Thursday, February 18, 2010

Learning from some of the best minds in the world

Learning from some of the best minds in the world
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity for the second year in a row to speak at in Long Beach, California.
It is absolutely amazing what happens when great minds get together to learn, to network, and to look at solutions instead of whining about how bad things are.
I met Larry Page, co founder of Google, one of the most successful companies in the world. They are now struggling with how to deal with the situation of Google in China where the government, as every communist government is known for, tries to prohibit people to read whatever they want to read. Their company has been the target of cyber attacks and they have had to review their security parameters. They are now negotiating with the Chinese government so that this type of behavior stops, or they will leave China. He certainly got a copy of my book.
I wrote about my meeting David Shore the producer of House and even Hugh Laurie himself a couple of weeks ago in Las Vegas and how Shore had rejected my book.
Well, not all actors and actresses are the same. Had the chance to talk to Meg Ryan quite a while and she was delighted to get my book. The following day she even went out of her way to tell me that she was reading it.
Will Smith, another great actor was also present and he was very nice, very down to earth, talking to everyone and allowing people to take pictures with him.
Al Gore and Bill Gates were there. Al didn’t speak this time but did sign a few books. He has written one for children so that they start thinking about how to save the environment at an early age.
Bill had a great talk. Bu this time he didn’t speak about what his foundation is doing to eliminate Malaria or hunger. This time he spoke about climate. His speech was called, “Innovating to Zero” and it was described by the web site as the year’s most important climate speech. You can take a peek at the speech at
Very soon it will be made public, maybe by the time you read this article but it doesn’t matter whether you see it first or not, the important thing is to see it.
Met and had a chat with Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner on behavioral economics and he had an interesting concept about the difference between experience and memory. Human beings go through experiences and what they remember later on about the experience is not the real experience but what they are able to recall. Think about it, very interesting.
I met two fascinating fellows; they are very dear to my heart because they are firm believers in the marshmallow concept. In fact, in their schools, they now have over 80 all over the US with over 20,000 students, they distribute a t shirt that says, “Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet”. The schools they run are named, KIPP, Knowledge is power program. Now, pay attention to what I am going to tell you. If our department of education officials simply went to KIPP and copied exactly what they are doing, they would change the future of Puerto Rico. Believe me; we would solve some of our most pressing problems in education. Do a search in Google and type KIPP so that you can see what I am talking about, I don’t have the space to go into it in this column.
The last guy I met that I want to mention was James Carpenter. This guy is simply amazing. Can you imagine one person being responsible for the two most money making movies in the history of film? Titanic and Avatar.
Carpenter told us how he became interested in science fiction. It turns out that he had to ride a school bus for one hour each way every day of his life to go to school and he read science fiction books.
He mentioned four principles that he believes are very important for anyone to be successful, not only in movie making but in anything else you do for a living.
1. Curiosity. You must always be curious. The day you stop being curious, your creativity will stop.

2. Imagination. There is no limit to a human being's imagination and you must continue to nurture it, even though many people will try to squash it.

3. Work as a team. No one can do it alone. Everyone needs to be surrounded by people that are willing to express opinions without fear of being criticized.

4. Failure is an option, fear is not. Those that pursue their dreams and passion will necessarily fail many times, but each failure must become a lesson and a step towards achieving your objective.

He mentioned that one of his secrets is always creating an emotional response to his movies.

Shouldn't we create an emotional response to everything we do in our professional lives?

Interesting question, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Maybe impossible but definitely a challenge

Maybe impossible but definitely a challenge
The New Jersey Nets of the NBA have earned the reputation as the worst team in history. As of now, they are tied with Philadelphia who posted only 9 wins in a season a few years ago. The Nets are 4 and 48 as of this writing. My dear friend Coach Del Harris was hired by Kiki Vandeweghe, former General Manager, recently named head coach, two months ago, to help him turn this team around and avoid that negative record.
Coach Harris worked very hard with this team, worked with the coach to do whatever necessary to start winning games.
After several emails, we agreed that I would travel to New Jersey to work with the team to see if I could motivate this team so that they would win some games.
There were two fundamental problems: lack of experience on the team and not that much talent. Three of the starters have played for a year and a half, the other one is a rookie and the third, Devin Harris, the best player in the team, has played 5 games but had an injury in his shooting hand. Definitely the youngest, least experienced team in the NBA.
I love challenges, sometimes impossible assignments, and sometimes I have been successful. Not this time. There were simply too many factors against.
In four days, working with the team for a total of maybe 3 hours in the four days, I couldn’t do all the things I needed to do with the team.
A basketball team is very similar to an executive team in a company. You have to assess your team, understand their strengths and weaknesses and assign them to a position where they can better apply their strengths so that the team is more effective. You need to study who the leaders are and what style of leadership they practice.
Part of what I need to do is perform a psychological assessment on each player and coach in order to measure three main things.
1. What motivates them? What is their intent?
2. What is their reputation? In other words, how is it that they behave day to day under normal circumstances? How do others perceive them based on what they do?
3. How do they behave under pressure? In other words, what strength do they have that under pressure, becomes a weakness. We call this the “shadow”, comes up when under pressure. We also measure what they lack, what strength they simply don’t have.
I also need to meet with each player and coach to discuss the assessment, do an in depth interview and really understand them and at the same time develop a relationship of trust.
No, there wasn’t time to do that and all I could do is work with the group for these three hours.
Coach Harris, encouraged by his dear wife Ann, asked me to do the needle demonstration.
When he coached the Bayamon Cowboys, in the 70’s, he got to the finals against the Quebradillas Pirates. The Pirates had Raymond Dalmau and Neftali Rivera, probably one of the the best one two combinations in Puerto Rican history. The Cowboys were hurt, tired and they didn’t have much of a chance to win. Coach Harris saw me on T.V, on a segment I had in a program called Universidad del Aire, and hired me to work with the team in the finals.
I worked with that team for two games and won both. We got to the seventh game and I had to convince the players that they could use their minds to overcome any pain or any negative situation they were going through and win the game. I then took out three needles, went into deep meditation and stuck them on my face and throat. The players couldn’t believe it, but it motivated them enough to go out and beat the Pirates by over 20 points. Del never forgot that and now, with the Nets, it was time to try it again.
When I did it, three players almost faint. They couldn’t believe their eyes and I don’t blame them. But the message got through that mind over matter is possible and they played very hard that first game.
We played the Washington Wizards and we were winning until the last 30 seconds when one of their bench players scored a basket. We had over 25 seconds to execute one play and either tie the game or win it with a three pointer. A play had to be designed in order to accomplish this objective. The play, designed by the coach, wasn’t a good play and we lost the game. To Kiki’s credit, and I respect him for this, he admitted that the play wasn’t good enough.
This is an important lesson in this article. It doesn’t matter how motivated your troops are, if you have the wrong strategy, you will lose. You might be very motivated and you might climb a building in record time, but if you climbed the wrong building, you lose.
The second game against Philadelphia, we are ahead and at the last minute we fall behind by three points. We have the ball and one play. Again, the wrong strategy and we lose.
The next game, against the Detroit Pistons, we are behind 3 points. A few seconds left, our best guy, Devin Harris, gets the ball and because of a lack of the right strategy, he shoots an air ball. They get the ball with 7 seconds left and we have to foul and they make both shots, so we lose by 5 points. Devin declared after the game that he simply didn’t know what to do because they didn’t have a good play set up. What a sad ending to this hard effort by all of us.
So, my work is finished with the team and the assistant coach, Del Harris, also called it quits.
The Nets have been sold and the new owner will take over in March. So, right now is not the right time to change much.
These young kids are really trying and playing as hard as they can, but they simply don’t have the tools to be able to win.
After Del and I left, they have lost every game by 9 to 20 points, the last one against the Milwaukee Bucks. They are now on a break because of the All Star game. Not one single player made it to the All Star team.
I really enjoyed the time I spent with these players. They were very respectful, participated fully in my sessions and gave it all they had. Looking back, with us, they almost win the last three games we worked with the team. But more needs to be done and the circumstances right now are against them.
On a funny note, many of the newspapers and media covering the New Jersey Nets had headlines saying “Not even needles can make the New Jersey Nets win”.
They don’t seem to understand that it takes a lot more to win besides needles and motivation.

