Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Turning failure into success

I found an article on my blog reader “Feedly” that was about how to turn disappointment into success and it was more of the useless pap that people who have no clue how to actually turn that disappointment into success spew out.

They broke the things that happen down into 4 basic groups:

    A desired outcome does not occur.
    A desired outcome does occur but does not produce the feelings or results we expected.
    Our personal and/or professional expectations are unmet by ourselves or another.
    An undesired, unexpected event occurs that is in conflict with what we wanted or planned.

All of the definitions are spot on except for the third one “Our personal and/or professional expectations are unmet by ourselves or another”. It is wrong because success and failure are not about my expectations it’s about accomplishing or none accomplishing the task at hand.

The article then explained that; “What makes these unwanted surprises even harder to accept is our attachment to the way we expected things to go”.

Nonsense! What makes these unwanted surprises hard to except is that you didn’t get the result you PLANNED and WORKED VERY HARD for. When you plant some flowers and they don’t grow you are disappointed because you did all the work, expended all that effort and no flowers.

Turning failure (no flowers) into success (flowers) is very different from changing your attitude about no flowers, yet everything I read and everything people say about turning failure into success is about attitude.

When you apply for a job, success is getting the job and failure is not getting the job. Turning failure into success is about not getting that particular job and then finding a way to actually get that same job. Finding a different job is not turning that failure into success it is creating a new and different success.

While that new success may solve the problem of no job you can’t pretend that you turned the first failure into success.

No one plants flowers without the expectation that they will bloom and you will see the pretty flowers. The flowers blooming is why you plant flowers in the first place. If they don’t bloom you might plant a new batch of seed and try again. That’s not turning failure into success, that’s properly called starting over.

I can feel bad about the failure, accept that it’s just what happened and start over or pick a new direction and my attitude can help me do all of that. Mistaking a new beginning for success is self-delusion.

Reviewing what happened and figuring out what you might have done wrong so you can correct for it or not make the same mistake again is a real and necessary part of growing your abilities. It’s also possible to discover a way to fix whatever failed the first time and actually turn that failure into success. For example you are driving to a meeting and get a flat. Your trip is stopped and that’s a failure. Putting on the spare tire is turning that failure (that one unique stoppage) into success only if you get to your original destination on time.

Any real advice about turning failure into success must explain how to get the original, desired result. All the advice about attitude is about accepting that different result (no flowers) as positive and while that will certainly help you get over the disappointment and that’s a good thing; it is very different than changing the no flowers into flowers.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


In many science fiction stores automation nearly always led to greater material possessions AND more leisure time for the average person. This view was predicated on the savings created by more production with less effort being equally shared between all levels of society. So what happened to this utopian view of the future? Simple really, the stories author’s forgot that there is no inherent reason for the people who can keep that wealth to themselves to share with anyone else.

The business owner will always, out of self-interest, attempt to keep as much of the profits for herself as she can. And in their defense, why not? Their efforts in financing the automation, their foresight in making that investment created the ability to make more with less effort.

The one little problem with the idea that the business owner should keep as much of the profits as possible is that any money he pays his employees gets spent to buy the things those employees need to live or to increase their standard of living. That money goes out to other people and ends up coming back as people buying the goods or services of the original company.

The more you keep the less your potential customers have to spend with you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Selffulfilling Prophecies.

The Southern Poverty Law Center published (6/15/15) an article called The Criminalization of Black Children in McKinney, Texas, and schools across America” about the police and teenage African Americans that said in part: This brand of “justice” for schoolchildren is anything but colorblind. Study after study show that black children are treated far more harshly than white kids. And the racial disparity has grown dramatically over the past four decades, a period that roughly coincides with the integration of public schools.

I did a Google search and found that in 2008, state and local law enforcement agencies employed more than 1.1 million persons on a full-time basis, including about 765,000 sworn personnel (defined as those with general arrest powers). Out over 700,000 sworn officers, only a few actually act like this. 

The question is how many times does it take for black teenagers to distrust ALL police and become argumentative and aggressive when confronted? I am a 70 old white, Vietnam veteran who plays by the rules so I don’t have many interactions with the police. In fact most are traffic violations and my license, registration and proof of insurance are ALWAYS in good order so there is little to discuss beyond the immediate question of was I really speeding or did I really run a red light.

In the few interactions I have had with the police, I have noticed that there is a serious spread in how I am treated. Many times the officer will be so focused on “achieving and maintaining command presence” that he (yes - generally a man) will be rude and discourteous. If they will be confrontational and discourteous to me, I can only imagine how bad they would treat a typical teenager. Couple a typical teenager's attitude (including me when I was 16) and the distrust of blacks for the police that has built up for many years and we shouldn’t be surprised that black teenagers automatically assume the cops are out to get them.

During the Rodney King beating in LA, the then police chef Darrel Gates said that he didn’t pay his officers to get down in the mud with the likes of Rodney King. It stuck me at the time that “getting down in the mud” is exactly what we pay them for. To get down in the mud instead of beating anyone like a piñata.

If I, as a citizen, am expected to trust someone out on the street with a gun and the authority we grant to police, I have to be able to trust them to make good judgment calls between a real, dangerous criminal and a teenager acting like a teenager. If any individual officer can’t make that call when under the stress of the situation, do I really want them out on my streets?

Remember that the police are supposed to be our representatives. Do you really want your representative acting like this?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Why should you have an internal mastermind group?

While it’s comforting to just collect your senior management around you for meetings it’s also limiting.

