Jan 212015
 

The effects of stress take their toll on us. One of the aspects about stress that is very obvious, however, is that some people seem to handle stress much better than average. In typical American fashion, a great number of people turn to outside substances, be it Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, Paxil, alcohol, or others, to reduce the stress that they feel, at least for a bit of time.

I’ve always been a believer that a large percentage of stress can simply go away if you find the right balance of optimism, self-belief, control, and mental perspective. The basic idea that life is 10% of what actually happens to us, and 90% of how we choose to react and what we do next, has always resonated with me.

Steven Covey explained the 90/10 rule this way:

Imagine that your daughter knocks over your coffee onto your business suit at breakfast. You immediately yell at her for her clumsiness, she runs upstairs crying uncontrollably, which results in missing the school bus. Still steaming, you now wind up driving her to school, she fails her math test because she remains upset all day, you get stuck in traffic, you then speed, get pulled over by Officer Smith for a speeding ticket, are late for a meeting with a client, and your boss is less than pleased that your tardiness jeopardized a client relationship. 

The alternative choice that could have been made was to smile, then tell your daughter that “it’s ok, mistakes happen, I have another suit upstairs…” and move forward in a positive fashion from the mishap. All the rest of those negative consequences could have been avoided by making a different choice.

The overall equation to preventing stress is bigger than just the 90/10 principle but 90/10 plays an important part. Below is a GREAT video by Dr. Mike Evans in Toronto, who discusses how we can learn to reduce our stress without chemical compounds. I highly recommend watching it today (full-screen is best):

drMikeevans

Click to play video on youtube

 

If you think you can, you can.

I.M. OptimismMan

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

Oct 082014
 

Teenage and young adult years are tough on kids, and particularly tough on girls. Peer pressure is as high as it will ever be, fitting in and being popular are deep rooted, if not often talked about ambitions, and confusing messages, painful lessons, and suave one-track-mind guys lurk around every corner.

There is one simple principle that will serve every girl well, but it is hard to remember in the heat of the moment, as those challenging “moments” happen when they are not expected: Stay classy no matter what. When facing any crossroads decision, small or large, remember Coco Chanel’s famous quote:

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.
— Coco Chanel

coco-chanel1

Classy doesn’t let you down, doesn’t lead to moments, events, or pictures that you will soon regret. A good life is a life where you are always proud of yourself through success and setback, a life where you take the high road time and again. Sure, there may be a few times where you miss out on ‘being there’ when ‘whatever’ happened, but 9 times out of 10, you will have avoided a ‘whatever’ that could have become a scarred regret. When a girl decides, in advance, to stay classy and chooses to never cross that line, she will absolutely be better off, for the rest of her life.

Here are a few more quotes worth considering:

A guy wants a classy girl who is smart and has goals – someone that he wouldn’t be afraid to bring home to his parents.
— Victoria Justice

I have always believed that if you need to take your clothes off to get your man, you’ve begun to lose the battle. If you pull it off right, you can do it in a very classy way… Being sexy is about suggestion; it’s about the tease. It’s not about being obvious and forcing yourself out in the open. That takes all the fun out of being a woman.
— Bipasha Basu

I grew up loving actresses or actors who were very classy but who seemed a little bit mysterious because you couldn’t grasp what they’re really thinking. I mean, Grace Kelly always looked impossibly glamorous, yet you could always see there was something behind her eyes.
— Diane Kruger

cocochanelquote

Being different doesn’t mean taking the low road. I’ve argued in past posts that personal integrity is a great differentiator. As a parent, teaching this one lesson — always make the choice to stay classy — is a crucial step in making sure your daughter becomes all that she can be.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. If you enjoyed this article, please read Remarkable is Not a Birthright

PSS. If you have not always taken the high road, you can make the choice to start now, this very instant, and never look back. Today and tomorrow matters much more, than yesterday and yesteryear.

PSSS. Here are the other two parts of my Have a Daughter? Series… Part 1 and Part 2.

