Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Oriental View

Oriental rugs look different depending on which angle of the rug you are looking from - there is a light side and a dark side.   If you are standing from the top end the rug will look markedly lighter.  This results from the weaving process as each knot is hand-tied and pulled down.  This creates the nap of the rug with all of the fibers laying in the same direction.  Looking at the fibers in from the opposite side will make the rug darker.

Maybe people are the same -  with a light side and a dark side.  So what's the solution.

Step around them 180 degrees and look at the other side.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom

The origin of the Serenity Prayer used by A.A. is an interesting journey of research of who was first in concept and first in literal wording.  Regardless of its origin, the key words Serenity, Courage and Wisdom are interesting character attributes.

First the prayer (which will be familiar to all):

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference."

The longer version continues: 

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it:

Trusting that He will make all things
right if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.  Amen

So understanding what is inside our "circle of influence" (using a Stephen Covey term) and outside our "circle of influence" is Wisdom.  The trouble is, that all those things on the outside "disturb" us and coming to peace with those emotions - hardship, loss, suffering etc. requires courage to change our thoughts. It doesn't mean ignoring them - it is accepting them as facts.

Peace in a cloudy world.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pride and Power

It's a dangerous combination when an individual is consumed with pride and is in a position of power.

In the book Founding Brothers, Joseph Ellis devotes a chapter on George Washington's farewell. George Washington deserves the honor of the best president not because he was our first president but because of his humility and his conscious act of stepping away from power.  "George III allegedly observed, "If he does that [retire from the Presidency], he will be the greatest man in the world". 

So on December 22, 1783 George Washington announced, " I will retire from the great theater of action.  In doing so, he became the supreme example of a leader who could be trusted with power because he was so ready to give it up".

The recent dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library gave us all a chance to see five of our presidents.  You can rank them from high to low on the pride and power scale.  Only then is real leadership visible.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Filing Oblivion

I pride myself on how organized I can be at times.  Keeping an inventory of household assets, carefully managing financial paperwork, creating audit trails, maintaining timely and accurate legal paperwork, and even backing up important electronic files. 

Yet - when it's time to find something (like a user manual; or serial number) the location of that precise data is an exercise of futility.   At home, Susan and I have four filing cabinets full of data; desk drawers full of files; at my office I have six filing locations (with piles of files on the floor); in the attic box after box of files; and that is only the physical files.  Electronically I have every type of media - floppys; CD's; Jazz Drives; Hard drives; and memory sticks. 

So when I wanted to find the cost of a oriental rug we acquired in 2002 I was out of luck.  All that data was somewhere in filing oblivion.

The only benefit of searching for something is you find what you endlessly looked for (and gave up on) the last time.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Meddlesome Matty

As Dad and I were Skyping yesterday, the label "Meddlesome Matty" popped into the conversation.  I remember time after time getting into "trouble" when my curiosity turned into meddling .  Too often, once an undesirable outcome occurred (a spill, stain, dent etc.), I would try to "fix" the problem only to "dig my hole deeper". Finally when it was confession time, Dad would describe my activities as a Meddlesome Matty.  In many cases the additional effort to remedy the outcome became a joint project of repair.

This term (Meddlesome Matty) came from a poem written by Ann Taylor in the 1800's. Matilda (Matty) left unattended decided to meddle with her grandma's spectacles and snuff box resulting in a complete mess (power and broken glasses).

To meddle is to interest oneself in what is not your concern.  Similar to "curiosity that "killed the cat", meddling carries the addition risk of interfering on another's domain (vs just creating trouble for oneself). 

It takes years of meddling to learn to how to be a professional fix it man.

"Matilda, smarting with the pain,
And tingling still, and sore,
Made many a promise to refrain
From meddling evermore.
And 'tis a fact, as I have heard,
She ever since has kept her word."   Ann Taylor    

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Today.... Tomorrow... the day after Tomorrow

"Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow"  Mark Twain

Frank Partnoy's book "Wait, The Art and Science of Delay" has a great chapter on procrastination.  Instead of allowing procrastination to be demonized, he describes the rich history of studies on procrastination.  "Procrastination does not mean doing absolutely nothing. We are always working on something.  The procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely, and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important". 

