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Sign of the Times, Ride Sharing Boosts the Economy

August 24, 2014

DeLorean time machine provided by Uber

DeLorean time machine provided by Uber

Ride Sharing Boosts the Economy

Letter to the Editor – Tampa Bay Times – Small businesses are the engine of our economy. They create jobs, generate revenue, and embody the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, like Getaround, in cities across the country. And that holds true right here in Tampa where small business plays a vital role in our future success and driving the city forward.

Jessica Scoprpio, Getaround

Jessica Scoprpio, Getaround

Our transportation ecosystem—which is in serious need of improvement—is one example where innovation and entrepreneurs can have a real impact on bringing about positive change and greater options for consumers. Competition in the marketplace results in better products and services, lower costs, and more choice. We should embrace competition and new ride sharing services like uberX that expand transportation alternatives, offering safer, more reliable and affordable ways to get around town. More and better choices for consumers is a win for the city.

Beyond the clear benefits to riders, Uber is also contributing to the local economy by providing new and greater opportunities for residents to start their own business, make a living, and pump money back into the market. Uber gives Tampa residents one more opportunity to leverage technology to be entrepreneurial, build a career and increase earning potential. The company is already creating 20,000 new driver jobs every month—we should welcome opportunity like that and offer the people of Tampa one more way to earn a living.

The New Yorker - Just a couple of weeks ago, Uber (which also runs services allowing you to book livery cars and cabs) disclosed that it had raised more than a quarter of a billion dollars in venture-capital funding, most of it from Google. The flood of new money into all these new businesses feels like a mini-bubble in the making. But beneath all the hype is a sensible idea: there are a lot of slack resources in the economy. Assets sit idle—the average car is driven just an hour a day—and workers have time and skills that go unused. If you can connect the people who have the assets to people who are willing to pay to rent them, you reduce waste and end up with a more efficient system.

James Surowiecki, a staff writer at The New Yorker goes on to write, “If these companies become more established, they’ll have to reach some kind of accommodation with regulators, perhaps along the lines of rules that California’s Public Utilities Commission recently proposed, which would let Sidecar, Lyft, and Uber operate if they implement certain safety and driver regulations.”

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission (PTC) should put consumer choice and opportunity first—to embrace safe, reliable transportation alternatives like Uber. Restricting competition and limiting options for Tampa residents will only inhibit future growth and economic success. Modern technologies require modern regulations. The PTC should take a common-sense approach to regulating ride sharing and signal to the rest of the state that Tampa is indeed an innovative and forward-looking city.

Peer-to-peer businesses like Uber are nothing new.  eBay was the firth peer-to-peer business which has exhibited an extraordinary capacity to self-regulate.  eBay’s success is built on their on-line reputation of reviewing and commenting that rewards good behavior and outs the bad.  The same will be the case for the ride-sharing industry.

Innovations like Uber will solve many problems politicians and regulators refuse to face.    With internet start-ups able to self-regulate, stringent laws to govern start-ups such as Uber and Lyft are unnecessary.

Next up, driverless cars and RoboTaxi whereby a fleet of self-driving cars will pick-up commuters on demand.  It’s time to get with the 21st century.  Technology waits for no man. 

Defining a Small Business

June 7, 2014

Osmar_Schindler_David_und_GoliathLet’s face it, we are a small business, under 50 FTEs.  We’re no Goliath.  We’re not an Apple, a Google or a Microsoft.  We are a David, and to a degree, a family.  We actually make a difference.  People are our rocks and our products and services are our slings.

Today when technology changes in a blink of an eye, we would maintain the Goliath’s with the heavy armor and the shield may have the heavier burden. Every day there are new challenges.  The challenges we face with regard to technology, products and customers are also interwoven with life’s challenges.

Often they relate to challenges we face at home with our families and friends.  So how we perform as a business can affect how we perform at home.  In retrospect, if we are helping each other at work, we are helping each other at home.  More so than at a Goliath, we depend on each other. Everyone who works for a small business has to become a leader in some respect. We have to take a leadership role in order to insure our own success and that of others.  Where someone may be strong others may be weak.

It’s always a hard choice to make when we have work responsibilities that take time from family and friends.  These choices are not taken lightly.  We depend on each other.  Consequently there’s little room here for failure or mediocrity.  Isn’t that the way it should be? Many small businesses believed they could successfully run a business, make a fair profit, compete with the big boys and still provide a personal touch.  What a novel idea!

Small businesses have built their business predicated on personalized service.  They have survived the white box commoditization and low margins of off the shelf products and services and transcended the call center case number, whereby if your case number was called and a problem was solved it was like winning the lottery…”

Our work affects the people we are close to or have close ties with including our customers and fellow employees in a way much more intimately than in a large corporation.  Our customers and partners take a chance doing business with a David.  Each employee has the opportunity to help a small company succeed.  We see and hear from customers every day, instances where fellow employees are stressed out and still come through with a win. This is most often a collaborative effort. To put it in the right perspective…

Our greatest achievement is the relationships we have developed over the years with our customers, employees, partners and friends, of which many are synonymous. 

You Cannot Govern Leadership

February 15, 2014

individualism

What this country needs now is a return to individual responsibility, and leadership that creates prosperity, not big government. You cannot govern leadership.   

Today individual responsibility, leadership, and American exceptionalism are too often political talking points and empty words. When individual leadership fails, or fails to materialize, it creates dependency.

Leonardo da Vinci said it 480 years ago and he said it in Italian. Here is the clearest translation:  “People of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them. They go out and happen to things.”

Don’t do what you’re passionate about, but be passionate about what you do.  Don’t follow your passion.  Let your passion follow you.  That’s leadership.

As a small business owner after 25 years it has been my experience, the most important life decisions you make, have to be made on your own.  I built my business and leadership is key.

Others will pontificate as to what a leader is, what a leader must do and how a leader must act.  I don’t have time for all that and neither do you.  The best way to find out if you are a leader is to deal with life’s biggest challenges when it comes to crunch time.

Decide on your own and act accordingly.  You’ll no doubt get plenty of advice, but no one is going to know better than you, what to do.  You are better qualified than anyone or anything to make the decisions that affect you personally and those who depend on you.

There’s a disturbing trend in our day-to-day lives towards dependency on others, big institutions, big labor and big government.  Sweat equity has been replaced by entitlement equity.  People measure success based on what they can get, not what they can give.  

A major new study by Harvard economist Raj Chetty, however, shows things haven’t changed all that much. “Children entering the labor market today have the same chances of moving up in the income distribution relative to their parents as children born in the 1970s,” it finds.  “That doesn’t mean politicians can’t improve people’s chances of rising. It’s just that the best way they can do so is by getting out of the way.”  The Foundry

The problem is the more you lean on the government, the more your life depends on government.  You are governed by more  laws, more regulations and more public policy today than ever before.  Who you become, what you do, and how you do it, is shaped by public opinion and the mainstream media.

In this new era influenced by mass media and public opinion, big government is their divined solution to all your problems.  American exceptionalism, entrepreneurship and the multitude of small business success stories that built a thriving post WWII economy, are too often ignored, discounted and discouraged with crippling regulation and  laws that are the new normal.

What if a typical family spent like government?

What if a typical family spent like government?

Individualism and leadership are sorely needed.  People, not big government, can make a difference.  You and I need to step up to the plate.  Our country’s in peril as is our next generation.  Take on the career politicians who have created roadblocks to personal responsibility and leadership.  Our country is on the line. Vote them out in 2014 and 2016.

Career politicians passing laws that control our lives severely curtail the entrepreneurial spirit and small business startups, the little engine that could, that should and does grow the economy.   Consider the cost of healthcare has virtually doubled for small businesses in the past 5 years.  

Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of free enterprise. Their heart is beating for their next customer, for their fellow employees and their families.  Their soul is intact.  They epitomize what comprises the backbone of our country, small business.  In their shadows are the real leaders, the chief cooks and bottle washers; the real risk takers that stand behind their champions, small business owners.  Small business owners are essential to the future success of the US economy.

Entrepreneurs are not the only leaders.  Leaders are people I see when I come to work before dawn.  I see them after dusk, when darkness settles.  They are resourceful.  They don’t think twice.  If you say something to them about the long hours they keep, they will readily commiserate with you, complain if you will, but there is a sense of pride in their voice.  There is a smile on their face.  These hard working people who are the heart and soul of the US economy.

In an atmosphere where people lean more on government, blame others and institutions for their circumstance, we need more leaders. Whether you are a parent, employee, small business owner or CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation; people depend on you for guidance.  You are accountable for the success or failure of others.  You have to make decisions that affect other people for better or for worse. 

In business or in your personal life, when the time comes, no one will make the important decisions for you.  Don’t get me wrong.  You will get plenty of advice.  “If I were you…” “You should…”  “You could…” “You might…” Later on, after the decision has been made, you will summarily receive the same words, only in a different context.  “If it were me…” “I would have…”  I could have…”  “I would have… Draw on your own experience.  Make your own decisions.

The most important decisions you can make, are made by you alone.  That’s leadership.  You can change the world, change you can believe in.

The Mergansers Are Back

December 15, 2013
Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

It has been three years now since dad passed away and the mergansers are back each year.

Dad was in a losing the battle with an unforgiving and relentless disease, Alzheimer’s.  Simply put, Alzheimer’s is an hour glass of life’s memories forever sifting and slipping away.

There was a small sign with my father’s name, outside his 10 x 12 room, but when reality sunk in, dad just wasn’t home.  There were many occasions thereafter, I realized just how much I missed him.

Dad was a conservationist.  He loved the outdoors and natural surroundings. He took great pride in building and placing wood duck and blue bird houses all along the river in Wisconsin, on which he and my mom lived.

