Thursday, December 29, 2011

How much encouragement?

Any industry, any company, is bound to have manpower issues.
It's the single one issue that is common to all.
A good staff is not good for always.
There's always the performance cycle of up and downs.
Only question is how much can you encourage that staff?
How long can you tolerate their down time?

Correction does much, but encouragement does more. Encouragement after censure is as the sun after a shower.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Monday, December 26, 2011

The worst Xmas song, ever?

The most insufferable Christmas song ever

Not "Last Christmas" or "Wonderful Christmas Time." It's the smug and egomaniacal "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

band aid
When “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” came out in 1984, I pretty much thought I was British. I dressed like the asexual keyboard player from the Cure, pretended to love everything Depeche Mode was singing about – because, you know, people are people – and pledged undying love for bands I read about in the obscure British magazines sold at Tower Records. (In fact, only since getting Spotify have I even heard an entire album by the Blue Nile and, it turns out they sound like every other band I pretended to like in the 1980s, except for Belouis Some, who were terrible on a whole other level.) So “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” combined all of the greatest things in my world:
1. British bands.
2. British bands singing morosely.
3. British bands singing morosely about hungry people in Africa, a place I was familiar with primarily through playing Risk, but which I nevertheless felt a great passion for. We must get these people fed, the world kept telling my 13-year-old self, and therefore I, too, felt this very strongly … for about two months, anyway, because puberty was making me very interested in a whole host of other things.
At any rate, I loved “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and routinely waited for hours for the video to show up on MTV or “Night Flight” or “Friday Night Videos,” hoping against hope that I’d get to see the extremely moving vision of Boy George dressed like an advertisement for bulky women’s housecoats (watch the video, people) or see the plaintive look in Sting’s eyes as he sang the word “sting” (again, check the video, it’s a moment of utter grace). But what I especially loved was the righteous anger of Bono shrilling, “Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you …” So powerful, so wise!
It wasn’t until this month, however, 27 years in the dust — the song such an oldie it can be performed on “Glee” — when the song came on the radio that it dawned on me what a dick line that is. It got me thinking about the song in its entirety and what I’ve determined is that, of all the Christmas songs, it’s really the most fucked-up one that doesn’t have to do with the systematic bullying of a red-nosed reindeer. And so I present an annotated guide to how utterly corrupt “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is, in line-by-line fashion:
“It’s Christmas time,
there’s no need to be afraid.”
Really? No need to be afraid? Does cancer stop on Christmas? What about prostate exams? Have you even pondered how frightening it would be if you were sitting in your living room on the evening of Dec. 24 and heard something coming out of your fireplace and before your wondering eyes appeared some lunatic in a red suit? What about getting the shit stomped out of you at Walmart? No need to be afraid? You lie,Bob Geldof!
“At Christmas time
we let in light and banish shade”
OK, now, as it relates to Africa, wouldn’t shade actually be a better gift?
“And in our world of plenty
we can spread a smile of Joy
Throw your arms around the world
at Christmas time.”
Unless, of course, you try to throw your arms around a place that doesn’t celebrate Christmas — like, you know, large parts of Africa — and instead of spreading joy, you end up starting 25 years of sectarian civil war.
“But say a prayer,
Pray for the other ones.”
I’m gonna go ahead and presume “the other ones” are the godless heathens …
“At Christmas time it’s hard
but when you’re having fun …”
Like, say, if you’re Simon LeBon and you’ve spent the last 12 months sleeping with supermodels, or you’re Boy George and you just got done shooting up some great smack, or you’re the other guy in Wham! and you’re just biding your time until the gig is up and you can marry one of those boxy Bananarama girls and race cars for the rest of your life …
“There’s a world outside your window
and it’s a world of dread and fear”
Technically, the world outside, at the time of the song’s recording, was a London street — and in the video it looks like it was filled with fans who wanted everyone’s autographb… and, in fact, according to the video, it looked like everyone was having a pretty smashing time.
“Where the only water flowing is
the bitter sting of tears”
Oh, for fuck’s sake. Sting sings this line in what is a fantastic merging of the real world and the world where a guy named Gordon gets to name himself Stingb… and then gets to, ironically, sing the word “sting” but make it, you know, really serious, because it’s a dreary allusion to how dry it happened to be in Africa that year.
“Where the Christmas bells that are ringing
are the clanging chimes of Doom”
Just so we’re clear here, if they don’t know it’s Christmas, why would they have Christmas bells? And why ring in the doom when they are clearly already doomed? Wouldn’t doom just walk right in at this point? No bells needed.
“Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.”
Ah, yes, the crux of it all. If there’s one thing the Bible teaches, it’s that you should thank God for other people’s suffering. Now Bono is a goddamn hero, we’re told, since he’s spent the last 30 years standing on moral high ground – a moral high ground paved with the money of kids like me, who didn’t know what the fuck “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was all about, but who were, like, totally in support of it – though one has to think he could have looked at the line before he sang it and suggested a rewrite. Maybe something along the lines of “Well, tonight thank God you have food and clean water and a slight disposable income which allows you the opportunity to buy this great song on the latest technology … the cassette tape! Get thee to Sam Goody!” If this song were written today, Justin Bieber would certainly have something wise to say, like, I dunno, “Well, tonight thank God you’re not a Kardashian.”
“And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time”
This is egregiously stupid. It never snows in Africa during Christmastime, because it’s the summertime there. Most specifically in Ethiopia – which is what this song is actually about, the famine in Ethiopia – it’s the start of the driest season. And it’s not as if people were starving in, say, South Africa, or else why would everyone have to get together a few months later to pledge that they ain’t gonna play Sun City? – but beyond that, it just doesn’t snow in Ethiopia. Ever.
“The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.”
A shitty fucking life, as you’ve made abundantly clear!
Where nothing ever grows
No rain or rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”
No, because they are starving to death. And also, depending upon where they are in Ethiopia, they may very well be Muslim.
“Here’s to you…
Raise a glass for everyone
Here’s to them
Underneath that burning sun
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”
How grand. These rich former colonial oppressors are raising a glass to the Africans, who don’t even have any fucking water! You’re just sipping on wine like it’s nothing! You bastards! Send over a bottle of water!
“Feed the world
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmas time”
And here the real, dark truth of the song reveals itself. It’s not just about feeding the Africans, it’s about feeding the world and, in addition, letting the entire world know it’s Christmastime. This happened once before. It was called the Crusades.
All that said, still love the song. For real. Very catchy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Handshake

