Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bad News Ages Fast

The ex Cincinnati Accenture Partners meet monthly for lunch to solve world problems, talk sports, reminisce, exchange politics and jokes - generally get updated on each other's life. A.C. was smiling as he said, "Garen would always peak his head into my office when there was trouble". I responded - "Yeah Al but at least I knew to get it in front of you fast". I remember your saying:

"Bad News Ages Fast". I learned that from Al and my parents. Don't think it will go away with time because it just get's more rotten each day.

I look back on my career and can thank my parents ( for initial life training), and then to many of the more senior managers and partners that shaped my performance and style in business.

You are the best and worst of the mentors in your life. Some are chosen for you - others you have a choice.

Chose Wisely.

Taxable Giving

I get a rash of letters this time of year asking for donations (I have 5 on my desk from last week). That and telemarketing must work or they would cease the practice. I've wondered if our tax code allowing deductions for charity actually encourages giving - either more, the timing, or both. It helps that Thanksgiving and Christmas align with taxable year end planning - combining a feeling of giving with minimizing the "gift" (tax that is) to the government.

I personally agree with Warren Buffet about estate taxes. I don't know his logic exactly - but mine is to create an incentive (even though the tax is a " death penalty") to encourage you to gift your money to the proper steward into the future. Notice I said the proper steward - because those that procrastinate in this decision end up giving it to the worst steward - the Government.

In Ron Blue's book "Splitting Heirs - Giving money & things to your Children without ruining their lives", he reiterates the point - "It's all God's". The only thing you are really doing with your money is finding the right steward - giving it to him/her (or the organization) and letting them do God's work.

Think about that - When you save money - you are just deferring the decision on it's productive use in God's eyes until you can decide who is the steward - you or someone else? When you spend money - you are choosing yourself as the "invest able steward" to grow the wealth further for God's purpose.

And when you give it to the government ......... one wonders it's purpose and the alignment?

So don't make giving a taxable moment. Give it while living to someone other than the government.

PS- SVP Cincinnati can always use a donation :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Shopper's Lag

We were all dragging this morning after the Thanksgiving Holiday. Serena had pulled an all nighter with her friends to be at the store promptly at 4am on Black Friday. So it wasn't jet lag - but "shopper's lag" this Monday morning. The early reports are that this Black Friday was successful for the retailers even though this year there are 2-3 less shopping days before Christmas.

I was shocked to learn that Thanksgiving was changed to the 4th Thursday in November by President Franklin Roosevelt (signed in 1941) to give the economy a boost. Thanksgiving had been celebrated on the last Thursday of November and right in the middle of the Great Depression ( 1933 and 1934) that meant 7 or 8 days less shopping before Christmas.

SO again the tradition of Thanksgiving is really all about Thingspending.

Be of good cheer - in 2012 Franklin Roosevelt can look down and see 8 additional spending days and a full recovery :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Books

I just finished the "Christmas List" by Richard Paul Evans. A good story about "beginning with the end in mind".

I read his first book "The Christmas Box" in 1995 and it had a profound effect on me. Probably because of my work habits and the main character's daughter was also named Jenna. The Hallmark movie was not nearly as meaningful as the book (but that happens alot).

I imagine books with the name Christmas in the title get a certain amount of sales (or at least a browse) by the reference of the holiday. I'm sure I picked up the Christmas Box because of my fond memories of Christmas and obsession with boxes. Plus the book is one of those smaller books - not too thick, short chapters, lots of dialogue, with a great story line (sort of mysterious).

What is your favorite childhood Christmas book? Is it a big picture book of the poem - "Twas the night before Christmas"? The Grinch? The Littlest Angel? The Nutcracker?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Signs of Christmas

There are signs of Christmas around the Wisner household this weekend. Jenna has taken the lead with decorating not just one Christmas tree but two. Off to Lowes to get a second tree (artificial) this evening - this one for the dining room.

Tonight with family and friends there was Christmas in the air. On Time Warner - Traditional Xmas music (Channel 933) piped through wireless speakers throughout the house. The smell of pine (from the candle scents) and the humming in the background (Paul, Serena, Ellen, Laura, Rima and Jenna). Fireplaces were lit to add to the mood. Thankfully the outdoor lights were put up last weekend (after nearly 4 inches of rain Wednesday and Thursday during the Thanksgiving).

Sounds, smells, sight - all creating a feeling - striking memories of Christmas past, and anticipation of the Christmas to come.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Titles or Testimonials

Nathan said "Which do you seek - titles or testimonials". I remember in 1989 when I was promoted to Partner at Accenture. It was quite the title although there were other titles in the hierarchy (e.g. Managing Partner, etc.). I had not changed but everyone else's perception changed with the added title.