Believe in yourself even if not many people do.

Believe in yourself, even if not many people do

Believe in yourself, even if not many people do. Be a leader, even if some think you can't be one.

Let’s test your memory. Do you remember who broke the four minute barrier for the mile? That was one feat that millions had tried to achieve since the days of the ancient Greeks. In fact, there are legends that say that the Greeks had lions and other wild animals chase runners, thinking that would make them run much faster.

Nothing worked, so they made a decision for everyone, that to run a 4 minute mile was impossible. For thousands of years, everyone believed it couldn’t be done. Doctors, Physiologists, Trainers, Scientists said that it was physiologically impossible for a human being to run a mile in four minutes or less.

They made the argument that our bone structure was not geared to allow us to achieve it. Wind resistance would not allow human beings to break that barrier, inadequate lung capacity were also cited as a minus, and there were probably a thousand other reasons.

Then one guy, one dedicated, focused, human being, proved the doctors, trainers, psychologists, physiologists, the athletes and the thousands and thousands before him who tried and failed, were all wrong. He led the way to breaking a barrier and lo and behold, the year after Sir Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile, over 30 other runners also broke the four minute mile and the year after that, more than three hundred runners broke the four minute mile. It took one leader to lead the way.

A few years ago, in New York, I stood at the finish line of the New York Marathon. In that particular year, over 14,000 runners participated and over 9,500 finished the race. The fellow that finished in the four thousand nine hundred and something position was 83 years old. Can you imagine? The guy that finished 11th was 47 years old.
Why did Roger break the 4 minute mile record? Why did an 83 year old man beat over 9,000 runners, many of them in their twenties? There have not been any great breakthroughs in track and field over the last few years. Human structure is basically the same as in the last thousands of years and it hasn’t improved. The answer is: Human attitudes have improved.

Well, to be fair, in certain sports there have been changes that have nothing to do with human attitudes. You might have asked yourself, how is it that Johnny Weissmuller, alias Tarzan, a magnificent athlete had slower times than any fourteen year old female swimmer that swam the Beijing Olympics?

How can a strong guy, over 6 feet tall swim the 100 freestyle swimming race slower than 15 year old swimmers practicing the sport in the year 2010?
It had nothing to do with attitude. It had to do with GOGGLES. That is right. There were no goggles when Johnny Weissmuller used to swim and his eyes couldn’t take hours of practice. Today, swimmers practice hours and hours and with goggles, the eyes don’t suffer so they can train more and better.
But getting back to attitudes, think about a common stonecutter. He hammers and hammers at a rock a thousand times without denting it. On the one thousand and one blow, the rock splits right down the middle. You know it is not that particular blow that did it, but the accumulation of all the blows that went before.

You can accomplish your goals if you set them and you persist, persist, persist, until you reach them.

Even some unrealistic goals are reached by people that simply don’t give up. Look at Mugsy Bogues. You have better odds of winning the Puerto Rico lottery than making a NBA team. Now, add to the equation the fact that you are only 5’ 3”, a full 16 inches shorter than the average NBA player and you have an unrealistic dream. No one took Mugsy’s lifelong dream of becoming a professional basketball player very seriously except Mugsy. And that is why he became the shortest player in the history of the NBA.
Mugsy said it best: “You can do anything you want in life, if you have a fierce belief in yourself, a strong will, a big heart, and some role models to inspire you”

Earl Boykins of the Washington Wizards is 5’ 5”, only two inches taller than Mugsy. He scored the winning basket against the New Jersey Nets last week.

If I asked you what is the record in the NBA for consecutive free throws would you know? 97 by Micheal Williams of Minnesota.