PSSSS. While the lessons are crucial, don’t take my belief in “staying classy no matter what” as a wholesale endorsement of Coco or any of the authors quoted. The concept is what matters.

Oct 022014
 

What will matter to you when you are dying?

It seems like a difficult, mysterious question but, perhaps it is not. While not every person thinks the same while vibrant and viable, it seems that when your number is up, people of all races and religious beliefs have a lot in common as their personal end draws near.

It turns out, once a person truly knows that the jig is up, the final minutes for most of us are peaceful and reflective. Three overwhelming thoughts tend to dominate those who are taking their final breaths:

  1. There is a need for forgiveness, for reconciliation for the things and events that a person may regret.
  2. There is a need for remembrance.
  3. There is a need to know that one’s life had meaning.

Am I making this stuff up?

No, not at all. Watch this succinct, powerful video from Matthew O’Reilly, an EMS professional that has witnessed the last breaths of many critically injured people:

matthew-oreilly

So, here is my question to you:

Why not live your live now – all your life in fact – with:

  • true quality,
  • forgiving and being forgiven,
  • avoiding as many situations as possible that could cause harm and cause regret,
  • accomplishing meaningful goals,
  • impacting people’s lives in meaningful ways, and
  • doing what it takes to take comfort in having a life that was indeed meaningful?

When you know what will matter to you in the end, it makes it easier to make the right decisions and put in your best effort, today.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

PS. When dying, no one wishes for more money, more time at work, more shiny cars, more bigger and bigger houses, more parties, more martinis, more time watching others (TV, Facebook, sports, celebrity news, you name it) instead of living. But we knew that already, didn’t we? Why do we spend some much of our lives on the less-than-meaningful agenda?

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

Aug 192014
 

Complaining seems to be the national pastime — perhaps it has always been so — but I’ve become so sensitive to it that I can’t help but overhear it, evaluate it, and even rate it everywhere I go.

Complaints help no one. If you complain, you are not better off, the people you are infecting with negativity are not better off, and you are slowly but surely causing a social rift between yourself and others. Nobody likes a whiner, even other whiners.

crybaby

Complaining is a brilliant way to relive a bad experience over and over. OK, perhaps traffic was painful this afternoon, but why live through it again and again, all evening long? Life will often offer up the irate customer, the difficult relationship, the frustrating store clerk, the thin lukewarm coffee, and the inevitable meal with too much seasoning. If you decide to put “it” behind you minutes after “it” happens, and never mention it again, I know you will have a better evening.

I believe we all have the power to choose what habits we build and what habits we leave behind. Whining is a beast that can be defeated, if you decide and follow through. It takes six to twelve weeks to build a habit of excellence when you have resolve. Here’s how.

kwitcherbichen

The benefits are numerous. When you stop whining, you will reduce your stress. You will smile more, laugh more, believe more, become more optimistic, relax more, enjoy more, appreciate more, and have more gratitude, which is the ultimate key to happiness. Today is the day to start. Make a commitment. Make it happen. Make a great new habit reality.

I.M. OptimismMan

 

Jul 162014
 

Stephen Covey will be remembered most for his book — The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People — which was a runaway best seller. If you have read this book 20 years ago, when it was most popular, I suggest reading it again. While some of Covey’s ideas can be traced to the work of many before him, his succinct and well architected compilation is very valuable.

As we grow older, our interpretation of books and ideas is getting better. Re-reading a good book after putting it aside for a decade makes sense, because it results in new ideas and newfound appreciation.

stephen-r-covey

Here are a dozen great quotes from Covey that are well worth thinking about while in your own fortress of solitude:

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Life is not about accumulation, it is about contribution.

The key is taking responsibility and initiative, deciding what your life is about and prioritizing your life around the most important things.

Live out of your imagination, not your history.

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.

Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”

I teach people how to treat me by what I will allow.

We become what we repeatedly do.

Leadership is a choice, not a position.

I have an abundance mentality: When people are genuinely happy at the successes of others, the pie gets larger.

