Enlightened Conflict

a view on competing – for pretty much any business (part 1)

April 22nd, 2014

compete better than

“Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people.”

― David Sarnoff





This post is on competing.

Competing against other companies in the business world.

Competing either in terms of positioning or actually competing directly against them for customers and prospects.


Let me begin with some honesty.

I hate competing on low price.


I believe it is lazy business.

And it is lazy thinking.

And it is lazy logic.


In addition … only one company, or brand, can actually be a low cost provider in an industry.


That said … let me immediately address the traditional concept of competition.


Price competition is not what competition is about.

While we may talk price … in the end … people will pay what they will pay for what they want.



If you take a deep breath … and assume quality competition and efforts in the marketing & sales process matter … well … the price variable gets evicted from its dominant position in discussions.




Let me take it a step farther.


It seems like when we view competition, and competing, in a traditional discussion it seems to exist within a rigid pattern of the invariant stable <not stagnant> conditions.


We always seem to view it as, or on, a flat grid with stable dots and competitor names and quadrants and such. Therefore when you think traditionally you are looking at … well … little things that remain relatively stable.


And on that grid distinction between the dots come down to some nuts & bolts things that are often nuances.


Now … let me say … they are important … as long as you stay on this flat 2 dimensional grid and want to remain stable.


But reality is the true competition comes from the new view, the new outlook,  the new technology, the new source of supply, the new type of organization … the new idea <or new way of thinking>.


Viewing competition in this way means you get to command a decisive cost or gain some quality advantage.  Both of those thoughts do not which infringe on the edges of the profits and the outputs of the existing firms … but attack profits and outputs at their foundations and their very lives.


truth the-intersection-of-opportunity--personal-growth-street-signSo … maybe you read this … get excited … and you study your options … and … DOH! … often you don’t see the opportunity.


There isn’t one to be found.


Aw. Nuts.

It shouldn’t worry you.


Just wait.

Business <as in Life> is neither static nor unilateral. Nor does it live on some grid and in quadrants. Nor are most industries stable <for long>.


Your competition is also thinking and moving and often it is the competitor’s move that provides the opportunity.


But we far too often try and force an opportunity.


How often does someone enthusiastically suggest … “Take the bull by the horns and create opportunity!”

<exclamation point include>



Typically it is stated with false enthusiasm driven by fear because when viewing the flat grid and quadrants things can look fairly hopeless and a huge sea of sameness.


Identifying REAL opportunities or ideas is difficult.

A really smart guy named Jean Marie Dru drew up the idea of ‘disruption.’


He discussed the concept that REAL opportunity and big ideas needed to fall into the ‘disruption category’ or they weren’t … well … real opportunities or big ideas.

The trouble with the disruption concept isn’t the concept itself <because it is spectacular> but rather in the environment in which the concept is implemented, ie., today’s business environment.  Delineating between a real disruptive idea and a politically motivated, and called, false disruptive idea is difficult.



It’s not really that difficult to discern but rather maybe just difficult to admit or publicly state.

We are so desperate for ‘the big idea’ or ‘big change’ that we don’t hesitate to call little ideas and little change … big.




Because we don’t have anything else.

Business today demands something … or else.

So we make somethings … even when there is really nothings <or just a bunch of ‘littles’>.


My point?


That makes being truly competitive, or being good in competition, really difficult. For if we not only dwell on the often indiscernible nuance  but also deign to call the nuance, the little, big … we are fooling ourselves into believing that we are competing … and worse … competing well.

We end up forcing opportunity where none really exists.



Lots of wasted misdirected energy.

What this all really translates into is that in most of those cases we are creating ‘opportunity’ with a little thing. Therefore <sorry to burst everyone’s bubble> it isn’t really an opportunity.


If you are honest with yourself most of these identified ‘opportunities’ simply keep you competitive … not really an ‘disruptive opportunity.’


I don’t say that to suggest not doing those things but rather to suggest you simply call it what it is.


Not an opportunity but simply remaining competitive.compete head hurts


Simply remaining on the 2 dimensional competitive grid. Staying stable.


Look <part 1>.

You have to do those things … but cannot only do those things.

Because far too often we die not from taking risks but rather from staying safe … as the trap closes in on us we wait until it is too late to find a way out.


Look <part 2>.

Getting trapped is part of business <albeit we gnash our teeth and fire a shitload of people when it happens> but like all traps the way out is never back the way you came.


Once in the trap you can really only get out by going through the trap.


What helps you stay the course on that idea … is that it is an act and react world.


Never static.


Any time competing for business is on a time continuum <i.e., it takes time> there are multiple variables which can affect the outcome … being impacted by multiple variables <called multiple participants> … being impacted by multiple environmental variables … all of which can … and do their darndest … to change the very solid ground you were standing on just a minute ago … to mud.


Competing in business is … well … maybe a formula of ‘do’s and don’ts’… but a unique formula every time in that while there may be larger basic ‘to do’s’ <like make sure you maintain contact> winning is often in the sometimes random nuance in the formula. A nuance that can often be frighteningly elusive <until afterwards when a business tends to look back and go “wow, that was it … we need to make sure we do that every time’ … which is inevitably the kiss of death to the next win and that nuance>.


“Today’s competitiveness, so much imposed from without, is exhausting, not exhilarating; is unending-a part of one’s social life, one’s solitude, one’s sleep, one’s sleeplessness.”

Louis Kronenberger


This means there is an ever-present threat <not to sound paranoid>.

But this also means there is an ever-present opportunity.


But this ever present threat means you have to be disciplined.


Disciplined on the small things <which keep you in the competition> and the big things <which give you the win>.




That said.


Having been in the business world for far too many years I have seen the best and the worst of how companies have faced competition.


I have seen those who take no risks <and been killed> and those who took big risks <and been killed>.


In the end I imagine it is balancing a lot of disciplined little things <let’s call them jabs> and disciplined big thing behavior <let’s call this ‘the knock out blow’>. Many of these things are not ‘opportunities’ as such … but they put you in a position to take advantage of opportunities.


And while the following list is driven from the marketing, PR, advertising world … there are a bunch of simple thoughts relevant to anyone with regard to competition <please note … I am not smart enough to have come up with his list on my own … I have compiled this from material I have seen & used in the past … and incorporated some of my thoughts>:




-          Winning business is hard and getting the chance to win some business is really hard.

management what growing-global-executive-talentIn a competitive environment it is rarely just you … uhm … that’s why it’s called ‘competition.’ Therefore there are odds <one out of 3 brands or companies … maybe one out of five>.

But if you don’t get into the competition there are no odds.

That’s why you are always mining … or prospecting. This activity is essential. My point is that nowhere in what I just wrote is there an implied ‘rest’ or ‘relax.’ You have to always be working to get a chance to win … heck … you always have to be working to even get in the consideration game.

Anyone who suggests winning is easy … or that a win streak <or positive sales> is in any way not inextricably linked to a shitload of hard work they are lying. I imagine my real point is that far too often I hear something like ‘they make it look easy.’ The only reason it looks easy is because you don’t get to see the 90% hard work … only the 10% that looks easy because of the hard work.



-          Stop worrying about what you can’t control.

Companies decide to look for help for all kinds of reasons  . . . new products, new CMO, new C level anything, a dip in sales, complaints from the trade/consumer/employees, etc.

Consumers decide to look for something to spend their money on for as many irrational reasons as you can find rational reasons.

Some, and none, of those reasons are in your control.

What is in your control is the ability to be top-of-mind when decision change/factors occur.


Let me revise that … if you are good … REALLY good … you can plan your own obsoletion <making your own product or service obsolete> and replace yourself.


You have to be REALLY <really> good.



-          They have to know you to pick you.

Unknown companies and products/services don’t get considered.  That’s why out-bound communication is essential.

I type this just to address the infamous ‘this is such a great idea that it will sell itself.’


Life just isn’t that easy.



-          Be relevant. compete relevance say

Awareness alone isn’t enough, it has to be relevant awareness otherwise you’re just generic <and then you better actually be the lowest price every day no ifs, ands or buts>.  You need to position your company, your brand, your whatever … in people’s minds as relevant to whatever topic or issue that will inevitably lead to them buying or engaging you.


And you actually have live up to what you say you are relevant about.