You would be surprised, I bet to know that the world record is not held by an NBA player but by a 72 year old man, Dr. Tom Amberry. In fact, in one hour, he shot 374 consecutive ones.

One characteristic all these over achievers had is that they believed in themselves, even if many other people didn’t. They had a firm determination to reach their goals even against difficult and sometimes impossible to overcome obstacles. We should all learn from them.

Lessons learned in the world of Television

Lessons learned in the world of Television
I am here in Las Vegas attending NAPTE which stands for National Association of Television Producers Executives.
The convention has just ended and I am leaving to the airport to catch the red eye flight out of here.
Reflecting on the convention, I leave with valuable lessons, some which I will share with you, faithful readers of my leadership column here at the Puerto Rico Daily Sun.
A young lady approached me after a session and she congratulated me for the question I asked the panelists on the last session of the convention. I asked them to give us an idea of how to make more money in 2012, since the title of the session was “How will we all make money in 2012”.
I didn’t get a very good answer from any of them to tell you the truth. One advised to work on content, since content drives television and whoever can provide good content, will always have an advantage. Another one said to look into different delivery mechanism, not only television. To look at social media, twitter, face book, printed media, computers, I phones, podcasts, etc. One guy said to text a lot, he actually works for Nokia, so I guess the answer is understandable.
A big lesson I can share now is that whenever you are attending a convention and you are not speaking in that convention, get up and ask a question. When you get up and ask a question, you first state your name, you tell the audience what you do and where you come from. At that moment, you become one of the speakers in the convention because now they know who you are and also you are in the recording of the session and many more people that didn’t attend the session but that will listen to it through a webcast or in a DVD will know who you are.
I was pleasantly surprised when a lady approached me and told me that she was a regular reader of my column here in the PRDS. She said her husband was the agent of Miguel Cotto the fighter. I told her to tell Miguel I am very sorry for the passing of his father.
Another lesson that I can convey to you is what I answered to another lady that approached me when I asked another question on the session about Latin American tele novelas and programming in general.
She knew I am a professional speaker and writer and asked me what I was doing in a convention for television producers. I told her that right now, my most important client is a television network, specifically America CV 24 with stations in New York, Puerto Rico and Miami. So, I add value to my client by being there and looking at the industry first hand, in person and meeting people who can be of help to my client.
I also told her that out of that convention, I will learn lessons and principles that I will be able to communicate to audiences that will hear me speak in the future.
Let me share a three more lessons with you now.
I learned something very important from David Kelley. He is one of the most respected and prolific creators of network dramas in American Television. He has created award winning series including some of my favorites, such as Boston Legal that I love, The Practice that I watch regularly and he also wrote for L. A. Law created by Steven Bochco, one of my all time favorites and where he rose to executive producer.
He told the story about him being a lawyer in Boston in a law firm for about three years and during that time, he got to try one single case. In that particular case, he practiced his closing argument for hours, in front of the mirror, when he would pause, how he would use his hands, how his argument had to flow so as to win the case. When the judge asks him to stand up and deliver the closing argument, he suddenly looks at the State Attorney and asked him if he had any other evidence to introduce and when the guy said no, the judge looked at David and said, “not guilty”. That means that David had won his case. Yet, even though he won, he was so disappointed in not being able to deliver his argument that the judge looked at him and asked him if he wanted to go into his chambers and do the closing for him.
What really matters in life is not the final victory but the journey to get that victory. What matters is what you have to do to win, not getting the win. If you are a tennis player and you have to play for the championship, you rather beat the opponent than win through default. You want to sweat it out, to fight to the end and win. Easy victories don’t satisfy much.
Another lesson I learned was from Donald Trump. He was asked if any of the participants on his celebrity Apprentice program had disappointed him. He said that five or six but that he didn’t want to name any, so as not to tarnish the celebrity. Then he was asked if any of the celebrity participants had actually surprised him with his or her performance. And he named Joan Rivers, the oldest participant in the whole group of contestants. He thought that because she was 76, she would not have the energy of the other celebrities, and yet, she displayed more energy than any of the other celebrities in their twenties, thirties and forties.
Big lesson, don’t discount anyone because of age, color of the skin, nationality or any other characteristic that has nothing to do with performance.
Important lesson taught to me by David Shore. He is the creator and producer of House, one of my favorite programs also. He was there with another producer and with Hugh Laurie, the main actor. At the end, I wanted to give Hugh an autographed copy of my book “Don’t Eat the Marshmallow Yet” but as soon as the session finished, they all stood up and with security guards blocking the audience, they walked out of the room. Mr. Shore, though, was the last one out and I did have a chance to hand him my book, for him to give to Hugh Laurie. He said, “No, thank you”. This is the first time in my life than anyone refuses to accept my book as a gift. So, I conclude that he is arrogant, insensitive and I might even stop watching House so as not to watch what that guy writes. He also forgets that I now am telling you and I will tell the whole world through face book, twitter and social media.
On the other hand, I gave my book to Elizabeth Murdoch, CEO of Shine, a huge production company and the daughter of multi millionaire media mogul, Rupert Murdoch and she was very down to earth, loved my book and said that her daughter would also read it. This woman could buy David Shore with her spare change in her piggy bank.
The lesson, no matter how successful you are, or whatever accomplishments you have earned in your career, don’t look down at people, don’t turn into an arrogant SOB because sooner or later, it will come back to haunt you.
It was a fantastic convention and even if you are not a television producer, you should sign up and take a look. Next year it will be held in Miami, close to us in Puerto Rico.

Wisdom and how to get it?