The other weekend P.S. and I were reminiscing about the old Accenture days and I mentioned how many of the staff had stories about me - things I can't even remember. P.S. related immediately and told a story of how he had picked up the parking fee late one night for the staffer that was following him out of the parking lot.

Years later the staff saw P.S. at a restaurant and reiterated the story and how much that had impacted their life. What a testimonial for a person with the title - Partner.

Amazing what impact a small act of kindness can have.

You choose every day - seek the title or testimonial.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The only thing on XM Radio the family likes to listen to (in Susan's Tahoe) is Watercolors (Channel 71 Smooth Jazz). So it was with great sorrow that the minimalist in me (that's the new term I use for frugal) convinced Susan to cancel the quarterly charge of $48.72 ($12.95/mth plus royalty and taxes).

So - I called XM with the express intent of canceling the service and saving $50. We have been listeners to Watercolors since Jan. 2005 Suddenly I get Sedrick on the line and he says - "I can save you significant money - how about 5 months for $20 - our special program to keep you at XM. It's not really $20 because after tax and royalty it's $25 (but who's counting).

Unbelievable - Sedrick talked me into it. So instead of saving $50. I save $25 and get two additional months. Like all subscription business models - they count on the human condition of forgetfulness five months from now.

Watercolors lives on until April 23. And we get to listen to Xmas music for the Holidays.

Minimalists - never forget :)


Yes the premature Thanksgiving blog (who knows I may be too stuffed on the day). 42 Million people will travel over 50 miles to celebrate this national holiday. It is the beginning of the holiday consumption line-up culminating in the new year.

The retailers are focused on the "Black Friday" activity of receiving your money. Their thanks will occur if you spend more.

Funny how Thanksgiving is about the bottom line : Things-spending. The attention is put on things (on sale) vs thanks and spending vs giving.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Give 'til it hurts

In our study group we discussed giving. The question was whether giving without sacrifice was meaningful - hence "give until it hurts". At Social Venture Partners Cincinnati one of our guiding principles is "Have Fun". Like laughing until it hurts - I think finding the joy in giving is the key. So much joy that it "hurts".

Too often guilt plays a role in giving. Some people give out of guilt. At SVP Cincinnati we also have the mantra - "No Guilt". Too often volunteers at non-profits end up feeling guilty - not giving enough time or money. Their schedule gets busy and they "drop the ball" at the non-profit.

We are trying to build a culture in SVP that allows our Partners to lean on each other (e.g. it's a team not the individual) - and not feel guilty. When one person's schedule gets busy - someone else "has their back". So it is a "meta giving" - giving (e.g. helping) to another partner while giving to the non-profit.

So if it is so much fun that it hurts - then I will give until it hurts :)

Friday, November 19, 2010


Returning from Kansas, I listened to a Christian book - "Extraordinary: The Life you were meant to Live" and it mentioned that in the top 25 movies of all time - 70% are about Heros (and the % is about the same for the top 50).We love stories about Heros - Ordinary people who do extraordinary things (my definition of a hero).

Then there is the category of Super Heros (like the TV series Heros) - people who have supernatural powers. But are they really Heros since they already have the power? - for them, the use of the power is not extraordinary - only extraordinary to us. In fact there are "good" Super Heros and "bad" - Evil Super Heros (maybe that is an oxymoron and they are technically Super Villains).

The Medal of Honor was just given out (3,449 recipients since 1861 ) to a living soldier (also rare) as a symbol of military heroism. Defender, Brave, Valor, Good, Moral Excellence, Self-sacrificing are words we connect to the word Hero.

Who is your Hero/Heroine?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Susan mentioned tonight that she never really understood poetry. Same with me, I echoed as I paused briefly from my reading. Then the very next sentence I read -- "A poem should not mean/but be." (Archibald MacLeish) .

I remember studying the meaning of poems in school - but only one that I can remember being forced to memorize - Eldorado by Edgar Allen Poe.

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old-
This knight so bold-
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow-
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied-
"If you seek for Eldorado!"                                                                   

 What does it mean?     Keep Searching?   Is it the Journey and not the Destination that counts?  Are you wasting your time looking for a city of gold?  Never ask a Shadow?  Only in Death will you find Eldorado?

Now 40 years later, I have the answer to my teacher's question -  "What does it mean"

"A poem should not mean/ but be"     :)

Mythical City of El Dorado on Lake Parime

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Where am I

Our consciousness keeps us on track - it's our GPS system letting us know where we are. After all before we can go somewhere, you must know where your are - present location. Quite different from the question "Who am I" (the song from Les Miserables quickly plays in my head).

