Wednesday, March 31, 2021

A symbol of freedom

In 1948 the postwar euphoria that had attended the founding of the United Nations had evaporated, and the Soviet Union directly challenged the United States by blockading West Berlin, a tiny western toehold on the Soviet side of a now-divided Europe. 

The Western powers responded by airlifting supplies into West Berlin around the clock for over a year until the Soviets lifted the blockade. With the establishment in 1949 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an alliance between the United States and its European allies, and the setting up of the rival Warsaw Treaty Organization by the Soviet Union, the stage was set for the decades-long military deadlock of the cold war. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The ice cream country

The United States became the ice cream country. By 1919 it was making 100 million gallons annually. 

Steamer ships started installing freezer compartments so that ice cream could be shipped to India, Japan, and China, despite the often-cited erroneous claim that Asians didn’t eat dairy products. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Transparency’s Dark Side

There is a dark side of transparency. Today, it’s a tool used as much by the corrupt and dishonest as it is by those who are actually honest. It’s used as an illusion to give the appearance of honesty without the intent of being honest. You can simply claim to be transparent, and create a halo of honesty about you, without actually being honest. 

Two factors empower this dark side of transparency. We’ve discussed them a lot in this book. 

The first is our deluge of information and facts disguised as entertainment. Even the most open and transparent systems must compete with buckets of information that are more interesting. 

The second is our poor information diets—that we choose information we want to hear over information that reveals the truth makes the competition all the more difficult. 

Whether it is the press, the government, or businesses, without conscious and deliberate consumption, transparency does more harm than good. While it can be used as a means of disinfecting a system, transparency can also be used by the corrupt to create a false association with integrity and honesty. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Hold the light

I remember hearing of a man at sea who was very seasick. In my opinion, if there is a time when a man feels that he can’t do any work for the Lord, it is then. 

While this man was sick, he heard that someone had fallen overboard. He wondered if he could do anything to help save the man. He laid hold of a light and held it up to the porthole. The drowning man was saved. 

When this man got over his seasickness, he went on deck and talked with the man who was rescued. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

1,000 Days

Today is my 1,000th day of writing. I have completed my goal of 1,000 days of writing.

I don't plan to do this again. I may continue writing or scheduling posts of book excerpts, but I don't plan to commit to 1,000 days of writing again. I've learned not to do that.

It did not serve its purpose. I had lots of writing ideas, and could not use most of them. I enjoy writing. It's the daily commitment part. Many of my writing ideas I still have do not easily conform to a daily writing schedule. They need more time than that.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

5 leadership styles

Over many years of observing leaders and leading people myself, I have learned to recognize five distinct styles of leadership: 

1. The Presider. From presiders we expect the preservation of values, the elegant representation of the team/company both within the enterprise and with its external constituencies, the efficient management of meetings, communications, and so on, and a sort of wise stewardship over the assets of the firm. Think of someone who spends his entire career at the same company and serves a relatively short stint as CEO—a time during which everything runs smoothly but nothing changes dramatically. He successfully presided. 

2. The Manager. From managers we expect teams to be led to deliver on-time, on-budget, agreed-upon results. Managers are like conductors who understand the score and each instrument without having to play every one of them. Managers excel at managing people, so they tend to focus on the team rather than the organization, its strategy, or its trajectory. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

An athlete's question for God

When I started out with God as my coach, I would sit down with a pen and paper and ask Him questions. 

This was a bit of a transition for me, because my prayer times were usually more like my talking at God than my giving Him space to speak back. But I’ve discovered that if I’m not asking God questions, I’m not creating room to hear Him. 

I had been taught how to pray from the time I was a little kid in Sunday school, so I was well versed in knowing how to talk to God, and I did listen for His voice, but the concept of asking Him specific questions and expecting to hear His answers immediately was new to me. 

Sure enough, though, when I started asking Him questions, He started answering them. And one of the first questions I asked God is, Where does strength come from? 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Carpenter's Voicemail

He called the number and after a few rings Michael heard the voice of the man who saved his life:

“Hi, I’m not answering my phone right now because I’m building kitchen cabinets at 111 Main Street. I’m putting my heart and soul into these cabinets so I won’t be returning calls until I’m finished with the job. Please know I will give the same attention and care to your work, as well. If you need to talk to me feel free to come by 111 Main Street during my lunch break at noon.”
Source: The Carpenter by Jon Gordon, Ken Blanchard

Monday, March 22, 2021

Policies for handling debt crises

There are four types of levers that policy makers can pull to bring debt and debt service levels down relative to the income and cash flow levels that are required to service them:
  1. Austerity (i.e., spending less)
  2. Debt defaults/restructurings
  3. The central bank “printing money” and making purchases (or providing guarantees)
  4. Transfers of money and credit from those who have more than they need to those who have less
Source: Big Debt Crises by Ray Dalio

As a friend of mine pointed out, there are also taxes.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Overcoming prayer

A young man enlisted and was sent to his regiment. The first night he was in the barracks with about fifteen other young men who passed the time playing cards and gambling. Before retiring, he fell on his knees and prayed. 

