Tag Archives: life

Misdirection (It’s Magic!)

When I was a kid I became fascinated with magic. As I attempted to learn trick after trick, what became clear to me was that the primary skill of the magician wasn’t so much manual dexterity as it was the ability to draw the audience’s attention to something very specific. One magician called it “the manipulation of interest”. I think of it as misdirection and as it turns out there is a really business point to it as well.

Top hat as an icon for magic

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What a magician is trying to do is one of two things: either to get you to look away from what he is really doing for a split second or to reframe your perception so that you focus on a different reality, thinking that something has a lot to do with what’s going on when in fact it has nothing to do with it.

We see this in business all the time. Sometimes it’s benign, as when we’re distracted by a phone buzzing during a meeting. Sometimes it’s not so benign, as when the fine print of a deal is overshadowed by a blaring headline and attention-grabbing photo. I’ve been in meetings in which someone was completely unprepared for the topic of the meeting but managed to get the group distracted onto a side issue and he was never found out. You’ve probably witnessed something similar.

We can’t let distractions draw our attention away from what’s really going on. We can’t look at the obvious while the real business is going on elsewhere. More importantly, we can’t let others draw our attention away from something they’re doing that might have an impact on our business. We can’t let a nice suit distract us into thinking someone is successful – look at their track record. We can’t let someone’s ridiculous initial offer draw us away from our negotiating plan – maybe they’re trying to distract us through the misdirection of anger. We can’t let someone tell a lie as a distraction without correcting it but that also means we need to have facts at hand to avoid the misdirection.

Some folks are masters of controlling how others feel about and deal with them by controlling others’ focus. Don’t fall for it.

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Filed under Reality checks, Helpful Hints

Dreaming Again

I’ve posted what follows each year for the last few on the days we celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. This was written in January of 2009 as we prepared to put President Obama into office. Last year I expressed my disappointment that we hadn’t come further over the last few years, given the election of our first African-American President. Like many, I’m doing my best to remain hopeful for the immediate future, despite some troubling incidents. But we keep dreaming, right?

Dr. Martin Luther King at a press conference.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week was actually Dr. King‘s birthday but since we’re celebrating it today I thought I’d add my two cents. I’m old enough to remember him and while he didn’t light the fire of the civil rights movement in the US (I’d say Rosa Parks is that hero), he certainly brought the fire to life and tended it well until his assassination (and I remember that as well – how horrible a day it was!).

What inspired me, a young (then) white kid was his notion of bringing a dream to reality. OK, the words and delivery were pretty inspirational too, even when you read them off a page. Yesterday the Inauguration Committee had a concert on the very place where Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech to celebrate, nearly 46 years later, a big piece of that speech coming to reality. One can’t help but wonder what Dr.King would have felt and said – he certainly should still be alive – he’d just be turning 80.

Robert Kennedy said “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”  I think that’s great business advice as well, even if George Bernard Shaw had the notion before Bobby.  Mark Twain wrote that Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

So today, I celebrate Dr. King’s dreaming of a better world and making it happen.  Tomorrow, we can watch it become real.  What are you dreaming of?  Can it be real?  Why not?  Or better – why not!!

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Filed under Reality checks, Growing up

My Parents Are Brave

I’m in Florida this week helping my folks move. They’re moving into an independent living place where they have neither to cook nor clean. There is transportation to shopping and banks for them and activities available hourly. Not bad, right? Right, except I consider them to be very brave for having made the move. Let me explain, and let me also add how I think this can apply to your business.

A moving truck operated by Piedmont Moving Sys...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While my parents are both in decent health, there is no question that they are slowing down and less able to do things as easily as they once did. They recognized it but they were fearful of packing up two homes (one up north, one here) and moving into what my dad calls an old folks home. As a child, he was reared in an orphanage, so moving into an institutional setting stirs up stuff for him. My mom moved her mother into a place like this one and I’m sure that moving in herself stirs up a lot of memories. Nevertheless, they are making the move. I think they’re quite brave.

What does this have to do with your business? We often recognize that circumstances are changing and that the business is unable to perform as it once did. The easy thing is to keep on doing what we’ve been doing. The brave thing is to figure out what the right thing is – what the needed changes are – and to change our circumstances to make a better future. We can’t let our fears or our level of comfort keep us from putting ourselves and our businesses in the best possible circumstances to assure success.

Even though they were scared, they moved. Change is rarely easy but often necessary, in business and in life. What changes are needed in your world?

