It now lives at The Sunday Blog Page at JOESTILL.NET.
The Sunday Blog has moved.
It now lives at The Sunday Blog Page at JOESTILL.NET.
The internet is pretty swell, don’t you think? It’s pretty amazing too. I mean just this week 2 friends showed me an app that allows multiple people to share a grocery list - no more doubling up on the mustard, peanuts and paper towels. So cool. You can stream, chat, learn, lurk, and hell, you can even use it to open your front door with your phone while vacationing in Venice. These days we’re not just used to the internet, it’s woven into the very fabric of everyday life - from entertainment, to communication, to commerce to love. Yup, the internet is pretty swell indeed.
So I’m wondering…what would happen if they turned it off?
My dad was an insurance guy. My dad was gone by the time the internet showed up (rest his soul). That guy had backup systems for his backup systems. And if my Dad were here today this would be his message about the internet: how we would carry on if someone threw the switch? He’d ask us to think about our business, our habits, and day to day life. Because that’s the kind of guy he was.
But I’m not my dad. I’m not going to tell you to press stop on the internet in your life (because you wouldn’t). I’m not even going to suggest you cut it to a slow drip (because you won’t). And I’m not going to try to create some insightful correlation between the internet the amazing point I’m about to make either (because that would be weird). But I would like to talk about your “digital insurance policy” for a minute.
Because you never know when they’re going to turn off the internet.
Let’s begin with a small self-assessment (oh come on, just do it).
1. When’s the last time you spent a whole day without looking at your phone? How about your email? What was the last day of your life when you didn’t touch the internet – at all? Maybe you’ve thought about these questions, but have you ever answered them? I did. It’s been about 5 years for me (now that’s being vulnerable).
2. We humans are communicators. How much of yours depends on the internet? Email, web pages, video transmissions, or all of the above? On a scale of 1 – 5, (1 is low, 5 is high), how dependent are you on the internet for communication?
3. Do you use online banking? What would you do if suddenly it was gone? What would you do if you opened up your digital bank statement and suddenly you had a balance of zero?
And on it goes…
Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “Who gives a shite about all of this?” If so, I get it.
So let me ask you this: do you have car insurance? Is that because you’re planning for your next wreck or do you just have it? And how about your health insurance (we talked about that one last week). Do you have it because you see a heart attack in your future, or do you just have it? You probably insure your home and your teeth too. And I bet you do that with no fire or a root canal on the horizon.
You insure everything else, so how about your digital life? Seriously, how much of your life is internet based? Your communications, your commerce and your connections? If it’s more than 50% (and I bet it is), what kind of insurance do you have for a catastrophe in those departments?
Or do you have any at all?
Three for Free
Maybe you’re starting to think to yourself, “oh shite”. Worry not my friend. There are some simple and cheap things you can do to help protect yourself from waking up one day in a world without a net or having your hard drive held for ransom:
1. Consider your Systems
Life is systems. Your body, your family, your work, the universe. Think about the systems in your life. If someone threw the internet switch would you be screwed? Would your systems as you know them stop and cease to exist? Would you stop and cease to exist? What’s your “Plan B?” (By the way, it’s usually good to have one of those before the shite hits the fan, know what I mean?).
2. Get the Updates
Whether you are a Windows or an IOS person, get the updates and get them regularly. Set your machines to get them automatically or just get them manually. Whatever you do – just get them.
Are you backing up? Seriously, are you backing up? I’m always kind of amazed at how many people I talk to who don’t. Think the “cloud” is going to save you? That’s where a lot of the hacking actually lives. How many times has Yahoo been hacked in the past year? Like 20 or something? And then there was Target. And of course the DNC. This whole Russia hacking the election thing has become like a free version of season 1 of Game of Thrones.
Repeat after me: brush, floss and backup.
Last week we were introduced to WannaCry. If you didn’t get a ransom note you probably didn’t care. If you were in the UK on the way to surgery you did. Some consider WannaCry as a shot across the bow - a warning and a reminder that some high school kid living in his mom’s basement can plug in, travel to the dark internet or even the silk road, and erase your life as you know it. Or just hold it for ransom. And we would never know if they were from Revda Russia or Rabbit Hash Kentucky.
As the saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. My dad sold insurance. I’m sure one of our relatives had a Plan B for evading Mastodons too. It’s really no different today, just another form or self-preservation whether your world is filled with Gigantosaurus’s or geeks. The crisis is imminent and the losses will be large. Small things you can do now will make the big difference later. You have been warned.
Good luck and have a good week.
“If Al Gore invented the internet, I invented spell check.”
- Dan Quayle
The Greeks went to a place called “The Oracle” to get their information. In the middle ages priests controlled the knowledge. Then came the reference librarians. Now you just ask your phone a question and poof- you’ve got the answer.
And yet in this age of instant knowing, many of us don’t really know much about our own health insurance. Sure, we hear about it on the news. And some of us pay a lot for it too. And the media makes sure we all get a front row seat to the red and blue teams giving each other the finger. We get all that. But what’s really going on here?
I mean really going on when it comes to the cost of healthcare in America?