So what matters is comparing what we could be working on and the calculated probabilities with the discounted future costs and benefits of the future outcomes compared to present outcome.  Parnoy uses the analysis of discount rates for money to illustrate the paradox of preferences that are not time-consistent.  In the short term we are more impatient (a high discount rate) than the long term (lower discount rates).  In fact the hyperbolic curve causes two phnenomium:

(1) High discount rates lead to a bad kind of procrastination (we discount the future too much).
(2) The bias of the present over the future (impatience and indulgence)

Confused?  It is easy:

When what is immediate is a benefit - we are impatient gluttons; when what is immediate is a cost - we procrastinate.

So procrastination is about trade-offs on your "To do" list.  That's why I have put off writing down my to do list. :)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Just Start

Self motivation is essential in life. Creating energy to move from a stationary state is critical - the first step.  So what techniques do you use to act?

My favorite technique to combat inaction is the calendar.  I learned this in my work at Accenture.  In order to motivate activity, I would draw a calendar on the white board (usually three months) then place a marker on the project (or milestone) end date.  Then working backward, I would begin to schedule meetings on dates prior to this date and ask the participants if their calendar's worked.  Invariably everyone would pull out their personal calendar to check dates.   Someone might have a conflict but immediately everyone began to look for a common date vs argue about whether we should do the task. 

It was magic.  Before long the calendar was full of scheduled meetings and everyone was "bought in" to the project dates.  Energy was "created" just by getting on people's calendars.  Even if this exercise of "calendaring" yielded a push back of the initial end date, I had accomplished my objective - the work program was established - people were tentatively "bought in" and "motivated" to activity.

Putting an activity on a future date is a perfect compromise for the procrastinator, non-committed, or even actively opposed individual (since a future date can always be cancelled). 

A future date is the equivalent of ====>  Just Start.  Try it on yourself.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Fine Print of Life

I'm mid-way through reading Ken Druck's book "The Real Rules of Life".  Rarely do I like reading introductions, but this one hit home when the bold caption on page 'xv' said "Losing Jenna".  In 1996 Druck lost his 21 year old daughter in a tragic bus accident in India.  So a great deal of the book reflects his own experience with "dealing with the consequences of the devastating loss of a child.

I liked his point about "The Fine Print of Life".  "I struck a deal with life. And life, being essentially fair, would honor the deal.  But life isn't fair. It's never been fair, and it will never be.  Life will have it's say."  Before you conclude that Druck is a pessimist he points out: "In our moments of greatest loss, we are in a position to feel a GREATER sense of hope, faith and wholeness."  Hence he titles his first Rule of Life:  "Life is not fair: It's more than fair".

My philosophy is essentially the same however I prefer to say that life is fair and only time, and the mystery of eternity will reveal it's fairness (hence life is never fair at the moment).  I believe the ups and downs will equal out - the Golden Mean.

The problem with a life contract is the fine print - the stuff that is overlooked and surprise us as we hurry to live life out.  Life is a fair contract but fair means good with the bad (yin with the yang).

Expect some fine print surprises in life.  It's how we deal with the fine print that "turns us into invaluable resources for other people, because we become safe, wise, and judgment free - clear and unbiased witnesses to stand beside others"  helping them understand their fine print of life.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Endless Arguments

The term "we can agree to disagree" is a form of an endless argument.  In philosophy there are timeless issues that will always be debated in academic forums - the existence of God, free will, ethics.  On the trip back from Keeneland, S.M, K.M., Susan and I discussed the current morality issues in the press - abortion and gay marriage. 

How much should government legislate morality, was my question?  As a libertarian, I tend to err on the side of limited (if not absent) government and hence risk the hard edge of immorality.  Yet morals are endlessly argued about in philosophy. 

Our small group at Armstrong is continuing to meet at our house as we study and discuss Dinesh D'Souza's book "What's so great about Christianity".  D'Souza objectively examines the arguments and rhetoric in the current atheist-led debate about God and Christianity.  If you haven't viewed "The God Debate" at Notre Dame with atheist  Christopher Hitchen's, it is worth the 108 minutes to view.

Hitchen's sarcastically quipped at the statistician's view (Pascal's wager) for the belief in God calling it "the reasoning of a huckster". 

