Friday, December 11, 2009

I Am Guilty

I’m Guilty
Those are the first words in a book written by National Basketball Association ex-referee Tim Donaghy. By his own admission Mr. Donaghy bet on NBA games and passed along inside information to others connected with the Gambino crime family to bet on games as well. In the commission of this crime he lost his integrity, his career, his family and his freedom.
As many of you know, I have done psychological work with the Milwaukkee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. I am very fond of the NBA and the entertainment it provides young and old alike, all over the world.
Here I am attending a professional speakers convention in Key West and a good friend of mine, attending this convention, is in the Public Relations team handling the book launch of Tim Donaghy.
They had just filmed their segment in the popular CBS program “60 Minutes”.
And, best of all, she had copy of the manuscript of the book which you can now all buy in Amazon or bookstores all over the nation. During the day I was attending the convention and at night I was glued to her computer reading the manuscript. I couldn’t put it away for God’s sake.
In his new book Personal Foul the readers get an inside view of what it’s like to be an NBA referee and how easy it was for him to predict the outcome of games. I also was able to get a peek at the 60 Minutes interview, where he was asked the tough questions regarding his career, his insider views on the NBA, and how someone who had it all could fall so far.
Like most people who get caught in this kind of scandal, Donaghy can trace the path of his slippery slope and takes us with him along these small steps of self-destruction. That certainly does not excuse what he did, nor does he expect the reader to forgive him. We do, however come to understand why someone in his position can easily make the wrong choices and we get an insider’s view of the prison life and other consequences that resulted from those decisions.
The fact that Donaghy is a self-described gambling addict does not let him off the hook, nor should it. The fans that pay good money to sit in the stands, the TV and other media outlets that support the NBA, and the NBA itself have all been cheated when this kind of fraud occurs. Indeed this book makes us question everything about the culture of major league sports in general and what it is that we don’t know.
Life throws temptation at all of us. Just look at Tiger Woods’ current situation, but even more importantly look at your own. It is not only NBA referees making in excess of $250,000 per year, or multi-million dollar athletes that face challenges. It is also the politicians, lawyers, accountants, telephone repairmen, barbers, office workers and even your family members. Each of us wakes up to situations that can make or break our lives and the lives of those we love. Each day we choose how to spend our money, with whom to spend our time, what to put in our bodies, and most importantly we choose our attitudes. All of these have consequences on our lives and the lives of those around us. Many of us go through life less successfully than we could because our own poor choices get in the way.
Tim Donaghy is certainly a good example of this. But if there is any redemption in his situation it is an obvious acceptance of accountability. Personal Foul does not function as a plea for forgiveness or understanding; it is merely one man’s story of success and loss. Each of us has one. The difference is that this story has far-reaching consequences inside a beloved and respected American institution, the NBA. Most of our stories are not that far-reaching, but on the other hand it is important for each of us to understand that we never know whose life we are going to intersect with and how each choice we make may have an impact on the world or in our future.
It is up to us to show leadership in our lives and first of all to try to prevent us falling into this kind of trap and if we ever do fall in it, to have the courage that Tim Donagy had of accepting his mistakes, paying the price and moving forward to re establish the character of the kind of man he chooses to be.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

In time of crises, should you go into business for yourself?

In times of crisis, should you go into business for yourself?

Most people don’t have a clear sense of what they want in life. They don’t know what they want out of their businesses or careers. They have no vision, no mission, no strategy and they just exist. In difficult times, you need to get your act together and you have to do something. Don’t think exclusively on the unemployment check you can get for a few weeks. Some people are more fortunate and even though times are tough, they know exactly what they want and in many instances, how to get it.

I have written about “four hair stylists”, all four with the idea of earning a living but with different ways of going about it.

Hair Stylist #1 works in other people’s salons all his life. He spends a few years in one then jumps to another one and so on. He takes a one-week vacation, sometimes two weeks, without pay and then one day, he is sixty five, hasn’t saved a penny in his whole life and con’t continue working because his feet hurt too much. He has to find another job because he can’t survive with the social security check only.

Hair Stylist #2 opens his own hair stylist salon. He doesn’t work for somebody else. He wants to be his own boss. He doesn’t hire other people because he says, “once they learn how the business runs, they leave and open other salons. I will not be training competitors. Some will stay, mess up a few clients and then leave. I can’t live with that stress”. He works long hours, six days a week, 50 or 51 weeks a year and when he is not working the business; he is not making any money. (If the business depends only on you to make money, you have a job. If the business runs and makes money while you are away, you have a business). Then one day, he locks up his salon, goes home and he dies.

Hair Stylist #3 opens her own shop, hires four other hair stylists, a hair washer, a manicurist and a pedicurist. She adds value to the client by offering many services so she develops happy, loyal clients. She up sells and makes lots of money. She and her second or third husband take a long vacation every year and while they are away, the business makes money. She sells her salon on her 65th birthday and she and her current husband start traveling the world, doing all the things they have always wanted to do. They have a great time, lead a good life, go home and then they die.

It always ends up the same way, doesn’t it? We will all die someday but that is not the point I am trying to make. The point here is the journey not the destination. The point is for you to choose what you really want out of life, what gives you the most happiness and joy, what really matters most to you. The point is for you to reach the golden age without having to say: “I should have….. why didn’t I…. if only I…”

Hair Stylist #4 is more creative, has an entrepreneurial mindset and opens up a bunch of hair salons and then franchises the concept. Eventually hundreds of salons are opened all over the country. The fellow doesn’t know how to cut, fix or dye hair but he has a vision, a strategy on how to get what he wants and how to reach his dream. He has a very important skill: How to manage people. He knows that he cannot build an empire all by himself and needs the directed efforts of others. His business eventually will be worth millions, each franchise will sell for many thousands of dollars, and its independent owners will have a very good chance to be successful if they follow the model. He has benefited society and the world is a better place because he carried out his vision.

There is no right or wrong way to conduct your business. The reality is you should give it some thought and decide what is best for you. How big and how good you want to be? What kind of life do you want to lead? What are you better suited for? These are the questions you should ask yourself because you do have many possibilities, many alternatives but they must be thought through.

Sometimes when times are tough, you come out ahead because the situation forces to do something and often people come out better than when the crises started.

What is very wrong is for you to fly blind, to not think it through, to not analyze the alternatives and options you have open to you. What is very wrong is for you to end your life with sadness and regret.

Don’t you think you deserve to live an extraordinary life, to choose where to spend your time and your life, how much to make, to save, to spend and to enjoy?
So, the question is which Hair Stylist do you want to be?

Lessons from India

Lessons from India
This is a very difficult column to write, since India is such an interesting and different country.
I worked in Nicaragua last week and from there took the 2 and a half hour trip to Miami, then 3 hours Miami Chicago, three hour wait in Chicago to board the plane to New Delhi, a 13.5 hour trip, 8 hours in Delhi waiting to board the plane to Bangalore, only three hours and then a 4 hour trip by car to Mysore, where Infosys Technologies has its world headquarters. I arrived Tuesday afternoon.
I was attending the TED India convention, a place where remarkable ideas from global thinkers are exposed for the world to know. I heard stories that touch you deeply, irrevocably and intensely to say the least.
India has 1.1 billion people, the second biggest country in the world, behind China and three quarters of a billion people are under the age of 35 which makes it a very young country population wise. They speak 17 major languages and at least 844 dialects, with a million Gods and the most populous democracy in the world.
It is a country where 4 billion movie tickets are sold each year. A country that adds 8 million new cell phone subscribers a month.
The sheer age of civilization here allow us to look backward as we look forward.
The first university in the world was in ancient India, in Taxila in the 6th century BC. Algebra, Calculus and trigonometry; the decimal system; chess, all were invented in India. Also very fascinating is the way cultures and faiths come together in this enigmatic country.
There are 300,000 mosques in India, more than in any other country. Jews and Christians have been living here since 200 B. C. and 52 A.D. respectively. In the mean time, the Hindu shrine at Tirupati, attracts 30,000 pilgrims every day.
India hosts one of the fastest growing economies in the world as is evident when you visit one of their big cities. The national film industry is well known that is more productive than Hollywood, the software industry, some say is bigger than the US has helped make India a force in the world economy. Other sectors are making themselves felt, such as the wildly creative auto industry which recently produced the Tata Nano, the world’s least expensive car, valued at $2,500.
I must admit that there is an undercurrent of poverty and need still existing in this bustling nation. If we add India to Pakistan, Bangladesh, The Maldives, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Afghanistan, half of the world’s poorest people live in this part of the world. Poverty stares you in the face in this nation and it really gets to you and makes you realize that we live in paradise. No matter how bad things get.
The World Bank recently reported that half the children in India are underweight.
One of the speakers, Hans Rosling predicted that by the year 2048, China and India were going to catch up with the United States in economic power. I highly doubt it, but it is the feeling of many experts attending this conference.
A speaker named Devdutt Pattanaik has the title of Chief Believe Officer in his company. He said that nothing lasts forever in India, not even death. This is an interesting concept.
What most impressed me from this conference was the quality of the people attending it
It shouldn’t be a surprise since TED’s motto is “ideas worth spreading”. By the way, I spoke at TED in Long Beach, California in February and you can see my talk at www., do a search and type my name.
One of the speakers that impressed me the most was Tony Hsie, a young entrepreneur that selling shoes on the internet, took his company from a million to 1 billion in only six years. His company name is Zappo’s and he says that what he delivers is happiness, even though it looks like he delivers shoes.
I found many millionaires that have sold their businesses and all they want to do now is help the poor or the needy. They have started non profits and they are tackling India and other countries.
Others that I either saw speak or spoke to, were people that had a great personal tragedy and they converted that tragedy into success.
Sunitha Krishnan really touched my heart. This woman was gang raped by eight men when she was 15. That provoked and anger in her that she decided she was going to channel into helping other women in the same situation. She told us that in India, some two million women and children, many younger than 10 years old, are bought and sold around the globe. Angry about the silence surrounding the sex trafficking epidemic, she co founded Prajwala, or eternal flame, a group that rescues women from brothels and educates their children to prevent second generation prostitution. She runs 17 schools for 5,000 children and has rescued more than 2,500 women from prostitution and 1,500 of whom Krishnan personally liberated.
After her speech, a woman who was touched very deeply by her story, stood up and said “If 10 people here donate $10,000 to Sunitha’s cause, I will give $10,000. Eleven more people raised their hand making it a $120,000 donation. Google came in and told her that they would hire their best students in India.
A very creative lawyer came up with the idea that he will stamp out corruption in India. He opened a company where anyone that deals with a government agency to try to get anything done and the official doesn’t do what they have to do, because they refuse to pay off the bribe, can call him and they will charge them much less than the corruption money they are asking for him.
What a concept? Someone is not doing their job in the government, and they ask for a bribe, gets representation, it costs them little and they get the case through. He says that it has worked 42 times.
Yes, I have learned so much. Now I have to figure out how to apply in our country.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

