Sunday, November 14, 2010

Attaining Your Dreams...At Any Cost?

Life strategy

2010.11.14_TwistedRoad I've had many conversations over the past few months about goals and dreams with friends, colleagues, and those I meet in the course of my business. Many of these conversations seem to focus on what mindset we need to have to achieve our goals in life.

A tangential discussion revolves around paths to our dreams, in other words the choices we make to reach them. This is what I refer to as the multiverse of journeys for each goal. The use of the term is because as much as we'd like to believe there's only one right way of achieving a dream, there isn't. As well, each choice creates a whole new universe of who we are and how we arrived at our destination.

Let's clarify through an example. Let's say I set the goal of becoming a successful businessman, as measured by creating a business from ground-up and gaining 30% market share in my industry with a 35% profit margin and doubling of company revenue for the second to fifth years of operation.

I could achieve this by starting a drug-trafficking business, or a legitimate, legal one. If I choose the latter, I could sell my house and invest it all in the business; or keep the house, but invest all of my savings, then borrow the rest from Angel investors. If I borrow from Angels, then I could approach my family, friends, professional investors, questionable lenders, or all of the above.

Each of these steps has its own set of trade-offs (risks and rewards). Not a single one is THE right one. The key is to determine what's your risk tolerance, whether you're concerned about exposing anyone else or yourself to excessive risk, and how committed you are to your cause.

Each one creates a new universe or path to my final destination of becoming a successful businessman. Some of them will have negative consequence for me, my friends or family, or the society at large. In other words, I have many options to reach my goal, and some of them will mean I'll get there "at any cost."

The question then becomes, do I want to reach my goal at any cost? I don't think so. Reaching a goal at any cost means I'll consider nobody but myself in reaching my goals. It'll mean I'll have to step on and pummel many other people's dreams. It'll mean I consider the end justifies the means, even if the means will destroy relationships with friends, family, and coworkers, or the very fabric of my being, transforming me into a person I never intended to become.

So, choose the path carefully and insure your choices lead you down a path, through a journey, out of which the new you is the person you truly intend to be. And forget about reaching a goal at any price. Your sanity and relationships aren't worth that "price."

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Photo Credits

bala

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weather the Storm

Business Strategies

Project Managers often use a particular sequence of events to describe how teams form and begin to deliver value:

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing
2010.10.15_Storm

There are many articles written about how these steps naturally occur in every project, even with people that work in the same company.  I won’t go into the details of each.

I prefer to talk about the mindset it takes to get past Storming.  First, let’s define storming.  Storming is when newly formed teams begin to discuss what expertise each person has, who will take on which responsibilities, and how the project should proceed.  Many times the various solution approaches to a business problem or project are discussed at this stage as well. 

As you can imagine, when people come together that have seldom or never worked together, they require a certain amount of time to get to know each other and build respect for one another.  However, there’s also a lot of posturing that takes place at this stage.  Often times, since members of the team don’t yet know how to best communicate with one another, they end up upsetting various or all members.  Members may think others’ questions about an approach are attacks on a person’s expertise or understanding. In other words, a lot of us tend to take comments or questions personally. 

What results is storming, a certain amount of turmoil that naturally occurs before the team settles and becomes comfortable with its members. Often times, team members don’t yet act as team members, but individuals who need to defend their ideas and establish their expertise.  This is necessary step that could last a long time or even breakup a team before they can deliver any value.

As a recent experience reminded me, there are a few factors that help get past this stage as quickly as possible so that a team can gel or Norm and begin to deliver value in the shortest amount of time possible.  There’s no way to avoid this stage.  You just have to get through it…and you will.  Here are the factors that will help shorten the storming stage:

  1. Be Patient
    This is the most important factor.  Patience here means waiting to hear people out.  Let them speak.  Let them complete their sentences.  If you disagree with ideas presented or have questions, jot them down in your notebook computer or notepad.  Everyone enjoys being heard and especially likes it when the chance to speak isn’t stolen through comment interjection or disruptions.  So, why not let everyone speak their mind?
  2. Listen
    This goes hand-in-hand with being patient.  Probably, we’ve all heard that hearing is not the same as listening.  Hearing is a passive act.  I hear noises when I sleep or when I work, but I listen to music or people I love.  Hearing is what we do when we’re impatient and can’t wait to get a word in during a discussion. Whereas listening is when we carefully analyze the sounds or expounded words and attempt to digest their full meaning.  Intently listening often leads to periods of silence as a person finishes a thought and others decipher the totality of what was said, while dissecting the meaning of each word uttered.  Listen with the full intent of understanding every word.  Before making any points of your own, ask questions if you didn’t understand an idea presented or even a word uttered. 
  3. Don’t Take it Personally
    If you’re the one speaking and hear questions or even criticism of your ideas, don’t take it personally.  This should only make you realize your audience is listening and needs clarification.  Give them just that.  Explain your ideas as best you can and realize sometimes it takes up to seven conversations about the same topic for it to sink in.  Until then, all comments or questions may sound like criticism, though they’re not.
  4. Give Credit Where it’s Due
    When you hear of a great idea or see a great design, make it known.  Let your team members know how highly you think of their contribution so that you can begin to build goodwill.  They shouldn’t just hear your questioning.  They’ve worked hard on creating a widget, formulating their thoughts, designing the next big thing. If the ideas are worthwhile, they deserve to know that.
  5. Don’t Critique; Suggest Instead
    Many of us often use criticism of an idea or approach as a way to express our intellectual superiority.  This is far from the truth.  It takes substantially more effort, thought, intellectual and will power to create something new than to criticize it.  This is as true for an idea, as it is for writing a book, building cabinets in your home, or designing and building a new car.  So, stop the criticism.  If you feel something can be done differently and better, suggest a new method rather than point the shortcomings of what’s before you.  Suggesting a new idea is constructive and a creative process that requires patience in understanding, active listening, and objective, selfless thinking, all of the traits covered above.

2010.10.15_RainbowThe crux of these steps is clear.  Treat the process of forming a team no different than starting a friendship.  Assume nothing and keep an open mind and ear.

So, now go and make the world a better place.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share our thoughts below.

Photo Credits

davedehetre'sphotostream

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How I Stopped Being a Horse’s A##

Random Thoughts

2010.09.01_HorsesAss What’s better when there’s a difference of opinion in a business setting: to dig your heels in and insist on your point, or understand  the other perspective and accommodate?

I had to make a business decision recently that reminded me of these questions.  It involved a failed creative project.  I’d contracted with a company to develop a logo and website design for iEngineer.  Our original estimates told us we would need six to eight weeks to complete the project.  I figured I’d add another two weeks buffer for decision delay, and accounted for eight to ten weeks of work. 

Unfortunately, nothing worked as planned.  My directions weren’t clear enough, I’d asked the company to do something that was outside of their core , and we encountered other delays external to the project that affected our timeline drastically.

What was the end result: we stopped the project about 2/3 of the way through and decided it wasn’t worth completing.  In the end, we had no final logos or design, but had paid in full for the project and expended resources for three months.

At that stage, I could’ve put up a fight and asked for a part of the fees back.  I could’ve made it very difficult for our vendor by getting our attorney involved. 

