Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The best advice for 2011? Manage yourself

The best advice for 2011? Manage yourself
Success in difficult times comes to those who know themselves, by this I mean, their strengths, their values, their weaknesses and how they best perform under normal and difficult circumstances.
If you study the lives of great achievers throughout history, Einstein, Edison, Washington, Da Vinci or Mozart, you will find that they have the ability to manage themselves.
This factor is what makes them great achievers and they are rare exceptions, very unusual both in their talents and their accomplishments.
Most of us, even those of us with modest talents and skills, will have to learn to manage ourselves in order to have a chance to succeed in the difficult times we are going through and will be going through for at least a year or maybe even longer.
We will have to learn to develop and place ourselves in a position where we can make the greatest contribution. This is not only needed in moments of crisis, but actually in the 40 to 50 year working life most of us will go through.
Most people think they know what they are good at but in my experience they are usually wrong. More often people know what they are not good at and sometimes they are also wrong. And yet, we know that a person can perform well, consistently well, only from strength.
One can’t build performance on weaknesses, let alone on some talents and skills we don’t have at all.
Thru out my career as a speaker and consultant, I have tried with very good success, a technique I want to share with you. If you do only one thing different in 2011, this might be your best option.
Whenever you make a key decision or take action on a problem you are facing, write down what you will expect will happen. Six months later, compare the actual results of your decisions with your expectations. You will be very surprised.
I have been doing this for years and I have found out that I have an intuitive understanding of people oriented people, whether they are in human resources, management, social services or entrepreneurship.
I don’t resonate much with dogmatic or close minded people who think they have the right answer for every problem. They don’t realize that when you are a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
I believe that if you practice this method consistently, within a relatively short period of time, you will find where your strengths lie and believe me, this is the most important thing to know all the time, especially during tough times.
The method will show you what you are doing or not doing that strips you of the full benefits of your strengths. It will show you where you are not particularly qualified or competent. And finally, it will show you where you have absolutely no strengths or skills and you simply can’t perform.
Several implications for action follow from doing this self analysis I am suggesting you do.
First, it would be very wise if you concentrate on your strengths. Very important: Put yourself in a position where your strengths can produce results.
Second, work on improving your strengths. This self study will quickly show where you need to improve skills or acquire new ones. It also will show spaces in your knowledge and these spaces in knowledge can usually be resolved.
Mathematicians are born but everyone can learn Algebra.
Third, discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance or negative effects on your interpersonal relationships and overcome it.
Many people, far too many to be candid, with expertise in one particular area, are disrespectful of knowledge in other areas or believe that being intelligent is a substitute for knowledge or experience.
First rate computer technicians, for example, tend to take pride in not knowing anything about people. Human beings, they believe, are too much disorganized for the good technical mind.
Human resource professionals, on the other hand, often pride themselves on their ignorance of basic accounting or of computable methods altogether.
Taking pride in such ignorance is detrimental and self defeating. Go to work on acquiring the skills and knowledge you need so as to fully realize your strengths.
Finally, since I am running out of space, it is imperative that you work on your bad habits, the things you do that constrain your effectiveness, performance and results.
Such habits will constantly show up on your self-analysis.
For example, a person will realize that being late to every meeting or event will seriously affect his or her credibility. This will be the cause of many lost opportunities. Another person may find out that constantly making promises and not keeping them will force people to not believe in them with very negative consequences.
A manager may find that beautiful plans fail because he or she doesn’t follow through on them. Like so many intelligent people, he believes that ideas move mountains. But the reality is that bulldozers move mountains, ideas show where the bulldozers need to go and which mountains need to be moved.
This manager will need to know that the work doesn’t stop when the plan is finished. He must find the right people to carry out the plan and explain it to them in a convincing and effective way. He must adapt, change, modify the plan as it unfolds in real life and finally and most importantly, must decide when to stop pushing it or change to a new plan.
I wish you all, my dear readers, the best in 2011 and I thank you for reading my column and emailing me so often with comments and great ideas. I thank the Puerto Rico Daily Sun for the opportunity to express my views and try to be of help in improvingy our lives and or your businesses.

Change is here to stay, do you resist it?

Change is here to stay. Do you resist it?
Years ago I heard a saying: “It is easy to change things. It is hard to change people”.
With today’s changing technology, changing faster than any of us imagined, resisting change is maybe the biggest obstacle that businesses have in order to be successful.
Let me give you a very well known example: In the early seventies, an adventurous engineer at Texas Instrument named Gary Boone had the bright, against conventional wisdom, idea for a full computer on a chip, better known today as the microprocessor.
After lots of work and persistence, he was able to secure a patent from the government but he wasn’t as successful in persuading his own peers, his colleagues that he was on to something bigger than any of them could imagine.
This guy may have had other faults, but lack of persistence wasn’t one of them. He screamed, hollered, insisted until finally he got it: A meeting with the top honcho at Texas Instrument. He calmly explained his idea for a computer on a chip.
Imagine the face of his boss when he heard what sounded like an expression right out of a patient in a mental hospital. His answer, fortunately recorded in history, was “young man, don’t you realize that computers are getting bigger, not smaller”?
I can’t stop laughing.
This man’s paradigm had to be anchored in big computers which, truthfully, at the time they were getting bigger. He simply, like so many business people today, they don’t look farther than the present, what is known and thought to be “true”.
The two Steve’s, Jobs and Wozniak tried to sell their revolutionary idea of personal computers at Atari, a company that no longer exists and at Hewlett-Packard now a successful company that must have changed along the way. They didn’t pay attention to them of course.
Since no one would listen to them, they decided to start Apple Computer in a garage in one of their homes.
That company that was started with little money is worth today billions of dollars and it has the reputation of being one of the most creative companies in the world. In fact, for the quarter ending on September 2010, Apple Inc had sales of over 20 billion dollars. Sorry to say that I got that information on my Blackberry, unfortunately, my I phone slipped out of my pocket on a flight to Las Vegas and “surprisingly” the cleaning crew never found it. I once forgot my tennis racket on the overhead bin and it wasn’t found either so I didn’t keep my fingers crossed in order to find my I phone.
How about Mark Zuckenberg and Eduardo Saverin from Chile, who started Face book and now it is worth billions? Some of you might have seen the movie Social Networks, so you know that Mark, through some legal maneuvers, separated Eduardo from the company but it is rumored that he sued and won a billion dollar settlement.
Eduardo, wherever you are, come and visit us in Puerto Rico. Wow, do we need your creativity and aggressiveness to help us get out of this comfort zone we are in.
Not all changes are good.
Do you remember the first Hispanic, a Cuban American chemist named Roberto Goizueta, that become President of Coca Cola when he, along with most talented entrepreneurs fled Cuba in the sixties?
Even though he was extremely successful and grew that company beyond everyone’s expectations, he did make a bad mistake: Substituting the regular Coke with a new flavor called the “new Coke”.
You could argue that not all changes are for the better. Hey, even I, a fanatic of change can accept that. But, even if a change is wrong or bad, it always teaches valuable lessons which sooner or later will prove valuable.
When the regular coke was taken off the shelves and the new coke replaced it, there was almost a revolt. The American public simply didn’t accept it and there were protests all over the country. People thought that their values were being attacked.
Well, the classic coke was re introduced and sales went up exponentially, so much that some people thought that Roberto did that on purpose. Hey, he was a brilliant guy, but not that brilliant. No one is that brilliant. Coca Cola did run focus and taste groups and for whatever reason, people liked it but when it came out, it seems they changed their minds.
During my career I have worked in industries that have seen remarkable change in the last thirty years.
Let’s take the office equipment industry. I was a witness to it when I spent a few years at Xerox Learning Systems, the training arm of Xerox. From one day to the next, our patents expired and a bunch of Japanese entrepreneurs stood outside the patent office in Washington D.C. and boughtthe patent for Xerography, Xerox’s secret to success. Yes, there is a law that says that after 17 years (it might have changed) your invention must go public.
The Japanese came back a year later with great machines at half the price. We had to re invent ourselves in a hurry and we did. Before giving up the patents, we had 77% of the world copier market, when the Japanese attacked, we got down to 12% more or less and after we adapted and embraced change, we got it back to 23% or so, again becoming the dominant company in the industry.
On a funny note, I was meeting with a couple of Xerox executives in Puerto Rico and we had a tremendous challenge in front of us: We had to sell 20 fax machines in the whole year.
How things change! Years later we sold more than 20 every day.
Now, the fax machine is an outdated piece of equipment. Now we are living in an increasingly paperless society: Email, the internet, the web, etc.
There are a few skills you need in order to survive an environment of change.
1. You must have vision. You must open your mind to new ideas and try to visualize what that idea will look like a few years later.
2. You must have thick skin because most people will attack you. Most people need to remain in their comfort zone and if you try to get them out of it, they will fight you and fight you hard.
3. Be willing to fail. I will never forget the speech given by James Cameron at TED.com; you might even be able to see it at their web site, when he said that he believed he had been successful because of curiosity, imagination and welcoming failure.
4. Be persistent. You can’t give up; you must try and try again until you start making progress.
5. Ask for help. No one can do it alone. No one can succeed alone. You need other people’s ideas, input, skills and advice from time to time.
We need change in our society if we are going to survive, let alone thrive, we must accept change.
Go back to your companies and ask a few questions:

1. Why are we doing it this way?
2. Could there be a better way?
3. What would happen if we start from scratch?
4. What is the up side?
5. What is the down side?
6. What if we stay put and don’t change, what could be the consequences?
7. Who in the team just doesn’t see it?At least you now have a little road map.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

If there is a Wiki leak, what would the Chinese say if there was a Wiki China?