-          Finding prospects is all about numbers.

<this is an equally important statement if you are referring to B2B or to consumer>


At any given moment, there are a number of people or companies who’d love to hire you or go on a date with you right now … but they don’t know you and you don’t know them.

That’s why communicating with lots of prospects simultaneously <and continuously> is critical.



-          Use your head to pick targets.

Start with your company’s current/past experience and your key people experience as the primary criteria.  It’s always easier to sell yourselves when you have category credibility.


But also use your heart. Pick some companies you just want to be with.

Forget whether it makes sense on these.  If you want them badly enough you’ll come up with ideas to get their attention.



-          Mining and prospecting is like dating.

Prospecting isn’t really about getting the business. It’s actually about building a relationship so you can be considered for a relationship <for the business>.  It requires a slow, respectful and continuous approach as you develop a … well … relationship.

There is no reason why experts should feel the need to toss around ‘build trust’ or ‘be interesting’ or … well … be anything … because this is simple <and as complex> as building a good relationship in everyday Life. Don’t over complicate … just go about building a relationship the way you would when you are out of the office.


Here is the difficult part you need to wrap your head around.

The majority of those you introduce yourself to will most likely like you … but not enough to date you. It can drive you nuts <because you always want to know why someone doesn’t want to go out on a date with you … even though they do not hesitate to say they like you>.

And some may not go out on a date with you for years.

Dating in business, just as in Life, is about impatient patience. Impatiently seeking dates but patiently waiting for the timing to be right.



-          Be true to thineself.

consistent be-yourselfGreat relationships are based on trust.

A trust that tomorrow you will be, and act, like you did yesterday … and today.

So maybe relationships are really built on consistency.



Be who you are. Tell them who you are. Act like who you are. You don’t want to end up in a relationship where you cannot be yourself

<I have written on this topic for business several times including this:

 http://brucemctague.com/to-do-or-not-to-do  .>


As a corollary to this … you are how you prospect.

Don’t do things because they are ‘cool’ or industry hot topics … do things because they are an extension of who you are and how you think.

Be consistent with your company positioning & character.



“We are all manufacturers-making good, making trouble or making excuses.”

-          HV Adolt




-          Your web site is your personality & character … not a brochure.

For example … in the advertising agency business … many agency web sites are impersonal, out-of-date, electronic brochures with obnoxious splashy technologically cool things <but vapid and say nothing> up front.  That’s an issue because research shows that 100% of businesses check out the web sites of 100% of the companies they may consider to work with.

Your web site should be an extension of the personalities of the key leaders running the place and the business personality & culture.

This is the same with everyone.

If you have a website it ain’t just about ‘products & services offered.’ They want to meet … well … you. Why? Because those perceptions are embedded into whatever they end up buying.



-          Everything always needs to be relevant to them.

There is no such thing as ‘just a credentials presentation.’

Everything you say, and everything you show, should be in linked to them. About them or the benefit to them.

Never show what you have done, no matter how brilliant it is, unless you can directly relate it to their business <and never assume they will understand how it relates unless it’s super obvious>.



In the business world they are seeking help because will be there was a business problem <because if business is good they can be quite forgiving to an existing ‘helper’>.



In the consumer world they are seeking help because they perceive they have a need <I need new clothes to look better, I need a new appliance because the old one is shit, I need new food because I am hungry, etc.>.

Before you say or show anything always ask why it is relevant to them.


compete relevance survey

-          Frequency and Recency.

Almost nothing is ever won with a single contact.

That’s why prospecting requires frequent communications over time for them to get to know you.

Unfortunately … it is also true that recency wins the day.

Therefore you need to think in terms of communicating not just once or twice but dozens of times to accomplish your goal … just aim as carefully as you can.

Unfortunately … this also means that every impression counts. So you cannot think ‘the most important impression is the first impression.’ Every impression counts.


Unfortunately … this also means that one message at the right time is always more valuable than <pick a number more than 1 and insert it here> messages at the wrong time.


You can never be sure when your communications and their peaked interest will intersect.  So, the challenge is always you have to think in terms of communicating not just for a few weeks or months, but… well … forever.


And forever means never forgetting that right time, right place messaging with a relevant message is always the goal.



-          Focus on responders, not rejecters.

Most of the people you approach will ignore you or reject you.  Concentrate on nurturing those that do respond.  With ongoing rejecters <you still want to work with> recency becomes the strategy. Rejecters become responders if you find the right place and the right time with the relevant message.



-          Be quotable <and where it matters>.

Being an influencer, or influential, matters. Become an expert. The one who is always quoted wherever the decision-makers or potential customers read or watch.


If you are worth even half a shit you have thoughts & ideas on how things should be done. Your thoughts & ideas are just as valuable as some bonehead who maybe published a book.


Sometimes the only difference between your quote and their quote is that they wrote a book.


So, yes, being quotable means you have to have the right attitude. Writing a book may be a big deal … but you have to believe your own ideas & thinking is a big deal too … and say ‘so what if they wrote a book’ and get going.



-          Trust.

Sometimes you have to think less about showcasing your talent or smarts and consistent and predictablemore about showing you can be trusted to get the job done <solutions to their problem>.

As a corollary … make sure you address real issues, business issues and personal <Maslow stuff> issues depending on audience, and not just what they may specifically believe is their ‘problem assignment.’


Sometimes projects are the product of the whole team or household.

Sometimes they’re not.

It’s always safe to focus on issues, even if they’re outside the outlined problem because it shows you understand them and their lives.

By the way … this is relevant to consumers and businesses.


That said, make sure you respond to the specific project outlined.



-          Questions and respect.

Smart questions can often have more impact than smart answers.  Asking insightful questions makes you look intelligent and they inevitably feel respected.  In addition … frankly … they often know more than you do <sometimes you just have to figure out the right questions to get the good stuff out of them>.

Anyway. You want to be smart … and you may actually be smart … but giving fast answers, even smart good ones, can sometimes make you look like you’re just showing off and, worse, make them feel inferior.

Just be respectful and aim your response to create dialogue rather than simply seek to make a statement.

In fact, you should try to have the whole process structured to solicit response from the prospects throughout.

In the end … if you have no dialogue you will have no win.

If you find yourself in a monologue, you have not won.





Now that you have read all of this you can see that competition really isn’t about them … it’s about you.confidence interests me


And competition is never about hind sight.

And opportunities exist everywhere … it is just that some are opportunities to stay in the game and some are to win the game.


I won’t suggest little things don’t matter … because they can.

I will suggest little things simply keep you in the competition.




In the game.

They will not give you win.


It’s the big stuff.

The disruptive stuff that beats competition.




Doesn’t beat them.

It just puts you where they are not.



I think that equals winning.

rabbits feet, eggs and easter

April 20th, 2014

easter bunny food


“Like the Easter egg, the Easter hare, now an accepted part of the Easter story, came to Christianity from antiquity. The hare is associated with the moon in the legends of ancient Egypt and other peoples. It belongs to the night, since it comes out only then to feed. It is born with its eyes open and, like the moon, is the ‘open-eyed watcher of the skies.’”

- Britannica




Happy Easter.


The big question of the day.


Why do we believe these slightly absurd  stories of a mysterious Easter Bunny that delivers colored eggs <sometimes really well designed which implies it takes more than one night to do> in the night so that people can find them by scrounging around outside the next morning?



rabbit smokingI think I have to start with rabbits.


Mostly because every Easter we have a bunch of pissed off rabbits hopping around on three legs watching as we eat all the eggs they spent a shitload of time coloring.


Rabbits have always been considered lucky because they were associated with spring and the return of flowers and other plants. Spring is also a time of fertility <and god knows … rabbits are certainly ‘fertile’> therefore rabbits were considered good luck to be seen running through the fields.


In Western Europe during the ‘B.C. years’ people considered rabbits to be sacred partly because of the belief that spirits inhabited the bodies of animals.


Later ancient European Celts adopted portions of the older belief, that rabbits were sacred, and that spirits inhabited their bodies.

Interestingly … because rabbits spent an inordinate amount of time in their underground burrows combined with the belief that the rabbits’ bodies were inhabited by numina <underground spirits with whom they communicated> people believed they were even more sacred because of their close proximity to the spirits.


