Keeping the Door Open

I just had a great conversation with my brother, who is nearing the end of his internship. It’s not been the easiest of internships, and he has shared with me numerous of struggles he has undergone. Regardless, he is grateful for the experience.

He called me to get my advice on a business decision he needs to make. The simple gist of his concern is that he has “kinda” been offered a position to stay with this company. As much as he realizes the potential it means for him to take the position – if offered – he is also unsure about wanting to stay.

He wants to keep the door open.

It’s a young man’s concern, and it was mine once before as well. It’s that innate desire to think, “This is it! This is the best opportunity for me!” I see this same mantra emanating from entrepreneurs and business people. But, from what I’ve learned… it’s not the opportunity. These moments are never about the opportunity. These moments came on account of what you’ve done for someone else.

It’s about the relationship.

In the case my brother is faced with… this opportunity came due to the way he was able to benefit a fellow co-worker (really, his manager). The value my brother showed affected he relationship to the point that it made his manager take a serious look into keeping him with the company.

But what about this question: “How do I keep this opportunity door open?”

My advice to him, and it is the same to every business owner or entrepreneur, you don’t! You cultivate the relationship. Opportunities come and go, and relationships are the foundation of those opportunities.

Maintain the relationship… you’ll always have opportunities.

Is Arguing with a Professor Validated?

Three weeks after graduating with my MBA, I’m sitting here reflecting on what I learned. And, one thought keeps coming to mind… “Why were there a couple students in my class that were always so argumentative during lecture?”

(Those who were in my class section probably have a good idea who I’m referencing.)

There were, on occasion, a few times that I can recall when one or two students blatantly became disruptive to the classroom dynamics in order to prove the professor/lecturer was wrong, and teaching incorrect principles. These situations never escalated to anything more than a war of words, but the tension was thick on occasion.

But, now that is all in the past, and I’m wondering: “Did the banter inhibit, or enhance the learning environment?”

I don’t know.

Here’s why I’m left in this quandary. Those heated discussions obviously left an indelible impression, to where I can recall the topic, the debate, and outcome (always business related… it was an MBA program!). However, did those debates raise concern enough to the point where others feared participating on the basis of retaliation?

I don’t know.

So, I leave with this quandary… is being argumentative a good thing? If so, where? …when? …why?

Why Second Place is a Good Thing

Earlier this year, I tried out to be the student speaker at my upcoming commencement. The audition wasn’t arduous, but it was tedious: Writing out the speech, and submitting it to the school; delivering the speech via video, and including it in the submission; and I later learned that there was a personal inquiry about each student who was trying out.

I made it through the first round, and was selected as one of five finalists.

We were then invited to participate in a personalized session where we would be instructed on commencement speech delivery. It was a very enlightening meeting, where I learned a lot about public speaking.

One item, which I thought was especially interesting, was that people don’t necessarily listen to what is being said, rather how it was said. Our instructor’s comments about this struck me, but I didn’t really believe it.

Today, I probably still wouldn’t believe what he said if it weren’t for coming in second place to the person who would be speaking at graduation.

The day of our final tryouts, we had all gathered together in the vestibule, waiting our turns. One of the women trying out had completely forgotten to rewrite her speech (per her personalized session instructor), and had only just come up with what to say a couple hours before.

In her own words, she said: “I so unprepared. I rewrote my speech a couple hours ago, and I don’t know what I’m going to say.”

I would be lying if I didn’t say that it pleased me to know that I was prepared, and that my chances of being chosen had just increased by a factor of one.

And so, the presentations came and went… three days later the victor was chosen. The winner: She who was unprepared! Turned out, she won the hearts of the judges through her excellent ability to present. It wasn’t about the content. She later told me that she had even messed up during her speech, and had to “wing it” to get back on track.

Am I disappointed that I wasn’t chosen… sure. But, what I learned from this experience is more valuable than had I have been chosen to speak.

Guilty by Association

One of the facts about life is that we (as individuals) are often party to organizations, associations, and assemblies with whom we identify. These associations are clubs, churches, schools, places of employment, professional affiliates, etc. We associate with these groups for a variety of reasons, but most often, because of a core belief.

Unfortunately, when these organizations deviate from what we (individually) perceive as a core belief, we can feel betrayed – followed by a myriad of negative emotions.

Over the weekend, I experienced this frustration first hand, when a handful of undergraduate students from the University of California, Irvine took it upon themselves to draft (and, subsequently vote upon) a Request for Action by the Legislative Council.

The Synopsis read: “Flags and decoration adjustment for inclusivity”

Summarized more clearly: Ban all flags (calling out specifically The American Flag) under the guise of “inclusivity.”