Famous psychologist Martin Seligman spent 25 years of his life studying optimists and pessimists. The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe that bad events will last a long time, will affect negatively everything they do, and are their own fault.

On the other hand, optimists who confront the same difficult problems we all do in this complex world we live in, think about misfortune in quite a different way. They tend to believe that defeat is just a temporary situation and that its causes are limited to that particular instance. The optimists believe that defeat is not their fault: Circumstances, bad breaks, bad luck or other people brought it about. Optimists are unfazed by defeat. Facing a bad or negative situation, they perceive it as a challenge, as an opportunity, and they actually try harder to overcome it.

These two habits of thinking, if we may call them habits, have profound consequences in life. There are many studies that show that pessimists give up more easily and get depressed or are unhappy more often than optimists. These studies also show that optimists do much better in academic life, at work or in sports. When an optimist runs for office, he or she is more apt to be elected than a pessimist. They enjoy better health, they get sick less often, age better, and are much freer than most of us from the usual physical problems of middle age, etc. There is some evidence that they even live longer.

Seligman developed the theory of personal control with its two principal concepts: learned helplessness and explanatory style.
Learned helplessness is the giving up reaction, the quitting response that follows from belief that whatever you do doesn’t matter. Explanatory style is the manner in which you habitually explain to yourself why events happen. It is the great modulator of learned helplessness. An optimistic style stops helplessness, whereas a pessimistic explanatory style increases helplessness. Your way of explaining events to yourself determines how helpless you can become, or how positive, when you encounter the everyday problems or setbacks we all face in life. A good way to think of your explanatory style is as Seligman tells us, “the word in your heart”. Let me explain.

Everyone carries a word in his or her heart, a “yes” or a “no”. You probably, if you really think about it, deep down in your heart, know which word you carry.

When we are thinking, we are actually talking to ourselves. You know intuitively which words you are constantly repeating to yourself. Think about it, are they negative words or positive words. When you get up in the morning, do you immediately complain about something or you get up with a positive attitude or outlook. You get to your office, do you face the situations that come up with a negative outlook or do you face them with a positive attitude. When people deal with you at the office, do they feel your positive energy or do they feel that you drain them of their own energy. You probably know the answer to these questions but if you don’t, how can you find out?
Well, there is an easy, straightforward way. Ask your co- workers; ask your boss or subordinates. They know. Everyone that deals with you day in and day out knows.

There are many personal qualities that are fixed and unchangeable. Basic pessimism is not one of them although it is not easy to change this mindset. You can learn a set of skills that can free you from the tyranny of pessimism and allow you to use optimism when you choose or think that it is beneficial to you. These skills are not easy but they can be mastered with a very strong desire to acquire them and lots of practice.

What is the first step an alcoholic needs to take in order to stop drinking? What is the first step a gambler needs to take in order to stop gambling? Accept that you are an alcoholic or a gambler. Period. Accept it and face it.

The first step you have to take is to recognize that you are a pessimist. Then talk to your loved ones or your co- workers and ask for their help in identifying situations where you are always a pessimist. Start a daily log and every time you catch yourself having pessimistic thoughts, write them down. At the end of the week, add up all your negative thoughts and set a goal for the following week. Shoot for 20% less negative thoughts. In five weeks you should be down to very few thoughts and you should notice a change in your life and in your interpersonal relationships. If you are unable to do this by yourself, seek help from a qualified psychotherapist. Believe me, it is worth the effort. You are making a lot of people around you, miserable.

Money, Principles and Happiness

Money, principles and happiness

When the famous artist and sculptor Michael Angelo was asked how he carved his wonderful work “David” from an average block of marble, he said that the statue was already in the stone. All he did was imagine it was there and then using his mind and his hands, chisel away the unnecessary marble to reveal it.

I truly find that thought fascinating.

In a previous article, I divided our society in four segments, the three’s, the seven’s, the sixty’s and the bottom thirty per centers. I wonder if you thought about it and placed yourself in any of the four categories. Obviously, we should all strive to be either a three per center or a seven per center. What is very sad is that everyone has the potential to be in either one of the categories. Seriously, just like the “David” inside the marble, there is a potential successful person living inside you and every one of us. The key to making it a reality lies in imagining the possibilities and then having the guts and the discipline to make it happen.

Even though financial independence is not everything, it is very important in our lives. Reminds me of what author Jim Berry once wrote: Father: “Wealth and fame do not buy happiness”. Teenage son: Have you ever tried it?”

As my friend Michael Leboeuf says, there are only four things you need to know about money:
How to make it?
How to save it?
How to invest it?
How to enjoy it?

Only the top 10% of the people, the 3 and 7 per centers, know how to do this, although almost anyone in society can.

We do have that lingering question. Does money buy happiness?

I was just discussing this subject with my daughter a few days ago she just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and working for the government as a public defender, she had a leave of absence of six months. When the six months were up, she said “Dad, I can go back to work tomorrow and start making money but I think bonding with my child, taking care of him for the next two years, is a lot more important than any material consideration.” Let’s face it, in a tough economy; this is a hard thing to do, economically. But the principle behind it is more important than money by all means.

She has heard me lecture hundreds of times and lucky for me, she has followed and implemented many of the things I tell my audiences.

She was telling me how many people at work tell her that money is not that important or that money is very important but they constantly worry about the lack of it.

This very important issue needs answering right now because becoming wealthy is not easy. Unless you are born to rich parents (I was, but every penny was taken from them by a bunch of thugs in 1961), break the law; hit a hot streak at a casino or the commodities market, attaining financial freedom takes years of time.

Wanting to be very honest with my daughter I confessed how I have also fallen in the trap of trying to become wealthy in a short time. (This behavior of looking for the easy money, by the way, is seen in thirty per centers).

I told her how in the eighties I knew that soon there was going to be a freeze in the US because it hadn’t happened in four or five years and soybeans would triple or more in price and I bought $10,000 dollars worth of options in the commodities market. The freeze didn’t happen and I continued investing $10,000 year after year until I had lost $50,000. When I no longer had any money, I went to my Dad to get the next $10,000 because I knew the freeze had to be very close, and he said he wasn’t a gambler and would not want to risk his money.

Well, the freeze came that year and the $10,000 turned into $280,000 in a couple of months. Unfortunately, I was out of the market. I wonder why it always happens. You want to strike it rich and something happens that blocks you. At that time I thought my luck was so bad that if I got into the circus business, the midgets would grow.

Anyway, my Dad died a millionaire because he never took foolish risks. He of course should have taken a little bit more calculated risks to get a higher return on his money, but that is beside the point. He never lost his capital and he did well. He understood a principle that I didn’t at the time and that one was of the reasons I wrote “Don’t Eat the Marshmallow yet”.

Recent investigations into this subject, however, conclude that money does indeed buy happiness. HNW Digital of Newton, Massachusetts reported that a full 86% of the wealthiest 8.6 million Americans ranked financial success and security as important to their overall happiness and 50% ranked it “very important”. The people that tell you that money can’t buy happiness, don’t have it, don’t know how to get it, or don’t know where to shop.
Once after a speech, a fellow approached me and spoke about my cousin Jorge Posada and how he had signed a fifty million dollar contract with the Yankees. He proceeded to tell me that he was sure that Jorge would give his fortune in exchange for having a healthy son. I replied that yes, that Jorge would definitely exchange his wealth for his son’s health if possible because he is an exemplary father but thanks to the money he has, his kid has had the best medical care money can buy. What would have happened to his child if he had no money?
My friend Michael who I quoted earlier, reminds us of the husband who asked his wife, “Do you love me just because my father left me a fortune? She replied, “Not at all honey, I would love you no matter who left you the money.”