Another reason the Celts held the rabbit to be sacred was because of their prowess in the field of reproduction. They believed that the numina intended for rabbits to be put upon pedestals and revered as symbols of procreation, reproduction with a high turnover rate, of health, and of prosperity.


Ok.rabbit hat mean

The foot thing.


Since the rabbit itself was considered to be lucky I imagine it is not a huge leap to believe that any of its body parts would also be considered lucky.



It is actually the way rabbits run which gave birth to the superstition about rabbit’s feet. Apparently their unusual stride makes the back feet touch the ground ahead of their front feet and so the back feet were considered especially lucky <I do not really understand his logic but it is in print so it must be true>.


For some odd reason <which I cannot discover any reason why> it was actually only the left hind foot of the rabbit that was considered lucky. And if you were lucky enough to have a left hind foot you had to rub it to activate the luck believing  it was a source of protective magic in addition to bringing good fortune.


People started carrying the rabbit’s foot around for good luck … because of its capacity to dry quickly, its small size, and the fact that it made a great key chain.



But luck didn’t come without some stipulations.

For luck to occur the original owner must give their rabbit’s foot away and it would be the receiver of the gift that would also be the recipient of the good fortune.

If the owner kept the foot for himself, he would be visited by bad luck.

In addition … if the recipient of the rabbit’s foot lost his lucky charm he would also be visited with bad luck.



easter carrotsNow.


The eggs.


What’s up with eggs and rabbits?

<because I, personally, tend to associate carrots with rabbits>


All I really know is that ancient Egyptians, in one of their creation myths, believed the universe was created from an enormous egg <oh … those wacky Egyptians>.



Here is a thought.


Maybe rabbits are really ancient Egyptians and they deliver their universe to us every Easter?


That’s the best I can come up with.


It also makes me think of this.

If you are a romantic, maybe give your loved one a hard boiled egg and say ‘you are my universe.’

<does anyone ever wonder why I am still single?>



She will either adore you for the rest of your life or you will end up with an egg shoved up your ass.



But better to have some response than none at all I say.




Other superstitions for Rabbits <which …after you read … will encourage you to simply avoid rabbits>:


I will begin with the good ones …


  • It is good luck for a rabbit to cross your pathPUBLISHED by catsmob.com
  • Saying “white rabbits” on the first of each month or on the first day of a new moon will bring good luck
  • Wearing rabbit-skin socks protects against pleurisy
  • A child who eats rabbit brains will improve his or her behavior <insert “yikes” here>


Good being relative as you can see.


And the bad …


  • Seeing a white rabbit is a death omen
  • Seeing a black rabbit is unlucky
  • Seeing a rabbit on the way to work is unlucky
  • If you dream about a rabbit it means you will be visited by misfortune
  • Seeing a rabbit cross behind you means bad luck is on its way
  • A rabbit running down the street means there will be a fire in the neighborhood


And, finally, the randomly useful camping tip …


  • When sitting around a campfire, saying “white rabbit” will make the smoke go in another direction





easter crazy kidsSome curmudgeonly Christian with far too much time on his hands wrote a fairly long detailed <but interesting> diatribe … using far far too many exclamation points … on why he doesn’t celebrate Easter as a Christian.


While I could argue that he misses the real point of Easter … it does make for interesting reading: http://www.faithfulword.com/tracts/Easter_Errors.pdf




Happy Easter.


monkeys from the arctic

April 19th, 2014

arctic monkey suck it and


You got your H.P. Lovecraft
Your Edgar Allan Poe
You got your unkind of ravens
And your murder of crows
Catty eyelashes and your Dracula cape
Been flashing triple A passes
At the cemetary gates

Cause you’re so dark, babe
But I want you hard
You’re so dark, babe
You’re so dark


-          Arctic Monkeys ‘in the dark’




Most of us will never visit the Arctic Circle.

But suffice it to say while you would see Eskimos … you would not see monkeys.




arctic japanese snow-monkeyIn Japan you can see monkeys that can thrive in the frigid snow.





I am pleased.


Pleased America is finally embracing the band … the Arctic monkeys.


I have always liked their sound.

But the Arctic Monkeys have never quite made it big in America.



While Arctic Monkeys are a household name in the UK since releasing the UK’s fastest-selling debut album in 2006 – and representing their country on the world stage at the London Olympics opening ceremony in 2012 – if I brought up Arctic Monkeys to any of my music loving friends <the younger ones not just listening to Sinatra on vinyl> I would  most likely have heard … who?


People in America were not only not fans … but not even aware of the Arctic Monkeys.


People have been missing out on these 4 high school dropouts.


The four 19-year-olds hit the ground running with their first album <and single ‘I bet you look good on the dance floor>.

arctic monkey 3Their lead singer, Alex Turner, rarely smiles and has an endearingly acerbic style <of singing and interviewing>:


Turner spoke soon after their initial album …


It’s all been quite a bit of a fluke” and described the recent turn of events as “proper hysterical.”

“If I say ‘phenomenon,’ it sounds like I’m right up my own arse, but we’d be daft to act like we didn’t realize how incredible the last year’s been. When it all started, we were like, ‘F—ing hell, what’s going off here?’ “



From Sheffield, England, Turner and bass player Andy Nicholson, drummer Matt Helders and guitarist Jamie Cook dropped out of  high school at age 16 and formed the Arctic Monkeys.


They named themselves after a ’70s band Cook’s uncle played in.



Their music.


This is what my friends would call ‘bruce music.’arctic monkey with the exception


They have a deeper darker sound driven by poetic lyrics delivered in an indifferent attitude from Turner.

It’s a … well … let’s call it a ‘black and white sound’  with seriously gritty guitar riffs, some grunge roots, fast paced drumming and the lyrical twists & turns of Turner <says he was inspired by Manchester punk poet John Cooper Clarke>.




Today … in America.


Here is their new song being made popular on American television & radio …

Do I wanna Know:



arctic monkey do i wanna know

And to show you a live version … this is them on Jools Holland where they do a beautiful scratchy sprawling version of this song <this is spectacular if you like this type of music>:






The next single they released is kinda cool because the first 1:30 actually uses ‘do I wanna know’ … how cool is that? Use one of your own songs to open one of your … well … own songs.


Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?:






And just a reminder to everyone who is just catching up with the Arctic Monkeys. This is the first song I heard … and their first popular song off their first album … when they were just kids … lead singer Alex Turner …. “How could that be #1?” Turner quipped. “It’s freakin’ awful.”


I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor (2005): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQNyTo4k_TA




I also liked their second single … whew … starts poetic and slams into what I came to call ‘the arctic sound’arctic lips galaxy


<also … a great Police reference… “but he told Roxanne to put on her red light”>

When the sun goes Down:




There you go.

The Arctic Monkeys.

visible and invisible

April 18th, 2014

invisible but visible



This is about the trick of being present and absent at the same time.


What made me think of this?


When I read this in a book …



“… marveled at the way in which three clear liquids … nitric acid, hydrochloric acid and water … when combined produce color … and not just any color … but the color of a flaming sunset.”




That made me think about business and the ability to slip behind the scenes and take some invisible things … and … well … make them visible.

And visible in a delightful colorful way.




Let’s say these are the people who take things most of us just cannot, or do not, see … and make them visible in a meaningful way that is relevant and recognized.


Anyway … the mixture I described above is sometimes called Aqua regia (Latin and Ancient Italian, lit. “royal water”) or aqua regis (Latin, lit. “king’s water”).





We know these people in business.

Hmmmmmmmmmm … well … maybe not.


Because these people who seem to be able to take the invisible things and put them together in ways that make them visible … also tend to be exactly the same way.


They tend to be silent … or maybe quieter … and certainly barely visible <unless you are paying attention>.



And in today’s world silent smarts is not exactly the way to the top of the heap.


Which is unfortunate … because these invisible characters, who are often not seen or often heard, but who can often have a visible effect on events … are invaluable.


Sometimes unseen … but invaluable.


Unseen because they are really good at remaining still … and silent … and have mastered nonchalant intent listening … but their eyes , while saying nothing, never remain still.


Interestingly … just like the formula I mentioned above <royal or king’s water> … they tend to become visible when mixed with the right partner or on the right team. They ‘mix’ in a way that makes their ‘clear’ have ‘color.’


