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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Professor Grin and Barrett

Something I've always wanted to do is be a professor. I enjoy teaching and even applied for and turned down a position at the University of Phoenix once. Before that I gave somewhat serious thought (for about a week and a half) to going back and getting a PhD in something so I could teach. But, other things took priority in life and I elected to stay on my career path for the time being. Well this week the dream was brought back to life as I was asked to teach a class at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Granted it's only freshman seminar, but I get a TA to grade my papers and the whole deal, so I'm happy.

The title of the section I will be teaching is titled BYOB. An appropriate college title I think. By the way it stands for Be Your Own Boss, not Bring Your Own Beer. We'll be discussing what it takes to run your own business along with helping the students acclimate to college life.

Now I just need to find my cardigan sweater, grow a beard and buy a pipe to smoke.

Several things I found fascinating as I went through the faculty retreat today was how much technology has changed the classroom. Professors are now recording their lectures and posting them as pod casts. Professors have online threaded discussions about class topics with students. Some even do screen capture with voice over and post the whole thing on the web so you can sit at home, never having gone to class and not miss a thing. According to faculty on the cutting edge, PowerPoint is out of style now. Sites like WebCT and Blink List are becoming the new tools of the trade.

Perhaps to stay technologically relevant to my incoming students, I'll hold Halo tournaments in my office as part of mid terms... Just a thought.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A Glimpse Into My Life

Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy. ~ Nora Ephron

If you ever wonder where I get "it", perhaps here is some insight. "It" of course being that crazy way of scaring my wife with my ability to develop what I call a vision and she calls a stupid idea. (in truth we balance each other well) The following is an exerpt of a recent email I got from my mother that explains a lot about my family and myself.

Dear Matt,
Want to talk about a painful experience? Dad & I spent four hours choosing light fixtures and ceiling fans. Of the lights we chose, I'm only sure that I like the can lights and one set of pendant lights. Of the ceiling fans, I'm sure I don't like any of them because ceiling fans are inherently UGLY and only belong on porches or in a bedroom decorated for Ernest Hemingway or elephants. Ernest is dead and Dad
can not have an elephant for a pet.

Speaking of pets, let me tell you a story about your father and how, as he nears retirement, I'm losing any control that I ever thought I had over him. He convinced me that we needed a little golf cart to "ferry" elderly people from the driveway down to the dock. (I wondered, "What elderlypeople?" but didn't ask because I was afraid he might identify me!) Then the little transporting golf cart grew to be a little "golf cart truck" for use in ferrying landscaping materials from the driveway down to the lowerlevel of the lot. Of course, if we are going to be moving andscaping materials, we need something to carry them home from the store. Come
to find out, he's always wanted a trailer to pull behind his SUV. So he's spent several months pointing out "neat" trailers that might be just what he wants. But I really realized I was in this trouble when he informed me he "needed" a little Bobcat. I informed him I had no intention of starting over with pets at this point in my life (at least not until my husband died I would consider a pet, it certainly would not be a wild animal!

"No, no, not that kind of bobcat," he says. "I want one of those little tractors that are called Bobcats."
Being stupid, I asked, "What would you possibly do with one of those?"
To which he happily replied, "Dig holes!"
Now understand, this conversation started while we were running to and fro making selections in various categories for the Lake house so I assumed he knew something I wasn't aware of and asked, "For landscaping?"
"I don't know. Maybe."
"So you don't have any specific holes you need to dig?"
"Then why do we need this tractor thing?"
"To dig holes."
"You just want to dig holes?"
"Yeah, I've always just wanted to dig holes with a Bobcat. I could just digholes anywhere I wanted to."
It was at this point I thought we needed to clarify a few points. "You cannot go around digging holes just anyplace."

Then I saw it. That look. I've seen it before! Remember the famous "tree to put Christmas lights on" incident? The look was there then. Remember the plan to knock out thewindow in Elizabeth's bedroom and add a greenhouse as a surprise for me? (I foiled that by walking in on him as he was assembling his tools!) It was there then! And, while I can't personally testify to it, I just know it was there when, as a child, he plugged the drains and flooded the basement to make an indoor swimming pool! I may be in real trouble! (Please, don't bring the movie "Holes" with you when you come to the Lake in August!)