If you care about your health insurance at all, let me invite you to visit the website http://truecostofhealthcare.net. Its run by a guy names David Belk (MD). If you spend just 15 minutes there poking around, you will probably learn more about health insurance and the state of the healthcare system than you will ever learn from your insurance agent, your doctor, or your professor.
At least I did.
Red, Blue, Free
While the Red Team is rooting for the free market and the Blue Team is crying about rich people getting another tax break (don’t they always?), Dr. Belk is teaching us that the term “free market” is really just a bunch of political phooey. Says Belk there is no market and it’s certainly not free. How come? Because we don’t really “choose” our health care at all. And because there is no choice, there is no “free market”; nor can there be. At least for the most part.
Think about it: when you visit the doc, he or she is 100% in charge of the 15 minute hour. That includes the testing, methods, diagnostics, procedures and prescriptions. It’s not like eBay – there is no “Buy it Now” button. And it’s not like buying a car either - we don’t haggle price with our physicians in search of “the best deal”. And how about this: if you are super sick are you going to shop around for the best price before self-admission? If you have a heart attack are you going to negotiate for a better deal? And if you find yourself in the ICU, will you be picking which antibiotics to use? Nope, nope and nope.
So while the use of the term “free market” in the healthcare discussion sounds nice, it’s really just a bunch of hullabaloo (and that’s not a political comment at all). At least Dr. Belk thinks so.
Is health insurance really “insurance”?
Belk coins the phrase “protection rackets” when he speaks of the true role of health insurance companies in our lives. At first glance this might seem a harsh moniker, but here’s what he means: functionally, health insurance isn’t like other kinds of insurance at all. Health insurance doesn’t pay the gap between a fair market price and what you pay out of pocket. Health insurance is merely protection is against overcharging.
Let me explain…
In a recent radio interview, Dr. Belk cited a bill for an outpatient surgery. The billable cost was $95,000. The final cost to the patient about $5,000. On other words, that procedure had a 95% markup on the “price tag” of the service versus the “actual cost” of providing it. In fact, according to Dr. Belk, the average markup, across the board, for all medical goods and services in America, is about 85%.
Again, think: what he’s saying here is that when we are presented a bill for medical goods and services, the “upcharge”, meaning the amount we see on the bill vs. the true cost of that unit of service or product, is on average about 85%. Pelosi, Ryan, Schumer and the rest of the so-called representatives can editorialize about “controlling costs” all day long. But I wonder if they know any of this. And then Belk whispers the soft reminder of an inconvenient truth in our ear: there are a lot of stakeholders in the system who really don’t want it to change at all.
Makes sense to me.
So what does insurance really do anyway?
There are really only 2 options with health insurance: you either have it or you don’t. Let’s say you do. And let’s say you have a couple of day visit to the hospital with a price tag of $10,000+ a day. That’s $21,000 for your weekend getaway. At least that’s what the bill says. On Belk’s website, you can see a bill for this very kind of thing. The final cost to the patient? About 50 bucks.
“Hooray” you say.
Of course you do. But as we examine the bill, we see the clues to this strange riddle are found in the fine print (as is typically the case). Insurance picked up about $2,000 of the cost while the hospital “wrote down” the other $19,000 on the bill. And that write down came because there was what? Yup – health insurance. No health insurance, no write down.
Now, let’s say you found yourself in that same hospital bed on that same weekend get away with no insurance. Result? You’re on the hook for the whole $21,000. Yes, hospitals do negotiate their prices (I’ve done it) and so do service providers (I’ve done that too), but this is your healthcare we’re talking about and this is America dammit. Are we supposed to treat this thing like an audition for The Apprentice or should we just be able to trust that our physicians, hospitals, and their billing companies will do the right thing for us? After all, we’re paying beaucoup for this whole thing.
At least I am.
I’ve got ‘em. Maybe you do too. They’re the all the fodder of a free press and the folly of both the red and blue teams in this round of the representative ruckus. But did you know…
Belk addresses the notion of preexisting with three examples: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. As a physician he says these area common preexisting conditions that doctors deal with all the time.
The good news? They can all be treated with medicines that cost pennies a day – that’s right, pennies. And that’s a big deal financially because if you don’t deal with these things early, you’re likely looking down the road at things like stroke, blindness and heart problems. Each of those conditions costs tens of thousands each.
Pennies a day you say.
Well sort of. That’s what they really cost of you go to some place like Costco and pay cash. But here’s the rub: you can’t just walk down the aisle, grab a growler of your fave blood pressure meds, plunk it on the counter with your 30 bucks, and go merrily on your way. The system won’t let you. You must start the process by going to your doctor. I’m 55 and my insurance premium is now $790 a month. Even with that it costs me about $100 to see a doc. So if this was my story, and if I needed those meds, and if I paid with my insurance, and if I picked them up at my local big box pharmacy, they would cost me about $200 with a $30 co-pay. The math? I’ve just paid just about $1,000 to get access to something that costs about 30 bucks.
Welcome to the true cost of healthcare in America.
No pokes. No jokes. Just a prayer.