If there is a Wiki leak, what would the Chinese say if there was a Wiki China?
As most people know, secrets from US embassies all over the world were splashed on front pages of world newspapers causing quite a deal of embarrassment to the Obama administration, especially Hillary Clinton.
What if China had a Wiki leaker and we could see what its embassy in the US was reporting about the United States.
The brilliant journalist and author of bestselling books Thomas Friedman recently wrote an article for the New York Times that I found fascinating.
In the article, he wrote a wiki leak report as if it had been sent by the Chinese Embassy in the US.
For example, he said that the Chinese would probably report the fact that the US is a deeply politically polarized country which would certainly be good to help China overtake the US economy, presently the world’s most powerful economy.
He said that the Chinese would probably detect a sense of self destructiveness in the air as if the US had all the time and money to be concerned with petty politics.
He makes the point that people are fighting over how and where an airport security officer can touch a passenger going through a security machine instead of worrying over more serious matters.
The US is fighting over the latest nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, and with the high stakes involved, I don’t see that as a negative. On the contrary, we need good negotiators to make sure that the deal is a win win otherwise it will not work.
Friedman sees the Republicans as being so interested in weakening President Obama that they are going to scuttle a treaty that could foster closer US Russian cooperation on issues like Iran. I may be wrong, but he should take into consideration that there are a few national security experts saying that as it stands now, the treaty is not a good one for the US.
Friedman makes a good point about the need to fix the structural problems we are facing now: a ballooning deficit, which has tripled under the present administration, declining educational performance, crumbling infrastructure and diminished immigration of new talent.
He makes a very interesting point and that is that Americans don’t travel abroad as much as they should and they are not aware of how fast the rest of the world is advancing.
I have the benefit of having to travel because of my career and having visited Germany, England, Switzerland and Hong Kong recently, I can honestly say that indeed, other countries seem to be taking the current state of world affairs a little more seriously than the average American is.
We have been fighting a war in Afghanistan for the last nine years with no end in sight. It costs us 190 million dollars a day, for goodness sake, to be able to just hold our own in that difficult territory.
We have spent billions in Iraq and there is not too much positive about it except that they got rid of a ruthless dictator. But there are ruthless dictators all over the world, one in particular, only 90 miles from the United States.
What are we to do now in North Korea? The US doesn’t have the capability to wage a third war and the South Koreans are counting on us backing them up if the lunatics running that regime decide to attack them once more.
Friedman says that most of the Republicans just elected to Congress do not believe what our scientists are telling us about manmade climate change. America’s politicians are mainly lawyers, not engineers or scientists as are many of the Chinese government officials, so they say crazy things about science and nobody challenges them.
This is good for the Chinese because it means that they will not support any bill to spur clean energy innovation which is central for the next five year Chinese plan. This means that the Chinese efforts to dominate the wind, solar, nuclear and electric car industries will not be challenged by the US.
I am not so sure about that. If we take a look at the Volt and other American electric cars ready to be unveiled, we can see that the American automobile industry is taking this new wave very seriously.
Friedman’s final point is that record numbers of US high school students are now studying Chinese, which should guarantee China a steady supply of cheap labor that speaks Chinese as they use their 2.3 trillion in reserves to quietly buy up US factories.
He sums it up by saying that things are going well for China in America and the Chinese should be very happy that the world can’t read their diplomatic cables.
Before finishing the article, just a little note about Julian Assange. He is a very interesting individual; in deep trouble now with several law enforcement agencies, but nonetheless an interesting character.
He has disclosed more classified documents than the rest of the world combined. That is no easy thing to do. He uses whistle blowers, state of the art encryption to bounce stuff around the internet so as to hide trails, and pass it around legal jurisdictions such as Sweden and Belgium to enact legal protections. He gets information in the mail, the regular mail, encrypted or not, vet it like a regular news organization, format it, which is in reality very hard to do since they work with giant databases of information, release it to the public and then defend themselves against the inevitable legal and political attacks.
What drives Julian?
As many of my readers know, I have spoken at TED twice and Julian participated in a TED conference in 2010. In his TED interview, he was very candid about his upbringing, having gone to 37 schools during his childhood because of his parents being in business and running away from a cult.
He said that his core value, what drives him to do what he does, is the fact that” capable generous men don’t create victims, they nurture victims”.
I don’t agree with everything he is doing and I think that he himself is creating victims and going against his core values but at the same time, he is a man with passion, doing what he believes is right.

Why most changes fail in an organization

Why most changes fail in an organization
It is well known that a big percentage of all major changes in organizations all over the world, fail. Some say the figure is as high as 70 to 80 percent.
Those are serious statistics.
I have just done a search on Amazon.com for change management and there are 13,366 books addressing the issue.
Change has been a big subject in the world of management for quite some time. Besides all the books written, consulting companies have created change management practices and boutique firms have sprung up just to deal with change.
It is difficult to imagine a manager in any company who has not taken part in some change management training, coaching session or told to read some change management books.
Almost at the end of 2010 it would be natural for you to think that we must be very good at implementing change in organizations.
The fact is we are not. Not in large, medium or small companies, in government departments or even in sports teams.
Why? Why is change so difficult to achieve?
I have worked with many executives and companies throughout my career on how to lead change. And I find that most people know what it takes to plan and implement change in their companies but that knowledge doesn't translate into action.
Something gets in the way of converting all that information or knowledge of change into effective action steps. Jeff Pfeffer, a specialist on change and author of several books coined the term “the knowing-doing gap” to describe the enormous gap between what managers know and what they actually implement on the job.
This my friends, is a very costly gap and things might be getting worse. Most higher level executives you ask say that there is a growing discrepancy between expecting change and being able to create, implement or manage it.
With each failed initiative, cynicism builds making the next try even harder to sell. And each failure means failed opportunities and false beginnings with a lot of time and resources going into trying to manage resistance and indifference something that many organizations can’t afford, especially in a difficult economic environment.
In this article we can review three reasons why change initiatives fail:
1. Managers assume that understanding change and what needs to be done will automatically bring on support and commitment. I get a kick when I interview managers and they tell me that the power point presentation about the change initiative was very good and they are certain that employees understood it.
They don’t understand that people will only make or ask “safe” questions and that all the reservations and fears that they have, will go underground and will be discussed in hallways or in the lunch room.
Failure to make a compelling case for change and to communicate it in an effective way is one of the biggest reasons why the change effort will fail or will be derailed.
2. Miscalculate the tremendous power of employee and management commitment.
Most changes in companies are forced on people. Management and employees are told that things are tough, that the company is losing money or that there are opportunities that must be seized immediately or they will disappear. They are commanded on what to do to meet this challenge, when it will begin, what are the goals and what is expected of them. This of course doesn’t work because the managers and staff weren’t involved in the plans or ideas that need to be implemented. They don’t feel like they are part of the solution. The people that will implement change must be involved from the beginning.
The Gallup organization did a study and found that in average organizations the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 1.5 to 1. In world class companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft etc. the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is about 8 to 1. Actively disengaged employees, those that don’t row or even row against, grind down an enterprise’s bottom line while sucking away the motivation and positive attitude of employees in the process. This will cost companies billions of dollars in lost productivity. You might one to ask yourself the question: What is the ration of engaged versus disengaged employees in my company?
3. Fail to understand the power of fear.
Fear of change is a personal matter. We all have different personalities and there are people that can accept change and even welcome it and there are others that go through a tough time facing change. People worry that they will lose their jobs or that their careers will be derailed.
This personal fear can defeat the organization’s need to change. When people are afraid, their understanding or ability to absorb information goes down dramatically. In other words, they can’t even hear what we are talking about even if they want to.
If they are not only afraid but also lack trust it gets even worse. It is very clear that if people don’t trust their managers, why will they follow them. The answer is that most won’t.
It is important to understand that with a rapidly changing economy, in fact, with a rapidly changing world companies need to change or they will perish.
If you communicate the change effort in an effective manner, if you clearly explain the need for change, the present circumstances and you involve everyone on the change effort, your chances will increase.
You must understand that it won’t be easy, you must know the personalities of the people involved and you must commit to the change effort one hundred per cent.
Failure to do this will be another setback and the next initiative will be met with even more resistance.

