Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Don’t Loose Your Dinosaur

Random Thoughts

I had the misfortune of watching the latter half of Stepbrothers tonight, or may be it was fortunate that I did.  I’ve been running dry on subject ideas for this blog.  Over the past few weeks I’ve spent time with family on a snowboarding trip and visited CES in Las Vegas, searching for business ideas.  I learned quite a lot on these trips, but nothing coalesced when I opened my editor to write.

What was so interesting about the movie Stepbrothers that compelled me to write tonight?  I heard a line that caught my attention: “Don’t loose your dinosaur.”  It was a reference to never growing and giving up on your childhood dreams.  The moment you tell yourself you have to be serious, do the adult thing to earn money, then come back to being a dinosaur is the moment of no return. 

Even if you do go back to learning to be what you dreamt of being as a child, you’ve forgotten what gave you joy.  May be it was the creativity of making up stories and reenacting scenarios.  May be it was the way you could dream big with no boundaries and loose yourself to the envisioning of success.

Why do we give up on that creativity?  Why do we have to think only in concrete terms?Surely there are ways to think about boundaries and then what happens beyond those boundaries. 

My challenge tonight is to think about MY dinosaur.  Can I still remember what it was?  What made me dream endless hours?  What made me envision that ideal world? How will I find my dinosaur? What will I do with it when I do?  Will I still enjoy it with my clouded adult mind?  Will I use it in the same creative way I did as a child?

What I know is that we all search for our dinosaur at some point in our lives.  The fact that I am searching tells me I haven’t found it yet, but also that I have eliminated one more that’s not what is rightfully mine.  So, I’m one step closer still to that dinosaur of mine.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Have you Heard TED Talk?

Technology Review

I was listening to Ken Robinson’s talk at TED 2006 about promoting creativity when my wife, overhearing Ken’s speech, asked me what I was listening to.  I told her I was listening to a TED talk.  She didn’t know what it was.  This interaction made me realize there may be others out there who are unaware of TED and the myriad of ideas presented on the videos available on the site.  I decided to dedicate this post to describing TED.

TEDLogo What is TED?  And what does TED talk about?

Here’s the description on the TED website:

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year's TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize.

Though the conferences started out focusing on Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED), they offer much more.  For example, you’ll find a talk about robots to humorous juggling acts, to ingenious studies and graphics about poverty and economic growth (by Hans Rosling) to innovative business ideas for fighting corruption using market theory and capitalism.  If you’re in any way interested in seeing and hearing the most creative minds of our times from various industries, countries and walks of life, I highly recommend watching the myriad of videos on the site.   (I would advise watching the videos I’ve linked here as they are most engaging.  Soon you too will fight to hear a TED Talk.)

If you have the time and money, you could also attend one of the upcoming events.  The next TED event, TED 2010, will be held on February 9 to 13 at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center in California.  The event is sold out, but you can sign up to view it in a simulcast in Palm Springs, California in what’s named TEDActive 2010. Its international counterpart, TEDGlobal 2010, will be held in Oxford, UK from July 12 to 16 and is currently open for registration.  If I could make it to UK, I certainly would.  It would be a wonderful opportunity to report on some of the best, brightest and most interesting minds of our times.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your thoughts below about TED and other similar sites.

 

Photo Credit: The TED logo is the sole property of TED.com site

Monday, January 18, 2010

Don’t Sacrifice. Compromise!

Business Strategy/ Motivational

Tillman Do you sacrifice the things you like in order to make your boss happy?  How about your partner in business or life? What if I told you it’s not necessary to sacrifice anything for what you want in life?  You’d probably dismiss me as a heretic. 

We’ve been conditioned to think that in order to have something, we have to give up something we like and hold dear.  This line of thinking assumes that what you want is not as attractive, interesting, pleasant, valuable or all around acceptable as what you have to sacrifice.  I beg to differ.

It is, after all, just a matter of perspective.  You want higher revenue or sales, but you may have to give up long lunches, come to work at 7 AM instead of 9 AM, and learn to make every call, interaction, communication count.  Are you sacrificing? 

In other words, do you put higher value on longer lunches, coming to work at 9 AM, the interruptions in the office, or the long talks about last night’s game with your coworkers, versus having the higher salary that affords you more time with the family for vacations or baseball games on the weekends? Then don’t do it.  In the long run you’ll be more satisfied not having had to give up all that you hold dear.

