Posts Tagged 'Regulation'

The Cost of Responsibility


Responsibility is a double edged sword. We sometimes seek it for reasons of control, influence, or reward. We sometimes loath or avoid it because we don’t want to be accountable. Or we’re lazy, or just afraid.

The fundamental cost we sometimes fail to fully recognize going in is that our rights diminish as we have more responsibility. You sometimes need to give up to go up. Some areas of your life have to take a back seat. You have to say no to things and you have to miss out. Not on everything, but most likely on some things you care about. It is a sacrifice.

There are also even less tangible costs of leadership. It is lonely at the top. Bearing the weight, having to be the bad guy, having to absorb all manner of apathy and negativity while still finding ways to motivate oneself and others to carry on and go forward takes a toll emotionally, and thus it is a great gift when someone knowingly and continually elects to sacrifice themselves in this way for the sake of the greater good. People looking in from the outside rarely seem to understand the magnitude of it. Those costs tend to be more hidden, and it often looks like an ego trip, or at least something self-serving. There is always that self-serving element, of course, but there is also great sacrifice. It can’t be added up or counted. It can’t accurately have a fair dollar amount applied to it. Its value is in the eye of the beholder. And not surprisingly that perceived value may differ between the sacrificer (doer) and the mere observer.

Always keep this in mind before volunteering or saying yes, and also allow some grace when someone else is in the batter’s box.

But don’t tranquilize or otherwise mislead and undermine yourself. Some responsibility is unavoidable. You can’t hide, at least not for very long.

Documented Kids

dossierKids are growing up in a world where their entire existence is documented and likely widely available on the net. Parents and other relatives have probably shared numerous details and photos by the time the child is old enough to talk. Later, friends will add to this database.

Technology is just beginning to mature around all of this information. Facial recognition, and systems that build and manage metadata are all conspiring to take any schred of privacy away. Imagine a cute kid photographed in front of the house with the house number visible in the background. Triangulate that against a photo of her parent at work with a logo in the background. Find a blog post written by the parent containing a negative parenting experience relating to the child.

While there are some safety concerns to be mindful of, the “needle in a haystack” principle applies. Unless there is some reason for your kid to be a target she is probably just lost in all the noise. But all of these things are starting to be tied together in such a way that the child will have a semi-public identity before he or she has had a chance to manifest her own, actual identity.

Could that innocent blog post later cost her a chance at a job? Or maybe they determine the health insurance will be too high because she “liked” fried chicken. Will that innocent photo of her at one year of age in the bathtub become a source of embarrassment when another kid posts it at school? Will the child be targeted in sophisticated ways (unbeknownst to the parents) by savvy marketers?

We’re all public figures these days so we may as well get used to it. Our generation did it to ourselves. Now we’re bringing along a generation where it has been done for them…to them.

We might want to think about that. I’m not suggesting that we take things so far as to choose names according to what Google finds (as some do), or that we preregister our children to Facebook and YouTube (as some do), but they’ll later appreciate it if we’re mindful enough in what we post that they have a chance to decide for themselves a little bit about what they want their public persona to be.



If you believe you need your employment, or your current lifestyle/family, etc. then there is no such thing as time off. Your responsibility doesn’t end when the lights go off at the end of the day. You can pretend it does. You can leave work at the office, or drop the kids with their father or at school, but that responsibility continues…even while you are sleeping. We seem to get it on some level with kids, but maybe not as much with job and career. Is it really any different? If you care about the outcome you better make sure to be taking the right actions at all times to best ensure the future you want.

japanese-man-asleep-on-the-trainLikewise your responsibility for your life and its outcomes isn’t on hold while you’re working, or on vacation.  All of these clocks continue to run, and if you aren’t moving forward then you’re probably slipping backwards.

It’s daunting, isn’t it?

The Drain of Friction

ballandchainwomanEvery system has at its outputs results that correlate to the inputs. When riding a bike your forward motion is the sum total of your pedaling energy, plus a wind vector, plus a gravity vector, minus energy lost to friction. All of these are necessary evils, but only friction is always and completely a drain. Wind and hills being what they are, your ultimate battle is against friction. Anything you can do to eliminate friction on your bike (inclusive of the friction of air passing by) will pay long term dividends in results (unless your goal is only to burn energy), and thus professional cyclists spend staggering amounts of money on technology to make bikes waste less of their energy.

Likewise life has its obstacles (wind) and hurdles (hills) that must be overcome. However hard they may be you can be assured that you’re also facing a certain amount of friction in your endeavors. Who and what is holding you back or making things that little bit harder than they should be? Is it necessary?

Like a professional cyclist you owe it to yourself to take an honest look around and assess the affect the components of your life are having on you. Anything or anyone that’s too much of a drain with too little positive input should be de-emphasized or otherwise moved out.

Easy to say in a vacuum, but sometimes we owe people, have commitments, or we just feel like we need to ‘take one for the team.’ That’s certainly part of what must be factored in, but as you do that be mindful of the truth that in many cases you’re allowing these things as part of your own baggage, to make you feel better, or to avoid something difficult, etc.