I could’ve been a horse’s a##. 

Instead, it made more sense to take a less resentful, healthy and humane approach.  I assumed we’d “invested” the money in a course and learned some very valuable business lessons about projects and vendor engagement:

  1. Define Your Objectives:
    Define what you wish to get out of a project and commit it to paper before starting a contract.  You can continue to refine it, but at least you have something more than just a verbal conversation to rely on when you need to convey your thoughts.
  2. Find Like Minds:
    Find a vendor that has the same core values you do, both in business and personal life.  If nothing else, this makes for easier conversations and removes the limits of talking only about business.  More likely, you’ll be able to use your common values and language to convey exactly what you want.
  3. Withhold Final Payment:
    …that is, until you see the final product.  You don’t want to hold the final payment hostage to your whims. If the vendor has delivered on what they were supposed to, pay them.  Otherwise, you have an easier path of cutting your losses early, if you need to.
  4. Build Trust:
    Trusted relationships aren’t born, but built.  So, make sure everyone knows that you’re in the process of “building” a relationship in every step through your communication, promises made and kept, and your cordial sensibilities.  Remember, every business interaction isn’t just about that interaction, but all other future activities too.  So, know that your success on your first project will likely lead to more direct and indirect work in the future.
  5. Speak Your Mind:
    Don’t be afraid to talk about your concerns.  You’re doing everyone a disservice by withholding them and hoping they would go away or get “ironed out.”  As soon as you have a concern, speak about it.  Mind you, I’m not advocating harassing or attacking a vendor or business associate.  However, I recommend stating your concerns and asking how you can address them together.
  6. Make Amends:
    If you’re at fault, apologize and find ways of rectifying what’s in your control.  Realize that in every scenario, you are at least partially responsible for the good or bad outcome.  No exceptions.
  7. Be the Big Brother:
    If you skipped all the other steps or if for any other reason the relationship doesn’t work, act as the big brother.  Keep the relationship healthy by providing insight on what you could’ve done better and what you think the vendor or business associate could’ve done better.  Remember that if you both succeed in the future, it’s better for everyone around, including the society at large.

2010.09.01_HorsesFace So, what did we do in our circumstance?  We decided to take step seven above.  We looked at what we, at iEngineer, did wrong.  What could we have done better?  What part of our responsibility didn’t we carry out?  We listed all of these and thoughts on what to do differently above.  Luckily, they’re also documented in this post!  We did the same for what we thought were the vendor’s responsibilities.

Then we had a difficult, though frank and friendly discussion with the vendor and explained that although we were ending the engagement, we wanted them to succeed.  So, we explained what we thought we could’ve done differently, asked for their thoughts about the same, and offered improvement suggestions to them for any future engagements, hoping that someday we could work again together. 

As it so happened, the vendor took our input, spoke with their internal staff and decided to refund more than 25% of their fees! I was very pleasantly surprised.  This was very gracious of them and we told them so. 

The crux of this post is simple: I suggest you do something new today and treat your fellow man or woman with respect and love.  Make that choice and see how much more humane your business relationships become.  You never know, you just may be surprised by how well you are treated in turn!

What Do You Think?

How do you feel about conflict management?  Have I missed any steps above.  Feel free to comment below.

Photo Credits

jenny downing
padam2

Monday, August 2, 2010

Watch Grass Grow

Optimist’s Perspective

My travels and work have taken me away from sharing my thoughts with you for the past couple of months.  I apologize for that, and add that this may have been for the best as I’ve formulated new and refined other ideas that I’ll share with you over the coming months

The first is this here: When it comes to starting a new business, or a new department, or a new job we should all learn to watch grass grow.  This is really a lesson I learned because I literally had to watch grass grow over a three month period. 

2010.08.02_Grass

When we purchased our home a few years back, our yard that had some draught resistant plants (translation: weeds) and a dried out grass area.  We originally thought we’d have our yard redone by professionals.  We were thinking of removing all grass and just having hardscape with shaped sitting walls, outdoor bar/grill and a fire pit.  Three contractors’ estimates and an equal number of months later, we realized it was out of our then budget. 

The second thought was to delay to hardscape and lay down some sod so that our dog wouldn’t drag mud into the house.  I priced it out and for what little space we had to lay down, I thought the price was ridiculous.  By this time, almost two years had passed. 

What did we do?  We waited!!! That is, we waited for the new year and new ideas to come. 

So, as a last ditch effort, we decided to reseed the yard ourselves.  We were going to get our hands dirty.  Well, our gloves at least! 

I looked up what it took to use seeds to grow grass.  I was surprised by how easy it seemed.  The basic steps were these:

  1. De-Weed: Get rid of all the weeds, and I mean all of them by killing them for a few weeks through spraying weed killers, waiting two weeks, spraying some more and waiting another two weeks.
  2. Prepare the Foundation: Resurface the dirt so that it’s not too compacted and the soil is aerated, ready to hide all new seeds.
  3. Level the ground: This is to insure the ground is smooth for aesthetics, easy of use (don’t want the dog to trip as it’s running, doing figure eights) as well as for proper drainage.
  4. Lay Down Nourishment: Spread grass starter mix, which is basically fertilizer.
  5. Spread the Seeds: Evenly spread the seeds. You don’t want concentration in some areas and bare ground elsewhere. This is really to have a consistent look across the yard.
  6. Place Topsoil: Cover the seeds with topsoil to protect the seeds from blowing off or being easily eaten by birds.
  7. Water Daily: Water every day for two weeks. (This is not cheap in the draught-ridden California.)

The steps seemed easy enough, though they required time and some sweat equity.  Nevertheless, we did it. 

Then we waited for the grass to grow.

And waited.

And waited.

Our efforts had no effect, that is until warmer days hit.  Our Spring planting may have been too early and we needed some warmer Summer weather. 

2010.08.02_PatchyGrass Nonetheless, we had a lot of empty patches.  I was happy though.  At least we had something.  I was encouraged.  Another trip to the local hardware shop resulted in more seeds, fertilizer, and top soil to patch the empty spots. 

This time we got more grass in shorter time, but we still had patches.  So, we tried it a third time to fill in some remaining patches. 

Suffice it to say, this is an ongoing process, though no longer because we can’t fill the patches, but because our dog keeps creating new browned grass with her donations to the yard!  We love her for it, and it makes for some interesting stories, not to mention some needed Sunday afternoon exercise for me!

Aside from a short lesson in gardening, I realized this is exactly how businesses grow.  You start out with a clean canvas or a semi-filled one, but one that needs your constant attention and perseverance to see it come to fruition. 

