Category Archives: Life

Blind leading the blind or the echo chamber

Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides (of the blind). If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit.” This echoes the words of the Katha Upanishad: “Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking themselves wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither, like blind led by the blind.

I decided to use the quote because it echoes something I see with social media all the time. Someone wants to excel in an area and instead of following the voice of reason from someone with experience and expertise, they follow the voices of people with an equal level of inexperience and lack of success. There is a reason why this happens. The people with more experience will often, in good faith, say things that might make someone feel “bad”, defensive, defeated…feel free to pick the term. The people with less experience and maturity will say “good job!” and boost the person’s ego.

Let us look at an example. I wrote an article called The Peter Principle and Fast Company. I was told I was being “mean”, I was “picking on them” and I should be more encouraging (although Scoble said it was “spot on”). Except, what I was saying was true. I was not blindly writing an article, I made a point and backed it up systematically. Eventually, point by point, it all came true. It was sad to watch it unfold because it did not have to be that way, but things happen for a reason. Fast Company is now making a comeback (after killing off the video project, changing management and using a better design) which is great because the site used to be a good business resource.

Ego vs The Truth

Whenever a warrior decides to do something, he must go all the way, but he must take responsibility for what he does. No matter what he does, he must know first why he is doing it, and then he must proceed with his actions without having doubts or remorse about them. ~ Carlos Castaneda

Excelling at anything means pushing yourself and successfully accomplishing goals that become harder over time. Business decisions do not become easier over time, they become more complicated the more the business scales. Many businesses start with owners making decisions but not in the frame of mind of the decisions being business decisions.

It is sort of like having the boy/girlfriend/spouse/significant other that is less mature than you are. When you enter in a relationship like that, you cannot expect the person to mature on your timetable. You cannot expect the same level of support from someone without the same maturity level and it is unfair to ask them to (cruel in my opinion because it causes him or her to jump through hoops they cannot successfully jump long-term). When you enter the relationship, you are saying you are the leader and you will guide the two of you down the right paths…whether you want to admit it or not. Unless the person magically matures while you stay stagnant for them to catch up, it will always be that way.

In business, if you surround yourself with people with less experience, you will end up hindering your abilities to reach your goals. These well meaning people do not have the knowledge or experience to guide you in the right direction. Instead of telling you the feedback you need to hear, not hurting your feelings will be of more importance. In addition, as your business scales, you will encounter very tough decisions these well-meaning people will guess at answers to. While your business declines instead of excels, your well-meaning friends with less experience that led you to the cliff and helped push you off, will be there to support you.

You decide your destiny by picking those close to you. If you pick people with similar interests, experience and maturity, together the group will excel in similar directions. Or you can let those without similar experience and maturity stroke your ego and distract your focus.

Reality

Instead, part of every entrepreneurs job is to invent the future. I also call it “kicking your own ass”. Someone is out there looking to put you out of business. Someone is always out there who thinks they have a better idea than you have. A better solution than you have. A better or more efficient product than you have. If there is someone out there who can “kick your ass” by doing it better, its part of your job as the owner of the company to stay ahead of them and “kick your own ass” before someone else does.

The above quote was from an article Mark Cuban wrote about not listening to customers. Many times customers honestly do not know what they want until they have it. The point being: you have to be careful whom you listen to.

Entrepreneurs always need to be reminded that its not the job of their customers to know what they don’t know. In other words, your customers have a tough enough time doing their jobs. They don’t spend time trying to reinvent their industries or how their jobs are performed. Sure, every now and then you come across an exception. But you can’t bet the company on your finding that person at one of your customers.

If the people you spend the most time with, share your secrets with, and listen to advice from have the same frame of mind, similar maturity level and experience they can support and aid you in re-inventing the future, which is what entrepreneurs need to do to have success. People with less maturity, experience, and different goals will drain your focus.

Because you cannot expect them to know what they have not learned.

True productivity and guilt by association

There are many articles on the internet, or even websites, about productivity. The articles give advice on how to make the most of your time. Some give recommendations on software or tools one can use to be more productive. I was thinking today about true productivity. You can use all the tools and advice freely available on the internet, however, that does not mean you are truly being productive. No advice and tools in the world can help you reach your goals if you are making bad decisions.

