Tuesday, December 31, 2013

OMG - It's 2014 and I don't have any New Years Resolutions!!!

  Hi there!

  Here are a few tips on making something happen in 2014. Some folks will disagree with my suggestions, but tough tiddliwinks.

  How to set goals, the quick version:

   1. Keep it simple, measurable, and in spite of the "soar with eagles" chatter, within reasonable grasp. Complexity messes up your thinking, measurement is essential, and by finding some things you can get done with a modest effort, you can always reset your target with the confidence gained from round one.

   2. Find a way to give your goals some synergy. Losing weight? How about a 5k run as another goal? The training will help with your other goal of losing weight. Losing weight will make running easier. Or if you want to read more, then add joining a book club. You get the idea. 

   3. Write it down! Commit it to a friend! - Everyone says this. Why? Because it works. Writing it down makes you internalize it. It's harder to forget. If you put it somewhere (like your calendar) it will keep staring you in the face. Good. Tell a friend too. They can also stare you in the face! If you have someone who will give you a friendly nudge, take advantage of it. Big help.

  4.  Don't be too rigid. Things go wrong. Adjust and move on. Rigid thinking is what puts goals on the shelf for another year. Relax a bit and if something goes wrong, dust yourself off, adjust and keep plodding along. You'll make it!

   5. Whatever you do - this is critical. Have fun. The more fun your goals are to reach, and the more fun you inject into the mindset, the more likely you'll make it happen. Fun: have it!

   Get your PEN and PAPER. Make it happen. Don't clean a drawer. Don't have a bagel. Sit down and move your life in a better direction for 2014. 

   Have fun. Really. Lot's of fun.

   Happy New Year.

Friday, December 27, 2013

TY 4 RTs & SOs! #RocktheHouse

   What is up with those crazy tweets? And why so many of them? What do they mean?

   I get asked about the #gratitude tweets from time to time, and it seemed like a good idea to have a blog entry to explain the meaning, purpose, and mechanics of the hieroglyphics. 

   First, the long hand version of the tweet is "Thank you for retweets and shout outs." The hashtags are for fun and to break things up a bit. The reason to use shorthand is simple math. With only 140 characters it is important to use as few as possible. I'd rather explain and make sure I have room to mention EVERYONE.

   The quantity of the tweets is dictated by the amount of people who have either retweeted or responded to something. I thank everyone since it would be impractical to examine the nature of every exchange. Occasionally someone doesn't recall making a mention, but I take the history directly from Twitter, so it is most likely a lapse in memory. 

   The second reason there are so many is that I try not to them every day, though that is getting harder as things get busier. There are limits on the number of tweets per day etc and I have to follow the rules of Twitter. I have worked to make them appear fairly quickly, and then finish. Always tweeking the tweets. :-)

   The meaning is simple. I really appreciate people taking the time to drop by and interact with me, and my content. I'm not sure what noise a tree makes falling in an empty forest, but I think it is boring and disrespectful not to respond to the interaction. Thanks is owed, so thanks is paid. 

   Hope this helps to explain the tweets. Feel free to ask any questions you might have. 

   Thanks again! 

   All the best, Tim

Monday, December 9, 2013

An ode to Excellence, a #twog for Tom.

In the past couple days I engaged in a flurry of activity encouraging people to follow Tom Peters (@tom_peters) on Twitter to get him across the 100,000 barrier. 

Now why would I do such a thing?

There is more than one answer, so here you go:

1) If you are serious about success, Tom is an excellent resource. Funnily enough, I think the fact that such amazing content and interaction is essentially free throws people off. Don't value it by the price, value it by the utility.

2) As Cameron Morrissey (@ManagersDiary) coincidentally wrote in his recent blog entry #200, (Celebrate Milestones - milestones matter. Sure, Tom is a remarkably accomplished and successful guy. Does that diminish his desire for recognition? I haven't asked, but I rather doubt it. If success alone was enough for most, there wouldn't be so many multi-gazillionaires still working and so many top athletes stretching their careers. 

Let's sound the trumpets as he crosses the line! Three cheers. You'd want the same.

3) I also did it because I like Tom and I'm grateful to be acquainted with him. He gives a tremendous amount of himself on his Twitter account. Moreover, he is the kind of person that everyone should hope is advising them or their employer. He cares about people and it radiates through virtually everything he talks about. In a world of self-aggrandizing dolts, Tom shines through as a genuinely nice fellow who happens to be very knowledgeable about leadership. 

4) The final reason, which is something obvious: I did it because I felt like it. If it makes him smile, then my mission is accomplished. 

Thank you Tom.  For sharing your thoughts and insights on a regular basis on Twitter. For sidestepping the trolls, and steadfastly holding down your end of every argument. You could have the campfire all to yourself, but you open it up frequently for anyone to pop by for and enjoy some heady conversation. 

Congratulations on cresting the 100,000 follower mark. There couldn't be a more deserving person.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The inside secret about my #quote tweets...

   Why all the quotes? Some inspirational, some political, some from Hitler??? What are you getting at?

   Great question! Nobody has asked me directly, but I do get some interesting comments, challenges etc. As a result I'd like to clarify my "goal" and provide some clarity about the quotes and my tweets:

   1) The primary purpose of my selections and compositions is to make you think. What you do with those thoughts is entirely up to you.

