Archive for December, 2011

The Box of Fear

Fear is a nasty adversary that must be battled constantly. Obviously it serves a useful purpose: principally to keep us safe. Unfortunately in so doing it also bombards us with self doubt, which closes doors and shuts down opportunities.

The world — our educational system, government, parents, and most “friends” encourage compliance. Get in your nice, safe little box where you can carve out a reasonably tolerable life and don’t do too much to rock that boat, because otherwise bad things might happen. You can lose what (little) you have. Our society is effectively set up so that most people get just enough to not want to risk losing it.

And so we go about our lives without exploring what we can really be. We’re reducing risks and avoiding engagement and opportunities because they don’t fit conveniently into our box we’ve made for ourselves. We don’t want to be uncomfortable, so we make a choice to do nothing…  And to be clear, this isn’t what the choice looks like to us. No, we conspire to subtly manipulate circumstances in complex ways so that it looks to us as if the risk of stepping outside of our box is too great. The smart move is to stay put. Or, on the rare occasions that we do step out we cleverly manage to undermine ourselves and screw it up, furthering the notion that the smarter move is the conservative one. Keep things the way they are and continue on as we have because, after all, it’s not so bad.

Worse is letting your fears consume you so much that you hold others back. Beware, some of your friends and family members are likely working on you with their fears right now (as if you don’t have enough of your own already). If they can make their fears your fears there is a better chance of keeping you in your box, which is attached to their box, where they feel safe. The comfortable place.

True contentment is a beautiful and exceedingly rare state. Working at an appearance of contentment is a hiding place — the enemy of a richer life. Fear is the tool at work behind the scenes.

Please, oh PLEASE, dare to push outside of your comfort zone. Trust until it hurts. Take risks. Put yourself out. Do SOMETHING, even if it’s wrong. You will have tried, and there’s actually a good chance it will lead you to something worthwhile. In the end you will not regret it. And when pain happens, bask in it knowing that in the end you will be better for having seen it through. At the very least you will have made your box a little bigger.

Happy New Year

Start with the Basics

Get the basics right. Why are we so willing to give up and/or take advantage when it’s not tangible? You wouldn’t throw money away, but many will throw away the equivalent time and not think a thing about it. And many are just as cavalier about the customer’s time. Examples are everywhere. Here’s one: If you advertise something specific on a website then a click should take a user through to that, not to the home page of your site where you then force the customer search for the item that triggered their interest (and click) in the first place. This is nearly 2012 folks. It isn’t that hard to do it right.

Better still…why not seriously engage me in some capacity. You don’t HAVE to give me what I ask for. You can give me something even better. But for gawd’s sake don’t give me something less. That’s just dumb.

Nature’s Hard Drive

It’s fairly well known at this point that the flooding in Taiwan has seriously crippled the hard drive mechanism manufacturing industry (say THAT three times fast). The two obvious consequences of this are:

  • Hard drive prices have been rising for the first time in over two decades.
  • Solid state drives are getting a real foothold. One that probably won’t be relenquished. Darwin at work.

Our data storage needs have been growing exponentially for years now, and our data backup and archival needs have been following suit, especially in recent years as more and more mission critical data exists only in soft form.

One out of box, sci-fi idea I had to help ameliorate the need for physical media, which has to be stored and cared for, came to me when reading about how old radio and TV signals get bounced back to earth from celestial objects. This process takes years, depending upon the distances involved.

If we broadcast data to these objects we could guarantee it will show back up at a known time, where it could be broadcast again, or killed off, or updated as needed. Clearly this wouldn’t work for data that needs to be readily available, but for long term, cold storage archiving of data it’s a solution that’s as nearly bullet proof as one can get. It uses no physical “storage” at all, so it can’t break, or use energy or space being stored, etc.

All we need is some industrious entrepreneur to make it into a business.

Make Hits

Makes her living as a singer?

Do you sell hits or make hits? You’re more valuable if you make them.

Selling hits looks like this: you put a bunch of stuff in your store and let the market sort out what it wants and doesn’t want. You succeed by being good at executing fulfillment.

Making hits happens when you select the right product or service and skillfully use your leverage in the market to make a new hit with it. You have a well executed marketing and sales plan that in part defines the market. You succeed, and end up with a hit on your hands, by making yourself appear right, or lucky (in selecting the right product to get behind). Both schemes are difficult to do well. The latter is obviously much more valuable.

The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

You can get ahead in a variety of ways, but the competitive advantage that trumps all others is trust.

Results of a recent survey published by Bredin (www.bredin.com)

How much do your clients trust you? How much do they trust your organization? How much trust do you inherently garner as a function of the type of business you’re in? How about the way you communicate, or answer the phone, or…?

It all matters.

Scars of War

Soldiers search for land mines near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas.

It’s the 70th anniversary of a “day that will live in infamy.” Czech officials draw up evacuation plans for people near a refinery prior to expansion because they expect to find unexploded bombs. 45,000 to be evacuated in the German city of Koblenz because an unexploded bomb was found. Kids still lose body parts due to encountering mines in Korea and Vietnam.

50 years ago. 75 years ago. At this point it’s safe to say that for all practical purposes we can expect some lingering problems like these to last generations. And this is just one, tiny sliver of it.

Do we really factor all this stuff in when we think about the cost of war?

The Role of Government

Back in September Doctor Oz ran a story about high levels of arsenic in certain brands of Apple Juice, which prompted a pretty strong response from the FDA. However, he may have been more right than was initially believed. Feel free to do your own research on the subject, but it is worth noting that the FDA has taken some flack on this one. They (along with the EPA) have strict standards on the acceptable levels of inorganic arsenic in water, restrict its use in pesticides, but have comparatively little to say about it in juices. And as it turns out the levels are somewhat high in certain brands of apple juice. In fact, the FDA’s own website shows arsenic totals accumulated for a diet study program to be higher than recommended levels, but a spokesperson said that most samples tested below their level of concern.

This isn’t about juice or arsenic. This isn’t even really about how the FDA, like any organization, has to do spin control and PR to maintain its brand equity (though that would be an interesting discussion for another time).

There is a lot of political debate these days about how much of a role government should play regarding the regulation of business. Clearly we can see here that is important work for them to do. Who knows what we’d be eating in our foods if not for such regulations. But then, because they exist, we put a lot of faith in this “system” that we are being taken care of by some all knowing, powerful hand of government.

That process breaks down so often that it calls in to question the validity of it to begin with. Plus it’s tremendously expensive, to the point that many conservatives argue it’s more of a drain on our economy than it’s worth. We’re left with a really expensive system that arguably malfunctions enough that its very necessity is often called into question.

So do we want more government or less? How much power should these regulatory agencies have? And then, who watches the watchers?

While it seems clear that in many cases we can’t take the reigns off of business, we also have to understand that more government isn’t necessarily going to improve things. Government instills competence not through competitive attrition (like the free market does), but through committees, regulations, and simply having more people watch what others are doing. This is a loosing battle.

Ideally we’d want just enough government intervention to prevent really bad malfeasance, right up to the point of diminishing returns. There will never be enough (to watch everything) and there will always be too much (of a money drain and inneficient operations).

Thus this battle, like so many others in our society, has no ultimate outcome — no “right” answer. The battle must be waged because that’s the only way we get close to a proper balance.



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