If you’ve gotten his far you might think I’m poking at docs or just picking on hospitals. I’m really not. Let me tell you why: I’ve been dead. Maybe you haven’t but I have. No joke. It was February of 1988. I was 26 and bullet proof. I got a throat infection, suffocated, and went into cardiac arrest. My heart stopped. They escorted my mother out of the room and a priest read me whatever priests read freshly dead people (FYI - there is a light). That was a really long 8 minute trip, but it was a round trip. Somehow I made it back thanks to the quick thinking of some good people in white coats and being in the right hospital at the right time. How much is that worth? I think you get it. I have no beef with docs, nurses or hospitals. Only the highest of reverence and respect (especially for that one ICU nurse. I wonder what ever happened to her…sigh).
But I do have two beefs. The first is with the pundits on both sides of the aisle who we’ve hired to “fix” a system that controls our health, our money, and 1/6 of the economy. All they seem to be able to do is tell us how their idea is better and that the other side is going to either kill us or make us broke (or both). My other beef is with the lens of a media that creates our point of view with an edited version of reality that often isn’t very real (that’s not a political comment either). I could go on, but now my 5 minutes is up. So I will close this week’s sermon by asking you to bow your head and join me in prayer:
“Lord, we ask that you guide our elected officials to use the power we have given them to do something other than just tell us how awesome they are and how the other side sucks. We pray you will show them the path to pull their heads out of their asses and spend just 15 minutes on Dr. Belk’s website before their next vote. And finally Lord, we ask for your mercy this week that the media will fill our attention, our minds, and our hearts with something (anything) other than a play by play of the latest dumb thing our President has said and done. Amen.”
Good luck and have a good week.
“Magic is an art form where you lie and tell people you are lying.”
- Raymond Teller (of Penn & Teller)
Let’s start with the facts:
I’m pretty sure it’s been about 30 years since I’ve smoked pot (pretty sure). I’m a native of the great State of Washington (for you international readers, that’s the one in the very upper left hand corner – just below Alaska). And we all know who’s the President is (like him or not, at least for now).
What we Washingtonian’s don’t know is the future of pot in our state.
The New Old
Smoking dope isn’t anything new. Humans started toking about 7,000 years ago. Depending on which side of the belief line you’re on, you might say it’s addictive and you might say it’s not. You might say it’s the gateway to other drugs or you might not. And you might cite its many, many medicinal attributes or you may not. But whatever side of the aisle you are on, the point remains the point: from Vancouver to Anacortes and from Spokane to Pullman, Washingtonians want to get high.
The centerpiece of the story of dope in Washington is “We the People”. After following the administrative rules and political protocols, it got on a ballot and went to a vote (interestingly, a state income tax has never met that hurdle, but getting stoned did). In the end, the people of Washington spoke. So if “the will of the people” really matters, then it should be no problem right?
Enter the Feds
I’m not going to editorialize the President. The way I see it, there are plenty of rooms available for you to praise his politics or prosecution his positions. In the last 100 days we’ve been treated to tweets, a chance to entirely re-make the health care system, and coming soon to a 1040 near you- a new whole tax system. But quietly, weed in Washington state is coming into the conversation as well. Specifically, the AG (that’s the “Attorney General” for you international readers) says that Washingtonians can’t get high no mo. If you carry a pipe and a bag and if you had a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag in your bedroom in your parent’s basement, you might be saying “Wassup?”
I went through puberty in the ‘70’s (weird clothes, great music) and one of my first memories in junior high school was when the counselor came to get our class and escort us to the gym. There we sat in front of a 16mm projector (remember those?) and faced a large screen. Next to the projector stood a pimple faced, horn rimmed glasses, kid with a mouth full of metal who was unknowingly doing his internship as a roady for an 80’s big hair band. For the next 15 minutes or so minutes we were treated to our first exposure to, “Reefer Madness”. It didn’t really phase me all that much. Actually I found it kind of funny- sort of an American version of a bad Japanese karate flick. But I remember it. And as I sit here this morning writing this post, I’m thinking that maybe the United States AG (who hails from the great state of Alabama), is probably watching reruns of Reefer as his sips his spiked sarsaparilla in seclusion.
Oh those gateway drugs…
Enter the State
When we Washingtonians voted for our right to get high, the State agreed as long as it got a piece of the action (surprised?). Since then dope has taken its place at the table of taxable sins just like booze and smokes. It now brings in about $700M per year in tax revenue (and growing) thanks to a whopping 37% sales tax. Apparently all of that money goes to schools which is actually kind of a big deal because the legislature in Washington has been under funding schools for the past decade and is now being held in contempt of the Supreme Court and fined $100,000 a day (I know, I know…).
Summing up, the topic has evolved into new reality that seems to satisfy two needs: the people’s for a buzz and the state’s for a profit. Fortunately it’s received less scrutiny as a public policy matter than banning all of those certain you-know-who’s from entering the country.
Washingtonians seem to have worked out all on their own. But apparently the idea of states being the incubators of democracy only works for health insurance. Some in the “other” Washington (D.C. for you international readers) are apparently watching reruns of Reefer too. Once again we have come to political crossroads in American democracy with two choices: you either go with and Alabamian who thinks he knows what’s best for us, or you go with the self-medicating, school-funding, freak flag flying dregs of society who believe they have a constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of a good buzz while watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island in the privacy of their own homes.
Who would you vote for?