  2) While I am glad to sometimes briefly discuss a quote or whatever, I'm not going to enter a debate with you about a tweet. If you don't like a particular quote or tweet, there are +/- 72 per day. You'll probably find others you'll enjoy. The why is very very simple: The forum isn't ideal for debate and a bit unfair to people who stop by for content, and more importantly, you can deconstruct just about anything composed in 140 characters. I don't agree with everything I tweet, so why should you?

   3) With regard to tweeting things I don't agree with. Sometimes we are informed by consent, other times by dissent. Finding a place between the two creates a sort of imaginary set of bookends for an opinion. If nothing else, the idea of being thought provoking allows for differing sets of opinion.

   They are there to provoke thought. That's my goal. I hope you share it. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

#Twog, a brick of trust.

In thinking about a recent chat about business, one word just nailed me: Trust.

Books, you need it. Speaking, you need it. Blogging, still need it. Twitter - check. 

It's why an audience or client returns for more. The theme is pretty much endemic to life. We take innumerable leaps of faith daily.

Driving - trust. Turning on the water - trust. Sitting in a chair - trust. Entering credit card information online - trust. It's everywhere.

What can we do with this information? Well, I just started trying, and will continue to try, to promote the idea of a #twog. A combination of a tweet and a blog. The idea is to generate trust in content.

What to do with a twog? Bridge the gap between tweeting and a blog. Most importantly, establish trust that you respect the reader's time.

Nothing happens without trust.  Get twogging.  140 words at a time.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A time to #twog. Twog - n. a short blog entry of roughly 140 words.

Why #twog?

Everyone is super busy. You stopped by, and thanks for that. But you need to go soon.

In thinking about my own time constraints, I wished people would make a clear concise point, and wrap it up. So give me a #twog.

If you have a more technical or robust topic, your #twog can migrate a reader from tweet to full blown blog.

The #twog provides the extra information needed for the reader to decide whether to proceed. It's their time. Respect it.

You have, on the honor system, 140 words to make your case. Use them wisely.

Gotta go. See ya!

PS – Try some #twogging and see if it works for you.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

   A great quote from Mark Twain. I love putting it on Twitter. It always gets positive feedback. But that is actually rather ironic. If so many people love that quote, then why are such gargantuan sums spend on schooling?

   In a similar sense, parent after parent brags about how their child does in school. As I parent, I too feel some of the glow from a "good grade". Some is a simple matter of wanting to let my kids know that I appreciate the effort they make. But I question how important the grade is, what meaning it actually holds. Moreover, I wonder how much more meaningless it becomes when put into a global schematic.

   As someone who is "successful" I look back at my own schooling and see how incredibly unprepared my schools and teachers were for me. I did well in school at times, but was pretty much always a discipline problem. Mostly because I refused to accept some lessons as true. I wasn't content to just digest and regurgitate the information they fed to me. I wanted some answers. They didn't like that, they didn't like that at all.

   A dramatic example occurred in the seventh grade. Having been asked to solve an algebra problem I went up to the chalkboard and began scrawling out my answer. "No, no, no" my teacher screamed. Bewildered I looked over to her. "You have to show ALL YOUR WORK." she continued. Right about this time my blood headed to an immediate boil. I stormed over to my desk and grabbed my things. I then walked back to the front of the class and threw my books onto her desk. "If your way is so perfect then do it yourself" I shouted. I then proceeded to walk out of the class, and out the front door of the school, and continued walking until I was home roughly four miles away.

   A rash decision? Maybe, but I don't regret it. She was wrong to publicly humiliate me for not following "her" method to precision. It was also pretty obvious from the way I wrote the equation that I had used logical thinking to arrive at the answer. Her goal wasn't that I simply know the math. Her goal included my submission to her methodology. As you may have noticed, submission isn't my strong suit.

   The problem, from my vantage point, is the teacher's desire to make me conform to her methodology. She valued compliance over competence. It doesn't matter why. Schooling should create thinkers, not fleshy calculators. The desire for compliance makes children into pliable robots who indirectly learn to keep their head down, and put out what is asked. No more, no less.

   "Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel." - Socrates

   Socrates knew something about educating people. If we spark a student's passion, we unleash a powerful force upon the world. Imagine a world of people taught to think rather than simply remember. We need people who push boundaries rather than retreat inside them. 

   How different might my education have been if I had actually been encouraged to think differently. What would my perspective be if it had been molded through an educational model of investigation rather than recitation and repetition.

   As parents, students, or both, we need to demand that school provide a true education. School must provide the spark, the catalyst, that will drive students to excellence. Not excellence as measured by a standardized test, but excellence that is demonstrated in ideas and actions. 

   As much as I love the Mark Twain quote, I'd be happy to make it irrelevant.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Outrunning the Monster...

  My parents were sticklers for punctuality. So as a kid, I concocted a motivational game to get myself home on time. I would imagine a huge, ugly monster chasing me through the streets of Akron, Ohio. I'll never forget that adrenalin-propelled rush of nearly flying over the pavement, feeling the monster's hot, rancid breath (I think it may actually have been the tire factories) while sprinting just ahead of his moldy grasp.

   Over the years, my monster has provided the motivation I've needed not only to succeed, but to thrive in the business world. He has served me well.

   His dogged pursuit is responsible for both my vocation and my avocation. The hairy beast chased me through college and graduate school, and finally into entrepreneurship. And I'm still running, but now for fitness; and not in Akron, but St. Petersburg, Florida.