Oscar Wilde once remarked “When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old, I know that it is”.

I believe that happiness is not determined by the money or possessions you have, it’s determined by what you think about what you have. If you really think you would enjoy being a millionaire, I would be willing to bet that you will enjoy it. You must then start thinking about it now, start doing what you need to do in order to become one. I wish my Dad had taught me what I am now teaching my daughter.

If on the other hand, becoming a millionaire is not your goal, hey, you can be as happy and you might even have fewer problems.

I have a friend and I constantly tell her that “in life the ones that have a lot of money are not rich, the ones that don’t need it are”

Puerto Rico Daily Sun, sacrifice, guts and professionalism

Puerto Rico Daily Sun, sacrifice, guts and professionalism.
The Puerto Rico Daily Sun’s first anniversary is a great example of how ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results.
I can’t think of any other newspaper in the world that was put together in such a short time span and with little money to do so.
The people that got together to start the newspaper, knew that Puerto Rico needs an English only newspaper and that the island couldn’t afford not having one.
Imagine the teachers in our educational system not being able to assign students in their English classes to read an English newspaper with current news.
Imagine the hundreds or even thousands of English speaking executives in the island that need to be informed about local or world news in English and Puerto Rico, an associated free state not having an English newspaper.
The employees of the Puerto Rico Daily Sun understood this well and they started the paper on their own, on a shoestring, and day by day published a newspaper.
Considering the economic situation that Puerto Rico is facing now, and seeing the main newspapers in the island laying off people and reducing expenses, only a bunch of crazy people would have dared to start a daily newspaper.
Crazy in the eyes of others, but not in their own eyes which is what really counts. What other people call crazy, they see it as passion. Only passion, sacrifice and sheer will could have made it possible for this newspaper to survive one long year.
Employees worked very long hours, even weekends and what is even more incredible; there were times when they were not rewarded with a paycheck. And yet, that didn’t discourage them.
Success is in great measure dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy, the extra effort required to give it one more try, or to look for different approaches is the secret of winning. Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.
They believed so much in their cause, that they were willing to sacrifice everything, family and loved ones to make sure that their dream of having an unbiased, objective professional English newspaper became a reality.
Happiness doesn’t come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demands that everyone work as a team and that everyone gives their best.
This is the case with the Puerto Rico Daily Sun and I am honored for the privilege to work with such an outstanding group of professionals that love what they do and that are willing to do what needs to be done to succeed.

Leaving a legacy? Or just passing by

Are you leaving a legacy or are you one more human being passing by?
This is a very interesting question I have wrestled with for a few years. For some reason, for me it was very important to not simply pass through life and then die, but to leave concrete evidence after you are gone, that you left the planet a better place than when you lived in it.
A great writer named Jose Marti said that every man in order to leave a legacy, should have a child, plant a tree and write a book.
I did all three; however, I believe that leaving a legacy goes farther than doing those three things, although doing those three definitely helps in leaving a legacy.
I believe that legacy is about more than reputation or good deeds you might have done when you were alive.
I think it is about whom people become because of who you were as Dr. Gary Brandon declared during a recent speech in Orlando.
Legacy is not determined by academic titles, positions you might have had in private industry or government or by your rank in society.
It is defined as the number of successes you lead others to during your lifetime.
So, there are a few thoughts I will like to share with you on how to craft your legacy.
Mind you, this is my personal opinion, since I am sure that some will disagree.
I believe that if you are considering leaving a legacy, you must have big dreams.
If you don’t have a dream, how are you going to have a dream come true.
My father used to publish who is who books and he was very successful in selling advertising in those books, producing and selling them. He must have published at least 20 of those books, his last one in 1992 just before his tragic death in a car accident in 1993. On his best selling year, he sold 20,000 copies.
I had a dream of writing my own books and outselling my father, not with the intention of making him less than I, but because I knew that he would want his own son to do better than him.
One of the biggest regrets I have in my life is that when my book Don’t Eat the Marshmallow Yet became a worldwide bestseller with over 2 million copies sold, he wasn’t around to see it.
I would want my daughter to write a book and outsell my book because parents want their children to do better than they have ever done and to achieve greater goals in their lifetimes.
To leave a legacy, you must re ignite your passion. My friends, if you are bored to death in your present job, you will leave no legacy.
You must do in life that which allows you to utilize your strengths and you feel passion for.
If you are in an old job and there is nothing you can do about it, for whatever reason, find new passion in your job by adopting a cause bigger than yourself. Think about what you can do in your present position that would present a challenge that will make you thrive.
Good things usually begin with a difficulty, but great things invariably begin with impossibility. Welcome the impossible as the messenger of impending greatness and progress.
Accept that you are nature’s greatest miracle. Your brain is capable of making and storing enough connections and information that the total number would be expressed by a one followed by 6.5 million miles of zeros a number that would stretch from the Earth to the Moon, and back 14 times.
There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you believe in yourself and you go for it.
Reach beyond yourself. By intentionally raising your own expectations of yourself, you will create a gap between where you are and where you wish to be. Having created this gap for yourself, everything about you will automatically begin working on your behalf to close it. This explains why goal setters enjoy boundless energy and never seem to get tired.
To get somewhere you have never been, you have to do something you have never done, so action is the most important factor in getting to the point where you will leave a legacy.
Last but not least, think big but act small.
It is the smallest acts that make the biggest differences.
Coach John Wooten always thought big. He wanted his teams to win the NCAA championship. No small feat, yet his teams won it ten times, seven of them in a row and four times he had 30-0 winning seasons.
He told his players that “seemingly innocuous things make the difference between champions and near champions.
He would begin the first squad meeting of a new season with the same demonstration year after year.
What do you think is the first thing he taught those kids?
Not how to pass the ball, dribble, rebound or the basics. No. The first thing he taught them was HOW TO PUT ON YOUR SOCKS.
That is right. How to put on your socks.
Because wrinkles, folds and creases cause blisters and those interfere with performance during practice and games and that loses games.
Yes, it is the small things that make a difference and allow you to reach your goals and leave a legacy.

It is all in the Pyramid: who wins, who survives and who loses

It is all in the pyramid: who wins, who survives and who loses.

I believe human beings fall into different categories. Let’s call them 3 percenters, 7 percenters, 60 percenters and 30 percenters.

Imagine a pyramid divided into four segments, where right at the top you have the three’s, then the seven’s, the sixty’s and right at the base of the pyramid, the thirty’s.

First, let’s analyze the 3 percenters. These are the leaders in society, the inventors, creators, the paradigm breakers. They are the pioneers and they take more risks than normal people. Because of this, they make more mistakes. They are not afraid to fail and when they do, they “fail forward” which means that they use the failure as a learning experience and continue trying.

Thomas Edison failed over 1,000 times before he invented the light bulb. The Wright brothers had many failures before they finally flew 400 meters or so. Most, maybe all successful people, fail many times before they make it.
These people give permission to the rest of society to do new things and they break paradigms. They are also called pioneers.

In the fast food industry, Ray Kroc revolutionized that industry when he convinced the Mc Donald brothers to allow him to franchise their amazing prototype. He was doing something that hadn’t been done before. How many fast food chains do we have now all over the world? I have seen a McDonald’s in practically every country that I have visited and I am around 60 as of today. In November I will go to India, so that will be number 61. I am sure I will see a McDonalds there.

The second category are the seven percenters. They are also successful people but they don’t like to be first. They will never innovate or create anything. They are very good at imitating winners. They say “I will wait to see if the concept works and if it does, I will build a better mouse trap”.

They don’t like to make mistakes, and they will make less mistakes than the 3 percenters because they take less risks. They will not stick their neck out too much, although some risk they must also take.

They are more cautious. In terms of companies, for example, Burger King followed McDonalds and then came Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Chili’s, Pollo Tropical and dozens more.

They are all successful franchises but one of them led the way.
How about Starbucks? Isn’t it incredible how someone had the idea to sell coffee at very high prices and yet be very successful? They are marketing geniuses. They are 3 percenters all right because they started it but there are now many 7 percenters getting into the business.

The 3 percenters and the 7 percenters, are winners in society. They belong to the top 10% of companies that are going to be very successful. Going back to people instead of companies, this top 10% represent a segment of society that will retire when they get to 62, 65 or even earlier and they will have enough money to maintain the same standard of living they had before retirement.

They won’t depend on social security or charity to make ends meet because they are financially independent. The other 90 percent of society, will need to continue working because they simply can’t afford to retire. (Yes, I realize that some people will continue working past retirement because they love what they do. I in fact hope that will be my case when the time comes)

Now let’s look at the next category. The Sixty percenters. Who are they?

They are the majority of the people. They work eight hours a day and when that clock hits 5.00pm, they run for the exit. They give credibility to the word “reincarnation” because dead bodies suddenly come to life at exactly 5.00pm.
They simply exist. They haven’t followed their passion for one reason or another and they exist just to make it through. Day in and day out. They also are the ones that try to take away the faith from the 3 or 7 percenters.

They tell them, “you won’t be able to do it, don’t even try, it is too difficult, nobody makes it in that field, are you crazy? Who will buy chicken from a restaurant that only sells chicken? That Colonel Sanders must be out of his mind”.