Let’s look at the steps above and see how they apply to business:

  1. De-Weed: No different than your yard, you have to get rid of all the tangential ideas, products, people, places, and things that occupy your mind far longer than they should.  You need to get rid of everything that isn’t part of your core so that your business and personnel aren’t distracted by them. If you’re an innovative company, you’ll likely encounter some deep rooted ideas that you need to jettison.  Do it.  Don’t even think twice about it.
  2. Prepare the Foundation: In order to let ideas and your company grow, you certainly need a softened soil.  These are your people who’ll help support your business. Selection of the right people who have malleable tendencies is key.  You want personnel who not only buy into your ideas and help them grow, but add ideas of their own and require little to no supervision to carry out your vision.
  3. Level the ground: what applies to business here is  the idea of “drainage.”  You want to make clear to all of your employees what is your vision for the company, your products and services.  The concept here is simple: make sure they know what the company does and can easily respond to a customer and say, “we don’t do that here.”  You want the company to focus on only what leads to reaching its goals, not on any ancillary ideas or services that take away focus and energy from the vision.
  4. Lay Down Nourishment: The fertilizer for your business is all the resources you need.  Aside from the right personnel, it’s the training, tools, and people your employees need to get exposed to and easily have access to in order to be successful.  Pay top dollar for this so that you have the best “fertilizer” to feed your personnel’s and your ideas.
  5. Spread the Seeds: This is easy, right?  The seeds for your company are your ideas and vision.  Spread them far and wide.  Make sure people know what’s your cause.  Let not only your employees know, but everyone outside of your company too.  You’ll be surprised how sharing your ideas and vision can attract the right people from your network and industry.
  6. 2010.08.02_Grass_Keep_Off Place Topsoil: Protection is key when you’re a startup.  I don’t suggest complete secrecy.  I think you loose collaborative opportunities, even with competitors that way.  You have to accept that you’ll lose some of your products or services to competitors, but if you’ve done all of the other prep work and spread your ideas far and wide, some loss won’t hurt you.  Nevertheless, you’ll need to take steps to prevent would-be competitors to steal and replicate your core concepts and personnel.
  7. Water Daily: This is standard care and feeding that comes in the way of communicating with your team daily to see what doors need to be opened, what additional resources found and made available, what roadblocks removed.  It’s especially important to do this everyday in the early days so that you can gather momentum toward your company goals.
  8. P2010.08.02_PatienceBankatiently Observe and Remediate: This wasn’t part of the directly prescribed process for planting seeds, but it is indirectly.  You have to practice patience and work through mistakes, setbacks, and overall lessons that help you hone in on what it is you need to improve or change in order to insure your company’s success.  You must act as the patient scientist who constantly measures and corrects to insure the results sought are achieved.  Also remember, don’t beat yourself or anyone else over the head for trying something new.  The mistakes that result from these trials and errors are the keys to your success. 

That last point is very important: be patient and replant those seeds.  Don’t loose hope at whatever you’re trying to achieve, even if you don’t get it exactly the way you want the first time, nothing and nobody can prevent you from trying your hands again and putting your newly earned experience to proper use.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your comments below.

 

Photo Credit: aussiegall, Tony Buser, Editor B, Todd Huffman

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Post-Failure Attitude

Optimist’s Perspective

2010.07.01_ThumbsUp If you take risks, you’ll likely fail some of the time.  I’m not writing about taking stupid, life-threatening risks like driving at 120 mph on the Southern California freeways!  I’m referring to taking professional, calculated risks in business.  You may have set aggressive sales goals for your organization then taken a risk by focusing on a handful of key prospects.  You may decide to take on a project that everyone else in your company shies away from.  You may have decided to start a company in a down economy.  No matter what, even if the big goal is eventually obtained, it’s EVENTUALLY obtained, not necessarily immediately.  That means there are many steps in between that could lead to failure.

That’s OK.  In fact, that’s good. Many leaders in our communities speak and write about this.  You may have even read a post on this blog about it.

What’s important is not whether you’ll experience failure.  You will!  What’s supremely important is how you come out of it.  What’s your attitude after you risked everything and lost that key account, your dream project, your job?  Do you become bitter?  Do you dwell on what went wrong?  Or do you analyze what lead to the failure, realize what you need to change, and change it? 

The best answer is the affirmative response to that last question.  It’ll show in your demeanor and how you treat others. If the fact that you’ve failed in certain endeavors doesn’t scare or upset you, then you’ll come out of them stronger, exemplifying Nietzsche’s “what does not kill me, makes me stronger.”

Here are a few tips on how to quickly assess a failed attempt, learn from it, and prepare for the next risk that’ll EVENTUALLY lead to your success:

  1. Accept You Were at Fault
    This is a key point.  Be honest.  In every case, and I mean EVERY…SINGLE…case, you had something to do with the failure.  So, own it.  Accept that the failure was yours and be proud of it.  Feel the power of knowing you were the master of your own destiny and your choices led to the eventual outcome. 
  2. List All of Your Decisions
    List every decision you made and people you influenced.  Include decisions you avoided.  Who else should you have contacted, spoken with, influenced, befriended.  This is a big one.  After all, our decisions pave the road to our successes or failures.
  3. What Key Ingredients Were You Missing
    Did you not have the  right resources? Were you short on funds? Did you have the wrong technology at your disposal? Were you able to make decision?  With what elements in place would you have been able to be successful? 

    Believe it or not, this is not an important ingredient in your recovery, but it’s a necessary step so that you can convince yourself the failures have more to do with decisions than a lack of resources or funds.  You’ll notice that many elements, if not all, that you list here you could have found or had if you’d made the decision to pursue them.
  4. What Would You Change and Why
    The culmination of the last three elements should guide you to this question.  You should now know what was in your control (everything) that you could’ve changed.  You’ll need to pay especial attention to determine how to better make decisions in the future.  Will you need to gather more information, where possible, before making a decision? How will you insure that you make more decision, more often, and more effectively in the future?
  5. Commit to Change
    The final step is to commit to making changes.  If you don’t commit, you’ll drive yourself mad, because you’ll continue to make the same mistakes and get the same results.  What’s more, if you don’t change, you’ll continue to dwell on what happened and wonder how things can be different.

All of this leads to a more positive attitude, a certain x-factor, that’ll insure your final win.

What Do You Think?

Have you experienced failures and found your way to success?  Feel free to share your stories below.

 

Photo Credit: richkidsunite

Monday, June 14, 2010

How to Read Body Language

Book Recommendation

I hope you’ve had a chance to read the book review for Delivering Happiness posted here recently.  We had the following winners of that book’s related giveaway:

I ask that Nicole email me with her address so that I may mail you copies of the the book.  I will send Natalia her copy.

For this month, I’m giving away copies of the book The Definitive Book of Body Language.  It’s not a new book, but one I read a few months back and enjoyed.  It has certainly helped me better understand my family, friends, and coworker’s deeper opinion and mood. 

What I enjoyed most about this book were the plethora of examples and citations.  The authors provide plenty of detail on very many body positions with their related meanings.  There’s even a final chapter where the authors put your comprehension of the signs to test by providing various scenarios and pictures that you’re required to interpret.  I especially liked the attention to detail where the authors describe cultural differences in body language.

What I wasn’t keen on were the few references to Neuro Linguistic Programming, as described in Wikipedia, this is:

A controversial approach to psychotherapy and organizational change based on "a model of interpersonal communication chiefly concerned with the relationship between successful patterns of behaviour and the subjective experiences (esp. patterns of thought) underlying them" and "a system of alternative therapy based on this which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and effective communication, and to change their patterns of mental and emotional behaviour".

