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, 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 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.