Another problem with the sixty percenters is that they don’t know they are sixty percenters. They don’t know that they are the ones that specialize in chipping away your self-confidence. They always want a guarantee and they won’t take risks. Their goal in life is: make it through. You can find them in front of the TV at 5.30 pm, most of them with a beer in their hand maybe watching a soap opera, a novela or a basketball game.

They won’t go to night school or study anything to raise to another level in their careers. Remember, they are pessimists and they don’t want to be taken out of their comfort zone.

With them, not everything is lost since t something or someone could inspire them, to find their passion in life or reach a higher goal.

If they don’t, they will remain in the mediocrity of their lives and when they die, they will leave no legacy whatsoever.

Finally, we have the 30 percenters. They are the problems in society. They want something for nothing. They don’t want to pay the price for anything. They want a free ride. The free lunch. They will never plant a seed, someone else has to plant it, fertilize it, water it etc. so that the seed will grow into a beautiful tree with wonderful fruit. The 30 percenters, will want the fruit even if they have to steal it. These people are the takers of society.
Many of them are in politics or work for the government.

They always have a excuse for everything and they will blame their misfortune on someone or something. They don’t assume responsibility and don’t want to be accountable.

It is very difficult to change them although I suppose nothing is impossible. You might have to study the situation, maybe follow your intuition and give it a try to help one of these individuals but don’t spend much time. They could bring you down with them if you are not careful. Extreme cases will end up as guests in a penal institution or in drug rehabilitation program and fortunately we have dedicated servants of society dealing with them and trying to help them as part of their job.

Are you a 3 percenter, 7 percenter, 60 percenter or a 30 percenter?

Think about it.

At least you live in a free society and you can decide where in the pyramid will you spend the rest of your life.

Capitalize on your Strengths? Short route to happiness

Capitalize on Your Strengths? Short route to happiness

The late B. F. Skinner, one of the most influential behavioral psychologists in the world, defined happiness as “doing what you are good at”.

Warren Buffett one of the richest men in the world, in a speech to students at the University of Nebraska said to them:
“I may have more money than you do, but money doesn’t make the difference. Sure, I can buy the most luxurious handmade suit, but I put it on and it just looks cheap. I would rather have a cheeseburger from Dairy Queen than a hundred dollar meal”.

The students listened to every word he said. He continued, “If there is any difference between you and me, it may simply be that I get up every day and have a chance to do what I love to do, every day. If you want to learn anything from me, this is the best advice I can give you.”

It reminds me that once Mr. Buffett went in a speaking tour with Bill Gates and the one condition he demanded was to have cheeseburgers available in every city that they had to speak.

I spoke in Jackson Hole a couple of years ago and my driver told me that he got to drive Bill and Warren all over town. And one day he took them to play golf and when they got back in the car, they were arguing about who won the bet while playing golf. How much was the bet for? $1.00

Anyway, getting back to the subject matter, what Warren Buffet and B. F. Skinner said is that human beings, should, throughout their lives and careers, do what they love to do. Doing what you love to do comes from applying your strengths to whatever you do. It is possible to be good at something that you don’t like but sooner or later, you will be so bored and disgusted that you will have to give it up.

Tiger Woods loves to play golf and he is very good at it. His extraordinary long game, hitting the ball with his woods and irons, is strength. His putting we might say is also strength. His ability to chip out of a bunker is not. I am not a golfer, in fact, unless, somebody convinces me otherwise, I find it a very boring sport. But I have been told by golfers that in “sand and saves”, Tiger is not that consistent. In fact, many golfers are much better than him. He is successful because he capitalizes on his strength.

Steven Jobs, in a business context, is a genius at taking innovations and transforming them into user-friendly computer hardware. This means that he has that strength. His ability to maintain and manage a large enterprise he is not that good at but he surrounds himself with people that are.

Expanding the title of this article to Capitalize on your strengths and manage around your weaknesses is an interesting concept, easy to grasp but difficult to apply.
Building a strong life will always be a challenging project involving many different variables: your talents, your education, your skills, your self-confidence, your maturity, the piranhas you face everyday and some might even include “your luck”.

A few months ago I had dinner with one of Willie Miranda’s assistants, a lovely lady and she was telling me some of his plans for the future. Now, life threw a curve at him, and he will have to fight the most important fight of his life, pancreatic cancer. Totally unexpected like many events in life and nothing to do with politics.

No one can give you a magic bullet to solve every problem you have or can have in your personal and professional life.

In fact, I don’t think anyone can do that except you. A good friend, many years ago, said to me that everyone, deep down inside, knew what needed to be done to improve their conditions in life. He might have been right. You have to look deep inside and see what your instincts tell you but it will definitely help if you at least have a basic understanding of psychology.

First of all, you must understand how to distinguish your natural talents from things that you learn. Strength can be described as consistent near perfect performance in an activity. The question is how do you get to near perfect performance?
Practice, practice, practice?

Or near perfect performance requires certain natural talents? You can get a little bit better at anything but practice will not get you to a near perfect performance. To develop strength in any activity requires talent.

Another question pops up? What is the difference between a talent and strength? What role do skills, knowledge, experience and attitude play in building strength?
Not knowing the answers to these questions will make you waste lots of time trying to learn strengths that will be difficult for you to learn if not impossible.

So let’s define some terms for you:

Talents are your naturally recurring patterns of thoughts, feelings, or behavior.

Knowledge consists of information, facts and lessons learned in life.

Skills are steps of an activity. For example in sales, asking questions or closing the sale would be defined as skills.

These three, talents, knowledge and skills combine to create your strengths.

Attitude is the motor behind the whole thing. Attitude is what defines how much will you achieve or how successful will you be.
When Henley wrote the prophetic lines “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” he should have added, ‘because we have the power to control our thoughts and our thoughts make up our attitudes”.

Carl Ripken, the baseball player played in 2,216 consecutive ball games. That is a record that will be very difficult to break. Carl had knowledge of baseball; he had the talent to play the game and the skills to make him a great ballplayer. It was his attitude that made him a super star.

My cousin Jorge Posada plays the most difficult position in baseball: catcher. It is very tough on your knees and your whole body because you get wacked by the ball and the bat very often. Yet, he played 1,450 games and 4,877 at bats, before being placed on the disabled list.
I bet no catcher in history has been able to do that.

You must have a very good attitude and be very motivated to be able to accomplish that.

Your attitude will be a definite factor in how successful you are. Make sure you choose a profession that you have the talent for. It is the only way you will be really happy and self realized.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Killing Employee Productivity

Killing employee productivity
Over the past 25 years, my laboratory has been companies in over 30 countries. I have been a witness to rapid change and no change at all.
I have met executives that were willing to change and change fast and I have met others that are simply, because of their psychological characteristics, unable to change.
We have to understand that what we call the work place, has changed. What we call employees has changed. There are different opinions on what has caused this change, one of the best ones I would say is the microchip or the internet.
We now understand that knowledge has replaced brute force, emotional intelligence has replaced, well, not replaced, but at least has become more important than intellectual intelligence.
Yet, when we go into companies, we find that the workplace has remained essentially an anachronism, a formal, highly regulated, highly controlled environment where the very few dominate the many. In some cases, one dominating everyone else, this one being the President of the Company.
Stated differently, the workplace culture has changed little in most companies, while there has been more technological change in these last three decades than in the previous 50,000 years.
I recently sat in a management meeting with the President of the company and his direct reports when he said to them that he didn’t have the answer to the problem they were facing and that he knew no one else in the room had it either. (Later he told me privately that he knew the capacity of each of his direct reports)
What he did at that precise moment is to tell everyone that he didn’t trust their judgment and that none of them were bright enough to at least try to come up with an answer.
This executive is indeed a very bright man, he is a visionary and we could say he has been relatively successful in his career but one thing he has not been able to do well is to develop his employees.
In many companies, most of the training offered is generic and it seldom challenges the employee to think differently or to improve their skills and performance. They leave the training and in one month they have forgotten 80% of what they supposedly learned.
This is why employees fall into a comfort zone, they become complacent and little by little become less productive.
I have come to the conclusion that most managers don’t know how to manage, motivate, or mobilize their work force. One important reason this is so is because they have not taken the time to understand, really understand, the workforce. What is worst, they have not taken the time to understand themselves.
In frustration, they attempt to impose anachronistic methods of managing, ineffective ways of persuading and lousy ways to motivate their employees.
This is the reason that we find many employees coming in late, leaving early, doing as little as possible to get by or what is worse, not doing as much as they are capable of doing.
This is also the reason many employees never do anything until they are told, then doing only that and then standing around waiting for further instructions before doing anything else or the very common practice of bringing the body to work while leaving the mind at home.
What about always having an excuse when something wasn’t done, with answers that I bet all of you that manage people have heard: “It is not my job, nobody told me, how was I supposed to know, I never was trained on how to do that, I didn’t get the memo, I don’t understand your handwriting, I wasn’t there when you gave the order, you must have told somebody else, thought it was me, and forgot” and one I love, “I can’t read your mind”.
I can mention a lot more phrases that I have heard as a consultant, but I think you get the idea.
What is important here is that if you manage people, you must understand your own personality and the personality of the people you manage. You need to do this so that they can work as a team and you can count on them to help you reach your goals.
In today’s world no one can do it alone, no one knows all the answers, no one is immune from rapid changing conditions.
You need people to help you and to do that, they need to be motivated to do so.
Don’t allow your company to develop a negative environment where motivation, productivity and initiative are squashed or eliminated altogether.