Bored? Want to read more? Here’s the formal request.

I’ll spare you the lengthy details of the voting process; the results; the veto; the Official Statement from the ASUCI Executive Cabinet… blah, blah, blah.

…much of all that can be read here.

Here’s what I’m driving at:

I plan to graduate from the Paul Merage School of Business on the University of California, Irvine campus in June 2015. Because of my association with the school, many of my friends and colleagues inquired of my opinion on the matter; some with genuine interest/concern, others were more aggressive in their inquiry.

I informed them of my opposition in the matter, and expressed my concern for the actions of these “misguided” youth. I also shared the fact that I wrote into the legislative council, and expressed my opinion – the decision to ban the American Flag is asinine.

But, here’s what I learned through this experience: There will be times when individuals within an organization (which we associate with) will act in contrary to the prevailing core beliefs of that organization. At that time, it is incumbent upon each of us to share our thoughts (respectfully) to maintain the organization’s integrity for its existing membership.

I’m grateful for UCI Administration’s immediate response to this issue, as well as the approach taken to resolve the matter.

Wanna read more?

Anger Never Works

There will be some who will disagree with this title, and recite examples of how anger does work. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion: hence my blog’s title. To the point: I had an experience the other day that made me realize that anger never works – personally or professionally.

My MBA program is nearing the end; therefore, only elective classes remain. Of the classes offered this term, Negotiations and perked my interest, and I’ve been performing well in this class: provided I’ve taken the time to get all the reading completed before class.

Every week, we are given the opportunity to role-play a negotiation scenario with other members in the class. Last week, we were paired off in teams. As part of our role, my teammate and I needed to come into the negotiation upset, infuriated, downright ticked with the opposing party.

Not going to lie… I was kind of excited to try my acting abilities. (And if you are wondering – I have no interest in auditioning for some movie or TV show.)

Wes and I decided to try out the good cop / bad cop tactic. Entering the room, I unleashed a fury of rage on our opponents; (keeping to the script) telling them all the horrible things they had done.

Considering that our opponents did not know this was part of our role, I gotta say… they were excellent at maintaining a semblance of professionalism.

I kept on the heat for as long as possible. Our goal was to keep up the pressure to get some concession from them that would benefit us in the negotiation.

Nothing.

Now, rather than detailing out the entire 75 minute negotiation and the result of the confrontation, I would like to share with you a few things I learned about anger during the debrief.

Although my anger in the situation was fabricated, there were some noticeable effects to my ability to negotiate a favorable agreement. (PS. I did apologize to our opponents when the debate concluded. I could tell they were flustered after the experience.)

Retaliation Vs. Goals

Negotiating requires clearly defined goals and objectives. Goals help keep the conversation on track, and focused on interests for both parties. When I was upset, I was more focused on hurting the other party, rather than coming to terms on a negotiated deal. It was all about retaliation – “This is what you are doing wrong, so this is what I’m going to do!”

This segues into the next issue: Disregard for Risk

It wasn’t until the end of the scenario that I realized how valuable it was to have a teammate. Wes was for more attune to coming up with a negotiated deal. Because I was anger (albeit, pretending), I was completely aloof to what the case said would occur if we experienced an impasse for the role-play – my team would go bankrupt!

I vividly remember saying, “Who cares! We’ll go bankrupt, and you’ll never get paid!” I was blatantly accepting spite as the potential resolution. (Side note: This resolve would have completely tarnished my track record in class; I didn’t care. Wow! The anger really got to me.)

Loss of Big Picture

The final point to consider about anger is myopia. When one becomes angry (and, I’m speaking from experience, although fabricated) there is considerable loss of focus for the bigger picture, and any chance of reaching an amicable agreement is greatly diminished. Looking back on the scenario, I had the hardest time getting out of my angered state, and trying to work out possible solutions to the negotiation. If it weren’t for my teammate, and our opponents’ willingness to look beyond my fabricated anger, this negotiated role-play would have ended much different.

Now… keep in mind. I pretended to be angry. What would have happened if I really were angry? Something to consider …in my opinion.

Leonard Nimoy

An entertainer will play many roles throughout the course of his/her life, but as an icon, he/she will only be known for one thing.

Leonard Nimoy died today, and news of his passing will span the next few days as more information becomes available.

It was because of the headlines surrounding Nimoy’s death that got me thinking about this blog post.

Like the majority of web surfers out there, I joined the throngs and started Googling “Leonard Nimoy.” After visiting Youtube, IMDb, Wikipedia, Twitter and Facebook, I realized he was more than Mr. Spock.

