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 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 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 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:

  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.