Pursuing your dreams, one applied idea at a time

Pursuing your dreams, one applied idea at a time.
I am sitting in the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica waiting to board my flight to Miami and then on to Los Angeles, finishing the trip in Hong Kong.
I have been invited to speak at the Asia Consciousness Conference, an event sponsored by a university in Hong Kong and also to speak at another conference titled “Reignite”, whose title called my attention from the beginning.
I have never been in Hong Kong so I am really looking forward to it. I don’t know how many people will attend; my fee will depend on attendance, since I get a percentage, plus book sales, but in reality, visiting a foreign city, meeting people and making connections is more valuable than what I can make out of the conference, in the long run. In fact, I had to turn down a speaking engagement in Mexico in order to attend this conference.
This means that in my personality profile, the security need is very low since I am willing to take some risks.
The conference here in Costa Rica took place at the Cariari Hilton and it was a meeting of Human Resources professionals from all over Central America.
I really love speaking to Human Resources people, they are so open, and they are so enthusiastic that it is a pleasure to be involved in their events.
I covered a few principles in my talk but one of the most important ones was the fact that we are all one applied idea away from making it big in whatever field we work in.
I believe knowledge is power but what is really true is that applied knowledge is power because if you know and you don’t do, you don’t know.
You might have a hundred ideas in your life time, or a thousand, but if you do not apply them, if the idea is not followed with action, your idea goes to waste.
I gave them several examples. I told them how flying from San Juan to New York, and reading the book Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman. There was one page, only one page out of three hundred or so pages dedicated to the marshmallow experiment.
Out of that page, I got the idea of writing the book Don’t Eat the Marshmallow Yet which is now a worldwide best seller with over 2 million copies sold.
How many people read the book, went by the marshmallow page and kept on reading?
One single idea, in this case, writing the book and my career went to a new level.
I spoke about Jeff Betzos, a kid raised in Miami, American mother, adopted by a Cuban American, Miguel Betzos who did such a good job raising him that Jeff changes his last name to Betzos.
This guy had a well paying job in Wall Street and he had one idea, one big idea. Start the largest bookstore in the world. He left everything in order to pursue that idea and look at what has happened.
By the way, the first name he chose for his business was Cadabra, Inc and it was not until one day when he got a call from his lawyer and he mis pronounced the name Cadabra for Cadaver that he had the bright thought of changing the company name.
He then named it Amazon, because it starts with A, so it is high up in directories and because the Amazon River is ten times bigger than any other river in the world and he wanted a bookstore ten times bigger than any other bookstore in the world.
His dream became reality after very hard work and perseverance.
How about Ralph Lauren? He had one idea, change his name. His name is now famous all over the world and we all have, well, almost all of us have had a Ralph Lauren product during our lifetime. How much could he have sold with his original name, Ralph Lifshitz? Good for him for realizing that his real last name wasn’t that hot.
How about the policeman in Providence, Rhode Island, a fellow named Tony Lapore, who working as a traffic cop, was so different, so original that he became a celebrity, by just directing traffic and now he is no longer a policeman and has a great career as an entertainer?
There are so many examples.
The point is that you must pursue your dream and you must not allow anyone to destroy it. We are surrounded by piranhas, by negative people who want to pull you down and prevent you from reaching your dream. Sometimes it is on purpose; other times they are well meaning people who simply are very negative.
You must not give permission to anyone to put you down or decide whether you have what it takes it or not.
Guess what? I have to board the plane. So, I am glad that I was able to write over 800 words, so my editors at the Puerto Rico Daily Sun won’t be mad.
Let’s see how Hong Kong goes and I will let you all know about it.

Interesting observations in the fascinating world of sports

Interesting observations in the fascinating world of sports.
This past week was one where three major sports, baseball, basketball and baseball, were all going on at the same time. Yes, I know that there is also soccer, boxing, horse racing, car racing and many others, but those three seem to be the most important ones in our part of the world, although after this last world soccer cup championship in South Africa, soccer is coming on strong.
It is so interesting how experts can be so wrong in the world of sports. Everyone I talked to said that the finals would be between the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies, and now we all know that they were eliminated by the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants. Ultimately, the Giants won it all.
My cousin Jorge Posada who plays for the Yankees must be devastated; I have been on the road and haven’t contacted anyone on the Posada side of the family.
Two-hundred twenty-nine (229) players on Opening Day rosters and disabled lists were born outside the 50 United States in the Major Leagues.Overall, 28.0 percent of the 818 players (748 active 25-man roster players and 70 disabled or restricted Major League players) on April 5th rosters were born outside the 50 United States, representing 15 countries and territories. The all-time highs occurred in 2005, when 29.2 percent (242/829) of Opening Day players were foreign-born, and in 2007, when 246 players were born outside the U.S., totaling 29.0 percent of all players. Last season, 239 players from a pool of 855 were foreign-born, also totaling 28.0 percent.The Dominican Republic has produced the most Major Leaguers born outside the U.S. with 81. Venezuela (52) and Puerto Rico (28) have the next highest totals, followed by Mexico (14); Canada and Japan (13 each); Cuba (7); CuraƧao and Panama (4 each); Australia and Korea (3 each); Colombia, Nicaragua and Taiwan (2 each); and the Netherlands (1).
Why then there is not one single player from Haiti, which shares half the island with the Dominican Republic or from Brazil which shares a border with Venezuela and has over 190 million inhabitants? In 161 years, no player has ever come from Brazil or Haiti. Why?
The answer lies in the history of baseball in these countries, not in their racial composition, inborn traits, economic position or climatic factors.
Baseball was introduced in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in the late 19th century; it became very popular in both places and soon came to be regarded as both countries national sport, even though in most other countries in Central and South America, soccer is the number one sport.
Cuba in the 1950’s before Castro came to power and ruined the country, the majority of foreign players were Cuban and because of the proximity between the US and Cuba (only 90 miles) baseball was also the national sport. Today, there are only 7 and most of them escaped Cuba in order to play.
In the Dominican Republic and in Venezuela, Major League Baseball has opened academies due to the fact that there is a loophole that allows foreign players to be imported for less money than drafting domestic ones. At present, every Major League team funds an academy and summer league in the Dominican Republic and as of now, before President Chavez follows the Cuban model and stops it, Venezuela has 19 developmental facilities in Venezuela. Because of crime, violence and political turmoil, only 9 are still active.
Football is also a very interesting sport.
I used to follow the Miami Dolphins from Puerto Rico and years ago they had a punter named Reggie Roby. He was one of the best punters to ever wear a football uniform, doing it so efficiently that he turned a defensive play into an offensive weapon. Unfortunately Reggie passed away about 4 years ago and he is remembered as a great punter but also as an anomaly in the sport. He was an African American.
In all of NFL history, only five non white men have punted in regular season games. In that 62 year period, there have been 287 NFL punters and yet not one Asian, not one Latino or Hispanic and only five blacks.
How do we account for that serious under representation, when the fact is that more than two thirds of the NFL players are African American?
Why haven’t more African American players taken advantage of their physical strength to punt a ball farther than any white man?
No one is making the case that white people have an anatomical age in punting a freaking football. No one says that Black men can’t kick. Not one single person has said that because there are more poor Black people, Whites have taken over punting and that minorities have no access to football fields, good coaching and enough time to practice.
The other responses we might hear, and they are not true at all, are mainly generic: genetic advantage, economic need, discrimination, lack of access to facilities, lack of role models, geography, politics or whatever.
I have a cousin in Orlando that is a great pole vaulter. She is a candidate to win the Florida championship next year when she becomes a junior in High School. There are no African American vaulters in her school. When we look at the men’s side, we can see that there practically no African American pole vaulters either, yet they dominate the hurdles.
Twenty nine of the top 50 male 110 meter hurdlers of all time are American Blacks, yet only one of the top 50 pole vaulters, a guy named Lawrence Johnson, belongs to this ethnic group.
What explains such a disparity?
How come Russian women dominate the 20k walking race (having the top 11 and 26 of the top 50) and they almost disappear from the half marathon, having only one athlete in the top 50.
Why do East African (Kenyan, Ethiopian, Tanzanian) women dominate the half marathon (26 of top 50) but in the 20k walking race there are none in the top 100?
Why aren’t Russian women running or East African women capturing medals in walking events?
Why do African Americans dominate football, basketball (over 75% of NBA players are black) and track but barely show up in bowling, gymnastics, table tennis, race walking, volleyball, wrestling, X games, youth soccer, the pole vault, the high jump, the triple jump, punting, place kicking, pitching and catching. (Three percent of MLB pitchers are African American. Right now, I don’t think there is even one black catcher in the Major leagues)
Now look at this: India and Pakistan have been extraordinary achievers in field hockey. At all six Olympics, according to sports writer Steven Sniderman, India won gold medals in field hockey, winning 24 matches without a defeat. After Pakistan and India were split, one country or the other won the gold in five of the next seven Olympics. Yet, these two huge countries, with over 1.3 billion people between them, have won only one other gold medal (shooting 2008) in the entire history of the Olympics.
The only other medal these countries have won in a sport which requires running is tennis, in which Leander Paes won a bronze in 1996; (I was there), long after India’s field hockey dominance had dried up.
How can South Asians so thoroughly dominate one sport that requires speed, stamina, teamwork and strategy, and be so inept at every other sport that recompenses these qualities?
There are so many more examples, too numerous to cover in one single article.
I think the answer to these questions lie in culture, on the willingness to practice a given sport and dedicate the thousands of hours that are needed to succeed in any sport.
The jury is still out, I do hope that someone especially in the sports world, leads the effort to study why these differences in the world of sport. I would love to see the results.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

How Starbucks has changed the world of coffee and what you can learn from it.