— Stephen Covey

Now, here’s the kicker — after thinking deeply about these core ideas, will you decide to adopt just one of them, make it a habit, and change yourself for the better?

Everything good starts will making a good decision.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 012014
 

Many foolishly believe that having the brilliant idea is what makes a person succeed or fail. I believe the truth is found in the value of discipline in our lives. Hundreds of good ideas come and go during any given year. If a person is not disciplined, none of them will pay off. Discipline is the ingredient that makes all the difference.

Here are ten great quotes about discipline to consider over a cup of coffee:

langkawi_sky_bridge

It doesn’t matter whether you are pursuing success in business, sports, the arts, or life in general: The bridge between wishing and accomplishing is discipline.
— Harvey Mackay

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.
— Stephen Covey

It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.
— Zig Ziglar

Discipline strengthens the mind so that it becomes impervious to the corroding influence of fear.
— Bernard Law Montgomery

Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.
— Roy L. Smith

Discipline is just doing the same thing the right way whether anyone’s watching or not.
— Michael J. Fox

The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline.
— Bum Phillips

It’s easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you’re a winner, when you’re number one. What you got to have is faith and discipline when you’re not a winner.
— Vince Lombardi

Most people want to avoid pain, and discipline is usually painful.
— John C. Maxwell

The world conspires to steal and waste your time. It takes true discipline to stay on track while television, social media, and friends of leisure beckon.
— Bob Sakalas

Bruce-Lee-Enter-the-Dragon

If you embrace self-discipline, you will go far in life. Discipline matters. Discipline is what you must be made of.

It — no matter what “it” we are talking about — will not be easy if it is a worthy pursuit. One of the disciplines that I believe matters most is the discipline of optimism and enthusiasm. Rare the success that isn’t fueled by true belief and an excited mind.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jun 112014
 

dancing-in-the-rainSometimes I see something so concise, so brilliant, so crisp, so true, that I truly wish that I had written it.

Life will never go quite as planned. You can be meticulous in your ideas, your goals, and your execution, and Murphy’s Law will remain a potent force. Being flexible and enjoying what you get is important. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to plan a number of large, outdoor events, so perhaps the ever changing weather really taught me some valuable lessons.

Consider this little magnet, found in a small boutique at the Seattle airport. It really hit home for me:

storm-to-pass

Do you agree?

I.M. Optimism Man

Apr 132014
 

Last December, I made an important, personal breakthrough regarding my understand of peace and happiness. I wrote about it in my article Why So Happy? If you didn’t catch it the first time around, please read it now, so that the rest of today’s note comes into sharp focus.

This month, I discovered how shopping — yes, something so commonplace and benign as shopping — is actually a strong, negative force on one’s happiness.

The main point of Why So Happy, Volume One was that being grateful for everything you have is a key that unlocks personal happiness. When you appreciate your family, your friends, and all the other blessings in your life, you simply can’t help but be happy.

A new discovery just happened for me. This month, we started to talk about moving to another home, a subject from the past that we decided to revisit. The basic idea is to move to a location that would eliminate much of the time we must spend in traffic today.

dallas-preston-hollow

I made a startling discovery. Although nothing had changed, the basic activity of looking and shopping seemed to taint what we have today. It seems that longing for something — which in this case was actually not longing for something nicer but rather a more convenient location — decreased my satisfaction with our home that I loved and didn’t question just a few month’s earlier!

Today, we have made the decision to stay put, unable to find a home in the right location at a price that makes sense. Once the decision was made, I found my happiness and calm on this topic slowly returning into my consciousness, albeit slowly.