If you live long enough, you learn at least two things. The first is that you really can’t save anyone from themselves. I’m pretty sure I haven’t smoked dope in about 30 years, but when I did I know I inhaled. And I can tell you from that first-hand experience that it makes you kind of stupid (note to Mr. Clinton: that’s why you do it). So maybe the first rule should be a simple IQ test: if you start the day with less than 130, no weed.
The other thing you learn if you live long enough is that if people really want to do something they probably will and usually do. This theory holds true for both getting high and suicide. Humans have been self-medicating in one form or another for centuries and in the end, no sarsaparilla swilling AG from the Roll Tide state and not even a Mop Top from Manhattan are going to stop Washingtonians from enjoying the occasional tasty buzz. The lesson here is simple: once you give a child a toy or a legislator the money, neither wants it taken away.
I can’t even remember the last time I got high, but I say if you want to catch a buzz, catch a buzz. Just don’t run into me on the freeway, feed it to the kids, or make me go to your parade where you celebrate your right to light. If the State can suck a little off the top to keep itself out of jail, I’m good with that too. But if you’re going to inhale, avoid the perils of Reefer Madness like jumping out of a 3rd story window, raping your goldfish, and stealing big screen televisions from Wal Mart to fund your habit. If you can follow these simple acts of etiquette and self-preservation, then I say break out your bong, turn up the Peter, Paul and Mary, and make like a magic dragon.
Good luck and have a good week.
I went to college. Maybe you did too. It’s an aspiration for parents and a safe place for hormonal 20 somethings to nourish brain cells by day and murder them by night. I’m sure college is just as great today as it was when I was wandering the hallowed halls. I got an education college, but I didn’t really learn all that much. For me learning came later – long after I worked three jobs and stayed up all night eating coffee sandwiches to get the grade.
Here are a few lessons tuition can’t buy (but should).
The Power of “No”
One of the most powerful words in business “no”. In the system of getting what you want, the offense and defense play very different roles. Lines are drawn on either side of the word “no”. So are eventual outcomes.
I’ll never forget my first real estate development project. We did everything we were supposed to do: the public meetings, the applications, the plans, the hearings, all of it. We poured tens of thousands into soft costs and a ton of time all in pursuit of the permit. It was supposed to be ready on a Friday afternoon after the public hearing window closed. There was no opposition so I thought for sure we were in. Then at 3:50 pm (10 minutes before 4:00 pm) someone’s attorney filed a letter in opposition. It was about a paragraph and probably cost a hundred bucks. That statement of “no” stopped the whole process. We eventually got our permit, but it took almost another year and doubled our costs.
Lots of people were (are) really pissed about Trump and his tax returns. We all know that he makes waayyyy more than most of us and we’ve also heard that he pays no taxes. But that’s not really the point. The point is that by him simply saying “no” he imposes one of the greatest obstacles to anyone seeking justice in the system: delay. Sure, one day he may be required to disclose, but either way that day will be a long time coming. And the offense will spend far more time, energy and money in the pursuit than he will the avoidance.
No. It’s a powerful word. Remember that.
Time in a Negotiation
When I was getting a business degree they didn’t teach negotiation. Maybe now, but not then. One of the most important things I’ve learned about negotiation is the role of time. You can have all of the information, the best position, and even the most money, but if you don’t understand how time works in a negotiation, you’ll probably get smoked.
Dumb negotiators walk into a situation with t’s crossed and i’s dotted. They are prepared to prevail – to get it done. Is this a bad thing? Not really, it just depends on when. If you expect to prove your point, make your case, and win the day in the beginning of a negotiation you are a fool. Smart negotiators posture and strategize to draw their opponents in. They strategically get them to make more investments of time, money and emotion. Smart negotiators work to drag it out. It’s not an accident, it’s intentional. Opponents only make concessions and clients only really do the work to get to “yes” at the end.
Negotiation isn’t a sprint, but it’s not a marathon either. It’s more of a 3 legged race. In any negotiation you can only go as fast as the slowest person.
The Opportunity Cost of Attorney’s Fees
If you’ve never been in a conflict where lawyers are involved, you should both be happy but also listen to what I’m going to tell you next: much of the time your settlement choices will be based on the opportunity cost of attorney’s fees.
We’ve all heard the phrase “it was settled on the courthouse steps”. Why is that? One reason is because if attorneys wait until the end to do what they can sometimes do at the beginning so they accrue more billable hours, hence fees (sorry, it’s true, and they know it too). That said, few of us have ever heard the phrase “any contract is only as valid as the cost of enforcing it.” I was struck the first time I ever heard this. You can have the most iron-clad bullet-proof agreements but if someone feels wronged, the games begin.
Let’s stop here. This isn’t rally about the attorneys. It’s rarely attorneys who start problems between clients; they’re just brought in to clean up the damage. Moreover, sometimes one or even both attorneys really are trying to get to agreement, but can’t because of a client taking a hard position and unreasoned position.
So what I’m saying is this: when you are the client on either side of a dispute, how you negotiate, how you settle, and what you will live with in the end is often a function of what it will cost you (in real money) to go deeper into the process of conflict resolution.
Attorney’s fees are often the pendulum on which client decisions swing.