Love you,

P.S. Elizabeth, thought I'd send this to you so that you can also be a witness to the beginning of your father's mental illness!"
Honestly, I dont' think I ever knew about the green house, but it would have been a great idea. And, honey, I'm coming home with some old towels for the basement drain... get your swim suit ready... "I've got a plan" & "I can make it work"!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Batter Up!

Tonight is the night where I dawn my cleats and walk out on the field to play in the first of many softball games this summer. I've only played in one other league which was back in Tulsa. (Unless you count t-ball at age 6) The only good thing that came out of that league wasmy friendship with Adam and Shannon. Aside from that, we were so horrible that I would stand in center field and soak through my shirt without moving as the 98 degree heat and 97% humidity tortured me and the sweet stench of the sewage pond behind the outfield would quietly distract me from the fact that the other team has now batted around twice on us this inning. 20 to 1 wansn't an uncommon losing score for us.

But I have a much better feeling about this league. No humidity - No bugs - No sewage - Competitive practices - A pitcher that can get the ball across home plate. What more could I ask for?

I already have that still quiet flow of adrenaline already flowing in my stomach. I'll go home this afternoon, pack my bag, repack my bag and triple check that everything is in place. My wife will bug me about the insane amount of preparation I go through for a stupid softball league. Then I'll get dressed in my jersey and rush through supper because I'm like the little kid in the summer who wants to rush back out and play with his friends before the sun sets and before bedtime comes.

I can almost hear my mother calling me "Maaaathew Commme Hooome"
Gotta go - mom's calling, but we can play next Friday night too. Okay?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Is the Economy Ebbing or Flowing?

The economy is supposed to be on the rise. Our post 9-11 financial worries are supposed to be over as things return to "normal". But I have first hand knowledge that perhaps this isn't so.

Recently I went through the hiring process to hire an administrative assistant for my office. Aside from the red tape, which I could vent about for at least a post and a half, but I will restrain myself to only outline the process. I wrote a job description which was scrutinized on 3 different levels, modified and then approved. I wrote an ad for the paper which was approved by the HR department. The ad ran once in the Sunday edition of the paper. I formed a search committee which had to contain the correct types of people, age, race, sex, etc. We underwent an hour of diversification training. We received 63 resumes in one week. We weeded it down to 5. We interviewed the 5 and selected the one.

Whatever! I'm just glad it's over now and I can resume a productive schedule.

Back to my economics example. Of the 63 resumes, I immediately eliminated over 20 of them because they were over qualified. The position, which listed the job description in the ad as well as the salary requirements fit that of a moderately paid admin person. Yet, somehow I managed to attract over 20 people with Masters degrees or in some cases multiple masters degrees.

Is the economy that bad? Are people really willing to work for that little of money with that high of an education? Well I'm about to find out. The one over qualified individual I interviewed, I hired. A recent MBA grad with a Masters in Education.

My challenge now becomes creating an environment that can keep this individual satisfied long enough for me to train her to succeed me if and when I move on. No plans of that now, but if it does ever happen, this admin person could take my spot.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Uncle Galen Still Young At 99

The brother of my father's mother's father turned 99 earlier this month. Great Uncle Galen Kill has always had my admiration.

  • Partly for his frugalness - though quite well off he lives in what today would be called a shack and when alive, his wife and he would dig through the trash for everything from clothes to empty plastic milk jugs to carry water in.
  • Partly for his intelligence - he would go around finding everything from semi precious rocks to highly precious artifacts like a pair of woven slippers worn by the Indians of Arizona many hundreds of years ago. Everything in his garage belongs in a museum and he knows everything about what he has.
  • Partly for his toughness - When he had a hernia I heard stories about how his intestine would rupture through the hole in his abdomen in the size of about an orange. He would lay down and push it back in his stomach then go back to work. This when he was around 90 years young.

For his 99th birthday instead of sitting in the nursing home and gumming dry cake like most 99 year old people do, my great uncle Galen decided so ride in a hot air balloon. It made the local news on Phoenix News 12.

The story is here where you can watch the video clip of it also.