Actually, Hitchen's argument is not endless  (he died tragically at the early age of 62 of cancer in 2011) nor is it endless for all of us (death on earth is certain). 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Winning Cause

It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Keeneland and a turned out to be "Winning Cause" for me.  S.M. (Vistage Bud) and his wife K.M. (also SVP Cincinnati alumni) joined Susan, Paul and I at the races.  Almost a tradition now, we first had lunch a Joe Bolonga's and then it was off to the races. 

This was the last Saturday for Keeneland, so the race was sold out and the participants were "decked out".  It was a great day to people watch.  The sun was out and luckily our grandstand seats were protected from the chill of the 50 degree windy weather. 

Actually this was the first time I can remember ever leaving the race track "up" in earnings.  This first time success was all because of  "Winning Cause" in the ninth - $5 to Win cashed to $39.  Susan's $2 to show on "General Election" cashing at $17.80 also helped recover the other six races of losses. 

The real win was enjoying a day with friends --  as MasterCard would say "Priceless".

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Branches of Gratitude

After a half day of Vistage, I always get energized by 10 other accomplished business leaders, each discussing the economy, our individual businesses, interpersonal activities, and our lives.  Seven of us have been with the group since August 2004 and you get to know each other very well over that period of time. 

Today, G.B. provided a heartfelt thank you to many in the group for various help over the years.  I'm sure each of us would echo our own story of thanks to any and all of the members also.  It shows the power of relationships and trust built over time.

This "thank you" caused me to think of the branches of gratitude that are deserved for the people who have impacted our lives.  To often we neglect to thank the people who have contributed to our successes in life and sometimes can selfishly think we have earned it ourselves.  Yet there are "branches of credit" in our "tree of our life".

Use any accomplishment in your life as an example.  Trace the outcome back with people who influenced or contributed to that outcome. That "branch" will even trace to a "root" or "roots" that deserve your gratitude - maybe even credit for the outcome.  In that sense - your success becomes intertwined with the "branches" of others.

A forest of gratitude.  :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Blogging about Blogging

My first blog entry was August 27, 2009 (almost 4 years ago).  Now with 785 posts the lethargy begins to set in.  With only 47 entries so far this year (of an available 106 days), my batting average is .443 - not bad for baseball, but horrible for blogging frequency. 

I will occasionally pop upon a "stranded" blog when searching the Internet for information.  It's amazing how many people start blogs only to slow the entries to a stop after the novelty wears off.  My lethargy is a different condition - trying not to repeat stories or my pet peeves and finding that other bloggers have thought of, researched and posted even better observations about stuff long before me.

I can see how the term "writers block" occurs.  However a side benefit of blogging is that it has intensified my interest in details, in etymology, idioms, funny sayings, quotes, precision of words, trivia, philosophy, memories and other peoples stories.  

Yet there are days when seemingly nothing in my blogging interest appears (like today's entry).  But an email from T.F. (alias - Bloody Lamb) kindled the introspection of the world of bloggers  (I'm just one of 156 million as of 2/2011).  Corporate blogging is declining and being replaced by other social media avenues.  Just read this blogger's view on "Is Blogging on Decline in 2013?".  

Well - you know it's bloggers block when all you write about is blogging :)

PS.  Search on the word "blog" (within this blog)  -  32 results
PPS.  Technically I'm not blogging - I'm journaling   see 1/27/2011  Sounds like Blogging

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Envy vs Compassion

Capitalism by definition will create a divide of economic benefits.  The argument that is endless is about the nature and extent of that divide.  It extends to how both wealth and income should be distributed (and there is a direct correlation between the two).  How much social inequality is acceptable in wealth and/or income?  As a statistician, the argument then becomes how should wealth or income be distributed?  In a standard normal curve; or some derivative?

If you could socially engineer capitalism, what curve above would you choose and why?  Then how would you legislate policies that re-engineer our existing curve to match the curve you want? 

Regardless of your argument, look inside your emotions to determine if your argument is based on envy or compassion.  Suddenly you realize why tax policy becomes so volatile.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Kilroy Was Here

Just returned from the practice round of the Masters ---   Golf that is (see Blog Nov. 13, 2009).  An immaculate golf course, with a Walt Disney customer service experience, the Augusta country club experience was worth the investment in time and money.  S.Z. (my SVP Cincinnati Partner and a scratch golfer) was my lucky way of having the opportunity to have this experience and now memory.  It was a pleasure to be with him and B.M. his golfing buddy who had previously experienced this in 2009 (great to have guides).  B.H. (another SVP Cincinnati Partner) drove and was my "roommate" in the Columbia hotel that we booked well in advance.