Wisdom and how to get it
We all have mentors in life; although often we are not aware of the role they are playing. My first mentor in life, of course, was my father. He was a man that led by example. He never asked anything of me that he wasn’t willing to do himself. He was a brilliant journalist, a man that worked for several newspapers in his life, one of them, some of you might still remember, El Imparcial. He wrote many “who is who” books that are still treasured by people all over the world. Fate played a dirty trick on him when he was 83 but still very healthy and active.
He had an appointment with his Ophthalmologist on April 12, 1993 at 10.00am. The Doctor’s office called at 9am saying that his appointment had to be postponed because an emergency came up and the Doctor was on his way to the hospital. That evening, at 6.00pm, my dad got into his car, to go and buy some dinner for my mother and leaving the house, he either didn’t look left or looked and didn’t see a car coming, and he was hit on his side, killing him instantly.
The car that hit him wasn’t actually going that fast, but it was an old Cadillac 1969, probably the only car that could have killed him, because that car is very big, lots of metal, and it has pointed edges, one cutting right into his door.
I guess that when your number comes up, there is nothing you can do.
That same day, I was in Moca, doing a seminar for executives on Interpersonal Managing Skills for Sensormatics, now a division of Tyco, a manufacturer of security equipment
After my session at 5pm, the head of human resources was asking me to give some personal counseling to one of their executives who had the awful experience of losing his little girl because of a fall on her gymnastics class.
I was certainly willing to do that the following day, but never had the chance, since my Dad was killed that same afternoon, in fact, only minutes after I had been asked to help the executive.
“Such is life” as the saying goes, a very popular choice of words thanks to the New Progressive Party.
Some of the things my Dad said to me when I was very young I still remember. “Don’t take advantage of people”, “Always be fair” and a very valuable one, “Don’t worry twice”.
He would ask me if I was prepared for the final exam, I usually was and he would say, “don’t worry twice”, in other words, don’t waste your time and energy on problems that may never arise or that there is no solution.
When I mentioned that I didn’t know what to do with my life, he would say, “work hard at whatever you do until you find your passion and then you will never work again”. Why did he say I will never work again if I found my passion? Because when you are passionate about something, it is not work. It’s like having fun, doing what you love, the day ends very fast because you enjoy what you do. Yes, my Dad was right, I did find my passion and I have never worked another day in my life, I just have lots of fun doing what I do.
A very important lesson I have learned in life is to break down problems and challenges into small components. Most issues in business and I may add in life, are fundamentally simple, even though they may appear complex at first sight. To deal with them, you have to examine what is beneath the surface and figure out what is really going on. Never assume that the real issues are those you see on the surface. Look at the basics first and define the problem.
When I get interviewed, in fact, just a few days ago by a syndicated radio station, I get asked if there is a formula for success.
Is there a step by step formula of a specific set of rules people could use to achieve their goals?
There isn’t any, rather, there is a way to think that allows someone to deal with many different situations in life and take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.
It is true that having this mentality isn’t a guarantee that you will succeed but it definitely improves your chances quite a bit. You win more than you lose and the longer that you are playing the game, the more often you come out on top.
I always say that there is no guarantee because a friend of mine comes to mind. He is brilliant, very smart, knows a lot of stuff, yet whenever he is close to making a big hit, something happens and he loses. Anything he touches goes south. The idea might be great but when he tries to implement it, it doesn’t work. If he trains someone in his business, that person will leave the business and take his clients. If he goes into a new field, at the beginning it goes well and then something happens and he loses. I always tell him that he will never become a loser until he stops trying. As long as falls down but he gets up again, he has never lost, because maybe, just maybe, he will land a lucky punch and win.
In business, as elsewhere some individuals have natural talents that allow them to do better than others. We can’t be all Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, DaVinci or Shakespeare, but anybody can learn to play basketball, tennis or learn how to paint or write a book, and we can all learn how to be financially self sufficient as well.
We all have a different definition of success. What we do have in common is the desire to find our passion, have happier, richer, fuller lives for ourselves, and create a better world for our children, grandchildren and friends.
Go out and find your passion. Get a mentor or mentors to give you some ideas, some words of wisdom, and then follow your heart.

The three simple rules to increase self esteem

The three simple rules to increase self esteem

Dr. Alan Zimmerman an admired colleague has inspired me to write this article. Some of the concepts are his and I believe you will find them very useful as I did.

"You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is not an event - it is a habit."Aristotle, 4th Century BC Greek philosopherA while ago, Dr. Zimmerman heard a speech by Lou Holtz, one of the most successful football coaches of all time. He was speaking to a large audience on the topics of success and performance, and during his speech, he said something very important: "The most important thing I can tell you is to believe in you. Have faith in yourself." In fact, he said the secret to his success as a coach ... and the secret to his teams' winning many games ... was self-esteem. The more he built the players' self-esteem, the better they did. The better they did, the happier they were. And that makes total sense to me. For years, I've made it a point to talk about this topic: "You act on a daily basis exactly as you see yourself." If you see yourself as mediocre, you'll do mediocre work. But if you see yourself as gifted and confident, you will do good or excellent work day after day.