This is the stuff that the likes of Tony Robbins purportedly use to influence those around them.  Thankfully, the authors refer to this, but don’t delve much into it.  Ignoring this, I highly recommend this book to any person interested in learning how to better read and communicate with his fellow man.

As to the book giveaway, I’ve revised and simplified the rules:

  • Make a comment on this specific posting anytime between now and the end of June 2010
  • The first five distinct comment authors will each win a separate copy of the book

I’ll announce the winners in next months book recommendation at the beginning of July.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to drop your comments below about this or any other book, with the added benefit of being entered to win a copy of this month’s recommended book, The Definitive Book of Body Language

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pursuing Your Passion is Bogus

Motivational

2010.06.08_ConfusedDog Did I get your attention with the title? 

This is exactly the kind of manipulation a lot of writers and bloggers go through to get attention, and sometimes they’re arguing for arguments sake.  I recently saw a similar title on another blog…by a motivational speaker, no less!  I was astounded. 

She was was tired of people coming to her saying they had left their job, wife, husband, friend, hubby since they’d lost their passion.  She didn’t believe that passion was something that could be lost or found.  To this comment I say, it is ABSOLUTELY something that can lost or found.

To check my own understanding of the word, I looked up its definition.  Passion is defined on the Princeton.edu site as, “a strong feeling or emotion.”  So, let’s ask the question, can you find or loose a feeling?  Have you ever found love, and lost it later?  Have you ever found happiness or sadness? If you have a family, did you feel strongly about your newborn child on his or her birthday?  Do you feel strongly about your artistic tendencies?  The answer to all of these is likely a resounding, “YES!”

So, why ignore that we have strong feelings about various events, people, acts in our lives?  Why would we feel annoyed when someone tells us they’ve lost their passion for a certain part of their life?  We shouldn’t.  We should instead embrace the feeling and encourage ourselves, family, friends and even complete strangers to pursue and find their passions, even if those passions change as our lives do. 

…And forget about all authors, orators, and otherwise attention-starved maniacs who tell you finding your passion is a bogus idea!

Pursue, find, and enjoy all your passions, all the time!

What Do You Think?

What do you feel passionate about?  Share them below.

 

Photo Credits: suephotos

Monday, June 7, 2010

Delivering Happiness Book Review

Book Recommendations

Tony Hsieh’s new book, Delivering Happiness, was released today.  You can purchase a copy on Amazon.com. I was exposed to this book a couple of months back when I signed up to receive a free pre-release copy in exchange for writing an honest, unbiased review on this blog. 

After signing up for the review, I received two pre-release copies: one to read and one to give away.  Through various means, I came by some additional copies of the book and I’m giving away all NINE copies, six of the pre-release and three of the hard cover.  If you’re interested in getting a copy, please follow the posted guidelines here.

Overall
The book is an easy read that chronicles Tony Hsieh’s growth from a childhood entrepreneur through various businesses and eventual Amazon investment / buyout of Zappos.com, his latest venture. 

He stresses and exemplifies the idea of not only finding your passion, but using experimentation to find what your passion is.  In other words, he promotes living a life free of fear of the unknown, where you learn what you want to do through trial-and-error of your business ideas. 

I only wish he had more chapters on how to deliver happiness outside of the context of his business.  Unfortunately, he only devotes the last short chapter to this that leaves the reader wanting more.  May be that’s intentional.

Overall, I highly recommend reading this as an inspirational and down-to-earth book about following your dreams.

Pros
Tony explains at the start of the book that he used his everyday language to write this book, rather than highly correct grammar.  Having seen him speak recently, as well as viewed some of his video blogs, I see how true to form this is.  He maintains a very friendly tone throughout the book.  In fact, you almost feel like you’re sitting at a bar, having drinks, while he retells his success story. 

The book isn’t meant as an autobiography, though he retells parts of his childhood experimenting with various small business ideas, his college days selling pizza on campus, and years developing his three businesses.  These transitions are meant as a device to help the reader arrive at the conclusion he wants you to reach: the want to deliver happiness.  I enjoyed reaching this conclusion with him, though I think he fell short in delivering the message to the full extent he could have.  More on this in the Cons section.

Tony stresses the importance of having the right people in your business, as well as knowing the purpose of your venture.  He uses his missteps, the reasons for the demise of some of his ventures, as guiding posts why it’s important to know why you do what you do.  I found many of his conclusions in line with concepts put forth by others like Simon Sinek who advises us to know why we want to pursue a particular venture, and to stay true to that vision throughout in order to attract the people, business, and success we wish to have.

A take away lesson from this book is the value of experimenting with various ideas in our lives to determine our passions.  Tony tried many ventures, like developing websites before offering pay-per-click advertising services through his link exchange company. He also tried his hands at becoming an early stage investor for startup companies, only to realize he preferred to be involved directly with a company on a day-to-day basis, leading to his full investment and leadership role at Zappos.com.  He espouses the idea of finding your calling through trial-and-error, rather than some cerebral exercise.

Cons
I mentioned earlier that I think Tony fell short in delivering the message of how we can deliver happiness.  The conclusion seems natural, but lacks any depth for implementation.  He stresses that what it means to deliver happiness will differ from company to company and person to person.  Nevertheless, the final chapter devoted to this seems short and abrupt. 

I would’ve hoped for a few more chapters devoted to examples of how this could be done.  One method may have been to share stories of others with whom he was privately involved and who took the message of delivering happiness to make it their own.  I would’ve liked to have read what challenges these others faced and how, by putting to practice a particular set of guidelines, they too reaped the rewards of their success. He almost achieves this by sharing stories of how his employees and coworkers put to practice the idea of over-delivering on customer service, even to complete strangers in supermarkets. Nevertheless, I was hungry for more. 

This apparent vacuum may be intentional.  After all, what would be the purpose of asking your readers to experiment if you give them step-by-step instruction on how to achieve success?  May be the true message of the last chapter was to tease us enough to start experimenting.  May be all he wants is to be the first domino in the great chain of people delivering happiness worldwide!

May be!

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your thoughts below.  You can also add comments here in order to win a free copy of Tony Hsieh’s book,  per posted guidelines here.

Photo Credits: Amazon.com

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Favorite Android Apps – Part 5: Games

Technology Recommendations

This is a continuation of the series on My Favorite Android Apps. I’m covering games in this post.

Games

  • Backgammon: I’m not much of a chess player, but I love the other strategy board game, backgammon.  It brings back a lot of memories from childhood when I’d sit by the fireplace with my parents in cold winter nights as they played this age old game.  This particular rendition on the Android is pleasing to the eye. The paid version allows you to adjust your expertise level as well.  Some of the harder levels are somewhat devilish as the bot seems to get the best rolls.
  • FreeCell:  Among the card games, this is one of my favorite games, along with Klondike below.  They both provide a subtle break when you have just enough brain power to track card locations. 
  • iMobsters: This is a low-graphic multiplayer game that walks you through knocking off other bad guys, looting, stealing…you know, everything that a mobster would do!  Your interaction is pressing buttons, giving commands to completes tasks, or carry out attacks.  There’s no animation. 