Our physical reality keeps us grounded in location - confirms where am I at all times. Think back to the number of times you were really lost - not very often I would guess. Maybe a short time within a city that was unfamiliar when looking to go somewhere. Maybe as a child walking back from school when taking a new route. In each case a landmark, a set of information (maps) some guidance system re calibrated and answered the question - where am I.

Lost in wilderness, an individual will walk in circles when there are no landmarks to guide them. Studies have found with the sun or moon visible, people can walk in a straight line.

Are you walking a straight line - or circling lost. Find your landmark.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

There's No Place Like Kansas

"Home is where the heart is" - the saying goes. Kansas (where I was born and lived for 8 years) is a place a vaguely remember - in 16mm films; 35mm pictures and the reminisce discussions my parents have when asked.

I can physically drive by the house where I was raised for those 8 years but it doesn't give the feeling of "going back home". Home is a feeling ---- of being with family; sitting in a familiar chair; or whatever physical thing produces that feeling.

The Good Witch of the East had it right in instructing Dorthy to think and say "There's no place like home" - Kansas that is :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mystery in Life

As we sat on the porch, S.S. said "There are some things we should leave as a mystery in life". The human condition of curiosity, the need to know, the search for origin etc. can not be extinguished. This urge is the energy that drives the soul and when that energy dies I think the spirit is at risk.

So can we be content with an unsolved mystery? Yes - but that doesn't mean contentment is the suppression of curiosity or activity to obtain the knowledge. In fact the journey (with the illusion that the mystery can be solved) is what we should celebrate and grows us.

So I say - "There are some things that will always be a mystery in life ..... never stop wondering why?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Voting Envy

Social Venture Partners Cincinnati "voted" last night for the 2010/2011 Investee (our term for the non-profit we will team with for 3-5 years). I put "vote" in quotes because the real vote is by the Council after the Investment Committee makes a recommendation.

Sounds complicated - and all governance is complicated. Wrapped up in legal mumbo jumbo, operating agreements, etc. The common man discovers how unpowerful his vote is when he finds out that the power of his vote was delegated to a board - or to a representative of the governing body.

So the real vote was when you elected the Board, or voted for your congressional representative. This indirect feeling of power becomes incomplete when the current issue at hand strikes passion into your soul and you want your voice to be heard and your vote to be counted!!

Instead you are subjugated to the back of the line - a distance voice from the hot issue at hand while your representative makes his/her decision with "your interest in mind".

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A long time ago

A.M. mentioned that his father said "You're Dead for a Long Time". That is a very sobering thought for those who do not believe in an after life. The converse of that statement is "You're on this Earth a very short time". Both quantify time equally but have very different potential connotations.

What is the definition of a long time? "In a place a long long time ago" .... is one of those phrases used to start an interesting story of someone's past. A story that lives on ... influencing others beyond the main character's short life span on earth. A story potentially told (or read) for thousands of years.

The written stories (and the earliest) are from the Bible. They were first passed on verbally and then captured in print. So the character is not "dead" if the story lives on.

So maybe "You're Dead for a Long Time when your story dies"

What "short" story are you authoring? How long will it be told?

Monday, November 8, 2010


One of the Greek word's for Sin is from an archery term "to miss the mark". I wonder how many of us even know what target we are attempting to put in our sights. Aim high? Aim low? How many arrows are in our quiver?

"Action without vision is simply using up our time ..... Vision without Action is only a daydream" John Izzo.

So randomly shooting arrows in the air is using up our precious time and saving the arrows for the perfect shot is just wishing away our time. It takes a target and practice to get better at archery.

What is at the center of your target? How close is your life to the bulls eye?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Contagious Friends

USA Today states the Obesity is Contagious. "We find that having four obese friends doubled people's chance of becoming obese compared to people with no obese friends," says Alison Hill, the study's lead author and a Harvard researcher.

I wonder if there are other contagious attributes? How about friends with a spirit of generosity? I am studying the "Game Change" six week spiritual journey at Crossroads and this question came to mind. Social Venture Partners Cincinnati gives me the opportunity to be surrounded by like individuals who have a spirit of generosity.

So having 28 friends with the spirit of generosity will quadruple my chance of becoming generous also :)

Giving is contagious!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pumpkin Throw

This was the first annual Pumpkin Throw at Councilrock. The 20 small pumpkins that decorated the flowerboxes were first stripped of seeds and then kicked and tossed down the hill. I think they are still rolling toward Terrace Park.

As word spread in the neighborhood, each kid attempted an Olympic throw down the hill. Jenna - the expert coach helped assure there were no losers - everyone got a toss (or tw0). There were hits, splits, trills, and spills.