Not that I was ignorant to the fact that Leonard Nimoy was only Mr. Spock, but I learned so much more regarding his career. But this exploration to “boldly go” into cyberspace, and learn more about one of my favorite fictional characters got me thinking about other celebrities – many of whom are most notably known as icons.

Why? Why are celebrities iconic for one thing, when a celebrity’s objective is to stay relevant? Therefore, needing to do many things.

I have a theory. So, if there is a psychologist who would like to test this hypothesis, I would be willing to assist in academic process.

I blame the short attention span of the collective… in my opinion.

All About The Context

I was an early adopter of Facebook and Twitter, but I’ve struggled with social media for the past 5 years. (Coincidentally, almost as long as my wife and I have known each other. But my beef with social media has nothing to do with her – she’s perfect! I digress.)

Information, these days, move faster than stories are told.

What?

I’ll explain.

A story develops; the storyteller sets the stage by sharing the setting – culture, timing, location, and subtle nuances that will later play a critical role in the climax, or resolution.

Additionally, as readers/listeners of the story, we are introduced to various characters – the hero, the antagonist, and all supporting individuals. We learn of their quirks, idiosyncrasies, as well as their respective demeanors.

Furthermore, in process of time, we enjoy a journey of fiction or non-fiction in order to gain a perspective on how all of the players interact, and the locations where these exchanges occur.

140 characters don’t cut it!

…and before anyone says, “But Don, Facebook allows 63,206 characters per post!” Tell me the last time you saw someone post the full script of the last three episodes of Friends on a Facebook status update?

According to FastCompany

• The ideal length of a TWEET is 100 characters
• The ideal length of a FACEBOOK post is less than 40 characters
• The ideal length of a GOOGLE+ headline is less than 60 characters

I challenge anyone to go toe-to-toe against me regarding this claim: It is impossible to fully understand the context of a story/event/happening in less than 100 characters. And yet, we see it time and time again on social media.

Someone will post/tweet something, with limited context, that incites a flurry of comments. I’m not insinuating that people do this on purpose; it may just be the nature of social media. And, I doubt that we will see little change in the amount of characters people use on social media to post/tweet.

What I suggest is that the next time we read a headline/post/tweet, which stirs within us a fury of emotion, take just a minute (or 5 minutes), and Google a little more information about the topic; critically think about what has been written. If not enough information is currently available, be patient and allow the story to unfold.

…in my opinion

Interestingly, FastCompany also states that the ideal length of a blog post is seven minutes, or 1,600 words.

This post is only 428 words long. So, either I’m giving you a break from long posts, or my story is abbreviated — more to come?

Happy Monday everyone!

 

Be Excellent to Each Other

Old age is not always a good indicator of wisdom; youthfulness does not always equate to reckless abandon. In fact, quite the opposite was true just the other day.

I’m not a health nut, by any stretch of the imagination, but I do like taking care of my body. So, I often attend the gym with a friend of mine. (Let’s be honest. It’s always better to go with someone than going alone.)

While we’re there, we started working on one of the machines. During one of the sets, I got a little winded, and needed a quick sip from the drinking fountain. My friend stayed at the machine, and started his set.

Now, it gets awkward…

He finishes his set, and before I return to finish my last set (…literally, seconds before I got back to the machine) this older gentleman — I’m being extremely polite referring to him in such a way — proceeds to reset the machine, and assume control of the station.

My friend says, “We’re almost done. This guy (pointing to me) has one more set to…” Before he could finish, Mr. Wisdom proceeds to release a barrage of expletives that would have his mother turn over in her grave.

“You (omitted expletives) youth think you own the (omitted expletives) place! I’m the only one paying to be here! Get the (omitted expletives) out of my way! It’s grandpa’s turn!”

His comments seemed so out-of-place, we seriously thought he was joking.

“OK,” I said. “I’ll finish my last set, and let you have the machine.”

“I don’t think you understand, son,” and he got in my face. “You’re just a…” (I’m not going to finish his statement, even with the expletives omitted. His comments were wildly inappropriate; everyone within earshot cringed at how abrasive this guy was being.)

I so badly wanted to say, under my breath, “So much for the greatest generation!” But, I didn’t; I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ticked. I was!

As we left the workout station, I got thinking.

Life is all about perspective. And, I feel sorry that this guy’s perspective about younger generations (yes, I’m 35 years young) is that we have “fallen into a degenerative backslide.”

For some reason, he felt justified treating my friend and me with so much disrespect.

I guess the bottom line is that none of us has ever walked in another’s shoes, so regardless about how they treat us, we just need to realize that they have a much tainted perspective on life.

One day, that man will realize his error. Likewise, so will I.

