Monday, December 5, 2011

All right, I will try my best

Joachim De Posada

By Joachim De Posada

Over the course of my career, I have talked, lectured and observed many people that have failed in business ventures and in various professional careers.

I have heard a lot of reasons or excuses for their failure.

There are some comments made by these people that have stuck in my mind: "To tell you the truth, I never thought it would really work"

"I had my doubts it would  before I even started out" or "Actually, I wasn't too surprised it didn't work out"

The "all right, I will give it a try but I don't think it will work attitude is not the right attitude to have when you start on a new business venture. It is a risky move by itself that requires quite a bit of commitment and dedication so to start with "I will give it a try" just doesn't cut it.
Not believing 100% produces negative power.

When the mind disbelieves or doubts, the mind attracts "reasons" to support those doubts.
Doubt, disbelief, what some might label "the subconscious propensity to fail, the not really giving it all you have got is responsible for many failures.

Think doubt and you have a good chance of failing.

Think success and you will have a much better chance.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The human resource is the number one competitive advantage

The Human resource is the number one competitive advantage

From September 21, 2011 through September 24, SHRM, Society Human Resources Management will held its annual convention in the Conquistador Hotel.

I had the honor of having been one of the keynote speakers in the conference along with other distinguished professionals such as Dr. Jose Vargas Bidot, who needs no introduction, Johnny C. Taylor Jr. CEO of Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Richard Flint, a well- known international speaker, and Gustavo Biasotti who will talk about the world famous Harvard model of negotiation. The program was full of very interesting and valuable sessions on all sorts of topics from how to build an effective team, how to coach them, the importance of values when you have to make decisions, the latest on labor laws all the way on how to compensate employees.

SHRM should be congratulated for having organized such a great program. There were attendees from the US, PR and Central and South America.

I firmly believe that the employees in any organization are an untapped source of competitive advantage. In most organizations they are definitely underutilized.

In some of my conferences I ask the question, “Raise your hand if you feel that your company is utilizing all your strengths and abilities in order to further the objectives of the company”.

I have had sessions where not one single person raised his hand.

Seventy five per cent of employees in the US and there is no reason to think that it is any different in Puerto Rico, have indicated that they are not working at their full potential according to a Harris survey.

There are a multitude of reasons for this situation but there are probably three major factors that I believe employers should keep in mind. These three are:

Internal communications

Very often employees have no clue on what the strategy of the company is or what goals is the company pursuing. In fact, you ask them what the Unique Selling Benefit of the company is and they don’t know.

I once was meeting with the President of a well- known supermarket chain in Puerto Rico and we were discussing the importance of marketing to the public the unique selling benefit of the supermarket, in other words, what they were better at than any competitor, their competitive advantage.

At that point I took a risk by telling the President that I would bet that not even his executives, there were 3 in the room, would know what their unique selling benefit is.

He said that he was certain they would know and at that moment I handed a blank sheet of paper to every executive and the president. I asked them to please write down the unique selling benefit of the supermarket chain.

I collected the papers, and lo and behold, everyone had a different answer. Needless to say, the President was very surprised if not shocked.

It is extremely important that the leadership of a company communicate important information to the employees in the trenches. They are the ones dealing with clients face to face and they need to be informed on what is happening and their feedback is important in determining the direction the company should be taking.

The second factor is training.

There is no question that lack of training is a big factor that keeps employees from working at their full potential. Many companies hire employees, explain what their job is and throw them to the wolves with no training whatsoever.

I once had a President of a company tell me that he was tired of spending so much money training employees for them to leave after they were well trained. I then said to him that it was definitely a problem but asked him if he had thought of the consequences of not training them and them staying.

If you are training employees and they are leaving, you have an employee retention problem that needs to be addressed.

The cost of human capital, which is the sum of the employees’ wages, health care benefits, retirement, payroll taxes, etc., is usually the single biggest expense in most organizations. It is an investment that you make month after month. A small investment in training your employees is the way to maximize the huge investment you are making in your labor force.