They cursed at him, taunted him, and threw their boots at him. 

So it went on the next night and the next. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Three business and leadership lessons from cricket

There are three stories from my all-too-brief cricketing past that speak very directly to business and leadership principles I use even today as a CEO. 

The first principle is to compete vigorously and with passion in the face of uncertainty and intimidation. 

In my school cricketing days, we played a team one summer that had several Australian players. During the match, our PE teacher, who acted as a sort of general manager for the team, noticed that we were admiring the Aussies’ play. In fact, we were more than a little intimidated by them. We had never played against foreign players, and Australia of course loomed large in the national cricket psyche. 

I now recognize our teacher and general manager as very much like an American football coach—loud and very competitive. He was having none of our admiration and intimidation. He began by yelling at the captain to get more aggressive. I was a bowler and a terrible fielder but he positioned me at forward short leg, right beside the powerful Australian batsmen. I would have been happy standing far away, but he put me right next to the action. In time, with new energy and new focus, we transformed into a competitive team. 

It showed me that you must always have respect for your competitor, but don’t be in awe. Go and compete. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Train the mind

“What you accomplish in life,” Lyndon Johnson wrote in the college paper during his freshman year, “depends almost completely upon what you make yourself do … perfect concentration and a great desire will bring a person success in any field of work he chooses.

“The very first thing one should do is to train the mind to concentrate upon the essentials and discard the frivolous and unimportant. This will ensure real accomplishment and ultimate success.”
Source: Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Thursday, March 18, 2021

A client for life

An e-mail that changed my life: 

Brendon,

I am an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This tells you absolutely nothing about me or my ability to succeed. Not now. Not over the next few years. 

My top two strengths on the StrengthsFinder are “Developer” and “Achiever.” This also tells you absolutely nothing about my ability to get things done or attain any specific outcomes. 

On the Kolbe, I score highest as a Quick Start. This means nothing because over time I’ve had to deal with real life and improve at the other modes I suck at like Fact Finder, Follow Thru, and Implementor. 

I prefer blue over green. I’m more like a lion than a chimp. I’m gritty but too often lazy. I identify more with a circle than a square. 

I eat mostly a Mediterranean diet but like hamburgers. 

I like being around people, for a while, but often I long to escape into solitude with a pot of tea and a thick book. I shop weekly at Whole Foods, but many of my lunchtimes are spent at a cheap Mexican place. 

Nothing about any of this can tell you anything, at all, about my capabilities, my odds of success, or my future performance. So please, man, stop trying to bucket me into a “type” or assume that my “strengths” or background give me any edge whatsoever. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Money has no intrinsic value

It’s senseless to have making money as your goal as money has no intrinsic value—its value comes from what it can buy, and it can’t buy everything. It’s smarter to start with what you really want, which are your real goals, and then work back to what you need to attain them. Money will be one of the things you need, but it’s not the only one and certainly not the most important one once you get past having the amount you need to get what you really want.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

How to start a business

In reality, it’s usually possible to start a business—especially the freelance or startup kind—just by finding and then helping a single paying customer. Then doing it again, and again. And only adding new items or processes to the mix when they’re absolutely required. 

If you have an idea for starting a business that requires a lot of money, time, or resources, you’re most likely thinking too big. Your idea can be scaled down to the basics—do it now, do it on the cheap, and do it quickly—and then iterated upon. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

This Is Marketing: An executive summary

Ideas that spread, win. 

Marketers make change happen: for the smallest viable market, and by delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant messages that people actually want to get. 

Marketers don’t use consumers to solve their company’s problem; they use marketing to solve other people’s problems. They have the empathy to know that those they seek to serve don’t want what the marketer wants, don’t believe what they believe, and don’t care about what they care about. They probably never will. 

At the heart of our culture is our belief in status, in our self-perceived understanding of our role in any interaction, in where we’re going next. We use status roles and our decisions about affiliation and dominion to decide where to go and how to get there. 

Persistent, consistent, and frequent stories, delivered to an aligned audience, will earn attention, trust, and action. 