   When I decided to start my own private-investigation firm in 1996, the monster breathed the specter of poverty. My new wife and I were living in a small apartment, whose rent, like everything else in our lives at the time, was paid by credit card. The monster helped me chase after business just to make sure we could eat and keep gas in the car and a roof over our heads.

   He also spewed the foul odor of self-doubt. I often lay awake at night wondering how a guy like me could possibly presume to run a business, especially against older, wiser (I thought!), and more experienced competition.

   But as I ran faster to escape the monster's clutches (he now sported a cheap, private-eye trench coat), I found myself learning a lot about how business operates. One particularly revealing lesson was that my "competition" was really only a little more gifted than my monster.

  For the most part, private investigators were what they always had been - retired police officers, special investigative unit (SIU) guys, or insurance adjustors. They often worked alone, used manual processes, and for sales collateral brandished their business cards.

   So while they clung to their Sam Spade model (and, for the most part, still do), I decided to innovate. While they snoozed between cases (feet up on the desk, of course), I learned about my marketplace - the claims and risk professionals who were purchasing investigative services. With the monster ever in the wings, I talked to people, read the trade journals, and found out what they really needed from an investigator.

   Then I decided that when fighting monsters, there is strength in numbers. So I took on partners, then employees. Every year, university criminal-justice programs were turning out legions of bright, energetic graduates, hungry for their first job and looking to learn the ways of surveillance. Why not hire them, pay them a decent salary, and teach them the ropes?

   And in order to keep my new employees working, why not find innovative ways of generating more business - by using what I had learned about our market, exhibiting at trade shows, producing sales literature that worked, by advertising, and by constantly generating new ideas for promoting the business? And why not self-publish a helpful booklet for clients about how surveillance works?

  We also made a commitment to using the hottest technology to run the business. (The monster was using none.) We outfitted our field investigators with the latest in video and wireless technology, trained them in its most efficient use, and sent them forth to generate revenue.

   But the real coup d'etat was the Internet. Our business is surveillance, which generally means video tapes accompanied by written reports. Our clients are claims and risk-management professionals, who spend entirely too much of their time on the telephone with claimants, physicians, attorneys and others.

   What better way to make surveillance information available to our harried and phone-weary clientele than to offer it on our secure Web site for them to peruse at their leisure - not only written reports but video snapshots and actual streaming video of the surveillance as well? Why rattle them with even more phone calls when e-mail and our Web site can provide them exactly what they need in a concise form, exactly when they need it? Why force them to store videotape cassettes when we can embed the video into the on-line record?

  Since we implemented the technology and juiced up the marketing, the monster has been quieter. He's not gone; in fact, I still hear his grunts when I look at our Web site and see how much remains to be done.

   And poverty is no longer the issue. The business, which now has grown to 85 employees, generated $4.1 million in revenues last year.

   But of course all those great investigators need to be paid, the office rent is due every month, and the technology doesn't come free.

   Where are my shoes? I can smell that ogre's breath right now.

(This was written by Robert DeRosa and myself in 2000.)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Don't Waste Your Effort...Really, Don't!

   Once upon a time I swam for the Miami-Dade Community College swim team. Perhaps a better way to phrase it, they didn't prevent me from practicing with them. That said, I was decent enough, and was fast enough to stay out of their way. It was a point of pride with me that I was there, and I trained HARD!

   You might think I would have developed a bit of insight after having to learn how to swim properly at the age of 23. Previously, I couldn't even get my face in the water. But a few sessions with a friend that had a swimming background put me on the path to swimming quasi-normally.

   One week we "hosted" the University of Miami swim team, as their pool was being renovated. This was a great opportunity as UM had some potential Olympians on their team. Swimming next to them was going to be a treat. A chance to measure oneself against greatness. Well, after a brief comparison I was ready to drop the idea of measuring anything.

   The first time I set off next to one of the team, I was dumbfounded. Was the guy being pulled by a jet ski? I redoubled my effort. This made me marginally faster, and massively exhausted. He, on the other hand, appeared to be having a nice leisurely dip. ARRGGGHH. My only hope was to be less embarrassed over a short distance. So much for training HARD.

   Had I been wasting my time? No, I had gotten much better than before, and the training had made a difference. But, if my goal was to diminish the gap between myself and the UM swimmers, I knew pretty much instantly that MORE TRAINING was NOT the answer.

   This leads me to my point. Effort is great. But effort without great technique can be wasteful, and potentially damaging. Too often the standard motivational cry is to TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT. Good luck with that. My experience is that while clearly motivation is important, as you approach higher levels of competition, how you try is likely more important than how hard you try.

   When you want approach the top of a sport or field of endeavor, pretty much everybody is motivated. In a swim competition you need only look around the pool to see that everyone is very fit. Past that point the biggest differences are down to technique.

   To improve myself I solicited a member of the UM team to train me. While I never got anything close to good enough to compete with them, I made amazing progress in improving my own times. To do this, I had to take a step back and evaluate my approach. By being objective, I knew I was in very good condition, had an excellent diet, and was putting forth an tremendous effort. Trying harder would have been pointless.

   Thus, when I say "Don't Waste Your Effort" I mean it literally. Put forth an effort, absolutely. But be sure you are putting forth the right effort. In a race, nobody cares about your horsepower, they care about your speed. By putting your effort to translating horsepower to output, you won't waste your effort. You'll get more out of doing less.

   That's the right way to apply effort.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Reflections on the "The Show Me State" by Seth Godin

   As always, an interesting post from Seth. Thanks!