I have conducted numerous workshops with employees and the difference between groups that are well trained and those that are not, is huge. The well trained employees can act on suggestions and ideas that come up in the session while the ones that are not trained like the ideas but they simply don’t know how to execute them. They are not trained to do so. Very often employees don’t know what they don’t know and what is worse, management doesn’t know what they don’t know either.

You have to take a look at your training program and you need to make sure that your employees, your most valuable assets, are well trained to do what they need to do to make your company successful.

Last factor is how you compensate your employees

Often when employees are not giving their best effort it is because the company’s reward structures are not aligned with the creation of value to the client. Most of the reward structures for management and often employees are based on how well the company is doing financially.

Rarely are reward structures based on the value that the enterprise and its employees create for the client. The old saying “what gets rewarded gets done” is probably a good indicator that maybe companies are rewarding the wrong things, or at minimum, there is not a good balance in the reward structures.

The posters in the walls of companies, the marketing brochures, the mission statement , even the speeches given by the executives saying that the client is king or the number one priority, don’t align with management’s behavior or the reward system which is based on financial considerations not adding value to clients.

When you look at how a company rewards its people, you will get a good idea of what is important to that company. Management behavior will tell the employees what is important more than their words. What they do has more importance than what they say, behavior is everything.

If you are leading an organization, it would be a good idea to get your management team together and discuss three things:

1. How much does turnover cost you in one year? Remember that the cost of turnover is estimated by some management experts to be seven times an employee’s salary. Figure out the salaries of those employees who voluntarily left the company and multiply by seven.

2. In your industry, what is the lifetime value of a client, in other words, how much is a typical customer worth over 20 to 25 years?

3. How much have you invested in training employees in one year?

These three numbers are very important and they are associated. The issue is not whether a business will pay, only when it will pay. The familiar phrase, “you can pay me now or you can pay me later” is very appropriate to the situation.

Too many organizations have a short term mentality; they are focused on this month’s bottom line or the next quarter’s earnings per share. Even though that is important, if you are obsessed with those numbers, your long term thinking or perspective will be seriously affected.

An investment in training can have profitable results in many ways but short term thinking can result in cutting the investments that can ensure long term competitive advantage.

And, what is important is the long term, the sustainability of the organization.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When the moral compass we all have, stops working

When the moral compass we all have stops working.

When young men or women are in their early stages of life, it is often said that the most important period is at the age where habits are formed. According to Freud, it is between your second and seventh year of life.

There is controversy with this theory, it might not even be true, but we can all agree that when your habits are formed, that is a very important period in your life.

Ah, but there might be an even more important period, and that is when the ideals of young people are formed and little by little adopted.   There might even be a correlation, as you form your ideals; you work on your habits in order to be in a better position to achieve your ideals.

No one is raised in a moral space or vacuum. Every mentally sound person is brought up Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Hindu, new age, free thinker or an atheist.  Everyone is told right out of the crib, to obey your parents, be a good boy or girl and don’t lie.

An amoral person is a moral person who for the time being disconnects his behavior from his values.

Each of us possesses a moral compass, some sort of GPS, also called a conscience.

This GPS was programmed by parents, grandparents, coaches, priests, pastors, coaches, friends and peers.

This compass is part of you and it will remain so for the rest of your life, guiding your behavior day by day.

When I was a young boy, my parents didn’t want me to smoke at the age of 12 and it was very clear that I wasn’t supposed to do so. Yet, with a group of friends, I went to the movies and one pulled out a cigarette pack and we each took one. It might have been peer pressure but I allowed that to happen and when he started to light each of the cigarettes, I didn’t object.

I smoked that one cigarette, well, didn’t actually smoked it, just blew out some smoke, but as I was doing it, I immediately realized I was disobeying my parents and I felt very guilty.

I made the decision to not ever smoke and I have never ever smoked cigarettes or for that matter anything else.  As I entered the University of Puerto Rico, there was strong peer pressure to smoke marijuana, snort cocaine and taste other recreational drugs and since I had been successful in resisting peer pressure when my friends started smoking, I was able to avoid the drug consuming behavior.   It helped that I played basketball and I was always training but a lot of my basketball teammates smoked cigarettes and everything else.