    Surprisingly, this game is somewhat addictive, especially once you learn how to use the money you gain from each activity to invest in real estate or just the right amount of equipment to insure your success in other tasks or attacks. 
  • Klondike: Who doesn’t like a good game of Klondike Solitaire?  This is just that.  If you want to avoid the ads that appear in and disappear from the screen, get the paid version.
  • Magic 8-Ball: Just like it’s physical brethren, you can ask a closed-ended question (requires a yes/no response), shake your Android phone, and await the Magic 8-Ball’s response.  It’s a fun distraction to make you realize all those important questions in life can have some really funny responses.
  • Math Workout: This is a brain teaser game.  You take timed algebra quizzes to test your mental acuity. Don’t try this if you’re tired.  You wont’ do so well.  Alternately, try this as part of a drinking game.  You’ll get a barrel of laughs.
  • Real Blackjack: I’m not much of a gambler, but when I used to play in Las Vegas, this was my favorite game.  It’s one where I have fond family memories.  My father, brother and I used to have a system for sitting at the head, middle and end of a table to control some of the outcomes, as much as you can do that in Vegas.  We didn’t get comped, but won enough hands to enjoy the experience every time.  The Android version is a fun game to help me reminisce.  I only wish I could get my brother and dad playing simultaneously with me.
  • Red Poker Club’s Texas Holdem: Red Poker provides a very warm set of graphics and interface to play this fairly new (Texas Holdem) poker game.  You receive additional $1,000 in chips each time you login…and don’t worry, it’s not real money, though you’ll still feel a stab with every hand lost.
  • Soduku Free: A few years back I picked up a Soduku puzzle book at a local Barnes and Noble.  I was hooked, even though I despised word puzzles.  There’s something appealing about math-based games, and Soduku provides you with just that.  I like this free version for those occasions when I’m waiting at the airport or before falling sleep and need a distraction to relax.

What Do You Think?

Do You have any favorite apps, whether on Android, iPhone, Blackberry or Symbian devices?  Why don’t you share them with us below under the Comments section?

Related Articles

My Favorite Android Apps – Part 1
My Favorite Android Apps – Part 2
My Favorite Android Apps – Part 3
My Favorite Android Apps – Part 4

Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 1
Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 2
How I almost Dumped the CLIQ: Review – Part 3
Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 4
Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 5

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

20 Steps for a Successful Presentation

Call to Action

I recently attended a technical presentation for one of my professional organizations where I noticed the speaker was somewhat uncomfortable, especially at the start of the presentation.  Certainly a lot of preparation had gone into gathering the information that was shared.  Nevertheless, the poorly timed pauses and numerous filler words and sounds created the equivalent of speed bumps and detracted from the main points.

Given my experience with Toastmasters and interest with insuring people’s success in making public presentations, I’ve decided to share a set of recommendations with you. 

I’ve made a few assumptions about the type of presentation you’ll make:

  • This’ll be a presentation not just a speech
  • You’ll have a slide-deck prepared in Prezi, PowerPoint, or Google Apps Presentation
  • You want to receive good feedback from the audience

Based on these assumptions, here are my recommendations:

Before the Meeting

  1. Skip on Writing Out Your Speech
    Forget about writing out your speech or presentation.  Create a bullet list of your main points or an outline.  You can do this on a slide deck or a set of note cards.  Remember, even if you’re using note cards, do NOT write out whole sentences.  Have a few words that remind you of the points you want to make, unless the information is a graph, facts, or figures.   For the latter, put them in your slide.
  2. Avoid Sentences in the Slides
    When creating your presentation, think of it as an outline or list of hint words.  So, do NOT put any full sentences.  You want one to three word reminders of the points you want to make.   You can also put any graphs, facts, figures, or references here. 
  3. Practice, practice, practice
    Do this at home in front of the mirror, on the road while you’re waiting at a stop sign, at the bus or train station, or anywhere else where you’re not engaged in doing something else.  The more you practice in difference areas and may be in front of different people, the more likely you’ll know how to shuffle information about without missing the main points during your presentation.
  4. Confirm Day and Date of Your Presentation
    This may seem obvious, but there are times that an event gets cancelled and not all of the presenters are notified on time.  So, call and check at least on the day of the presentation and, preferably, earlier, especially if you have a long commute or flight to the location.
  5. Confirm Your Facility’s Capabilities
    Confirm that all the equipment you need will be available, like a microphone, projector and notebook computer for your presentation.  If you need web access, ask about that as well.
  6. Make Sure You Have a Plan B
    Whether you’re using a notebook, projector, microphone, or any combination thereof, make sure you have a backup plan if any or none of them work or are unavailable.  How about taking some of your own hardware, or getting some hard copies of your slides or at least the key slides?

Before the Presentation

  1. Arrive Early
    Arrive at least 30 minutes before your presentation. You want to make sure you have ample time to setup and test all the equipment you’ll use.  This is where any preparation you did for Plan B may come in play. 
  2. Meet and Greet
    Be sure to meet some of the people attending.  This is a great way to insure you have some friends in the audience.  If you see someone you know, don’t forget to say hello, but also don’t spend all of your time with them.  You want to meet some new faces that you’ll focus on later as you’re making your presentation.

During the Presentation

  1. Avoid Reading Your Presentation
    When showing your presentations slides, don’t just read your bullets.  Provide details for each point.  Assume your audience can read what you’ve written, unless you’re presenting to a group of blind people, of course!
  2. Avoid Unnecessary Movements
    Unless your presentation calls for a lot of movement, don’t move around unnecessarily.  Mind you, I don’t condone becoming a statue.  You can move around the stage so long as it doesn’t distract or seem abrupt.  However, any nervous ticks or motions are distracting.  Examples of this include:
    1. Hands in pocket
    2. Playing with a pen
    3. Repeatedly touching your face or any other body part (don’t get any ideas!)
    4. Holding your reading glasses when you’re not using them
    5. Playing with your retractable pen or pen cap
    6. Repeatedly tapping the podium or table where you stand
  3. Use Pointer Sparingly
    Pointers are tough to use, but can be handy in getting your audience’s attention.  Avoid doing any kind of circular motion to highlight a section on the slide.  Keep the pointer still at the location where you want to draw attention and shut it off as soon as you’re done.  You may need to use both hands to steady the pointer.  Whatever you do, don’t point it at your audience to ferret out the noise makers!
  4. Make Eye Contact
    Remember all the people you met before the presentation?  Look at them as you’re making your points.  Stay on their eyes or right above the eyes on their foreheads for about one to two seconds.  This’ll give the impression that you’re making eye contact with everyone as you look for your newly found friends throughout the room.  It’ll also draw in your audience.  If you can, make the same type of eye contact with people you didn’t meet.
  5. Ask Questions
    Ask rhetorical and actual questions.  This too will get your audience involved and draw them in.  You’ll demonstrate your presentation is a conversation, not just a dictation.
  6. Repeat the Main Point Often
    You’ll want to repeat the main points of your presentation numerous times.  I suggest one at the beginning to let everyone know what you want them to remember, then one or more times throughout your presentation as a way of summarizing what you’ve already covered and what remains, then again at the end to summarize what you spoke about.
  7. Call for Action
    In almost every presentation, you’re asking people to do something.  You may want them to become more active in your field, ask for funding or donations, or to make better decisions.  In every one of these cases, you’re asking them to do something: contact their congressman, donate to your department, or choose your product or company.  So, say it.  Ask them to take those steps.  Don’t be shy.  Make it abundantly clear what you want your audience to do.
  8. Open for Questions
    Make sure you plan for some question and answer time at the end of your presentation, even if it’s just one or two questions. This allows you to address anything you didn’t cover or cover thoroughly.  Also, it gives you another opportunity to get your audience involved.