   Thinking about the post, and relating it to my own experience I came away with an example which reinforces his message, and to some degree expands on part of it.

   The major point or critique is a reflection about people's desire to sample rather than savor things, so they can race off to the next thing. Or conversely, having gathered some information about it, flutter away without really trying it at all. There is a lot of misplaced risk aversion encased in this phenomena.

   With deference to people's need to maximize their "time", I think it is pretty good to have some experiences that suck. If you are really out there living every now and then you're going to have a bad experience. Awesome!

   What? Crap experiences. Delete, Esc, Ctrl-Alt-Del. Help!

   Yep, you need to have some sub par experiences, or if you are massively anal about your time, settle for something distinctly average. These are the palate cleansers that allow you to discern the flavor of your next course, of that next grand experience. And usually, bad experiences end up being great memories. 

   My wife and I were traveling with my three kids (11 year old triplets at the time) through Jordan. We flew into Amman, and then headed south through the desert toward the Dead Sea and a small city called Kerak. Being guilty myself of trying to endlessly hedge my bets with research, I had found recommended accommodation in the Lonely Planet Guide at the Cairwan Hotel. When we arrived, it didn't look too promising, but I thought, let's do it! My enthusiasm was short-lived.

   Wow! There was an apparent rat infestation, as evidenced by some amatuer scatology. The beds were probably comfortable when the three wise men stopped by a few years back. The decor was other worldly. In an effort to ensure we would get the full effect, there was a wedding going on in the hotel bar during the night of our stay. Mayhem ensued. In short, it was really really BAD. 

   My kids were nearly as aghast as I, having stayed in their share of comfortable surroundings. But this place ended up being the ice water to before our return to the sauna. Our next stop was a two-story, three bedroom suite at the Movenpick Hotel in Aqaba on the Red Sea. 

  The contrast was to be savored. Every detail was richly magnified. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it without the "bad experience", but the bad hotel served as a framing experience for the good one. 

  We have repeated this experience somewhat by having deliberately reduced our travels to allow for some breathing, for some normal life. Without that, the experiences fold together like food in a blender. I might know it's there, and I can taste it, but the flavors overwhelm each other. Thus, the experiences are diminished.

   There is no short cut to enhancing experience. When you have a bad experience, or a bland one to give it context, you come away with much more. Whether it is a lesson, a book, a course, a hotel stay or a meal.  

   So, don't try to live life as a series of straight lines always seeking the shortest route. Meander, let some things go wrong. Give yourself the benefit of context. It will sharpen your mind, and separate events into discrete, more pleasing occurrences. 

   In short, context gives you the ability to see just how incredible life is. Enjoy it.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Yellow Zebras! Hello, over here! Hello!

   As Cory Doctorow said, "You can't monetize obscurity." In other words - The unnoticed are uncompensated. Enter the Yellow Zebra.

  Much of our lives we are encouraged to blend in, to be compliant. From our school days, into the entry to the workforce we get bombarded with the message to obey, and comply. Whole industries ride upon this wave. Our allegiance to brands that identify us as belonging to a certain group, or of being of a certain status. But blending in is dangerous. If you are hidden, how will anyone find you?

  We need to stand out. How? Pretty simple. Just be yourself. Though I imagine this is not as easy as it sounds. We are so programmed to behave in a certain way, we may have lost ourselves in the flood of messages to blend in, and join the party of sameness.

  But the benefits are so great, that we must work to be ourselves. To take a stand on something we believe in, to dare to occasionally piss a few people off. It is actually an old rule of advertising, that an ad that offends no one, effects no one. You need to be identifiable. You need to be a Yellow Zebra.

   Yellow Zebra's get noticed, they stand out. They won't be ignored. People have opinions about them. Some people don't like them. But in the end, they are remembered and rewarded., 

   At Omega Insurance Services, my old company, we were the "in your face" company. If anything we errored to the side of excess. You would get mail from us, e-mail from us, we'd call you. We took had the mantra of Donkey in Shrek "pick me, pick me!"  before the movie ever appeared. Since we made the Inc. 500 twice I'd say it worked pretty well. But we did have people occasionally say that we that were annoying. If that's the cost of doubling revenue year after year, isn't it worth it? Doesn't that make being a Yellow Zebra attractive?

   Yes, that's right. If you are truly yourself, and willing to express some of your truly unique qualities, it will pay off. It can be so counter-intuitive that people have trouble with it.  Thinking that they won't get through  a job interview that way. So WHAT? If you have to be phony to get a job, perhaps it isn't the right job for you. Wouldn't it be better to work someplace where everyday you could be yourself? To get up everyday excited about working in an accepting uplifting environment. Can you actually imagine being a Yellow Zebra without smiling? 

   If you have a business and want to have a special culture, let it be a Yellow Zebra culture. By letting people be themselves the results are astounding. You essentially develop a competitive advantage cost free by embracing that which is unique in people. Go crazy, have fun. There is another reward - fun! 

  The rewards for being a Yellow Zebra include both financial and spiritual. To give value to others, you have to begin by valuing yourself. This is the essence of being a Yellow Zebra, to identify that which makes you unique. Your personal differentiators. 

   Don't wait, don't delay. Begin the journey out of the darkness and into the light. We'll be waiting, and you won't have any trouble spotting us. We'll be in yellow with black stripes making some noise. Come on, let's see your stripes, you Yellow Zebra. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

They're liars! Yeah, but you believed them. A political education.