Certain types of behavior encourage a disconnect with our GPS or conscience.

Rationalizing blurs caution lights, arrogance dims boundaries, and a sense of desperation or time pressures overrides good sense.

Whatever is blinding you, the right wrong indicator light continues to flash continuously. We might not ask but the compass always tells.

We have to understand that today’s society tolerates too much questionable behavior, there is no doubt about that, and it makes it much harder for the younger generation to discern what is right or wrong.

Even so, does anyone accept stealing? No, it was wrong a hundred years ago and it is wrong today. Don’t students know that cheating in the exam is wrong? Of course they do.

Kids know what the right conduct is even if they don’t always admit it. Their moral compasses although still developing are in working order. They are too young to know that they can trade in their conscience for a higher rating in Standard and Poor’s.  By instinct they feel better when they are at peace with themselves.

Many, still too young, may not know who Sophocles was but they do understand his message: “There is no witness so terrible or no accuser so powerful as the conscience”.

In one elementary school years ago, I went into the classroom and the kids had come up with some rules that they thought would help them in school and later on in life. I was very amused but very impressed that they were thinking about what was right and what wasn’t right.

If memory serves me right, some of the rules were: Don’t open your classmate’s bag without his or her permission, always tell the truth no matter the consequences, do your homework, obey your teacher and when in doubt, ask the teacher.

For teachers that read this column, it would be a good idea for you to see what kinds of rules your students think are important in the classroom and then later on in life.

I once knew a very important member of society that was accused and convicted of having sex with a minor. I had the opportunity to speak to him before going to prison and asked him how in the world he allowed that to happen.

He said to me that when he saw the young lady for the first time and the idea came to his mind, he could have taken it out of his mind and that might have saved him. But he allowed the idea to stay in his mind. He saw her again and the wrong thoughts came to his mind and he allowed them to stay in his mind and started fantasizing even when the girl wasn’t present. That did him in. There was a point where he simply couldn’t control his thoughts and then couldn’t control his actions.

We have just been witness to a very sad situation with Senator Arango.  Even though in his resignation letter he said he was innocent, most people, if not everyone believes that it was him in those pictures. Assuming he was, one click of the camera and one click in the computer ruined his career and maybe even his life.

The same as the judge, when that idea first came to his mind, again, assuming he did it, he could have stopped it. He could have listened to his GPS and he could have altered his behavior. For whatever reason, he allowed it to happen.  No one is perfect and we all deviate from our moral compass once in a while but what is important is to get back in line and correct the direction we are going.

Oscar de la Hoya knew that an athlete is not supposed to drink, more so when in training for a fight. Yet, he allowed that to happen. He didn’t listen to his conscience and he took a sip here and a sip there until he had to drink all the time. He then went on to more dangerous drugs and his marriage and his whole life was in jeopardy. He went into treatment and according to him he is completely rehabilitated.

When I lived in Los Paseos, I once saw him in a Starbucks with a young lady I didn’t recognize. It wasn’t his wife Millie. I had my book in my hand and was walking towards him to give it to him but when I realized what was happening, I turned around. I didn’t want to embarrass him. It might have been a friend or a fan but since he has admitted to being unfaithful, I will never know.  I have great admiration for his wife for sticking with him in this very negative period of their lives.

He is a very good guy that simply allowed that one negative idea to stay in his mind and it went on to lead him down a dangerous path. I do hope he understands that alcoholism and drug addiction has no cure. He is not cured. He simply is in remission and if ten years from now, he takes a drink, he will become an alcoholic again. So, that one thought of having a drink, must be erased immediately from his mind. I have great admiration for Millie whom I met when she was hired by Celulares Telefonica to sing in an event at the Marriott hotel and since I had a consulting contract with them, I was invited.  I admire her for sticking with Oscar in the worst of times.

Thinking precedes action; you become what you think about. Don’t allow negative ideas to destroy you. Stop them immediately before they take over your mind and your life.

