Monday, March 28, 2011

Bike Around

Memories of my first visit to Hilton Head popped into mind from 1980.   Someone had told S.C. and I how much fun Hilton Head was and that you could "bike around" the island.   We took the suggestion literally (thinking the island was small) and thought we could bike ENTIRELY around the Island.  Off we went from Palmetto Dunes on the rented bikes early in the morning - on the hard sand (tide was out) and the wind at our backs.  It was easy "sailing" down the beach as we made our way south toward Sea Pines.  We rounded the tip of the island only to discover  we were blocked by an incove of water. 

We had biked 10 miles around the tip of the island  and now that we were blocked we would need to reverse our path.  But now the tide was in - the wind was in front of us -  the sand was soft and the afternoon sun hot ---UGH!!   We determined there was no way to make it back via the beach.  Off inland we rode attempting to find our way (or any path) back.  By 2pm we made it back a round trip of 20 plus miles for un-trained male rookie bicyclists - now burnt to a crisp

Yes we "biked around".

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Global Dominance

It was Global Dominance today as I conquered the world of risk.  Actually it was RISK - the Parker Brothers game that I grew up on.  Jenna, Paul, and friends were playing the game today and mistakenly asked me to play.  Clearly rookies compared to my endless hours of practice (easily over  1000 plays).

It is impossible to play RISK without a fight - and I don't mean just the typical warfare on the gameboard with the dice capturing territories.  I mean a real fight with the players.  Alliances are made, then broken, then remade as the opponents try to neutralize the dominant force.  Yet to win the game requires a sequential elimination of each opponent to capture their cards.

Luckily everything goes back in the box, time passes and the bad feelings dissipate.  The world gets back to normal and temptation to RISK the relationship for power sets pack in.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Taxing my Brain

Mom always said she didn't mind paying takes for the privilege of living in the great country of the U.S.A. For the most part, I agree with this statement.  However that never stopped me from understanding the Tax code and taking every advantage that our politicians have injected into that process

I've blogged before about the complexity of taxes and each year that it gets worse.  I will again file for an extension but that doesn't negate the effort it takes now to estimate the 2010 tax liability to avoid any penalty for under payment.  So out comes the file - with corrected 1099DIVs (received in late Feb), K1's, etc. etc.  I have already spent 16 hours just gathering the correct data, installing the software and walking through the data entry/interview process.  I suspect I will still spend 20 - 30 more hours to finalize (hopefully earlier than October).

I decided to start my own quotes.  So this one is a derivative of my investment advice - "Manage your Investments or they will Damage you".


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Right for the Wrong Reasons

Is it ok to be right for the wrong reason?  That could be one definition of lucky.  It has proven itself time and time again with me in investing in the stock market.  When I listen to a program like Mad Money and Jim Cramer's logic about a particular stock pick, I'm reminded that his pick may go up (or down) for no reason even related to his logic.

The problem lies in using past correct decisions as the basis for evaluating the reason of the presenter.  If all those decisions were right for the wrong reason then you should have little confidence in their current pick.  I just finished re-watching "Two for the Money" which is about sports gambling.  What a great illustration of the right picks for the wrong reasons. 

So for all you March Madness bracket pickers - you can crow about being right for the wrong reason (yes that means you Jenna).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Puppy Surprise

 Today was puppy selection day . Susan, Ellen, and Jenna traveled to the shelter to fill out the application, get interviewed and view the puppies (4 males and 1 female).  When they got home with pictures, Ellen (the selector) announced we would be getting the female in three more weeks. 

Then in a weak moment, I said "why not two?".  The excitement and surprise was momentous!  Before I could change my.mind, Susan was on the phone to the shelter requesting the second pup. 

Life is more interesting when an unexpected surprise occurs.  It's like good luck - a benefit totally unexpected and seemingly random.  We all remember the times when good luck arrives.

This time good luck came in a package of two.

Friday, March 18, 2011


It could be the love of the library or openness to new ideas and knowledge, but I love to "browse around".  In fact the internet has provided me a whole new world  and way of browsing.  Library browsing was somewhat fixed based on the categories created by the dewy decimal system and the size of the library.  The internet unleashed a random almost infinite chaotic ocean available for treasure hunters like me. 

My rule of thumb is on any search (and by the way don't just search on google), go at least seven deep.  Add to that on any given dive (e.g. click on one of the search results) keep diving into the content at least three deep before surfacing back to the original search request.

So here is my suggestion for all you over focused, impatient, and driven people.  Take the time to occasionally browse on a completely random subject.  If that creates too much stress picking a new subject - then just use my blog.  Put the title of the blog into a search engine and happy browsing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Eeyore's Mood

Oh well - is probably the most optimistic comment of the extremely gloomy donkey in Winnie the Pooh. My concept of Eeyore is that the blue/grey donkey is always dwelling on the negative events in his life (losing the tail).  Whether it is a past event (memory) or future expectation, Eeyore is slowly between monotone sighs, verbally singing the blues of  his woes.  His name even sounds tired and depressed.