The more I started to think about this phenomenon, the more I realize that a dark-side of shopping does exist and most people don’t see it. I remembered that a few years ago, I couldn’t say enough good things about my car, yet the minute I visited a few car dealerships, I found myself less and less happy with it, until I talked myself into making a change. I think this happens all the time, and not just with big ticket items. Rationalizing “longing” requires that a person must decide that what he or she already has must not be good enough.

stonebriar-mall-frisco-texas

We live in the one of the greatest countries in the world. America is an outstanding place, but it is commercialized to the extreme. Malls, car dealers, stores, TV commercials, and magazine ads are all adept at creating the feeling of longing. Yet, more than ever, I have come to realize that shopping is a torpedo targeting your gratitude, and gratitude is the #1 key to happiness. That means that America, this land of plenty, also offers temptation that sabotages personal happiness.

We all have the power to choose. Choose to be minimalistic. Less is truly more. It is far less complicated and stressful, and I believe it is cornerstone to happiness.

Here is a great experiment to prove this point: make the decision to buy nothing discretionary — and avoid all shopping — for the next three months. When you take buying (and therefore shopping) off the table, I believe you will discover how much more grateful you will be for the blessings that you already have. Once you have felt the power of this discovery on your own life, you will be wiser and hopefully will no longer get torpedoed as often by the evil dark-side of shopping.

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

Jan 272014
 

Much conflict occurs because two sides don’t truly “hear and fully understand” the other person’s perspective. When a debate gets heated, the combatants tend to spend the time that they are not talking reloading their next salvo in their brain. Each barely listens. They cannot wait to interrupt and machine-gun their next salvo as soon as the other takes a breath. This is the same, no matter if we are talking about loved ones at home, students on campus, or associates at work.

Most conflicts continue, and fester, far longer than they would if we deeply understood the other’s perspective.

Invest three minutes and watch this bit of video wisdom, as told by Stephen Covey:

drstephen_covey

Give it a try. I know, from personal experience, that it works. It will produce positive, optimistic resolutions to the thorniest of problems.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jan 022014
 

John Wooden is perhaps the greatest basketball coach that ever lived. He saw himself, first and foremost, as a teacher. Many of Coach’s lessons had much more to do with life than just with basketball. John’s wisdom is captured in several books that are well worth reading, including one of my favorites, Wooden on Leadership.

Coach Wooden, March 24, 1969

Coach Wooden, March 24, 1969

Here are my top 10 John Wooden quotes to consider and apply in your life:

If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.
I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.

You can’t let praise or criticism get to you.
It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.

Success is never final, failure is never fatal.
It’s courage that counts.

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

Young people need models, not critics.

Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.

Thank you Coach, for inspiring me and thousands of others. Rest in peace.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

 

Dec 112013
 

Last weekend, we lost power for more than 12 hours, as Dallas got hit by a nasty ice storm. No electricity for just one day — a dark, cold house without warm water, internet, or T.V. — combined with the inability to drive anywhere — will wake you up to how much goodness you take for granted. That got me thinking, yet again, about the essence of happiness.

Dallas-Ice-Storm

I’m happy and at peace. Very happy. All of the time. Being a hyper-analytical guy, I wonder why. Why am I so happy and at peace, when many others seem to be less happy and less at peace to varying degrees?

It is not because I have enough time — I don’t — and I’m a person that is quite focused on investing my time wisely. It is not because I have more than enough money — finances are tricky most the time — there is always more to invest in, more to fix, stuff to improve and buy, than there is budget available. It is not because everything goes smoothly — it never does — Murphy’s Law seems to be getting stronger all the time. It is not because I’m caught up — my list continues to expand like the universe — I’m frustrated when important items remain undone for months, even years, on end. But I’m very happy and at peace none-the-less.

I want to understand the “why” behind happiness. Why am I at peace in a tumultuous world? How can clearly understanding happiness lead me to help others to be happy too? One of my theories has been expectations: if you are always longing for more than you have, it is hard to be happy. A key is to love what your already have, and I do.

