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Monday, July 31, 2006

Six Degrees From Greatness

The theory that we are separated from anyone in the world by only 6 degrees of separation proved itself true last Friday as I played in a golf tournament at Antler Creek, the second longest golf course in the US at 8100 yards from the tips. I recognized the guy I was playing with immediately as "Tex" Stuart. I have absolutely no idea what his real first name is, but he's a crusty, old, knicker wearing, cigar smoking guy with an absolutely beautiful golf swing, so first names were irrelevant I guess.

I've played with Tex once before at another golf tournament, so all the formalities of "So... what do you do?" and "How long you been doing that?" were out of the way. As we talked he told me about how he played for the University of Minnesota. Intrigued I asked him what it was like and he shared his experiences on the team.

He told me about his first year on the team they went to Ohio State to play. The coach, knowing that Ohio State had this outstanding player that no one would be able to beat, matched Tex up against this unbeatable golfer as a sacrifice. Tex said he got beat, but felt okay about it because he shot a great game.

When he told me the Ohio State golfer's name, I realized I was only separated by one degree from Tom Weiskopf. Yet, despite playing with the guy who played with the guy who won 7 tournaments, including the British Open in 1973, we finished 8 strokes behind the leaders, who won with 16 under.

My insight on this experience is this: just because you know someone, or know someone who knows someone, doesn't make you great. Only doing something great makes you great.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Why I'm Better Than You

Okay, I really don't think I'm better than you, but I needed a catchy title to go with the report that Money magazine’s 19th annual survey of the Best Places to Live in America ranks Colorado Springs No. 1 in the big city category, population of 300,000 or more. (Gazette Link Here) (Money Magazine Link Here)

Knowing my faithful and wonderful readers are from places in or around the Mesa, New York, Omaha and other wonderful places to live, I just had to brag a little about my town.

My real point is that what propelled Colorado Springs to the top of the list wasn't necessarily the city's characteristics alone. Sure education, housing price, weather and other things contributed to the ranking, but my favorite quote from the Gazette article was:

The Springs benefited from a change in methodology in the Money survey this year. In 2005, the editors had focused on communities of 14,000 people or larger but this year decided to alter their guidelines and include only those cities of 50,000 or more.

This magnified look at each community — and that breakout — pushed Colorado Springs to the top of the list. It was not even mentioned in the top 100 under the previous format.

So perhaps my title statement could be true. If I just massage the numbers a little I am better than you.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Competition or Cooperation

Today's workplace is filled with a diversified workforce. Not only diversified in race, religion, sex, etc. but even more so in personality traits which create office environments. There can be benefits to this diversity, but there can also be drawbacks. It largely depends on the individuals you bring into your environment.

Many workplaces today have become competitive. Teams compete against teams. Team members push other team members on to achieve more, faster and better by creating a competitive synergy. The theory that “competition brings out the best in us” is active here.

Other workplaces are non competitive. They focus on cooperative goals and working together. They theory that “superior performance not only does not require competition; it usually seems to require its absence”

Whether or not you buy into either of these theories the fact is that according to this research by Adrian Ibbetson and Sue Newell a competitive environment isn't any different than a cooperative environment.

I suppose it comes down to are you competitive by nature or not. Me, personally, I'm competitive, but with the ability to turn it off when appropriate. I don't have to beat my 4 year old son at Candy Land. However, when I'm running from 1st to 2nd on an overthrow and I sense the ball coming in over my shoulder to the second baseman the competitiveness in my takes over and I slide, leaving a beautiful beef jerky scab on my leg.

The upside to cooperativeness is that you grow close and more intimate with your teammates. The upside to competitiveness is you get a gnarly looking gash on your leg and chicks dig scars.

The downside to competitiveness is that as the scab tightens and you go for your morning run, the scab splits open and blood gushes out.

The really bad side is that when it oozes, it gooes up your nice dress pants at your office.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Peer Pressure or Leadership

As a kid, I don't know how many times I was told to resist peer pressure. - Don't do what they are doing. If they jumped off a bridge would you do it too? - My mother, my youth minister, my teachers, even Nancy Regan told me to "just say no".