Mood affects memory and memory affects mood - says Dr. Richard Wiseman in his book, "The Luck Factor".  In fact this two way relationship can become an infinite spiral down - like Eeyore's attitude.  So how can this spiral (which anyone can begin to have on any given day) be broken?  I think there are two ways - put the bad past behind you (e.g. forget about it; let it go) or change the view of the past event by putting a positive spin on it (even if it means just saying - "it could have been worse".)

Other techniques:

(1) Exercise
(2) Watch a funny film
(3) Spend time thinking about a positive event (distract yourself)
(4) Listen to your favorite music - well maybe not Randy Newman :)
(5) Arrange to visit a non Eeyore friend

By the way remember #5 when you are with a friend!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lucky Ducky

I just finished "How to Get Lucky" by Max Gunther in my preparation for my Vistage Spotlight in April.  Max talks about 13 (yes the unlucky number) techniques for lucky positioning.  I don't remember if I purchased the book or it was given to me by Mom.  I'm sure I scanned it (or maybe even read it) long ago but it was worth re-reading for my project.

I asked R.M. if he considered himself lucky - "OF COURSE I DO,  I could have been born in Afghanistan!".  Wow - that puts it in perspective.  I even remember Warren Buffet's quote about winning the Ovarian Lottery.

So why do we Americans (who should consider themselves in the luckiest 1% of the world), ever complain about  bad luck?  Because there is always someone you think is luckier than you (and there always is).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Silent Lie

Listening to NPR this morning, Al Tompkins (Poyner Institute) said: "I tell my children there are two ways to lie - one is to tell me something that didn't happen, and the other is not telling me something that did happen"

If there is any one ethic that I felt my parents instilled in my soul - it was not to lie.  Lies were considered black and white - no gray in this land - truth or fiction.  Lies had consequences more severe than the activity in question,  "Stretching the truth" or creating "Spin" were just not skills that I ever developed. 

As Fred Owlett said in my Friday Morning Bible Study - "It is always tougher to remember the lie than the truth".  Another important discovery I came upon is the "timing of truth".  Tompkins makes this point above about the second kind of lie - the silent lie.  It is always better to confess to the activity as soon as feasible than to let it be discovered independently (from another source) at a much later time.

Better to confess a problem discovered at work as early as possible - take the consequences and move on to trouble shooting and problem solving.  Al Cambridge at Accenture would always say that about Receivables and Collections - "They stink worse with age."

So if lies are black or white. Does that mean a white lie is good?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Coincidently Dependent

Is it a coincidence, statistically randomness or mysteriously some like of predestination? Is De ja vu a mind experiencing some kind of electrical anomaly of memory?

The mind likes the logical connection of what may just be the natural probabilities of two independent (or dependent) events being correlated. We love to create cause and effect truths.

As a statistician, I have studied probabilities and the field of uncertainty with intensity. Yet each time I recall the theory I continue to combat the mind's tricks of mis-estimating, emotional forecasting and creating logical patterns of cause and effect.

So here is an example. What is the probability in 20 coin tosses that there will be 5 heads in a row? Well, last night I tried it four times. I had many 3 in a row, but no 4 or 5 in a row. Yet the probability is 25% - somehow higher than I would have predicted.

If I asked what is the probability of 20 heads in a row in one try at 20 consecutive tosses most would say it is infinitesimal (9.35674E-07). It's easier to think of this in terms of 1 chance in how many outcomes. Flipping a coin 20 times has 1,048,576 combination's (2^20).

We are all poor judges of uncertainty (even the best statisticians get fooled). We understand conceptually the small probability of 20 heads in a row but always must remind ourselves that on the 20th toss the probability is still 50% of getting one more head regardless/independent of the pattern of heads on the prior 19 tosses (very important fact when gambling at roulette).

Complexity with probabilities always comes when the events are dependent. Coincidentally nearly every event in human interaction is dependent.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Family Fabric

At Vistage today, M.L said "It creates a fabric of family". What is it? Personal presence, good communications, forthright actions, care-frontation (a Vistage term), kindness, love ..... the list goes on and on.

I like the image "a fabric of family" paints in my mind - the patchwork quilt bound together into one large comforter.

That phrase immediately reminded me of the quilt that my Grandmother Wisner made with patches of my Dad's old ties. First used as a childhood blanket it followed me after college into my various apartments and homes. As it became more worn, its new home was the trunk of my car - there for the safety and security (maybe for use in shock in the event of an accident). Its use varied over the years all in functional ways of being the fabric of my own family.

Warmth, Security, Comfort, - a family bound together.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

End Around

The "End Around" (coming from the Football play) is also a business term used. In football it is considered a trick play and in business one could also think of it as a trick - or more likely the better term is also trying to "blind side" the boss.