For that reason, I was excited to see wood ducks on a pond behind my office.  Keep in mind I live in Florida, not Wisconsin.  I was so excited, I called mom and she sent me wood duck houses for the pond.  I mounted them on some beautiful cypress trees on the pond.  It turns out the “wood ducks” didn’t want anything to do with their new homes.  In fact, they weren’t wood ducks at all, they were Hooded Mergansers!

Of course dad would have known they were mergansers.  He would have laughed and told me mergansers are migratory. They were just passing through, just like dad.

Rock My World Innovations – Part III – Stuff We Can Live With

December 1, 2013
Driverless car

Driverless car

Technology waits for no man.  Technology will solve many problems  politicians refuse to solve, such as energy independence.

What if we could eliminate DUI’s?  No more accidents?  No more collision insurance?  No more speeding tickets?  No more traffic cops?  No more traffic jams and erase handicaps, too?  PLAY SHORT VIDEO

What if we save the billions with a “B” the DOT is spending on high speed rail?  Politics aside, what if we spend our billions more wisely on potentially more ubiquitous technology, like driverless cars?   What if driverless cars were allowed 1-2 HOV lanes on a perpetual traffic jam like the notorious LA freeway system?

What if we send a driverless care to pick you up for work? What if the system of freeway Park and Ride’s was expanded to use driverless cars at the same rates per seat as other mass transit?  What if what we do for bikes in the inner city, like Divvy bikes, we do for cars?

One idea Google has been studying is how its vehicles could become part of robo-taxi systems in which a fleet of self-driving cars would pick up passengers and work commuters on demand, according to people familiar with the matter. Google believes that such systems could potentially reduce the need for people to own cars and reduce accidents. Google Designing Its Own Self-Driving Car, Considers ‘Robo Taxi’ 

We know politicians.  Money is burning a hole in their pocket.  If they are going to spend taxpayer dollars on infrastructure, would our dollars go further if driverless car makers were offered responsible loan guarantees and driverless car buyers were offered the same subsidies we afford to other green initiatives?

Electric cars and gas-electric-hybrid models currently for sale in the U.S. have captured just 3% of total sales through the first eight months of this year. The Toyota Prius line accounts for more than half of the hybrid sales. Electric cars such as the Leaf account for barely a 10th of the market. About 1 in 10 of today’s new-vehicle owners say they will consider an electric the next time they buy a car, says Strategic Vision.

Driverless cars could very well be the future mass transit system.  It could be the answer to traffic jams and long commutes.  Imagine going 80 mph down the LA freeway and the jackass who’s tailgating you is in another driverless car.  You just sit there, speak your destination into your car’s GPS, sit back and enjoy the ride.  Read your Kindle, or get your emails on you iPad.  There will be stretches of road like this in your future, but don’t worry if you have a lead foot, not all driverless cars will be the Toyota Prius.  BMW is working a design.

Technology advances rapidly. Consider in a 2004 desert test the Google driverless car went 8 miles.  In 2010 it went 140,000 miles.  They used the staggering amounts of data collected for Google Maps and Google Streets. View to provide as much information as possible about the roads their cars were traveling. Their vehicles also collected huge volumes of real-time data using video, radar, and LIDAR (light detection and ranging) gear mounted on the car; these data were fed into software that takes into account the rules of the road, the presence, trajectory, and likely identity of all objects in the vicinity, driving conditions, and so on. This software controls the car and probably provides better awareness, vigilance, and reaction times than any human driver could. The Google vehicles’ only accident came when the driverless car was rear-ended by a car driven by a human driver. Google’s is now looking to build their own driverless cars, has a fleet of Toyota Prius’s, that exist today and have traveled over a half million miles without an accident.

We already have the technology to automatically parallel park cars, from Toyota Prius, Ford Escape and VW Tiguan. New technologies also include early warning systems to warn drivers if they are following to close.

 “Giving automobiles auto-piloting features—up to and including completely hands-free, eyes-closed operation with trusting souls aboard—is the Space Race of global auto makers, and you are the monkey in the capsule. Last month Nissan and Renault chief Carlos Ghosn promised that Nissan would bring affordable autonomous cars to the public by 2020. Mercedes-Benz already markets some of its driver-assist technologies as “semiautonomous”: automatic lane keeping (positioning the car between the lines during brief periods of hands-off operation); and Stop & Go Pilot, an optics-and-radar-based cruise control that can see traffic ahead and adjust speed in heavy traffic.” Excerpt from the Wall Street Journal September 2013

The future is now if we stop playing politics and start employing innovation, entrepreneurship and the technology at hand.  Check out Rock My World Innovations Part I and Part II

Happy Thanksgiving a.k.a. Thanksgivukkah!

November 29, 2013
tags:
Independence Hall

Independence Hall

I have a great deal to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, a wonderful wife and family, good friends and yes, a job.  Speaking of a wonderful wife and good friends,  I recently visited Philadelphia, for a friend’s daughter’s wedding.

Philadelphia was our nation’s first capital in 1790, while the permanent capital became Washington D.C. in 1800.  While there, I was afforded the opportunity to tour the site of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.  I was not only humbled by the amazing stories of sacrifice our forefathers made during the Revolutionary War, like the winter of Valley Forge, but by the National Park Ranger, who’s knowledge and enthusiasm took me to school.

Liberty Bell with friends

Liberty Bell with friends

She was also kind of scary.  She reminded me of my 3rd grade teacher, a nun, except she was carrying a gun or a taser. My 3rd grade teacher liked to carry a wooden yardstick or pointer.  I immediately got on the wrong side of her when she asked everyone to raise their hand if they were under 21.  My gray hair didn’t fool her.  She challenged the tour with many history questions.  Lucky for me and the other gray-haired guys I was with, there was a boy scout troop as part of our tour, who knew most of the answers.

After the tour we viewed memorials in front of Independence Hall from several of our great leader.   Here are excerpts from speeches from these great leaders in History on this day of Thanksgiving…

George Washington (1789) – And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. 

Washington Statue Independence Hall

Washington Statue Independence Hall

Lincoln at Independence Hall

Lincoln at Independence Hall

Abraham Lincoln (18630) – “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”

Kennedy Memorial Independence Hall

Kennedy at Independence Hall

John F. Kennedy (1961)  “Let us observe this day with reverence and with prayer that will rekindle in us the will and show us the way not only to preserve our blessings, but also to extend them to the four corners of the earth. Let us by our example, as well as by our material aid, assist all peoples of all nations who are striving to achieve a better life in freedom.”

I’d like to revisit Philly, if not only to follow Rocky’s Run to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Rocky’s Steps.

Note: Thanksgivukkah! last happened in 1888 won’t occur again for another 79,000 years.

Rock My World Innovations – Stuff We Can Live With – Part II

October 6, 2013
Laptops are doomed

Laptops are doomed

As I stated in Rock My World Innovations – Stuff We Can Live With – Part I, when I began researching “rock my world” innovations and how it affects us and our workplace, the hardest part for me is I couldn’t stop. It’s because in the course of studying innovation, much that you read and hear about today is already old news.

I found some rock my world innovations but more often than not, I found new stuff we can live with.  Stuff here today, possibly gone tomorrow…

I’m a big fan of the future and enjoy learning all I can about new innovations.  In studying innovation in my work I quickly discovered you can erase the past and create the future as quickly as you can erase chalk from a chalkboard.

One of my favorite recitations is that as a CEO in the technology business, we as a company must constantly reinvent ourselves.  We need new technology to keep up with the existing technology and the tsunami of information we have to deal with every day.

We live in a world of plentiful accurate data, and massive storage capacity and processing power.   So anything’s possible. here is Part II.

Game changers include Tablets.  So laptops are doomed.  In the next five years, tablets will displace notebook-style computers to become the dominant personal computing platform.  And the transition from laptop to tablet has already begun. Tablets are expected to outsell laptops in 2016 as tablet shipments increase by 5x from 80+ million in 2011 to 425 million by 2017.  A third of those sales will be directly to businesses, as tablets become standard tools for executives, sales staff and other information workers.

Another driving force, China and other emerging markets will drive tablet growth because they aren’t already saturated with laptops and smartphones. Emerging markets will account for 40% of tablets sold by 2016.

Here’s a great example of how technology can supplement and even trump government run programs who receive taxpayer dollars and quite honestly many of the non-profits too, who receive charitable contributions and government funding.  More money could be invested in entrepreneurial endeavours, in promising, proven and economical technology, and less in politically motivated boondoggles, like the Solyndra scandal.

Tablets are killing laptops

Tablets are killing laptops

Here’s an account from  Jim Nuttall, East Lansing, MI on how apps on mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones can help the handicapped improve their quality of life, and become more productive.

I am legally blind and have an iPhone. This is what an iPhone does for me and how it affects our economy.

- iPhone reads books to me — no more human readers required
- Internet books for blind — no more library
- Internet radio — no more standard radio
- iTunes Music Store — no more physical music store
- App Store — no mall software store
- Kindle — no more book store-
- GPS — no more maps or dedicated GPS
- Internet news — no newspapers
- Google — no more yellow pages
- Internet weather — no TV weather man
- Cell phone — no more landline company
- Camera — no separate photo or Video camera
 

I love my Kindle app on the iPad and access to social media sites is easy and easy to provide updates.  I can’t imaging the need for a separate digital camera or GPS.  I won’t give up my Garmin Edge on my bike or my Go Pro cam on my next great adventure.

I still have a PC (laptop) and I prefer my laptop when I am sitting at my desk reviewing volumes of information which requires editing, using spreadsheets and even blogging, but there is certainly a great deal of evidence mounting that we can and will readily adapt to new technology and innovations as they present themselves.

Seer Part III and the next great game changer.