But I am writing more about those invisible clear aspects in business that remain unseen by the majority of business people. Those invisible, or only slightly visible, aspects all businesses have. The ones most of us miss … because as most of us rush from one place to another, one meeting after another, one crisis after another … our ‘thoughtful moments’ are mostly ‘visionary’ … or ‘horizon’ viewing moments … because we are told that is how to make it to the top of the heap.


You need to think big.


invisible presenceYou need a big idea.


You need to see the bigger vision.


And all those things are good. and necessary.

But it is quite possible we are forgetting HOW to do it.






In todays business world if we don’t believe something exists … well … then it doesn’t. What is invisible cannot become visible because .. well … if ts not visible it doesn’t exist.


But truth is that if we don’t know that something exists … it really doesn’t mean that it doesn’t.

It only means we don’t know one way or the other or maybe we just haven’t been made aware of it yet.


Someone wrote somewhere that evidence is not about proof or certainty or necessity but rather it is simply something that can contribute to belief.

This means we can have evidence but it is in no way conclusive.



This is the fundamental mistake when discussing evidence. The mistake in the belief or assumption that there can only be evidence for claims that are true.


But there is in fact a vast amount of evidence for claims that are in fact false.


The context here has to do with lack of awareness.


When people dismiss that possibility simply because they weren’t aware of it, or haven’t made the attempt to explore it, or haven’t looked beyond their own personal usage/viewpoint — then they are all too frequently jumping to conclusions based on … well … lack of information rather than the presence of it.


The people who do not fall into this trap? The ones who can see the invisible things. The ones who can actually take clear components and put them together and create something tangible and colorful.





The ability to be present … but invisible … is a knack.


The ability to take what is present but invisible and combine them to make them not only visible .. but colorful is also a knack.


I am not sure they are trainable … I could be wrong … but I tend to believe they are more a knack, an innate ability, more than one that can be taught.




I do know that the people who talk the most don’t always have the most to say.invisible and visible silent listen

I also know <okay … believe> that most of these people with this innate ability to find invisible things are really good listeners.


They listen to what is not being said.

They see what is unseen.

They find the thread of the true message in the sounds around them.



They find invisible things … maybe even unclear undeveloped ideas … and these things become visible in their heads.



And they tend to use silence like a weapon.


While others seem to embrace some desire to speak and showcase knowledge or what an individual can do … they remain silent.

They also sometimes have the ability to become attuned to the magic that can occur when all the others blend their ideas and abilities. And then they only act, become visible, if it is needed to strengthen that which is.


That last thought?



This is all really tricky if you want to become a leader.


We think of leaders as needing to stand out or even apart from the rest of the team.

invisible visible nothingnessYet the most influential leaders also know how to blend the invisible factor with the visible factor.


They know there is an appropriate time for standing out and apart from the group.


But in today’s business world potential leaders <and even some already in leadership positions> have a fear that blending in <remaining invisible even though present … and making an impact> will cause their value to diminish.

And it does <not in my eyes but in the business world as it exists today>.


While the ability to bring out the best in others without visibly doing anything is a true leadership skill … and the sign of a true leader … invisibility leads to often becoming, perception wise, superfluous.


I say that because being invisible but present, blending in and standing out, is an art.


And I say that because having the ability to combine invisible factors and creating something wonderful and visible … is a skill.




Think of it this way.writing colors

If you know someone at your company or in business who makes you ‘marvel at the way in which they are able to take three clear liquids and combine them to produce color … and not just any color … but the color of a flaming sunset’ you should pay them gobs of money or just make sure that you pay attention to them.


Because invisible is … well … invisible to pretty much everyone.

And anyone who can see the invisible is worth every penny you can pay them.


Because the most colorful beautiful visible in business … is inevitably created from some random combination of ‘less than visible’ aspects.

discussing capitalism and habits

April 16th, 2014


 capitalism anarchism





Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief … which will you be today?”


I am going to attempt to discuss capitalism objectively.

I will admit … I am getting better at doing so mostly because so many young people question me on the benefits <as well as the seemingly endless array of drawbacks>


Communists view capitalism the most cynically.



“Capitalists are no more capable of self-sacrifice than a man is capable of lifting himself up by his own bootstraps.”

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin



Schumpeter viewed capitalism with a practical and realistic eye.



“There exists a parallel between education and the scale of moral values in the intellectual sectors and the administrative or bureaucratic sectors against the values and technical criteria of the economic system as it operates.”

Joseph Schumpeter






I am not sure there is a more polarizing or oft-discussed issue in today’s world than Capitalism … its merits and its flaws and its effect on society & culture.


Capitalism seems to get wrapped up in right versus wrong and morals and greed and a bunch of other things.

I have said it before … and will say it until the day I die … capitalism is simply a system in which people work and think and behave.

It may encourage some things … and discourage some others … but in the end … it is a system in which people make choices.


That said.


Stephen Covey’s <author of ‘7 habits of highly effective people’> relatively recent death made me think about business and capitalism.


I admit I originally wasn’t a big fan of Covey and thought “7 habits of highly effective People” not only a vapid read but the kind of tripe that encouraged non-effective people to think they were effective simply because they ‘implemented’ what effective people seemed to do <rather than make their behavior extensions of their general being>.


capitalism personal gain integrityBut I also admit that i believe almost any business book with regard to ‘what makes people successful’ tripe and relatively useless in the scheme of things <in that people tend to use them as a ‘how to be successful’ rather than thought pieces>.

So … this was nothing against Covey in particular.





In hindsight I think I missed the real point of the book (and Covey).


I read the book as “a things to do” primer.


By the way … my fear is the bulk of readers did as I did.


My point?


I should have taken note that he really was arguing less about discipline but more about characteristics of personal character and purpose <beyond dollars and cents>.


He was adamant that employees were not merely pistons in a machine … powered and oiled to efficiency through rewards and punishments but rather employees were people. And even better … individual people <not flocks of sheep>.


I should have taken note that he drew inspiration from researching the past. He read almost 200 years of “success literature “.  He discovered that for almost 150 years the most common theme in American business leadership literature was character.

And that it was only after the Second World War it switched to touting superficial qualities such as appearance and style.


I should have taken note when he added an 8th habit … “find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.”


I believe in hindsight I should have taken note of much he discussed … that I didn’t.


I believe in hindsight I should have taken note of his steadfast belief in character above all else.



The Economist wrote this about him: “… he tried to rescue the notion of character from both the simple minded purveyors of self-help (who imply that you can change your character as easily as your underpants) and the social service establishment (which ignore questions of character by blaming everything on the system).”capitalism kills culture



And maybe what I wish the Economist writer had noted … is that it seems like we have become a working society of “how to” lists.


How to get things done.


How to be a better person.


How to be happy.


How to be a good leader.


Even … how to be effective.



And I wish Covey were still alive because once he saw how we have become a ‘how to’ society <rather than one which learns how to on their own> I tend to believe he may have just gone back and written a new book called “oops, 7 equals zero if you don’t understand the notion of character.”


In my pea like brain I see the issue as this.


Today’s business world has become a person silo business issue.





Silo one- I am a person of character.


Silo two – I am a person who can drive profit.



And both silos are in one business person.


And what this means is exactly how we get these crazy cause related business issues.


What I mean is that the profit person is in one room and then goes to another room and says “well, let’s do something good.” And good is just something else you check off your list so that your character person can pat itself on the back and say “yup, I do have character.”


Do I know how to solve it?



I know I do not believe Lenin ‘Capitalists are no more capable of self-sacrifice than a man is capable of lifting himself up by his own bootstraps’ because while I do agree that no one can lift themselves up by their own bootstraps I don’t agree that capitalists are not capable of self-sacrifice.


I also know that I wish I could send an email to Stephen Covey or even Peter Drucker.

They would know what to do and what to say.


Maybe they could address the natural challenges capitalism offers to businesses and business people … that, in general, it is system that is not needs based but rather profit based.


capitalism self sacrificeAnd that translate into despite the fact we have huge needs that don’t get filled our business world seems to remain mostly all about the profit.


Capitalism … at its worst … focuses money, profit and success on the already successful.

It doesn’t oppress the poor … it simply ignores the poor as the rich get richer.


Historically speaking this bears out.