During a meeting with the employees of a client company, the subject of self esteem came up.
We asked the positive employees to adopt a negative employee, so that change could come from within. We made clear, though, that before you can adopt a negative person, you first have to look at yourself in a mirror and you must work with the person in the mirror.
And managers must concentrate in building self esteem in their employees, rather than destroying their self esteem with destructive criticism or with feedback given the wrong way.
So how can you see yourself more positively? Or how can you raise your self-esteem ... and thereby your effectiveness in every part of your life? For starters, you have to follow 3 simple rules for your life, your work, and your relationships. Follow these 3 simple rules and you will have a strong, powerful, positive self-esteem. 1. Do the right thing.Your self-esteem grows when you know in your heart what is right and DO it. As Lou Holtz would say, "This first rule is not real complicated. Do what's right. Don't do what's wrong. And if you have any questions, ask yourself, "what would my mother think if she read in tomorrow's newspaper how I handled this situation"
It doesn't matter if you call it business ethics or personal values; you've got to do what is right. There is no way you can feel good about yourself if you do what you know is wrong. It's a simple rule ... even though it may not always be an easy rule. As the saying goes, "Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bangs on your front door forever." So choose your actions wisely.2. Do the best you can.Don't accept anything less than the best from yourself. Like rule #1, there is no way you can feel good about yourself if you only the minimum or turn in work that is barely good enough to meet the expectations and standards of your industry. You've got to do the best you can. When you do that, you reap all the benefits of peace, joy, and self-esteem. As author Pearl S. Buck noted almost a century ago, "The secret of joy in work is contained in one word -- excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it."And the great American President Abraham Lincoln lived by that principle. He said, "I do the very best I know how ... the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. Do the best you can ... even though you are bound to face obstacles. People with high self-esteem ... or people trying to build their self-esteem ... find a way to work around those obstacles. They do what they have to do, one way or another. They don’t find an excuse every day. Such was the case with Peter Falk. At the age of 3, he lost an eye as the result of a grave medical condition, and from there on out, he wore a glass eye. But he didn't walk around the back corridors of his school, with his hand over his eye, hoping no one would see him. No, he became president of his senior class and one of the school's outstanding baseball players. In fact, one time when he slid into third base and the umpire called him out, Falk took out his glass eye and said, "Here, you can use another eye." That was very funny indeed. After high school, Falk went on to acting in a local community theatre. But his really "big break" came when he got a call from Columbia Pictures, asking him to come to Hollywood for a screen test. It was very exciting, but he didn’t make it. An executive said, "For his price, I can get can actor with two eyes." The strange thing is ... no one remembers which two-eyed actor Columbia Pictures signed instead. But millions remember Peter Falk from Broadway, TV, and the movies, for which he received two Oscar nominations. I also think of him often since Colombo was one of my favorite shows when I was growing up. Despite his so-called "obstacles," Falk always lived by this second rule. He did the best he could ... making his success a foregone conclusion. And the same rule applies to you. 3. Treat other people the way they would like to be treated.
Notice that I said treat other people the way they would like to be treated. I didn't say treat other people the way you like to be treated. The former is called the golden rule and I have always thought that rule is wrong. The rule I am recommending here is the platinum rule. You might have masochistic tendencies and love for people to treat you badly and because of that, you have no right to treat others as you would like to be treated. So, the golden rule is no good. The platinum rule is the one that works. You show me a person who treats others badly, and I'll show you an insecure, unproductive person with poor self-esteem. You cannot treat anybody ... and I do mean anybody ... badly and feel good about yourself.As someone once said, "The way we treat people we think can't help or hurt us (like housekeepers, waiters, and secretaries), tells more about our character than how we treat people we think are important. People who are honest, kind, and fair only when there's something to gain shouldn't be confused with people of real character who demonstrate these qualities habitually, under all circumstances. Character is not a fancy coat we put on for show. It's who we really are."I agree. Treat people with respect, and you will respect yourself. George Washington Carver knew about that. Despite all the racial hatred that surrounded him, he became one of the world's foremost botanical researchers in the 1900's as well as one of the most respected men of his time. His moral philosophy was all about this third rule of self-esteem. He said, "No individual has any right to come into this world and go out of it without leaving behind him distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through it. How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these."Live by these 3 rules. Work by these 3 rules. And you will have a strong self-esteem. Guaranteed. And you will see your personal productivity increase, maybe even double or triple.

Can we all be creative and innovative?

Can we all be creative and innovative?

I have been in conversations recently with well known executives and consultants in a variety of industries. Everyone recognizes the fact those times are tough and that when times are tough, the tough ones need to grab the bull by its horns and do something about it.
There is one topic that comes up constantly when you are talking about difficult environments. Innovation and Creativity. In other words, maximizing your brain power and your productive creativity. Change, so fast and furious, and lack of resources that are affecting all of us in practically all areas of our lives, requires that people be aware that there are ways to be more creative.

All I can do in this article is discuss a couple of ideas.
We all have five personality traits: Negative emotionality, how we adapt to stress, Extroversion, whether we like to work alone or with others, Agreeableness, do we focus on others or do we focus on ourselves, Consciousness, which is about self control in the service of one’s will to succeed and the one I want to focus on in this article,
“Openness to New experiences”. The openness trait is all about the degree to which one is curious about one’s inner and outer worlds. On the one hand, the Explorer has broader interests, and a fascination with novelty and innovation. On the other hand, the Preserver has narrower interests, is perceived as more conventional and is more comfortable with the familiar. In between, of course, we have all kinds of shades and colors.

It is logical to assume that people that are open to new experiences are more creative than people that are not, so Explorers are more creative than Preservers. The interesting question we must ask ourselves is; can Preservers or Moderates (people in the middle between Explorer and Preserver) be taught skills to increase their ability to be creative?

The answer is yes.
I believe that anyone can be taught how to be creative. Of course, those that have the natural ability will be ahead in that department but those that don’t can be taught techniques that if practiced, could make them very creative individuals.

Constantly looking for new and better ways of doing something is both a skill to develop and a habit to be acquired. If you practice, practice, practice, it soon becomes second nature. In fact, it is very lucrative for you to be known as an idea person in a company or in society in general.
Many of my friends ask me how in the world I can come up with a different article every week, week after week. I tell them that I don’t find it too difficult because I am constantly looking for opportunities to learn something or observe behavior or ask questions so as to have material to write an article. There are journalists that write a daily column. There are television producers that have to come up with a different program every single day. I know, I am a consultant to a television station.

Coming up with ideas that solve people’s problems is a source of great satisfaction for whoever thinks about the idea. How would you feel if you came up with the idea to eliminate world hunger, or make it easier for the rich countries to help the poor countries, or reduce teenage driving accidents or eliminate computer viruses or eliminate spam or reduce drop out rates among our youths, create a health care system that works, eliminate angry customers, or reduce billing mistakes in your company?

You would feel great and the good thing about creativity and innovation is that there are ways to solve all those problems and for everyone to be creative.

There is a quote attributed to Robert F. Kennedy although someone may have said it before. Since I don’t know who said it before, I quote Robert F. Kennedy. He said:
“Some men see things as they are and say “Why? I dream of things that never were and say, “Why Not?”