  Marge, "I can't believe it Homer, you lied to me"
  Homer, "It's not just me Marge. It takes two to lie, one to lie and one to listen."

  The Simpsons sure are funny. But maybe Homer has a point. Duh! Yep, I think Homer is on to something. If we get lied to all the time, maybe we have a gullibility problem.

  If we have politicians who are full of excrement, how did they get elected? More importantly, how do they get re-elected?

   To illustrate a point, I love quotes. One of my favorite sources for quotes is Will Rogers. One of my favorite of Will Roger's quotes is:, "Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke." When you consider that Rogers died in 1935, and wasn't familiar with the "Daily Show" it becomes a bit apparent that our "new problem" isn't new at all.

  Politicians have been bending and shaping the truth for as long as there have been politicians. For an equally long period of time, people have been frustrated by this phenomena. But, as Plato, an even older source of information said, "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."

   So, if you have had enough of this truth void, getting involved can be a simple matter of paying attention at a critical level. Stop listening to quick pitches, or being lulled into complacency by your short-term good fortune. Spend time actually learning the facts. Build a BS detector in your brain. Stop being governed by your inferiors.

  It may not be in the ten commandments, but believing nonsense is almost as bad as concocting it. Listen to Homer. Lies are only effective when they are believed. You can't stop them being told, but you can develop the critical thinking to recognize them as they are being spoken.

   Good luck.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An interview with DRUNK HULK aka "The Most Interesting (DRUNK) Man in the World"

  As a fledgling author and newbie to the ether of the internet social marketing, today I have the opportunity to interview a MAN WHO IS ALL CAPS, ALL THE TIME. LIKE A KEYBOARD COATED WITH VIAGRA.

For the record, DRUNK HULK is an absolute Twitter phenomena. He is rapidly approaching 200,000 followers, and I know that his family is not that large (pre-interview background check).

That MAN, who is far better known that I ever will be (unless I get a Booz Allen job and then do a bit of hacking) is DRUNK HULK. A ROUND OF APPLAUSE... (CLAPPING IN THE BACKGROUND) FOR OUR GUEST DRUNK HULK.





Wow, thanks. I was getting slightly dizzy. Not sure how you maintain that all caps pace. Is it mostly training or natural ability? Or, may I ask, are there performance enhancing drugs involved?


Now, the legend is that you started DRUNK HULK as a bit of a lark. Is that true, or had you received some special PSYCH OPS training prior to gaining mental control of your audience?




So, for the record, you claim no prior history in PSYCH OPS, or Special Forces training. How then, have you managed to amass such a loyal following?


Wouldn't you agree that using ALL CAPS IS CHEATING?


Moving on, I am sure all the women reading want to know, is there a DRUNK HULKETTE?






Does your unofficial title of "Most Interesting (DRUNK) Man in the World" put pressure on you to use ALL CAPS, even when you're just trying to enjoy a dozen beers like an ordinary guy? 


Just personal curiosity, do you like Hello Kitty?


So would you say you are essentially a GREEN ALL CAPS DRUNK BUDDHA with a more obvious sense of humor?   




I know you are tremendously busy, generally wasted, and unaccustomed to a world without CAPS but have you happened to read Alphabet Success?  If so, any thoughts for my readers or potential readers?



Thank you on behalf of all our readers as well as myself. It is a honor to meet you. I THINK I SPEAK FOR EVERYONE IN SAYING, KEEP IT ALL CAPS, ALL THE TIME. KEEP US ON THE ONE TRUE WANDERING PATH THROUGH THE WOODS AND ALLEYS. Man, that ALL CAP stuff makes my fingers hurt. Thanks again.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The 10th Anniversary of my Financial Freedom Looms! #BLOWOUT #FREE #PRIZES #CONTESTS -

   Sept 10th, 2003, is a date I won't forget. I was nervous as hell. Heart palpitations, hand wringing, you name the nervous tick, I was on top of it! It got so bad, I called my doctor and explained that I was probably dying of a heart attack. He was not persuaded, and told me to calm down. Ha! If it would have been that easy, I'd have done it from the start. OK, I guess I was being slightly hysterical.

   As evidenced by this and other posts, I made it. But in spite of the work and effort that went into growing Omega Insurance Services, it all seemed unreal. Less than seven years before I was designing my logo in Word while I made sales calls from the kitchen table off a rental apartment. So this day was truly dreamlike, with me mentally waiting for the alarm to go off.

   Obviously, that did not happen. We convened in a boardroom, in an atmosphere of absolute levity, and signed the final documents. The "transfers" were made into my accounts. Wow. While a myriad of things led to that moment, that was the finish line. The moment when everything actually changed. A bizarre mix of elation, sadness, exhaustion and a burst of energy seemed to inhabit my body. All the while I continued making all the appropriate noises, "great to be on board, and "this is going to be awesome" (it was already pretty awesome). Poker face central.

   Fortunately I was saved by a party we were throwing. Nobody, outside a few key people, knew what was happening, a party seemed a good way to "cushion the shock".It did, in part, do exactly that.

  Which brings us to the impending 10th Anniversary, and the "virtual" party we'll be throwing to mark the occasion. And in the spirit of open disclosure, there is a major book promotion for "Alphabet Success" at the heart of the festivities.

   The questions most of you have been waiting for are: 1) What are you giving away? 2) What are the prizes? and 3) What are the contests?