After the Presentation

  1. Ask for Input
    No presentation is complete unless you ask for input.  You want to make sure you hear what your audience liked and what they want you to improve, or what additional information they need.  You can do this by talking to your newly found friends or anyone else in the audience, or more formally through a questionnaire.  Don’t miss this chance to get some free input while the information is fresh on everyone’s mind.
  2. Thank Your Host
    Be sure to thank your host in-person, by phone, or through email.  If your host is present at the meeting, do it immediately then follow up with a thank you card.  Nothing shows gratitude like a personalized greeting card in the mail.
  3. Clean Up
    Be sure to clean up after yourself.  This may be just your cup of water and notes, or all of your equipment.  Make sure you return the presentation area back to the condition you found it…then add a personal touch and tidy up a bit more!
  4. Follow Up
    If you’ve collected names and business cards, be sure to follow up within the next 24 to 48 hours when you and your presentation are still fresh in everyone’s mind.

What Do You Think?

Have you any other pointers for making effective presentations?  Please feel free to share them below.

 

Photo Credits: dbking

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thank You Simon Sinek

Motivational

I received a very pleasant surprise yesterday morning.  I took this week off from work…mostly. I’ve answered a few work emails and calls, but avoided work for the most part.  I know it’ll be there when I get back on Monday. 

So, it should be of no surprise that I didn’t answer my cell yesterday morning when I saw  a call come across without the caller ID.  I often answer my phone if I’m free, no matter if the caller ID is blocked.  Not so yesterday, but I wish I’d picked up.

2010.05.28_SimonSinekYou see, I recently wrote about how I was inspired by Simon Sinek’s video on TED titled, Start With Why (YouTube link).  It helped me redefine our company goals and refocus my efforts.  Apparently, Simon has a bot running online, checking for appearances of his name, or maybe someone who reads my blog knows him and pointed him to the article.  In either case, he saw my post, read it, and decided to call and thank me for it! 

Later in the morning when I listened to his voice mail, I couldn’t help but smile.  It wasn’t necessarily for the recognition, nor being contacted by someone who recently inspired me, but all of that combined with the fact that he called personally.  He didn’t send me an email, or ask someone else to call or email on his behalf.  He did it himself.

He didn’t have to do this, given the publicity he already received by appearing at TED and having his video circulated online.  Yet, he called me, someone he may have read about online, but has never met.  Not only that, he left a very pleasant voice mail thanking me for helping him show others how to find their “why.”

His message was bouncing around my head all day yesterday as I spent it with my family.  I woke up this morning rejuvenated from spending time with my family and reminded of Simon’s kind act.  I couldn’t quite describe it aside from just feeling a certain way.  That is, I couldn’t describe it until now.

It takes very little effort to pick up the phone and call, yet we often don’t do it even for people we know.  I’m certainly guilty of this occasionally.  No matter what business we’re in, we all deal with people who have mothers, fathers, relatives, and friends; people with wants, needs, loves and fears.  They may not believe in everything we do, but they experience life in many of the same ways.

Yet, we can easily act as automatons, giving the same response to every person, the same dry smile, or happy face in an email, through the same medium whether that’s Twitter, Facebook, or in our blogs.  It’s all cold, heartless, devoid of emotions, unless we reach out and talk to someone in-person or at least over the phone.  Only then do we connect on every level, through speech, our body language, and may be even something ethereal and soulful. 

Whether Simon meant to connect at that level through conscious effort or by instinct, I don’t know.  I just know I’m grateful for it, not only for being the recipient of the message, but for having had the chance to use his example to inspire others to do the same.

My only regret is that I haven’t his number and couldn’t find it online so that I could reciprocate and connect with him on the human, emotional level. 

If you read this Simon, I thank you and I hope to speak with you soon.

What Do You Think?

How can you demonstrate your part as a human being?  Whom can you reach to show some compassion?  Feel free to share your thoughts and humanity below.

 

Photo Credit: Biz Growth Nation

It’s All About You

Optimist’s Perspective

Over the past few years, and especially in the last 12 months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet quite a lot of professionals with varied backgrounds, skill sets and levels, and personality types.  I’ve made some new friends and certainly learned a lot from them.  I hope I’ve also helped them by sharing my knowledge, expertise, perspective, and contacts.

2010.05.28_HumanNetwork Many of us who meet regularly know how rewarding it is to help others.  I believe this wholeheartedly, and I also think we must have something to offer before offering to help.  In fact, we have an obligation to to discover what we can offer.

Many years ago when I was in college, I worked as an inventor’s assistant.  It was one of my more rewarding experiences.  While working for him I learned how to better organize information, write professional letters and emails, and manage my time.  Those were the direct benefits.  I also learned a great deal from observing and speaking with this inventor. 

We had many conversations about creativity, sources of ingenuity, U.S. patent law, religion, our families’ histories, and personal development.  I remember many of these with the same fondness for conversations I’ve had with my father and other intellectuals in the academia and the business world.  In fact, I continue to see him from time to time as we break bread and catch up. 

During one of these meals in the late 1990’s, when I was feeling especially down, I told him about my dissatisfaction with work.  I felt like I had no purpose.  What I did didn’t benefit anyone.  

He listened patiently and told me in order to help the world, I first had to care enough about myself to discover what I had to offer, what some refer to as a person’s “gift.”  I then had to cultivate the skills to be good at that gift.  Only then could I go out in the world and spread my goodwill.  Blindly offering help to others may result in making promises I couldn’t keep.   

Over the years I’ve learned to refine that message.  Though I don’t believe you need total mastery of a gift to be of value, you do need to know what’s that gift.  Even if you wish to focus on skills or resources, you must first posses those skills or resources before you can offer them.

Acquiring what you wish to share may take time or not.  Time shouldn’t be the determining factor for what you want to pursue and offer others.  Your first and foremost goal should be to care enough about yourself to find out what’s your gift.  This process may take a few hours or a few years.  Once you’ve found it, then cultivate it through education and practice, and finally offer it to others.

May be your gift is that you can easily meet, emotionally connect with, and learn about others.  That’s great.  In order for you to be resourceful, you then need to focus on building those relationships, meeting others and learning about them, their passions, wants, desires, then connect them with others of like mind-set or want.  You’ll notice, this still means you have to first focus on yourself by building your ability to get to know people, track and remember details about them, before you can help them connect with others.

What are you waiting for then?  Focus and care for yourself so that you can better the society.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your thoughts below.