An excerpt from The Richest Man in Town by V.J. Smith

It’s amazing what can happen just by paying attention. Besides, I never thought I would have a life-changing experience at Wal-Mart.
I don’t remember the exact date I met Marty for the first time. Up to that moment, nothing that day seemed particularly important- certainly not what brought me to the store in the first place. Like a lot of people who want to get through a checkout line, my thoughts were on speed, nothing more. The line I was standing in wasn’t moving as quickly as I wanted, and I glanced toward the cashier.
There stood an affable-looking man in his seventies. Slightly stooped and of average build, he wore glasses and a nice smile. I thought, well, he’s an old guy and it probably takes him a little longer to get the chores done.
For the next few minutes I watched him. He greeted every customer before he began scanning the items they were purchasing. Sure, his words were the usual, “How’s it going?” But he did something different-he actually listened to people. Then he would respond to what they had said and engage them in brief conversation.
I thought it was odd, but I guess I had grown accustomed to people asking me how I was doing simply out of a robotic conversational habit. After a while, you don’t give any thought to the question and just mumble something back. I could say, “I just found out I have six months to live,” and someone would reply, “Have a great day!”
This old cashier had my attention. He seemed genuine about wanting to know how people were feeling. Meanwhile, the high-tech cash register rang up their purchases and he announced what they owed. Customers handed money to him, he punched the appropriate keys, the cash drawer popped open, and he counted out their change.
Then magic happened.
He placed the change in his left hand, walked around the counter to the customer, and extended his right hand in an act of friendship.
As their hands met, the old cashier looked the customers in the eyes.
“I sure want to thank you for shopping here today,” he told them. “You have a great day. Bye-bye.”
The looks on the faces of the customers were priceless. There were smiles and some sheepish grins. All had been touched by his simple gesture-and in a place they never expected.
Some customers would walk away, pause for a moment, and look back at the old cashier, now busy with the next customer. It was obvious they couldn’t quite comprehend what had just happened. They would gather their things and walk out the door, smiling.
Now it was my turn. As expected, he asked me how I was doing. I told him I was having a good day.
“That’s good,” he said. “I’m having a good day, too.” I glanced down at the name tag on his red vest, the kind experienced Wal-Mart cashiers wore. It read, “Marty.”
I said, “It looks like you enjoy your job, Marty.”
He replied, “I love my job.”
Marty told me how much I owed and I handed him some money. The next thing I knew he was standing beside me, offering his right hand and holding my change in his left hand. His kind eyes locked onto mine. Smiling, and with a firm handshake, he said, “I sure want to thank you for shopping here today. Have a great day. Bye-bye.”
At that moment I wanted to take him home and feed him cookies. It was as if Sam Walton had come back from the dead and invaded this old guy’s body.
I left the store, walked through the parking lot and got into my car. On the drive home I couldn’t shake what had just happened. I had been in that store a hundred times and had never walked away feeling like that.
Who was that guy?
He did something different-he actually listened to people.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