1) We are giving away free copies of my new Kindle book, Alphabet Success from 12 midnight Pacific Time to 12 midnight Pacific Time on September 10th, 2013.

2) The prizes include: 20 - $25.00 Amazon.com gift certificates, and $1,500 in cash prizes. That leads us to our final answer...

3) I'm not saying. The day of the event we'll be interacting with people on Twitter (@alphabetsuccess) and LinkedIn. Primarily the former. It will be a little like a radio show. We'll make an announcement, and something will be happening that you need to respond to in real time. For example (a good one, wink wink) you might need to be the 8th person to retweet a given Tweet or comment on a LinkedIn message. But there are plenty of other methods that will be employed to give out cash and prizes, but we're not saying until the day of the event. For the purpose of clarity:

The contests will be conducted on September 10th, 2013. With the exception of one contest for which the winner will be decided later. The times will include a bit of September 10th around the world, since I have followers in pretty much every time zone. I'm going to try to online for as long as Red Bull and adrenaline will keep me in the game, but we may hit some down time due to my human form.

Will it be fun? Yes  Do you need to buy anything to win? Absolutely not!

For more information, please contact me at tim@alphabetsuccess.com

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Free at last! Um...Free again! Well, you get the idea.

   Almost ten years ago, on September 10, 2003, I sold Omega Insurance Services, a little less than seven years after we started doing business, and to say my life was changed would be a massive understatement. To be 42 and know you will never need to work again, is a pretty delightful feeling. In essence, I was free. Not in an insane Bill Gates sort of way, but plenty free for me.

   So, with the tenth anniversary of the event coming up, I decided to mark the day with another Alphabet Success giveaway. A way of celebrating my freedom over the last ten years by giving you a tool to help you get your freedom, or if you already have it, keep it.

  If you don't already know, Alphabet Success is a wonderfully short, very readable Kindle book available on Amazon.com. You can download and read it on any tablet, some phones, and obviously a Kindle.

    What is the book about? It is a distillation of the elements I think were most critical in my success as a business person as well as my success in other areas of my life. There are people who talk about the life they dream of having, and then there are those who go out and make it happen. If you want to be in the latter category, reading the book would be a very good idea.

   What secrets are in the book? None. Zero. Zip. Nada. You probably already know everything I will tell you in the book. However, you aren't using it on a daily basis to effect change in your life. Just like having a garage full of tools doesn't make you a mechanic, having the tools to succeed isn't enough to make you successful. You have to use the tools and master them.

   Will the book make me successful? If you let it. There is no plane ticket to success. There is no little bit of magic that will pop you into the life you want. There is a set of tools, and then a fair bit of work to be done. But it can be fun, joyful and the ride can be an absolutely amazingly blissful experience.

   Isn't this just common sense? Yes. But with that in mind I will leave you with two quotes from two people far more successful and well known than me:

   There is nothing more uncommon than common sense. - Frank Lloyd Wright

   There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult. - Warren Buffett

   September 10th, 2013 from 12:00 to 12:00 Pacific Standard Time. Download it, read it, apply it. Repeat as needed.

Friday, August 23, 2013

On Airports....

   As someone who travels nearly every week, I have encountered innumerable airports, and have become fascinated, and repulsed at times, by the variations in how they are operated. Since an airport serves as a sort of informal ambassador for a city or nation, it would seem worthwhile to examine some of the items which differentiate a good airport from a bad one.

   In short, an airport can be a way for a city to be viewed in a superior way, simply by viewing an airport as more than a slightly high-end bus stop. The most monied people coming to and through your city will experience your airport. Making the experience a great one gives you an edge as a city destination.

   As two examples of airports which I have frequented that are quite good, Munich and Tampa sort of stand out. They are not so enormous that they require orienteering skills to navigate, and they are spacious, comfortable, have free wi-fi, helpful staff etc. Tampa is one of my "home" airports, and I give it extra credit since I have spent enough time there for things to go badly, but aside from an occasional TSA debacle, they've done a great job.

  Since I am giving out compliments I may as well throw a spear. First prize for an airport that makes me insane is Frankfurt. It doesn't even seem German to me (not efficient or organized in any logical way). The complexity of the place, along with the complete disdain I have encountered from staff there is what has prompted me to carefully book connections to/from Wroclaw through Munich. The Frankfurt airport is not visually pleasing, it does not have (at last visit) free wifi, it isn't comfortable, there is not an abundance of restaurant selections. In short, I really dislike the airport, in a visceral sort of way.

   Without further ado, here is my mental bombardment regarding the state of today's airports:

Simplify Transfers

   For some airports this is not an issue at all as all carriers board and disembark at the gate. However, numerous airports around the world use buses as an alternative means of getting people to and from the aircraft. The stated reason is that it is a question of expense for the airline. They make a determination of which method to employ based upon the cost they incur using one method versus another.

   However, there is another question buried within this one. How can it be that the expense of using the gate (which was put there for the express purpose of getting to and from an aircraft) ends up being MORE costly to use than a bus which is operated by an outside vendor? The consensus I have from discussing this with fellow travelers is that the gate fee is set  artificially high, creating an opportunity for an entrepreneur (see friend of someone within the hierarchy of the airport) to run a bus service to shuttle passengers back and forth to a plane.