 

Photo Credits: Sagar Patil

Thursday, May 27, 2010

No New Thoughts

Random Thoughts

2010.05.27_Shadows I love reading.  I schedule two to three days out of the months and a full week every year devoted to reading books.  I read various other postings each day, whether they are news articles, blogs, tweets, or Facebook posts.  Nothing beats a book for depth and thought-provoking ideas.

For the past couple of years I’ve concentrated on business books and noticed a pattern, one I remember from my early college years.  Every subject, whether business, philosophy, religion, or science repeats its ideas ad nauseam for a particular period. Each new iteration aims to refine previous concepts, but doesn’t.  It simply repeats it in a slightly different language.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe new ideas emerge…just not every six months.  I’ve now read half a dozen different books about how to better communicate in-person: by asking many questions, focusing on the other person, and repeating the answer to demonstrate that you understand the other person.  This is not new.  These are regurgitated concepts that I first learned from my college psychology classes.  I’m sure they weren’t new then either. 

When I hit these new-idea-dry-spells for a particular topic, I know I’ve read enough on the subject and I need to move on.   I’m just about there with most self-improvement books, especially about how to better communicate or manage your time.

What’s next? I don’t know.  May be a trek back to physics, astronomy, dog training, creativity or poker.

What Do You Think?

Do you sometimes get tired of some book or discussion subjects?  How do you get past it?  Share your thoughts below.

Photo Credits: kevindooley

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Favorite Android Apps – Part 4: Finance

Technology Recommendations

Welcome to another edition of My Favorite Google Apps.  This week I’m covering the Finance or Financial related applications.  This is a short list, but as the expression goes, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight,  but the size of the fight in the dog that counts.”

Finance/Financial

  • Bank of America: This is an app for checking your account balances online, find local branches near you, see recent transactions, and even make online bill payments.  Not bad.  I love the screen transitions as well as how quickly the data loads.
  • Finance:  You can view your stock portfolio and check the financial markets with this, reviewing your tickers.  I mainly use this app for the widgets it provides.  You can place ticker symbols on your phone’s Home screens to view the latest market results without having to load a browser or even launch an app.  The widget acts as a dashboard displaying the latest data.  The only flaw I’ve noticed is the occasional data refresh latency. 
  • pFinance: This is a full suite of applications rolled into one.  You can track your daily expenses, find hot deals on products, get currency exchange rates, calculate tip on your restaurant check, calculate your monthly payments on your new loan, figure out your retirement savings needs, track the performance of your stock portfolio, check the markets’ performance, and read the latest financial news.  Phew.  That’s a lot!!!

What Do You Think?

Do You have any favorite apps, whether on Android, iPhone, Blackberry or Symbian devices?  Why don’t you share them with us below under the Comments section?

Related Articles

My Favorite Android Apps – Part 1
My Favorite Android Apps – Part 2
My Favorite Android Apps – Part 3

Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 1
Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 2
How I almost Dumped the CLIQ: Review – Part 3
Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 4
Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 5

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Have Courage

Inspirational Thought

I gave a speech at my Toastmasters club in late 2009 about what it means to have courage.  Lucky for me, it was recorded, albeit without the introduction and the first minute of it.  It’s below for your viewing. 

In case you want the highlights, these were my suggestions:

  • Avoid defining courage.  It can only be exemplified by your actions.  Any definition becomes too specific and uninspiring.
  • Don’t beat yourself up for any lack of courage in the past.  Take steps now that are meaningful and address what’s important to you.
  • Give your opinion to everyone, including your friends, family, members of groups you visit, and congressman.  The only way to incite conversation and practice democracy is to have an opinion and be unafraid to express it.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to comment below about this post.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Book Recommendations: Self Discovery

Book Recommendations

This post is the debut of a new series for the site, prompted by my review of Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness (Amazon link), which I’ll publish during the week of June 7.

I won’t be reviewing the books listed here.  Instead, this is a set of books I recommend, with an explanation of why I do.   Each month I’ll recommend a new set of books and offer a book giveaway.  This month’s book giveaway rules are listed in an earlier post, Delivering Happiness – Book Giveaway. Each of these postings will cover a different topic. 

This week I’m listing Self Discovery books.  These are books that help you realize your strengths, potential, and how to take advantage of them in your personal and professional life.  The title of each book is linked to Amazon.com in case you want to purchase it. 

Enjoy and feel free to recommend books of your own in the comments section.

  • 2010.05.23_StrengthsFinder2.0 StrengthsFinder 2.0: A New and Upgraded Edition of the Online Test from Gallup's Now, Discover Your Strengths
    This book is listed first since I like the idea the author promotes: focusing on your strengths, instead of figuring out how to eliminate your weaknesses.  This is a short book, given that the first third of it introduces the tests for discovering your strengths, with a link and key for taking the online test for that purpose. The rest of the book is the explanation of each of the strengths, in what setting they’re most useful, each strength’s pitfalls, and what people with similar strengths say about themselves.  You can knock out the book, its test, and related strength characteristic readings in an evening.
  • 2010.05.23_DoWhatYouAre Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type
    This book walks you through discovering your Myers-Briggs personality type.  In case you’re not familiar with the test, the test results are usually expressed in four-letter acronyms that elicit whether you’re an introvert vs. extrovert, sensing vs. intuitive, thinking vs. feeling, and judging vs. perceptive. The book doesn’t administer the test.  Instead it provides you with description of each dichotomy and let’s you decide which type describes you best.  I liked this approach, especially having read the StrengthsFinder book.  The reason for this is that you can validate your type based on what you learned in the first book.  However, if you prefer to take the test and take out the guess work, try this book: Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence
  • 2010.05.23_WhatColorIsYourParachute What Color Is Your Parachute? 2009: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers
    The first two books will likely help you understand your personality type.  You can possibly even determine what career fields to pursue and how to interact with friends, family and coworkers, but they don’t necessarily tell you what life and career goals or priorities you may have.  This classic books walks you through a number of exercises aimed at discovering your priorities. I found this book especially helpful in a career transition as I made the choice to move from employee to an employer role.  It made me realize how each of my previous positions helped me come closer to my eventual switch to an entrepreneur.

What Do You Think?

Do you have any books you would recommend?  Feel free to share their names below.

 

Photo Credits: Amazon.com Book Covers

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Google IO News

Technology News

2010.05.19_GoogleIO I missed an opportunity this year to attend Google IO, the annual developer conference held in San Francisco that’s all things Google. 

Nevertheless, I caught the Day One Keynote address this morning.  It was enjoyable and certainly pointed to many new things to come.  I’d love to go over all of them, but the content seems to be covered by many bloggers, including the Official Google Blog.  Instead, I’m sharing with you a few sites that are covering this event very well:

What Do You Think?

Are you attending Google IO?  Have any more insights or resources to share? Feel free to comment below. 

 

Photo Credits: Google.com

Delivering Happiness – Book Giveaway REDUX

Random Thoughts

In case you’ve missed it, I updated the rules for the Tony Hsieh book giveaway, making it easier for you to get a book.

Also, I’m now giving away NINE copies.  Check out the full details in the original post , now updated, at: Delivering Happiness – Book Giveaway.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to comment below.