How Starbucks has changed the world of coffee and what you can learn from it.
Last week I finally decided to buy a Starbucks card, a card that you deposit money in it and then every time you go to the store and use it, it will keep track and soon, after the fifth visit I think, you start earning some food items.
I had resisted for a long time to buy that darn card, but after visiting Starbucks and consuming some of their products, I finally decided that I was missing out on getting free drinks, coffee or whatever.
My favorite is the Java Chip Frappucino, Venti and now that they offer it fat free, I order the “light” which is their code word for non fat. I do this to kid myself, or at least to lower my caloric intake since I always order the chocolate brownie to go along the Frappucino.
What I do is the same thing that millions of people all over the world do every single day.
Even though this type of success is attributable to a team, the one man responsible for this is a guy named Howard Schultz. This man is the visionary who single handedly changed the way people drink coffee all over the world.
This success is the result of a big idea that became a reality for a young boy who was raised in Brooklyn, New York in a housing project, another name for a very poor neighborhood.
I tell people all over the world that I worked for Xerox for six or seven years and I believe that what I learned in that company had a lot to do with the results I have had in my life.
I am very proud to say that Howard was hired by Xerox and he went through our Sales training program which at the time was the best in the world. In Xerox University in Leesburg, Virginia, he learned all about selling skills, presentation techniques, and marketing and went out into the streets to make forty to fifty cold calls a day. That my friends, is a tough thing to do and yet Howard remembers his days at Xerox and I can quote what he said: “Cold calling was a great training for business. It taught me to think on my feet. So many doors slammed on me that I had to develop thick skin and a concise sales pitch”.
This is an important lesson for all of us. All the experiences we go through in our life, will serve us sooner or later. We accumulate knowledge and skills and when we least expect it, we will be using it to further our career and get us closer to our goals.
Very surprising to me, he left Xerox, a heck of a company, to join a virtually unknown Swedish company named Perstorp, where he rose through its ranks to land a position as head of US operations for its Hammarplast house wares subsidiary. It was working at that company that he discovered a little tiny retailer in Seattle named Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice Company. This company was buying an unusually large amount of drip coffeemakers and Howard decided to see what was going on.
He describes his visit to the store as “the minute the door opened, a heady aroma of coffee reached out and drew me in…By the third sip, and I was hooked”. On the flight back to NY the next day, he couldn’t stop thinking about Starbucks.
Look at what he tells us: “I believe in destiny. At that moment, flying 35,000 feet above the earth, I could feel the tug of Starbucks. There was something magical about it, a passion and authenticity I had never experienced in business”. I don’t believe in destiny, but I do believe in recognizing an opportunity when it presents itself, in reality, nothing to do with destiny, but this is not the point.
He decided that he wanted to work for that company, and doggone, he was going to do whatever it took to convince them to hire him. It took over a year to convince Starbuck’s owner, Jerry Baldwin, to hire Schultz. Using the Xerox sales skills, specifically how to overcome objections, he was able to be to overcome Jerry’s biggest objection that had to do with Howard’s vision and style which could clash with the culture of that little tiny retailer.
Clash it did, and in a big but positive way.
He took a huge pay cut and a very small equity share as one of its owners to join Starbucks.
But as he has declared in interviews, “for my part I saw Starbucks not for what it was, but for what it could be”.
Have you been in a position where you have to look farther down the road to identify opportunities that are not seen in your present situation? Are you capable of doing that? It is one of the most important skills in this competitive world we are living in. Be able to identify possibilities not seen by everyone else at the present time.
When Howard joined Starbucks, they only sold coffee beans, not coffee by the cup. I tell you, you can’t make up this stuff. Can you imagine Starbucks today and think that they didn’t sell you a cup of coffee.
It was during a trip to Italy that Howard experienced the coffee bar experience of neighbors getting together to share a cup of espresso and conversation, probably about politicians, the crime rate or the state of the world and it was then and there that he had his big idea: Starbucks had to change because it had missed the point, totally missed the point. What they needed to do was take advantage of the personal relationship that people could have with coffee, its social aspect. He said “I couldn’t believe that Starbucks was in the coffee business, yet was overlooking so central an element of it”.
Well, guess what happened? He goes back to the US, all fired up and enthusiastic about his new vision for the company, and he hit a wall. The owners didn’t get it. They didn’t see the company as a restaurant and felt that becoming one, would betray the mission they had when they opened the business.
Perseverance always wins, well, almost always. In Howard’s case it won. After a year, they gave him permission to sell espresso coffee in one of their stores, a little 300 square foot store that didn’t even have one chair for anyone to sit on. Well, it got packed with clients and by the time the tired employees closed the store, they had doubled the amount of customers of its best performing store in their chain.
And, you know what? In spite of this, the owners simply couldn’t change. They still stuck to their old idea and he hit a brick wall. They probably allowed him to do it because they thought he was going to crash. He didn’t and they were in a bind.
This is when men and women prove themselves. This is when adversity hits you on your face and whatever you do will determine whether you win or lose in life.
Quoting Howard: “This is my moment. If I don’t use this opportunity, if I don’t step out of my comfort zone and risk it all, if I let too much time tick on, my moment will pass. I knew that if I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity, I would replay it in my mind for my whole life, wondering: What if? Why didn’t I” This was my shot. Even if it didn’t work, I still had to try it”.
Go and take a pair of scissors and cut out this quote and paste it in front you in your desk, your refrigerator or wherever you can see it every single day. This way, when an opportunity presents itself, you will be ready to take the plunge.

Altruism or Profit? The case for surrogate women

Altruism or Profit? The case for surrogate women

I have just finished a radio interview in a Christian radio station. I found it very interesting that the host of the program researched me before I showed up; looking for any you tube videos I might have posted. Well, it turns out that, yes, I do have many you tube videos posted, some by me but many others by other people.
She saw one where I was interviewed and in that interview I had mentioned that I practice hypnosis in my early days when I co owned with my partner Guillermo Sardinas, the Institute of Hypnosis of Puerto Rico which later turned into Habitrol the combination of the words habit and control.
Since the interview was going to be about the difficult economic situation we are living in, I found it odd that the request was made.
I remember than in the old days, hypnosis was misinterpreted because of the negative connotation it had based on horror movies and ignorance about the subject. My partner Guillermo and I worked very hard educating doctors, dentists, psychologists and other professions in the positive use of hypnosis.
We opened up about six centers, two of them in the US which were the ones I had to take care of because of the language limitation of my partner.
When things were going great for my partner in Puerto Rico life threw us a curve. He died of a massive heart attack at the age of 36.
By that time I had already sold my two centers in the States and dedicated all my time to public speaking and consulting.
It turns out that Lili Marie, his oldest daughter and my God daughter is engaged in a very controversial practice, renting the body to a couple that can’t bear children.
First of all, let me say that I understand that this is a very controversial topic and I know that it will cause a lot of emotional reactions.
I believe that my God daughter has a right to do whatever she pleases with her body and in her case, she did it to help out a European woman who couldn’t bear children due to a tumor and removal of her ovaries.
She accepted this challenge at the age of 31 after having had three children of her own.
Yes, she did get paid for doing it, it is common practice in the US especially among wives of soldiers in the armed forces, but the desire to help women that can’t have children was present in her many years before she finally did it.
Being a psychologist, she obviously followed her Dad’s work and mine, she has this innate desire to help others psychologically and in this particular case, to help a couple have a much desired baby.
It is interesting that she just loves being pregnant and believes that God has given her the ability to have a healthy body to procreate. When she is pregnant she leads a normal life, plays tennis, swims, and goes shopping, to the movies and in fact, she believes she gets healthier.
Her Doctoral thesis that she just completed was titled “ Renting bellies: A study of Puerto Rican Women.
Her healthy pregnancies would contrast with the pain she suffered knowing that other women that loved to have a child simply couldn’t. She had a close friendship with a couple that couldn’t have children and for the first time offered to help them have the child through her.
In the end, the lack of knowledge or the negative reaction of society, who knows, dissuaded the couple from carrying out the pregnancy.
Later on, her then husband entered the US Navy and they relocated to California. It was there that she read an ad from a company that recruited surrogate mothers and she answered the ad
The wives of enlisted soldiers, according to a survey by surromomsonline.com, comprise 19% of all surrogate mothers in the United States. The main reason is that they have military insurance that covers their expenses. Most, if not all private insurance companies don’t cover the pregnancy if they find out it is a surrogate pregnancy.
Lili Marie went through a battery of tests and the hormonal treatment to make sure that she was able to carry out the pregnancy and after two tries, she was successful in giving birth to a baby boy and a baby girl. The biological parents were present during childbirth and stayed in the hospital until it was time to take the babies home. A few days later, they attended the birthday party of one of Lili Marie’s sons. They keep in touch constantly through email and they haven’t told their children the truth or anyone else, because in the country where they are from it is illegal to do this and they would get into big trouble.
My Goddaughter is now afraid that law 1568 which prohibits this practice in Puerto Rico passes and she is actively opposed to it and doing everything she can to help defeat it.
She believes that not being able to give birth is a sickness and that just like other conditions people must be treated and in this case helped to conceive babies. She believes that in Puerto Rico certain parameters should be established to make sure that it is done responsibly but that what must not happen it to criminalize the practice.
She says that “it should be regulated to a certain extent, to facilitate it, not to limit it.”
She doesn’t believe in the arguments against renting your belly. “It is not exploitation” she says, “It is providing a service. You are not selling the baby because the baby belongs to the biological parents that have the infertility problem, the surrogate mother simply carries the baby in her belly”.
She believes that what drives women to carry babies for other women is altruism even though there is money involved, and because of it, it is very clear to the surrogate mother that the baby doesn’t belong to her but to the couple.
Scientific advances will always bring up ethical questions and what we as a society must do is to analyze the pros and cons and then make the appropriate decisions.
Lili Marie Sardinas is a leader and she is entitled to fight and defend what she thinks is right.
What we must always do is respect her right to do so.