Now that I'm a grown adult, fending for myself in the business world, I'm told to be a leader. Lead others along the right path and success will follow. But isn't that just peer pressure? Aren't I really influencing them in the same way my middle school friends were influencing me?

So is it peer pressure or leadership that causes someone to start their own blog after receiving an "everyone is doing it" message?

What ever it is, my lovely wife has seen the light and finally decided to start her own blog. The Rocky Mountain Mom will be blogging away at her very own spot.

She says it's peer pressure, I think it's because I'm such a strong leader... but as we all know, in the end, she'll be right.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mis-information Systems

The following post is a venting that has been building for about 3 weeks. Thank you for listening. No animals were harmed in the making of this vent, but one dog almost got kicked.

Moving into our new house 2 weeks ago, my wife (ever the consummate planner) arranged for Qwest and Direct TV to be installed as we are moving in so we have phone lines to order pizza, high speed Internet to look up the pizza place's number and television to watch while we are taking a break from unpacking boxes and eating pizza.

The fun began when Direct TV sends out a kid who looked to be about 17 years old to install our satellite. He can't figure out how to turn the TV on without the remote, which is still in a box somewhere, nor does he possess the mental capacity to use another TV to check his installation, so he leaves and tells us to call the service number and they'll do it. I get home to realize he has left the old dish in the yard along with the bolts, nuts and cable. Frustration level at 2 out of 10 I call Direct TV to sort it out. 45 minutes of talking to the service tech and still no solution. My cel phone goes dead because Quest hasn't even shown up yet to turn on our phones. My wife calls Quest to sort that out later and gets some tech to come by and turn the phones on... finally.

The Internet isn't on though. Why? Because when we call to find out what's going on with it the guy asks where the modem is.
"What modem?"
"The one you said you were providing."
"Uh... no you were bringing it when you install it."
"Oh, we don't bring them. UPS ships them the day before."
Another call discovers that the modem is being shipped, but it's not a wireless modem. We should refuse delivery and they'll ship our wireless modem. The next day 2 modems show up and the following day the wireless modem comes too. Frustration level 5 out of 10.

Another 45 minutes with Direct TV and they call the same installer, who comes out and installs it right this time. I ask him to take the old satellite. He still leaves the bolts and cable in my yard. 6 out of 10.

I hook up the wireless modem and follow it's "easy" instructions, which miss little steps in the instructions like turn on the modem. Luckily I figured that out on my own. 58 minutes on the phone with Qwest and they think they've determined that the Internet may be blocked outside our house from the main switch. They'd send some one around to look at it. Ya think? 7 out of 10.

Next morning we get a call from a Direct TV person who is on his way to our house to hook up our TV... which is already working.

Internet is turned on, my wife goes through the instructions with some tech on the phone and gets it working if the computer is wired in. I come home to install the wireless portion it asks for a key #. I call to get the number. 45 minutes later the guy says, "Not my deal, you'll have to call the manufacturer on it"

RING - RING - "Hello Barretts." "Hi, I'm with Direct TV, and I'm on my way out to fix your..." "I got it fixed already ya idiot" - Click! Frustration Level is 8.5 out of 10. Luckily our dog, Baxter has quick reflexes or he would have caught a size 10 in the side as I walked past him. I tinker for 5 minutes and call back, ask for the key #, 30 seconds later I get a key number and presto, the modem works.

Next morning I get a call from Qwest that the tech is on his way to fix the Internet... which is already working. Uh, Houston, we have a problem.

UPS doesn't pick up the packages. My wife calls to find out why. No one knows why. They realize only 1 of the 2 packages was scheduled for pick up and enter in the second and promise UPS will be back out tomorrow. 9 .8 out of 10 My thoughts... If you are going to spend money on an information system... then use the stupid thing.