 

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

My Favorite Android Apps – Part 3: Cerebral

Technology Recommendations

This week we cover what I refer to as “Cerebral” applications as part of My Favorite Android Apps series. These are apps focused on expanding your mind and knowledge of the world and yourself. 

Cerebral

  • Aldiko: I love reading books, but I can’t necessary carry one everywhere I go.  I already use my Motorola CLIQ for reading emails and RSS feeds.  So why not books?  Aldiko gives me just that.  There are numerous books available for free and some that you can purchase. 

    Keep in mind, the latest announcement about ebooks is that the Kindle app will become available on Android 1.6 kernel and higher this summer!  The app will be free, and you’ll purchase books for it via web or directly on the phone.
  • Countries of the World: When I hear international news, I sometimes wonder where are these countries and what are some interesting facts about them.  Enter Countries of the World app.  You get information about a country’s economy, military expenditure, geographical location and size, and population.  What’s more, you can quiz yourself or your friends on these facts.
  • Free Dictionary: I love words, as is apparent given that I write a blog.  There are many times in a week that I hear a word I don’t understand.  If I’m away from my computer, I just whip out my phone and run the Free Dictionary app to look it up.  The words are CACHED on your phone.  So, there’s no delay in seeing the results.  I only wish they' had a builtin Thesaurus.
  • Howcast: I used to be a big fan of the site HowStuffWorks.com.  I found the articles fascinating.  Howcast is a similar service, and for you phone.  The difference is that these videos demonstrate how to do something rather than how something works.  Think of it as a “how to” YouTube.  If you want to know how to lay sod, no problem.  Just look it up on Howcast search by typing in “How to lay sod” and watch the animation with the list of tools and process to do it right.  How about how to fix a wet cell phone ?  Just try it and you’ll find a video on that too.  Of course, one may wonder, how do you access these videos on your phone if your phone is already wet!!!
  • TED Mobile: I find many of the videos on TED.com fascinating.  They are recordings of TED conferences around the world over the years.  They help me see a different perspective on anything from science to the arts, politics to sociology.  With TED Mobile, I can view these videos with surprising clarity on my phone.
  • United States Constitution: Who can’t use a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution just for those moments when one wonders what’s in the 1st, 2nd, or 13th amendment.  Never have doubts about your constitutional rights again…at least as far as how those rights were spelled out. It’s up to you as a citizen to demand they be enforced!
  • Wapedia: This is Wikipedia on your phone.  Just like a dictionary, no one should be without an encyclopedia.  Keep in mind, this app goes online to search for articles.  No articles are CACHED on the device.

What Do You Think?

Do You have any favorite apps, whether on Android, iPhone, Blackberry or Symbian devices?  Why don’t you share them with us below under the Comments section?

Related Articles

My Favorite Android Apps – Part 1
My Favorite Android Apps – Part 2

Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 1
Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 2
How I almost Dumped the CLIQ: Review – Part 3
Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 4
Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 5

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why

Inspirational Thought

I recently had the pleasure of watching Simon Sinek’s video on TED titled, Start With Why (YouTube link).  The premise behind his talk is quite important.  He speaks to how answering the question “why” for yourself and your company allows you to achieve monumental success and, in the process, attract the people that share the same values, leading to the results you seek.

2010.05.17_TheWhy I gave this some thought…and by “some thought,” I mean two weeks worth!  I realized that although I knew what I wanted to achieve in life and why I wanted to do it, I hadn’t really made it clear for my company.  As a result, I hadn’t communicated the message to the people I work with and clients or partners I was trying to attract. 

It turned out to be a lot tougher than I thought, like all things worth having or knowing.  I spent two weeks mulling it over and finally decided to take a week and rewrite the company business plan based on what I would discover.  Even after spending two weeks talking to various people, spending time thinking about it while driving or before falling sleep, it wasn’t easy when I started out this morning to answer just this one question. 

In fact, I’d become quite anxious as time came closer to today.  This morning I realized the source of anxiety: I was afraid I would have to ditch all of my efforts from the past nine months if the answer to my “why” didn’t fit what I was already doing. 

So, I made a deal with myself. I’d accept the answer no matter what the consequences, even if it meant starting all my efforts over. After all, I’d rather realize I’ve made a mistake about my path nine months into the business rather than nine years! 

After that bit of mental wrestling, I sat at my desk and opened the company business plan.  I went directly to the Vision and Mission section.  This is where I would declare our “why.” 

I still couldn’t do it.  There was no moment of inspiration.  I got up, paced, sat back down, talked aloud to myself, asked why I do all the things I do.  That last one was easy to answer.  For the past decade, I’d envisioned my life goal to be to “live an inspiring life.” 

This still didn’t help me. 

I decided to watch Simon’s video again.  I listened intently to every word.  I heard his story of Apple’s why, why the Wright Brothers pursued what they did and how so many of their contemporaries pursued the same goals and failed.  The Wright Brothers had a purpose.  They knew that the dream of a “flying machine” would revolutionize life on earth.  They didn’t have the funds nor the education that many others did.  In fact, neither even had a college degree, but they knew WHY they wanted to do it.

LightBulbs That was the spark.  I started thinking of my days in Berkeley and seeing so many students find causes they believed in.  Berkeley taught me what it meant to serve others and how it was so important to consider the effects of my actions on generations to come.  I realized then what it meant to give by seeing some schoolmates sign up for the Peace Corps. I’d heard about Big Brother Big Sisters and became interested in joining.  In fact, I did some time later. 

These days I enjoy all of my volunteer activities, including being a Big Brother.  I’m very selective, though I shouldn’t be.  I believe anything that will help better our society is worth doing. 

That was my moment of truth.  I realized I want to make the world a better place.  We will make the world a better place, one company at a time.  And it won’t be just for those living now, but for generations to come.  I want us to have goals that span centuries, not months or years.  So, anything we do, the services we provide, how we treat our partners and employees, has to focus on this carefully selected goal.  Even our partner selection criteria must be that they too provide services or products that are socially conscious and somehow improve people’s quality of life, thereby making our world a better place. 

That’s when I started typing.  It just came naturally and felt good.  I kept writing, refining, and rewriting. I lost track of time.  The next thing I knew, the day was ending.  Wouldn’t you know it?  I lost track of time because I was in the groove. I had my flow.  It was one of those moments of clarity we all aim for and sometimes find.

My professional life came back into focus and I realized truly why my previous businesses had failed, and why I’d done poorly working for certain companies.  In every case, I either didn’t know what was the company’s purpose or reason for doing what we did, or I didn’t agree with it.  The opposite was true for those where I’d excelled in a very short amount of time and delivered the highest value to my employers and our customers.

What I recommend is that you do the same.  If you’re hesitant, ask yourself whether it’s more important to run toward nowhere, than toward a destination. If you think now’s not the right time, I’ll tell you what you already know: there’s no better time than now.  Get started now, if only to committing your every inactive moment to think about your “why.”  You’ll naturally then commit a time to putting pen to paper and writing it down.

What Do You Think?

What are you doing still here?  Get started with your “why.”  If you already know it, share it below.

Photo Credits: Marco Bellucci