A job interview is a sales interview

A job interview is a sales interview

Roger Ailes, a communication consultant specializing  in marketing and public relations, clearly understood the idea that when anyone is looking for a job, what that person is doing is selling an idea or an expectation to the one doing the hiring.

Several years ago he wrote the book, “You are the message”, I love the title, and in that book he tells us about a client who had just quit a very prestigious consulting firm in order to look for better opportunities elsewhere, maybe even making more money.

Roger says that the young lady was really very good at what she did, she was efficient and she had a great curriculum vitae but for whatever reason, she hadn´t been able to land a job after trying for a few months. He took on the challenge and proceeded to interview her for half an hour. Afterwards, very sincerely he told her that if she was applying for a job and he had to make the decision, he wouldn´t hire her.

The lady was very surprised at Roger´s comment and asked him why?  He proceeded to tell her that in the whole half hour, not once had she addressed how the company hiring her was supposed to make back the $150,000 salary she was asking for.   

This is a very important question that must be answered by anyone looking for a job, specially a well paying job. When a company is going to hire you and pay you X amount of money for your services, in order to have a better chance of being hired, you better make sure that in the interview you convince the interviewer that you are the best candidate and how will you make back the money they will be paying you and then some.  

In two sessions that followed the initial session with this lady, the P.R firm worked on communicating the tangible value of her skills and accomplishments throughout her professional career including their worth to the employee. This is very important, how much were those abilities and skills accumulated throughout her career translated into bottom line dollars for the employer.

They devised a list to be used on every interview from then on and it was so well thought out that I want to share it with you in case you are looking for a job or you are hiring people who are looking for jobs.

In a soft jobs market, more people will be competing for fewer jobs so you must give it all you have got during the interview.

Here is the list:

1.      How is my physical appearance? Am I dressed and groomed appropriately for this particular job, the company, and the industry culture? (This is important since you would not dress the same way if you were applying to work in Google as you would if you applied in IBM)

2.      How self assured do I portray myself to be? Can I put the interviewer or others participating in the interview at ease?

3.      Can I communicate the following during the interview in a clear, brief, entertaining and interesting manner:

·        How I represent a return on the employer´s total investment in my pay and benefits if I am hired (in other words, how much money I will bring in and how I will add measurable value to the company)

·        Specific examples of my achievements at work, each delivered in no more than a minute or two mini case histories and focused on results not on activity.

·        My knowledge of the industry (market place , products or services, personal contacts, inside and outside pressures, trends)

·        Knowledge of my potential employer´s company including its goals, challenges, history and top management. If it is a public company, go to their web site and take a look at the 10K report, it is public information and gives you lots of information of the company’s challenges.

4.      Can I demonstrate with concrete examples my:

·        Maturity and readiness to take on responsibility?

·        Desire and enthusiasm to learn and grow on the job?

·        Positive attitudes toward management and coworkers?

·        Commitment and involvement; doing more than the bare minimum the job requires?

·        Understanding of the technical language and the practices of the industry?

This lady, after being trained and going to her first interview, was hired with a 25% increase in her expected salary. She followed the plan and because of it she was successful. Ray Pelletier, a good friend of mine, may he rest in peace, used to tell me that he only took clients on that were coachable. If someone is not coachable it is very difficult to help that person.

If you are looking for a job or if you have to interview people, it is important for you to understand this methodology because it will help you get the job or hire a good candidate.

Change your brain, change your world

Change your brain, change your life

“I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command, half the tasks you do you must just as well turn over to me and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons, I will do it automatically. I am the servant of all great men and women and alas, of all the great failures as well. Those who are great, I have made great. Those who are failures, I have made failures. Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will put the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you”.

Who am I?

The answer is “I am your brain”.  This paragraph written by Wendell Noble years ago sums up in a very effective manner the power of your brain.

The brain is involved in absolutely everything we do. How we think, feel, act and interact with other people. It is the organ that determines who you are as a person, spouse, parent, child, employee or boss.

