Monday, May 31, 2010

No, Yes, Maybe

Ellen, when asked about doing something, will answer quickly NO, then pause and say YES, and quickly follow the yes with MAYBE. I was reminded of this at lunch as we discussed the natural tendency to object to things first - whether it is aversion to change or the fact it wasn't your idea first.

In some cases people object to it - just to buy time to think it over (similar to Ellen's NO, YES, MAYBE). In fact, most change requires "greasing the skids" (to use a business term). The reality is it is always necessary to sell your idea - bring the other party to a "win-win" scenario of your suggestion.

Selling is anticipating the NO, and preparing for the MAYBE even after they have said YES (since there is always that second guessing after the purchase - called buyers remorse).

Decisions are always variable, I think - or did I say maybe :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Make Believe

Two boys were walking their bikes in Mariemont attempting to cross highway 50 as I sat in the car observing their actions. One had a long sword - plastic (maybe from Star Wars), the other a toy machine gun. On their way to Wendy's for a lunch break from a long morning of battle - possibly a re-enactment of the battle scenes in Avatar.

Make believe activities dominated my childhood - Combat, Man from U.N.C.L.E., Zorro, The Lone Ranger, Davy Crockett, Swamp Fox, Swiss Family Robinson, The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape, T.H.E. Cat etc. Framed by the stories visualized on TV and the movies of the late 50's and early 60's. Bikes, toy props, outfits and other stage props added realism to our plots.

I remember Jenna dressed up as Tinkerbell (including wand) walking around in a circle to music. As I asked her when she would "take off" - her response was: "No can fly ...... walk, walk, walk, walk".

Make believe vanishes with the gravity of age. Don't let your dreams fall with time.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Last night Ellen and I watched the grand finale of American Idol. It has been a fun, father/daughter time together this season and fitting that we watched the finale live. Appealing to all audiences they had some superstar idols of many generations - Kiss, Bee Gees, Hall & Oates, Joe Cocker, Christina Aguliera, Bret Michaels, and Janet Jackson.
One of my favorite movies (and not well known) is "The Idolmaker" and the story of an Italian songwriter who gets consumed with making Idols from common folks. I wonder if Simon Cowell has seen that movie.
This was the only season of American Idol that I watched (yes I'm always 9 years late to the party) and it was a spectacular finale. As I watched all the productions, I couldn't help think about how iconic this program reflects the American Dream. In one summary show it shows America - the rags to riches, media crazed, star focused, with over the top delivery of everything.
I liked Simon Cowell's remarks as he exits. We were the Idolmakers, the judges. Over 500 million votes.
On the pedestal they go - until the next Idol arrives.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Half of a Decision

I remember the angst I was having deciding how, when and what to invest money in.  Using spreadsheets and back tested modeling the decision became more and more complicated.  Should I choose fund A or fund B.  Quickly I wrote down the pros and cons - the intangibles.  Still no clarity.  What's a person to do?   Wait for more clarity? more information? more facts?

A wise financial planner once told me: " If you can't make a full decision .....  make a half of a decision".

A Psychological Tip

Whenever you are called upon to make up your mind

And you are
hampered by not having any,

The best way to solve the dilemma,
you'll find

Is simply by spinning a penny.

No--not so that chance shall decide the affair

While you're
passively standing there moping

But the moment the penny is up in
the air

You suddenly know what you're hoping.     "Peoples Almanac"

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Car Chain

How many cars will you buy in a lifetime?  My acquisition of cars has basically been buying the "hand me downs" from my Dad (the car guy).  I started driving an old  1972 Buick LeSabre, and when I look at chain of cars I would be considered brand loyal to GM. 

I have also indirectly purchased cars for Susan and Jenna (so I count those as a "side chain").

Because cars are  usually the second largest consumer purchase (behind the house) they become milestones or place markers in the timeline of ones life.  

My Personal Car History:

1969 Buick LeSabre  -  Driven a Miami 1976
1976 Buick Century  - Delivered to Cincinnati by my Grandfather 1977
1978 Buick Regal - Purchased from Scott Buick for $5K  cash
1986 1/2  Toyota Supra -  Purchased for $19K  Kept until 2007  -  The guy sports car thing!
1992 Cadillac Deville - Acquired in 1996
2002 Cadillac Deville - Acquired 11/30/2004
2006 Cadillac DTS  - Acquired in  11/15/2007

The side chains include Volvo, GMC, Ford Explorer, Honda Odyssey, Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Freestyle and now Tahoe. 

