Saturday, February 27, 2010

Relative Happiness

Nearing the end of the Winter Olympics, the Bronze Medal Winners are the most content - maybe the most happy.  Why -  They received a medal and had the Silver guy to beat for Gold.  Fourth place was probably the most dis-satisfied and Silver will always wonder how an eight of a second kept them from the Gold.

Study after study reveals to us that Happiness is relative.  OR

Is Happiness being around your relative?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mirror Image

Mirrors are dangerous instruments.  We look into them every day - every one of us.  What do you see?   "Frown into it, and it will frown back at you. Laugh with it, and you will find a kindly companion" says Phil Callaway in his book "Making Life Rich without Any Money". 

I've never been too consumed with how I look - after all, it's only once or twice a day I have to look into a mirror.  You're stuck with the job of looking at me on a continuous basis.

But mirror's give us great feedback -  no facades, just the raw truth of reality.

Unfortunately it only  shows the image on the outside.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Balancing Life

Some people view life like a balance sheet.  And in
many ways this is re-enforced in business with - "I'll scratch your back,
if you scratch mine".  Or - "I'll help this person out because
it puts a “receivable” on my side of the balance sheet that I can call upon
sometime in the future.

So we count the credits and debits to determine if our life is in balance.  But where is the equity (for those
non-accountants assets = liabilities plus equity)?  

It takes equity to balance life out.  And in business
the important statistic is return on equity.

So building equity is the goal.  And there is only one place to get
equity.  You figure it out.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What's your Font?

'By the way, what font are you using?  It looks great" -  was in an email I received.

And for a technical guy like me -  I have NO IDEA the font I am using nor was it a conscious decision. In fact I am font ambivalent.  This could be a bad thing -  Paul Heagen, a Vistage buddy and expert  Communications consultant, pointed out to me that many Powerpoint presentations are even MORE BORING because of the standard fonts used.

I did compose one of my Christmas letters with a particularly named font as a hidden message one year - but aside from that instance, I just use whatever was cloned from the document I started with or is globally selected for the software I am using.

I do pay attention to the size of the letters as my eyesight degrades.  But there are many variables - size, color, boldness, white space, uppercase - lowercase. 

So the perfect font is...................Calabri  11 pt blue


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hidden Rules

Where is the rule book for life?  Some would point to the Bible and maybe the top 10 rules -  the 10 commandments.  But the world is full of other rules - social norms, class standards, traditions, etiquette,  etc.  The trouble is that all these other "sub rules" are hidden - difficult to navigate and easy to miss.

Your parents, mentors, peers and others help you understand the hidden rules if you are lucky.  If not - you stumble through the discovery process and in most cases it creates discord and emotional stress. And the rule book changes to complicate matters further.

 Wouldn't it be nice to have just one over-riding rule!   A simple rule - 5 words or less and accepted by all.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Synchronize your Watches

Synchronize your watch was always the first thing to do in Mission Impossible or the other Spy shows on television before starting the mission.  As I sit here blogging, there are at least three clocks I can see from my chair and each of the clocks is off by a minute. 

Some people purposely set a watch or a clock (like the one next to the bed) five minutes early.  The thought is - the earlier displayed time will provide contingency for getting to your next destination 5  minutes early.  Unfortunately the mind knows this and before long this is factored into the equation.  So the next solution would be set it 10 minutes early and so on.

Just think - once you've incremented by 24 hours you could gain a day.  Sort of like being on China time :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

You get what you measure

At my parents house I stepped on the scales -  it said 196!  My scales at home say 189.

So you can do everything right - set the business strategy; establish the goals and measurements;   record results; monitor the results and change tactics ---  only to discover that the outcomes are unfavorable.  So what is the problem?  Are you measuring  the wrong thing?  Maybe not.

Instead, you find the numbers are wrong - you've been stepping on the wrong scale.