Let’s look at an example…

Marvin wants to start a new gaming web site. He wants that web site to earn $50,000 within 18 months. He made a list of topics he wants to cover. He decided on a posting schedule. He read many productivity articles and decided to write articles in advance. He made sure to have the tools recommended to get things down quickly yet efficiently. He made a list of potential ad network and advertisers. He was able to do this from previous sites. Microsoft, who invests heavily in online marketing, was one of the companies he made considerable income from in the past. He made sure to make a note to keep up with contacts with Microsoft while networking for other prospective sponsors. Marvin carefully picked out the content management system he wanted to use, the design, and he made special care to pick hosting he can grow with without having to worry about his site being turned off during traffic spikes.

Marvin put his plan into action. He started writing articles. He started Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace accounts. His friends’ lists were growing. Soon, others linked to his articles and his traffic numbers increased. The productivity articles he read were spot on because he efficiently produced content and reached his goal.

When his traffic numbers were high enough, he began to approach Microsoft about sponsorships, game betas, etc. He also approached Sony, EA, and other console and PC game developers. The response was not what he hoped. Most of them didn’t respond at all. After exchanging emails back and forth with someone from Microsoft he finally found out why they would not advertise with him as they had done in the past. The contact at Microsoft said that he did not feel Microsoft would receive a decent return on their investment due to the community views of the site.

Marvin did not understand. His content was quality and unique. He did not understand what the Microsoft contact was talking about. Frustrated, he talked to his wife. She thought about it for a moment, and gently explained that Marvin connected himself closely with Apple lovers. The audience loved Apple and hated Microsoft. She pointed to Twitter updates and links by those he interacted with most on Twitter, Facebook etc. There are applications that make this very easy to see. What was clear was that the people he interacted most online were pro Apple and Microsoft haters. Marvin pointed out that his articles received decent comments and he protested because he is a happy PC user. His wife pointed out that he also has a Mac and it does not matter if he enjoys his PC. His friends are anti-Microsoft. They would be throwing money away advertising with him.

Guilty by association

If you are paying attention, you will realize that Marvin lost advertising revenue from Microsoft and PC game developers. His online connections limited him to console game companies only and realistically only console game developers that do not make PC games. His once attainable goal of $50,000 in 18 months is no longer attainable. By associating with people who were in direct conflict with what he needed to do to complete his goals, he stumped his own growth.

What the Microsoft contact noticed is that his tweets about his articles could not possibly be well received by his friends, limiting the share value. Why invest money in Marvin’s site when sites such as Team Xbox or GameSpot exist? When writers tweet their articles their friends are on board because they are of like minds. The friend value and the odds of ROI are much higher advertising elsewhere.

What would probably be a better match for Marvin is to review iPhone games. Would he be able to make $50,000 in 18 months? Most likely not but his audience would match his content. Something is out of whack. It is up to Marvin to figure out what it is.

You cannot escape it…

To have success you have to make the right decisions long-term. Perhaps Marvin selected those people to increase his traffic short-term but in the end, he ended up diluting his ability to earn money long-term. Unfortunately for Marvin, it will take months to undo his error. Advertisers aren’t stupid. Marvin will have to change the core people he interacts with and permanently keep it that way. Otherwise, he’ll lose advertisers again. Companies are very used to people jumping through hoops for money. This is not something he can undo easily. In the end, he was not productive in achieving his goals, was he?

Pick your friends, offline and online, wisely because they are a direct reflection of you.

Doing things your way

I have not played World of Warcraft in a while, but some of the points mentioned in this video are ones I experienced, which dropped the fun factor tremendously: people hating on you if you play differently.

I did not realize Abandonation went from Horde to Alliance, but I can imagine the hate response that caused. Especially since his tagline was Drrooooooo….For the Horde! It seems he is playing a Druid on Alliance now.

Truth (for me anyway): playing the game as long as I did, I longed for something different.

My friend Rog caused me to play WoW during beta. I was happily playing another game he was in (Star Wars Galaxies). WoW for me was VERY friend dependent. I sometimes long to get back in the game now that I’ve learned my lesson about being friend dependent.