So my personal numbers - 7 cars over a driving history of about 30 years (4.3 years average per car).  Cost increase from $5K to $50K. 

Like father like son - my dad's chain  26 cars from 1940 to 2010.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Child in You

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Call is just a Hug

A.M. said "When your daughter calls, she just wants a hug". Good advice for all the Moms (and Dads except they never call Dad) with daughters. They don't want a lecture and are not looking for life lesson 431 - they just need a hug (except they are mile away).

It may be different for boys. When I call my Dad invariably I am looking for engineering advice. How to fix the mower, how to correct water problems at the house etc. Today's call was about how to design and implement the swing I intend to hang from the 32 ft limb in my backyard.

So I guess the guy way of hugging is to talk about tools and projects.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What's your question

One thing I like about the Dr. Laura radio program is how she attempts to get the person to the real question. Sometimes she has to be curt and direct by cutting off the verbal diarrhea of details the caller attempts to build in the foreword prior to the question.

There is a time for background and a time for laconic means of asking your question. Given the pressure of radio time, Dr. Laura (in the interest of her listeners) needs to control the interchange and get to the point/counterpoint.

This happens in business, especially in committee meetings. I like the term "Call the question" which is a reminder to the Chairperson of the meeting to cut off further discussion and vote!

Question - Answer - Vote - Resolution - Action

Friday, May 21, 2010


How many times have you "signed up" for something and completely read and understood the terms and conditions before you "clicked" the "I agree" button/box? And have you completely read your insurance (Home, Auto, and Health) certificate/plan? How about that all those financial documents - credit card, mortgage loan etc.?

"I agree" is part of risk taking. I'll sign something and worry about the details later. So it is experience of "getting burned" that reminds you that a signature is a contract - something you must uphold.

I discovered this when I questioned the $30 of Premium Messaging charges on my Verizon Bill. Yes - I hit the I agree button not knowing what I had really agreed to. I hate that feeling of being "scammed" and then told you were the dummy who signed up for the scam. It's only partially the feeling of losing $30 (although those that know me - know how badly that feels to me also) - the real emotion is about being called stupid as you envision the world laughing and pointing at the dunce.

Am I stupid - press here ----- I AGREE

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Caregiving Saints

Was it the discussion with Jim (my SVP Cincinnati Partner) about his father-in-law who is the caregiver for 15 years for his mother-in-law, or is it the DVD I watched last night "Do No Harm" about the mother who fought the medical "Emperors" for the benefit of her child diagnosed with epilepsy?

Hearing the heartfelt stories about Caregiving Saints renews my strength in believing in the spirit of goodness in the world. The common ingredient - Love. The power of this is unmeasurable.

"The purpose of liberty is to live responsibility for the welfare and the benefit of everyone else" David H. McKinley states in his book - The Life you were born to Give. Caregiving Saints demonstrates the principle of Relationship Responsibility

"For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself" Romans 14:7

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to become a Millionaire

Millionaire in the title of a book will automatically cause some people to pick it up (people like me). Titles like "The Millionaire in You", "The Millionaire Next Door", "The Millionaire Mind" ....... the list goes on and on.

The easy way to become a Millionaire is all input and no output - save but don't spend.

Jenna and I worked for a few hours today on subject of Roth IRA's. I hope the light bulb went on for her. The way to be a Millionaire when you are 55 is to start a Roth at 18, invest $4-5K per year for 40 years and watch it grow.

Saving, Spending, Investing are all terms that work with Money and Time. Combine the right combination of these words and you get a Million.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Edgy People

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mystery of Numbers

In the "Golden Ratio" by Mario Livio, the story of Phi is revealed. Numbers and their relationships can be very mysterious and the interpretation in art, music, architecture, nature and everywhere creates astonishing coincidences or truths.

Special properties have been given to numbers. One - Unity; Two - Female; Three - Male; Four - Justice and Order; Five - Love and Marriage (2+3); and the perfect number ---- six - creation (either 1+2+3 or 2*3). Of course there is detail logic behind the properties of each of these numbers.

