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.

Does Luck Exist?

Does luck exist?

The woman’s soccer championship between the US and Japan was won by Japan.

There is no question that the US team was a better team all around and that they were prepared to win it all.

And yet, time after time they would get to the goal and miss, as if an invisible barrier stood between the ball and the goal.  When they finally scored and the game was ending, the US was winning 2 to 1, the Japanese scored a goal just by being in the right place at the right time.

That took the game to penalty kicks and the rest is history. The Americans missed three kicks, something not very common. We must say that in this regard the Japanese team had seen the Americans kicking penalties in a previous game and the US had not seen the Japanese in the same situation. The Japanese goal keeper knew each American kicker and she guessed correctly twice, enough to win.

The Japanese team also demonstrated great persistence, never giving up, staying in the game and doing what needed to be done to win.  A US player was interviewed and she congratulated the Japanese team and mentioned that supernatural powers had intervened in their favor.

For Japan that victory meant quite a bit. A country that had been hit by a Tsunami of enormous proportions, the nuclear disaster and the economic losses that they suffered in the middle of a huge recession and with a foreign debt over 200% of their yearly production, winning the championship was the best thing that could have happened to them.

I am really happy now that it is over that they won, the country deserves a break.

How about the America’s cup?  This tournament, perhaps any tournament, has ever had a quarterfinal quite like this one. The three group winners and the tournament’s host, Argentina, were all eliminated.

The perfect match everyone was waiting for, Brazil, Argentina went up in smoke.

Paraguay got to the quarterfinals without winning a single game. Can you imagine? And now they get to the finals without winning a game. Venezuela dominated the second half and they simply couldn’t score. During the penalty kicks, Venezuela missed one, well, in reality the goal keeper blocked a kick that would have scored.   Whether you think Paraguay is lucky or not, they will probably not beat Uruguay in the final game, unless… The game is on Sunday so when you read this article on Monday we will all know.

Peru getting to the semifinals was almost a miracle. They finished bottom of the Conmebol World Cup qualifying, and they come to the America’s cup and get to the quarterfinals losing to Uruguay.

This America’s tournament has been the strangest ever, no doubt about it.

Getting back to the original question: Does luck exist?

Have you ever noticed that very successful people sometimes will accomplish as much in a year or two as the average Joe accomplishes during their lifetime? I have seen it many times.

Have you ever noticed that when these winners accomplish a lot, the guys in the pack will talk about them and say that they are simply very lucky?

There might be confusion between “chance” and “luck”.

Some experts say that chance is like winning the lottery or playing roulette, the outcome is not predictable. Whatever happened on the last roll of the ball has no connection whatsoever as to what will happen the next time around. Your winning or losing has nothing to do with luck; it is all a matter of chance, of the odds.

They say that “luck” is predictable; it is the result of doing what you need to do in order to be ready to seize opportunities come your way.

Al Simmerman tells the story of a keynote address in 1980. The room was packed standing room only, with people applauding the lady as she walked to the podium and stood in front of the lectern to deliver her speech.

She looked at the whole room, scanning the audience and then said: “My mother is a deaf mute. I do not know who my father was or is. My first job was picking cotton. And I stand before you this day as Treasurer of the United States. My name is Azzie Taylor Morton”

She went on to say that you don’t have to stay where you are in life if you really don’t want to. She then took out a dollar bill and told the audience that next time they thought that they couldn’t do anything, to look at the dollar bill and look at her signature.

Was she lucky?  Or did she do everything she had to do in order to achieve the success she achieved in her life?

Some say that luck is when preparation meets opportunity however I think it is better to end the article with the dictionary’s definition of luck.

1. The chance happening of fortunate or adverse events; fortune: They met one day out of pure luck.

2. Good fortune or prosperity; success: We wish you luck.

3. One's personal fate or lot: It was just my luck to win a trip I couldn't take.

To gain success or something desirable by chance: lucked into a good apartment; lucked out in finding that rare book.

So what do you think? Does luck exist?