Corporations used to be ‘collective’ enterprises … for the people and the people’s people <society>.


Well into the 1970’s companies still defined themselves in terms of products/services offered and overall contribution to society. It was beginning in the 1980’s when finance capitalism drove vision and shareholders profits to become the ultimate objective <trumping even quality of offerings>.


Raakesh khurana <Harvard> stated at a business roundtable in 1990:


“Corporations are chartered to serve both their shareholders and society as a whole.”



But then in 1997 he denied responsibility beyond that of the shareholders.


“The notion that the board must balance the responsibility to stakeholders other than shareholders fundamentally misconstrues the role of directors… “



I am not picking on him … he was simply reflecting upon the current status of the business world.


What this really means is that companies … and people in companies … focused on the mere aggregation of financial assets.



This also means business simply stressed every man for himself.


And CEOs have certainly thought of themselves.

Between 1965 and 2000 the ratio of CEO pay to the typical worker expanded from 24:1 to 300:1.

Maybe more concerning is the spread increased significantly between the CEO and the 3rd in command.


CEO’s, due to income alone, became isolated from the real worker as well as the real world.

They started living in their own bubble <or some version of a business hell>.


By the way … this aggregation of financial assets also means management became inherently more short term focused … and ended up rejecting slow thoughtful methods of decision making and became enamored with gut & instinct.


An outcome of this trend?


Leaders became charismatic … not thought leaders.

They became more inspirational … and less rational.



capitalism cynicismIn the end I will state the obvious … the pursuit of wealth … or profit … for its own sake suggests a lack of morality.


And I will also state the obvious … pursuit of wealth and profit is a complex formula.


It is very <too easily I may add> to make it an “I” issue.


As in ‘person decision’ which inevitably leads to some random ‘psychopathic’ type discussions … but it really isn’t.


It is a societal and cultural multi-dimensional issue … as in … ‘I do some things because external factors either encourage or demand it <in business and every day Life>’.


My last comment on this part about capitalism is that any crisis we may believe we have with regard to capitalism is first and foremost a crisis <or some derivative of crisis> of character.


And that is why I thought of Covey.


Effectiveness and ‘greatness’ in leadership begins … and ends … with character.


Despite what some boardrooms suggest … and some ‘results based’ ideology … profits do not measure true effectiveness.





I will close with something David Simon <producer of The Wire> said very well about capitalism:


Mistaking capitalism for a blueprint as to how to build a society strikes me as a really dangerous idea in a bad way. Capitalism is a remarkable engine again for producing wealth. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox if you’re trying to build a society and have that society advance. You wouldn’t want to go forward at this point without it. But it’s not a blueprint for how to build the just society. There are other metrics besides that quarterly profit report.


The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as capitalism and poor but moneyour racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile.”




…. the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile.



Rationalizing what is happening in today’s society is a natural tendency.

And it is much much easier to focus on ‘capitalism’ rather than suggesting any dysfunction as effects of modern society: over-stimulation, consumerism, something in the water, the kids today, or too much television <despite the fact we often do>.


But …. I find it difficult to believe there was ever a time … within any economic system … when people weren’t constantly running afoul of their own basic human traits.


What do I mean?


We tend to rationalize the pursuit of our own drives. We always have and always will.


We tend to … well … denounce, condemn, criticize, censure, attack, rail against, lambast, vilify, revile <pick whatever word you would like> other people for pursuing theirs if theirs happens to oppose ours.


All this natural conflict of … well … our ‘humanness’ leads to general unhappiness with ‘the system.’


But before we start wagging our finger at capitalism as if it has been a naughty little boy … we should be looking in the mirror.

We should be examining our character.




So I close this brief discussion on capitalism with words from a USA State of the Union address:



“… wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen. The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy.”



Sometimes we take things for granted.

character stood up best

We certainly take capitalism for granted … and when things don’t go well we lash out in a seemingly indiscriminate fashion.


We look at big things as little things we deserve.


We see what others have and expect that we should have it also.


That isn’t capitalism’s fault … that is our <people’s> fault.


Honest work.



That takes character.


There is something to consider.

Clay Triple Crown

April 15th, 2014


westside clay courtsWell.


Welcome to the clay court tennis season.


What made me think of it?


I happened to notice that Roger Federer accepted a wild card entry into the Monte Carlo tennis open tournament.


It is played on clay.


Same as the French Open.




Well … not quite … not all clay is created equal … nothing matches the French Open terre battue of Roland Garros grounds.

Monte Carlo is the first of three Masters tournaments played on clay and is followed by Madrid and Rome in May, leading up to the French Open, which starts May 25.




Federer, who lost three straight finals to Nadal from 2006-08, has 78 career titles … but has never won at Monte Carlo.

Federer returns to the Monte Carlo Country Club for the first time since 2011 when he lost in the quarterfinals.


In fact.


It is quite possible Federer could retire as the best clay court player … to not win titles at Monte Carlo and Rome.


Does it really matter?


Federer is already in the ranks of immortality with regard to tennis itself … but clay … oh that clay.

He is so close to clay court immortality … but so far away.


If he could win one Monte Carlo crown and one Rome title … and, of course, one more French Open title he would gain a complimentary room at the Chateau de Clay.


Until then?


He will still be on the outside looking in with the other merely ‘very good’ clay-court champions.


And why may he never win one of these?


Because there is no debate … clay rafeal nadal-french-open-2012Rafael Nadal is the greatest clay-court player of all time.


His European clay-court accomplishments include eight titles at Monte Carlo and Barcelona, six titles at Rome, two at Madrid, one at Hamburg and the seven titles at the French Open.


That’s 32 clay-court titles, not including a handful of clay titles at other venues, and still more tennis years ahead.


And he is playing at Monte Carlo again this year.


The only question left is whether there will ever be another clay-court player who can surpass Nadal’s legacy.


Probably not.


We may never see anybody approach this again.




On the way to the French Open Monte Carlo is the first big stop.


FRANCE TENNIS FRENCH OPENIt’s a perpetual reminder that the grueling road to Paris is long rallies and clay stained socks.


It is the first of the Clay Triple Crown which typically bring the history’s best clay court players together time and time again.


The Clay Court Triple Crown is typically discussed is way:



-          Rome is personified as Power.

-          Paris is Prestige.

-          Monte Carlo is Beauty. The courts … well … courting the elegant and royalty on courts nestled high above the picturesque sea and crashing waves.


And because I did the research and someone wrote it all up I will share some interesting details as to the upcoming  Clay court tournaments <I lost the source>:



Monte Carlo: The Double Champions


Since the Open era of tennis began in 1968, there have been 10 players who have won the Monte Carlo Masters at least twice in their careers. All of them proved to be clay-court legends:


    Ilie Nastase                           3 titles         (1971-73)

    Bjorn Borg                           3 titles         (1977, 79-80)

    Guillermo Vilas                      3 titles         (1976, 81-82)

    Mats Wilander                       2 titles         (1983, 87)

    Ivan Lendl                            2 titles         (1985, 88)

    Sergi Bruguera                     2 titles         (1991, 93)

    Thomas Muster                    3 titles         (1992, 95-96)

    Gustavo Kuerten                  2 titles         (1999, 01)

    Juan Carlos Ferrero               2 titles         (2002-03)

    Rafael Nadal                         8 titles         (2005-12)



Other Notes:


 Vilas shared his 1981 title with Jimmy Connors when rain halted the match at 5-5. No American has won an outright title at Monte Carlo.


 Ferrero was never the same after injuries in 2004. How much more could he have added in the age of Nadal?


All of the double Monte Carlo champions won at least one French Open title. They combined for 29 of the 46 French Open titles in the Open era.


Tennis legends Jim Courier, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer never won a title at Monte Carlo.

Other one-time French Open champions also failed to win Monte Carlo.



Rome: The Double Championsclay court-tennis-ball


Since the Open era of tennis, there have been only nine players who have won Rome’s Italian Open at least twice in their careers. Again the list:


    Ilie Nastase                          2 titles        (1970, 73)

    Bjorn Borg                          2 titles        (1974, 78)

    Vitas Gerulaitis                     2 titles        (1977, 79)

    Andres Gomez                     2 titles        (1982, 84)

    Ivan Lendl                           2 titles        (1986, 88)

    Jim Courier                          2 titles         (1992-93)

    Thomas Muster                    3 titles         (1990, 95-96)

    Rafael Nadal                         7 titles        (2005-07, 09-10, 12-13)   

    Novak Djokovic                    2 titles         (2008, 11)



Other Notes:


Only Gerulaitis and Djokovic do not have a French Open title.