Somewhere I read that there is a surprising number of excel spreadsheets with fatal calculation errors (the % was over 20% I believe).  Yet we are so conditioned to believe the numbers when we see it on a nicely formatted  computer printout. My experience in programming computers and testing software has made me a perpetual skeptic.  Maybe also coming from the roots of an Accounting firm, I've also learned to always re-add the columns both ways (with the appropriate accounting tick mark).

The lesson -  You get what you measure -  but check scale.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Scheduling Challenges

Scheduling ones time is a skill, I think is learned.  Now some would contend that there are prompt people (Type A) and late people (Type B) - it's in their DNA.  I disagree.  Instead, I think this is all about scheduling and probability.  The first learned trait is how long it takes to drive somewhere.  There are people who refuse to add contingency into their driving schedule - stop lights, traffic jams, gas stops etc.   I'm amazed at how accurate the Garmin GPS unit is on the expected arrival time.

How often do you get frustrated by your daily schedule?  Ever missed a meeting, double scheduled yourself to an event, been subject to last minute cancellation ----  the list goes on and on.  Many people solicit the aid of a secretary, or technology tool - the old Palm Pilot was one of the first innovations in this arena. But with all the aids and productivity tools - the scheduling errors have consistently stayed the same.

WHY?  Because without change in the schedule - life would be boring.  So the next time you encounter a scheduling conflict - treat it as just another exciting change in your routine.  After all it's so much fun to tell someone that date is booked.

Fighting the Weather

Funny how we think we are in control.  Just when you think we have conquered the weather, we are reminded of how insignificant we are.  The earthquake in Hatti is just one example.  Nine inches of snow in Cincinnati is another.  For 10 of the 13 hour trip across the US, we (Susan, Ellen and I) saw little snow.  But the looming dump in Cincinnati was in front of us.  Should we brave it out and fight the storm or yield?

Age and experience won out.  We decided to divert to West Baden Springs and have a wonderfully peaceful dinner with glass of wine and relaxed for the evening.  A simple decision that reduced stress exponentially.  Next morning the world had changed and with a sunny outlook and clear roads we entered the beautiful snow covered Cincinnati hills by noon -  no problem.

Was this our most memorable storm?  No because we experienced no storm.  Lesson - don't fight the weather unless you want to lose.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lost your Marbles

What do you remember about your Grandparents house?  We just got back from Wichita Kansas and it was interesting to see what Ellen (10) would do.  I remember looking in the "game" cabinet in the family room of my Grandparents house to find an old set of marbles that my Dad had played with as a kid.  There wasn't much to play with at my Grandparents house so I would "make due" with whatever was available - marbles was the ticket.

So what was the game that Ellen picked over this weekend? - the same set of marbles (now passed down from my Grandparents to my parents)  It just shows how time-less things can actually be.

So it will be important for my future grandchildren to not lose my marbles :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

If only I had .......

Famous last words -  hindsight is 20/20!  Regrets - yes I've had a few (sounds like a song).  Many people I've talked to,  when asked if they would change anything in their life - pause and answer -  "I wouldn't change a thing".   That's the easy answer -  after all there are plenty of movies about altering time and it's impact later.

Buyer's remorse is another affliction I am doomed to live with.  And that remorse is re-enforced every time I see something I have recently bought - go on sale (very ugly for those of us with a frugal gene).  And how about those times I conjecture about the opportunity loss of what I could have purchased with the money if only I had not purchased that widget yesterday?

Looking back should only be done with a positive outlook.  Al Cambridge the Managing Partner of Cincinnati Accenture taught me this when I would go into his office with my mea culpa.   "We are where we are -  now let's figure out how we are going to react to this going forward", Al would say.

So get those four words out of your vocabulary -  "If only I had ......"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


The Mexican Fisherman

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist
complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked
how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Mexican.

"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his
needs and those of his family.

The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta
with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends,
have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs...I have a full

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help

"You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the
extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.
With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second
one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of

"Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly
with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can
then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or
even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.

"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.

"And after that?"

"Afterwards? That's when it gets really interesting," answered the
American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start
selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?"

"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the
coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a
siesta, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends!"