The chilean miners are safe, now what?

The Chilean miners are safe, now what?
I must confess that I have been glued to the drama unfolding in Chile in regards to the miners that were trapped seven blocks beneath the surface. Where it not for my busy schedule, I would have gone to Chile to be present when they finally were rescued after 69 days in the darkness of a cave. Luckily, technology allows the whole world to be present through the wonders of television or the internet and I am sure that hundreds of millions saw the moment when the first miner came out.
By the way, it is so interesting to see how personality plays such a big role in the way you behave. The first miner out, Florencio Avalos, father of two children, is a timid introvert. He comes out of the mine and hugs his wife and child, very low key. His lovely little kid was crying, very excited to see his father after such a long time and such difficult circumstances.
The second miner rescued, Mario Sepulveda, is an extrovert and he emerged from the mine shaft looking like a cheerleader, joking with workers, pumping his fists, jumping up and down in front of reporters and the first question he asked his wife was “How is the dog?”
The cluster of tents assembled in the Atacama Desert, that captured the world’s attention and their hearts, for more than 60 days, will be torn down. I wonder if they should have kept it as a tourist attraction.
Can you imagine the amount of people all over the world that would sign up for a tour to the exact place where those miners were trapped? I wonder also how many would sign up to go down into the mine using the same equipment that brought the miners up. How long before the cost of the equipment is recouped and they start making money?
This whole ordeal demonstrated the greatness of Chile as a country. They are now a first world country, probably the only one in Latin America. The way they handled the whole incident was simply superb and they should really be congratulated.
Why not continue to expose their success by opening it up for tourists? Anyway, food for thought.
So, now the lives of those 33 miners will never be the same. New jobs, vacations to exotic places, invitations to meet with president, probably opportunities to meet with presidents of other countries, movie and book deals will probably await them.
The team of psychologists assembled to treat the miners will have their hands full, I can assure you. That sudden change of lifestyle for miners that were used to making $1,600.00 a month, the fame and the extra money that it will bring, could be difficult to handle.
They will be admired and praised for their perseverance and will be showered with gifts and money and they have weeks if not months of parties and events ahead of them, including weddings which were postponed because of the accident and joyful meetings with babies born during that time.
But, believe me, there soon will be a reality check after all the hype goes away and then and there, is when they will need the most help.
The very happy extrovert, Mario Sepulveda, when he went to the hospital, one of the Doctors treating him said that Sepulveda told him about an internal “fight with the devil” that he experienced when he was trapped inside the mine. Dr. Guillermo Swett also mentioned that the youngest miner rescued, 19 year old Jimmy Sanchez, appeared to be having problems coping with the whole situation and seemed to be exhibiting early signs of depression.
The oldest miner rescued, Mario Gomez corresponded regularly with his sister and she said that from the letters it seemed that her brother was close to a breaking point before the rescue. He is the sickest of all the miners, until now, with a case of pneumonia and the moment he got out of the mine, he dropped to his knees in prayer.
Then we have the case of Yonni Barrios.
A trained paramedic, Barrios previously took care of his elderly diabetic mother. Inside the mine, he became a very valuable resource because of his medical knowledge. While trapped underground, he administered medicine to the miners and vaccinated them against the flu. Some of the miners called him "Dr. House," after Hugh Laurie's character in the Fox program which is popular in Chile
It turns out that Barrios had a secret life. He was a bad boy and now he has to pay for the consequences. He might have been very successful cheating on his wife but the accident blew his whole romantic life apart.
Marta Salinas, his wife, first sensed something was up when she discovered another woman was also inside the camp, anxiously waiting for Barrios. The discovery prompted a fight, a war of words between the two women. The mistress, Susana Valenzuela, said she had met Barrios on a training course a few years earlier, and that he was planning to leave his wife for her. Imagine, under these circumstances, for a wife to find out about something like this. Salinas said Valenzuela had "no legitimacy" and refused to address her by name. At the beginning, she stuck with her husband, in spite of his infidelity. She said: "[Barrios] is my husband. He loves me and I am his devoted wife,"
What is very interesting is that when Yonni found out that both his wife and mistress were in the camp waiting for him, he asked both women to be on hand to greet him, like a nice happy family.
It seems that he forgot that he married a woman of principle and she decided that she didn’t want to be a part of it and left the camp. In fact, this is what she said before the rescue:
"He asked me to come, but it turns out he also invited the other woman and I have decency, “This is very clear: It's her or me."I'm happy because he was saved. It's a miracle from God. But I won't attend the rescue."
When Dr. House came up, he fell into the arms of Susana Valenzuela, his 50 year old mistress.
I remember a very old electrician friend of mine when I was a high school student at Sacred Heart Academy in Santurce and I worked as a messenger in Mueblerias TarTak, who once in a while sat me down to give me advice he had learned at the university of hard knocks, another way to say the university of life. “If you have a mistress, make sure that if you are ever caught, you won’t mind spending the rest of your life with that woman”.
I wonder if Yonni wants to spend the rest of his life with his mistress or with his wife, but he sure will need to make a decision very soon. He has been married to Susana Salinas for 28 years which is a very long time.
Unfortunately, Yonni’s case is not unique. At least five wives, as of now, there might be others, have found themselves dealing with mistresses at the rescue site. There might be other mistresses that had more self respect and didn’t show up. Some of these women will now fight for the compensation offer to the miners. In fact, one miner is said to have four women fighting over him.
Another hero, in my opinion, is Manuel Gonzales, an employee of Chile’s state cooper company. He was the first rescuer to volunteer to go down into the mine shaft at the start of the relief operation. Mind you, he volunteered, on his own free will, to risk his life to save others. He went down and supervised the operation inside the mine with two other volunteers, and he was the last one to come out.
Even as they were all celebrating after he came out, he brought up the subject of mine safety with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. He said to him “I hope that things will be done correctly...especially dealing with mining concerns that things be done right. This is what I want”.
A long investigation is already under way to inquire into what in the hell prompted 700,000 tons of rock to collapse the San Jose mine on Aug. 5, trapping all these men. Top government regulators have already been fired and at least 18 smaller mines have been closed for safety violations. Even President Pinera acknowledged that the mine "never should have functioned as it was functioning. It had a long history of violations." This could become a hot political issue for Pinera, whose country gets 40 percent of its earnings from the mining industry. The conditions that allowed the mine to collapse "will not go unpunished," said the President, who is Chile's first center-right leader in a generation and a target for the Chilean left who hate having a billionaire entrepreneur as president of the country.
My friends, this story will be around for a very long time and I dare to say it will be extremely interesting.

The five pitfalls of business failure and what to do about it

The Five pitfalls of business failure and what to do about it.

The Small Business Administration tells us that two thirds of new businesses survive at least two years and almost 45% survive at least four years. A few years ago, when I did some work for Kent State University out of Detroit, the figures we used were 50 per cent fail within two years and hear this, 95 percent fail within five years. I think we have come a long way, although since we are now going through difficult economic times, more businesses are failing. Some are thriving, which tells us that if you look for the right opportunity, it doesn’t matter what the economy is doing.