   Frankly, whatever the bus transfer should go the way of the dodo. It is one more step in an already tedious process of getting from point A to point B. You wait for your gate to open, then board a jammed bus, then are dropped at a plane (often within 100 meters of where your journey began), only to begin a que yet again. It would be least expensive, if somewhat problematic in certain weather, to just let passengers walk to the plane. In Europe and Asia many budget carriers handle things that way, and though you occasionally get wet or cold, it eliminates a pointless additional process.

Free Unlimited Wifi

   To some this might seem a bit silly. Especially if you typically have short layovers. However, for those folks sitting for a few hours in an airport, the ability to "connect" if simply for entertainment value, is a major plus. Moreover, business travelers, who do not always have access to a business lounge, can make use of their prolonged layover by knocking out a few items on their to-do list.

   In anticipation of the issues around trying to provide unlimited wifi to an increasingly video watching, bandwidth consuming audience, you can always pay for it through sponsorship. Offer a business the chance to be the "sponsor" of wifi for your airport. There are innumerable potential sponsors that would have an interest in people's online behavior while in an airport, as well as perhaps simply having the interest of developing a bit of goodwill with the "captive" audience that is waiting for their next "literal" move.

Provide Seats Designed for Humans

  Before the purchasing manager buys seats for an airport, they should be forced to sit in them for over a hour. This would eliminate the sadomasochistic choices which seem to prevail in many airports. People transiting an airport actually need to occupy these seats. They often have, especially in larger airports, long layovers that make an extra bit of comfort quite welcome. Does this actually have to be brought to an airport designers attention.

   Ditto for seat quantity. If the size of an aircraft which can "dock" at a given gate has a maximum of 200 passengers, I'm guessing having at least 200 comfortable seats in the waiting area would be a good idea. The number of times I have had to mind a gate from afar is mind-boggling. Has someone broken the calculators of airport personnel?

Duty Free - Really?
   Here I will be brief. Once upon a time duty free items were actually inexpensive. Now the only reasons to buy duty free is that you want booze for Scandinavia (where almost any price would be a discount from the local one), the other is that you don't feel like exchanging the remaining local currency you have, or finally, you have been away far too long and feel obligated to buy things for whomever at home is a bit sick of you being away. Otherwise, duty free is very rarely inexpensive, and often equal to normal retail prices. These shops will likely die under the weight of their own ineptitude and lack of competitive pricing.

  Restaurants for Human Consumption

   For some reason dining in an airport is often an exercise in either a) paying extortionate rates for pathetic food or b) paying slightly less extortionate rates for pathetic food. 

   Foodies will bemoan my suggestion, but I honestly would love for airports everywhere to open things up to U.S. style chains. While the food is never "awesome" it is consistent, edible, and can be produced for a price that normal humans can tolerate paying even with the inevitable airport markup. Do I think Subway "rocks"? No, but I know the sandwich will be decent enough, and not cost a ridiculous sum of money. Ditto for McDonalds. Funny about McDonalds. Everyone bitches about them, but they seem to sell a lot of food. Probably because, while nobody is expecting an extraordinary experience, they will get filling food and pay a reasonable price.

People will actually need the toilet!

   It is amazing to me how poorly planned some airport bathrooms are. The size of the entryways, the actual quantity of bathrooms, or stalls in bathrooms. In some instances, you can add an apparent lack of concern about the apparent hygiene of the bathroom and you have a truly toxic brew of nastiness. Overused and under maintained, wow. Now that makes an impression.

   This is even more baffling considering the number of people who will pass through an airport must be a pretty predictable calculation. Flights are scheduled, and there are a certain number of people per flight...you get the idea. This isn't planning a moon colony. 

The Joy of Taxis!

   One last item, and it certainly ranks pretty high on the list, is the control of taxis at the airport, and the city for that matter. Too often there is no control. And when there is, it is not enforced. People trying to skirt the meter, charge you off-peak rates, the scams are almost endless. In Kuala Lumpur, they have a law that the taxi has to use the meter. Trying getting the driver to follow that one is a bare knuckled boxing competition. They'll just refuse to take you. 

   To me this one resonates with the overtones of "Welcome to Our City - Please Enjoy Doing Business with a Criminal". I realize it might not be easy, but London manages it as does Bangkok. Given the complete difference in cultures the experience should be possible to duplicate.

What Do You Think?

  Am I just a grumpy guy who travels too much (and bitches a lot)? What do you think of airports and your travel experience?  What would you make different? Do you agree that the airport is the "town greeter". Please e-mail me at tim.fargo@hammerfest.com with your comments. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Congratulations! The winner is....

   Let's put our hands together and give a big round of applause to.... nobody! That's right, nobody submitted an essay for the $500 "Alphabet Success" contest. As much as I might be happy that the $500 will be staying in my company account, there is a much much bigger lesson here. If you don't try, you can't win. 

   Of course, I could have done a countdown and reminded people, but as the time drew near I became curious whether anyone was going to make an entry. I even waited until it was 1:00am in Guam, the closest point to the international date line. Nope. Nada. Thus, we arrive at the question of why?

   One possibility is that nobody needed the money. Great news, apparently the global economy is much more robust than I had imagined. Frankly, I'm not sold on that theory. Somebody reading this, perhaps you, is thinking, I should have sent the guy a quick page about "Alphabet Success" and I'd have had his $500. And you would be correct!