Sunday Talk Show Recap

Preview: Democrats declare victory on COVID-19 stimulus; Vaccination efforts provide hope for summer

Recap: Migrant surge dominates

Clips on Twitter

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Not an easy companion

Those who know Leonard Ravenhill will recognize in him the religious specialist, the man sent from God not to carry on the conventional work of the church, but to beard the priests of Baal on their own mountaintop, to shame the careless priest at the altar, to face the false prophet and warn the people who are being led astray by him. 

Such a man as this is not an easy companion. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Limitless spending

The word “prodigal” does not mean “wayward” but, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “recklessly spendthrift.” It means to spend until you have nothing left.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Viruses of the mind

Right now, it almost seems as if the social media world was designed to spread viruses of the mind. And that’s probably because it was. 

While in the earlier days of the Internet ideas spread faster than before, today in the walled gardens of social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, or especially Twitter, ideas spread much, much faster, and with less time for rumination or consideration, than ever before. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

His father's negotiating strategy

In memory of my father, Morris Cohen, whose negotiating strategy was always to give much more than he received. His life spoke an eloquence of its own.
Source: You Can Negotiate Anything by Herb Cohen

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Happiness in work

Not one person in a thousand said that happiness accrued from working as hard as you can to make money to buy whatever you want. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Taps lyrics

All sixteen men marched down the ramp. As the plane’s massive cargo door closed, a bugle note cut the clear night like a blade, and “Taps” began to play. 

Those who knew the century-old lyrics recited them inwardly: 
Day is done, gone the sun 
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky 
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh. 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Marketing in five steps

The first step is to invent a thing worth making, with a story worth telling, and a contribution worth talking about.
The second step is to design and build it in a way that a few people will particularly benefit from and care about.
The third step is to tell a story that matches the built-in narrative and dreams of that tiny group of people, the smallest viable market.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

A template for self-righteous government

In case it ever seemed like problems for Washington to supposedly solve are made up out nothing, you're not alone and you're not wrong.

Take, for instance, S.Res. 85, introduced by Sen. Warren this week. In the name of “the duty of the federal government to dramatically expand and strengthen” something, it simultaneously cites “critical public services and programs” as being both “critical” and “nonexistent.”

Think about that: Something doesn't even exist, and yet in the minds of those who want to “dramatically expand and strengthen” their power in Washington, they present their role as being “critical.”

Friday, March 5, 2021

Will we get through this?

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Schumer described America's situation as a “once-in-a-century crisis.” He specifically emphasized that this is “not once in a decade, not once in every 50 years—once in a century.”

This may be understating the challenge.

He set up the decision before the Senate as one of two choices: either “a long, slow, painful recovery” or a bill “to crush the virus now, get our country back to normal, lay the foundation for our economy to come roaring back—roaring back.” In other words, one way or another, we will get through this.

What if there's a third option, and more importantly, a reason behind these economic difficulties?

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Democrats' moving target on voting integrity

Last July, Senator Cantwell (D-WA) spoke on elections, and specifically demonstrated how signature verification works:
Just for those who are really curious about this, I now have a privacy envelope. Now that I am done filling out my ballot, I stick it in this privacy envelope. Why do I do that? If somebody thinks that my privacy is violated because on the outside of this envelope I sign this signature, they separate these two things. This privacy envelope separates this and throws the ballots that are legitimate to be counted, and now no one knows exactly how I voted.

I take this privacy envelope, and I stick it in the official document envelope that I am going to mail back. So I stick it in there, and guess what I have to do? I have to sign and date it. That signature is the validation of this system. It is the validation by my signature, the same as when I went into a voting booth, as we used to do, and signed my name. It is a validation against someone who is trying to create mischief with this system. It is what makes the vote-by-mail system work effectively in our State. I say that because our State has had many close elections, and yet no one has ever contested the outcome of the final election because we go through this system.

Fast-forward to this week.

Tuesday (legislative Monday), Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) spoke on voting rights, and referred to “signature requirements for absentee ballots” as “absurd.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Not given = denied ?

During oral argument today, Justice Sotomayor said, “You're denied something if you're not given the right to vote because or results in your denial from circumstances that the state could remedy easily.”

Perhaps there is some particular nuance to the voting circumstances and principles discussed in this case, but the idea that “if you're not given” something then “you're denied” seems to be a problematic and widespread philosophy.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Home interference

Following up on some previous items, both HB 1864 and SB 1310 have been sent to the Virginia Governor to be signed into law.

The Family Foundation has more information on the implications of these bills.

Governor Northam should veto these bills that infringe on home rights.

If he won't, the courts should strike them down.

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