Private enterprises or government run industries? Which is better?

Private enterprises or government run industries? Which is better?
I have just arrived in Panama and my article was going to be about some subject related to Panama.
Since I picked up a copy of the New York Times in the airport and the health care debate is going on, I decided to make a comment or two about this very important subject.
Even though it has more relevance for those in the United States, we should keep an eye on it, here in Puerto Rico. Let’s face it, what Uncle Sam does, affects all of us one way or another.
As many of you know, I am a free enterprise type of guy; I trust the private sector more so than government agencies. Not always, but most of the time, the private sector does it better.
For example, the U.S. Post Service started in 1775 if I am not mistaken. They have had 234 years to get it right and yet, even though it is heavily subsidized, it is still broke. It can’t compete effectively with Federal Express or UPS, both of them corporations competing in the free enterprise arena and profitable most of the time.
Many of you are already enjoying the benefits of social security. Lots of you are counting on social security as part of your retirement. How sure are you that they will be around when you do retire? They have already increased the age at which you qualify and they will probably increase it again or cut benefits. And what is very sad is that you paid it religiously for your whole life and now you have to face the possibility that it will not be there when you retire. Social Security was established in 1935, so 74 years have gone by and they haven’t gotten it right. It is for all intents and purposes, broke. Chile, on the other hand, has a very good social security system and it might be worth taking a look at it. Something has to be done and I trust, hope is a better word, that it won’t go down the drain.
Fannie Mae was started in 1938, so they have had 71 years to get it right and lo and behold, it is broke. Little brother Freddie Mac came around much later, in 1970 but still, 39 years have passed and guess what? It is also broke. Together dear Fannie and Freddie helped sink the US and the rest of the world into the worst economic collapse in 80 years.
A friend of mine was telling me that the war on poverty officially started in 1964; they have had 45 years to get it right. He says that even though one trillion dollars of hard earned money by taxpayers in the US is transferred each year to the “poor” and yet we don’t see the results.
Medicare and Medicaid are very interesting. Lots of people swear by them and say that they have been well served by them. I have always relied on private insurance and I am not old enough to qualify for Medicare or not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, so I don’t know if it works well. However, realistically, since 1965 when they started, they have lost massive amounts of money. They are in the red big time. Are they the right model of US health care? How long can they go own running those big deficits and not having the ability to stop corruption and throw the guilty ones in jail?
AMTRAK began in 1970 and last year, they get bailed out because they run at a loss, a big loss.
This year, we all know that a trillion dollars was committed in the so called Stimulus Bill of 2009. Is it working? I honestly can’t tell although I confess that I am not an economist. I don’t see many signs that it has worked like it should. The size of governments across the US has increased in many areas and there have been reports that government salaries have also gone up. Read the Miami Herald and you will see that people are up in arms because many local government employees were given huge raises as political favors.
My question is: How many private sector jobs has the bill created? I don’t think it has created many if any at all. The US national debt is increasing at a very dangerous rate. It might reach 10 trillion if it hasn’t reached it yet.
I have to mention the “cash for clunkers” program that started a few months ago and ended just recently. It ran out of money rather quickly. Most of the cars sold were foreign cars and lots of dealers and now buried under the bureaucracy, trying to fill in all kinds of paperwork and many of them have not even gotten paid yet.
Looking at these examples, seeing a record of failure that is rather clear, how can we trust the government to run a massive health care system? We are talking about 17% of the economy!
Maybe they can. I don’t have any evidence that they can do so, but who knows if they can do it or not? I wouldn’t place a bet on it, though. Let’s face it, even a broken clock can give you the right time twice a day.
I am a big fan of Thomas Jefferson. It is such a shame that he is not around anymore.
He said “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretence of taking care of them”.
I believe in private enterprise, I believe in people that open a business and work hard to make it successful. They are not looking for handouts. They are simply asking for the government not to interfere and let them serve the public like they know how to do.

Leaders must understand that feedback is now more important than ever

Leaders must understand that feedback is now more important than ever.

“Happy are they who can hear their detractions and put them to mending”
William Shakespeare

If Shakespeare is right then no one can perform optimally without feedback. Yet
according to the revered American psychologist Abraham Maslow most of us are torn
about giving and receiving critical feedback. He referred to this as “the need to know and
the fear of knowing.” Managers especially have a hard time obtaining useful feedback.

In power relationships such as between the boss and the subordinate, people will not speak
“their truth” if they believe it will come back to bite them.

Right now, I am involved in a very big project with a company and everyone is afraid of
speaking their minds. There is this fear that if they cross some of the sacred cows in the company, they will be out the door. Since we are in a difficult employment market people are playing it very safe and that means that they can see the boat sinking and they will simply not speak up.

When there is a lack of trust in a company, everything slows down and costs more. When there is trust in a company, things are done faster and more economically. Lack of trust can destroy a company.

One way we are getting some good feedback is soliciting confidential feedback. For employees to believe this, there must be a third party involved doing the surveying. Here is where we come in.

Beyond confidential feedback, managers, if they are to improve, need what my colleague
Jorge Fernandez calls Strategic Self-Awareness. Allow me to explain; things that are
known to us and known to others is public knowledge. What is known to us and
unknown to others is private knowledge. The fascinating knowledge is the information
that is known to others but unknown to us, commonly referred to as blind spots. When
that information is revealed to us, those are illuminating moments that facilitate dramatic
change. These blindside moments are sometimes hurtful but always instructive. What is
unknown to us is usually well-known to others. To see ourselves as others see us is
strategic self-awareness.

Through the use of assessment tools (personality tests, 360 evaluations) managers can
systematically enhance learning and gain self-awareness. However, not all assessment
instruments are equally effective in building strategic self-awareness. Firstly, the
assessment should be designed for the workplace. This means that managers are profiled
and compared to other managers along dimensions that are relevant to job performance.

Secondly, the assessment should be able to detect two types of performance problems:

deficiencies when managers display too little of an important leadership behavior and
excesses when managers apply a particular behavior too much. Deficiencies normally
fall in the category of public knowledge. However, excesses which ironically are
strengths overused constitute blind spots. Feedback delivered in terms of too
little/under doing and too much/overdoing makes it instantly clear what you (the manager)
needs to do to improve. Regrettably, most leadership assessments operate on the
assumption that more is better.

We must understand that a great deal of a company’s value is entrenched between the ears of the employees and this means that we must know what they are thinking and they must know how they are doing. To increase employee loyalty, they need to know what is expected of them. They need to have the tools to be able to do the job right and they must have the opportunity to apply their strengths in the job they are currently performing.

First Seek Feedback, then Feed Forward

We all require feedback to determine where we stand, to establish the direction we are
headed and to measure our progress along the chosen developmental path. Feed forward,
the brainchild of renowned executive coach Marshall Goldsmith comes in the form of
ideas you can put into practice in the future. Simply put feedback is about yesterday and
feed forward is about tomorrow. The procedure is easy to implement: Describe your
developmental goal in a one to one dialogue with anyone you know, ask for two
suggestions and end by saying thank you. No evaluation or discussion around the ideas
put forth are permitted by the solicitor of ideas. The beauty of feed forward is that it does
not arouse defensiveness. In fact, it is energizing and forces us to follow-up: by asking,
listening and enlisting others in our initiative for personal change.
So remember first seek feedback then feed forward.

Looking out my window here in the Sutton Place Hotel in Vancouver, Canada, I can see hundreds of companies. How many of those companies have talented people working for them and yet a few are not going to make it. Getting feedback and feeding forward is a good way to improve the chances of making it.

Turnover: A very costly problem in most organizations

Turnover: A very costly problem in most organizations

If you own a business or work for a company and you are asked, “What is your fastest moving item”? Would you answer “Personnel”?

Turnover is a major problem in many companies, here, in Puerto Rico and in many other places. In many instances, it doesn’t have to be. A little more interest, more attention on the part of management toward employees helps keep people working happily and productively.

People don’t like to think of themselves as commodities or jobholders whose sole reason for existence is to perform a certain activity day in and day out. They don’t like other people to think of them that way either. In their own mind they are, each of them, VIPs’, very important people. If you want to influence them or persuade them to do anything, it would be very wise to recognize this fact.

We live in a hectic world. We are constantly exposed to change and to outside pressures day in and day out. We tend to concentrate on the job that has to be done and little by little we start forgetting about the human factor, we start ignoring people or not paying attention to their wants, needs, feelings and opinions. This is not good for them or for you.

Yes, we have to concentrate in getting things done but it is smarter to concentrate a little bit more on the people side so as to keep them in a mood to really accomplish great things.
In the long run, it simply doesn’t pay to be so busy that you lose touch with your people.

A good leader, a good manager or supervisor, always finds time, one way or another, to make the rounds. I think Tom Peters called it a while back, “Managing by wondering around”. He sure had the right idea.

I am right now working with a client and I have asked the CEO to visit each department at least once a month, to talk to employees, thank them for doing a good job and asking questions about the business. He is already doing it with great results.