I sit down and start typing... blowing off steam and venting my frustrations. Ahh, back to 2 out of 10. I get a message that the parking Nazis on campus have issued 2, $30 parking tickets to our clients for some ridiculous reason. Now I get to go argue with them about waiving the ticket. 6 out of 10... here we go again.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Monthly Conference Call

I love the way some writers give the minute by minute narrative of their events, so I wanted to follow suit and give you the minute by minute narrative on my conference call this morning. (typed during the call mind you)

8:56 I dial in. I accidentally dial 1-800 instead of 1-866. Some lady rudely answers the phone and states “dial 866” then she hung up on me. How rude! I dial 1-866 and begin listening to horrible hold music.

8:59 The conference chairman dials in and I no longer get to hear boring hold music. Instead I begin hearing the conference call introduction routine. “Hello, this is Jim from Denver.” “Hi everyone, Kim from Pueblo.” What I really hate about this is everyone knows everyone else hates conference calls and the stupid introduction routine, but everyone tries to "out-friendly" the rest. “Well gooood morning everyone! This is Sam from Glenwood Springs. Good to be talking to you!” I actually have gone an entire conference call without ever introducing myself or speaking. Today, I thought I’d be real outgoing “Matt… Colorado Springs… hi”

9:04 the conversation starts with 5 out of 15 people in attendance. 10 people skipping the call. Doh! – why didn’t I think of that?

9:10 A conversation about immigration law our governor is signing starts. Hot topic politically, and even for us, but let’s not waste everyone’s time and discuss it. Give me the briefing on what to expect and move on. I’m starting to get glossy eyed and am brought back to consciousness by the “ba-ding” of new email. It’s my wife asking where I made my haircut appointment. I’m so glad to find the info and reply.

9:11 – I wish more people would email me.

9:13 I hear my name being called somewhere in the back of my mind and realize someone’s talking about me on the call and hope I don’t get asked a question. Whew! No question.

9:19 My cel phone rings and caller ID shows a call from number 000-000-0000. I so want to answer to find out who has that number, but I can’t figure out how to talk on one call and listen to the conference

9:20, My phone buzzes! A voice mail! I start to check it when…

9:21 A slap on the wrist because my accountant didn’t get the magic form signed and returned to the state offices. But, when the form wasn’t requested until the day it was due, I say, “Fooey on you – you can wait your turn.”

9:25 I get my voice mail checked and it’s from our mortgage company who sent our escrow money to our insurance company to be told they don’t have record of us having insurance with them. Can I just mention I hat poorly designed information systems that screw things up like this? I’ll vent about this tomorrow.

9:29 Music to my ears. “Well that about wraps everything up. We’ll send out the minutes of this call and plan on hearing from you all next month.” It’s a new record; a 30 minute conference call. Last month’s was almost an hour. I think I better buy a lottery ticket today. My luck is running high!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Inspired by Inspiration

So it seems that I was inspired by Betsy, who was inspired by Abe to find comparisons of who we all look like. But, since I'm never satisfied with the subjective, I searched out this objective comparison of which famous celebrity I look like.

My Heritage Face Recognition will take your photo and run a face recognition comparison against celebrities. I ran it and found that contrary to some people's belief I don't look like Radar O'Reilly off of MASH. Instead, I look like Gene Kelly.

It also said I look like this guy, so who knows how accurate this thing is.

Also, because I'm such a customer sensitive blogger, I know my readers (or at least one of them) hates to sign up for useless things. So, I've taken the time to open a generic account at My Heritage just for you. At the login it asks for an email and password. Enter the folowing and enjoy.

email: barrett@hotmail.com
password: barrett

There you go - no more whining in the comment section now.

An Elementary Encounter

If you've ever been on an executive retreat, they usually include some sort of cliche, borderline stupid team building exercise. Everything from falling into a person's arms behind you to develop trust to everyone standing on two boards and having to walk together in unison and move the boards with you as you walk.

On Saturday, when the fighting between my two boys got to be too much for me to handle, and the usual threatening to take something away tactic failed, I decided my boys could use a team building experience. As they sat on the floor yelling at each other, pushing and pulling, trying to get the orange crayon away from the other because both had to use orange at the same time and there was only one orange crayon I sprang my plan.