When I look at my life, I see nothing but countless blessings. I love my wife, truly and completely, happy in every way that she said “yes” nearly twenty years ago — she is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love my kids truly and completely, and could not imagine them turning out better in any way than they already are. I’m very proud of them. I love my mom and am very happy she has moved to Dallas. I love my home, my stuff, my laptops, desktops, tablets, and smartphones. I love the color of my office. I love my coffee cups and my chair. I love my constant flow of geeky gadgets. I love my vault of ideas that grows every day, full of promise, even as I know that I won’t be able to sincerely work on 99% of them. I love my Macs. I even my Windows laptop (Lenovo T510) and it takes a leap to appreciate your windows machine sometimes. I love that I live in this age of extraordinary progress. I love that the (public-sphere) internet was born in the 90’s — how did we live life before wikipedia and googling something?

I have just discerned a key component — if not the key component — to happiness. I was on the right track, but a bit hidden in kind of a “cart before the horse” equation. Many people think gratitude is a product of being happy, but, after watching the video below, I have come to appreciate the subtle difference of “gratitude leads to happiness” not “happiness leads to gratitude.”  When you start from a perspective of being grateful, of being thankful and feeling blessed for all of the people in your life, as well as the wonderful little not-so-important things, it puts you on the right road for true happiness and peace.

Please watch this rather “zen” video when you have a few minutes of tranquility to think without distraction:

david

Peace, Joy, and Happiness this Christmas Season. It is definitely not about getting a new Lexus, no matter how shiny it is!

I.M. Optimism Man

PS> Like this article? Try these two from last year — Escaping Average and Want to Be Happy?

Dec 092013
 

I listen to so many talking heads, all talking incessantly on talk shows on talk channels, news channels, satellite radios, and streaming internet feeds. Everybody sounds smart.

stern

Here is a point to ponder:

All of us are smart enough to know there are problems. Most of us are smart enough to point out specific problems in an eloquent way. Some of us are smart enough to ask the right questions to understand the true, underlying causes of a problem better. Few — very few — of us are smart enough to ask the right questions, at the right time, in the right way, so that the people who are in the position to act come to the right, logical conclusion, fueled with the motivation to move forward and solve the true problem.

McKinsey & Co is well regarded as the smartest guys in the room when it comes to business strategy consulting. McKinsey teams often propose “brilliant” solutions that can’t be, or are not, implemented, given a company’s situation, personnel, and organizational culture.

It is only brilliant when the smart solution makes it to the finish line and helps as designed.

Smart guys, like the bright stars at McKinsey hired from the best Ivy League schools, often don’t get the essence of the lesson. Solutions that get implemented are worth much more than solutions proposed but abandoned. It often comes down to asking the right questions, not telling people the solution to their problem.

Think for just a minute about the federal government in DC. Is anyone asking the right questions or is everyone, on both sides, simply trumpeting their “we should do this and we should do that” messages?

I.M. Optimism Man

Nov 252013
 

Jim Rohn is one of my favorites. His philosophies and mine are most often in harmony.

In my opinion, Jim is the perfect guy to listen to when you decide a three day retreat to some lonely, beautiful mountain top cabin would do you a lot of good. Mr. Rohn was not the most succinct, but his message was absolutely outstanding. Here are my choices for a Jim Rohn Top Ten Quotes of all time.

jim-rohn

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.

I would argue that discipline and execution are where most of us fail. We all have ideas. Few ideas are ever converted into written goals, a failure of discipline right out of the gate. Those written goals then need to be distilled into written missions with due dates, missions are distilled into projects (with due dates), and projects into readily achievable tasks (with due dates). Tasks need to be managed on the calendar, and discipline is needed every step of the way.  That is execution.

We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.

I would rather suffer the pain of discipline. Let’s take staying in shape as one small example. Staying in shape takes a discipline of eating well and keeping a fitness routine. Yes, there is pain to get up a bit early and fight the bitter wind to get to the gym. But would you rather lose your mobility at 70, and spend your golden years stuck in a senior center? I’d bet the pain of regret is worse than the pain of fitness.

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

Never stop learning. Too many folks stop learning after school. Yet, all the people that knock it out of the park have three things in common:

  • they have the discipline to set written goals and plans while driving toward accomplishment,
  • they prefer to suffer the pain of discipline over the pain of regret, and
  • they embrace learning new things, seeking out knowledge at every life’s turn.

