Squished like a grape

My last post referenced a 1980’s movie classic “Valley Girl” and if it’s one thing I like its movies of the 1980’s so here’s another (and it probably won’t be the last)….

Probably one of my favorite movies growing up in the 80’s was the “The Karate Kid”.  Here’s a great sequence when Daniel and Mr. Miyagi are about to begin their training together:

Miyagi: Now, ready?

Daniel: Yeah, I guess so.

Miyagi: [sighs] Daniel-san, must talk.

[they both kneel]

Miyagi: Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later

[makes squish gesture]

Miyagi: get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do “yes” or karate do “no.” You karate do “guess so,”

[makes squish gesture]

Miyagi: just like grape. Understand?

Daniel: Yeah, I understand.

Miyagi: Now, ready?

Daniel: Yeah, I’m ready.

I thought this sequence was funny when I was young but understand its wisdom now that I’m old.

In anything I do: education, career, sports or working out nothing makes me feel better than going out and giving something my all.  I know it may sound cliché but when I put in the time on something and really give it my best effort I never feel bad no matter the outcome because I sleep soundly at night knowing I did my best.

The reverse of that when you go into something and go half speed, half-assed leaves me feeling tired, lousy or a loser.  I do not like feeling this way and that’s why I come to a situation and I know I can’t give my best effort then I need to dial back and asses that situation.  If I can’t give my best then I need to figure out why not or is it really worth my effort.

As Mr. Miyagi explains if cannot give your all to something than [squish] “just like grape.”


All planning and no action makes for a dull career

One of my favorite films is the 1980’s classic Valley Girl starring a young Nicolas Cage.  If you have not seen the movie some of what I am about to describe may ruin it for you so be aware.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is at the end when Nicolas Cage’s character crashes a dance party to win back his female love interest.  The only reason Cage’s character crashed the dance party was because is sidekick/buddy in the movie convinced Cage that he had a “plan” to win back his girl if he would just show up at the dance.  In actuality Cage’s friend did not have a plan at all, he just said that so Cage would show up and then once Cage showed up (uninvited and to an angry crowed) his friend told Cage that it was time to go into action and win back the girl (which Cage does).  Without that push to action Cage would not have got the girl and movie would have ended rather differently.

I have thought of this scenario when looking at my current or past jobs.  I have worked for and under many different bosses.  All of my past and current bosses were all good at managing people, planning and strategizing but what they all seemed to lack is the ability to put their elaborate plans into action.  I do not think any of my past superiors lacked the ability or opportunity for action but were discouraged to do so by the risk or uncertainty that would accompany taking action.  In our current environment of economic and job market volatility or risk is not something someone or company wants to incur (even it is necessary).

But without taking some action, taking some risks all your great plans and charts are nothing but doodles on paper.  So I say make enough plans and strategy to “crash the dance party” but then you need to start taking some action to win the girl.

Thank you (and I really mean it)

I recently stopped at a local GNC for some vitamins.  As I got in line to checkout and get on my way a person in front of me was finishing up.  As this person completed their transaction the cashier made sure to thank them for their business and as the person walked away the cashier gave a wave and stated, “thanks again and I really appreciate your business.”

For whatever reason this caught me as something unique.  So many times (especially) in retail employees are conditioned to say “thank you” or “hello” but they do so with the enthusiasm of a doped up drug addict.  Most of the time I rarely notice these pre-programmed pleasantries.  I know people are conditioned to say them and don’t mean it half the time.  When I go to my local bank to withdraw money and the employee with bloodshot eyes says, “how are you” in a monotone voice I know what they are really saying is “how soon can get through with you so I can get out of here?”

My experience at the GNC was different.  What I witnessed was something genuine.  The cashier really did mean thanks and thanked someone for their business.

I used to stop at that GNC because it was convenient but I return because they “really” appreciate my business and mean it.

Do you really mean what you say?  Does your company?  Do your customers notice?  In a modern world filled with technologies and processes to be human or genuine is almost out of the norm.  But when I find this or see it I remember it and I know those that show it really mean it.