If you have a good brain, you have a good life if you have a bad brain you have a lousy life. When your brain works right, you work right, when your brain doesn’t work right, you can’t work right.

What is most interesting is that this three pound lump of wrinkly mass is the most complicated thing in the whole universe and yet it is 75 to 85% liquid with the consistency of butter.

I find it so interesting that the brain generates nearly 25 watts of power while you are awake, which is enough to light up a light bulb.

Some scientists say that the brain generates more electrical impulses in one day by only one human brain than by all the telephones in the world.  This is difficult to believe until you realize that it is made up of 100 billion neurons, the same amount as there are stars in our galaxy. You can find 30,000 neurons on the head of a pin.

What I want to emphasize here is that every time you have a thought, your brain releases chemicals.

Every bad thought releases chemicals that make you feel bad and every good thought releases chemicals that make you feel good.

In Dr. Donald Goff’s Ph.D. dissertation he observed that the negative activity taking place in his students was significantly related to the combination of three negative feeling states:

1.       Not feeling loved, cared about or liked.

2.       Generally feeling sad and or angry.

3.       Not feeling good about themselves and life.

He asserted that negative feeling states represented the strongest statistically significant relationship to harmful and unproductive behavior, more than any other identified factor.

The productive students on the other hand, felt good about themselves, liked themselves, felt life was good and worthwhile and felt good about the rest of their lives and their future possibilities.

These good feelings were significantly related to other constructive and positive attitudes and behaviors.

As a general principle, if you feel good about yourself, you will do well and if you feel bad or have bad feelings, you will do badly.

The often quoted scientist Albert Einstein wrote: “There are two ways to live life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is amazing and truly beautiful”

Think about it, what would be the consequences if you lived your life being full of amazement, wonder and awe?

It doesn’t take a genius to know that your life would be very exciting, fun and you would be constantly challenged by what you discover on a daily basis.

What we must keep in mind:

What you think about, you bring about.

What you resist persists (Carl Jung)

The difference between a man or woman of weakness and one of power lies not in the strength of the personal will, but on what you focus on.

When the marshmallow experiment with the four year olds was performed (you can see the video on then type my name) some of the children that were able to delay gratification, did so not because they had a stronger will power but because they took their attention away from the marshmallow and directed it someplace else. That as they say, took away the temptation.  They focused on something else, not on the marshmallow.

Whatever you steadfastly direct your attention to, will come into your life and dominate it.  Understand that attention is power, energy goes where attention flows and what you focus on, will determine your reality.

If you focus on what you need, not on what you have, what you are not instead of what you are, what might have been instead of what is or what you are doing without instead of what you are doing with, you have an attitude problem that will close doors and opportunities all your life.

We know times are tough; you must keep a positive attitude and look for opportunities with an open mind and focus on how you can best serve society. If you do that, money will follow.

I end with a beautiful quote by Melody Beattie:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow”.

Monday, August 15, 2011

From now on we are all self employed

From now on, we are all self-employed

The past is a library from which to gain knowledge and obtain information but it is not a guarantee of future success.

With past events in the American and Puerto Rican economy, as well as most countries in Europe, we must understand that no one is coming to our rescue. Everything that happens from now on is entirely up to us. Either elected politicians do what they have to do or they will be voted out of office. Of course, with the exception of Castro and Chavez.

If you are blaming the government, your company, society, spouse, even your children, now is the time to stop and assume responsibility.

Let’s face reality: all of your decisions or not making decisions, and your behavior and actions up to today, have had a compound effect on creating the situation you are facing at this very moment in your life. If you want things to change and I assume most of you want some type of change, you will have to take complete charge of your situation and make things happen, because they won’t happen by themselves.

I am not saying you will not need somebody else’s help. You will definitely need someone else’s help; no one can do anything by himself or herself. We live in an interdependent society but dependent on individual actions and responsibilities.

This process is called self-discipline. It is all about grabbing the steering wheel of your life and driving towards the direction you need to go in order to achieve the dreams that you need to turn into goals and then focused action.

Every successful man or woman I have ever met, at some time in their lives, often after many failures, made a decision to stop failing and to start winning. 