He says he wants to sky dive next! I hope I'm still that active and adventurous at 59, much less 99.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


A quick explanation: I had intended to write several posts about the wonderful educational experience I had at Estes Park last week, but in truth the only applicable and interesting education I had is 1000 feet of elevation makes a big difference when running. Colorado Springs at 6500 feet was nothing compared to the 7500 feet of Estes Park. It still makes my lungs burn and heart pound.

So instead I'll save the boredom of economic development rhetoric and share my thoughts on anticipation instead.

From the Internet Encyclopedia of Personal Construct Psychology "Anticipation is what motivates the person, being 'both the push and pull of the psychology of personal constructs'. As a consequence, 'it is the future which tantalizes man, not the past. Always he reaches out to the future through the window of the present"

I'm working with a group of people within the city on what has been dubbed "the meeting of the minds". Still not sure how I got invited to be part of this group, but I wasn't going to question their wisdom and insight ;)

We are literally 2 meetings away from rolling out this new and innovative program that has the potential to effect the entire economy of Colorado Springs. At this morning's meeting, I noticed the anticipation of everyone growing and the energy increasing. All of the mundane details we were working out just seemed to fall into place and no one seemed to care about switching from large scope visionary mentality to narrow scope nuts and bolts which is a transition that often times kills a project like this.

The anticipation was naturally created in this instance, but I think it has to be massaged a little in other instances. A self reflective question: "As we each lead our respective organizations, what are we doing to create anticipation that will help our followers reach out to the future through the window of the present?"

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lost in Lost

Did anyone watch Lost last night? 2 words – “HOLY SMOKES”

So the show was good and in typical Lost form. But how many of you caught the advertisement for the Hanso Foundation?

Hanso Foundation is not a real foundation. It is part of the Lost show – a fake commercial. They give a website www.sublymonal.com. You go there and see television screens in a circle with the word “obey” in the middle. Click "obey" and find the right screen and start clicking. But pay attention to how many times you click it before you can move on to the next screen. Think it’s a coincidence that the number of times you have to click each screen in order is 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42? Do those numbers look at all familiar to anyone?

So then after clicking the code, another screen loads where a tv screen gives a sublumonal message which is “Heir Apparent”. Just beneath the screen is a hidden link that when you click it opens another website (make sure you have the latest flash plugin) Even if you have the right plug in the following message appears anyway.

You are seeing this message, as you don't seem to have the correct or the latest version of the Flash plugin installed.Please download the latest flash plugin here.If you are sure you reached this page in error click here to go directly to the site.
Thank you and Namaste,
The Hanso Foundation

Get the plugin, then click the second "here" and the Hanso Foundation's website loads. This site is full of needles in haystacks. For example, the site is in flash, so if you right click and click "show all" a login appears. Haven't figured out what the username is, but another needle I'm sure. Beware - the haystack is huge!

Also, if you go to "Newsletter Sign Up" and enter in anything for a screen name, it appears that the computer is being hacked and you are asked if you can read this. Type "yes" and then enter something for the password. You are told to call the number from the tv ad which is 877-HANSORG or 877-426-7674. I called and found the password which is "breaking strain" go to the newsletter sign up again and enter this in for the password and you get another needle. Will it ever end???

I'm so lost in Lost.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

18 Years Difference

I was fourteen years old and thought I was as cool as a freshman in high school could be. My parents were out of town and my grandparents were watching my sister and I. Tiffany Culp, a senior, picked me up in her car and we were on our way to watch my fellow freshman classmate, Chad Gleckler, play indoor soccer. About 3 minutes from my house we both realized that we didn't have clue where his game was, so we opted to go see a movie instead. Obviously as a freshman going to see a movie with a senior ,I felt pretty cool.

I'd never seen a true horror movie before, so I didn't know what to expect when we walked into the theater playing Halloween 4. It had me a little shaken, but I was never going to let Tiffany see me afraid so I played it off with a few jokes. But, that night I laid down in bed reminiscing about how cool I had just become. A few moments later I tried going to sleep and became astutely aware of how scared I was. Afraid to close my eyes because I was going to be killed by Michael from Halloween, I laid frightfully still for 3 hours.

Finally at around 2 in the morning I drifted off to sleep with my lock blade knife on the pillow next to me and my bible under my pillow. Don't ask - I have no explanation for why I did that, but it helped me sleep, so I guess in some way it made sense at the time.