Jan Kodes and Sergi Bruguera are the only two-time French Open champions to never win Rome. Kodes also did not win Monte Carlo.


Courier was the first player to defend his title at Rome. Only Muster and Nadal have replicated this. Nadal did this on three separate occasions, including the only three-peat. Muster is the only other player to win Rome as many as three total times.


From 1996-2005, there were 10 different winners in 10 years.


Since 2005, Nadal and Djokovic have won all the titles. If either wins in 2014, it will be 10 years with only two winners.


Players who won Rome and the French Open in the same year: Nastase (73), Borg (74, 78), Adriano Panatta (76), Lendl (86), Courier (92), Muster (95) and Nadal (05-07, 10, 12-13). Put another way, it has only been done 13 times in 46 years, and six of those doubles have come from Nadal.


Rod Laver and Pete Sampras each won one Rome title in the Open era, but Sampras failed to win the French Open. Agassi and Kuerten had only one Rome title.


Federer has zero titles at Monte Carlo or Rome in his six combined finals appearances. Nadal created five of those Federer defeats and Felix Mantilla (2003) won in Federer’s first Rome final.



The Clay Triple Crown


Which players won Monte Carlo, Rome and the French Open at least one time each in their careers?


    Ilie Nastase

    Guillermo Vilas

    Bjorn Borg

    Mats Wilander

    Ivan Lendl

    Thomas Muster

    Carlos Moya

    Gustavo Kuerten

    Juan Carlos Ferrero

    Rafael Nadal


Other Notes:


 Players to win Monte Carlo, Rome and the French Open in the same year: Nastase (73), Muster (95) and Nadal (05-07, 10, 12-13). Not even Borg, Wilander or Lendl could accomplish this.


Only five players won two career championships at both Monte Carlo and Rome: Nastase, Borg, Lendl, Muster and Nadal.


Only Borg, Lendl and Nadal won the Clay Triple Crown at least twice in their career.


Nadal’s Triple: 8-7-8 titles. That’s just plain ridiculous and likely impossible to top anytime the rest of the century, if ever. If so, tennis will probably have radically different conditions.



Anyway.clay roger_federer_1648411c

Winning what clay court enthusiasts call the Beauty, Power and Prestige tournaments is certainly not easy.

I would like to hope Roger can pull off at least one before he is done.


Welcome to the clay court season.

wilde thoughts

April 11th, 2014

wilde life seriously

Oh … Oscar.


As in Wilde.

Oscar Wilde turns 160 this year.

But his quotes live on.



Not just his quotes … his thoughts.


His quotes tend to be simply delightfully cynical sharp insightful truths into Life.



As for what he actually wrote.

I have tried reading Wilde until my eyes fell out in pain … but the man knew how to take an individual thought and put it into succinct, witty, paradoxical sayings maybe better than anyone else who has ever lived.




In honor of his birthday I will use some of his quotes and share some thoughts on several things.



-          Life


In general Oscar was brilliant … if not simply a genius with words when driven by his disdain for society in general … but especially those obsessed by appearance … and appearances.  And he absolutely abhorred those indifferent to imagination.



Where I have found his genius is in how he so simply suggests that the difference between the haves & the have nots, the difference between the optimists & the pessimists, the difference between the hopeful & the hopeless … is a very very fine line.used stars hope and dreams



“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”



“You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all of the sins you have never had the courage to commit.” – Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Grey.



“Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others.” – Phrases and Philosophies For The Use Of The Young



“It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.” - Lady Windermere’s Fan



We draw some fine and beautiful distinctions between people as we talk about each other.


And it is bothersome.


We talk about people as being lazy or entitled or abusers of the system.

We talk about people as being greedy or ambitious <to a fault> or vain.

We talk about sinners and saints.





If only it were that simple.


Is it possible that all of us simply reside in the gutter … and some of us simply look at the stars?


That’s the thought of the day.


If more of us just assumed we lived in the gutter of Life maybe more of us would see how important the stars were to everyone.




-          Business



“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”



“My own business always bores me to death, I prefer other people’s.”



“I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.”

wilde everything-popular-is-wrong





This seems topical for the days we seem to be in.


It appears to me that our answer to everything associated with ‘not going right’ <and there are degrees spanning from cataclysmic to simply aggravating> in today’s business world is to fire someone.



It’s as if we have never made a mistake ourselves. We say and think things like:


               “My own mistakes bore me … I prefer to skewer other’s.”


I have gobs of business experience.

And gobs of mistakes.


But that’s not the point.

Most of my experience and success, quite frankly, was built not off my mistakes but rather other’s mistakes and my successes … or let’s say my ‘ability to fix things’ <history is written by the victor I imagine are the words I am seeking>.

My mistakes certainly didn’t bore me <although they were aggravating> … they taught me personal responsibility.

Therefore while other’s invested energy skewering other’s mistakes … I went ahead and fixed them.

Mine and theirs.




Firing people because they make a mistake drives me nuts. I assume it would drive Oscar nuts <oops … he did go nuts …>.


We make things complex in business.




Business is often complex.


And yet whenever we face a problem or an issue or a mistake … we treat it as if it were simple.


What’s up with that?

Let’s face it.


Experience in business is relative. Just because you have done something doesn’t mean you are good at it. in fact … the best experience isn’t successes but what we have earned from mistakes.



How the fuck do you put THAT on a resume and get a job? <you cannot>


All I know for sure is that I have a well loved list of mistakes I have made in business.


All I know for sure is the best people I have managed have a well loved list of mistakes they have made in business.


Are we successful? Yes.

Figure that Life equation out.




-          Imagination



Wilde bookended his life and career with some fantastically profound and meaningful  thoughts with regard to imagination.

And as you ponder these thoughts you should remember that Wilde was a relatively cynical man.


As it happens with many people … the birth of his children affected him. In his case it seems to have regenerated Wilde as a writer.



At least it seemed to make him understand that imagination is ageless.


Wilde’s children’s stories are spectacular.imagination pet



Remember that fairytales always involve reversals of fortune <sorry to uncover a fairytale secret>.


It can work in both directions … beggars become kings … and palaces are replaced by  pauper-like abodes.


I imagine Wilde’s own reversal of fortune from fame and money to destitution and exile almost mirrors a fairytale.


Fairytales are also and always about transformation of various kinds – frogs into princes, coal into gold – and while typically either moralistic or embedded with a moral … there is typically a happy ending.


Ah. But Oscar had to do his fairy tales differently.


Wilde’s fairytale transformations typically turn on loss.


The true twist?

But loss was most typically tied to a lack of imagination.


Is this a lesson too adult for children?

Shit. I don’t know.


I often believe fairy tales are as much for the teller as the reader.




In the end.


Oscar had a gift for words.

And while I am sure he knew what he was doing … sometimes those who are so gifted in this way don’t really know what they are doing.


wilde be yourself“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.” (The Remarkable Rocket)



I tend to believe those of us who use words … well … we worry a lot … we worry we are too clever that no one understands a word we say.




We embrace the beauty of wordsmanship so much we cannot envision communicating a thought in some bland black & white prose.


I end there … simply to suggest that when you are writing, and a writer, and you get it right.

When someone is inspired to think.

Well … there is nothing better in the world.


Unfortunately. It doesn’t happen often.


More often than not no one knows what the heel you are saying … but that one moment?


That’s it.

That’s when you are not too clever but have made some impact.



And that is what Oscar Wilde was so good at.

Using words to make people think.


stamping out hunger … or incentive to work (and the middle class)

April 10th, 2014


 food stamps wtf

“When wealth is passed off as merit, bad luck is seen as bad character. This is how ideologues justify punishing the sick and the poor. But poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw. Stigmatise those who let people die, not those who struggle to live.” —Sarah Kendzior





When you begin discussing food stamps or unemployment benefits or even minimum wage it seems to me that you begin wandering into the poverty discussion.