If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.

Prudent risks must be taken. This one element stops 99% of people on this planet. Choose to be one of the one percent.

Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.

If you are not making mistakes, you are not taking risks. All progress involves failing forward, never giving up while taking chances. The US Marines teach the idea of adapt and overcome, and they are dead-on right. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.

People think they can’t change. Change involves a decision made in a millisecond. If you don’t believe you are shackled, you are not.

Character isn’t something you were born with and can’t change, like your fingerprints. It’s something you weren’t born with and must take responsibility for forming.

Becoming a remarkable person is your responsibility and your duty. Read my previous article here.

You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour.

Few people understand this simple economic truth. I would add that supply and demand of your value-added abilities matters too, because the marketplace is quite efficient. But, in the end, find a way to offer more value than most others, improve yourself in valuable ways, and you will make a lot more income in the end. Financial success is not a mystery.

Make measurable progress in reasonable time.

Too often a week goes by, and I don’t make a first down that matters. Sometimes a month goes by. Sometimes a year… Keep a log, keep a diary. Measurement requires pale ink to stay honest with yourself. Make sure that you are making meaningful, measurable progress. No one will worry too much about your lack of progress except for you.

And my all time favorite Jim Rohn quote:

Let others lead small lives, but not you.
Let others argue over small things, but not you.
Let others cry over small hurts, but not you.
Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.

Rest in peace, Mr. Rohn. Job well done.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. Taking a three day contemplation weekend — without T.V., without radio, without noise, without crowds —  is something we should all do, at least once every three years, but it is easier said than done.

mountain-cabin-in-winter

Nov 052013
 

I get many great ideas by reading quotes distilled by others. The beauty of quotes (and the people that search for them and give them to us for free) is that they often are the true essence of a big idea.

Jack is no saint, but he is a heck of a businessman. He is a top ten guy in the big business Hall of Fame. Here are ten great quotes from one of the most passionate and successful corporate leaders America has ever had:

  1. An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.
  2. Control your own destiny or someone else will.
  3. Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.
  4. Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do. Because then they will act.
  5. Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.
  6. If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.
  7. You’ve got to eat while you dream. You’ve got to deliver on short-range commitments, while you develop a long-range strategy and vision and implement it. The success of doing both. Walking and chewing gum if you will. Getting it done in the short-range, and delivering a long-range plan, and executing on that.
  8. You measure your people and you take action on those that don’t measure up.
  9. The biggest cowards are managers who don’t let people know where they stand.
  10. The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important – and then get out of their way while they do it.

This brings me to another question – why does America never manage to elect a president with serious experience at running an complex enterprise with hundreds of thousands of employees? It seems that we should — someday soon — give it a try. Experience matters. But, that’s a topic for another day.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

Sep 292013
 

I spend my time trying to convince people on a daily basis that true business insight, real expertise, and competitive advantage can only be found in the details and specifically, how those complex details connect and interrelate. My competitors usually argue the opposite. They try to convince companies that summarized data stores and pre-canned reports are good enough. The reason is that my competitors’ underlying technology is not good enough to a) keep one true, integrated copy of the (big) data and b) allow any user to access and analyze that one true copy of data at any time.

This is not an easy concept for everyone to understand because most of us come from a long history of working from pre-canned, summarized, much of the value washed away reports. Its all we have had and we have gotten by — we did the best that we could with what we had.

I stumbled into this TED talk that illustrates the idea that “the true insight is always in the detail data” brilliantly, although that was not the goal these speakers had. This truth applies to any industry, for every industry is complex and ever-changing. It is well worth watching this short eight minute video — you will gain understanding:

 

The more the world architects for big detailed data and asks iterative questions of the detail data, the greater the advances we will see in our lifetime. Hail big data analytics! The world will be a better, safer place. We have only begun to invent.

I.M. Optimism Man