Nincompoops are those who possess the power to both reward and punish but have no skin in the game. They often hide behind something called “policy” to make a decision that won’t put them at risk personally.
I watched a nincompoop last week. I was at a pet store last week picking up some dog food. The woman in front of me had a bag full of dog toys she wanted to return. They were obviously new and still had the tags. It took about 10 minutes and as she was unloading her bag and as the checker was scanning I heard her tell the story of about how her dog had been killed in a dog fight a few days ago. It was pretty tragic and the lady was sobbing as she told the story. After that experience, she was done with dogs.
The checker needed an override so she called the manager. Both the customer and the cashier explained the story. But the customer had lost her receipt. The manager would not allow the refund. “Company policy” the manager said. The customer pleaded, even the cashier looked a little pissed. But the manager held firm: “nope”.
Full, full nincompoop.
That company just lost 2 customers.
College is great. If you went, I hope you learned a few things. Hopefully what I’ve shared today will help you in your post college life whether you find yourself in a disagreement, paying your attorney, or just dealing with a nincompoop.
Good luck and have a good week.
“Chemistry is a class you take in college where you figure out two plus two is 10, or something.”
- Dennis Rodman
A week ago today I was a guest speaker at a program in California. I didn’t tell the lead speaker (HP - who is a friend of mine) that being a speaker I obviously have something to say but you might not want me in your class because I never seem to shut up (er, um “contribute”). But it was a great event and I think everyone got a lot out of it.
This wasn’t a continuing ed course, this was a course about growing your wealth. Not surprisingly, the people were there because they want to learn how to – that’s right - have more money than they do now (sound familiar?). HP is an icon of the self-made American wealth story – t e perfect spokesman for the cause. The first two days he talked about life strategy, how we think about and see ourselves, and creating wealth through real estate investment. My part was about strategy – how to analyze real estate investments so you know the difference between a deal, a dog, and a dog with different fleas.
On the plane ride back I was thinking about how the course went, how it was designed, and what the student’s take away would be. As I was reading the evaluations I had a moment of epiphany that went like this: if you really, really, really want to create something new in your life – whether it’s making money, losing weight, having a better relationship or any of the other human seductions you can buy on an infomercial, it all comes down to comes down to two simple words: desire & skills.
It’s simple really. It’s just not always easy.
I think desire is the more difficult of these two bedfellows. And yet it’s vital. Because without desire, you can learn everything there is to know in the world and even be the sharpest tool in the shed, but it won’t make a damn bit of difference because if you have no fire in your belly, no yearning in your heart and no passion in your soul, you won’t do anything with your smarts.
I’m not the oracle of anything, I just pay attention. And when I look at desire, those who have it and those that don’t, I see some simple things. First, if you have no desire, it’s not the end of the world as you know it. You can trick yourself into getting some. This trick is called being “in state”. The mind often follows the body (one of the things HP talked about), so if you want more desire, start with your body movement. Sit up straight, walk tall, have a “command presence”. This is a simple little trick that will jumpstart your desire. It will probably give you more self-confidence too.
And who couldn’t use a little more of that?
Second, maybe it’s been a while since you’ve felt passion and desire about something (or someone). But you still know what it is. We’ve all had desire at one time or another. Don’t agree? Reflect back to your hormones when you were 17. Or think about something you were really excited about in your life. Spend some time meditating on it and visualize it having again.
Third (and I borrow this from Tony Robbins), research has shown that people do more to avoid pain than seek pleasure. So in a way desire is a kind of trick we play on ourselves. If there is one thing you should fear in this life above all else, it’s regret. Regret is the ultimate pain. And the truth about regret is that most of us regret not doing the things we never did far more than the things we screwed up. As HP reminded us a week ago, “If you’re not going to die, why not go for it?”
When people find out I’m a course developer and instructor, they often say, “Oh, are you a motivational speaker?” And of course I just start cracking up (as I’m sure those of you who know me are doing right now). I’m not a motivator, I’m a skill guy. I teach what to do, why to do it, and most importantly how to do it.
Skills aren’t separate from desires; in fact they just complete each other. Like salt and sugar they do what they do, but mix them together and you’ll have the secret to a great cookie. Sure, you can have all the desire in the world, but if you don’t know how to focus and do something with it, eventually you become more of a maniac than anything else. Worse, you might end up spending your golden years sleeping in your car like my neighbor. I just don’t want that on my conscious. Therefore, I teach skills.
Notice I don’t say “a skill”, I say “skills”. The days of learning how to do one thing and doing it the rest of your life are pretty much done. Not entirely, but pretty much. Even in a specific field of endeavor, rapid change is only a moment away. So if you don’t want to become obsolete in your life, you MUST continue to sharpen your skills. It’s one of the most important things you should believe about your time here.
But you know what else? You still need to get really good at something. You need to pick your one thing and run with it. Learn about it. Become obsessed with it. Be the best at it if you can. And if your one thing is something that others need and can’t do on their own, then you’re valuable.
Finally, you must learn to course correct. This too is a skill, and it applies most if you are doing something you’ve never done before. Course correction is having the wisdom to know when to stick and when to quit. It’s also having the humility to accept that what you did didn’t work, no matter how hard you tried. There is no right or wrong, only balance, and the mysteries that unfold as the dots of your life continue to connect.