I separated them, then took the crayons and divided them up by color. I put all the shades of red, pink, etc into one pile and all the blues, then greens, yellows, etc into other piles. I split the piles up and gave each son their equal number of crayons. Then I picked a new page in the coloring book and told them to both color the same page at the same time and if they fought, they went to their rooms for a long time.

Seeing my threat was serious and probably wondering at what point I went off the deep end, they started coloring making an occasional complaint about wanting this part or that thing colored a shade that the other one had. They managed to communicate and get the picture colored. So, I told them to agree on another picture to color. Quicker than I'd ever seen them agree on anything, they picked out a little bunny rabbit to color. Next I told them to decide what color they were going to use. They agreed on grey. I told my oldest to grab the crayon, he did. I told my youngest to also grab the same crayon and together at the same time color the picture using the one crayon.

I only wish I had a camera to take a picture of the look on their faces. Finally they finished and both proudly showed me what they accomplished together. We went the rest of the day without much fighting at all. Instead of an Executive Encounter, maybe I'll start an Elementary Encounter.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mommy Bloggers

I've been blogging now for quite some time and have developed a small, but faithful group of readers. During this time, I have tried on several occasions to get my lovely and talented wife to begin blogging. I even got to the point one time where we sat down together and set up a blog. But, alas, she never did anything with it.

Today, I read Guy Kawasaki's blog where he listed the ultimate "Mommy Bloglist". A list of some of the best blogs written by moms. So I figured I'd pick up the torch again and start lighting the way for my wife to start her own blog again. It's a great time to do it don't you think?

Wouldn't you all love to see my wife write her thoughts and adventures raising two young boys? Give some feedback so I can build a case and convince her it's the right thing to do.

Introducing Ryan and Zaadz

First, let me introduce you to Ryan Alberti, a.k.a. Birdie. Back in the day (I'm old now so I can say things like that) during the college days, we were close and have remained good friends ever since. He taught me to play and love hockey. He convinced me taking Greek as an independent study was a good idea. He even dared me to run a marathon with him, then right before the race came down with some kind of fake injury and left me to run it alone. Ahhh - What a friend!

Ryan has now joined the blogosphere, and I still connect with him. He wrote, "I want to step out of the train and wander around. I want to look around and see what wonders I can find. I want to explore and learn about what is happening around me. Maybe I am just a dreamer, a child." in his recent post and I know exactly what he's talking about. You can find his blog here.

Now let me introduce you to Zaadz and ask the question, "What the heck is Zaadz?" I signed up for it and am now a "Zaadzster", but I don't know what that means. I even asked my good friend Birdie, who sent me an invitation to join, what it was and he couldn't give me a straight answer, despite the fact that it's what hosts his blog. I can't decide if it's some kind of pinko, commie, tree hugging, zen group, or if it's a legitimate community like a cross between blogspot and myspace.

I did notice one suspicious thing. At the home page of Zaadz, Brian Johnson, self proclaimed Philosopher and CEO, signs his welcome letter with the word "Namaste", which if you recall my ravings about Lost, you'll remember that's how the movies from Darmha are ended. My conspiracy theory antenna is up and buzzing loudly now. Could Zaadz just be an extension of Lost? Perhaps by joining I'm signing up for some crazy psychology experiment. Could it be? Who knows? The one thing I like is everyone gives them self an important sounding title like Philosopher and CEO. Mine is Aberration Expert. Sounds important doesn't it?

At any rate, if you like Ryan's blog, leave him a message and say hi from me.

Monday, July 10, 2006

99 Bottles of Gas On the Wall

With the cost of gasoline so high, isn't it cheaper now to just buy a litre of Old No. 7?

Not according to this guy.

Makes me proud to be an Iowan.

Thanks sis for the link.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Bono Ponders Poverty

Granted I'm not the biggest U2 fan, but I do enjoy their music. So, when I heard about Bono's question on Yahoo Answers, I was a little curious and had to go check it out.

His question was "What can we do to make poverty history? To my surprise, as of the time of this post, 11,611 answers had been given.