Chatting with people, showing a genuine interest in them and their problems, listening to their ideas is not just a nice thing to do, it is vital to the results you hope to achieve.

Mostly everyone, I would suspect, likes having a close relationship with their boss. It is a big help to be able to talk to him or her once in a while to get things off your mind, get some feedback, ask a few questions, get a few ideas and simply ask how you are doing.

When people have problems, it is important that they find their boss’s door and mind open, really open, regardless of whether it is a business problem or a personal matter.

Either one can impair a person’s ability to function at full capability. People feel better, work better, function better if they have an opportunity to be heard, to get their problems off their chests. Make yourself available. Look and be interested. Keep in constant touch.
Many years ago, Seneca wrote:
“No man can live happily who regards himself alone, who turns everything to his own advantage. You must live for others, if you wish to live for yourself.”

In my seminars, I ask the audience, in many occasions managers, “Have you heard the saying, “Are your employees your most important asset?” I always get a resounding “YES”. I then say, “Well, they are not”. When I do this, people are stunned. I can see their surprised faces as if a life long truth they have understood has been challenged. I then say: “The employees are not your most important asset, the RIGHT employees are.
So, smart, world class companies do this:
Get the right employees on the plane
Get the wrong employees off the plane
Sit the right employees on the right seats.
Decide where to go.

So if you have already gone through the process of downsizing, laying off, retiring many employees and you feel you have the right team working with you, now is the time to treat them well, empower them to make decisions, recognize their achievements, make them feel that what they do is important and that they are part of your team.

If you do this, you will have more productive employees; your clients will feel the difference and your competitors will tremble.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Value based leadership, a barometer on how to act

Value based leadership, a barometer on how to act

You are the administrator at a well- known community hospital. An accident in the hospital’s laboratory has caused deadly chemical gases to enter the ventilation system of the hospital. The gases are headed straight for a hospital room with three children. You are the leader and you must make a decision. If you do not intervene, those kids will be dead. If, on the other hand, you hit a switch, those gases will be re-directed toward a room with a single child meaning that one child will die and three will be saved. What do you do? You have 10 seconds to make this very difficult decision.

You are a loving husband married for 35 years to your lovely wife and still very much in love. Your wife suddenly is diagnosed with advanced cancer of the brain and the Doctor says she will not make it. In the next couple of months her condition deteriorates and she is in constant pain and agony. One night, she looks at you, holds your hand and says to you, “Honey, we have loved each other for many years, we have great memories, we raised wonderful children and we had a wonderful life. I am at the end of my rope. I can’t stand the pain any longer. Every minute is agony and unbearable. You must help me end this suffering. I need to go in peace”. What do you do?

You are a Doctor. You have three patients who will die very soon without an organ transplant. You have only two available organs. The first person on the list, the one who should go first is homeless and hasn’t contributed much to society. However, he is the most critical of the three and has been waiting the longest. He would die first if he doesn’t get the transplant. The other two are professionals, one a Lawyer and one a fellow Doctor who is also your friend. Is it acceptable to skip the homeless person and give the two organs to the Lawyer and the Doctor?

How about this one? You are a Medical Doctor, you have four patients that will most likely die without organ transplants, and one healthy patient who could provide those organs needed by the four sick patients. Is it morally acceptable to kill him in order to save the other four?

Philosophers, social and clinical psychologists have wrestled with these questions for hundreds of years. Studies are constantly being done to understand how human beings think. They try to find the explanation on why would a normal human being find it easy to hit the switch in the hospital to divert the deadly gas as in the first example and find it unacceptable to take organs from a living person no matter how many others might be saved.

Until now, no rational, consistent, moral principles that everyone agrees on have been found or have been accepted by all. In the situations above, “do no harm” and “do the greatest good for the greatest number” both fail to explain why most leaders, even most people, anywhere in the world would more likely hit the switch but not kill the healthy patient.

Where does our moral sense reside? Does it reside in our brains or in our hearts?
There were very interesting studies conducted by a Dr. Greene of Princeton University, utilizing MRI machines to measure brain activity when leaders and normal people face these moral dilemmas.
One of the examples they studied was that of a man driving along a deserted highway and sees a man bleeding by the side of the road. He stops and the man asks him to take him to the hospital. He realizes that taking this bleeding man to the hospital would ruin his new leather seats for which he had just paid $750.00. Is it morally acceptable to leave him bleeding by the side of the road? If not, then, is it morally acceptable to ignore a personal letter asking you for a donation of $750.00, sufficient to save the lives of 25 children who otherwise will die of a curable disease?

According to the studies, looking at these examples I have mentioned, most people will say that you should direct the gas to one person saving four but not kill someone for his organs and to help the bleeding man but not write a check for $750.00. Why is this?

The idea of killing someone for his organs or leaving someone to die by the side of the road engages the brain’s emotion regions (as measured by the MRI) more than the idea of switching the direction of a deadly gas or writing a check.

The example of who to give the organs to, the lawyer, doctor or homeless, most people rationalize their decision and the poor homeless guy is out of luck.
The couple married for 35 years, their values will dictate what they do. Religion is against Euthanasia and so are most of the States in the Union and Puerto Rico. Utah is the only State that permits it and they get lots of people spending their last day there. What would you do? Would you listen to your heart or your brain?

Philosophers, Psychologists, Theologians have argued for years about whether moral principles are based on emotion or reason. Dr. Green of Princeton says that what we have learned “suggests that emotion underlies our tendency to treat seemingly identical cases differently”.

Human beings usually make very rapid judgments about moral dilemmas with little variation in what they consider permissible. The power of moral intuition goes against the previously accepted idea that we consciously think these things through.

I find the study of the human animal so interesting and so complex. With so much to study and learn in the here and now, I wonder why so many so called psychics, astrologists and hucksters are able to sell people on the idea that they can predict the future.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Critical Thinking: Now needed more than ever

Critical Thinking: Now needed more than ever.

This column deals with leadership and innovation. Critical thinking is not one of those qualities associated with leadership since there are leaders that in some aspects of their lives are magical thinkers. Today I do want to write about this fascinating subject because of an experience I had last week.

I was invited to a television program to discuss the psychological make up of Manuel Zelaya the recently deposed President of Honduras and Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela. Although it is definitely a very interesting subject, one I might write a future column about, in this column I want to discuss something else.

For obvious reasons I will not name the specific program or the television station, I will just tell you what happened.

As I was sitting in the producer’s office, discussing some of the questions I would be asked about Zelaya and Chavez, I noticed on the wall that the following day they were going to invite a gentleman to discuss Spiritism. The week before, one day after I appeared on the same program to discuss motivational techniques to deal with the recession, they invited a guy who specializes in reading auras. He even had a camera to take pictures of people in the program and would show that each had different color auras. He then explained what they meant. It didn’t matter that his camera was rigged so that it would show different colors, that what he was saying is absolutely false or that there is no scientific evidence that auras exist. What was important is that the public believes it and that produces ratings. It didn’t matter that by disseminating this type of information, we are making people dumber and less educated.
This is why we have to educate people about these forms of pseudo-sciences and I believe this subject has great relevancy to all of us as part of civilized society. This is why it is so important to become critical thinkers.

Every year in the world thousands of books that promote the wildest forms of bogus science and the paranormal are published. Visit Borders or any other bookstore and you will find pseudo-scientific or esoteric books which sell very well and make lots of money for the bookstore and the authors.

Never mind that most if not all are pure garbage.
Let’s face it, the percentage of our countrymen here and in the US who take astrology seriously is larger than the percentage of people who did so in the middle ages when Saint Augustine, for example, gave excellent reasons for discarding astrology all together.
We pride ourselves in being the most scientifically advanced country in the world, we have landed on the moon and have gone farther into the universe taking pictures along the way, than any other country in the whole world. We even had a Puerto Rican astronaut go into space. Yet over 50% of our teenagers not to mention former President Ronald Reagan, may he rest in peace, and his wife believed in Astrology and what is worst, made decisions based on it. President Obama got into trouble for making fun of this and had to apologize to Mrs. Reagan.

There are two distinct kinds of knowledge: Logical and Mathematical (statements that are certain within a given formal system) and scientific truth, never absolutely certain of course but generally accepted with a degree of probability that in many instances is almost indistinguishable from certainty.
It takes a strange kind of mind to think that four plus four could be anything but eight or that elephants could fly around the globe or that dogs lay multicolored eggs.
This lack of critical thinking skills by people allows them to believe preposterous medical claims that can persuade them to abandon mainstream physicians and seek treatment by non qualified so called healers.
A friend of mine, James Randi, the best debunker in the world and who heads the James Randi Educational Foundation, once uncovered a pastor who persuaded people to stop taking medicines for high blood pressure, epilepsy, liver problems etc. convincing them that the Lord gave him the power to heal them without medicine. It is not surprising that many of the parishioners died and luckily, he went to prison. By the way, he is out now and we believe he is going back to his old ways.

Bertrand Russell, a brilliant philosopher gave three simple rules for curbing one’s tendency to accept what he called “intellectual rubbish”.

1. When the experts are agreed, the opposite opinion can’t be held to be certain.
2. When they are agreed, no opinion can be regarded as certain by a non-expert.
3. When they all hold that no sufficient grounds for a positive opinion exist, the ordinary person would do well to suspend judgment.