In short… from the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln (via Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure)

“Be excellent to each other. And… PARTY ON, DUDES!”

Update:

My friend informed me that this was not the first time he had the pleasure of making this guy’s acquaintance. Apparently, this older gentleman suffered a stroke at the gym a couple of months back, and my friend was one who rushed to his aid and called 911 (EMT and emergency services).

I suppose the phrase “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” would be apropos. Or, perhaps we should change it to say, “Be nice to those who save your life!” …in my opinion.

Blinded by Success

Several years back, a dear friend of mine came to me and said. “I’ve got it!”

Surprised by his excitement, I asked, “…got what?”

“I’ve figured out the best way to make a living — a good living!

(Note: Now, in defense of my friend: He is a good man; a trust-worthy, and respectable man. In fact, he was duped into this business venture as well. Therefore, to spare his reputation, we will call him Chuck.)

“What is it, Chuck?” I asked.

He didn’t miss a beat: “Day trading.”

A blank stare came across my face; I knew very little about the stock market, let alone futures, exchanges, options… the lot! But, I was about to get a healthy (and expensive) lesson, and probably more than I bargained for.

Now, I’m not going to go into the details about how I learned about technical analysis of the market; how to read ‘candlesticks;’ and how ‘head and shoulders’ is much more than a shower product. Suffice it to say, that I spent a considerable amount of time reading, studying, and running simulations to get an in-depth knowledge about the futures market – that’s where I spent most of my time: something about ‘why volatility is important?’

Anyway, Chuck and I spent a lot of time on the computer memorizing signals, and how to best execute a trade the moment those signals revealed themselves. After months of running simulations, I started to feel confident in my market foresight. In fact, on more than one occasion, I grossed some very favorable returns: 25% to 40%.

I was on a roll! (…but, only with monopoly money.)

So, I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth was, and start actively trading my account.

Now, before I drive home the punch line, let me say this – I began focusing only on the successful trades. I spent months reviewing charts and timing trades over and over agin. Although there were times when I was up during the simulation process, there were also times when I was down – monumentally down! But… the success blinded me; focusing only on when I performed well.

I went live… I started trading real money – my money.

My first trade, I made 1%; my second trade, -3%; third trade, -25%! OUCH!

I could keep going, and give you the entire play-by-play, but the bottom line is – I’m not a day trader.

I learned many valuable lessons that day; the least of which was, “Don’t get blinded by success!” Take an exact accounting of past experiences; keep a journal. We have a tendency to only focus on the positive; creating a false sense of security and identity. But, there is much we can learn from our lack of performance.

Here’s the funny thing. During this entire day-trading process, I did keep a journal; I recorded every trade I did. Unfortunately, I never reviewed it. After this horrific experience, I did and learned that I was only successful 15% of the time. Had I only read through my journal before beginning my active trading, I may have never gotten into the mess in the first place.

Thankfully, I didn’t quit my day-job.

Why Experiences, Good & Bad, Should be Shared

I’m a private person by nature; of course, having grown up as a Osmond, my desire for privacy may also be a condition of nurture. When your birth is front page news, you tend to shun media attention.

So, why blog? (Oh, the irony!)

To share my stories, my perspective, my way… unadulterated by media influence. But, that’s all for another day, and another time.

All this said, I’ve never really shared much of my business experiences: the good, the bad, and the otherwise embarrassing. However, being so self consumed in my own life’s experiences got me thinking about something a ol’ mentor of mine said once: “Experiences are life’s gifts; if you keep them to yourself they’re worth nothing!”

He was never the most eloquent of orators, but what I think he was driving at was this: Life is about learning, growing and sharing. Sometimes life’s lessons are wonderful, and sharing those experiences are fun and enjoyable. Then there are the humiliating experiences, which we prefer to have never gone through — let alone, share.

Although both offer seemingly different outcomes, good or bad, the experiences teach us lessons that will help us better govern our lives for the future.

Enter my past 6 years of being a closet entrepreneur.

This blog will be extremely too long if I wrote every experience down now. But, over the next few (or quiet a few) blog entries, I’m going to venture into the catacombs of my experiences, and share with you a few things that I’ve learned from being a closet entrepreneur.

  • I’ll share with you the successes, and ultimate failure of a miniaturized mobile auto detailing company.
  • My passion for serving and giving back to those in uniform.
  • A failed attempt at being Hitch. (Think Will Smith.)
  • Sitting on the board of many start-ups
  • Advising clients, and watching them blatantly disregard my counsel.
  • Advising fifteen top executives, of a well-know public company, on effective leadership skills.

…and other experiences, as I dare share.

Are you ready? (I’m still questioning my decision.)