Rock My World Innovations – Stuff We Can Live With – Part I

September 16, 2013

innovation

When I began researching “rock my world” innovations and how it affects us and our workplace, the hardest part for me is I couldn’t stop. It’s because in the course of studying innovation, much that you read and hear about today is already old news.

I found some rock my world innovations but more often than not, I found new stuff we can live with.  Stuff here today, possibly gone tomorrow…

I’m a big fan of the future and enjoy learning all I can about new innovations.  In studying innovation in my work I quickly discovered you can erase the past and create the future as quickly as you can erase chalk from a chalkboard.

One of my favorite recitations is that as a CEO in the technology business, we as a company must constantly reinvent ourselves.  We need new technology to keep up with the existing technology and the tsunami of information we have to deal with every day.

We live in a world of plentiful accurate data, and massive storage capacity and processing power.   So anything’s possible.

We live in a world where computers improve so quickly that their capabilities pass from the realm of science fiction into the everyday world!

Like Watson the IBM Computer who can beat the world’s finest chess players or champions at Jeopardy and we’re not talking about surpassing the realm of science fiction over the course of a human lifetime, or even within the span of a professional’s career, but instead in just a few years.

So What is Innovation?smartphones

1) There are the Game Changers that can disrupt and create whole new markets.

2) There are Breakthrough Innovations that Introduces a new technology into an existing market and

3) There are Incremental Innovations that are Small but Significant improvements to our lives.

So let’s talk briefly today about one of the most obvious game changers.  Smartphones.  There are more people with cell phones in the world than with toothbrushes.

More people with cell phones in the world than with toothbrushes

More people with cell phones in the world than with toothbrushes.

Seems impossible right?  Well believe it or not, this guy owns a smart phone!

toothless guy

Yes. This guy owns a smartphone.

Let’s talk about THE FUTURE of the smart phone 2013… Below is a short video about a new app called Project Glass from Google.  I’ll tell you, I’m definitely going use this app!  I couldn’t find my way around a department store if I had to save my life.  Here’s the story.

I had taken my 2-year-old daughter shopping with me for my wife’s Christmas gift.  I chose the local mall which was a mistake!  There were too many stores, on too many levels and subsequently too many choices.  My two-year old decided she would decide when to leave for me and declared in a high octave it was time to leave.  When I tried to get her back into her snow suit she decided to take it up a few notches so I made my exit as quickly as possible.  I was plowing through drifts of snow with a screaming kid under my arm, like a football and I couldn’t find the car.  I thought it had been stolen.  I quickly dismissed the thought, thinking who would steal a yellow Ford Pinto with a black racing stripe, affectionately nicknamed, The Banana.  When I came to my senses I had realized there was an East and a West entrance to the mall.  It seems I had been rendered temporarily geographically dyslexic.  It is strictly a male trait brought on by the trauma from entering a shopping mall and likely departing with a lighter wallet.

google glass

Google Glass

Here’s the short video…the future of smartphones a.k.a. Google Glass.

What are some of the other game changing innovations? Hint: Laptops Are Doomed!  See Part II and Part III.

NFIB Steps Up to the Plate with a Helpful Guide to Obamacare

July 20, 2013
tags:
tea party member visit to the Doctor

Bend over! When will taxpayers wake up?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) a.k.a. Obamacare was to impose an employer mandate beginning on January 1, 2014. Only Congress is supposed to have the constitutional authority to change that date.

Again the Obama Administration, choosing to take the law, ACA, into their own hands, delayed the employer mandate until 2015. This is a deliberate ploy to postpone one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation until after the mid-term elections.

“News of the delay was not formally announced, but quietly slipped into a blog entry of one of the President’s top advisers. We’re giving businesses more time to comply,” blogged adviser Valerie Jarrett, who also claimed that the White House is “listening” to small business.

Dan Danner, the President and CEO, NFIB of the NFIB states, “It’s true that extra time to comply with one of the most convoluted parts of the law might provide marginal help to some small-business owners. But delay is not the long-term solution to rising healthcare costs that the small-business community has been asking for. The only way to get Obamacare right is for Congress to pass a permanent fix: full repeal. In the meantime, NFIB will continue to fight hard to correct its most dangerous pieces and do everything in our power to help you avoid its immediate pitfalls.”

The National Federation Independent Business has created “The Healthcare Playbook: A Small Business Guide to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,”available on NFIB’s website. Unlike the act, this playbook is easy to understand, provides clear dates for action items and explains major requirements that you must meet.

Most disturbing report yet we’re going to be enrolling uninsured families, without employer’s income verification, allowing them to sign-up for voter registration at the same time. Who’s going to be footing the bill? The entitlement flood gates are now open.

It’s being reported by the Daily Caller, in California, the SEIU, the AFL-CIO and the NAACP are already conducting door to door canvassing, phone banks and robocalls to encourage people to sign up for exchange plans. Even more onerous for Republicans, the state has mandated that voter registration will be integrated into the process.

This Administration continues to break the law. This latest ploy will increase the cost of Obamacare by at least $62 billion next year alone, by herding millions of people into taxpayer funded health plans whether they are eligible or not. And if you’re getting taxpayer funded healthcare for free why would you vote to repeal it?

It Is Time for Tough Love

February 8, 2013

Tough Love vs. Dependency

Dependency – not confident, prone to mistakes, indecisive, desires security and support, fears having no guidance or support, frequently feels envious, not productive without reassurance, gets very attached to people, feels guilty when they disagree with people, seeks acceptance and recognition from peers, dramatizes their suffering, impressionable, can be talked into doing things, fears being unwanted or unworthy of love, never knows what to do next, personality is centered around low self esteem issues, swayed by emotions, can’t handle people being mad at me, freezes up in stressful situations, influenced more by others than self, avoids responsibilities, life lacks direction, prone to paranoia, prone to shame, daydreams about people to maintain a sense of closeness

Adam Zyglis Cartoon

Does the government breed dependency?  Certainly, for many, and not for all the right reasons.  There are kids growing up on welfare, who don’t know any better. They don’t choose entitlements, entitlements choose them.  Entitlements are all they know.

As a teacher’s aide, my wife worked in a dropout prevention program. There was a young women she had taken under her wing.  Our family welcomed her and her younger sister into our home and we treated them like family.

These young girls were basically in the same age group as our own daughters.  We did a lot of family functions, meals, movies, theme parks, etc… together.

When their behavior became more aggressive,when they began expecting to receive special treatment, whereby our own daughters did not, it was time to end the party.  Tough love.

Tough love?  Thinking back, there was never really any real familial love.  There was caring, a lot of caring.  The plight of these girls still tugs at the heart string of our own family members, but there was no familial love given, for that matter, none shared.

It was a voluntary union by all, arguably a noble union.  No one really got hurt, right?  This was what we knew.  This was what we considered acceptable behavior.  Others would consider doing much less, and find it acceptable behavior.

Why do seemingly noble gestures tend to haunt us?  Most of us “do-gooders” never learn from the ensuing realities.

Like Erich Fromm wrote about many years ago, in his book The Sane Society, as a society we’ve stopped short of loving.  One of my favorite Fromm observations, is also the most thought-provoking.

“Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision.”
― Erich FrommThe Art of Loving

Loving someone is very, very, tough to do.  And according to Fromm, love is an art.  To become a master artist, you have to practice long hours, every day.  I would have to say “tough love” is becoming a “lost art.”  Does the absence of love breed dependency?  Is Fromm right?  Is our society going insane?

Best Friends!

January 24, 2013

My Best Friend is Man’s Best Friend!

The expression can truly be a misnomer because it works both ways.  In my case, Cody is my best friend.  I’m not mincing words.  Everyone knows he’s the guy.   There’s no competition.

I’m not picking up anyone else’s poop.  I won’t give anyone else a bath, at least not with flea and tick shampoo.  If you’re nudging me with your cold nose and you’re asking me to get up in the middle of the night to take you out so you can pee in my back yard, what are the chances I’m OK with that?  Only for my man Cody Bear.

What are best friends?  I have to believe best friends will do just about anything for you.  They aren’t going to pick up your poop, but they are willing to change your diapers and clean up after you.

I’m saying, they will drag your ass out of bar when you are being booed for singing karaoke.

They will refuse to loan you money when they know you’re throwing good money after bad.

They are your best friends in the first place because they share your “bucket list”.

Best friends will give you grief, let you grieve, and they will be there when you are ready to let go.

There is no such thing as fair weather friends.  Friends are friends or they are suspects.  It’s not their decision to make.  Friends are friends until you decide otherwise.  You can take them or leave them.

What’s wrong with having sometime friends?  That could be the key to friendships.   Absence makes the heart grow fonder?

If you decide a friend is no longer a friend, is he still someone else’s friend?

Why can’t you have a friend that likes a part of you?  Friends may like some of what you do, some of who you are; but not all of you.  So what?

You have to be a saint to be everyone’s best friend, so why not just be a friend to anyone who wishes to enjoy your company?  It’s not mutually exclusive.

How many of you hang out with someone else’s friends for a friend’s sake?  That’s a good friend!Imaging Horsepower

Cody Bear, “Bear” being the operative word, is a saint.  Bears forage for food heavily throughout the Summer and Fall months so they can hibernate throughout Winter.  They survive until Spring on the fat they have stored.

Unfortunately Cody, my Chocolate Lab has exceeded his quota and he doesn’t hibernate, choosing to forage throughout the Winter months, as well.

Before you jump to any conclusions he is fed two measured cups of dry all natural, gluten free food each day with a rawhide chew for dessert and a small treat each time he does his business. 

So think thyroid problem.  We treat him for that, too, but the medication makes him hyperactive and if you knew Cody, hyperactive means heavy breathing. 