If you’re in this mindset, then those goals for which you feel you’re sacrificing aren't really your goals.  They don’t lead to something that you’re passionate or care about.  In that case, the clear answer is to change your goals, careers, homes, or friends so that the choices are clearer and you’re doing something you love.

When you find a goal that has a higher value than any or all of the long lunches or social time with coworkers, then giving them up won’t feel like a sacrifice.  In fact, doing the extra work won’t even feel like work since you have a passion for it and the goals you want to reach.  You realize the value of the journey and the end result is higher than what you had to forego. 

This is as true in our daily work as it is for a martyr or a soldier.  Soldiers who offer their lives for a cause, do so with the full knowledge that the freedom and the cause they fight for is much more valuable than the oppressed life they would live otherwise.  They freely give their life and don’t necessarily see it as a sacrifice, so much as a willingness to take on a risk for a higher and more important cause. 

So, stop thinking you have to sacrifice anything in life.  You may have to change your behavior to get something you’re passionate about, but that’ll come naturally if you’re following your life’s passion and doing what you love.

What Do You Think?

Do you differ with my opinion?  Feel free to express yourself below.

 

 

Photo Credit: Tony the Misfit (taking a break)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Optimist Day Off

The Optimist’s Perspective

I’m taking a day off from this topic heading.  Feel free to read some of the previous posts:

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your thoughts on each of these articles either on this page or on each posting’s page.  In either case, I’ll be sure to respond to you within a day of your post.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

It’s Good To Hear…Myself

Technology Review

I’m taking a break from writing about the CLIQ as I’m very happy with it and I’d like to reserve my next review for a few months down the line.  For now, just know the CLIQ has me as excited as the first Blackberry I ever owned, and I can’t say enough good things about it.

SoundRecorder This week I’m writing about a slightly older technology: the voice recorder. No! I’m not referring to your father’s or uncle’s reel-to-reel voice recorder, but an electronic one that you can carry in your pocket. 

I carry an Olympus model VN900 circa 2003.  I bought it for my then fiancĂ© and now wife for her school lecture recordings.  Since she finished school three years ago and has no more use for it, I carry it when I’m away from the office, whether that’s at a client site, in my car, or just walking along. 

VoiceRecorder2 Many people advocate using notepads for jotting those spur of the moment thoughts.  I carry a small notepad, but it’s not enough pages to write all my thoughts.  What’s more, when I’m driving and I get an idea, I can’t just start writing.  Also, taking out a pen and paper takes away from the whole thought spontaneity process.  I’ve tried the notepad and I loose many thoughts by the time I finish the first sentence.

The voice recorder comes in real handy for just those times when a thought races across your stream of consciousness while you’re doing other things.  I can jot my thoughts or ideas whenever they strike me.  What’s great about carrying a recorder is the one hand operation of the device.  This is especially helpful when I’m driving and thinking about ideas for this blog, my daily tasks, business endeavors or how to celebrate my wedding anniversary.  Best of all, I don’t have to take my eyes off of the road to jot down a note.  I’ve used it enough times to know where all the buttons are and how to work them. 

OlympusVN900I’ve tried a number of alternates to this on my PDAs of the past and phones, even on the CLIQ.  I’ve yet to find the right tool in these media.  None are as easy to use as any Olympus-brand voice recorder with a handful of (no pun intended) ergonomically-placed tactile keys.

I highly recommend carrying any one of these devices to help you with your note taking or reminder setting, spur-of-the-moment thoughts.  Given how well my Olympus VN-900 (pictured here) has held up, I highly recommend you consider one of their products. 

As a note, I have no affiliation with Olympus and they’ve not requested me to endorse any of their products.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share below your tools of choice for voice recording or jotting down notes.

 

Photo Credits: Jen !, kingdufus, Olympus

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Be Stern with Goals, Flexible with Roads

Motivational

As my business development efforts have continued for iEngineer, my startup company, I’ve learned that you have to be flexible with how you achieve your goals.  You certainly have to follow what you’re passionate about, but be flexible with your methods to success.

 MiracleLn_DeadEndThis subject came up when I was speaking with my business investors about the approach and progress during our monthly meeting.  I told them many of my more difficult conversations have revolved around our consulting and project fees. 