Fast forward 18 years. I check into the Stanley Hotel. I'm excited because I found out you don't have to pay for The Shining on pay per view, instead they have a station that loops the movie continually. I catch the beginning at 10:00pm and watch.

Somewhere between the age of 14 and 32 I must have come to the realization that movies aren't that scary. I spent more time analyzing the movie, which I didn't particularly think was that great. I know all the true movie critics are going to disagree, but it's my opinion for what it's worth.

Anyway, five minutes after turning it off, I close my eyes and briefly wonder if Jack is going to chop my door down with an axe, then I fall asleep. This morning I woke up, looked out of my window and saw fresh snow on the ground already starting to melt in the morning sun and an elk grazing in the grassy field behind the hotel. I wondered to myself, what else was I once afraid of that if I experienced again, would I now realize the foolishness of my fear.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Caution To The Wind

"Some places are like people: some shine and some don't."
~ Dick Hallorann - The Shining

Tuesday morning at the crack of dawn I'll be in my mini-van driving north to Estes Park for our regional conference. The conference, like most conferences, will be a lot of blah, blah, blah - eat, eat, eat - horrible sleep, etc.

The cool part of the conference will be we are staying at the famed Stanley Hotel where The Shining was filmed. Believe it or not, I have never seen The Shining (not sure how that happened)

I've been given two sets of instructions regarding this. One - you've got to see it before you go. It will make your trip so much better. Two - absolutely do not see it until you get back home. You won't be able to sleep while you're there if you see it before you go.

Always up for the challenge and never sleeping well in hotels anyway, I figure I'll throw caution to the wind and after checking in, I'll pay-per-view it while staying at the Stanley.

As a result, I should have plenty of time to blog while sitting up in my bed in a cold sweat. So stay tuned for scary insights from the Stanley this week.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Sweet Emotion

"Music is the ultimate expression of universal feelings and that great
composers transform these emotions into art." ~ Cooke 1959

I recently read a research article that stated women perceived music as the second most romantic thing. This article goes on for ten pages about the connection between emotion and music. If you can't sleep tonight, go ahead and read it... I did.

Knowing that a heightened state of emotion creates strong memories, I got to thinking about particular songs and people I had associated them with. Every time a song comes on the radio I instantly think about a certain individual.

Here's a quick list of such songs an my association to others.
  1. Free Fallin by Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers - Scott Hodge - From a story he told me about when he had the song in his head during a stressful situation. Several years later in a similar situation I had the same song stuck in my head.
  2. Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi - Steve Smith - I loved hearing him play it
  3. Sweet Child of Mine by Guns and Roses - Jamie O'bradovich - A guy I went to high school with. He sat in the band room and played it on his guitar. I felt cool listening to it.
  4. Radar Love by White Lion - Chris Anunson - My best friend from school. He introduced me to White Lion and the song. We used to listen to it and drive fast.
  5. Mary Jane's Last Dance by Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers - Greg Dunlap - My college room mate. No we didn't smoke it, just listened to it every day at lunch for 2 months straight. We never could figure out what the song was about until I finally asked someone.

Do you have songs you associate with people? Or am I weird?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sexy Stocks or Monkey Business


In grad school I took an investments course. One point the instructor drilled into our heads was that a buy and hold strategy was always the best strategy. He quoted statistics such as "you have to be right 76% of the time to beat a buy and hold strategy." But another professor told me that 33% of all statistics are made up, so who knows?!?

There has long been urban legend of a group of chimpanzees who have been trained to throw darts at the stock pages of a newspaper and select a company to invest in. The chimps picks would then be compared against the educated decisions made by a Wall Street broker. The chimps win.

Well, leave it to Americans to take the ridiculousness of the chimps and use sex to sell the concept. No, not chimps and sex, but Playboy Playmates are now picking stocks. Evidently Trading Markets has 10 Playboy Playmates picking stocks to see how intelligent they are. Uh... Whatever - I'm sure right under turn on's is the question "What is your IQ?" and "How diversified is your portfolio?" You can follow along daily to see how they are doing here. (it is safe, but it does have links beyond that I'm not going to guarantee)

I'm surprised Fox hasn't made it a reality show. "Stock Strippers" or "Hot Tips" or something of that nature. We could tune in weekly to see who gets fired, or voted off, or some other mello-drama humiliation. We could all get together and pop popcorn and have an office pool on who's going to win.