75 cents

Seventy-five cents was the most significant amount of money in my life. I worked as a youth for my father. He operated a successful business and he believed in giving his children an allowance. We were "allowed" to work for whatever money we got.

I earned 25 cents an hour. The minimum wage at the time was $1.65 but I was my father's son and he didn't have to pay me minimum wage. I was underage and was not supposed to be legally working said the government. My father had other ideas. If I could spend money, I could work. I was perhaps 12 or 13. The company had an accountant who handled payroll. His name was Mr. Bill David.

I was smart enough to know that my wages were below everyone else's but I often worked harder. One day I went to the accounting office and asked Mr. Bill David about a raise.

"How much do you want?" Mr. Bill David asked.

I was hoping to move from 25 cents an hour to perhaps 35 or maybe even 40 cents. I was smart enough to know to ask for more than I thought I would actually get so I threw out this ridiculous figure.

"I would like one dollar an hour," I boldly stated to Mr. Bill David. I was expecting riotous laughter at such a ridiculous increase.

Mr. Bill David's answer shocked me. He said, "OK."

Thus, in the span of a few seconds, I had the largest percentage monetary increase of my life. A whopping 300% increase. I was elated beyond measure and no amount of money since has excited me as much as that 75 cents.

It taught me seven lessons.

1. Don't let another person spend your money without accountability. It wasn't Mr. Bill David's money so what was it to him if he gave me a 300% instant raise.

2. Aim for the moon. You just might hit it.

3. Increases in material stuff has a decreasing effect in its ability to bring joy. Never again was I so elated over money. I have literally not been nearly as excited over 75 thousand as I was that 75 cents.

4. Somehow, even with big increases, we still shortly thereafter seem to feel underpaid.

5. Expenses rise to meet income.

6. Income does not necessarily rise to meet new expenses.

7. Mr. Bill Davids are rare.
~A MountainWings Original~

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thought for the Day

Looks like I'm headed for another career change in 2012.
Lesson learnt: Do NOT be a minority shareholder unless you're comfortable with NO control of the company's direction.
Whatever I choose to do, or wherever I'm going, I'm going to need more than just courage. But nothing can be done without guts.

Courage is the greatest of all the virtues.
Because if you haven't courage,
you may not have an opportunity to use any of the others.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thought Of The Day

Thought Of The Day
A mother should give her children a superabundance of enthusiasm,
that after they have lost all they are sure to lose in mixing with the world,
enough may still remain to prompt and support them through great actions.

Julius C. Hare (1795-1855) English Cleric

Isaiah 43:2

When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shall not be burned; neither shall the flames kindle upon thee.
-- Isaiah 43:2

Monday, December 12, 2011

Be Careful What You Plant

This is an old story, but I like it very much.

A successful businessman was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business.

Instead of choosing one of his Directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together.

He said, "It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you. "The young executives were Shocked, but the boss continued. "I am going to give each one of you a SEED today - one very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO."

One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.

Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still Nothing.

By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn't have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by -- still nothing in Jim's pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn't say anything to his colleagues, however, he just kept watering and fertilizing the soil - He so wanted the seed to grow.

A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection.

Jim told his wife that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick to his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the board room. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful -- in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for him!

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives.

Jim just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the CEO. "Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!"

All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the Financial Director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, "The CEO knows I'm a failure!! Maybe he will have me fired!"

When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed - Jim told him the story.

The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, "Behold your next Chief Executive Officer! His name is Jim!" Jim couldn't believe it. Jim couldn't even grow his seed.

"How could he be the new CEO?" the others said.

Then the CEO said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead - it was not possible for them to grow.

All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive Officer!"