Then a few rides on the swing (installed this summer) closed out the contest as the swinger viewed the orange dotted hillside to determine the winner of the longest throw.

A great fall day - no ipods, computers, or DVD's. No kid inside :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Blogging Destiny

"Be careful of your thoughts - because thoughts become your words
Be careful of your words - because words become your actions
Be careful of your actions - because actions become your habits
Be careful of your habits - because habits become your character
AND - your character becomes your destiny" John Izzo "5 Secrets you must know before you die"

"Be careful of what you blog - because your blog becomes your .......... background"
Garen Wisner "Blogging for fun"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Program your Brain

Control is one of those words like a sword that has two edges - danger and opportunity. Control is about power and power is both a danger and opportunity.

In Covey's books, he uses the concept "your circle of influence". Too often we try to control things outside our circle of influence - hence the terms regret (for the past) and worry (for the future).

I just finished reading John Izzo's book "The Five Secrets you must discover before you die" and the issue of control appears in the 4th Secret - Live the Moment. I would encourage you to read the book "The Precious Present" by Spenser Johnson to fully explore the 4th Secret.

We have the power to control our mind. In my technology terms - we can program our brain. Studies have shown we have 45-50 thousand thoughts per day. That is 50 thousand logical (or illogical) loops going on upstairs - or 50 thousand chances to enter negative code or positive code.

"Programming the brain" reminds me of the movie -Tron (a remake is coming soon). I have forgotten the exact plot but the image I have is the brain with all the programming code inside it. There is good code and bad code and "bugs".

You can choose the path. You choose to re-program. You control your mind.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Historic Mid Term Election

Hannity asked each talking head to use one word to describe last night - his word was Historic. Yes it is a historic election because it is over (thank goodness) - therefore it is history.

Elections have become our new reality TV - a continuous entertainment for those consumed with the trash of seeing people behaving badly. I got sucked into watching the talking heads last night, the high tech statistical analysis, the play by play action, the locker room speeches, the list goes on. The Superbowl night of Election reality.

Super Bowl XLIV (Saints vs Colts 2/7/2010) has the record - 106.5 million households watching the action. The media build up is intense. The Superbowl parties abound. The money spent for that weekend is intense. The player profiles, interviews, sidebar stories and "color" add to the excitement.

How many of the 106.5 million households even remember the historic on-side kick or who won the game? How many of the 40 million households remember who won Superbowl XVI -1/24/1982 (I won't mention the teams because the Cincinnati folks will remember).

So Election night 2010 (Republicans vs Democrats) is history.

Who won?

And in 20 years will you remember?

PS: Today starts the next season premier of Election Reality 2012 - only 735 days until Superbowl Tuesday :(

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lets Make a Deal

I DVR'ed the new CBS version "Lets Make a Deal" with Wayne Brady. It just didn't have the same feeling of Monty Hall and Carol Merrill of 1963 vintage. The trouble with trying to "re-live" nostalgia is the inability to re-create the thoughts, feelings and environment of the past.

The deals presented by Wayne Brady just didn't seem to have the punch and impact that watching as a kid in 1963. As a statistician, I know to much now also.

How ironic to just finish reading "A Drunkard's Walk" by Leonard Mlodinow where he describes the reason you should switch doors if asked.

Here's the set up: Suppose behind one door is a car and the other two goats. After picking a door, Monty Hall (who knows what is behind each door) opens one of the two unchosen doors which reveals a goat. He then offers you the chance to switch. Should you?

The answer is: YES - because of Cardano's rule. Because Monty Hall intervened into a "random process" - it is no longer random. The odds are 2-1 that you are in a "wrong guess" scenario and therefore you should switch your choice.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Minimalist Sleep

L.R. diplomatically said - "There goes Garen the minimalist again". There is great power and comfort in being a minimalist. The feeling of self control and the peace of sleep.

Ecc. 5:12 "The sleep of the laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep".

When is enough - enough? And endless question and one unique to each individual. I suspect enough is when you can sleep peacefully and too much (or too little and wanting more) is when you are restless.

I sleep during the week about 6 hours each evening (by the way it is a fallacy that you can "catch up on sleep" like I try to do on the weekends). I do like a Sunday nap in the sun during football games (obviously I'm watching them on TV) regardless of what the experts say!

Researchers have found only 3% of the population do well on 6 hours of sleep. Obviously babies sleep the most - and it appears as we age less sleep occurs (although scientists think that may be more due to age afflictions -- maybe too much stuff --disturbing our sleep).

We come into the world with nothing (sleeping like babies) and we leave the world with ......

Maybe that is the key to sleep - becoming a minimalist :)