As of Tuesday, Miss Amy Sue Cooper, Cyber Girl of the Year (pictured above on the right) was in the lead with a 47.92% ROI.

Thanks to Ramit Sethi for the link.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Continually Re-Casting the Vision

"Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it."

If you went to church with me back in Tulsa you heard this at least twice a month. If not, you can read it here. This past weekend I went back to Lincoln, Nebraska for my fraternity, Omega Alpha Chi's annual alumni weekend. I was involved in starting a fraternity from scratch back in 1995 with the purpose of providing a solid Christian environment for college men who didn't want the pressures of living a stereotyped lifestyle of a frat guy, but still wanted the brotherhood that sort of organization provides.

This is always a time of vision as well as reminiscing. Lots of stories were told about the good ol' days. The older alumni shared with the younger members what it was like in the beginning. But the biggest thing that happens is that the alumni, who are busy with every day life, have a chance to "read" the vision again as we run by. This weekend is important because is always provides a great opportunity to re-cast and refresh the vision.

Vision is a big part of business and life. If you want something done that takes more than just your efforts alone you have to cast the vision. With all of today's seminars, books and magazines on leadership and sales and everything else under the sun, people have become fairly good at this. However, once your vision has people buying in to it, you have to continually re cast the vision or it will die. I think this is where many people struggle.

Written today that quote might read, "tattoo the vision on your forehead so everyone who sees you knows what you stand for" or in a less "Miami Ink" method, "put your vision on a bill board, bumper sticker or sticky note, or whatever, but keep it in front of their eyes"

Monday, May 01, 2006

Technology and Relationships: An all encompassing model

Back from a big weekend, I wanted to start out the week in a big way. So, here is my deep thought for the week.

I went to a lecture today by my friend Gary Thuerk (a.k.a. the father of Spam) on the anniversary of the first spam ever sent about creativity and disruptive technologies.

He brought to light an interesting fact that new technology in the marketplace follows a bell curve pattern. The image below represents the progression.

Take the Compact Disc for example.

R&D - At some point, some company was doing research on how to advance music and or data storage. No one was buying because there was nothing on the market. It was locked away in some research laboratory somewhere.

Early Acceptors - The new technology is released and the first people began buying it. But remember back to the late 80's. Not everyone could afford it, or wanted to pay $15 for the same music they could get for $10 on cassette. Only those who accepted the new technology early on were out buying CD's

Acceptors - Much later in the mid 90's almost everyone was buying CD's and very few bought cassettes any more.

Followers - Finally at the end of the 90's cassettes were almost impossible to find and those skeptics who couldn't find cassettes were almost forced to follow the trend and buy CD's. They followed for reasons varying from ridicule to peer pressure to a late stage enlightenment.

During the first two stages, R&D and Early Acceptance, there is little or now profit and much investment. As time progresses and Acceptance and Following occurs, investment decreases as profit increases.

Now consider this - My deep thought for the week: Technology follows this, but so do many other things such as fashion, trends, religion and even relationships.

For example, you meet someone new. Perhaps they move to the area and someone in your circle of friends introduces them to the group. At the beginning there is an R&D period. You inquire about them, ask questions about where they came from, what they do, hobbies, etc. You even compare notes with other circle members about their opinions. Then the new person transitions into early acceptance. During this time there is a high level of investment or perhaps call it risk because you are going under the same R&D by the new person.

At some point a few people jump right in and welcome the new person to the group. They give early acceptance. Risk is still fairly high because not everything is known about the person. You only have their word that they are a good person, not an observance of them being good over a long period of time. However profit begins to come in because you now have the potential to have the benefits of friendship.

Then as the individual progresses across the curve, they become largely accepted by the group and finally the last of the skeptics follow suit and accepts them.

So if this is true for almost every situation, what and how are we doing to manage our relationships, our businesses, our life in this progression? When a new person visits your place of business, do you invest / risk without profit or do you wait to follow after they prove themselves worthy of what little risk is left to manage?