More specifically, those that know me want to get a more favorable rate and those that don’t, aren’t willing to take a risk to learn about the value we bring.  What’s more, there’s substantial competition in the market and buyers are more focused on the dollars and cents rather than the soft-value proposition of working with this company or another.

Here’s where my understanding of economics kicks in.  The law of Supply and Demand tells us that, all things being equal, the market will determine a product or service price based on the supply in that market.  Price and supply are inversely proportional, meaning as one goes up, the other goes down. For example, if there are many homes in the market, their prices fall.  With a shortage of gasoline supply, its price will go up.

I still aim to succeed in this business. I’m still interested in insuring the company’s success.  However, I also know I can find efficiencies in my business operations much easier than a large firm.  So, I know we can compete at lower prices given the current over-supply of indistinguishable resources in the market.  In other words, I need to either change the market conditions, create my own rules, or change my rates.

As it stands today, I want to insure a continuous stream of business before considering raising rates or addressing the higher value  iEngineer brings to the table.  So, I’ve decided to change our rate structure. 

What this means is that I may take a longer and different path to the success for myself and the company, but I still aim for the same end result.  My goals haven’t changed, but my means of achieving them has. 

Is this betraying the goal?  Am I betraying myself or my investors?  If anything is diminished, it’s my ego, but that’s acceptable.  The point is that in the pursuit of our goals, we decide what can be sacrificed or compromised and what can’t be. 

(By the way, compromising is not the same as sacrificing.  This is a common misconception that I’ll address next week.)

In the enBlockedRoadd, we have to be flexible with our methods of success, but not with our goals.  So, set your goals.  In fact, set your BHAGs, but if the current path you’ve chosen leads to a dead-end, don’t give up.  Just choose a different path that’ll get you to the same result.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your comments below.

 

Photo Credits: cvilletomorrow, JOPHIELsmiles

Monday, January 11, 2010

Seek and You Shall Find

Business Strategies

You may know that I recently started on a project to write my father’s biography.  As I’ve begun this process I’ve learned quite a lot, not just about him, but about how to win in business.

BinocularOutdoorOne of his early business ventures was starting a movie studio, Image Films, that produced advertisements for television.  He had no related experience in the film industry, no money, and no backing.  What’s more, this was in the 1950’s when Iran was just ending a recessionary period. 

What he had was the good sense to ask questions from his friends who happen to be actors and cameramen for a couple of movie studios.  He learned that with the help of his friends he didn’t need any knowledge of the business, but he still needed the equivalent of $150k in 1950’s or $1.3M in 2010! 

He convinced his parents to give him the deed to their house (paid off) so that he could take out a loan.  Suffice it to say he got the money from the bank.  What’s more, the business was so lucrative that within six months he was able to pay off the loan!

What’s the lesson here?  No matter what the market conditions, you can succeed.  You only need a few things:

  1. Have a healthy dose of bravery:  You need to be brave to take risks, especially when it comes time to put your own skin in the game.  This is true for your own business or your company’s. 
  2. Be willing to ask questions:  Nothing ever comes to the man who remains silent.  If you want something, ask for it, be curious and look for opportunities to get it.
  3. Ask for help: It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to do something.  If you believe in yourself, you just have to figure out what it is you need to know, then ask those who know it for their help.  You’ll be surprised how willing people are to help you succeed.
  4. Give thanks where it’s due: When you get people’s help, be sure to thank them properly.  That may mean offering them partnerships, compensation, or public recognition.  Just figure out what they want and find a way to give them just that.
  5. Be resourceful: Even if you find you have nothing but the willingness to do something, find means to get everything else that’s necessary to succeed at your new endeavor.  You should have learned about those other factors through all the questions you asked and had answered, and by bringing in the experts that fill in your knowledge gap. 
  6. Put your own skin in the game: To make any venture or adventure meaningful, and to insure you’ll give it all, you have to have your own skin in the game.  This may mean money, time, your reputation with friends and family, or all of the above.  If you’re seeking something that you truly believe in, something you’re passionate about, this should be an easy step, but nevertheless a necessary one.

No matter what what you want to accomplish, just remember: Seek and you shall find. 

What Do You Think?