When the bar lights come on it’s not always pretty

I’m sure we have all experienced it at least once.  You’re at the bar, it’s late approaching closing time and you survey your surroundings looking for that someone to go home with.  You see a Woman (or Man depending on who’s reading this) at the end of the bar who is looking quite attractive and you think perhaps this is when you make your move, but just as begin to make your move closing time is called and the house lights come on.  Suddenly the dimly lit bar is flooded with pure unforgiving fluorescent light shedding a fresh bright radiance on everything.  As you look around everything looks different.  The dark smooth bar surface now appears old and unsanitary as you notice all the cracks and stains, the Woman you had your eye on at the end of the bar has gone from attractive looking to “what was I thinking” as you now notice her wrinkly skin abused by too much time in tanning booths complimented with dark bags under her eyes and a grin filled with nicotine stained teeth.

Our economy has called closing time and flipped the house lights on.  People now have that unbiased light shed on their finances, their spending habits and all the nasty habits that were once hidden are now out in the open.  But this is not a bad thing.  This can help save us all from decisions we may regret in the morning.  Sure maxing your credit, not following a budget, getting a mortgage you can’t afford may look sexy while the party is going, the lights are low and the beats are thumping but now in today’s economy the DJ has stopped spinning and house lights have been turned on.  Time to take stock of your surroundings and make it home safe and sound.

Overweight? Don’t Blame the Scale

During a recent conversation on strategy a colleague said to me, “If everyone who measured results owned a scale then they would never be overweight.”  The point that was trying to be made by saying this is that if you always focus on the outputs and never the inputs then likelihood of achieving the desired result is minimal (simple yet so true).

Think about this concept it applies to every area in your life or career and it can sometimes be a huge blind spot.  It is almost too easy to get focused on “measuring” results with all the analytical tools and applications out there.  I can monitor my weight, bank accounts and email all on my phone with a couple swift touches.  But if I look at the results and they are not what I want it’s not my phones fault for reporting but my fault for not analyzing the inputs to all those measurements.  If I’m not at the weight I want, what am I eating?  If savings is not where I want it, where’s my money going?  If I have too many emails, what is causing all messages to be sent?

This thinking goes well beyond oneself.  Look at your company your performance.  Why is your company not a leader?  Why are you not in the position you want to be?

To answer those questions the answer is not comparison (that is a trap).  Comparing your company or your own career to the competition does not accomplish anything.  Every company and person is different, no one can control all of that, but you can control inputs.  If your company is not a leader take steps that would make a leader: increase productivity, innovation and value while decreasing your cost.  Increase your knowledge of areas key to your position and add more tools to your belt.

If you are someone who likes to look at results daily, stop it and flip your focus.  Analyze inputs daily and results once and awhile.  By doing this I am sure you will be more pleased with the results.

Beware of the Scorpion

Just a couple days ago Keith Olbermann abruptly left his show “Countdown” on MSNBC.  There has been no official explanation given for his departure but many have speculated his progressive views clashed the network and network interests.

Though this is shocking to hear it does not come as a surprise to me.  I would remember watching him on ESPN when I was younger and even then Keith was known for pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable.  To me Keith and people like Keith are what I would consider “scorpions”.  Why a “scorpion”?  This comes from the fable, “The scorpion and the Turtle”:

A turtle was happily swimming along a river when a scorpion hailed it from the shore.

“Dear friend turtle!” called the scorpion. “Please let me climb upon your back and swim me to the other side of the river!”

“No,” replied the turtle, “for if I do, you shall sting me, and I shall die.”

“Nonsense!” replied the scorpion. “If I kill you in the middle of the river, you shall sink, and I shall drown and die with you.”

The turtle thought this over, and saw the truth of the scorpion’s statement. He let it upon his back and began swimming towards the other side of the river. Halfway across, he felt a sharp pain in the back of his neck.

“Why have you stung me?!” cried the turtle as his body began to stiffen. “Now you shall die as well!”

“Because it is in my nature,” replied the scorpion as the turtle sank beneath the waters.

Cultures need and thrive when there is a mix of turtles and scorpions.  Turtles are hard working, wise, and methodical; scorpions are bold, aggressive and dangerous.  Each represent polar opposites that create a broad spectrum of emotions, thoughts and actions that spur thought ideas and debate.  Turtles and scorpions may help create debate, these opposites collide as much as they attract.

Think of this in terms of communication.  People may try to moderate their tendencies, their views but deep down ones true nature cannot be altered.  So take a moment to think about whom in your company, family, or friends are scorpions or turtles?  But be aware don’t put a scorpion on your back if you’re a turtle because you will only get stung.


Trust me, I’m a doctor?

Take two and call me in the morning?