“This dog don’t hunt”!  He’s not jumping through burning hoops or running in circles chasing his tail.  A fifteen minute walk/sniffathon is enough to drive a patient man to the brink and Cody to barely avoid the 911 call for an EMT.

All that said, the Bear and I are soul mates.  If I want Cody to lose some weight all I have to do is leave town.  I can pull out the suitcase and just watch him go into a tailspin.  It’s to the point I pack in the dark, when he’s not around; carry my roller bag so he can’t hear me make my exit.

I will be home soon my friend!

There Is No Lance

January 19, 2013

Washington ParkI’m no Lance.  You’re no Lance.  There is no Lance.

Since early childhood I have lived by the creed, before you judge someone else, “put yourself in the other person’s shoes.”  I am a cyclist, albeit, a sorry ass one at best.  Sadly I will never be compared to the elite cyclists one speaks of, in the same breath, with Lance Armstrong.

I am and will remain a huge supporter of Livestrong.  The work Livestrong does for cancer victims is excellent and incontrovertible. The organization and the people behind it, sans Armstrong, are absolutely amazing.

Even before Lance’s true confession, I have tried to put myself in Lance’s shoes.  First and foremost, it becomes extremely difficult, unless you have been diagnosed, been treated and lived with a life threatening cancer.

There are many of Lance’s detractors who have never had cancer, let alone been on a bike seat, or experienced the extreme sport of competitive cycling or can even begin to appreciate his inimitable brilliance and determination.

Still there will be many of Lance’s detractors who have been diagnosed with cancer, so thank God, I’m at a distinct disadvantage here.  I can fall back on the fact I have one sister who is a breast cancer survivor, another sister who is battling breast cancer as I write this.

I am here to say, I have a serious problem with many of Lance’s detractors who have never experienced his amazing journey from serious life threatening testicular and brain cancer to recovery.  Back to trying to put myself in Lance’s shoes, as a cancer survivor, in his case, it was nothing short of being raised from the dead.

The problem is he had already doped.  He already knew how to dope.  He knew the culture of doping in pro cycling.  He knew other elite athletes in his profession were doping.  So he doped.  Somehow he won.  It was off to the races.

His genius and competitive furor brings to mind Steve Jobs and his achievements in cycling why competing with co-conspirators were immeasurable.  If you have read the book or studied the life and work of Steve Jobs, the comparison to Steve Jobs, is to say Armstrong is also a complete asshole.  It begs the question, is ruthless determination, the price one must pay to celebrate incomparable success?

The saddest of all, for me in this and for other cycling enthusiasts is the effigy of a championship cyclist.  We may never know.  How tragic.  Lance will never know.  We will never know if he was truly a great champion.  If in fact, if there was someone who rode clean, who could remotely challenge Lance, will we ever know who the greatest cyclist(s) in the history of the sport is, truly?

I will say this, if they were complicit in any way, they aren’t going to receive a pass.  If they were innocent and Lance rolled over them, he needs to make it right.  I would hope he would.  If not, he’s still the biggest loser, because this is one of his only means of redemption.  The other, is to protect and nurture his love for his family, especially his children.

I can’t remotely place myself in Lance’s shoes when it comes to his admonitions, accusations and confessions.  Lance was larger than life.  For a time, Lance’s achievements were larger than his lies.  No more.armstrong confession

In the end, none of his perceived success either on the pro circuit or in his work for charity can be applauded.  Neither can it be easily and lightly be disparaged and denigrated.  Why?  Simply, no one can ever possibly imagine, or conceive to “put yourself in Lance Armstrong’s shoes.”  Lance Armstrong is an enigma.

I’m no Lance.  You’re no Lance.  There is no Lance.

What I know for certain is we can Livestrong!

“What is and always will be my greatest creation is you.” Iron Man

January 12, 2013

Santa Claus Is Still Coming To Town

December 24, 2012

Santa NewtonSanta Claus Is Still Coming To Town

We’ll not forget the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT.

While we grieve the slaughter of innocents, this tragic act serves as a reminder of how precious, how fragile, the gift of life is.

Whatever your religious beliefs, let’s not forget to appreciate the Christmas spirit.

Set aside your politics and prejudice, the spirit of Christmas is about giving.  In the spirit of Christmas, we need to turn to those we love, family and friends and give of ourselves.

Not to pontificate, it’s easy for people this time of year to find a reason to be unhappy.  Let’s not forget those less fortunate and find joy in all we have been given.

These lyrics from Santa Claus is Coming to Town come to mind…

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah! Happy Holidays!  And be good for goodness sake!

How Do You Spend a Trillion Dollars a Year and Not Cure Cancer?

November 28, 2012

How do you spend a trillion dollars a year, over 4 trillion dollars in less than 4 years, and not cure cancer?  For that matter, the common cold.  Why are we not a nation disease free?  Where are our priorities?  What were we thinking?

This is getting personal.  I have three sisters.  My youngest sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and she is a breast cancer survivor   Now my oldest sister has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  It’s no longer about Obama simply reaching into my wallet. It’s not so much about the money anymore.   It’s about the waste.  It’s about wasted time, wasted money and wasted resources.  Tic-toc, cancer is rampant and destroying more and more lives.  Government waste is a cancer, too.  Here is a case in point: Millions Spent on Storytelling Science.

Do you want to see real gains in life saving procedures and reduced medical expenses?  News flash!!!  Put your money and energy behind curing  the disease.  One of the most appealing aspects of Obamacare is providing for coverage to people who have  preëxisting conditions.  I’m all for that.  Make the insurance companies toe the line.  My contention is, what if preëxisting conditions didn’t exist?  Cure cancer. There would be a lot fewer preëxisting conditions if we attacked the real problem, cancer.

What if Obama had the cojones to take back the $16 Billion he gave to his mega-rich campaign donors, including blowhards like Ted Turner, recipient of around 1 billion in green energy money from Obama, for failed green energy initiatives  and put that money it towards cancer research?  No.  Now that he’s been reelected at all cost, we’re $16 Trillion in debt.  Now it’s everybody’s  problem that our healthcare is going to be too expensive for many small businesses because we are going to be taxed.  If you want to blame Bush or the Republicans, argue your case with John Roberts, Chief Justice, Supreme Court.

All politicians have it wrong when it comes to priorities on health issues, but the Mainstream media and Hollywood have placed the focus on our savior and savant, Barack Obama.  All this President was about was keeping his job by dividing America, the have’s and the have-nots’.  He succeeded.  All President Obama has done is grow a new cancer.  A cancer that is equally daunting and will grow as our economy shrinks under his leadership.  Get to the source of the problem.  Why waste time and money on Obamacare?  Why not cure cancer?  That’s what a real leader would be all about.

Murder by guns vs. cancer, a look at our current death toll in this country (based on trends – not actual numbers).   —> 2012 Mortality statistics for USA

One more reason we have our priorities wrong… Capture

Time to lighten up?

October 2, 2012

YouTube Video

Johnny Carson Lie Detector on Politicians – Vimeo Video. HILARIOUS!!! Still true today.

Made in the USA

March 5, 2012

Originally posted on The Real McCoy for Small Business:

“Made in the USA” isn’t about the Big 3 automakers…

It’s time to put the brakes on government spending. The road to recovery lies with the success of small businesses, not with behemoth car companies and big labor. If we were going to bailout anyone, we should have bailed out the car dealerships and auto supply companies to allow them to remarket, retool and invest in new technologies. We should be growing our tax base, which is only going to happen if we fuel the small business private sector. Speaking of which, why are we not doing more to grow and keep promising small business technology companies and their technology jobs in the USA, where our best talent and our best jobs can remain right here at home?

“You will find men who want to be carried on the shoulders of others, who think that the world owes them a living…

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“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay

March 5, 2012

Originally posted on The Real McCoy for Small Business:

Business is improving, despite all the obstacles in this unpredictable economy that remain and those ahead of us.  This is largely self-fulfilling prophecy as our engine runs on premium personnel and our management team isn’t half-bad either.

We have invested a great deal in new products and new markets.  I’m a big fan of Alan Kay’s expression, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Klondike Bluffs mountain bike trail outside of Moab. In the background, Arches National Park and the La Sal snow-capped mountains (click on the photo for a better view)

I guess you could say this message comes somewhat diluted by the BP oil spill.  Accidents, like the BP oil spill and natural disasters are unpredictable but they are going to happen.  I can see the raw and gut-wrenching affects as they unfold for our neighbors in the Gulf States and the Florida Panhandle.  We are certainly not exempt from the fallout.  We are also far more fortunate.

There’s little one can do in the moment but there is much that…

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Who isn’t afraid of failing?!

February 20, 2012

The Wallenda factor is just a normal fear of falling!  Who isn’t afraid of falling?!

“Just in case you haven’t heard, the Wallenda factor refers to the fear of falling or failing. Shortly after Karl Wallenda fell to his death in 1978 (traversing a 75-foot high wire in downtown San Juan, Puerto Rico), his wife, also an aerialist, discussed that fateful San Juan walk, “perhaps his most dangerous.”  She recalled: “All Karl thought about for three straight months prior to it was falling. It was the first time he’d ever thought about that, and it seemed to me that he put all his energies into not falling rather than walking the tightrope.”

Life is like traversing a tight rope.
If you think you need a safety net,
It won’t be long before you fall. 
Live your life without a safety net,
Or be prepared to live your life
Closer to the ground. 
Alan J Wiessner 
 
Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist says, “Pessimism is complacency.”   I think generally speaking I would have to say at times I exercised pessimism in certain situations.  I can relate it to looking in the mirror each morning and thinking, “I’m not getting any younger or thinner,  for that matter.”  I’m over that now!