  Another potential thesis is that I did not promote the contest enough. Maybe. But there are roughly 50,000 people on my Twitter account, another 1,550 on LinkedIn and to date there are roughly 1,400 copies of the book out in circulation. That would seem a large enough population to elicit at least a couple of responses. But I'll take some of the blame for not "mashing" on the accelerator more as the date drew near to pique your interest. So there is a partial explanation, but seemingly not enough to have prevented any entries.

   My theory? People may have thought what's the point? I hate writing, and I won't win anyhow. Well, that's not really the ABC (Always Be Committed) or JKL (Just Keep Looking) sort of attitude I was hoping to promote in the book. If you glanced at the numbers on my sites the raw data suggest that there was a reasonable shot of winning. But you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. 

   One other alternative? People might think, he'll be looking at a few papers and my writing needs work (which would have been improved by trying..but anyhow) so I have no shot. I'll tip my hand a little here and let you know that I would not have nor will I judge someone on the basis of their grammar or the poetry of their prose. It is nice when language flows, but I was after a STORY. So long as you can convey an example of something that happened, and relate it to a chapter in "Alphabet Success", that will be a solid contender.

   For what it is worth, I would have taken a powerful story over a finally crafted, but boring tale. But that's water under the bridge. It's August 1st, and the contest is over with no winner. Bummer.

   But wait,! What if we use this example to try another approach? Let's have a new contest, with a bigger prize and give you more time to write your story. Shall we say October 31st? That's almost two months from today. Same rules, same deal. I'll update the contest rules, but in short, $500 for the best story  related to a chapter in "Alphabet Success". It must be submitted by October 31st, 2013, no later than 5pm EST. All entries must be received at my e-mail address: tim.fargo@hammerfest.com.

  There you have it. A second chance! If you are interested, I suggest opening a document and just jotting down the most basic outline of what you are thinking. A couple of sentences. Then put a note in your calendar to get cracking at the earliest opportunity. Don't get all jammed up worrying about appearances, and that nonsense, just take some time to write out your thoughts. You can always recraft it. And, should your piece be published on my blog, I'll work with you on it beforehand if you think it will help.

  You'll have to do the heavy lifting though. I'm not dragging you to the finish line.

   Go on. Just Keep Looking!

   Alphabet Success, your personal step-ladder to success.  To buy, click here. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Let's Party Like its 1999!!! Be sure to invite the right people...

   "...Party over, oops, out of time." That was my 1999.  Omega, my company, was about to grow well over 100% in revenue, coming in around $1.2M for the year. We'd only started in October of 1996 with a credit card and an idea. It was a bit like running fast downhill, sort of a controlled fall. Or, at least you try to maintain that illusion of control so you don't crash and burn.

   As the year had begun I found out my family (spouse and I) was also about to grow by over 100%! Triplets were on the way. Certainly exciting news. Something that required some thinking considering the demands of the business, trying to occasionally exercise, and have some semblance of a personal life.

   So I did what any business school, professionally-trained accounting and finance graduate would do when faced with a multidimensional complex problem. I pretended it wasn't actually happening.

   On August 3, any hope of maintaining my "bubble" was burst. Three very small and noisy creatures emerged from my wife. They were tougher than any client. Terrible communication skills. Either quiet, or screaming. Unable to form consensus, one would want food at midnight, another at 2am, then - (why not) 4:15am as well. Home became a nightmarish parody of a B&B with 24-hour room service, and some extraordinarily demanding celebrity clientele.

   Meanwhile the company kept pumping along. Growing in leaps and bounds, though much more civilized than home. People that were selected for their ability, and their ability to work together. It was an essential element of keeping the place together. There were so many people squeezed into the office that one person had to accept that the coffee machine would be on their desk. The head of IT shared an office with me. When I say we were "in it together" it is quite literal.

   You may be asking, "Why didn't you get more space?". A great question. We were trying. Boy were we trying. But it was "dot-com" days. Everyone was partying like it was 1999. Except the dot-com people often had VC money and a bank line. We had a credit card, a factoring company, and a balance sheet that would have embarrassed the Zimbabwe. Thus, the reception from potential landlords was less than welcoming.

   We finally did get more space. We finally found a landlord that would take us in. The kids finally started sleeping through the night. We got rid of our factor and found a bank that would lend to us. We even had a break room. Sometimes I'd just splash out like that. Even had free coffee. That's just how I roll.

   We partied like 1999 all right. It was non-stop insanity. By the end of the year we were less than four years away from being sold. It wasn't on anyone's mind. There was no time for big "end game" thinking, we were in triage mode. Not to mention we'd begun development of some cutting edge technology for the investigative world which we'd launch around the kids first birthday. (see link at bottom of page)

   Looking back, that was a defining time for me, and most of the people at Omega Insurance Services. Many of whom I still maintain contact with. We had a fantastic team, and we did amazing things. It was inspiration, adrenaline, camaraderie, and some organization tossed in where needed to fill the gaps.

   Many of those people have gone on to pretty awesome things. There were quite a few entrepreneurs in the pack, with several people starting firms within the insurance industry, and others going off into unrelated fields. It was, as I mentioned, an extraordinary group of people. I'd love to tell you I did it. That it was my incredible genius that made it all possible. But that, my friends, would be a lie.

   Like all successful parties, it takes a great group of people, with the right chemistry to make for a memorable evening. We did party like it was 1999, for about seven years.

   Luckily I sent the invitations to the right people.

   The kids are soon 14. That project is ongoing.

    Alphabet Success, your personal step-ladder to success.  To buy, click here.