If you plant honesty, you will reap trust
If you plant goodness, you will reap friends
If you plant humility, you will reap greatness
If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment
If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective
If you plant hard work, you will reap success
If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation

So, be careful what you plant now; it will determine what you will reap later.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Steve Jobs and the 7 Rules of Success

Steve Jobs and the 7 Rules of Success

Steve Jobs and the Seven Rules of SuccessSteve Jobs' impact on your life cannot be overestimated. His innovations have likely touched nearly every aspect -- computers, movies, music and mobile. As a communications coach, I learned from Jobs that a presentation can, indeed, inspire. For entrepreneurs, Jobs' greatest legacy is the set of principles that drove his success.
Over the years, I've become a student of sorts of Jobs' career and life. Here's my take on the rules and values underpinning his success. Any of us can adopt them to unleash our "inner Steve Jobs."
1. Do what you love. Jobs once said, "People with passion can change the world for the better." Asked about the advice he would offer would-be entrepreneurs, he said, "I'd get a job as a busboy or something until I figured out what I was really passionate about." That's how much it meant to him. Passion is everything.
2. Put a dent in the universe. Jobs believed in the power of vision. He once asked then-Pepsi President, John Sculley, "Do you want to spend your life selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?" Don't lose sight of the big vision.
3. Make connections. Jobs once said creativity is connecting things. He meant that people with a broad set of life experiences can often see things that others miss. He took calligraphy classes that didn't have any practical use in his life -- until he built the Macintosh. Jobs traveled to India and Asia. He studied design and hospitality. Don't live in a bubble. Connect ideas from different fields.
4. Say no to 1,000 things. Jobs was as proud of what Apple chose not to do as he was of what Apple did. When he returned in Apple in 1997, he took a company with 350 products and reduced them to 10 products in a two-year period. Why? So he could put the "A-Team" on each product. What are you saying "no" to?
5. Create insanely different experiences. Jobs also sought innovation in the customer-service experience. When he first came up with the concept for the Apple Stores, he said they would be different because instead of just moving boxes, the stores would enrich lives. Everything about the experience you have when you walk into an Apple store is intended to enrich your life and to create an emotional connection between you and the Apple brand. What are you doing to enrich the lives of your customers?
6. Master the message. You can have the greatest idea in the world, but if you can't communicate your ideas, it doesn't matter. Jobs was the world's greatest corporate storyteller. Instead of simply delivering a presentation like most people do, he informed, he educated, he inspired and he entertained, all in one presentation.
7. Sell dreams, not products. Jobs captured our imagination because he really understood his customer. He knew that tablets would not capture our imaginations if they were too complicated. The result? One button on the front of an iPad. It's so simple, a 2-year-old can use it. Your customers don't care about your product. They care about themselves, their hopes, their ambitions. Jobs taught us that if you help your customers reach their dreams, you'll win them over.
There's one story that I think sums up Jobs' career at Apple. An executive who had the job of reinventing the Disney Store once called up Jobs and asked for advice. His counsel? Dream bigger. I think that's the best advice he could leave us with. See genius in your craziness, believe in yourself, believe in your vision, and be constantly prepared to defend those ideas.

Think like a Champion

Think like a Champion
  1. Composure, poise, and presence. Champions maintain balance under the most extreme adversity. They do not panic. They are able to focus, stay relaxed and continue to walk the walk. They stay positive and act confidently to handle stress.

  1. Self-confidence. Champions believe in their capabilities and know what they can do. They maintain this sense of self even under pressure or when things are not going well. They remind themselves they have succeeded in tougher times than these.

  1. Eternal hope. Champions fight to the end. They never give up. They continually seek ways to win and experiment with tactics to turn things around in their favour. They truly believe that there is a way to win and they just have to discover it.

  1. Pacing skills. Champions know when to take a break and relax. They know how to control the clock so they can rest. They know that working non-stop leads to burn-out. They have the experience to know when to cruise and when to turn it on.

  1. Control factor awareness. Champions know what they can control, what they can only influence and what is out of their control. They focus only on those things within their control or influence and let go of the rest.

  1. The ability to learn. Champions absorb experience very rapidly. They learn from every outing, good or bad. They seek feedback from others and consider all sides to infuse new techniques and methods into their play. They see what needs to be done to improve and win.

  1. Coachability. Champions are coachable. They seek help from those who are more experienced. They form collaborative partnership with those who can help them. They appreciate the art and science of coaching and make it an integral part of their training programme.

  1. A strong work ethic. Champions know that hard work leads to confidence and the belief that they deserve to win because they have paid their dues.

  1. Commitment. Champions dream big, and they make pact with themselves to reach those goals. They stay on track in spite of setbacks. They continually remind themselves of their goals and readjust those goals as they are met. They make a commitment to train hard and follow through, no matter what.

  1. Champions give their best in everything they do.