To see the video - just click on the picture

Last year I spoke of challenges.  This year, I believe anything’s possible!  Last year I spoke of good fortunes, we were fortunate enough to have earned another year in business.  I said I was proud of the intellectual property (IP) and talent we had.  This year I am confident our talent pool here is second to none.    Everyone has bought into The Rational Optimist theme, “Everybody is working for everybody else.” Last year I said opportunities present challenges.

We have faced those challenges.  We have conquered many and we are prepared conquer the future.   While politicians in Washington scrum over the economy and jobs,  free market goes out and creates 100 mpg cars, even driverless cars. We need to tell our politicians…anything’s possible.This year we will focus again on making our products easier to use, easier to install and cloud ready.   Inside Integra, we will continue to concentrate on developing and acquiring better tools to do our jobs in a more productive environment.  Last year’s message was, “Attitude is everything.”   

This year we will continue  to encourage a positive attitude in the workplace, with our customers, partners and suppliers.  Everybody is working for everybody else (click on the picture to the left for the video) because again…. anything’s possible.  Finally, last year I predicted growth would be next our greatest challenge and we grew significantly.  We remain well positioned to take advantage of those significant gains in 2012 and beyond.

To see an awesome video – just click on the picture

I’ll leave you with a great video (click on the photo below) and when you feel that wave of pessimism coming on, remember, anything’s possible.

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.” — Aristotle

Getting Religion…

January 12, 2012

Stating the obvious, we know that wearing religion on your sleeve can be dangerous.  Which brings me to one cogent expression from this one young man’s video below; he professes that “people only know you’re a Christian by your Facebook.”  

I have experienced their religion first-hand.  If you’re running late and you think finding a seat on a Southwest flight is difficult, try getting to a religious service late.  If you have ever been slow to leave after services, you have been run over by the stampede leaving church or cutoff leaving the parking lot.   

I guess it’s still better than being in the Middle East where you could be blown up by a suicide bomber or a roadside bomb.  Thank God no one has been nuked lately. 

Don’t get me wrong.  Many who profess their faith in God are truly genuine.  That is why many of us have become instant fans of the Denver Broncos…well Tim Tebow, anyway.  In fact, there does seem to be the hand of God in some of his touchdown throws.  God help the rest of us!  

To my point, Christians and Muslims have killed millions in the name of God or Allah, but as Jesus was our Savior, He never meant for any of this to happen.  He wasn’t a “Christian” in religious man-made terms.  He was the first Christian,  He was a true gift from God , the Son of God.  His words were meant to heal not to divide.  He sacrificed himself and died on the cross for all humankind. 

I’m not a heretic.  I’m not preaching.  If I was, I’d be preaching to the choir.  This is a lesson.  This is a lesson from the heart.  We need to listen. 

He says, “Just because you call somebody blind doesn’t mean you have vision.”

We have been warned.  The experts say our next great threat is ourselves, right here in America. It’s now about you and me.  It’s now more important than ever to follow the true meaning of Christ.

We already know we live shoulder to shoulder, possibly arm in arm, with the next domestic terrorist.  Whether he or she is on the side of one religious sect or another, it matters far less than the lives that will be lost.  We just need to stop, listen and learn from Him.

The Greatest Commandment: Love God and Your Neighbor

Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Be a Servant to Others

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

So when you’re on the internet, which is a miracle in itself, to think Al Gore invented it; and you come across an amazing YouTube video, it’s no wonder you will find someone you can relate to and another who says, “hmmm.” 

I hope you have labored with me up to this point because if you haven’t seen and heard it, this young man’s poem and video, YouTube Video —->Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus || Spoken Word, it has great insight on man-made religion vs. the true love of God.

In his own words, A poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion. In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At it’s core Jesus’ gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair.  Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can’t do your own list of rules and feel “not good enough” for God. With Jesus though you have humble confident joy because He represents you, you don’t represent yourself and His sacrifice is perfect putting us in perfect standing with God!”  Jefferson Bethke

Let’s see if this young man can keep his perspective, like Tebow, without becoming carried away with his newfound man-made worship and adoration. 

Regardless, his message is compelling.  I have watched and listened to this video several times, not because I am in danger of being left without a seat on a plane or I fear getting run over in a stampede.  I have watched and listened because it has struck a chord… 

Maybe there’s hope for our young people.  Maybe they will navigate their way out of this dust storm they have inherited from us.  Maybe those of us older and portended to be wiser, set in our ways; maybe, just maybe, we will follow.

Express “yourself.” Leave your comments, share or spread the word click on Stumble Upon button below. Subscribe (above) or come back often to visit.

 

Leave it at the Door

December 19, 2011
Leave it at the Door

They should change the expression from the Holiday Blues to the Holiday Reds

Tis the season we all go a little crazy spending money.  Debt can pile up.  It can pile up for your Company, too.  The expression, “those that help, help themselves.” is never more of a challenge than it is right now.

As a business owner, I’m here to say, “We’re all in this together.” There’s no one, no one, who will be more disappointed than myself, if I cannot compensate you fairly, provide great benefits and a bonus for this year. 

So it’s worth sharing just a few observations from a guy that’s been doing this a while…

·        The longer it takes to deliver our products and services, the less likely we are to get paid.  Customers go out of business, get sold, or change suppliers.  We need to deliver.

·        We carry a large sum in Accounts Receivable each month – that’s money our customers owe us.  Imagine the possibilities for all of you if we could cut our delivery time by one-third or in half?

·        These are competitive times.  We are good, we are very good, but we still have a great deal of competition.  That means we need “great references.”  Great references come from great products and great service.  Great products and great service have to come from you.

·        The longer we stay in business, now 20 plus years (imagine… some of you were still in diapers) providing our customers with great products and service, the more opportunities will present themselves.

Imagine… some of you were still in diapers.

So what it all comes down to, everyone depends (not for diapers) on you.  So when it is all said and done and with the all the best of intentions, “Look to yourself , look to your fellow professionals and then ask yourself, “What can I do to produce opportunities?”  Then go do it. 

No one needs you to be looking at your watch.  You don’t need someone to tell you just to show up and get less done.   And everyone is entitled to take time to commiserate, socialize and share their personal lives here at work.  It’s a healthy work environment.  Still you want your time to be well spent.  BTW no one wants you to bring your personal problems to work.  In a work environment that delivers great products and great service, no one needs to hear you’re less fortunate than the next person.  So take care of your personal lives and your personal problems first.  If you do, you will receive more support from your co-workers and from me.  There’s more willingness to help those trying to help themselves. 

You can’t get better at what you do if you’re too stressed, too tired or too sick to help yourself and your company professionally.  Help yourself personally first and second professionally.  For all of us here the best medicine is a healthy, happy and productive you. 

We all have the tendency to have good days and bad, lick our wounds, get down in the mouth and to think no one cares.  If you know me, you know I care.  I truly care!  I do, but I don’t employ a priest, a doctor or a shrink.  If you need professional help, go get it.   If you’re a part of the company, you’re a part of my family. 

Family pulls together and as my Dad would always say after I have had a bad day, “Just leave it at the door.”

Express “yourself.” Leave your comments, share or spread the word click on the Stumble Upon button below. Subscribe or come back often to visit.

I Am Experience!

November 29, 2011

Some “rich guys” just won a $250K lottery.  It’s all over the news.  So what?!   They don’t deserve it?

Is that what life is all about?  Blame the rich for your problems or do you have the guts and resilience to earn a living?  Make money, maybe lots of money.  If you have the guts, you will make mistakes.  New mistakes, mind you.  You can’t afford muck it up over and over again.

Lord knows I make mistakes!  I live for the entitlements I deserve.  To live free.  To choose to make mistakes, without the fear of reprisal.  To act upon my own convictions within the law

I managed a large sales organization for NCR Corp.  I told my salespeople, “lose more orders!”  It took a little getting used to the idea but they learned, “I am experience.”

If I could reach into my bag of mistakes and pull out just one success, I might be one of those “rich guys” or just maybe who I am.  I like to think I’m still living my life.  If you ask me who I am, I will tell you, I am experience.

How about the day ahead of me?  When will I step over the line and where will that line be drawn?  If I step over the line, I will have to choose, success or failure. There is no middle ground.  I am experience.

Mistakes are getting old, if you’re like me… old.  I grow weary of the next opportunity.  There was a time, when I was  hungry. A hunter.  I would seek opportunities to be successful.  I have since learned the definition of success.  If you make enough mistakes, opportunities seek you.  I am experience.

I have already left yesterday’s mistakes behind me.  Today’s opportunities beckon me back.  Give me a tomorrow, whatever I was doing and wherever I have been.  I can make tomorrow, a better future.  I am experience!

And if I had yesterday back, if I had spent a buck and if I had bought the winning lottery ticket, I’d have to say, I’m one of those “rich guys.”  Where’s the crime in winning the lottery?  Maybe they should charge millionaires more? How about $2 a ticket?

Most rich guys are portrayed as useless money grubbers. I’d bet my bottom dollar on the rich guys, because most “rich guys” can say, I am experience.

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Depression – This stretch of road is all behind you now…

November 2, 2011

Photographer, Mary Wiessner

I Can’t Do This Anymore!

“When you bust through all the layers of brevity and you have shaken all the hands of hope, you can begin to share the depths of despair depression can bring.”

If you are afflicted by or live with someone with severe depression, you’re no stranger to words of despair.  You try to remain stoic while your insides are churning.  Helpless in the moment. Those suffering from depression, they’re gripped by desperate thoughts. And all you can do is to tell them it is going to be OK. Tell them it isn’t going to last.   Tell them they will get better.   Both of you must endure.

Tears may come easy to some, sometimes for no reason.  Depression can often hide behind a smile.  It’s no cliché.  If you have shared a moment or a lifetime with someone who is severely depressed, the eyes are truly the window to their soul.  Looking into the eyes of someone you love, eyes you have seen filled with joy, mischief, love and wonderment; that are suddenly filled with tears, fear, pain and bewilderment, is gut-wrenching.  The only reprieve is an embrace.