If someone opens a business, it is because they strongly believe that they are going to be successful. If this is the case, why do so many businesses fail? I am certain that there are many reasons but I will only look at five important ones in this article.

People sometimes start new businesses for the wrong reasons. It is very common for you to ask someone why he or she started a business and the answer might be “to make a lot of money. Other reasons given are to be independent, to not have a boss, to do what you want to do etc. These are not good reasons to start a business. How about starting a business because you have a passion for what you will be doing. You have identified a real need in the marketplace that you can meet and meet it well. You are persistent and have lots of discipline, two essential characteristics that if you lack, it is impossible to succeed. You keep your promises and you care for your client’s welfare.

Poor Management. This might be the number one reason people fail in business. New business owners usually know how to do the task that they will be doing in the business rather well. They are good hair stylists, or good cooks or good salespeople but they lack essential business and management expertise in areas such as finance, inventory control, production, purchasing, hiring and many others. If you don’t have expertise in these areas, you either have to acquire it before you open the business or you have to hire the right people to help you. You need a good business and marketing plan. If you need to borrow money, no banker will give you money unless you have a good business plan. The banker wants to make sure he or she will be repaid and your business plan must prove that you will be able to do so.

Not enough capital. This is almost always a fatal mistake. Business owners often underestimate how much money they will need in order to be successful in the business. I made that mistake myself years ago when I opened the Better You Center, a center to help people lose weight and stop smoking and on my opening day I didn’t have any more money. All my money was spent in getting the place ready to open. Luckily I was able to sell it right away.

Location, location, location. In the case of restaurants, retail stores, businesses that need to be found by clients, location is very important. If your business can be done electronically or through the internet, location is irrelevant.

Not having a web site, having a lousy web site or having a web site that no one can find. If you have a business today, you need a good web site that can be found by your prospects where ever they are. In the U.S alone, a very large per cent of the population uses the internet and sales have surpassed billions and billions of dollars. In Puerto Rico, there is also high internet usage and is growing very rapidly. I am convinced that every business should have the ability to sell through its web site. People must be able to find your site, navigate through it easily and then go to a shopping cart in order to make the purchase. A couple of years ago, you needed to have a merchant account and it was sort of complicated to set the whole thing up. Now a day, you can use a service called Pay Pal and everything is taken care of for you. They simply charge you a per transaction fee. Go to www.paypal.com and take a look.

Now, let me share with you a secret. In one of my seminars I asked the attendees: What is the most important factor for a business to be successful?

I got lots of answers to the questions, all of them wrong. Some said a great idea, a good location, a good product, good employees, a good marketing campaign, a good advertising campaign, good prices, etc. etc. etc.

Although these are important factors, no one mentioned the most important factor. And that is: CLIENTS. And you, the business owner, are responsible to find them, sell them and keep them.

The touch road to happiness

The tough road to happiness
Yesterday, I stood in line at a gas station and when the gentleman in front of me was ready to pay, the attendant said to him “you are not very happy today”. The guy responded by saying that he was in a hurry, and that there was not much to be happy about.
When my turn to pay came, and I said “good afternoon”, the lady says to me, “I can tell you are happy” to which I responded, “of course I am happy, just waking up in the morning is cause for celebration, do you know how many people never wake up because they die in their sleep”?
She laughed and we continued our conversation for a while and said that she could feel the negative energy or the positive energy of people that go there to pump gas or shop.
Aristotle said “fulfillment and contentment are pathways to happiness” and he was right for the most part, although human beings face obstacles and situations that life throws in front of us but that luckily we can certainly handle or learn how to handle.
The great question, nurture or nature, still around since the beginning of mankind is now clearer than ever before. It is about a 50/50 split which means that 50 percent of your happiness quotient can be worked at, cultivated and developed by you and the other 50% is already set in your brain or hard drive as some like to call it.
I myself feel lucky because I have the happiness DNA, from my mother’s side of the family which makes it much easier to be happy because I already have 50% of the battle won.
So we can conclude that some people have a higher or lower happiness threshold than others but everyone can learn to increase the happiness factor by behaviors that can be implemented and practiced.
I must warn that it is not easy to change the way you think, especially since you have been thinking in a certain way your whole life. Remember, you are retraining thought processes that have been cemented in your brain and now you want to change.
You are not definitely going to change from a card carrying pessimist to an optimist in the next couple of hours, but you can definitely start, in a split second, to change one thought, one idea and that thought or idea can make you happier.
For example, if right now, even though you might consider yourself a pessimist or you are feeling unhappy, you can close your eyes, take a deep breath and think about a very happy moment in your life, no matter if it was many years ago, just think about that moment for a few seconds, at this particular moment that you are thinking about that, it is impossible to be unhappy. Even if you are chemically depressed, you can certainly feel less depressed.
One interesting technique to work your way to happiness is to understand what is standing in your way and then learn how to go around those obstacles.
Some people simply expect the worst all the time. They even defend that position by saying “if I expect the worst, then I won’t be disappointed”. The problem with this is that always imagining a bad outcome brings out negative emotions such as worry and fear, which in turn ignite the stress response that fills our bodies with cortisone and adrenaline. When this stress response is constantly turned on, it not only wears down your body’s immune system, but it also drains your chance of experiencing a positive feeling, like happiness. It would be rather difficult, maybe impossible to have a negative emotion and a positive emotion at the same time; I just can’t see how it can happen.
All you are accomplishing by worrying or forecasting something that in reality isn’t even happening and may actually never happen, is keeping the stress response mechanism turned on, thus not allowing you to enjoy whatever positive is happening at that very minute. In fact, we could say that you are cheating yourself out of happiness or at least the “happy” feeling you could be enjoying at the moment.
If you feel that you deserve to be happy and your lousy job, your horrible boss, your rebel kid or annoying wife (I have experienced this) is supposed to make you happy, I have got news for you. It won’t happen. Happiness is an internal thing, not an external one. There might be times when an outside event can make us feel better, but it is just a matter of time before we fall into unhappiness again, waiting for another external event to take us out of the unhappiness. You go out and buy a BMW, go shopping, or buy expensive clothes to make you feel better and for a while it works, but then, you go back down and of course, you are out of the money and maybe even in debt.
You can fall into an insatiable cycle that won’t ever result in long term happiness.
Think about it. People have the mistaken opinion that if terrible things happen to someone, that person would be miserable forever. It is a fact that people that who have had terrible things happen, do become rather unhappy momentarily, but eventually, they return to the level of happiness they had before or at least close to it.
In fact, happiness isn’t about our circumstances as much as we have been led to believe or have learned in the past.
The moment of truth is when you understand and internalize that happiness is your own responsibility. You must turn your focus within. Answer questions such as what are my strengths, who am I, what unique gifts I have, how am I contributing to society, how am I making my family happy, how can I become a better person?
When I am helping others, contributing to society or giving I feel better and happier.
This is probably, although I am not one hundred percent sure because the guy is dead, what Aristotle meant by the word fulfillment. It actually has nothing to do with another human being or as a matter of fact, anything else.
Your life, my life, anyone’s life will never be perfect. We must accept it as fact. Hey, the world is not perfect period, and if you insist in thinking that it can be perfect or that your life can be perfect, you are waging a losing battle.
If you are always in a state of displeasure, rejoicing in what is wrong with or missing from or negative about your life, you can’t be thinking about all the good things going on in your life.
So, a good technique is for you, to on a daily basis ask yourself three simple questions:
What am I grateful for today?
What good things happened to me today?
What am I satisfied about today or put differently, what positive feelings do I have for all the good that happened to me today?
If you say “nothing”, you may need professional help because there is always something good about your day. In fact, just making it home in one piece is already a positive thing.
Another effective technique is to fake enthusiasm. Yes, even if you are not feeling enthusiastic, fake it and soon you will believe it and you will become enthusiastic.
There is quite a bit of evidence that shows that regularly practicing happiness, simply asking yourself questions like those I discussed in this article, has been found to decrease feelings of depression, even in severely depressed people and to enhance the happiness factor in everyone else.