In this article, I will give you a few tools to steer you in the right direction. These are just ideas that you will need to analyze and adapt to your own situation.

You must first analyze where you are right now in your life. Where are you in the five essential elements of wellbeing?

Your career, you social life, your finances, your health and your environment, meaning the community in where you live.

You then must take an inventory of your strengths, what you have learned, what you know, what skills have you acquired that will serve you well in this economy.

For example, a friend of mine, understanding that with the price of gasoline so high people will not want to buy big cars, he changed dealerships and went to sell small, fuel efficient cars. He is selling lots of cars now.

You will also need to assess what knowledge or skills would you need now in order to compete in the market you want to enter or gain a competitive advantage.

Seagram’s Venezuela was a very good client of mine. The president of the company, the most efficient woman executive I had ever met up until that time, decided that she wanted to change companies. To be able to be hired by the company she was looking at, she went to an executive development program in Harvard and came out with the skills she needed to work for that company. She became the president of Nabisco Mexico and luckily hired me in that company after she took over the job.

You are a bundle of resources, you simply sometimes forget about some strengths that you have that could be very valuable for you in the future.

Most people think they have limited knowledge or skills. They define themselves only in terms of what they do, such as I am an electrician, a secretary, a salesperson or a manager. Sometimes, if they at least respect their companies, they will say I work at X company as a bookkeeper or whatever.

There is a problem with this. You tend to become what you think about and what you communicate. The more you describe yourself as what you do, the more your mind starts believing that is what you do. And, should you be fired or lose your job, you will have a tough time because not only will you lose your weekly paycheck, you will also lose your identity and you might enter into a state of depression.

Smart people see themselves and describe themselves in a total different manner. They will understand everything that they are capable of doing and then adapt their skills to the opportunities that present themselves.

For example, Danny, a guy with artistic abilities, asked me to find him a job in a television station that was my client. I got him the interview and he got hired in the department that prepares the set before programs start. He used his drawing talent and applied it to creating sets that were beautiful and could be used in many of the live programs that station aired.

When you look at your capabilities, you are probably able to apply at hundreds of jobs. The federal government has identified more than 20,000 job categories and you will probably be able to handle a few of them. 

I have to think about what the psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote years ago: “the story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short”.

Let’s face it, the average Joe tends to settle for a lot less than he or she is capable of and then is surprised why he or she never attains the levels of success that he or she should, thus feeling dissatisfied and frustrated with their existence.

The next step is for you to take action. You can’t sit around until opportunities come around, you must create the opportunities.

What problems are you able to solve, who would pay you to solve those problems that you know how to solve better than anyone else?

I hope I have sparked some hope even in the challenging but full of opportunities climate we are living in.

Just for fun, let me give you the formula for becoming a genius that Marina Abramovic shared with the world:

“My secret formula on how to become a genius is:

1 tablespoon of talent

5 drops of popularity

1 drop of luck

10 kilograms of discipline

6 glasses of self-sacrifice and 3 grams of spirituality.

Mix all the ingredients and leave them overnight to cool down. Drink the substance in the morning when the sun is rising and facing east”

Not a bad formula, don’t you think?

Important Lessons from the National Speakers Association

Important lessons from the National Speakers Association.

I have just returned from the annual convention of the National Speakers Association. Those four days to me are magic because I not only meet my dear friends in the speaking profession but also some of the best speakers in the world.

I was very happy that Frances Rios, President of Frances Rios Communications attended for the third time in a row. She has a lot of catching up to me, I have attended 20 years in a row, but someday she will.

This is an important lesson, having attended 20 years in a row means that I have invested more than $60,000 these 20 years in order to learn new information, re learn lessons that we may have forgotten, and network with people that are in the business and that if they see you consistently, they will assume that you are dependable and they will refer business to you.

In the old days, someone went to school, graduated, got married, found a job, worked 30 or 40 years and retired. 