So is God a Mathematician? Naturally - we have both rational and irrational numbers.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Marketing Contests

Get a free vacation; you have just won - GUARANTEED, one of three prizes - a 55 inch HDTV, a $3000 gift certificate, or a set of kitchen knives just call this number...... These contests must work since I have received material or telephony calls like this ever since I can remember.

What have you ever won in your life? The dollar value of any contest you signed up for? I asked this of Joe the other day. Yes we both could point to some kind of golf prize but nothing big (i.e. over $1K in value). Steve buys a Mega Million and Powerball ticket twice a week. Only four tickets (ranging from $2 -$7) have won. Lyle on the other hand has story after story of his contest wins.

Today I got suckered into a Cadillac promotion combining free stuff (umbrella and gift card) with a 24 month lease giveaway contest.

Marketing contests will always work.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dreams and Things

I've had two recent forums where I was faced with the questions "What are your Dreams or What are you looking forward to? Every self help book I have read will tell you to visualize those dreams, write them down, cut out a picture and place it on your mirror. This follows the theory that the "power of the mind" will constantly motivate you toward those goals.

What happens when those Dreams are things - cars, planes, houses or events - vacation, retirement, marriage ? Suddenly the dream is sharply in focus, specific, detailed, measurable and very tangible.

Instead I prefer a dream to be fuzzy, out of focus, allusive, and difficult to measure - that feeling you have while dreaming as you enter consiousness from deep sleep. As you awake, you attempt to snap the photo of the dream and it wisks away and the picture is at best a blur of colors.

And you smile and tell someone, I had this great dream. But I can't tell you anyTHING about it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Happy Wife, Happy Life

There were some "jewels" of wisdom among the 12 Vistage members in attendance today on values, philosophies, and dreams. My favorite was "Happy Wife, Happy Life". I've always said to Susan, "When you are happy, I am happy" and it is a fact. It sounds one sided but the facts are each partner should say the same. For you females out there "Happy Man, Happy Life Span".

The joy of a compatible partner is on the path to peace and contentment. And I discovered the joy in a family starts with paying attention first to the spousal relationship. If that is working the family will work just fine.

Happy Family, Happy Longevity :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Closet Junk Collector

It hit me when he said "I'm finding ways to get rid of stuff - I'm trying hard to simplify --  even my closet".   The visual of my closet immediately came to my mind.  My closet is packed full of too many clothes (and I include shoes with that) -  and to make matters worse I have an extra closet downstairs for the spring/summer season that I have not yet   swapped. 
The reality is, I wear the favorites most of the time (or the better word is wear out).  And I get tempted each year to  buy new clothes.  Maybe I should create  rule like I try to do in the stock market - don't acquire a new stock without deleting an old stock.

I wish my clothes were technologically smart enough to give me a time date when last worn (like the aging of accounts receivable).  Maybe I could wear out the clothes evenly and replace only those that are worn out.

Unfortunately, I'm afflicted with the "can't throw anything away gene".  So I am doomed to be a Closet Junk Collector.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Job Happy

my daily devotional, I happened upon a CS Lewis quote - "When we want to be something other than the thing GOD wants us to be, we must be wanting what in fact will not make us happy". I have spent the last three months studying happiness. Aren't you always suspicious (or is it envious) of the person who cheerfully states how happy they are with their job? --- Especially in those moments of lows in your own work day and job routine.

Jenna is in that time during college - wondering what career choice to make. What should I do? What should I be? How will I provide for myself? All the questions of "the world".

Maybe the problem is mis-identified. It's not about finding a job. [To some the word job has bad connotation.] Change the word job to life. What life do I want? What is my dream? Take out the word "I", "me", "my" .

What is GOD's dream for you?

"When it comes time to die -- make sure all you have to do is die" Jim Elliot

Monday, May 10, 2010

Visual Magic

Last night was a family night of Pictionary - the charades game of drawing pictures as other people guess what you are trying to draw. Even the worst artist can have fun at this game - the mind compensates and quickly assimilates the object in question. And it is ageless - Ellen was the leader for most of the game.

It's magic - within seconds someone blurts out the correct answer. Well - sort of. The rapid fire guessing of any object quickly narrows the domain of possibilities as the competition escalates with each passing second.

A picture is worth a thousand guesses.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Weekend Names

Today is Mother's Day - or Mother's Day Weekend. With only 52 weekends I wonder how many are available for naming. We have 9 Holidays that effectively knock out those weekends close to the holiday and add to that special days like Valentines, Saint Patricks, etc. and the number of available dwindles.