Even those closest to one suffering from depression often react with bewilderment, impatience, aggravation, even divisiveness by someone’s sudden onset and deep dive into depression. The problem is there is more than one reality.

Depression is an alternate reality, a place where all that is burdensome or worrisome is amplified tenfold and more.  Those who are afflicted with depression are rolling down a road to nowhere.

There are millions of clinically depressed people who are not normally self-absorbed, who are living productive lives, who are contributing to society, who are contributing to their friends and families, yet live with a profound sadness and who are depressed.  These are people who are suffering from depression, who love life, who love others and who dread the unwelcome, unanticipated, unprovoked; and most disturbing, suffer undeserved moments of despair.

Moments of despair that often metastasize into hours, days, weeks and beyond. Some severely depressed people never make it back, back to living the productive lives they were meant to live.

Those who live, love, are friends with or have a depressed person in their lives need to embrace that person, even when that person doesn’t know or care if you are there.

You have to hold out for a loved one afflicted with depression, let them know you are there without prejudice, without demands and bring a boatload of patience.  Reach out to them, through the tears.  Find them in your embrace.  Welcome them back.  Cherish every moment.

With depression, there’s always a way back.  The fact is, if you can be a severely depressed person and face a severe episode (incident) of depression with defiance and say, “I won’t take this anymore.”  If you can face the feelings of fear and desperation by surrendering to those feelings, letting go, letting those feelings roll over you and believe in yourself its possible you can endure each successive episode until your psyche has put these feelings behind you.

I wrote “This Stretch of Road Is All Behind Me” because I often find people in places where they never want to be.  I believe this stretch of road for those who live with misery, including depression, that road can be behind you.

This stretch of road is all behind me…

No more rolling down this road called misery.
I’m no saint. No savior wannabe.
I’m not here to take a fall.
I’m just here passing through, that’s all.
Cause that road I was headed down,
Placed a hurt on me… a hurt on me.
People bent, people broken.
People’s names left unspoken.
I’m not headed down that road.
No. No. No more.
So I’m taken a turn for right or wrong.
This stretch in the road is all behind me.
My mind, my bed is already made.
There’s no more yesterday’s in my head.
No more yesterday’s hanging over me. Over me.
All I see is ahead of me. Ahead of me…
People bent, people broken.
People’s names left unspoken.
I’m not headed down that road.
No. No. No more.
Hear me now.
There’s no going back! So just don’t go there.
You hear me?
Alan J Wiessner
10-31-2011
 

Note to readers: There are many roads to a cure for depression. There are also many forks in the road and dead ends, too. Drug therapy is not an exact science. There are many good self-help books, good therapists, effective drugs and other forms of therapy. If the road you take doesn’t work, don’t give up. There are many roads available. Don’settle.

One of the best sites on Depression.

Express “yourself.” Leave your comments, share or spread the word click on Stumble Upon button below. Subscribe or come back often to visit.

 

Got Wood?

October 20, 2011

We have MoveOn.org in support of Occupy Wall Street.  Well what exactly do they do now?  Move On or Occupy?  Occupy or Move On?

Just for fun let’s look at these two organizations thinking M&A?  Which law firm would represent them?   Think IPO.  Which Wall Street firm would they choose? 

I tried to figure out which of these movements or occupations is best to follow.  Honestly, I’m not sure.  They both have valid arguments and serious flaws, like how they hurt small business.

A merger between MoveOn and Occupy could be a lesson to Microsoft and Yahoo, like oil and water.

If you go on the Move On website there are too many Move this and that movements to follow.  If you try to understand the Occupy this city, that State or country’s position, well… it gives one pause.  So we’re at a standstill.

So to get this impasse, one would assume most activists would prefer movement to being at a standstill.  Going nowhere is boring.  Rhetorically speaking one could say both MoveOn and Occupy Wall Street are consistently incongruous and therefore not helpful? 

What one can be sure of is whether they are moving on or standing still, neither position is creating jobs. 

“Back in the day sonny” he croaks, from his Easy Boy recliner, “when all we knew was black and white, if we needed to make a point, we did it in a demonstrative, albeit sometimes incoherent fashion.”  Think Woodstock.  Joe Cocker’s With a Little Help from My Friends was a classic Joe Biden sound bite.  Incoherent!  Just kidding Joe!??  No need to insult anyone?

So one can’t help but ask, “Who’s Got Wood?”   Woodstock?  A cause expounding peace and love that resounded worldwide over a single weekend or Occupy Wall Street that makes us wish Jimmy Hendrix was still singing “Hey Joe” to Joe and Joe was heading for Mexico.  You decide.

Woodstock.  1969.  Made into a movie.  Not a Michael Moore movie.

A movie that will live on in history.  Why?  Almost all of these people now have good paying jobs.  Most of them pay taxes.  Yes, some are dead, surprisingly fewer than one would think, like artist Keith Richards, the wrinkly rocker from the Rolling Stones.  OK, he wasn’t even there and surprisingly, he’s not dead.

These peace loving folks went home after a long weekend of demonstration and made a difference for America.

Most folks here in America and around the world applaud Occupy Wall Street for making a statement.  We hear you.  We hear all of you.  You can make a difference, just not standing still.  Not anymore. Now you are hurting the same people you should be trying to help, job creators.  Small business people.

Take all the creative energy you have and do something positive.  Like in the movie “Pay It Forward.”

Feel free to agree, disagree or simply ignore me.  Express “yourself.”  Leave your comments, share or  spread the word with Stumble Upon button below.  Subscribe or come back often to visit.

Threadbare – Not Just Another Pretty Face

July 31, 2011

“When you bust through all the layers of brevity and you have shaken all the hands of hope, you can begin to share the depths of depression joblessness can bring.”

This pretty much sums it up if you are over 50 and looking for employment.

Reg – Not Just Another Pretty Face.

When I decided to do this story about my good friend, Reg Lepper I thought maybe it would help him by building on the social networking he had already begun on LinkedIn and Facebook.

As I began learning more from him about his 27 plus year career at Hartmarx, known for its Hart Schaffner & Marx and Hickey Freeman suits, and for making President Obama’s inauguration tuxedo and topcoat, I realized the complex struggle he and his cadre of sales professionals and the plant workers endured.

The company and its United States subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy in January, 2009. Workers threatened to occupy Hartmarx’s plant if the company’s creditor, Wells Fargo Bank, attempted to lay off workers and liquidate the company’s assets.

In August 2009, Emerisque Brands UK and its partner SKNL North America completed their purchase of Hartmarx.While Reg survived the bankruptcy of Hartmarx, the acquisition of a foreign owned conglomerate based in India, ultimately caused many of his friends and fellow employees to lose their jobs.

Not to be outdone Reg took it upon himself to write an impassioned plea, (click on the link “a letter to the President”) a letter to the President of the United States, Barrack Obama, the beneficiary of the afore-mentioned Hart Schaffner & Marx suits.  Fifteen (15) months after the acquisition Reg, too lost his job.

Like many who are unemployed, Reg wants to work.  He wants to support his family.  Like millions of Americans, there have been forks in the road and to make ends meet, he needs a job.

Reg’s now been looking for full-time work in his area of expertise for almost 3 years.  Not for lack of trying.  Reg has employed every means of looking for work.  Shunned by “head hunters” most likely due to his age, Reg is now over 65.  I can personally vouch for the fact he doesn’t behave or look a day over 30… OK so he looks a bit older, but he’s a firm believer in exercise, has been a long time distance runner.  Now his knees are telling him he needs to go shopping for a good bike – cheap!

That aside, Reg has been and is actively looking for work.  Sending out his (click on the link to Reg’s “resume“) resume doing  job interviews, volunteering his time for Career Ministry and consulting their members regarding many aspects of their search for new opportunities and careers.

Reg isn’t alone.  This is a nationwide plight affecting thousands of households across America.  If you are over 50 and unemployed in today’s economy, you could be facing many challenges including a mortgage underwater.  In such cases, how can you move to accept a job offer across the country?  What if you took a second mortgage out to pay for your kid’s tuition?  What if your kid is living at home because he or she can’t find a job or can’t afford to make ends meet on their own?

So is Reg’s story only about being a high income earner and over 50 an age related layoff?  I began to see there are many other dynamics in play.  Those dynamics include government and politics; how an increase in payroll taxes on corporate America has impacted US manufacturing jobs; and the shift in manufacturing jobs overseas.

Add TARP and “too big to fail” enter Wells Fargo into the picture.  Let’s not forget the unions. Hoping to save their jobs and start a national movement, Hartmarx workers were pressuring Wells Fargo, the company’s main creditor, to approve the sale of Hartmarx to a buyer that would keep it alive instead of liquidating it and most likely putting its celebrated labels on suits made overseas, the New York Times’s Steve Greenhouse reported.

While I’m not going to rehash all the events which took place and detail the timeline I think it is interesting to point out there were a number of high profile players involved in the decline of the 124 year old company.

While researching this debacle 9 out of every 10 – news articles or posts reference corporate greed or the big bad bank, in this case Wells Fargo, as the culprit.

“That begs the question, “who buys Hartmarx suits?”

The answer is, “Wall Street bankers.”  OK, so who is demonizing Wall Street?  Obama and his posse, including Dick Durbin, Chuck Shumer and Barney Frank those same politicians who were championing the case for Hartmarx and union labor against Wells Fargo.