And then it suddenly becomes this slightly odd, and slightly disturbing, discussion swinging back & forth between basic sustenance to survive versus the ability to prosper type stuff … as well as … incentive to work or ‘do better’ in life stuff.


I imagine the issue is that discussing food stamps and any unemployment budget cuts crosses both ideological and the practical.

As well as opinion versus practical.




I keep using practical because while we invest a lot of energy debating theory <desire to work versus ‘sucking the system dry’> … practically … what we are discussing is a proverbial doom loop.


I recently heard someone said something like: “… food stamps <and unemployment benefits> drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives if America didn’t make cuts to food stamps <or slow the support system in some way>.”



The idea that actually having food could possibly drain the will of someone <in any way> is slightly absurd.




How about hunger motivating ambition?

That seems almost as absurd.




I would like to point out that something like 40% of households on food stamps have at least one person working.


I would also like to point out some basic truths about people.


courage doesnt always roarIn general … the majority want to work <or do something worthwhile in terms of productivity>. People like to ‘do.’



In general <if you do not agree with the first statement> I could suggest that America has a ‘shirking segment’ at both the top and bottom …. shirking work <yet … we seem to focus on the bottom>.


In general … an even larger majority are willing to do what it takes to not have to worry about how they can afford next week … let alone next day .


In general it is only a sliver of the population who takes advantage of the system <which implies they don’t want to really work>. It is foolish to believe one person <or a smaller minority> which may actually feel this way … or behave this way … defines the behavior of the entire group.



I admit I find it slightly shocking that this level of ignorance <or cynicism> is so common in America.


I would also like to point out that the highest food stamp amount a single person receives is something like $200 a month <you try living on that>.




Take a minute.


Divide 200 by 30. This is $6.66 a day.


Yet if I receive one more email touting that the poor were dining on prime filet steaks and lobster … or that all the unemployed were lazy unincentived-to-work couch potatoes … my head will explode.




I think I am surprised at how simplistically we address this issue <among others>.


We can take food stamps away … but in the end … someone has to pay for the food.


Me <being me> I will use children as an example.


According to census and government data from 2012, 22% of American children live in poverty and 16 million live in households that are food insecure food stamps food insecurewhich means one in five children do not have regular access to enough food.


In 2012, the No Kid Hungry Campaign surveyed more than 1000 K-8 public school teachers across the country with results that should give everyone pause.


-          Three out of five teachers reported regularly seeing children in their classrooms who come to school hungry because they are not getting enough to eat at home.

-          56% of teachers said that “a lot” or “most” of their students rely on school meals as their primary source of nutrition.

-          More than half of the teachers surveyed said they frequently purchase food out of their own money for hungry kids, spending on average $26 a month.


Around 30.6m lunches and 13.15 million breakfasts are served to kids on a daily basis.



And think about this.

Although the meals are heavily subsidized, with some kids qualifying for free meals and a smaller proportion for reduced price meals <40cents for lunch and 30cents for breakfast>, parents are still struggling to pay and defaults are on the rise.


A February 2012 survey carried out by the School Nutrition Association (SNA) found that among their members 53% of school districts were experiencing an increase in unpaid meals.


According to Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokesperson for the SNA “it seems to be a lot of the families that are hovering around the threshold of poverty <that is families not poor enough to qualify for free meals but still too poor to pay the reduced rate> are the ones who can’t pay.”


Suffice it to say that a food stamp program isn’t a crutch but rather plays an integral role in basic sustenance for a shitload of people.


But … you know what?


We have a bigger issue.


We have an attitude issue.


Now, don’t get me wrong, poverty is a real issue.


But the perception of poverty <to middle class> has become a reality in many people’s minds. This is an attitudinal issue. By the way … this is as ‘real’ to people as the actual thing <scary but true>.


So this perception, while only a perception, makes it a real issue.


Government figures show one in seven Americans is food insecure.

According to Gallup, in August, one in five said they have, at times during the last year, lacked money <i.e., did not have> to buy food that they or their families needed. I do not need a Gallup poll to know that an even larger percentage feel they lack the money <i.e., believed they did not have> to meet the needs of their family <that is the attitudinal part>


By the way … just to get some politics out of the way … both figures are roughly the same as when Obama was elected.



This is not an administrative issue but a cultural issue.


However you want to discuss the topic of cuts or benefits … the question is not whether the vulnerable will be hammered … but rather by how much.


And poverty reaches into the heads of everyone at all income levels as a perception issue.


Middle class people feel like they could become poverty stricken at any moment.

Therefore. They are feeling like they are getting hammered too.


<so how sympathetic can you actually be to someone else getting hammered if your own head is getting bashed in>


In the past five years or so the middle class and the poor people have been getting slammed.


Slammed in terms of having less.

Less , in the case of middle class, may not be actual poverty but it FEELS like poverty to them because it is ‘less than I had.’


Overall the problem is the gnawing away of average living standards and coping head thoughtsspecifically how the effects hammer you even moreso the lower your income.


So maybe while real poverty is important to discuss and think about … in order to get everyone aligned attitudinally we should be thinking about a poverty attitude at all income levels <albeit the highest income ‘less than’ is ludicrous to anyone in another income class>.

What we seem to be ignoring is that this group … a large group … has simply fallen into a coping strategy.


In fact … I could argue that all of America has simply fallen into a coping strategy.


And as noted in a variety of business opinion papers I have written … coping is stagnant seeking and not growth seeking.


To make my point that coping is not effective attitudinally.


-          in Michigan black male life expectancy is lower than male life expectancy in Uzbekistan;

-          in Detroit black infant mortality is on a par with Syria (before the war).

-          over a period of 18 years, America’s white working class – particularly women – have started dying younger.



I shared that to suggest there are tangible outcomes to simply coping and we need to address the coping strategy as the issue.


Is this about equality or inequality? Or even the ‘haves versus the have nots’?


Not really.


This is attitudinal.

Attitudinal with real world behavioral repercussions.


It makes it simpler to focus it on poverty … and that is okay … as long as we recognize that poverty is a combination of reality <people focused on surviving life> and perception <people worried about surviving lifestyle>.


I also imagine it all harkens back to President Lyndon Johnson in a way.


He used lots of great words to express some insightful thoughts on this issue.


In attempting to help people out of poverty, Johnson realized that he was making American society more egalitarian by lessening the gap between rich and poor, but he did not see the action he was taking as detrimental to the wealthy.


His thoughts on solving the poverty issue were not a zero sum game … in which one group’s gains promised another group’s losses.


“Our history has proved that each time we broaden the base of abundance we create new industry, higher production, increased earnings, and better income for all.” – L.  Johnson


We should all have this attitude.


But it is difficult to do so in the USA because we have a slightly warped view on poverty.

<and I do not share this to not suggest poverty is real … just that we have a skewed perspective in the USofA>.


Poverty for a United States household of 4 is defined as annual income of $23,492.coping want life back

This is $2,000 MORE THAN the median household income for a family of 4 in … well <insert a big ‘gulp’ sound here> … uhm … Great Britain.



It is  fact that the amount of true poverty in the US is considerably less than in the EU. US is a prosperous nation.


However … the definition of poverty in the USA is far more generous than in the EU and grows annually.


I imagine I am asking that we should not confuse the definition of poverty with its reality.


Timbro <a Swedish economics research institution> published “eu vs us” showing how the various EU countries would rank in terms of prosperity if they were US states.

Pretty nearly the entire EU would rank about 45th to beyond 51st in terms of prosperity.

UK would rank 48th <along with Arkansas and Mississippi> and 55% of the British would be defined as living in poverty.


The analysis includes measures of material prosperity for “Americans living in poverty” and for ALL Europeans.

By most measures the average poor American has a higher standard of living than the average non poor European.


The US poor are more likely to own their own homes, have more rooms and living space, have more property, are more likely to own 2 or more cars, have an attached garage and have more household appliances, TV’s, computers, cell phones, etc. than the average “non poor” European.




That doesn’t necessarily refer to ‘poverty’ but I am attempting to give some perspective on what ‘poor’ is in reality.



I don’t believe it is important that we argue whether we feel impoverished or not but instead we discuss increasing abundance for all.



Things like food stamps … fighting poverty … using LBJ words … come down to a moral basis:


    “Because it is right, because it is wise.”