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Filed under Thinking Aloud, What's Going On

Top Posts Of The Year #1

What follows is the most-read post I published during this past year. We’ll have the most-read Foodie Friday post tomorrow. Originally titled “Why I Might Have Unfollowed You,” I wrote this right after Election Day. I was sort of hopeful at the time that a lot of the vitriol and outright lying that had lead up to that day would stop. It didn’t and hasn’t, but having unfollowed a number of the worst offenders in my feed has helped. I’m also gratified that the concerns over “fake news” have grown large enough that they’re finally being addressed. Of course, I’m not sure some people branding The NY Times or other legitimate news outlets as fake moves the discussion forward. In any event, I’m glad that this was the most read post because it was really one of the most heartfelt ones I wrote this year.

I have been at this blogging thing for over 2,000 posts and 8 years (May of 2008, actually) and I’ve yet to write a political post. Today may be the closest I’ve come although obviously, I’ve used politics to help us appreciate some business points along the way.

I’ve stopped following a few people on Facebook in the last few days, something I’ve rarely done and usually only when the accounts get filled with spam. The folks I unfollowed are people I know personally – I tend not to be Facebook friends with most business associates or random friends of friends. I unfollowed them because this election has brought out the worst in them. I don’t mean that I disagree with their point of view. Many of my closest friends and I hold diametrically opposed political views. I mean that they’ve stopped supporting their views with any sort of facts and are choosing to ignore the facts when they’re presented to them. They are living in the horrible confirmational bias reality that tells them sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism are not only OK but the real voice of America as evidenced by this election.

They go on to criticize people for exercising their First Amendment rights to assemble and protest in vitriolic hateful posts. They continue to post outright lies which are easily disproven with a brief search. They dismiss sources such as CNN and the NY Times as biased and won’t believe anything they report, mostly because they disagree with them. They forget that a majority of America voted for a woman and a liberal agenda. Rather than contemplating how to be inclusive of that agenda as we move forward, they post about “taking back” the country, I guess from the majority who voted the other way. They fail to condemn miscreants who bully, threaten, and harm fellow citizens. Their children behave the same way in school. This is shameful, and denying the facts doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

So I unfollowed them. I welcome the opportunity to discuss politics with folks of all sides as long as we stick to the facts and don’t engage in ad hominem attacks. Hypocrisy is a no-no as well (look up what our newly-elected President was saying four years ago about the unfairness of a popular vote win not translating into an Electoral College win and how people should be marching in the streets!). Those are things I try to do in business as well and so should you. In the meantime, let’s remember that our system doesn’t deny the minority party any ability to influence policy (witness the last 8 years of Republicans slowing/changing/denying Obama‘s policies) and that in two years there’s another chance to change things again.

I’m sorry for using this platform to get his off my chest. I hope you’ve not had to unfollow folks and your friends are more rational than some of mine seem to be. I’m hoping everyone will just calm down a bit and work to be the change each of us wants to see in the world while not building walls. I don’t mean on our borders but those between our fellow citizens and ourselves. The people I unfollowed were doing just that and I’m not having any of it. You?

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Filed under Huh?, Reality checks

Top Posts Of The Year #2

This post was written last April and was originally called “Hanging On.” Ostensibly it was about reexamining all of the things we do in our businesses. As I’m rereading it I think it was also about grasping that collecting “stuff” can sometimes get in the way of success, however you care to define that word.

The house is still on the market but all the detritus is long gone. If I accomplished anything in 2016, this post just might explain what it was.

We’re selling our home. The kids are grown and living on their own.  We don’t need all the space and the property is too large and expensive to maintain. In other words, we’re doing the downsizing (or rightsizing!) that many folks in our situation do. Obviously, a lot of “stuff” has aggregated over the 30+ years we’ve been in the house and we spent many hours over the last few weeks decluttering. 

This past weekend was spent scanning old tax returns and putting the supporting documents into a “shred” box. Why were we hanging on to receipts from anything beyond the 3 years the IRS recommends? Who knows. We also found (and put in the shred box) canceled checks from every decade beginning in the late 1970’s. That was long before banks did everything electronically and held scanned copies for you. I guess we got in the habit of filing them away.

In addition to the financial documents, we tossed (or donated) things that had sat in the basement or the attic for many years without anyone missing them. It’s nice, for example, that nearly every sporting event I attending during my years in sports TV gave out a duffel bag of some sort but having 20 bags in the attic gathering dust when someone somewhere needs one is silly, right?

So here is the question for you. When was the last time you took a look at the “stuff” hanging around your business? I don’t mean extra duffel bags or canceled checks. All the detritus we collect over the years is due in part to a process we have in place.  When was the last time you examined the things, processes, etc. – to which you’re hanging on and why?