If possible, start the search in your business (that’s an easier place to be objective). Find the person, philosophy, or process that’s a drain. Get rid of it. There may some positive contributions, but if the net input is negative cut it out. Just try it. You’ll usually find two more drains hiding in the shadows behind it that you never could have seen. When you see how much better things work without the unnecessary energy drain you will be inspired to look for more opportunities.

Only then can you begin to fight off the fear of change and start to see it rationally.

The Routine of the Break

clockwatcherFocus is not the strong suit of many people in today’s culture. We’ve all read about the culprits, which range from TV to smartphones, to Twitter, to blog reading (I’ll keep this short).

Routines can be good. Having a designated time for doing a certain type of work provides a structure that’s often helpful in getting started. On the other hand, having a designated time to stop doing it can sometimes be a problem. Do you have to take lunch at noon? Do you find yourself unplugging 15 minutes before, preparing to take lunch? What about the time before work starts? Do you prepare to work, or can you just go ahead and get started?

However, it’s sometimes easy to work too much, too long, to the point of diminishing returns. Having time limits can help provide some urgency, but don’t let them run your life.

Take a look at where your routines help you or hurt you. Shake them up.

Who is the customer?

CustomerInTheMiddleSmallPublicly traded companies suffer from the fundamental problem of clearly knowing who the customer is. The buyers of goods and services believe they are the customer, but inside the walls of the company it’s not so simple. The focus for most public companies is to produce returns for their investors, and most of them will do whatever is necessary to the customer to achieve that end. The “customer” is just a necessary commodity in a way. Clearly they can’t entirely ignore the desires of the the customer, but you aren’t the primary concern. This is why so many companies you sometimes have bad feelings about struggle to do what appears to you (as the customer) as the obvious right thing. You aren’t really the customer in their world. (Of course ultimately you are, but we’re talking about their perceived world here.) Avoiding for now the practices of well run companies who wisely figure it all out, this stuff is at the very least confusing for most companies. It’s capitalism at work. Revenue is king.

Banks are a great racket to get into if you can. The day-to-day costs of credit card transactions are paid for by the merchants. The card holder pays interest on charges that turn into a loan, but a small percentage (roughly 2%, more on some cards) of each transaction is taken off the top by the bank issuing the card.

So is the cardholder or the merchant the bank’s customer? The merchant is paying them for the privilege of accepting the card. The cardholder is generating the transactions that cause the payment. Anyone who has ever experienced both sides of working with the banks will tell you that the banks advocate for the cardholder. In fact, banks sometimes do highly unethical things to protect themselves (surprise). In no signature (mail order) transactions the merchant has little to no protection should the buyer or bank later decide to try to “undo” the transaction. If the cardholder stops paying his bill there are banks that have been known to systematically go back and retrieve money back from merchants on no signature transactions simply because they can. This stuff does happen. I could give you many other horror stories. We’ve seen other examples of how even when the banks lose a bet, they don’t lose.

It isn’t always easy, but you need to have a good idea who your customer is. It may be your boss. It may be a key person in another department. It may be your spouse (hint, one of your customers IS your spouse). Many people who struggle in a career do so in part because of a lack of clarity about who their customer is. They waste time on things that don’t matter to anyone who matters, while missing the boat on things that could really make a difference. Often it is because the latter appears as more difficult than the former. Sometimes it’s complete ignorance.

When you do something take a minute to reflect on a simple question… “For the sake of what (who) am I doing this?”

Appearance versus Looks

We’ve all been told for years that looks/appearance is often a significant factor in how we are treated by others. Attractive people generally get more attention or offers (of all kinds), are treated more kindly, get more benefit of the doubt, higher salaries, etc.
The distinction between looks and appearance is a nuanced one, but important. The way a person looks is generally considered to weigh mostly factors he/she may not have a lot of control over. Call it genetically based physical characteristics. Appearance, on the other hand is considered to be more about putting forth the best look possible. Looks are innate, inherent. Appearance is designed, considered, and contextual.
Looks are not vital for success, although it does help a lot. Appearance is. A lack of attention to detail regarding appearance sends a message. It can go as far as to reflect one’s character or reputation. Most of us figured out these basics years ago, which is a major why people who look good get more. We respond to them as if they had something to do with it, which they did in many cases. We aren’t terribly good at being aware of the difference between the two, which represents an opportunity for you both as the viewer and viewed. This is yet another example of selling and show business in action. You can ignore it if you want to, but the effects are real and quantifiable.
And it’s not limited to our physical characteristics. It also pertains to persona, and even to what we touch and do. Take the time to wrap it up nicely. It makes a difference. But how you “appear” is ultimately all in the subjective eye of the beholder. Thus it helps to know your audience.



Cultures and sensibilities change…in time. Issues pertaining to race, for example, are handled very differently these days than 30 years ago. Not everyone is on board with equality (or in agreement about what constitutes equality), but more than ever are. This has also been very visible lately with same sex marriages. Some ideas go from fringe acceptance to a foregone conclusion in months (see countless internet examples).