Suicide: A sad and very high cost to society

Suicide: A sad and very high cost to society.
I am speaking at the American Psychotherapy Association convention in Orlando and as I always do, I attend other sessions to see what is going on.
I decided to attend a session titled: The Last Goodbye: A forensic approach to Suicide Notes.
To say the least, it was a very interesting and surprising session.
In the US, someone commits suicide every 18 minutes and it ranks number 41 in the world, so imagine what happens in other countries. Puerto Rico, using 2008 statistics, ranks number 62. As the economy worsens, this figure will rise.
Belarus, Lithuania, South Korea, Kazakhstan, Japan, Russia, Guyana, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and Hungary at the top suicide countries in the world.
What causes people to kill themselves? How can anyone, do such a thing?
Well, there are many reasons: Depression, anger, revenge, drugs/alcohol, loneliness, relationship issues, disabilities, religious reasons and of course, financial problems.
A suicidal individual can only see one option. They think that suicide is the only solution for their real or perceived problem and nothing can be further from the truth.
Less than 40 percent of suicides leave a note. This is really something that affects their families and loved ones quite a bit, because they would like an explanation, they would like a message, anything from a loved one that has decided to take his or her own life.
There is a lady that lost her husband 19 years ago and he left no note. She is still looking for it since she can’t believe that he did that.
It is very interesting that over 90% of the murder suicides do leave a note. It seems that they do need to communicate a message after such a horrible action.
There are generally three types of suicide notes: Anomic, altruistic and egotistic.
The anomic note is left by a person that can’t cope with his or her circumstances. That person is in a tunnel vision state, can’t see solutions to his problem. It might be a simple problem such as owing some money but at that moment, they think that they will not be able to pay it back and they decide to end it all. Obviously, this is far from the truth.
The altruistic suicide is committed for a cause, for the greater good, rather than for the individual. An example of this is the suicide bombers who are mostly young people that have been persuaded that if they commit the act, they will go to heaven and enjoy the company of 7 or more virgins besides getting rid of the infidels in society.
It is a cause for alarm to see so many young people, from many different nationalities, fall for this type of indoctrination. It is such a shame.
I believe that the only way out is education. People need to be educated and that means a long road ahead.
The egotistic suicide is all about the person. It could be revenge, an impulse, a drug problem or a mental illness.
During the session, I was able to see several suicide notes.
: A well known poet, Vachel Lindsay killed himself in December 12, 1931 and his note said: “They tried to get me. I got them first”. He drank a bottle of Lysol.
Most people think that during holidays people kill themselves at a higher rate. Not so. June and July are the top suicidal months.
Las Vegas is the city in the US where most suicides take place. This must have something to do with gambling losses.
A favorite spot, for some crazy reason is the San Francisco Bridge. Since 2009, 31 people have jumped off. This bridge doesn’t have a suicide barrier as many bridges and buildings do. The city government hasn’t approved the barrier for aesthetic reasons; it wouldn’t look nice in the bridge. I tell you, reality is stranger than fiction.
Most families don’t want a death to be reported as a suicide even if there was a suicide note. It is natural since most, if not all, insurance policies do not pay the survivors if the person kills himself.
Others don’t want it reported because of religious reasons. There are religions that condemn a suicidal to an eternity in hell with no chance of getting out and people don’t want friends and family to know that their relative or friend will never go to heaven.
Some people that kill themselves because of a terminal illness, not wanting to go through the horrible pain that the illness would entail, and the suffering of their loved ones, decide to end it all. There is at least one State in the US that allows euthanasia and several countries in the world also allow it.
Years ago, visiting Las Vegas, one of my favorite cities, I went to a show of a very talented comedian, of Puerto Rican descent, named Freddie Prinze. A few days later, in a bout with depression, he shot himself with a small semi automatic pistol after a phone conversation with his wife. His business manager, Dusty Snyder tried to intervene, but couldn’t do it. He shot himself in the head. His family removed him from life support at the UCLA Medical Center the following day.
His note said: “I must end it. There is no hope left. I will be at peace. No one had anything to do with this. My decision totally” Signed Freddie Prinze. He then wrote a P.S which said “I am sorry. Forgive me. Dusty is here. He is innocent. He really cared”.
Well, although it was obviously a suicide, his family with a good lawyer and lots of money, took the case to court and in 1977 his death was ruled a suicide in a civil case.
There is a very disturbing trend going on right now. People are using social networks to communicate their plans to commit suicide. Face book is getting a lot of those and other network sites as well.
On October 6th 2009 Kevin McGee, former partner of British comedian Matt Lucas left the following message as a status update on Face book:
“Kevin McGee thinks death is much better than life”. He was discovered in his apartment hanging from the pole in his closet.
Thirty year old New York model/actor Paul Zolezzi committed suicide in Mount Pleasant Park, Brooklyn in February 2009. Police found his body hanging from the monkey bars of the playground.
Zolezzi left the following suicide note as a Face book status update:
“Born in San Francisco, became a shooting star over everywhere and ended his life in Brooklyn…And couldn’t have asked for more”.
It is interesting that years earlier, his father threw himself over the Golden Gate Bridge when Zolezzi was eight years old.
Last but not least, although a very sad event, a rather funny note by a guy named Bill.
His last words, written in a note were:
Dear Mary:
“I hate you”, Love, Bill
Suicide is a serious matte and besides causing great sadness, it hurts society in many ways.

The importance of accountability and how well you will do in life

The Importance of accountability and how well will you do in life.

Accountability is one of the important topics among business executives in this very competitive and “crises mode” environment we are living in.

If you are going to be an effective manager or executive, you must hold your people accountable or you will not be able to make it and will go out of business.

If you pay an employee $100.00 a day to simply pick a figure and you only get back $50.00 worth of results, the economics obviously won’t work out.

Some of you are parents. We all know that we are living in difficult times and our children now need us more than ever. Let’s face it, it is tough out there, kids are facing tough challenges and at such an early age in life, they may be having difficulties. You are here to help, to support, to give them hope and at least a path to follow. If you do your part, then it is your duty to hold the children accountable. If they don’t keep their promises, such as coming home at the agreed hour or developing a friendship with someone you know will hurt them and you have prohibited him or her to hand out with the person or even worse, if they are dumb enough to go into drugs or alcohol, you must, by all means, hold them accountable.

I know that there will be parents reading this article that will be thinking about excuses for not doing what I propose here. They will say that they work too hard, that they have to pay lots of bills, that they have the responsibility to put food on the table, etc. etc. etc.

Hey, stop that type of thinking. Your actions will come back to haunt you when your kids grow up and they get into trouble. In some cases they will turn into spoiled kids who will grow into spoiled adults who feel they are entitled to everything yet on the other hand, feel that they are not responsible for anything.

This, by the way, also happens to countries. Countries that give their citizens all kinds of monetary help, be it coupons or checks, in the long run will have a high percentage of the population that will think they are entitled to it and that won’t want to work.

Holding people accountable may sound dogmatic or narrow minded but hey, so is the law of gravity. It is simple, it is true and it acts upon any object you throw in the air. It is better to not go against the law of gravity and build a fence at the edge of the mountain before you build the hospital or the morgue at the bottom.
So, I tell all my clients that what gets measured gets done and when you hold people accountable, the good ones will float to the top and the bad ones will have to leave the company because they simply can’t hack it. Unfortunately, we're living in a time and a culture where many people don't know what it means to take responsibility. After all, what is really easy and keeps you inside your comfort zone is to blame everybody else for what's not working.

There are also excuse specialists. They are brilliant at making up excuses about why something has not been done. If they used that intelligence to solve problems and make things work, they will not need to make up excuses and they will do better in life.

The real successful people in life have the attitude of looking at every situation, as objectively as possible and then put their minds into solving the problem, making whatever work or making it better if possible.

Hey, this is not easy. Anytime you make an attempt to make things better or you offer creative solutions to solve problems, you will probably face the negativity champions that will tell you that it can’t be done, or will tell you that “yes, it can be done” to your face but then turn around and tell everyone else that you are nuts or that you are stupid. Some will even try to sabotage you and create roadblocks so that you fall flat in your face.

Why in the world would you want to go through all that trouble?

Because you are a winner! Because you assume responsibility and you are willing to be held accountable.
Successful people know that it takes guts, courage, to get out of their comfort zones, go through difficult times which almost always end sooner than you think, and wonder if they are doing the right thing, but they stick with it until they either make it or fall down. And, if they fall down, what do they do? Get up again.
You have never ever lost if you are willing to get up again. No one can accuse you of being a loser if every time you fall you get up; because that means that you are still in the game.

I will never forget a boxing match between Julio Cesar Chavez and an African American whose name I can’t remember right now. I literally mean it; Julio Cesar had lost every single round. He was tired, he was all bloodied yet he was still throwing punches. One of those punches hit the guy in the jaw and he fell down. He got up and the referee looked at him and raised three fingers in front of the guy. He must have asked the guy how many fingers was he holding up and the fighter must not have understood the question or maybe he didn’t know how to count, the thing is that he didn’t answer the question and there is a rule in boxing that if the fighter after having been knocked down doesn’t answer a question by the referee, he loses the bout.

Julio Cesar won and at that moment I realized that in life you simply can’t give up, because you might be very close to winning or your adversary might be very close to giving up and then you win.

One more thing: Responsible people take action, they do the stuff, and they don’t expect somebody else to do it. I don’t mean they don’t delegate. Sometimes you need to delegate and great managers are good at delegating and holding people accountable.
What I mean is that the best rewards go to the person who can get the job done without passing the buck to someone else or making excuses why the job wasn’t done.
The responsible manager, the responsible executive, the responsible employee does what needs to be done instead of expecting someone else to do it and they get results.

I know that some of you dear readers might be thinking that you just don’t have what it takes. You honestly believe you are not good enough or smart enough or intelligent enough. You really believe that others are better qualified than you to get the job done. Wrong thinking! Wrong attitude! Most people in history that have made a big difference have not been the smartest or most intelligent, they simply had the guts to try and they succeeded.