That is what successful people do all the time, don’t they?

It was Ben Franklin, not an actuary who in the Seventeen fifties founded the first Insurance Company in America. He also invented bifocals, and the library step stool, the rocking chair, the lightning rod, the odometer and the Stove. All this inventions in addition to his role in drafting the most successful constitution in history, the U.S. constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
What about Don Luis Munoz Marin in the 1950’s thinking about an “independent free State”. That, we must admit was very creative.
And people that I don’t even now who they are that came up with the idea of allowing to turn right on a red light, or one way tolls, or wheels on luggage and briefcases, small things that make our lives much easier.

How can you become more creative?
One way is to pay attention. Look for the obvious which often is not so obvious.
Ask the question, what if?
Another question, if money is not an issue, how would I solve this problem?
Put yourself on the shoes of another person and ask “How would X solve this problem?

You can even be creative in the message you leave on your answering machine.
A couple of examples, from my book, How to Survive Among Piranhas”

“Hello, this is Death. I am not in right now, but if you leave your name and number, I will be right with you”.

Or, try this one:
Hi. I am probably home, I am just avoiding someone I don’t like. Leave me a message, and if I don’t call back, it is you.

Yes, life is great and every day gives us an opportunity to find new problems, new solutions, new challenges, new opportunities and to have fun.

The winning formula for 2010

The winning formula for 2010
Ok, now that I caught your attention and you started reading the article because of this clever title, I can tell you that there is no winning formula. Wait, wait, don’t stop reading. It is all not bad news.
Well, let’s get the bad news out first and then I will give you the good news, ok?
It was a very difficult year for most people. For me, frankly, was a very good year, in fact, one of the best ones in my career. But even so, I have suffered the pain, agony and despair of many, many dear friends and colleagues.
A few weeks ago I had a call from a very accomplished colleague asking me for work, telling me that she could travel with me to some of my lectures and conferences and that we would not have to spend money in two rooms. She is very attractive and she knows that I have had my eye on her for quite some time, but I had to politely decline because I can’t take advantage of her. I instead helped her in a different way and I think that she is now on her way to doing better.
I have had a neighbor lose his job, his car and the last thing he lost was his house. In fact, it was such a desperate situation that I had a 1987 Cadillac that I kept as a relic and I gave it to him so that he could drive away with something. This was 6 months ago, and I haven’t heard from him again. I certainly hope he is doing better.
This brings up another point I would like to mention. Sometimes in life, you will help someone and the person will either not be grateful for what you have done or on some occasions he or she will turn into an enemy. That is life and there is nothing you or I can do about it. In fact, it will happen very often.
To start with, anytime you help anyone, do it without expecting anything in return. Do it because it helps you and your mental stability to help others in times of need and not because it will be appreciated or the favor returned.
So, continuing with the bad news, lots of businesses have gone under, many restaurants are now out of business and thousands of people have lost their jobs.
Even my favorite club in the whole world, one which I have been proud to be a member, the Bankers Club, has closed, hopefully temporarily. Anything that can be done must be done to save that club. It is a landmark in our island and to let it disappear I think would be a tragedy.
As many of your remember, 2009 started in the United States with tremendous change, as the country inaugurated President Barack Obama to fulfill his mandate of new ideas and change from the past. Remember he ran on one idea: CHANGE
To ensure the ideas were new and different, he put together a cabinet of people with new ideas never seen in Washington D.C. before. These included Attorney General Eric Holder (from the Clinton Administration), Secretaries Shaun Donovan (from the Clinton administration), Hilda Solis (who has served in congress for the last nine years), former Congressman Ray LaHood, Robert Gates (from the Bush and Reagan administrations) and Timothy Geithner (who worked in three previous administrations). Also helping in the orgy of new ideas were fresh Washington faces Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. I give credit to my good friend Randy Gage for bringing this revolutionary change in the Obama administration to my attention.
In February this group of original thinkers immediately went to work on brand new concepts that no one had ever thought of before, such as taxing productive workers more, socialized health care, and printing billions of extra dollars to devaluate the currency in an effort to stimulate the economy. This revolutionary new stimulus plan was best described by some economists as “nine wolves and a sheep, voting on what to have for dinner”.
Let’s hope that in 2010 this group of creative thinkers gets more creative and think about some urgent things that must be done to revive our economy.
Regarding the political situation in Puerto Rico, that must be done in another article. The good the bad and the ugly.
In discussing 2010, there two very important trends on this new decade just starting as per my friend, Seth Godin.
1. Change: The infrastructure of massive connection is now a reality. People around the world have cell phones. ( I even saw it in very poor neighborhoods in India) The first internet generation is now old enough to spend money, go to work and build new and creative companies. Industries are being built very day, all over the world and old ones are fading or simply disappearing. My friends, the revolution is in full swing and an entire generation is eager to change everything because of it. So look out, change will accelerate and you better be ready for it.
2. Frustration: Let’s face it, baby boomers are getting old. And even though 60 is 40 in this age of increased lifespan and better health, it is still getting older. Dreams are fading and so is health, no matter how well they take care of themselves. Boomers love to whine and love to imagine that we will live forever and accomplish everything which is not a bad thing in itself. As long as we believe it, “palante”. But, this is the decade that reality kicks in. And to top it off, savings are thin, property values have come down and resource availability isn’t what it used to be. A lot of people ate their marshmallows during the last decade. And as I already mentioned, many have lost jobs and houses and some are even homeless. Be ready to see this frustration expressed more often in the US and here in Puerto Rico.
One positive aspect is that just about everyone gets to pick which one of these two alternatives they want to spend their time and energy on. In the final analysis, it is all about attitude, isn’t it?
I end with a quote by one of my heroes, Lance Armstrong, American cyclist, 7 time winner of the Tour de France and a Cancer survivor:
“Time is limited, so I better wake up every morning fresh and know that I have just one chance to live this particular day right, and to string my days together into a life of action and purpose”.
My dear readers thank you for having read my columns in the PR Daily Sun and for all your emails during 2009. The new economy presents many challenges, but also has equivalent opportunities. There has never been a more exciting time to be alive and kicking and 2010 has the promise of being a great year for all.