As reported by Progress Illinois:   The news of a potential liquidation (of Hartmarx) caused workers, union leaders, and members of Congress to spring into action to aid the company, which employs 3,000 people nationwide, including 1,000 in Illinois.  Rep. Phil Hare, who spent 13 years as a Hartmarx employee, described himself as “livid” at the bank, which accepted $25 billion in federal bailout funds. He went on to enlist the help of Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Rep.  Jan Schakowsky, whose great-aunt found a job with Hartmarx after emigrating from Russia, called Wells Fargo CEO John Strumpf and urged him to keep the company running.  Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, meanwhile, sent a letter to Strumpf threatening to sever the state’s business with the bank if Hartmarx was ultimately liquidated.

Days after suit maker Hartmarx was sold to Emerisque and its Indian partner S Kumars Nationwide Ltd, SKNL a textile giant, three US plants of the clothier have been shut down resulting in the loss of over 500 jobs.  Not a peep out of President Obama, then or now and the Hartmarx factory making Obama’s suits in Des Plaines… still open.

Obama, proudly flashing the Hartmarx label

While they may have saved some jobs, politicians and union bosses who should know better; and who have voted consistently for more government and more spending weren’t helping the cause.  They may have acted like they are helping Hartmarx employees but their votes for higher taxes and more spending were helping to drive manufacturing jobs overseas.

Reg, on the other hand took it upon himself to champion the cause for Hartmarx workers.  He wrote a letter to the President and stirred the political “hornet’s nest” to get politicians pontificating and deserves a lot of credit for saving US worker’s jobs.

Let it be stated, from all accounts, Emerisque, a British private equity firm working with SKNL, has been doing all it can do to promote and keep the US plants open. In fact, Bud” McCullar, a partner at Emerisque called Reg and commented on how much he cared about the company and fellow employees.  Here’s a quote from Mr. McCullar on Reg’s LinkedIn profile.

“Reg is the consummate seller for an ever evolving apparel and consumer products segments.  From presenting to closing, ever the professional.”

There’s a great book called Built to Last written by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras.  A very dear friend of mine recommended the book to me.   She has been fighting breast cancer for the past 10 years or more.  Apparently she, too, is “built to last.”  Thank God. The authors define their choice of successful companies’ continued success to be built on “core values” and continued innovation by trying many things through change and recognizing and staying with what works.

If you are the management (CEO) of a company large or small it is your job to see to it you take care of the bottom line and all that goes with it.  That would be principally “cash  flow” management.  Too often, cash flow management is lost on CEOs who are paid for short term gains which inevitably cause long term pain.  That’s why small business is the backbone (more than 70 percent) of the US economy.  For small business cash flow is king.  Our only short term goal is to stay in business, cash flow and grow.

Maybe if more corporate giants and Wall Street bankers had stuck to their core values we wouldn’t be in as big a mess as we are now in today?  Case in point, the merger and acquisition (M&A) frenzy in the 90’s.  Corporate giants, including banks, joined in the M&A rush, to the extent some industry experts were predicting there would only be 3-4 large bank holding companies left in America.

Hartmarx too, jumped into the fray with an acquisition in late 1996.  They added two more in 1998.  In late summer 1999,they added another.  Maybe these acquisitions were good for the company.  I’m not here to judge.  What’s intriguing about the acquisitions is the correlation with offshoring.  In the 1990’s Hartmarx began the offshoring of production facilities to control costs. During that period, they closed ten domestic factories and shifted production to the Far East, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

Someone should have written a book titled Built to “Be” Last – The Decline in Manufacturing Jobs in America – as American manufacturing companies began moving production overseas.

Now here’s the strongest argument I have found as to why there are fewer and fewer manufacturing jobs here in America.  If it were not for payroll taxes many more manufacturing jobs in America would have been saved.  While everybody was pointing fingers, blaming everyone but themselves for plant closings and lost jobs, you need not look further than, “it’s payroll taxes… (I’ll let you finish the sentence).”  Granted corporate greed is a factor here.  The problem is many large corporations are multi-national and feel the pressure from foreign competitors not burdened with the higher payroll taxes on workers.

Our government raised payroll taxes in April 1983.  The illustration here shows the investment US corporations began to make overseas according to PoliticalCalculations.com as “unintended consequences” of the payroll tax increase.  If you are a “for profit” company and it is your job to increase shareholder value, you are going to look for ways to lower your costs.  Increasing the payroll taxes on American workers was a major impetus to shift American manufacturing overseas.

We vote to place politicians in office to spend our tax dollars wisely.  They don’t.  On the other hand, we vote with our investment dollars to allow corporate “greed” to profit on the backs of American workers.  They do.

Ultimately it is up to us as individuals to make the right choices.  This debt crisis is our wake-up call.  Let’s get back to our core values.  If you ask Reg it’s about God, family the desire to contribute his tremendous talent and work ethic to a company and a country “built to last.”

Made in the USA doesn’t have to be about politics or unions.  My good buddy Reg and many of those that have suffered the “unintended consequences” of increases in payroll taxes and lost  manufacturing jobs, will find no comfort here.

For more on Reg click here resume.

Life is Large!

July 27, 2011

A Trifecta! Klondike Bluffs in the foreground, Arches National Park and the snow-capped La Sal Mountains in the background. Awesome photography by Glenn Smith

Life is large!… and so amazing!

Don’t let  a few bumps in the road stop you from experiencing your potential.

You have an awesome future.

Don’t waste time on worry, anger or reproach.

Life’s too short.

The “what if’s?” can be endless.

The “why not’s” can be endless too.

Choose one and you will be lost in life. 

Choose the other and you will find endless possibilities.

 So “why not?”

How fortunate am I?

July 20, 2011

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around, does it make a sound?

I have been bowed over in anguish over a job lost; I have placed my hands over my face and head, elbows to my knees gasping for breath; I have barricaded myself behind closed doors.

So, I have often wondered, does a job lost make a sound?

If you have asked our government, technically the answer to both questions is no.

I would have to agree.  Neither seen nor heard, you’re  on your own.

I have experienced both, the latter being much more traumatic, although both are deeply disturbing, I would have to say the tree was less personal and the lesser of two evils.

Symbolic in a fashion, like our government, the tree had been leaning.  Its weight no longer sustainable, it roots no longer able to bear its growth.

I was deeply affected by the sight of the fallen tree in its magnitude, its beauty and majesty held me in awe.  I often crossed its path never imagining its demise.

Falling across a sidewalk, in a city park, the tree was swept away in a day; a series of sawing, grinding and chipping away.  At times the noise was deafening.  And then it was gone.

I had moved on.  Picked myself back up.  Started a new venture.  Today I am rooted strongly, my business supported by faith, family and my business.  Supported by partners, fellow employees, suppliers and customers.

How fortunate for me, I am not a tree.

Paint yourself with abandon!

June 24, 2011

Like an artist’s stroke of the brush, you are a Rembrandt or a Van Gogh.

You will never be a copy. You will never be a failure. You will always be a work of art, an interpretation.

How many times in your life have you said to yourself and nobody else, “I can’t do this anymore?”  If you’re still breathing you have asked yourself the question many times.

How many times have you “answered the bell” sucked it up and did what you thought you couldn’t do?

The answer defines you.

It matters little if you can’t do something you are physically incapable, totally unprepared, poorly trained or simply uneducated to do.  What matters is when there is that defining moment.  You can do it.  You’re in the moment.  You have summoned all your strength, including mind and spirit.  And you succeed.  That’s what defines you.

Some might view you as a success.  Others may view you as a failure. What’s vital is how you view yourself?  You will never be a copy. You will never be a failure. You will always be an interpretation.  You decide.

To illustrate I have included a poem I wrote for my dad who has recently passed away, a victim of Alzheimer’s.

 
If I Was An Artist
Father, patriarch, dad
And if I could paint
Mature, senior citizen , old man,
I would paint the portrait of a man
Provider, benefactor, success
Each word to describe him
Contrary, obstinate, cussed
Would be a different stroke from my brush
Non-conformist, contestant, maverick
Each phrase a different shade
Creative, inventive, colorful
From the palette of his life.
Environmentalist, naturalist, crusader
I would present him his portrait
Integrity, honesty, candid
With pride, his life a work of art.

You too are an artist. Paint yourself with abandon!

Rejection wasn’t my strong suit!

May 26, 2011
The difference between Fred and myself?
Fred knew when he was lying.

My first job out of college was to work for AC Forms.  My Dad owned AC. I’m not even sure what AC stood for but I do know from my Dad being first in the Yellow Pages was a good thing.  Dad was the only full-time employee.   Business was good.  My older brother Dan had already embarked on his career at First Wisconsin, the largest bank in Wisconsin at the time.

I joined my Dad with his company, AC Forms as a sales rep in 1974. We were a force of two.  My Mom was the part time administrative support person and the mother of six.   I was the future.   It was a shaky start.  My job was to get new business.  I used the phone to solicit appointments.  I can remember my voice quaked and my message was ill-prepared.  After exhausting all legitimate leads I was proffered, by phone, I hit the road.

My first cold call, “cold “ being the vernacular used for an unsolicited visit on an unsuspecting business to make a sales pitch.  I was a major contributors as to why there are so many “No Solicitors” sign on doors.

Like the polyester plaid I was wearing, rejection isn’t my strong suit.  I have to admit there were days I could not face the day ahead without becoming physically ill, cramps and vomiting, anticipating the rejection that inevitably lay ahead.

For better or worse, most of the businesses I “solicited” on the south side of Chicago, were unaccustomed to a 21 year old young man in polyester and a “pleather” briefcase showing up at their door.  My first “sales call” and I use the term loosely, required considerable surveillance.  I drove around the block several times. In the end, it was a relief to just to be dismissed.  To hear a simple “no thanks” was a victory, of sort.  I had broken the sound barrier.  I had made contact with the other side.  Soon, I was making 20 cold calls in a day.