Like football this play rarely works - yet it is tried by many (usually the naive). When I hear criticism of the boss - or a salesman trying to go around the protocol of the decision process, I just roll my eyes. Nothing good is going to come of this.

If I have learned one thing in business and life, it is to not criticize the boss to or with other people. It is just a different form of gossip and yields no value to any productive solution to a conflict. Also thinking you can get the sale by just going directly to the top is futile. Hierarchies have a purpose and like military order - protocol. Violating that protocol strikes at the very essence of methods, standards and organizational stability.

I have always found confronting the issue with the boss brings much better results.

It Ends UP!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Take Care of Yourself

Several months ago I interviewed H.B. (a previous next door neighbor at Windridge). I wanted to follow the interview questions of John Izzo in his book "Five Secrets you Must Discover before you Die". I needed someone over 80 to interview and H.B. agreed to my experiment.

So H.B. told me an important lesson he learned from Arnold Lessing - "If everyone takes care of himself, everyone is taken care of". H.B. added, "Be your own person, don't think someone else is going to take care of you".

It's not a message of selfishness - instead I think it is a message of taking responsibility and being proactive in concentrating on your circle of influence - as Covey says in his book. Interestingly, when this occurs, other people want to help you and they care about you.

Then the circle is complete - taking care of yourself doesn't have to be a lonely task.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Loving Teachers

"People learn from the people they love" - David Brooks said on NPR as he was promoting his book "The Social Animal".

How coincidental - Jenna, Ellen, Susan and I were rewatching some old home videos of Jenna and Ellen learning to speak their colors. A favorite home video that the family enjoys watching as both girls had interesting reactions as I was "drilling" them on the color spectrum.

I think Mom was an excellent school teacher because she loved the kids and the kids felt it. Consequently like the quote above - they were open to learning. I'll bet you can remember distinctly your favorite teacher or boss. They wanted you to be successful --they were your biggest cheerleader.

Susan is in a program mentoring young adults who have emerged from the foster care system. She has created an unconditional love with her mentee hoping that some transfer of knowledge will occur. But creating a trust and love can be a long term transaction. Notice the quote says they learn from people THEY love. They must first love you before learning begins.

An interesting lesson for Teachers - I wonder if this is taught to those attempting to get degrees in Education.

Running out of Energy

"Oh Dad - give it up", said Jenna as I brought up the size of our heat pump again for the umptenth time.

I have been researching utilities (Duke in particular) and my energy usage. It is an expensive and complicated subject that remains mysterious for many. Most only care that when they need it - the energy is there. R.M. always said - "You'll realize how much you are willing to pay for utilities once you are in an outage".

So with all my charts, calls to alternate suppliers, modeling my home's KWH usage, enrollment in Duke's power management, research on light bulbs, and HVAC arbitrage decisions on oil, propane and electric (yes - I have all three of these heat sources) - what have I learned?

I'm running out of energy researching all of this. :)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sinful Time

In the Wednesday Men's Fellowship breakfast I said "Reducing Sin in your life will provide you plenty of available time".

I was researching the 7 deadly sins the other day - Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride. Naturally, I immediately began to think of a excel spreadsheet with the seven columns and the daily time sheet recording your hours in each column. Maybe the better spreadsheet would be the Seven Virtue columns - Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness and Humility.

Now you allocate your time. What about the column for blogging?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pens and Ink

I went to Staples the other day to get a refill for a unique pen that sits in a monogrammed clock holder next to my big family room chair (A Fathers Day gift from Jenna and Ellen). While I was there I decided to get refills for my other pens - Parker, Mont Blanc, and Cross.

It was amazing the number and variety of pen refills. Even the simple ball point - presumably standard size doesn't really apply (I bought a universal type that can be cut to size - which didn't fit because the tip was slightly larger).

It just shows even the simple nature of a pen is filled with complex parts. This has morphed into the same problem with printers. It is almost impossible to find the correct ink cartridge without bringing in the old empty or carrying around the model number of the cartridge or printer type.

How many pens and printers sit idle awaiting ink refills - too complex to find?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Portfolio of Good

Tonight is the annual SVP Cincinnati partners meeting and I will be presenting the Dashboard of the Portfolio of Good. J.E. suggested a Executive Decision Dashboard tool as a means of monitoring and evaluating the four Investees (e.g. our Non Profits we have picked) . A common business tool that I "pushed" as a consultant at Accenture, it provides the executive a simple way (red light, yellow light, green light) to evaluate progress on Key Performance Indicators (KPI) or Critical Success Factors (CSF).

Evaluating Non-Profits is a non-trivial task. Filled with terminology on outputs and outcomes, measuring is tough (Albert Einstein said it well - 01/17/2011 "Counting Feelings"). But "you get what you measure" and with no attempt to measure "you get nothing".

I relate it to my own philosophy about investments - "Manage your Investments or they will Damage you."