I’ve said many times that my local “friends” are not connected to me on social networks. I realize now how deep being friend dependent goes for me. I will not do that on social networks either because if they go (and run off to something else) then what? Instead my friends have their space and I have mine. I see it sort of like a couple having separate bank accounts or separate friends. It’s not healthy for couples to spend all of their free time together.

So yeah, I might hop back into WoW eventually and do things my way. Whatever that is.

When you retire? Be real. Will you be able to retire?

You work hard and one day, you want to retire. Sit on the beach enjoying the scenery. Or travel to all the places you weren’t able to see while you were working. How much money does one need to retire? How do you calculate it? Well, let’s see:

In the past the assumption was simply based on gross income. If you earned $50,000 just before retirement then you need to have $40,000 coming in during retirement. This study factors in savings because if you are saving money each year for retirement, once in retirement you won’t be saving and instead withdrawing so that shouldn’t count towards your required income. For example, let’s say you make $50,000 a year and you are putting $6,000 into your 401(k) each year. Instead of just taking 80% of $50,000 you would take 80% of $44,000 ($50,000 – $6,000), or therefore a retirement income of $35,200.

Reading the above quote, I think many people are not being realistic when computing how much is needed to retire. Instead of asking how much they’ll need to retire I think the question should be: “Can I retire?“.

Let’s look at the real picture…

When thinking about retirement income there are many things that are left out of the equation. Let me be more clear: things are left out of the equation that cripple their ability to accurately determine how much can be saved for retirement. Let’s say the goal is to save $6,000 per year (about $115 a week). To realistically reach this long-term goal, one would have to:

  • Have a good idea on how many children they want and stick to the plan. This will be the area many people cripple their plan. A child usually adds a minimum of 18 years to the amount of time the parent(s) will have to work.
  • How much you will realistically spend while you are retire? If you want to travel, include those costs.
  • Remember you might have to take care of parents and in-laws. Their expenses might be expensive depending on their situation.
  • If the plan is to sell your house for retirement funds, what if you cannot sell it? There are many people who have homes they banked on selling. Instead of selling they are lucky if they are able to rent it to monetize the property.

The list is endless…the possibilities that can throw saving off-track. Unexpected things happen, like companies mis-managing retirement funds.

Realistically, many are trying to survive…

Many families are trying to pay the bills on time and have a little left over to do something fun. Saving money for retirement is not a priority because they are young and they feel they have lots of time to prepare for the future. Young people put fun over responsibility. Honestly, not being able to go out on the weekend is a problem. No thoughts about working until they die.

Every day people enter unrealistic relationships that place their goals for retirement back decades. You’d be surprised how many people just add 18 years to the retire number. For example, if someone wanted to retire at 62, they figure they can have kids until they are 44. Unless the person was saving for retirement in their early 20s and continued until 62, they can’t do it.

Want your own business? What if the business does not make enough for you to retire on? Did you add that loss of income to the plan? Or that expensive car that is over budget but just looks good? Or the technology that you really don’t need but like to have to be “cool”? All the meals you eat out instead of dining in? Many are working past 70 because they have no choice.

Sometimes the question isn’t “how much”. It’s “if I can do it” in the first place.

What I’ve been up to…

I thought I’d write a brief entry letting everyone know what I’ve been up to lately. I am asked often and I realized, when I reflected on the situation, that I am I blessed that people care.

Even though I knew Mom was terminally ill, it was tough dealing with her passing. I miss her terribly. I know this might sound silly, but I just want to talk to her. We laughed every day, even while she was sick. The last time I saw her…she was smiling. I told her I loved her and I was kissing her face. I am much better than I was a month ago so I guess time is healing that wound. She always said “celebrate my life, not my death” so I’ve been trying to breathe that spirit but a small part is pissed off she’s gone.