Just because you worked a job 10 years ago doesn’t automatically mean that remember the subtle details of the work or that you will know about the changes or new ideas that have happened in the last 10 years.

A mastermind group should be people from both your industry and outsiders who can help you both create new ideas and develop plans to execute the best of those new ideas. You may need more than one group, one for new product ideas, one for manufacturing, one for finance, etc.

You have that mastermind group because bitter experience (yours or someone else’s) has taught you that you are not an expert in all the things you need to know to run your business. Some of that may be interest and not ability. You could learn all the information to fix your car yourself, but would rather spend your time growing your business and developing new products or fixing your car? Most of us just hire a mechanic.

The janitor’s hobby of flying radio control airplanes may have exposed him to a great advertising campaign that could help you, when suitably modified to your particular product by the marketing department. Or maybe that idea will be from finance guy with a new way of financing R&D.

Whatever that new idea, having a collection of advisers with varied backgrounds will provide you with a huge collection of new ideas to draw on. Not all of them will be winners, but as Benjamin Franklin said: Insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results.

Drawing on the same restricted pool of thinkers will always result in the same restricted views.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Outside your control

The following was co-written with my writing partner Bryan Neva (http://profitatanyprice.blogspot.com/)

When I was in the army , an  old time sergeant said “You either control your environment or it controls you” and like many young inexperienced trainees, I bought into that concept. Unfortunately, it has caused me untold frustration both at work and in my personal life. With age and experience, I  came to realize that there are circumstances outside my control and that many times they are completely outside my power to control. This is the central teaching of both Stoic Philosophy and Buddhism: that there are things under your control and things outside of your control, and if you really think hard, you’ll realize that the only things absolutely within your control are your own attitudes and behavior.  

I recently read an article that included the following statement: “Blaming others for a situation over which you clearly had a choice is simply shirking responsibility.”  While it's true that blaming others for situations over which you clearly had a choice is bad for you anytime you do it, there are real situations where outside influences caused the problem for you and recognizing that the cause was really outside your control is the first step in recognizing that it's not YOUR failure that caused the problem. Recognizing the real cause will help you find ways to either fix that outside disturbance or to separate yourself from it.

Life basically only offers us three choices: we can Accept things the way they are, we can honestly and constructively try to Change things, or we can Exit. In other words we can ACE it: Accept it, Change it, or Exit.  In practice, this is what most people do unconsciously.  The 12 step programs phrase it well in their serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Remember, you are getting wet because it's raining and you can't control the rain. All you can do is continue getting wet (Accept it), put on a raincoat or put up an umbrella (Change it), or come in out of the rain (Exit).

In any organization whether it’s a family, a social group, or a workplace, people will behave badly at times.  You might blame yourself asking, “what did I do to upset them or cause their bad behavior?”  Regardless of what you did or did not do, how someone chooses to behave is entirely up to them and not you.  You can honestly and sincerely try to positively influence other people’s behavior, but you cannot control their behavior.  That’s completely up to them. You only can control your response and your behavior.  You can choose to be hateful and vindictive, or you can choose to be loving and forgiving - knowing that you too sometimes behave badly.
One of the big secrets to life is discovering the difference between what’s inside your control and what is controlled by other people or events. Once you understand what is truly within your control, you can begin to fix the things you can, decide to accept the things you can’t or to exit from the situation.

When it gets right down to it, all you can really control is what you do and how you act. Including what you will or will not stick around for.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Gasoline Prices

Cost at the pump down by a buck in the last year. My question is where did that buck you are saving come from? Or better still where did that buck go last year that it isn't going this year?

Fuel in the US is a fascinating product. Unlike many of the things we buy every day there is a long chain of stops between the oil in the ground and the fuel at the pump. With a dozen eggs there is a relatively short supply chain. The chicken “rancher” harvests the eggs and sends them to a wholesaler who delivers them to a market and you buy it from your local grocery store. OK, maybe there is a distribution warehouse in between but the point is there is little change in the eggs between the chicken and the store.

Gasoline on the other hand has a lot more stops. Pump out of the ground and then to a refinery. In many cases the buyer at the well is just a wholesaler and resells to a refiner who resells to a wholesaler who resells to a name brand who resells to a local gas station.

In many cases that local gas station is really a franchise holder for that national brand and is an independent business sell that brand fuel in the same way they sell packs of gum or candy bars.

With each step in the supply chain, each of those independent businesses add profit.

Anyone out there believe that those businesses are selling at a loss at today’s prices? At least for very long? Cheaper not to pump it out of the ground than sell at less than it cost to pump it up, right? Same thing, if I can’t buy it and refine it for more than my cost, I’ll shut down the refinery. If I can’t sell the gas for more than I paid for it, I won’t refill the tanks at my gas station.

So that buck you are saving was a few pennies profit for each of those steps in the supply chain. Remember they aren't taking a loss so you can save that buck, they are just taking a few cents less profit.

Here is the key to learn - all those companies could have survived nicely on a tiny bit less profit last year and boosted the entire economy in the US. All those extra dollars per gallon that the supply chain siphoned off into their bank accounts, could have been spent by consumers on new shirts, TV and all the other things that would employ workers and pay salaries.

Okay, that buck alone won't restore the entire US economy - BUT - that same process of siphoning off the last fraction of a percent of profit by every business in the US is locking up huge amounts of capital. Money that could be circulating throughout the rest of the economy and lifting every other person and business out of the current stagnation.