It’s not just a matter of freeing up space.  It also means you question each thing you touch and its relevance to your business moving forward. I found a number of things (an automatic pasta maker, a countertop deep fryer) that I won’t ever use again but were hanging around the basement.  I rarely eat pasta anymore and it takes less time to make it by hand then it does to clean the machine after a use.  Why was I hanging on to it?

Old habits die hard, especially in business.  We need to stop hanging on and get our proverbial business houses cleaned up.  It makes wherever we decide to go next a much easier move.  You with me?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Thinking Aloud

Top Posts Of The Year #4

Courtesy Jeffrey Beall

Each year at this time, I repost the most read 4 “regular” posts and the top Foodie Friday post from this calendar year. That’s what I’ll be doing this week. The #4 most-read post was written prior to the Super Bowl and was a pre-game appreciation for Peyton Manning‘s last game. Originally titled “The Wily Old Veteran,” it deals with things one learns over time. In retrospect, it was probably a bit of a love note to my fellow “experienced” business people too. Enjoy!

The Super Bowl is this Sunday and if you’re not going to be watching it you are a member of a small minority in this country. It’s been hard to avoid hearing about the upcoming tilt for weeks, and it has become almost impossible this week. That’s not a complaint, by the way. I’m a huge fan and while it’s sad to see the NFL season end, this year’s game offers us something of a business lesson as part of the deal.

Amidst all of the hoopla, you might have heard Peyton Manning’s name more than once. If you follow the game at all you’re aware that he is a guaranteed first-ballot Hall Of Fame player who might be playing in his last game. You might also be aware that he missed a significant part of the regular season with a foot injury. In his place, Brock Osweiler came in and lead the team to a number of victories. He is clearly Denver’s quarterback of the future. Even after Manning got healthy, Osweiler had the starting job and was only back on the bench after Denver stumbled in a late season game and Manning came in. So why is Manning starting the Super Bowl?

You might say “oh, it’s a tribute to his wonderful career and that must be respected.” The real answer is the business point today. As an article written about the game said

Manning, not Osweiler, will start Sunday against the Carolina Panthers after reclaiming the job he lost to foot problems and turnovers earlier in the season. The five-time MVP‘s experience outweighed his limitations for the stretch run on a Denver team that relies on the running game and defense.

Experience isn’t something that you can teach – it’s something you need to gain over time. As I tell clients – most of whom are younger than I am – you hire me in part so that you don’t make all the mistakes I’ve made over the years. While you can stay up all night to work through a problem, I have probably faced the same problem multiple times over the last 40 years.  It might be possible to read about business and to learn (and I encourage you to do so!), but there is no substitute for living through business situations.  That takes time, patience, an open mind, and a willingness to accept that there might be many valid solutions to the problem you’re facing.

I will be rooting for the wily old veteran to have a good game no matter how his team does.  Every team needs one to help lead them into battle.  How about yours?

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Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints, Thinking Aloud

Time For What?

It’s Foodie Friday and the topic is time. Now, what the heck does time have to do with our usual Friday food rant? As it turns out, quite a bit. I was reading this article from Eater on the year’s advances in food technology. What struck me as I read the piece wasn’t so much any one piece of tech (although I’m not sure how I’ve lived without a bacon emoji until now) but how many of the innovations had to do with time.

There are a few items mentioned that reduce the time a customer needs to wait in person to be seated. There are other that reduce the time a customer needs to wait to receive their food after placing their orders. Still others involved getting take out food delivered in less time (nothing like a speedy drone to beat the traffic!). 80% of the innovations mentioned in the article involve saving time somehow, mostly to benefit the customer but in so doing also increasing service capacity and, in theory, profits. We love those win-win scenarios!

All this time saving does, however, beg the question: what are people going to do with the time savings? It seems these days that the answer involves consuming more content and the marketing messages pushed through the channels containing that content. Let me throw out a different thought.

Since so many people, in the food industry and elsewhere, seem to be wanting each of us to have a little more free time in our day, why don’t we use it to do some of the things we apparently don’t have enough time to do now? You know: read a book or spend a few minutes actually researching an issue that’s meaningful to us so the next time we share a story we’re sure of our facts. Take some of that newly found spare time and go say “hi” to someone in person instead of messaging. Throw a ball to your dog or with your kid.

It’s a season of family and gift-giving. How about we use the gift of time all these innovations afford us wisely?Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Joyous Festivus, and enjoy whatever you’re celebrating!

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Filed under food, Helpful Hints