Now, learning or education is a lifelong process, it ends the day you die.  Very rarely do you go to work for a company and retire many years later from the same company after they give you a party and a gold plated watch. Now you change jobs and often careers several times.  Two thirds of all the people over 65 born in the history of mankind are alive today.

Close to 10,000 people turn 65 every single day in the United States so you can imagine how that change in our society will affect everything from retirement homes, to medical care, housing etc.

In the conference I met the author who wrote the Age Wave, Ken Dychtwaldt. He gave a fascinating speech about all the repercussions of the longevity wave.

I had always defined success as the difference between where you are in life and where you could be.

 In other words, fulfilling your potential.

I love Winston Churchill’s definition of success: Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm and Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts

He, on the other hand, defined success as “different things at different ages” and that makes a lot of sense, think about it.  Success to a toddler is crying and getting mom to feed him or her. Success to a student might be to graduate with a high point average. Success to a 70 year old might be to be able to cure every disease that can present itself.

For all the wonderful English teachers that read this column, an interesting question to pose your students is “what is success for you” or an even better question, “What represents the ideal plan for the next stage of your life”.

Ken told us a story about victims of the Berkeley Oakland Hills fire that had to leave everything behind except what they could fit in the car.  Do you know what they fit in the car?:  Photos of loved ones, movies, DVD’s, albums, in other words things that had meaning for them and nothing to do with material things. So, why this urge to acquire all the material things that you will leave behind?

Another fascinating speaker was Kyle Maynard. He was born a congenital amputee, his arms ending at his elbows and his legs at his knees. He is four feet tall.  But that didn’t stop Kyle from becoming a champion, on the wrestling mat and in his life.  He has learned to live a full and active life. Besides dealing with everyday challenges, he is an excellent student, has impeccable handwriting, and can type fifty words per minute with no fingers. . Through hard work, the support of his family and a coach who designed new wrestling moves like the “jawbreaker” and “buzz saw”, he became one of the top high school wrestlers in Georgia. The fact that he lost the first 35 matches, didn’t derail him from his dream. In 2005, he broke the world record in the modified bench press by lifting 360 pounds, three times his body weight. I am sure that his book “No Excuses” will sell every well.

A competitor to the core, Kyle was determined to succeed as an athlete

Watching him start his speech, standing in front of 1,500 people, with no arms and legs and that aura of self- confidence was an experience in itself.

How many people are afraid of public speaking? How many don’t even dare to speak to a small group, let alone a large audience?  And this man has no problem in doing this.

His book No Excuses which he signed and gave to me I really want to read as soon as I can.

My last comment about the convention has to do with Les Brown, the best African American speaker in the world. He started speaking about motivation and the struggles he has had in life and then started inviting different people that work with him to get up in the stage and talk. That is something that isn’t done in that stage and as a result, some people stood up and left.

It is fascinating to see how anyone’s perception can change when you find out the story behind the story. The reason that Les was inviting some of his students to speak was that the prostate cancer he had some years ago, came back and he now has it in other parts of his body. This means that his chances of surviving this horrible enemy are very slim. He wants to continue leaving a legacy and in order to do it, he is teaching his students to do what he does very well.

Once people found out, immediately they understood why he had behaved the way he had and people stopped criticizing him.  

All in all, the National Speakers Association convention was a success. I also want to announce that Francis Rios and myself will solicit permission from NSA to open a chapter in PR. We need a minimum of 11 speakers to join and 7 will be in the board of directors.

Will the United States Default?

Will the United States default?

This column will be read on August 1st one day before the deadline to raise the debt ceiling or default on our obligations.  So, what do I think will happen? Whatever I say, we will know on August 2nd if I am right or wrong.

I think the politicians in Washington are playing with all of us. To them it is a game even though the consequences are already being felt.

I believe they are not stupid enough to allow the country to default. I think it would be a horrendous mistake and I am in favor of not allowing that to happen. They are not behaving as leaders should behave.

But let’s assume the worst. Let’s say that they can’t reach a compromise and August 2nd arrives without the ceiling being raised. This is also remote because I believe the President has a card under his sleeve where he could do something about it without the approval of congress. Whether it is legal or illegal, that remains to be seen.