Let me give you a short example.
About 4 years ago (when I was 50) I got into this video thing. I had no clue at all about it and I don’t come from a photography background. I just knew that video was the way forward (and it still is). So being a trainer I read all of the books, watched YouTube, and asked a ton of questions. I also went to a couple of seminars (where I proved to the speakers yet again what a pain in the ass I can be as a student). And then I went about creating my own course. I worked on it for 3 months, and I went through 5 re-writes as I taught it and learned more. It took about 14 month’s total. It was hard. Much harder than I thought it would be. I ate a lot of crow pie. I thought about giving up more than once. But what I have now is amazing. It’s called Phoneography and there’s nothing else like it. And now I’m being hired to create videos for new clients and to consult with pro photographers on their videos. Sweet.
Shameless plug: from paying attention and correcting as needed, I learned that the market wanted new shorter version of Phoneography. So we are developing this thing called “The VLOG Project”. It’s a new course designed to teach people how to create short, powerful messages with video. The focus is for business people, but anyone can do it. It’s not quite done, but you can check out what we have so far at thevlogproject.com.
End of shameless plug.
So here we are on Sunday. Spring is here (sort of), there are colored eggs hidden all around you, and if you are a believer, it’s the day of the return. Whether today finds you spending time sitting in a pew or enjoying a delish slab of ham with you fam, here’s a suggestion: find 10 minutes today to be alone. Quiet your mind, close your eyes, take 3 deep breaths in through the nose and out the mouth (it works). Then just think. Think about desire and strategy. Think about how they play in your life.
How much desire do you have? About your life, your job, and even your lover? And what is it you are really trying to do anyway? Are you trying to make more money and grow your wealth? If so, how’s it going for you? HP’s first message is to have a “crystal clear vision of what you want your life to become”. How’s your clear or foggy is your vision? What are you doing, and more importantly what aren’t you doing? If you’re not there yet, how will you correct your course? Or not?
Good luck and have a good week.
“Lord, grant that I may always desire to do more than I can accomplish.”
It was a warm spring day at the college. The birds were singing, the grass on campus had turned green and the air was filled with the sweet scent of apple blossom.
That day the lecture hall was full and the dull roar of about 100 students talking and bantering filled the room before the bell rang and the professor walked in. The professor was a tall, slender man with soft white hair and a beard like Santa Claus. He wore khaki shorts, flip flops and a flaming red button down Hawaiian shirt.
When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students, “Is the jar full?” They agreed that it was.
The professor said, “No it’s not”.
The class sat in silence.
He then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. Again, they said it was.
“No it’s not”.
Again, silence from the audience.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’
“No it’s not”.
The professor then produced two beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - your family, your friends, your health, your favorite endeavors - and if everything else was lost and only the golf balls remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else—the small stuff.”
“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.”
One of the students raised her hand and asked what the beer represented. The professor smiled warmly and said, “I’m glad you asked.” “The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend.”
Good luck and have a good week.
“I didn't know much about golf growing up.”
I have a pocket full of sayings. One of them is, “humans spend more time screwing up the simple stuff than failing and the complex.”
I that dickish of me? Maybe. But I think it’s also true. And one of the basic things we humans screw up is “framing”.
Framing is simply how we see things and our relationship to them. It’s our point of view. Our context. Most of us spend most of our day going about “getting”. Trying to get things, to get people to do things, or to get agreements with others. Getting is one thing we all want to do better. So if you want to sell more, get hired, or get the girl (or the guy), the first thing you must do is to learn how to frame.
Your Inner Salesman (woman, person, and so on)
I work with a lot of salespeople. I too am a salesman. We all are really. We just don’t like the sound of it. “Selling” someone something feels kind of slimy…a car, a house, even ourselves. And yet that’s exactly what we do. When we sell (meaning also to persuade more, to get agreement with other and to be more persuasive), we frame. We frame the situations, opportunities and people we face.
One of the most effective frames in selling is the “problem-solution”. The problem-solution starts with a kind of irony because it tells us to approach the person, the situation and the sale without a selling agenda. Instead, we are simply there to diagnose. To learn. To understand. To get it. This point of view isn’t easy because it requires us to set aside our quota, goal, and objective aspirations. And if we are really honest about this whole thing, it also asks us to question whether what we are selling is really in the best interests of the prospect, client, or date.
Let’s press pause. I’ve been to the sales trainer sermon - many times. I’ve listened to it all being bellowed from the high alter. I bought the book, I got the tape, I wore the t-shirt. Maybe you did too. “Be in your integrity”, learn to handle the objections, “It takes 5 no’s before you can get to yes”…all of the usual bs we have heard a bazillion times.
But that’s not what this is. This is about empathy and tactics which are far more effective than the old school one-liners. Empathy so you really “get” how it is for the other person and tactics so you know how to deliver. And at the core of all of this is the simple frame of “problem-solution”.