I had some advice from others on "things to do" - have a traditional pimento cheese sandwich, buy a Masters flag, where to sit, etc.  Even re-reading Feinstein's book "The Majors" and reviewing Wikopedia added to the enjoyment of discussing Master's trivia and tradition on the way up and back. 

I was amazed at the Golf shop frenzy.  Luckily I purchased my hat, ball cap, and Master's flag at one of the kiosks on the course (great suggestion by the veteran B.M.), because when I entered the crowded golf shop it was the "Paradox of Choice" and I finally left the shop purchasing nothing more.

After all - just how much did I want to spend to buy the merchandise that would announce to anyone that "I was there".

Monday, April 8, 2013


There were nine of us talking about our experiences doing mock interviews with Miami University students.  J.M. related a story of training an international interviewee about the history of the handshake - a gesture of peace (since you can't be holding a weapon while shaking hands).  The cultural differences in handshakes (between opposite sex, who initiates, when done, etc.) are numerous.  Other touch points are meaningful also - grasping with two hands, the shoulder tap with the other hand etc.  Variations in firmness, grasp points and number of shakes can define personality and/or custom. It can be a introductory process, a congratulatory process, or even a close - as in a business deal.

In technology the term handshake denotes a connection between devices - a virtual way to say they are connected.  In the case of the old modem - after the connection is established a squealing noise is emitted by both modems. 

Next time you shake someone's hand - be a geek and squeal.  :)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Profit Envy

In my experience in contract negotiations, price and cost drive the foreground discussion while the background hidden issues (of value and quality) become the detective work of the team.  Both sides are attempting to optimize their economics - create the greatest profit for their side.  Consequently any change in  agreed price will either increase my profits or decrease your profits.  This is why negotiators attempt to find other issues that will add value to your profits.  This means finding attributes that don't "cost me anything (relatively)" that you need  (will add value)  and "will lower your cost or risk". 

What I have found is there are some people in business that have "profit envy".  Regardless of the value they are receiving (and the profits they are accruing), they become more concerned about the profit you are making (and are obsessed with knowing your cost).  This attitude is either driven by their greed to increase their profits, or an obsession with controlling your business (all in the disguise of "let's be fair and share in the benefits").

Yet this same person will not reveal his costs (and therefore his profits).  Consequently his "profit envy" becomes "profit greed" and reverses into your "profit envy" about him.   This vicious circle of wasted discussion extends negotiations endlessly. 

When negotiations focus on "profit envy" they are doomed to failure.  A refocus to value delivered will always save the day.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Story Reruns

I'm sensitive to story reruns even though I enjoy watching good movies (and TV series like Seinfeld) several times.  A sign of aging is forgetting who you have told what story to - which is why I normally watch the person's face carefully and ask "Have I told you this story before".   More times than not, people shake their head and listen intently to a re-run hoping not to offend the story teller.After all, - a person tells the story mainly for themselves - to relish in the memory and share it with a friend.

I like re-listening to stories of others to absorb the details.  If you have already heard the "punch line", you can now spend time understanding the fringes of the theme - the inflections, the emotions of the author, the supporting actors, etc.  Unlike a re-run of a movie, the  re-run story can even change based on the context, the accuracy of the author's memory, and variations in themes. 

This is blog number 781 (and almost the 5th anniversary) and it won't be long before the stories enter re-runs. :)

Human Race

I listened to NPR this morning highlighting Michele Norris's "The Race Card Project".  Using six words distill your thoughts, experiences and observations about race.  The audio program  "When you are mixed race, Just one Box is not enough" was very moving - especially at the end when Dave Kung related his feeling about checking a race box.  "If you were told to chose just one - do you love your mother or your father what would you say? .......  Every time they said check one that's what they were asking me. 

I couldn't resist and submitted my (or should I say Susan's) six words on the web site:

"Check box "other" -  write in "Human Race".

PS.   I can tell my blogs are becoming redundant. See April  9, 2010  "Codes"