But, in the event that the ceiling is not lifted, I don’t believe that the politicians and government officials are telling us the truth. Maybe even the President is not being too transparent.

Let’s analyze this:

Federal spending averages 300 billion a month as per an economic newsletter put out by D. Morris who worked with President Bill Clinton.  Federal tax collections run to about 180 billion. Our absolutely vital obligations are much less than that. Federal debt service is about 25 billion a month, social security about 58 billion per month, the entire defense budget is also about 58 billion per month. So, tax revenues are enough to fund each of these items if the president chooses to allocate the money for this purpose.

If congress doesn’t want to raise the debt ceiling, and believe me, the pressure they are under will almost make it impossible for them not to do so, but let’s say they don’t, the president has the prerogative to allocate the funds that will continue to come in.

Let’s be clear, if he wanted to cause a catastrophe by deliberately channeling the money to areas other than debt service he could certainly do so. If he wanted to provoke a massive political crisis by withholding tax revenues from Social Security or payment for military purposes, he can do that too.

That decision is his to make as President of the United States. He could do the right thing and make sure that the absolutely vital expenses are paid and not pay some of the other federal expenses that although important, are not critical such as Labor, Agriculture, HUD, Justice, Commerce etc. Even as I mention those not vital it gives me the creeps, because they are important, but in reality they are not vital.

Some people believe that the real political threat to the President is that the debt limit is not increased and just a handful of people notice any change in their lives and nobody much cares. They say that for someone to wait a few more weeks to get their passports is not a big deal.

Mr. Morris believes that the President’s entire strategy is to conceal his real goal: protecting every last desk in the government bureaucracy behind a disguise of threatening to close the most popular fiscally necessary programs. He makes an interesting comparison by saying that Mr. Obama is like a local mayor who knows that nobody is going to get hot and bothered if the commercial licensing bureau gets closed for a few days, so he warns teachers and police will have to be laid off if there are budget cuts. I think he over simplifies it.

The house and the senate we are told are fairly close to a deal. They have finally agreed to raise the debt limit without tax hikes. As I write this article, and this might change in a heartbeat, the Senate wants it raised by two years, the House for one. This is to be expected of course, the Senate is Democrat controlled and the House is Republican. The Senate wants some items to be included as savings, such as ending the wars, the House doesn’t want that to be counted as savings. Hey, these are obstacles that can be overcome by all means. These I don’t think are deal breakers.

The big factor is the President, who has positioned himself to the left of his Senators and wants a tax hike.

I am not a politician or an economist, but in my profession we have the ability or the skills to determine how entities utilize their resources and how they misuse or waste them.

Even in well run companies, it is estimated that at least 30% of revenues are wasted. This means that if you stood at the door of the organization and your collected the money coming in from sales or taxes, or whatever income producing mechanism you have, for every hundred dollars that comes in, you take thirty dollars and throw them in the waste basket. You operate only with $70.00.

I would bet anything that the Federal government, and more so our local government wastes more than 30%.

So, if there was a concerted effort to eliminate waste, re- engineering the whole government, there would be no need to raise taxes and all our bills would be paid.

And if corruption is penalized, really penalized, to the point that corrupt officials would think it over before they became crooks, we would also have more money available to be invested in the well- being of the citizens.  

I was having dinner with a lady from Malaysia a few years ago and I asked her how they controlled their drug problem and she answered that it was rather simple. You get caught with drugs and the penalty is death.

I must end with the words of one of my favorite philosophers, Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum a.k.a. Ayn Rand. Even though she died in 1982, her book Atlas Shrugged still sells close to a quarter million copies a year.

She said: “When you realize that to be able to produce something you need the authorization of those that produce nothing; when you realize that the money flows towards those that don’t do business but do favors; when you perceive that lots of people become rich because of bribes or influence rather than work; and that the laws don’t protect you from those people, on the contrary they are the ones being protected; when you realize that corruption is rewarded and honesty becomes self- sacrifice, then you will be able to declare without fear of being wrong, that your country is condemned.