Go out and do the best you can with what you have.

Clean the slate in 2010

Clean the slate in 2010
Believe it or not, to some people the Christmas holidays are a period of sadness and not happiness. What should be a time to rejoice and give thanks for all the good that happens in your life, some people see it as a time to blame themselves for all the bad that has happened in their lives and some even go as far as committing suicide.
In fact, this period from the 23rd to the 27th of December is when most suicides happen in our society.
What people must understand is that either you are cause or you are the effect. Either you are a creature of circumstances or you are the creator of your own circumstances. You must accept that whatever results you have gotten in your life, either good or bad, were created by your thoughts and your actions.
Yes, I know that there are things that happen to human beings that are beyond their control. You might have lost your job in the recession, you might have been the victim of a hold up by a mugger, and you may have lost your house in a hurricane or an earthquake. Although you don’t control the event, you do control how you react to the event.
You may decide to cry 24 hours a day and that won’t solve anything. Or you may decide to go out into the world and do something, invent something, take a new idea and apply it.
You can actually look at anything as a cup half empty, or a cup half full. Everything in life can be looked at 180 degrees from the way other people look at it. If you would simply make the decision to turn anything in your life around and look at it the best possible way, your life would also turn around and you would be much happier.
The other point I want to stress in this article is the fact that for you to go on in your life and make something out of it, you must forgive yourself of anything you have done in the past.
I once read a story by my colleague Mark Hansen about a man who was in his death bed.
It was a cold winter night that time of the year and there had been an early frost. There was black ice on the highways, the tree branches were broken and it was late at night.
The Catholic priest, Father O’Malley gets a call at 1.30 in the morning. He’s just finished working on his sermon for the following day and the call sort of shakes him up. The caller says: “Father, we are sorry, but we have Tom here who’s got a failing liver and he is just about ready to die. He needs for you to come and do the last rites”.
So, Father O’Malley gets dressed and goes out in the bitter cold night. The short half hour drive takes over two and a half hours because of such negative weather conditions.
He gets to the hospital and the wind almost blows the car door off and it shivers his whole body. He shuffles across the black ice because it rained and the rain had turned to ice. He goes into the hospital and the nurse grabs him and says “Father O’Malley, hurry, the guy’s only got a few minutes left. Father O’Malley gets in the room and says “Tom, I was in the neighborhood and I thought I would drop by”.
Tom reacted quite negatively at the comment. “Cut the bull, you weren’t in the neighborhood. I called for the last rites, now give them and get out”.
Father O’Malley told him that if he wanted to confess anything or admit anything or say anything, now was the time to do it.
The man then told Father O’Malley that what he had done was so awful, ugly and terrible that God couldn’t forgive him nor could he.
So, Father O’Malley and the guy talk for an hour or so and he can see in the monitor that his vital signs are deteriorating. He tells him that he can see that he is getting weaker and that he has only a few minutes to live. “If you are ever going to say anything, now is the time” Father O’Malley told the patient.
“Well, nobody can do anything to me now, so I might as well tell you” he said. “It happened 24 years, two months and two hours ago. That is how heavy it is to my heart. My whole life I have been a railroad switchman and I have been an alcoholic. This night was cold, muggy and I went out to switch the railroad track. I was drunk and I switched the wrong track. The train went right into a car and killed the mother, the father, and the two daughters”. Like I said, “you can’t forgive me and God can’t forgive me”.
Father O’Malley put his hand on Tom and said, “God and I forgive you. You see, that was my mother, he my father, and my two older sisters. And that accident is what made me decide to become a priest. We all forgive you”.
The hard part in life is forgiving you. Forgive your bad teachers, forgive your bad bosses, and forgive your bad friends, husbands or wives. You can probably do that but you can’t forgive yourself.
Take a piece of paper and write down 10 times “I forgive, I forgive, I forgive”, and then you forgive your mom and you forgive your dad and everyone in your life.
It is amazing what will happen to you if you do that. It will clear you up to start 2010 with a clean slate, ready to accomplish your real mission in life and help as many people as you possibly can.

The importance of a great big objective

The importance of a great big objective
Productivity is an often used word in every facet of life. I think it is a very simple concept: maintaining output while decreasing input. You can, of course, increase output and decrease input. In “criollo” language, it means doing more with less, getting more done with the same or less.
I believe that one of the keys to productivity is having one great objective. I love Bill Zollars, a well known American executive, words when he said: “In the absence of a simple big objective to act as a unifying force, no leader or manager can hope to make a company productive”.
Companies all over the world are fanatics of having a vision or a mission and you will go inside those companies and you will see the vision or mission hanging in walls all over the place. These great statements are also included in the cover of the company’s annual report and in some cases, in the individual business cards of the employees and executives.
Let’s take a look at Enron’s statement: Enron intends to conduct itself in accord with four capital Values: Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence
Unfortunately, those grandiose mission and vision statements, like many other empty promises many companies make, have a rich history of not being worth the paper they are printed on.
The real work involved in building a productive company doesn’t take place in the ivory towers where executives sit but on the shop floor, on the factory line, on the retail sales floor or when a salesperson is making a sale.
A good example of a big idea comes from Lantech, a company based in Kentucky who originated the stretch wrapping technology and it is the world leader in that industry.
Well, when they lost their patent protection in a civil suit that went all the way up to the Supreme Court, everything changed for that company. They had to admit to themselves that they were arrogant and they simply were riding the positive wave of having a product that nobody else had. Their quality and customer service was lousy, their factory was inefficient but since they had a unique product, orders kept coming in. In fact, there was such demand that they kept doing things the same old way. Then, they lost the patent and everything changed, they had to face reality.
The company understood that unless they could reduce inventories improve the quality of their products, be more customer service oriented and become a more productive company; they were going to be out of business in a very short time.
Well, the rest is history. During the next ten years, they tripled their sales without increasing their sales staff, cut down the time it took to build a single machine from five weeks to one day and increased productivity; hear this, one per cent a month for this period.