Russell added, “these propositions seem mild, yet, if accepted they would absolutely revolutionize human life”.

Our technologically advanced but scientifically retarded nation desperately needs knowledge of critical thinking skills to avoid serious damage to our society. Same applies to every country in the world.
When I read about a 22 year old mother of two children blowing herself to pieces and killing four other human beings in the name of religion and then I read a quote by a religious leader in her congregation preach that the holy war is mandatory for all men and women of their faith, I worry about the future of humanity.
When I read that Botanicas in Puerto Rico are not just surviving but thriving, it makes me sad. Can you imagine someone, specially an educated person, believing that by lighting candles or killing chickens or wearing a certain perfume could change the course of events? Can you imagine a Medical Doctor telling you that he or she will be placing a coconut behind the door to make sure the operation is successful? What about paying $20,000 or $30,000 dollars to go through an initiation to become a “saint” and dress in white for a few months. Give me a break!
The only antidote for this is education. This is why the role of teachers in society, specially mathematics, physics and science teachers is so important and why we must all make sure that they are well paid and taken care of.

Businesses, corporations and educated individuals must take an interest in our educational system so that everyone in our society is taught how to think, how to reason, how to distinguish between fact and fiction, reality and illusion. It will save lives, advance society and maybe, just maybe help us stamp out ignorance.
I now understand what Einstein meant when he said:
“There are two things infinite in life, the universe and human stupidity and I am not that certain about the universe”.

The speed of change and what we can do to succeed.

The speed of change and what we can do to succeed.

Years ago, I had a conversation with a futurologist in a San Antonio convention who told me that knowledge was doubling every three years more or less. He was right and it is possible that now it is doubling every two years which means that by 2011, the world will know twice what it knows now. He also said that within a few years, knowledge was going to double every eleven hours. That is right, knowledge doubling by the end of the day and doubling again the following morning. I can’t even grasp that concept. I can’t conceive that happening. What if he is wrong and knowledge will never double so fast? What if it doubles every 11 days or every 11 months? Even so, it is really mind boggling.
What are we to do?

Well, since we were born, the sky has not fallen. We still use centuries old languages to communicate with each other and we do not speak in the zeroes and ones of binary language. We have shaped computers more than they have shaped us. If this was not the case, we would be memorizing computer commands, wouldn’t we?

Thinking about this change stuff and about the future, I believe there are some strategies that I think will help everyone, but especially business people, better cope with change. There might be others of course but I think the ones I will mention are important.

First of all, you must be well informed now more than ever. Read a couple of local newspapers a day (make sure one of them is the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, please), The Wall Street Journal or New York Times and a few magazines such as Fast Company, Fortune, Forbes,Harvard Business Review and Business Week. If your industry has a magazine, read it too. Reading one book a week is also a good idea.

Take a speed- reading course to allow you to take in more information. While I was in Xerox in Stamford, Connecticut, we developed a reading course that doubled and sometimes tripled the reading speed of people taking the course in just 12 hours. Two hours a day for six days. There are some good reading courses in the market, Google it and find one.

Use technology in your daily life. You must own a computer, you must connect to the Internet and you must know how to go into search engines and look for stuff you need to research. If you can’t afford a computer, go to a library and use the library’s computers. They are available. If you are in business, you must have a good website one that is user friendly and allows you to sell stuff through the internet. Billions are sold this way right now and you shouldn’t be left out of the game. You should also have a blog and you have to communicate with your clients regularly. I post a blog every week.

Life goes by very fast so you have to manage your time effectively. To do that, use a time management system, electronic or paper, doesn’t matter. It is estimated that we get more than 200 messages a day if we count phone calls, emails, faxes, letters, advertising, television, etc. We have to be organized to cope with this.
Focus on the positive instead of the negative. Yes, there is a lot of negativity floating around, but why dwell on it. Constantly complaining or criticizing everything penetrates your sub conscious and everything will look worse than what it is. Don’t make the mistake of living in the past or worrying about the future, especially things you have no control over.

Learn selling and negotiating skills. We are always buying or selling something: products, services, ideas, whatever, so understand how to negotiate. Learn how to communicate your ideas so that you are understood and you move people to action.

When you deal with people, keep a very simple principle in mind. Try to understand, and then be understood. Once, Steven Covey personally told me that if some day we were successful in teaching this principle to all humanity, wars would end.

Look for win-win in everything you do. Do not take advantage of people because no one likes that and sooner or later the relationship will end. If you can’t get a win-win, then don’t play.
If you make a promise, keep it. Make sure your word is your bond. This is difficult to do. How many times you tell someone, “I will call you next week” and you never do. How many times you say “I will be there at 9am” and you don’t show up. Get into the habit of doing what you say you are going to do.

Work is a very important part of life. Do what you feel passion for. Don’t be involved in anything you don’t absolutely love to do. We live once and time goes by and it can’t be recovered. Invest it wisely.

Develop your talents to the point that your weaknesses will be irrelevant. Be good at networking. You can’t imagine how important it is in life to have “connections”, to know people. So, make sure you hang around with lots of people. Join Rotary, belong to a club, go to bookstores and meet people, play Tennis or Golf.

Last but not least, balance your life. Don’t work all the time and forget you have a family, people that love you and that deserve you spending quality time with. If you miss the important events in your children’s lives, you will never get that opportunity again. Do what you need to do to be successful, but don’t forget what matters most, your family.

Economic Development Summit: Eliminating barriers and building the future

Economic Development Summit: Eliminating barriers and building the future

This was the title of the event held at the Puerto Rico Convention Center by the Department of Economic Development and Commerce.

They were expecting 350 attendees and more than 650 showed up and I must say that this entity did a great job in handling more people than they were expecting.

I have been attending events sponsored by government agencies for a very long time and this is the first time ever that I get a CD with a copy of every presentation and also a paper copy, right there in the event.

My congratulations to the organizers for an event well thought out and executed.

We are living in very difficult times and difficult times require extraordinary efforts in order to be able to move a State, a Commonwealth or a Country out of recession.

With a budget deficit of over 3 billion dollars and an overall debt of over 50 billion, taking over the economy of Puerto Rico is not an easy task.

The island’s credit was a very important and critical issue facing this administration and the fact that the credit rating has been rated as stable by Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s is quite an accomplishment.

Look, you may be with or against this government, but you can’t argue against facts. It is a fact that the credit rating has improved and it is a fact that Cofina bonds in the amount of 4.1 billion have been sold in the mainland and 1.0 here in Puerto Rico. For this to have happened there is no doubt that accrediting entities and investors are putting their trust in Puerto Rico, because they are putting their money where their mouth is.

I know Carlos Garcia, now heading the Government Development Bank; personally, he was my client when he worked for Banco Santander and I know that he is extremely smart and a very hard worker. He knows what he is doing and the market is giving him and his team a vote of confidence.

In a few months, steps have been taken to stabilize the economy, protect and strengthen Puerto Rico’s credit rating and move towards a rebuilding of the economy.

This is not easy my friends, this is very difficult and for this to happen everyone must pull together.

Whenever I listen to the radio talk hosts in the different radio stations, I have to make an effort so as not to fall into depression. Most of these guys, not all, either believe or they want us to believe that we are going down the tube. They are like disinformation agents hired to create panic and destroy whatever hope we might have in the future.

They often lie and invent stuff that it just isn’t so. Bernie, a friend, was telling me that he heard one of them say on radio that the Federal Reserve was owned by Chase Manhattan and other banks. This is, not only untrue, it is a blatant lie.
The press, the responsible press, holds a very important role in society: Be the watchdog and protect the people from irresponsible government, but it must be done responsibly.

An important point made in the conference was that Puerto Rico must think BIG in order to be successful in today’s global economy. We as a society have the capacity, the human resources to act, to take action, and what is very important, we have to let go of the fear that sometimes paralyzes us and that is constantly being reinforced by some elements in the media, especially radio.

Not all are bad news. There are over 5,438, million dollars to be invested in fifteen programs and one hundred initiatives. Over 250 schools will be renovated, because 70 millions will be invested there. Another 175 million will be directed to public housing projects so that they can be renovated. That will also create 1700 jobs. It goes on and on, the amount of projects that are in the works.

They told us that the private public alliances will mean an investment of 4, 214.1 millions and will create 143,278 jobs. These PPA’s have been very effective in other countries and there is no reason why they won’t work here.

The government’s vision of Roosevelt Roads was unveiled. They plan to create a world class tourism and entertainment project. It will create 40,000 jobs and it will reactivate the economy of the east, including Vieques and Culebra. It has been five years since the Navy left and nothing has been done. Millions of dollars were taken out of our economy and they have not been replaced. It is urgent that the Roosevelt Roads project is built.

Jaime Gonzalez, the gentleman in charge of the project said that the 78 Mayors in Puerto Rico have given the backing to this project. I wonder if it is the first time that this has ever happened, get unanimous support for a project. I hope that this time around, something happens and we don’t continue wasting time and money.

