nov 252012
 

You are either growing or you are dying. Never maintain anything. Never maintain a career, a marriage, a small business, a life.

I love Coach Holtz. This speech, which is broken into four parts due to youtube restrictions a few years ago, is well worth watching. You could live a great life with just the simple lessons from this 30 minute talk:

Living well comes down to making lots of good little decisions each and every day.

I.M. Optimism Man

P.S. A great goal is to learn one fun magic trick.

Sep 092012
 

I try to stay away from politics but this election seems more important than any in recent years. President Obama is not only heading in the wrong direction but he is spending so many billions than the government takes in. Four more years will likely produce a financial hangover that may persist for multiple decades. Entitlements are a runaway freight train – take a look at this essay but buckle your seat belt first!

I am tired of America’s penchant for electing unqualified guys without big business or large organizational experience to our highest office. It would have been really interesting if Perot would have won because there is no way it would have been the same-ole same-ole inside the Beltway. It is high time we elect a business man to office and see if practical problem solving can turn this trajectory around. President Obama and the Dems continue digging a deeper hole and I’m sure our preferred destination is the center of the earth or China. The Dems continue to produce policy after policy that punishes the business man and the entrepreneur, also known as the employer. They punish those who succeed and create more commerce and employment. We must not forget Calvin Coolidge’s spot-on observation that “the business of America is business.”  America is great when business is bustling.

Many political speeches put us to sleep but former Governor Mike Huckabee did a great job in summing up what the Republican prescription for the turnaround is: less regulations, less taxes, less welfare, more business, more employment, more personal freedom. If you have a few minutes, please watch and listen to his optimistic perspective from the GOP convention — it is short and to the point:

Lets make America great again!

I.M. Optimism Man