How could they have done this?
Because of a single big objective: Become the efficient and productive manufacturing plant in the world and do things better than they had ever been done.
When I worked with Xerox Learning System, our parent company Xerox had such advanced technology that we practically had no competition. Everyone in Xerox made a lot of money and everyone was very happy. We all thought it would be like that forever.
Then, just like it happened to Lantech, our patents expired and the whole world was free to manufacture machines with our technology. The Japanese had a field day and our world market share came down from 77% to 12%.
We almost go out of business.
Luckily, our Chairman of the Board understood this problem and he also focused on one big objective: Become the document company. The most efficient, productive, document handling company in the world and to do so, we had to change our marketing, our manufacturing operations and we had to train our salespeople to second to none.
We got the market share to 23% and Xerox survived. Even though through the years it has had its ups and downs, it is still a profitable productive company. It certainly hasn’t gone out of business.
Even personally, you all must have one big objective in your lives and you must concentrate all your energies on that big objective.
My big objective a few years ago was to write a book and make it a best seller. All my efforts were focused on that big objective and even though it took a few years and three books, my book finally became a worldwide bestseller with over 2 million copies sold.
Just today the news came out of a Uruguayan film maker that had one big objective. To do a movie. He came out with one titled “Un Ataque al Panico” which translates to a Panic Attack or something like that. It cost him $300.00 to film. Well, Hollywood somehow found him or he found Hollywood and he has just signed a 30 million contract to do a Hollywood movie based on his $300.00 video.
In my conferences and speeches, I always say that everyone is just one idea away from a million dollars.

In 2010 we might face a difficult job market

In 2010 we might face a difficult job market, at least don’t screw up the interview

It seems logical that if you are looking for a job in a market where jobs are scarce, you should be as well prepared as possible for the interview and refrain from any behavior that could be labeled as “strange”, “weird” or plain stupid.

Some time ago I read an article that described some of these absurd behaviors. It seems they were submitted by a group of HR managers when they were asked for their best stories of unusual behavior by job applicants.

1. A candidate asked the interviewer who the beautiful woman in a picture frame was. When the interviewer replied that the lady was his wife, the candidate asked if she was home right now and he wanted his home phone number. He interviewer called security.

2. Ten minutes into the interview an alarm in her cellular phone went off in the candidate’s purse. She took it out, shut if off, apologized and said that she had to leave for her next interview. She didn’t want to be late.

3. One candidate stated up front that he really didn’t want the job, but the unemployment office needed proof that he was looking for one.

4. A balding candidate abruptly excused himself in the middle of the interview, went to the bathroom and returned two minutes later, wearing a hairpiece. The interviewer pretended not to notice although he found it really difficult not to laugh.

5. A young lady had her IPod’s hearing device on her ear, throughout the interview, claiming that she could listen to the music and to the interviewer at the same time.

6. One candidate asked to see the interviewers resume. He said he wanted to know if the interviewer was qualified to judge him.

7. One young lady pulled out her phone, snapped a picture of the interviewer and explained that she collects photos of everyone who interviews her.

8. A candidate being interviewed for a management position said that, if he was hired, he would show his loyalty to the company by having the corporate logo tattooed on his forearm.

9. When an interviewer made a formal offer to a candidate, he asked the interviewer to put on his suit jacket to make sure the offer was formal.

10. Ten minutes into an interview a candidate took out his cell phone and called his therapist for advice on how to answer the next question in the interview.

Yes, there is irrational behavior going on every day in interviews being conducted all over the world, we just don’t hear about it.

Let me give you some advice on how you should conduct yourself during an interview.
1. Look the part. Dress according to the type of job you are seeking. If you are interviewing for a job as a car mechanic, you don’t have to be dressed in a suit and tie.

2. Ask for thirty minutes, no more, when you first set up the interview. Keep to this religiously unless the interviewer asks you to stay longer.

3. Research the company before going into the interview. With the internet you can find absolutely everything about a company. In fact, the 10k report will give you the company’s areas of concern.

4. During the interview, observe the 50/50 rule. 50% of the time you should be speaking and the other 50% you should be listening.

5. When you answer the interviewer’s question, limit your response to a minute or two. Don’t talk yourself out of a job.

6. During the interview, stay focused on what you can do for the employer, rather than on what the employer can do for you. You want to give the impression that you are a resource person rather than a job seeker. You want to come across as a problem solver, a proactive, and go to individual.

7. Understand that the employer thinks the way you are conducting yourself during the interview is the way you will do the job. If you say you are a very thorough individual, be sure you are thorough in the way you researched the company.

8. Bring evidence of your claims, skills or educational achievements.

9. Never bad mouth your previous employer during the interview.

10. Creativity and innovation is needed in today’s highly competitive and job scarce world. Find a way to differentiate yourself from any other interviewee.

Let me now give you the most important questions you should be ready to answer during an interview:

What do you know about our company?
Tell me about yourself.
Why are you seeking this job?
How would you describe yourself?
What are your major strengths?
What is your greatest weakness?
What type of work do you like to do best?
What are your outside interests?
What accomplishments gave you the greatest satisfaction?
Give me an example of a project you worked on where teamwork was important for it to succeed.
Why did you leave your last job?
Why were you laid off (if you were)?
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
What are your goals in life?
How much did you make at your last job?

Once in a while, you will get a question that although it seems unimportant, in reality it is very important. I went to do a session for Microsoft in Seattle, Washington some years ago and during lunch one of the employees told me that when they interviewed him, they asked him, how many gas stations are there in the US? He said he didn’t know but if allowed to go to the computer to look it up in the internet, he would have an answer very soon. That was a good answer. Anyone that said, “I don’t know”, would not be hired. I really don’t know if this is true or not, but is sure sounded very interesting.