I’ve become much more productive since she passed. It’s weird…now that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want without offending anyone…it’s ON! My logic has changed considerably because I am more willing to take chances now. Things work out the way they should because if I moved earlier I’d have a ton of unnecessary debt right now. But more than anything else – and what makes me have ZERO regrets – is that by not moving earlier, my Mom had her last years around her friends and familiar places. Before I found out she was ill, I had regrets…countless. I was starting to beat myself up about it. Now I have none because I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Funny tidbit of information: Forbes released their list of Top Most Miserable Cities. Guess what is #1? You got it baby! :(

I haven’t been blogging much (my apologies) but I have been writing! I’ve been writing (ghost writing) premium content that is later resold. The funny thing about ghost writing is trying not to sound like me. I really enjoy ghostwriting. It also helps with my goal of making my income completely not based on where I reside (so I can be more mobile). No point in moving if I have to keep coming back and forth to Ohio. I was cool with coming back when I was wrestling with the idea of honoring Mom’s initial wish of not wanting to move (it was a way to keep an eye on her) but now? I could see myself spending a couple of weeks here a year (since I own a house here) but that’s it.

I’ve also helped some online buds with their new projects. I really enjoy doing that and I have to say I get immense joy in watching them create something from nothing…and watching it grow.

Back to the house, I received some very good advice that I honestly did not think of previously. Weatherproof the house so it will handle potentially no one being in it (if I don’t rent it out). I have started to do that and I am glad I did because I found air holes and little minor things that could have devastated this house over time. The kids and I are working on it. Yes, their father was working on the front room and, per usual, didn’t follow through (I posted pics of him working on the room). Amazing so much time went by and he’s still a screw up. He didn’t even call to say he wasn’t going to finish (he worked just enough to get enough money to move…then poof!). The kids want nothing to do with him…they prefer life without him (my daughter might be talking about that herself so this isn’t a secret and I feel they earned the right to vent). He can’t come into their lives, make a few bucks, then disappear again and expect that to be okay (I warned him). Too much bad history there to overcome. The kids are handling it like champs though. They are so strong and I’m very proud of them (especially since this particular situation isn’t a secret). So…we’re being family-like and handling it ourselves…you know…like we always have had to do since he’s never been around.

Let’s see, what else…

One day my daughter dropped the Florida bomb…everyone slowly looked at her in shock. Now she’s hyped on Florida, is working on meeting friends there and is really looking to the warm weather and doing “stuff”. Unlike in the past, I’ve been making friends there (SWFL) and I have to admit I was wrong before. Liking the place and having friends there doesn’t skew the reasons for moving. It makes it easier to bond to a place, which wasn’t happening at all previously. Duh!

I’ve been pushing my limits with games. I finished Mass Effect 2 (I lost two people – Miranda and the Tech…no matter what I did the Tech died. Oh, to settle the forum bet – I got Thane and Jacob. Haha, you guys were right…Jacob was too good to pass up and well worth it!). BioShock bored me – too much repetitive killing coming after Mass Effect 2. I have Fallout 3, Battlefield Bad Company 2 drops today and I pre-ordered it, Dead Space, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect 1. I haven’t been playing much because I’ve been writing and working on the house.

Speaking of working on the house…I’ve gotten rid of 4 TVs, 1 microwave, a couch, two large chairs, 4 dining room chairs (I still have 4), and a bunch of old stuff like every piece of fake fruit/flowers in the house that my Mom liked but I didn’t have the heart to get rid of while she was living. Went through a good portion of my brother’s things too. As an explanation, when Mama (my great-grandmother) died, my grandmother (Mother) kept some of her things. When Mother died my Mom didn’t get rid of any of her things (they got passed to me and into the attic they went). Now that my Mom passed, I have Mama’s, Mother’s, Mom’s and my brother’s stuff to go through. Yeah…oh happy day. Just going through the stuff was like a burden before because I knew someone would be pissed I was getting rid of stuff. Mom was a firm believer in keeping things that could still be used. Sorry Mom but it feels good cleaning house.

I have been working on the site – under the hood stuff. Like properly tagging old entries and fixing them (some lost formatting merging things). I haven’t been online chatting much. I decided I will be opening up comments later on and even the forums. I think I’m going to go with Vanilla (forums) because I honestly like it better. The other one I was using had a lot of bloated and incomplete features. I’ve got an interview coming up shortly…maybe this week. Me interviewing someone not me being interviewed LOL.

Haha, so much for a brief entry. I wanted to let you guys know I’m okay, the kids are okay and we are moving forward everyday to the new life that waits ahead. I’ll keep you posted!

XOXOXOXO,

Tyme