Recently in the news it was reported the doctor who supposedly proved a link between vaccinations and autism bluntly exaggerated his findings and even made some of them up. It took years to uncover and prove this doctor’s findings to be incorrect yet in the meantime hundreds and thousands of people believed in his research and followed it faithfully only to now have what they thought to be true and safe to be ripped away leaving them blind stumbling in the dark.

This illustrates the danger that titles create in our society and culture. Doctors, professors, CEOs, PhDs…. when we hear these mentioned they command attention and respect. The people that have these titles over them are elevated over the common person.

I’m not saying that everyone who has worked or been given a prestigious title is a liar or should not be trusted but simply that title or not we are all human in the end. Humans are not perfect not matter the title associated with that individual and as such we all make mistakes.

I trust people with prestigious titles but I trust my instinct and “guts” even more. If I’m told something that doesn’t sit right with me, gives me an uneasy feeling in my stomach, I’m no doctor but I know that it probably is not right.

If you’re “cool” then people shouldn’t have to tell you.

Ah, “The Fonz”, not the most current representation “coolness” but for decades on TV he wore that crown.  I never watched much of the show Happy Days where the Fonz made his name but I did not need to in order to know that the Fonz was the cool guy of the show. I just knew this from the way he dressed, made an entrance and talked.  No one in the show had to tell the Fonz “hey, you’re really cool”, it was just something unsaid, something you just knew and that is really the mysticism behind the art of being cool – if you know you’re cool and you really are, then you’re not given this title it’s just who you are.

Now bringing that to reality – look at how you conduct yourself, your job or company.  If you walked into a room, talked about your job or company would it sound cool like the Fonz or Revenge of the Nerds?

What made me think of this was an experience I had recently had interviewing companies to partner with for a broad corporate project.  I talked with companies from all type of scale levels – small, medium to large.  The thing that surprised me was the companies that had the best presentations and won both my and our company executives approval were not necessarily those that had the huge renowned clients or well-known names but the companies that came in and just played it cool.  The companies that made an impact told me what they do, what they do well and basically take it or leave it.  The companies that failed to make an impact were not actually “bad” companies but they just didn’t play it cool.   These companies lacked confidence and even seemed slightly paranoid – asking numerous questions about others in the running, asking if their proposal was good enough.  Hey, if you’re cool other companies, other people don’t matter because you already know what you got is what other people want.

The Fonz could make selling steak knives cool not because the steak knives themselves are cool but because the Fonz is and that “coolness” transfers to the steak knives which you can buy and get just a piece of that for yourself.

Basically if you know you’re good at what you do, your company is good at what it does then just be true to that.  Don’t be fixated on what others are doing or trying to match what other companies are doing.  Just play it cool and in the wise words of the Fonz, “Ehhh!”

Are you insane?

The definition of insanity as quoted by Albert Einstein is, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Based on that definition are you insane?  Is the company you work for insane?  Perhaps you may say “no” right away but please step back and think about it.

A company I once worked for once launched product after, after product relatively the same the way and every one of them failing.  They called this “trial and error”, “live and learn” but I think our friend Mr. Einstein would beg to differ.  Einstein would probably call that a little “cuckoo”.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not like this company enjoyed to be constantly failing but they were at their core a heavily sales focused company.  Again there is nothing wrong with this type of corporate mentality except when it gets in the way being realistic, when it gets in the way of knowing when to change.  With each product launch sales executives all thought this would be “the one” to save the company and after each failure it not the system that failed but everything else that failed.  Executives clung the corporate system and culture they created, using it unchanged failure after failure like a gambling addict at the craps table hoping one more roll of the dice will be the one to strike it rich.

Well this was not the place for me and sometimes…“You got know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk and know when to run.”  (Well-said Kenny.)

Do you really hate waiting in line?

Recently I was thinking of going to a local hip hop show and asked a friend of mine if he wanted to go as well.  My friend declined because he did not want to wait in line to get in and he really “hated” lines.

Normally I would not give this another thought but my friend’s statement stuck with me.  This guy who supposedly “hates” lines is the same person who once stood in line over three hours to buy a personal size pizza for $0.75 from his favorite pizzeria.  But then it became obvious, it’s not that my friend “hated” lines but this hip hop show was not “line worthy” in his mind and the personal size pizza from his favorite place was.

So with that what is your “line“?  What would you deem “line worthy“?  Whatever that thing may be get your place in line now because once you get through you know it will be well worth the wait.