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


On the pilot episode of Caprica (The Syfy Channel) Daniel Greystone tells Joseph Adams (Adama) that "A difference that makes no difference, is no difference".   The human condition wants novelty - change.  When there is no change, there's boredom.

I'm reading "The Science of Happiness" by Stefan Klein, PHD.  Dopamine - the molecule of desire is what drives us.  It is the desire that makes us smart and without it learning is difficult.  Curiosity goes with that -  "it is one of the personality's most stable indicators" says Dr. Klein. 

So next time someone says - what do you want to do today -------  don't say   -  I'm indifferent.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Giver or Taker

Last night I watched the movie Flawless at McCord's house.  An interesting movie with the line "Are you a giver or taker".  The night before Rich and I talked about what we would do winning the Mega Million Lottery (I had purchased two tickets on the way to Wilmington). 

Rich said he would "start up a business that could lose the money".  It was an undefined business but that would be the starting point - get his buddies together to create this business that could lose money. 

My response was - what if you and your buddies created a business that instead of losing money - made even more money than you wanted.  Instead of getting rid of the lottery money .....  much to your dismay ...... you create even more money to do something with.  Problems ...  Problems ..... Problems.......-   how to get rid of money.

How coincidental that at the end of Flawless,  Demi Moore - now an old woman states that it took her 40 years to get rid of 100 Million Pounds --- giving it all away.

We all think -  just give me that problem......  I would love to work on that problem.

I wonder?????

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Big Hat - No Cattle

On my wall in my office is the June 10, 1960 Public Sale framed bulletin for my Grandfather and Grandmother Wells sale of the farm in Kansas.  Everything was being sold - Machinery, Household furnishings, one horse, and 163 Head of Hereford Cattle.  As I remember the story, right after the sale, they jumped in the car and headed to Arizona for "retirement" (he was 57).  Half way there Grandpa Wells saw a baby calf peering around it's mothers body. 
At that moment in time (his "half time"), he discovered his love in life  and his purpose for the second half.   He and Grandma turned around the car immediately - drove back and settled in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  Grandpa continued to "hobby" farm and raise a few head of cattle and they finally "retired" where they loved to be in Newkirk Oklahoma.
Grandpa was never the type to be "Big Hat - No Cattle"
PS - Song is by Randy Newman
        Book - "Half Time" and "Finishing Well" by Bob Buford

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Win as Much as you Can

 "Winning is Everything" isn't what Vince Lombardi said. The exact quote is "Winning isn't everything - it's the ONLY THING".  Competition is one of those duality words -  what I mean is some people thrive on it and think it is the essence of civilization and others feel it can bring out the worst in humans. 

I fall into middle with a leaning toward the real benefits of competition.  Can competition bring out the best in you?  And what are you really competing for --- what is the end goal?
I remember an exercise in the Covey training we did at Accenture where we were teamed up and asked to "Win as Much as you Can" as the goal.  What we discovered in the game is that there was a way for all the teams to win more with certain actions - however the first competitive natural action was contrary to this potential outcome.  It took a different view of the goal (and cooperation with others) to make the end result happen.

You can compete, cooperate, and co-habituate. There is an outcome of Win/Win.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Old Shoe

Last week after lunch Mark Longnecker asked if I knew about the Allen Edmond sale on shoes - so I dropped over to the store.

First some background -  I have worn Park Avenues for over 25 years (Susan thinks it is hilarious that men shoes are named).  I have three different colors and at least 7 pairs still in active duty.  Many have been recrafted multiple times.  I still remember the first pair of Park Avenue's I tried on.  It was like I wasn't wearing shoes at all - it felt like wearing tennis shoes.

Prior to Allen Edmond shoes, I was under the impression that shoes were made to "wear in".  You know - after a year or so the old shoe started to feel comfortable.  The leather begins to look wrinkled, the heel alittle worn,  a few scuff marks etc.

There is just something comfortable about old shoe.  It fits!  It finally looks real.  No wonder the nursery rhyme applies.