During the past administration, my friend Tito Colorado was put in charge of that project. Several times we discussed it and to tell you the truth, he had a great idea of turning it into a commerce, science and technology development with several universities interested in participating. I know he worked real hard for that to happen and poured his heart into it, and it is definitely a disappointment that nothing came out of it. But, you know, politics is politics and I guess we haven’t matured enough to understand that when a different party wins the election, it doesn’t mean that everything the previous party did is wrong and must be discarded. Hey, good ideas are worth keeping, no matter who thought about them.

Manufacturing, tourism, medical tourism, energy, the film industry, pharmaceutical, bio technology and medical devices companies, there is just so much potential in this small but powerful little island.

The “Isla Verde” energy fund, created in order to lessen our dependence in fossil fuels, should generate an investment of $2 billion in energy projects by the year 2012. I sure hope they can do it although it seems to be a very optimistic figure.

We are such a rich and diverse society that the future can be very bright. We only have to get rid of fear and we have to have more trust in our institutions.

If we elected a government by an overwhelming majority, then it is everyone’s duty to help the government reach its goals or if you don’t want to help, at least get out of the way.
In the meantime, the government must work as a team, even if that means getting Superman, Wonder Woman and even Batman to work together.

The leadership style of Alvaro Uribe, President of Colombia

The Leadership Style of Alvaro Uribe, President of Colombia.

As I mentioned in my last article, I was invited to speak in Santa Marta, Colombia, to ANATO, the very influential association of travel agents of Colombia.

I say the “influential” because they have had President Alvaro Uribe open the congress, seven of the last eight years. To have the President of the country open your conference, is very difficult and shows the importance that your industry has in the country.

I met President Uribe. I gave him my signed book along with my business card, which as many of you know, is a million dollar bill. He was very impressed by the title of my book and by the card, asking his personal secretary to make sure she didn’t lose it because he wanted it.

President Uribe arrived almost two hours late, so as you can imagine, that threw the schedule out the window and I must imagine that the conference organizers were sweating bullets. I was surprised that he didn’t apologize for being late.

There were around 350 people in the room and when he came in, he went table by table, the first two rows across the room, shaking hands and talking to everyone. The man has lots of charisma and he has the memory of an elephant. Next to me was a beautiful woman who he recognized from a speech he had given in Bucaramanga a few months before. Did he remember her because of her beauty or simply because he has that kind of memory? They told me that he remembers everything and I must say that he spoke about 30 minutes with out notes and he recited figures and facts out of memory. He then answered questions for one and a half hours.

He was very candid, very open, sometimes agreeing with the participant and sometimes disagreeing. He always stated the reason why he disagreed and when he agreed, he would give an order to his assistant to take notes because he had to take some type of action. He asked very good questions, demonstrating knowledge about the subject. Only on a couple of occasions he deferred to the minister of tourism and commerce present in the event.

You can tell that this President knows what he is doing and he has that aura of self confidence that rubs off into the public. There was a sense of admiration in that room for this man.

As many of you know, there is a movement in Colombia to have him run for a third term. He hasn’t openly accepted the invitation to run for a third term although very close to me in the conference sat a couple that when he came around shaking hands, they said they were his re election committee and he thanked them. I would suppose that if he wasn’t planning on running, he would have made a comment to the effect, but you never know.

I believe most people in that event would vote for him again. I didn’t find the same level of acceptance out in the street. I asked four taxi drivers the question if he should run again, and the four of them said “no”, that they wanted new blood in the presidency, that he had already done all the good he was going to do.

President Uribe has the highest acceptance ratings in all of Latin America, at times close to seventy per cent. That is unheard of in practically every country.

Why is he so popular?

I asked around and I was told that he is a people’s president. He listens to people and he acts on what he says he is going to do.

Trust is such an important factor, maybe the most important one for a leader. Low trust is the greatest cost in life, in organizations, in companies in countries. Low trust or no trust creates hidden agendas, interpersonal conflict, deep seated rivalries, scarcity thinking, in other words, a win lose mentality and all of these reduce the speed of trust. Low trust affects every decision, every communication, every action; it practically slows or even paralyzes everything.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted”.

A few years ago, in the United States a Harris poll revealed that only 22% of those surveyed trusted the media, only 8% trusted political parties, only 27% trusted the government and only 12% trusted big companies.

British sociologist David Halpern declared that only 34% of Americans believe that other people can be trusted. In Latin America the figure is only 23% and in Africa, 18%. He mentioned that forty years ago, in Great Britain, 60% of the population believed that other people could be trusted, it came down to 29% in 2006 and I am sure that with the problems they are now having, it is down into the teens.

I wonder if anyone is keeping track of these figures in Puerto Rico. Are the economists in our island looking at the trust factor?

Stephen M. R. Covey, who I met several times when I was involved with the Franklin Covey Corporation, devised a simple formula which I think is very interesting.
The formula is based on this critical insight: Trust always affects two outcomes, speed and cost. When trust goes down, speed will also go down and costs go up.
When trust goes up, speed will also go up and costs will go down.
It is that simple, that real, and that predictable.

There is a Chinese proverb that says that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best time is NOW.

Our whole society must work on this trust factor, especially our government, our politicians, the media and everyone else.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The complicated world of book publishing

The complicated world of book publishing.

I have just returned to San Juan, from attending the Book Expo America in New York. I left after only one day to Santa Marta, Colombia where I will speak tomorrow. President Alvaro Uribe is also speaking so if there is anything interesting to report, I will cover it in next week’s column.

I must tell you that it is an impressive sight to go into the Book Expo and see hundreds and hundreds of booths from publishers, marketers, authors, public relations people and you name it.

This book fair is among the first three fairs in the world, competing with the London book fair and the Frankfurt, Germany book fair which is huge. For people that like to read or like the book business, this is a most. You can buy a pass for a hundred dollars or so and you can go in to see the fair, although, if you want to really see each booth and you want to take your time, it would take two or three days to be able to do so.

Imagine seeing books that will be published in the fall, right there and in many occasions, you can get a copy of the book because they give them away. I got copies of a few interesting books, one of them is titled “Connected” which is all about how social networks are affecting everyone’s life.

You can also meet many of the authors when they do their book signings at the fair. I had the experience of signing my books in the book fair when it was held in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. It was quite an experience.

Very important point, the fair is a place where you can meet literary agents. Not many people know that it is very difficult, not impossible, but very, very difficult for a major publisher to accept your manuscript. My publisher, Penguin, second largest in the world, won’t deal with authors, only with literary agents. This is the case with most reputable ones, although like everything in life, there are exceptions. Well, there is a section with hundreds of tables, with little signs, and literary agents, some of the best in the country, sitting there meeting with authors. But, they only meet with authors that have appointments. And again, another obstacle is that it is very difficult to get a good literary agent. They won’t talk to you unless you are referred by someone, or unless you are a celebrity or very well known. They don’t like, generally, to deal with first time authors because it is very difficult to sell their manuscripts to a publisher.

That being said, for those people that think, that use creativity and don’t accept being beaten by obstacles, there are ways to meet those agents. I noticed that some agents were seating there waiting for their next appointment, and at that specific moment, someone could approach them and talk to them. And if you are presentable, if you conduct yourself well and you have the skills to say something interesting that will catch their attention, you are in.

Let me give you an example. My literary agent, Dystel and Goderich is a very exclusive and reputable agent. They had a table and I have a very good friend from Germany, Adele Landauer, a best selling author in Germany but unknown in the US, that wants to break into the US market and needed a literary agent in the US. When my agent was alone sitting in the table because her appointment had not arrived, I went to her, warmly said hello and at that point I introduced her to Adele. It was great, because Adele caught her attention and she became interested in Adele’s book. I tell you, there are always ways to get through if you are innovative and have the guts to try.

I have always told everyone that there is a book inside every single person in the face of the earth, no matter how successful or unsuccessful that person has been in life. If the book is written by a successful person, great, that person can share the secrets to his or her success. If it has been written by an unsuccessful person, it would be interesting to know what kept that person from succeeding, what obstacles he or she wasn’t able to overcome. I repeat, every single person, no matter the circumstances, has a very interesting story to tell.

The publishing world is hurting now. There are fewer companies in the business because many have gone bankrupt. Many publishers have had to close although others that have understood that they need to change are doing well.

Can you believe that if we took all the books published in one year and divided them by the number of titles sold, the average number of sales per book is less than 200 copies? That is correct, only 200. This is why publishers are very reluctant to get new authors, because they know that most books won’t sell and they will lose money.

You want to hear something else which is crazy about the book business? When a publisher sends a book to a retailer, say Borders, Barnes and Noble or any other, if the book doesn’t sell within the first three to six months, those retailers will return the books to the publisher and ask for a credit. The publishers are stuck with the book and what they thought was a sale is now a return. Bummer, right?

So, if this is the case, why do I say that everyone should write a book?

Because now, in the moment we are living, is the best time ever to write a book.

In the old days, you needed to be published by a publisher otherwise you book would never see the light of day. Now, there are countless ways to publish the book without the need of a publisher. Now, thanks to technology, there is Print on Demand, which means that you can print one book or one hundred. There are also printers that can print a book for you if you are going to print more than let’s say 500 or 1000 books.

If you want fame, although you can make money if the book becomes a best seller, you should try to have your book published by a traditional publisher. If you want to control the whole process, you are willing to find a distributor and you want to make money, you should self publish. Write your book then decide which route to go.