Once we pay attention to the world around us we see the problem-solution model working everywhere. A while ago I wrote a piece about my dentist Dr. Rae. She’s awesome, but I don’t go there to just hang out. I went because of the pain. She solved that problem. A month ago I got new tires for my truck. Same deal. And the salesman with the best solution to my problem won my business. A friend of mine hires me to teach her staff how to make videos so she can do them in-house. A real estate agent gets a listing because the seller wants to sell and has no time to do it herself. I could go on and on and on about this, but I won’t because the point is really the same no matter what: if you want to sell more, negotiate better, and get people to give you what you want, it all begins with the frame of problem-solution.
So here’s the condensed milk version: if you can understand someone’s problem and then figure out how to solve it, you can have anything you will ever want in this life.
This isn’t difficult. It’s actually pretty simple. But as I said at the beginning, it’s usually the simple stuff that we humans screw up more than the complex. Hopefully this idea of problem-solution framing will help you do better in your own world this week.
Good luck and have a good week.
“I've never had a problem with drugs. I've had problems with the police.”
- Keith Richards
Did you know that if you go to a class and don’t spend at least 10 minutes reviewing what you learned the next day that you will lose like 80% of it? That kind of sucks. But in a way it also makes sense. Your brain is being bombarded every day with tons and tons of stimuli. It’s gotta set some priorities.
Suggestion: read this and take 10 minutes tomorrow to review it. Why? Because what I’m going to share is something you can use for the rest of your life. It’s called ‘The Rule of 72”. If you’ve heard of it already, this will be your 10 minutes. If you haven’t, you’re going to want to get in on this one.
Double Your Money
Think about investing for a minute. What is it really? No matter what the investment, investing is about 2 things: hoping you’ll have more in the future and making a decision whether what’s sitting in front of you will get you where you want to go or not.
Now let’s play “what if?” What if I could show you how to double your money? Interested? That’s what the Rule of 72 will tell you: how much and how fast something will double (or halve).
Back in the Day
Back in the day (as in the 1400’s), the Italians we really kicking butt when it came to math and science (by the way, what ever happened to them?). Anyway, in 1494 there was a friar named Luca Pacioli who partied with Leonardo DiVinci (really, he did) and he figured out this whole Rule of 72 thing out. He put it this way:
“In wanting to know of any capital, at a given yearly percentage, in how many years it will double adding the interest to the capital, keep as a rule [the number] 72 in mind, which you will always divide by the interest, and what results, in that many years it will be doubled. Example: When the interest is 6 percent per year, I say that one divides 72 by 6; 12 results, and in 12 years the capital will be doubled.”
Translation: The Rule of 72 tells you how long it takes for something to double (or halve).
For instance, if you were to invest $100 with compound interest at a rate of 9% per annum, the rule of 72 gives 72/9 = 8 years required for the investment to be worth $200 (about).
To determine how long it takes your “buying power” to be cut in half, divide the rule-quantity by the inflation rate. At 3.5% inflation using the rule of 72, it should take approximately 72/3.5 = 20 years for the value of a unit of currency to halve.
What about those pesky mutual fund fees and expenses? Same dealyo. Divide 72 by the fee. For example, if your fund charges a 3% fee, the total account value will be cut to 1/2 in in 24 years (72/3 = 24), compared to holding the same investment with no fees. Damn you fees. Damn you.
So there ya go - something simple, easy, helpful.
Oh if everything could just be so.
Remember to review this tomorrow for 10 minutes.
Else lose 80%.
And that would kind of suck.
Good luck and have a good week.
“You must trust yourself more than you trust others. Pay attention to your inner voice - it will tell you if how and in what you are investing is right for you.”
- Suze Orman
Therapy is an interesting thing. Some people love it, some never touch the stuff. Some really need it (a lot), and others end up setting up camp there permanently. I can only speak for myself. And the first thing I’ve learned about therapy is how to define it: therapy is an intimate relationship with a stranger.
Without getting too zen-groovy on you, suffice it to say that we in the west are cultured to chase the “stuff”. The money, the house, the car, the things. This isn’t bad; some even argue it is a sign of the progress in human civilization. But when we are stripped of all of our accoutrements and the places they put us in human society, were are left with the first simple truth: there is only one true prize in this life: our relationships.
A key feature of therapy is the client-therapist relationship. At its core, this relationship should be grounded in two simple ideals: intimacy and trust. Intimacy so you can discover more about who you really are, and trust so that you can say the things you might never say to anyone else. When you find this person it’s pretty amazing. You just sort of “know” when it’s right.
Most of us never think about seeing a therapist until we come to crisis. Often it’s the metrics of money and pain. As one told me, “Clients come to me when the pain is greater than the cost. And when the cost becomes greater than the pain, I never see them again.” While crisis is an obvious reason to enter therapy, there are other reasons too. One is stuckness. Stuckness is what I call, “the Land of I Don’t Know”. This land is a safe place to hang out because it allows us to exist without making decision, without taking positions, and without jumping into the fear of the unknown. But remember: this land is built of quicksand, not bedrock. Unless we eventually move, we will be swallowed by it. And if we are reactive instead of proactive, eventually we will be forced to deal with the decisions others make for us. Ironically therapy often doesn’t teach us new things as much as it reminds of what we already know. And sometimes a little push off the cliff doesn’t hurt either. A good therapist can do that.