Please feel free to share your comments below.

 

Photo Credits: Frankie Roberto

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ask for Criticism With a Smile

The Optimist’s Perspective

Everytime someone talks about providing criticism I can’t help but think how the other person took it.  Were they open to the criticism or did they become defensive when hearing it?  Did they leave the session feeling deflated or empowered?

Smile I’m here to tell you why it’s great to get criticism.  Not only that, we should seek it out, offering only a smile in response as we thank our critic for their helpful input.  This is true for the individual or a company.

Think about it: would you rather have customers that are silent or vocal?  Would you prefer they told you all the things you need to change with your services or products to help your sales?  The latter should be your choice since your customers are telling you how you can improve your products and services so they would buy more of it.  In fact, they are interested in these products or services, else they would have voted with their silence and dollars by spending their money elsewhere.  In fact, the silent customers are giving your competitors their input on how they can make their products and services better than yours.

On a personal level, the same holds true.  It’s often people that care about our well-being that give us criticism.  They are interested in seeing us improve on who we already are and the qualities we already have. 

You may not agree with the methods that your critiques recommend, but you can take the criticism as a sign of what needs to change or become better.  Then take whatever steps you think are necessary to be the better company or person you always thought you could be.

Overall, don’t avoid the criticism and, instead, think of it as a positive experience. Embrace it.  Know that if you listen with an open mind, you just may learn how to better sell your products or services, find that new opportunity, become more attractive to the opposite sex, or be a more likable person.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your thoughts and reactions below.

 

Photo Credits: aturkus

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 4

Technology Review

Another week has gone by and I’m more in love with the CLIQ than ever before.  Many of the issues I’d noticed have disappeared with the change of hardware.  It appears I may have indeed had a lemon.  The one issue that comes and goes is the Bluetooth connectivity explained here.

Many have argued, including the likes of Robert Scobble of the Scobleizer fame, that the power of Smartphones is realized in the applications available on them.  In fact, the devices that’ll dominate the market will likely be those that have the best and largest set of applications available for them through various markets.  Arguably, Smartphones are less about the “phone” and more about the “Smart.” 

I’m not presenting an argument that Android phones (G1, myTouch, CLIQ, Droid, and the newly debuted Nexus One – THE Google Phone) will win over any other phone.  What I am suggesting is that more and more our phones are becoming our personal computers. I certainly use it for many applications and, on occasion, as a phone too!

What’s the point of today’s review then?  It’s to highlight the importance of the applications available on Android Market that I’ve recently downloaded and like very much:

  • Astrid: I made the move to Google Apps a number of months back in order to become system agnostic.  In other words, I wanted to be able to access my email, calendar, tasks, and notes from anywhere.  Google Apps did everything except Tasks.  The Tasks in Google Calendar is measly and doesn’t have the ability to set priorities, recurring tasks, and, most importantly, synch with my phone.  Enter Astrid.  Astrid allows me to do all of this on the device and sync up with RememberTheMilk.com service.  RememberTheMilk then has a plugin for Google Calendar that allows me to view, add, and edit my tasks directly from the Calendar.  Problem solved.  Keep in mind, Astrid is the only Android app in the bunch I’ve mentioned here, but the sync with RememberTheMilk and the related Google plugin works conveniently for me given my dependence on Google Apps.
  • Evernote: I’d read about Everynote early in Summer of 2009 in Chris Brogan’s blog.  However, I couldn’t find a good use for it.  In general, it’s a web service designed as an electronic notepad, with all of your notes available to you online from any computer.  I used to use Google Documents for this purpose.  Albeit, Google Docs don’t allow me to add voice notes or bookmarks as easily as Evernote with its browser plugin.  Nevertheless, I found no real use for it until I bought the CLIQ.  As a side note, I use a flash-memory based voice recorder in the car to take notes while driving.  It’s a quick way of recording those fleeting thoughts while keeping my eyes on the road.  Also note I’m trying to reduce the number of hardware I use.  So, I decided to look for a voice recorder for the CLIQ.  Low and behold, Evernote for Android does just that, and the content is synced with its online counterpart.  So, I’ve now transferred all my reference notes out of Google Docs into Evernote online.  As an added benefit,  I can view and edit all of them directly on my CLIQ.  In fact, I stopped using Google Documents altogether since all remaining documents I transferred to Google Wave, a collaboration and document management tool.
  • Calorie Counter: This one tool is helping me realize how I can achieve my health goals, though I’m not terribly keen on its poor performance on the CLIQ.  Calorie Counter allows you to track your daily calorie intake and exercise routine to determine how much of the calories you’re taking in is burning off.  You have to enter your height and weight in order to determine your recommended daily intake and calculate your calorie burn rate.  What I love about this app is that it syncs with its online counterpart, FatSecret.com where you can do the same thing as what you can on your phone, with the added ability to sign up for food lifestyle change / challenges.  Think this is just for diet fanatics?  Think again. It’s designed with the busy professional in mind.  You can scan in UPC codes or look up food items by restaurants and fast food stands.  Not all of them are there, but new ones are added continuously. 
  • Ultimate Stopwatch: This stopwatch rocks.  It has a wonderful interface that looks like a traditional analog stopwatch, but it also provides you countdown capability.  I used to have the UltraChrono Stopwatch Android app which is a digital stopwatch and countdown, with the added voice announcement of elapsed / remaining time.  I find the Ultimate Stopwatch’s better interface and ease of use (tap screen to start, stop, and reset) far outweigh the voice announcement and poor visual appeal of UltraChrono Stopwatch.
  • Google Sky: Ever wonder if you’re looking at the Big Dipper or the Little Dipper?  Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m referring to star constellations, of course.  Google Sky provides you with just that.  It uses GPS to determine your location.  You then point it at the sky and the constellation in question.  Voila! It shows you the name of the constellation and the full picture of how the stars should be aligned.  Now if I could only name one of them after my wife!
  • Bubble: This is a very simple but effective tool.  It demonstrates the gyroscope capability of the device.  Plainly, it has a vertical, horizontal and top level bubble to help you level the picture or shelf you’re hanging in grandma’s room!

That’s it for now.  There are a lot more apps that I’ve downloaded and I’m test-driving.  They include Better Keyboard, Math Works, Brain Genius, DroidLive, Pandora, Movies, Where!, Layar, Sherpa, OpenTable, Wapedia, Finance, pFinance, and Free Dictionary to name a few.  I’ll continue to post about my favorites and why I like them.

What Do You Think?

Have you tried the CLIQ?  How about the new Nexus One (Google Phone)?  Feel free to share your thoughts and reactions below about these Smartphone sand the applications available for them.

Related Posts

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

Photo Credits: All photos are the property of Motorola

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How to Set Goals

Motivational

I wanted to write today about how you can set goals, as many people do this time of year, but Steve Kaye beat me to it.  I can’t put it any more succinctly than what he has.  Read it here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

How Will You Be Remembered?

Business Strategies

I read a couple of great posts by Seth Godin this past weekend that helps have the right mindset for how we should look at our life seven years from now and be proud of what we’ve done.  Both can be accessed from this post here

BinocularsCloud How I believe this article applies to business is beyond what personal change we can bring about.  It’s about how we want our companies to be remembered five, ten, fifteen or a hundred years from now. 

That’s right.  Our goals shouldn’t focus on just what can be achieved this or next year.  I propose we view our businesses and professional lives in the long-term.  We should make choices based on how we wish to be remembered.  When we look at our businesses with this long-term retrospective, as the likes of Charles Koch recommend, we begin to make decisions differently.  Whether it’s with whom we’ll work, how we’ll treat them, or even what line of business we choose to follow. 

In the months (years?) ahead, I’ll expand on this idea as it applies to various decisions we make in daily business.  This is partially based on experience and the results I’ve had in the past, but mostly it’s an experiment I’ll conduct at my own business. 

This is no different than software companies dog-fooding their products to find its weaknesses and make them market-ready.  I hope to provide you with insight on lesson learned. 

Keep in mind, given that this approach evangelizes long-term thinking, planning and execution, the initial results may not be stellar.   However, I believe they’ll pay off in the long-term.  This is the main motivation about posting on the subject for the months and, possibly, years ahead. 

I know this may mean that I won’t write on the subject every week.  So, be patient and feel free to comment or email me on the subject.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear what you think of Seth’s post as well as what I’ve suggested here.  Feel free to comment below.

 

Photo Credits: vestman