It is sometimes necessary to legislate these things. To in a sense force people to comply, which understandably triggers a lot of angst as new ideas bump against our boundaries and trigger our emotions. You can fight change, but eventually certain things will move along without you if you don’t comply, and you will be left on the fringe…swallowed up and forgotten by the shifting sands of the rest of the world. Some people kick and scream along the way. It can be a point of pride to hold one’s ground for a while, but in the long run nearly all of us begin to comply in order to function effectively in society. And soon, as you acclimate and begin to act a certain way to avoid standing out too much…one does begin to actually change. Yes, it is possible to force people to change. Only the naive or posturing in stubbornness pretend this isn’t the case, and eventually they look like fools. It’s a very slow and uncomfortable process, but it happens…all the time. It is happening right now. It’s just usually at a pace too slow to see it, until one day we wake up and some new legislation passes or a landmark event occurs that gives us a signpost.

The sands keep drifting. You can’t sit still without being buried.

Temptation: Avoid or Resist?

temptationburgerOur lives are filled with all sorts of temptations. Food, sex, money, TV, idle time, shopping, the comfort of not engaging, etc.

Much conventional wisdom (especially religious wisdom) seems directed at avoidance of things deemed to be potentially bad for us. Don’t have the snack food in the house, don’t get into a situation where you’re spending any time with a member of the opposite sex, cancel that cable TV subscription, tear up the credit cards, don’t even go near the casino.

While those methodologies can be valid under the right circumstances (particularly pathological ones), I am dubious of the benefits of avoiding things that may be bad for us. I write this as someone who has his weaknesses, and has his dragons to slay. We all do. But avoiding doesn’t build strength. It hides the weakness. It’s a booby trap waiting to spring, usually at the worst possible time (when you aren’t alert).

I’m not suggesting it isn’t sometimes necessary. We have to do what we have to do to survive and take care of ourselves, but at some point one must grow up and develop the inner strength required to resist. Resisting is better in every way, if a bit more risky. When you avoid you also end up avoiding things that can be good for you. You avoid listening to other points of view, or having experiences that can potentially enrich or change your life. Resisting allows you to be much more granular in your selectivity.

AvoidTemptationYou know, down deep inside, whether you’re avoiding or resisting. And that makes all the difference in the world to your confidence in yourSelf. Avoiding is a rip tide that (eventually) takes you down. Resisting is the strength to climb the mountain.


Broken on Purpose


Rebates fall in the category of things that communicate an intention to try to get one over on people. You have to jump through hoops to eventually get some check or gift card, or whatever…way after the fact. They could be given at the point of purchase. The process is absolutely broken on purpose, and conveys disingenuous intent. (Whether or not it is actually disingenuous isn’t the point. It conveys it.)

Of course many people never bother to collect the money. Or if they try and something goes wrong, many give up quickly. Meanwhile there are those who diligently work to claim them every time. This is all calculated and statistically known up front and designed into the model of profitability.

It sets up a scenario with winners and losers. You get a better deal because the vendor knows about how many will forfeit it, based in part on the mechanics of how each one is implemented.

In the process the vendor mildly irritates the very customers he would probably like to have the loyalty of the most.

Deals and circumstances where someone has to lose for another to win can be destructive. Of course we do it routinely. Take Gambling for example. It’s fun up to a point. There’s some seduction born out of the possibility of a payoff. But most who gamble are willing to lose to be entertained. It’s just a lot less fun when we lose a lot. And when we win we don’t worry about taking from the house because that’s “them” and they can afford it. However, when we take from individuals it feels a little different. We gamble for more than money.

We have competition for jobs, promotions, resources, status, money, mates, etc. Competition is part of our species and in many ways a positive motivating force. Exclusivity, on the other hand, while attainable in some cases, communicates disingenuous intent. The goal is to get the big win mostly through having others lose out, or be excluded, rather than on merits alone. If I am the exclusive distributor of a sought after product I can charge especially high prices. It’s an agreement between me and the manufacturer that leaves customers feeling taken advantage of.

Exclusion limits. Inclusion elevates. If a relationship is contingent upon exclusivity then it makes one wonder what the underlying intent is. Your friend gets married and the friendship suffers, or is cut off because the spouse doesn’t feel it fits within his or her boundaries. It might seem understandable, but it’s fear that begets this type of control. We each want the best tactical advantage we can get, and in some domains more than others we’re willing to be pretty cutthroat about manipulating circumstances in ways that inherently limit. Limiting others, even those we care about, for the sake of our own security.

Exclusivity is designed to trap you. It’s just that you rarely recognize it or don’t care until you’re on the outside looking in.

We break things on purpose…to satisfy greed, status, security, etc. Society accepts and even encourages many of these actions, however, they don’t reflect an ideal of living harmoniously together with each person and organization rising to reach their full potential.

Inclusion is usually more uncomfortable and risky. Dare to take that higher road.


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