In an article by a psychologist named Arthur Zimmerman he quoted a speech given at The University of Southern California commencement ceremony by Chief Judge Alexander Saunders. It was quite a profound speech and I share it with you the same way Dr. Z shared it with us:
"As responsibility is passed to your hands it will not do to assume that someone else will bear the major burdens that someone else will demonstrate key convictions, that someone else will run for office, take care of the poor, visit the sick, protect civil rights, enforce the law, transmit value, and defend freedom. What you do not value will not be valued. What you do not remember will not be remembered. What you do not change will not be changed. What you do not do will not be done. You can, if you will, craft a new society. It's not a question of what to do, but simply the will to do it."
If you know a student, pass this article to him or her.

Incompetence and politics: A very bad combination

Incompetence and politics: A very bad combination
Let’s rationally think this through. There is no doubt that San Ignacio, along with Commonwealth-Parkway, Saint John’s, Robinson, Perpetuo Socorro and American Military Academy are among the best schools in Puerto Rico. I must have forgotten one or two and I am sure that some of our readers will write the opinion page and will tell us which schools I missed.
Among Universities in the United States, there are a few names that always comesup: Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Brown, Dartmouth, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania and I could go on and on. And I am sure I will also get a letter mentioning one I missed.
So, the Puerto Rican government, looking for a good candidate to head the Statistics Institute of Puerto Rico, found a fellow named Mario Marazzi Santiago.
Who is this guy?
Well, he graduated from San Ignacio, went on to Harvard to earn a Bachelors degree in Economics, goes to London to the School of Economics and gets his masters degree and then he earns a Doctorate in Cornell University.
That is a home run for the government of Puerto Rico. I can’t think right now, off the top of my head, of anyone in the whole island, with these qualifications. Not one person comes to mind.
What about experience?
He worked for the Federal Reserve System in Washington D.C as an economist before deciding to come to Puerto Rico and work for the government here.
Probably with a great desire to help his place of birth, Puerto Rico, he starts working for the Statistics Institute of Puerto Rico, a tiny, very tiny institute with a small 3 million dollar budget. Well, because of the crisis, it went down to 2 million and finally awarded one million dollars to work with.
He must be brilliant and educated but also a little bit crazy because he accepted.
He started working hard and very soon the results could be seen. He has trained about 200 statistics professionals in the government; he started a committee to coordinate statistics in Puerto Rico so now we have an instrument to be able to learn where information can be accessed and who is responsible for providing it.
He is also working on a Science and Technology survey, and a Buying Index for Manufacturers, which has never existed and manufacturers really need.
He worked on a Consumer price index where he was attempting to coordinate, to mesh the old index with the new one so that the economic activity of Puerto Rico could be measured in real terms.
He even mentioned that mortality rates for years have not been measured and that is something that must be done regularly
For example, not measuring mortality, especially the causes will provoke more deaths. That indicator is used to determine which services the people need, for diabetics, for cancer, strokes, aids, whatever the sickness. That data is also used to be able to acquire Federal Funds.
This young man wants to have information available for the people when they visit a government agency. And he has a good attitude and work ethic to make it happen.
It is absurd that when someone goes to one of the agencies to look for information, he is told that it is not available or that he or she must write someone a letter to get authorization to receive the information.
Public information is public, and it belongs to everyone. No one can be denied access to it.
He wants to change the attitude of protecting information. He finds here a culture of fear of sharing information when in reality; the only way to improve the statistics is if we develop a culture of sharing information among departments, so that all departments can determine where they can be of help.
He believes this “withholding culture” is our Achilles tendon. He says people don’t realize that sometimes the most basic and simplest piece of information can prevent chaos.
In private business and in government, statistics help make better decisions.
He offers a very good example in an interview with reporter Joanisabel Gonzalez of el Nuevo Dia.
Right now in a study, it shows that Puerto Rico has one computer for every one hundred persons while the Dominican Republic has two. If that information is seen by a foreign investor that specializes in electronics, he might decide that Puerto Rico is not a good place to invest. What makes it even worse is that the information is wrong. Puerto Rico indeed has more computers than the Dominican Republic.
Well, you have probably heard that sometimes the best employee is punished instead of praised. Sometimes when you do a good job, someone else doesn’t like it for whatever reason and you are fired.
Well, Marazzi got fired and according to him unjustly and without following the right procedures to fire him.
Seems like a political firing in a job that is not political.
Being a smart fellow, he decided to sue. He won’t lie down and take it; he will simply fight, because he might be smarter than the people trying to fire him.
We need guys like him; in fact, guys like him are our only hope for an intelligent and effective government. And he should be backed by everyone because when we all sit down, witness injustices and we remain silent, we become partners in that action and that is not good for us and for Puerto Rico.
I hope that the governor or someone in a position of authority intervenes and gives this public official the tools he needs to be able to do his job without fear of negative consequences.

Go for what you want in life or settle for less

Go for what you want in life or settle for less

If you want to take control of your life and get what you want out of life, you will have to stop making excuses. There are certain phrases that you will have to cut out of your vocabulary; “I don’t know; I don’t care; it doesn’t matter; so what”—and one that is now very popular among our younger people,” Whatever”.

We are so lucky in life to have choices and it is so sad to waste them. When you have a choice, even an unimportant or insignificant choice, behave as if you have a preference. Ask yourself, which is the better choice, what would help me the most right now, how can I take advantage of the best alternative?

Not being clear about what you want in life and not having the necessary focus needed to achieve your goals, is one of the reasons you might not have reached some of your most important goals in life.

Jack Canfield, a very well known author who I recently introduced in an event at the Puerto Rico Convention Center, tells us that years ago he took a workshop with a self-esteem and motivational expert.

I think there were 24 people in the session that first morning and they were directed to take a seat in one of the chairs in the room. There were large notebooks of different colors lying on every chair: Blue, Yellow and Red were the colors if I recall. On the chair he chose to sit, there was a yellow notebook and as he sat, he thought “I hate yellow. I wish I had a blue one”.

Then the speaker said something that Jack says changed his life forever. “If you don’t like the color of the notebook you have, trade with someone else and get the one you want. You deserve to have everything in your life exactly the way you want it.”

What a radical concept, he thought. He says that for over 20 years, he had not operated from that premise. He simply accepted things as they were and didn’t try to change them. If the speaker hadn’t offered that option, he would have kept the yellow notebook which he didn’t like.

So, he turned to the person immediately to his right and asked her if she wanted to switch her blue notebook for his yellow one. It turned out the lady’s favorite color was yellow.

It is amazing how that incident turned his life around.

Last week I did a leadership seminar in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for an eyeglass manufacturer based in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I had people from all over Latin America. After the session, a lady came up to me and said that one thing I had said had made her realize how her attitude was responsible for everything that was happening to her in life and not everyone else’s fault. She never took responsibility so was never able to change her circumstances.

That makes sense, if you attribute everything that happens to you to outside sources, then you have no control of anything and you won’t be able to change anything.

Let’s face it; it’s more probable that your attitude, rather than your aptitude, will determine your altitude in your life.

That was a breakthrough for the lady and hopefully, she will now be able to take her destiny into her own hands.

One of the best ways to begin clarifying what you really want out of life is to make a list of 10 things you want to do, 10 things you want to have, and 10 things you want to do before you die. This is a great first step in the right direction for you.

This is a great exercise to do with your loved ones. What do they really want? Is it compatible with what you want? I found out years ago that if you help people get what they want, and they help you get what you want, you will both be able to get what you want. Profound truth I think.

Another great way of doing this exercise is to sit with a loved one or a friend and ask them to help you make an “I want” list. Have the other person continually ask “What do you want? What do you want?” for 10 to 15 minutes and jot down your answers. You might find that the first few wants are not that profound, you might say things like “I want a BMW, I want a house in Dorado” and so on.

However, by the end of the 15 minute exercise, the real you comes up and you might be saying things like “I want to be loved, or I want to be accepted or I want to make a difference in the world or I want to help my son or daughter get what they want out of life”.

Life is very short. Fight for what you want in life and help those you love get what they want and your chances for happiness will multiply.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Problems with blog

Excuses to my followers and readers. The blog is not allowing me to paste my articles into the blog. . We are trying to find out what the problem is.

Thanks for your patience.


Friday, August 13, 2010

How could Jefferson have known?

How did Jefferson know?
John F. Kennedy held a dinner in the white House for a group of the
brightest minds in the nation at that time. He made this statement:
"This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to
gather at one time in the White House with the exception of
when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
Especially read the last quote from 1802. When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe .Thomas Jefferson The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not. Thomas Jefferson It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world. Thomas Jefferson I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. Thomas Jefferson My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government. Thomas Jefferson No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. Thomas Jefferson The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. Thomas Jefferson The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Thomas Jefferson To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical. Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson said in 1802:'I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property - until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.'