I picked out a few of my favorites for you.
Stop paying $15 and $20mill on entertainers and invest it spendingon what
really matters! Geoffrey D. Holman
Friday July 7, 2006 - 12:07am (EDT)

Interesting points, here and there, and a lot of rants.The question was: What can we do to make poverty history?The question should be: What can I do to
make poverty history?
Friday July 7, 2006 - 02:49am (EDT)

Tax the hell out of the rich.
Friday July 7, 2006 -
01:44am (PDT)

How to rid the world of poverty and most of the global warming issue.....hmm........nuke america?
Friday July 7, 2006 -
08:49am (PDT)

Wanna end poverty?? Get the people in charge of everything to stop charging
so much bloody money for everything. Especially for anything involving electronics
Friday July 7, 2006 - 09:24am (PDT)

What do you think? Some pretty good ideas I'd say.

Thank God It's Friday

Because it's Friday...

Click here!

A great article from Men's Health on sneaking out of work early on Fridays.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

No Guts - No Glory

(Not these guts, but I couldn't resist the picture)

I've heard lots of comments and even a few jokes about what a consultant is. One person told me that anyone with a laptop can call them self a consultant. But the one that always rings in my ears is that consultants are those people without the guts to do it themselves.

I hate backing down from a challenge and that definitely challenges me, but perhaps there is some truth in it and in truth is why it challenges me - because I somehow feel it is true.

I'm always a guy with lots of advice. I generally know the right answer for others and have great solutions to all sorts of problems. Not just business solutions either. Having spent 3 years doling out advice to marriages in trouble, parents with renegade kids and people with personal finance disasters, I'm not just an "expert" in the business realm.

My premonition that I may not have the guts to do something was proved a little more true when yesterday my wife told me the story of how she went to the local furniture warehouse to purchase the desk we picked out a couple of weeks ago. She stood waiting for a sales person to help her for over 30 minutes and no one ever did. Finally she left in near Mt. St. Helen's proportions.

When I heard the story I instantly knew what to do. I told her to call the store and ask is she could make an appointment with a sales rep. When they say "You don't need an appointment, just come in and one of our sales people will help you." she should reply, "I tried that and stood waiting for over 30 minutes ready to spend a lot of money in your store and no one helped me, so I figured I must need an appointment. But, it sounds more like you just have really poor customer service."

This is a great opening line to get a nice discount, free delivery or something out of the deal. Follow it up with something like, "So if I come back in you are going to guarantee that I receive good customer service?" or "Could I speak to the manager about this so I can be sure I'm going to get good service when I come back?" It's a calm, rational complaint and I think it would work great... but I don't think I could ever make the call myself.

My new resolve is to have more guts and take the action that I prescribe.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

You Load 16 Tons

Entrepreneurs are a breed apart from others. They do it all them selves. They hate paying others to do what they know they can do for free. This is often times the reason you hear of people who own their own businesses working 60, 70 and even 80 hours a week. They have a hard time letting go of what they know they can do.

Add to this personality trait the reinforcement of almost every cable station airing some kind of DIY show. I think if you watched enough television, you could actually build a 3000 sq. ft. house, launch it into space and perform open heart surgery over the course of 3 weekends. I mean, come on - is there anything one can't do with a cordless drill, some plywood, a little fancy looking material you can get real cheap if you know where to look and a glue gun?

My advice to most entrepreneurs is to carefully evaluate what you can and can't do and hire out what you can't. Then segment what you can do into what is worth your time to do and not to do. In other words, can you make more money by not doing something and spending your time where you can make the most money?

A victim of not following my own advice I said, "No way am I going to pay that ridiculous price to have someone load all my stuff on a truck. I'll load it and then let someone else drive it." I thought I'm young, strong and will enjoy the challenge. I soon realized, I'm not that young anymore, I hate sore muscles and began to wonder why do I need to prove to myself I can do something I've already done several times.

When it was all said and done, my good friend Steve (the moving expert) and I estimated that we each loaded 4.5 tons onto a truck which is now in Omaha, Nebraska and should be arriving as soon as Friday so I can, you guessed it, unload the stupid thing again.

This song has been ringing in my ears over and over for the past few days.
"You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt."

Next time we move, which there won't be a next time... hopefully, I'm not doing it unless we can hire it done start to finish.