To me, attitudinally, we need to create a mindset of an America ‘in which every citizen shares all the opportunities of his society.’



I use these words in comparison to ‘citizens simply coping.’




There is a term called ‘soulless wealth.’


‘Soulless wealth’ is abundant wealth that remains inaccessible to all but a relative few.


Soulless wealth typifies a society divided between haves and have-nots.




I would suggest that soulless wealth is not just a tangible economic concept but one that resides in the minds of people … at all class levels and income levels.


Whoa … how can that be?


-          Those at the lower incomes who use <or abuse> the system to attain whatever wealth level they achieve is soulless.


-          Those at the higher levels who abuse the system to create abundant wealth is soulless.


-          Those in the middle class who, out of fear of poverty, use the system by whatever means to avoid the fear is soulless.


Soulless wealth, the issue, is attitudinal. And attitudinal at all income levels.


I say that because we talk about welfare and food stamps and unemployment benefits as if they are dollars and cents like decisions … and as we say those things we are avoiding the overall attitude of America.


The few talking heads who blather away on TV have lost touch.

They use soaring words of hope … and bow their heads when speaking of the despair of poverty … and then move into working hard and earning … and … well … they have lost touch.


The truth?


People are simply coping.


And coping means that all this other talk is irrelevant.



Here is the real deal.



For all the talk about ‘getting a free pass in life’ through handouts … most people know that Life is hard.


And they are okay with that.


It reminds me of a great scene in West Wing:

I never imagined at $55,000 a year, I’d have trouble making ends meet. And my wife brings in another 25. My son’s in public school. It’s no good. I mean, there’s 37 kids in the class, uh, no art and music, no advanced placement classes. Other kids, their mother has to make them practice the piano. You can’t pull my son away from the piano. He needs teachers. I spend half the day thinking about what happens if I slip and fall down on my own front porch, you know? It should be hard. I like that it’s hard. Putting your daughter through college, that’s-that’s a man’s job. A man’s accomplishment. But it should be a little easier. Just a little easier. ‘Cause in that difference is… everything.



People are willing to work hard.


coping and hoping They just ask for two things:


-          I don’t want to cope … I want hope.


-          I am willing to work hard … but could you just make it a little easier.



Unfortunately … there are some dollars and cents attached to this.


People are willing to work hard if they think they are getting a fair deal in return.

People are willing to work hard if they get a little help now and then to give them a breather.


By the way.


This isn’t about ‘getting something for free’ … this is about fairness and being the best you can be.




Coping sucks.

Coping isn’t fair.

Coping isn’t being your best.

Coping doesn’t lead to greatness.


But we have a coping economy and population.


That’s the issue.


That’s why people are so angry about perceived handouts and the so called ‘welfare state’ and things like that.


We all need to remember … poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw. We should be less angry … be interested in refinding our soul <as we continue to seek some wealth – which is a good thing by the way> … and our leaders need to figure out how to get people to stop coping and start thinking bigger.



Before you get angry <on this topic>.


I do not begrudge anyone who is feeling like they are coping … but it would be nice if most of us kept coping in perspective.  Using myself to begin the perspective … I discuss poverty … and I certainly understand financial stress … but I doubt I, and many others,  do not truly grasp poverty.


I have never been in a situation where I was afraid I would starve to death while I worked to death.


Just think about that before you get too angry.

my story my house my fire

April 8th, 2014


story house hustle

“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.” —Alice Munro




My house is my story.

What a great thought.





And it is always on fire.


“We all live in a house on fire – no fire department to call, no way out. Just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the fire better personhouse down with us trapped in it.” – Tennessee Williams




If my story is my house … well … I tend to believe we all live in a house on fire.

And for years I have debated what the Williams quote really meant … at least to me … and then I found the ‘house is my story’ quote and I had my answer.


Now … I am no literary expert nor am I particularly insightful with regard to inner meanings … therefore my thoughts are tainted <or skewed> by my attitude toward Life and living.


That said.

Me? We don’t need no water … let the motherfucker burn.



My attitude … my thoughts.


Well … I actually think a couple thoughts.  Inner fire. Outer fire. Our story is surrounded by fire.

Within and without.



The inner fire.


The fire is inner curiosity.  A passion for something. A spirit and capacity for something. It is always burning … and it can burn you up if you don’t set it free.

It is a restless fire.


I will make a generalization here … but … suffice it to say that we all know bitter people. People who have strong opinions but are fairly close minded.


They are burning up from the inside out.

In the close mindedness they have squeezed the fire of life so tightly it fries them. The rooms in the house are burning and they have no place to go.



That’s why I rarely get angry with close minded people or bitter people … I know that most of them are simply burning up from an inner fire that curiosity just hasn’t set free.


By the way … this also means that I don’t really believe the inner spark goes out in most people.




The people that have lost that inner fire have simply lost hope … and maybe I am naïve but I hope that they are few and far between.


Do not let your fire go out, sparked by irreplaceable spark. And the hopeless swamps of the not quite, the not yet, and the not at all. Do fire hands flamesnot let the hero in your soul perish. And lonely frustration for the life you deserved but never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists. It is real. It is possible. And it is yours.”

Lucas Scott on One Tree Hill


I think the inner spark always burns.

That there is a fire within everyone.







That inner fire is burning all the time … some people get burned up … others spread the fire … but that fire is there … awaiting to be rekindled if it is diminished.



“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” - Albert Schweitzer





Then there is the outer fire.


This would be the house we live in … burning down around us.


I believe the house we live in, Life, burns all the time.

Because our story lives within a forest always burning.



Life isn’t easy.

People live.

People die.


And in-between the fire always burns.



Here is the challenge with your story being your house and the thought it is always burning.


Sometimes in the comfort, the safety, of our home … our story feels safe …  and we don’t even feel we are getting burned.


fire walk thruThis is dangerous … because in the end we kind of helplessly watch the fire slowly consume us.

I use safe and comfort and suggest stagnancy … or standing still within the walls of what you know as an example of how you can be consumed by the fire.




Because comfortable complacency does not mean you are not safe.



Well. The house is burning for gods sake.


The fact is that this fire never goes out.


We can never stamp out this fire.


It rages off and on but is always burning.


Safety within the home of what you know is temporary.


Inevitably the fire will consume you by squeezing out what make life interesting and worthwhile. As a counterpoint to inner fire … it suffocates the fire within with the fire coming from without.


Your story burns.


Your story ends up being a burned out shell with everything within extinguished. Just ashes where a raging story once stood.




I admit.

I like the thought of my story being my house … and that it is always on fire.


And while I am not a woman … the point of this quote resonates with me:


She lives her life like a flame; a dance of purposeful chaos… Her enchanting light can guide you and quell your fears… She’s hot; fire sparkleswarming those who respect her and burning those who don’t… She is a flame with an unforgettable glow… A weak man will try to dim her luminance… but her soul mate will take pleasure in fanning the blaze.“ – Steve Maraboli



A flame with an unforgettable glow.


Whew. What a story that would be.



Let it rage <I say>.







It is a life truth that we make choices that resonate throughout our lives … but how your story is told … and maybe how it dies … may be the biggest truth.




That’s too deep for today.


Geez … all I am fairly sure of is that the Life is burning around us.


Your house?

It may not be burning.



And me?


I think of words from Julianna Hatfield:


“I wrote and wrote like the house was on fire, like words and chords and melodies were going to burn up and disintegrate into the air if didn’t capture them fast enough.” – Juliana Hatfield


I love that thought.


I will write my story like the house was on fire.


I will think thoughts before they disintegrate into ash.


I will live life like the house is burning around me.


fire the world is yoursAnd hope I have a fire never quenched.


“Some men, like a tiled house, are long before they take fire, but once on flame there is no coming near to quench them.” — Thomas Fuller


Because if our Life is constantly on fire … whew … what a view we have from that upstairs window as it all burns.


My story.

My house.

My fire.


“The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. We don’t need no water, let the motherf–ker burn.”

<”Tear the Roof off the Sucker” – chant often blended with ‘The Roof Is on Fire’ by Rockmaster Scott & The Dynamic Three>story on hand


My story. My house.


Let the motherfucker burn.

Now there’s an attitude to live by.


What’s your story?

Enlightened Conflict