Some of the attempts to grow a "day" to the power of Mother's Day have failed. Sweetest Day, Grandparents Day, Secretary's Day (now Administration) and the list goes on. It could be the weekend names are saturated.

Maybe it's because we all just want a weekend off.

Happy Mother's Day - only Mom's get this weekend off.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Decades of "i"

At the next Vistage meeting, we will answer questions regarding values and philosophies that impacted our life (including mentors or centers of influence) which will then morph into a discussion about dreams. I chose to take the exercise further (copying from Dean's email blog about his life) and break my life up into decades with the values generated.

I'm living now in my 6th decade (my age of reason,spirituality and maybe enlightenment). So instead of Will and Ann Durant's "History of Civilization" my short story will be about each of my decades (titles only):

1st Decade (1954 - 1964) - I play and learn .... therefore I am.
2nd Decade (1964 - 1974) - Who am I? What will I do?
3rd Decade (1974 - 1984) - How do I compare/rank? How fast can I climb?
4th Decade (1984 - 1994) - This work is a long journey - what are the priorities - me or family?
5th Decade (1994 - 2004) - What am I? Where am I going? Who am I (the second half)
6th Decade (2004 - 2014) - Who is God? What is my purpose? What else is there?
7th Decade (2014 - 2024) - ?????? - To be determined
8th Decade (2024 - 2034) - ?????? - To be determined

And the complete title? Garen - Who, What, Where, When, Why and How?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Virtual Money

Today's 1000 point intraday drop of the Dow Jones Average will be talked about for years to come. I was watching it real time online at 2:18pm and recording in my financial journal. By 2:47pm it was down 998. The close was down 348 or 3.2%.

So did you lose money? - NO. That is the funny thing about unrealized gains or losses - they are virtual money. Yet our emotions kick in - we feel emotion in this virtual world of volatility. I will be interested in tomorrow's reaction after an evening of thought and analysis.

Accenture hit the news with trades as low as $0.01. That kind of value could even get my blood pressure up :)

I guess the adage - "Sell in May and walk away" fits todays market.

Price vs Cost

I read somewhere that Americans know the price of everything and the cost of nothing. A sad statement of consumerism and the lack of knowledge what value thresholds are related to the product.

"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it" Henry David Thoreau.

In business the goal is to capture the greatest price regardless of the product cost (e.g. Gross Margin). Selling value is the mantra. Cost is measured too simply as current expense and does not capture all the intangibles (e.g. the amount of life exchanged to bring the product to market). Too often historical costs are forgotten (example would be R&D costs/ lifetime view of a product). But those costs are only value to the person who has exchanged their life - not the consumer.

Using price alone to measure value is a dangerous conclusion since prices are also a function of demand (i.e demand becomes a form of expected value). So I can logically establish the price based on product cost but the demand (the ultimate measure of consumer value) will trump all pricing logic.

The tension of price vs cost mirrors the challenges of choosing what life you are exchanging.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

For Spacious Skies

Today I had the privilege of driving from NYC back home to Ohio on a beautiful sunny day. America the Beautiful was in my head as I looked at the beautiful Allegheny Mountains set against the blue sky with cumulus clouds. When you drive across 5 states you really get an appreciation of the beauty of our countryside.

We avoided the terrorist bomb attempt Saturday evening at Times Square during this weekend trip to NYC. Freedom comes with risks and costs - sometime with lives in peace and war. But the benefits of freedom are huge --- as vast as the mountains as spacious as the sky.

O Beautiful for Spacious Skies ........

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hiding Eyes

Sunday, May 2, 2010

NYC Energy

Walking the streets today of NYC with Susan caused me to reflect on the people who say "I love NYC - the greatest city in the world". Why? Susan replied "Because of the energy". I agree - people (and lots of them) create energy. But if it was just people then there are many other cities larger than NYC.

So it's people creating the right kind of energy (maybe the word is buzz). I think people enjoy the freedom of opportunity and choice. The choices in NYC are nearly infinite, and there is always something happening. Even when we are doing nothing we take great pride and comfort in knowing - we could be going to ......

It's a smorgasbord of things to do that shows energy happening around you. So whether it's your energy or the buzz around you - people want to be near the action.

For me - NYC is a great place to visit - but I wouldn't live there.