Emotion & Conflict
These two roommates often set up camp in our most important relationships, yet few of us understand how they really play together. Conflict isn’t a cognitive thing - it’s emotional. Sure, you can make a list of all of the things you don’t like about your spouse (partner, lover, sig other, whatever), and like the perfect prosecuting attorney, you might be able to read the charges off one by one, and describe date, time, and place of each of the offenses. But all of this is really just data to support for what lies beneath: emotion. People don’t get pissed off because of what you do, people get pissed off because of how they feel about what you did.
So how do we resolve this? How do we melt the tension and bad feelings that kills our better selves? Or can we? If we are going to try, the first step is to understand conflict dynamics. I used to build bicycle wheels. To me conflict is a kind of bicycle wheel analogy. At the center is the hub, then the spokes, finally the rim. The hub of conflict is emotion, the spokes are all of the strategies that manifest it, and the rim is the result. When you build a wheel, you’re always “trueing” the rim (the result), and you do that by adjusting the spokes (conflict strategies). But if your hub (the center) has bad bearing, nothing is really going to fix it. (By the way, that instant analogy just came to me and is probably a complete line of b.s.). But here are two things that I think really do work:
The first comes from the great Steven Covey. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This point of view embraces empathy, not sympathy, as a way of participating in conflict. It’s about understanding how it is for the other person - whether you agree not. But to see conflict and your role in it through this lens, you must travel a higher road. You must be ok with yourself and that’s not easy – especially if you are being attacked. So if you find yourself in one of these moments, try to remember this little piece of wisdom: people don’t really need to be “right” as much as they need to be understood. Each of us craves being understood at our deepest levels. It’s far more important than agreement and far more valuable than validation. The key to all of this is to convey a message of “understanding” and the simplest tool I know to send that message is called “reflective listening”. Reflective listening is a tool to confirm understanding, nothing more. Example: “Let me see if I understand this, you’re really angry because of A, B, and C. And you feel this way about D…right?”
There’s a lot of magic in this trick. It’s probably the highest ROI tool I’ve ever used to resolve conflict. I’ve used it to dissolve huge fights. I’ve used it to save deals that were on the verge of collapse. I’ve even used it with teens who are “cutters”. Remember reflective listening. Practice reflective listening. It works.
The second goes like this: feelings come and go, but words are sticky. You probably know this (or you should), but words spoken in the heat of debate have a long memory – often longer than the emotional charge of the moment of conflict has passed. The elephants among us always remember that one slight of tongue in that one certain moment. It can become our epitaph that even eventually buries all of the good we have ever done. It’s not fair and it’s not right. It’s just true.
Hurt People Hurt People
If you’ve ever been in a relationship where you were attacked by the other person, there’s a reason. It’s not because you are guilty (although you might be), it’s because of something that neither of you probably realizes: pain. When we chase the rabbit all the way down the hole, we eventually find that attacks in relationships are really pain based. The fuel of battle is often our own problems, our unhealed wounds, and sometimes our unresolved relationships with our parents too (gulp).
I’ve born witness to this. I’ve lived it too. And I’ve probably been guilty of it myself a time or two (or three or four). But understanding this about ourselves and each other gives us a vital and needed chance for the cognitive self (the one that thinks about stuff) to win over the emotional self (the lizard brain that says and does things that make no sense). And that is the real battle. To think about what you are doing in the critical moments of choice. Hurt people, hurt people my friend. Remember that the next time you are preparing for war. And keep your pause button close.
Humility lives at the intersection of our bravery and our self-honesty. It is through our humility that we eventually learn the things about ourselves that matter most. The nuggets live in what I call our, “little bag of truths”. And one of those simple truths is that we really can’t fix anyone else, only ourselves. This too is another point we all know, but often forget, and maybe never really quite understood in the first place. Done properly, “the work” of therapy is an inside job, not an outside one. And for many of us it is this very shift of focus - from the outside to the inside - that changes us forever. Suddenly the victim becomes the volunteer. Suddenly we feel a little taller and a touch more empowered. And sometimes we finally realize just how much we have been f-ing everything up for so long.
Inside work isn’t about bragging or boasting, falling in the sword, or neglecting others. It’s about focus. It’s about moving focus inward and facing what must be faced instead of outward at who can be blamed for our lot in life. Inside work focuses us on getting our own shit together first. Working on our own problems instead of everyone else’s, and seeing ourselves not just as response-“ible”, but response-“able”. After the insights come the verbs – the manifest or true work. Actually doing something about all of it instead of just paying homage to the good advice in the world.
Inside work requires us to look in the mirror instead of through the window. When we do we eventually find another prize in our little bag of truths: we can never really “control” anyone, only how we respond to them. This applies equally to customers, lovers and children. If we return to the dance of hurt people hurting people, we see that it’s really just that – it’s a kind of dance. It’s a dance of two, not of one. If someone wants to hurt you, they only can if you choose to join them on the dance floor (by the way, that’s another one of my instant b.s. analogies, but I think it worked better than the first one). So I will finish here with a quote from my own little bag of truths by one Mahatma Ghandi: “How can you take away from me that which I do not give you?” That guy was so not a dick.
And so my friend, there is your dose of deep, heavy, and real for the week. And if you’re lucky, maybe the year too.
Good luck and have a good week.
“Successful therapy is an oxymoron.”
- Harold Bloom