Thankfully gas was 30 cents a gallon!  My father would get a call from someone I had visited and he would say, “Yes, that’s my son, he’s like manure, he’s spread all over the place.”  The message was loud and clear, I needed to take the next step, get to the next level.

Speaking of manure, here’s a great joke from Ronald Reagan, only takes a minute, during one of his speeches.  Precious really.  Good clean fun!

I needed to convince my prospects I wasn’t just another pretty face in plaid polyester.  My contacts were bewildered, annoyed, amused, indifferent or thankfully, on rare occasion, sympathetic to my pitch.  It’s simply amazing.  I became accustomed to the word“no”.   I managed to solicit a cadre of variations   theme to the extent I began to expect and anticipate the response.  I learned to take a “no” and solicit another.  As my skin thickened and the manure piled higher, I was able to garner a “maybe” here and there and occasionally a yes!  It was the “ying and the yang” thing, “Yes means No” to the extent a Tibetan monk would have been proud.

Later, as a regional director at NCR Corp. at the sage age of 28 years, where I managed more than 70 neophyte sales reps in 10 states, I became well known for the expression, “lose more orders”.  My mantra was the more orders you lose, the more opportunities you have to win.  Spread that manure!  Well not exactly…

Anyway, my dad fired me.  he put me out of my misery!  His too.  He said I needed more experience.  He was right.  I was keeping him too busy  spinning his wheels.  At the time, I was devastated.  I finished the blueberry pancakes my Mom had made me.  I left town to seek employment near my fiancé, in Racine,  WI.  I stayed with the in-laws while looking for work.

I painted their house for $70 bucks, but I painted their windows shut, so we were even.  I found a job right before I was evicted.  But there’s more to the story…

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Broken Hearted

May 9, 2011

Recently, a dear friend’s mother passed away at 93 years of age.  More than a lifetime, yet only a moment in time.  Where do we go from here?  When the light goes out and the smile fades away of another loved one?

Aged and revered.  Adored and adulated.  Respected and to whatever degree possible, emulated.  You have to
wonder how you can replace a legacy, an individual with such an enormous history; with another, a light so bright, here today, gone tomorrow.

In years past, there was the love and dedication to one another that reaches far beyond what has become practice today.  Our sovereign past was punctuated with marriages that endured 30, 40, 50 years and more.  When I say endured, I mean marriages suffered financial hardships far greater than we face today, unborn children, children suffering physical and mental handicaps and many other maladies we no longer face today.

Today, marriage is commonplace if not convenient.  The slightest hiccup is grounds for divorce.

Today, whether by a barrage of socio-economicaly altered DNA or as I would prefer to define it, our progeny are spoiled, people no longer live for one another, unless it is better suited (in our best interest) to do so.

There is a commitment to convenience.  Principles are defined by rule of law and politics as opposed to personal ethics and spirituality.

Formal education today has schooled us in cynicism and prejudice against a society built on “sweat equity” and capitalist ideals.  Today our future is in hands unsoiled by the earth and unscathed by the tools that built our rails, roads and bridges that made our country great.  God help us.

In the book Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, a story unfolds about a man, Louis Zamperini, a WWII hero who endured (there’s that word again), along with thousands of WWII prisoners of war and victims of Japanese imposed terror, torture and genocide, unspeakable crimes against human nature and survived to become a true American hero.  If you read his story you will come to realize, the use of the term “hero” today is used at a whole different level.

The book is a best seller.  People marvel over the fortitude and unrelenting wilfulness of a man to do what’s right in the face of sheer evil.  Louis Zamperini and hundreds of thousands of Americans of his era were doing what they thought was the right things to do.  Let’s hope that spirit of America doesn’t die!

I don’t wish to diminish simple acts of bravery, or people doing the right thing when faced with a choice.  My problem is it has become unexpected and uncommon to do what’s morally and ethically responsible in the face of popular alternative.  And God forbid you’ll get sued!

Now it’s time to get off my soapbox and on my knees.  It’s time to give thanks to God for the bright lights and great minds that will outlive the memories of most.  God rest your soul.

When it rains, it pours!

March 21, 2011
Photography by Mary Wiessner

About 1 1/2 years ago, oddly after a terrific summer with Cody in the Summit Valley of Colorado at over 10,000 feet and hiking together, Cody started to gain weight, shed profusely and lose mobility.  I’ve always called him my Cody Bear.  Like me, he is just a load… an Irish/German mish-mash of blood and guts.

Now he’s the brunt of many yucks… he’s even been called a manatee. Have you heard the joke about the dog who needs to lose weight just so he can lick his privates? 

I took him into several vets and after a series of tests, he’s been diagnosed with “atypical Cushing’s Disease.”  Not to alarm anyone.  Cushing’s disease is treatable and Cody is getting the best of care.

So what has me bugged?  It just seems like all the great dogs I have known, almost exclusively Labs and Golden’s, are dying early and almost all of whom are dying from the big “C” cancer.  Why is that?

Why are small “yappy” dogs living longer?  Are we researching the increase in mortality, specifically due to cancer, in large dogs, most commonly Golden’s and Labs?  Tongue in cheek, maybe we should? 

 If you are layed back and loveable you’re gonna die before your disagreeable brethren?

I think the research would be surprising.  If you are a small yappy dog, you’ll live next to forever in doggy years and if you are a big ol’ Cody bear of a dog expect to die too early in my estimation… Can we equate the same to humans?

Eyes wide open… Reflections

March 16, 2011

Eyes wide open… Reflections

In the darkest hours of the night, when sleep should prevail, without prejudice, without mercy, questions pour into my head.  I lie awake and I wonder…

Have I lived well enough to make many friends and fewer enemies?

Do I have the courage to cherish my friends and to vanquish my enemies?

Have I spread enough smiles?

Have I shared enough hugs?

Have I planted enough kisses?

Have I caused enough laughter to earn reciprocity?

Have I studied enough history?

Have I been engaged enough in current affairs?

Have I earned a degree in knowledge?

Is knowledge a benefit?

Is knowledge the revelation of truths, or is knowledge the realizations of falsehoods?

Have I learned from every victory and every folly?

If so, am I a benefactor; more important, am I a teacher?

Today, in this world that reports the past in real time; in time to worry for our future; and I only see and images of life, albeit in real time, can I relate?

Have I focused long enough on the anguished faces, I cannot truly see?

Have I listened hard enough to the desperate voices, I truly cannot hear?

Have I seen enough of their pain, I truly cannot feel?

Have I felt their hunger, I cannot feed?

Have I shared in their grief, I cannot quell?

Have I touched enough people?

Has cuddling become a lost art?

If you learn my darkest secret, will you forgive me?

Will I forgive myself?

Did I stop smoking soon enough to live forever?

How much double churned ice cream is too much?

Will I die and when?

Will it be too soon!  Of course!

Would I fight for my life to the very end?

Out of fear?

Out of courage; for you?

Will I let go?

Can I fall away?

Will you miss me if I’m gone?

Will you miss me when you are alone?

Will you miss me when you are amongst friends.

Will you still laughing and smiling?

And for how long?  Don’t tell me.

My dog is asleep at my feet.

He has all the answers.

He won’t say, but I finally get it.

It’s not about me.

So now, I can close my eyes…

Another Milestone

March 8, 2011

It's lonely at the top!

Twenty-three (23) years in the making.

The number 23 certainly doesn’t solicit much sensation. Not like 25 or 50, still a milestone all the same for many businesses, especially today on when we are all on twitter time. 140 characters or less now defines us!

From his book, Lasting Lessons from the Corner Office, Todd G. Buchholtz, quotes a line from a futuristic movie and someone saying, “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads, we just need people made of the right stuff.”

He goes on to say, “One of the statistics out there is that 33 percent of all new businesses fail within the first two years. That number is much higher when you look at the first five years.”

There are a lot of articles, books and blogs out there portraying entrepreneurship in the same sentence with risk, blind luck, or just plain foolish.  Many of the pundits will never know first-hand the emotional roller coaster ride.

Well let me be your Garmin.  I can take you there.

There are hundreds of thousands of small business entrepreneurs that are made of the “right stuff.”  I formed Integra Business Systems, Inc. March 7th, 1988.  Looking back, it was, the most frightening, yet most enjoyable year, I had experienced professionally, for some time.  Funny, since I was unemployed and unemployable.

For more than a year, my corporate headquarters occupied the guest bedroom in the same house we still own and occupy today.  When I look back on how I survived and managed to squeak out a living those first few years I have to say it had to do with confidence and faith in myself and the support of my family.  Yeah, we were scared. I don’t want you to think I’m bragging.  I have never done anything heroic.  I have made sacrifices, but nothing on the same level of a police officer, fireman or soldier.  Tongue in cheek, maybe I have potential?  Maybe in my next life?

As is the case with many small business start-ups, entrepreneurs, I had to liquidate all my savings; then borrow from friends and family to make ends meet.  I borrowed from credit cards, transferred funds from one card to the next, worked the low percentage offers, played the shell game with credit cards.  Yet, I never defaulted on a credit card or a loan.

My experience at NCR Corp. and subsequently at a start-up, North American Business Supply (NABS), operating as a subsidiary of a small bank data-processing company, became invaluable, learning to make something from nothing at all; learning to trust my own instincts, even in the face of overwhelming doubt.

One of the important things I have learned after over 35 years in this business is “don’t burn bridges”.  Often times the organization you dislike the most is composed of people you like the most.  Many of my business associates from my NCR and NABS days kept the faith and helped me build a line of products and services for whom I hold undying loyalty.

Some of the gang outside our offices

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Buchholz observed the CEOs who’s lives he explored all had one thing in common, “At some point they all tumbled into failure and heard trusted friends whisper, “Quit.”

Most small business owners and entrepreneurs will tell you the word “quit” just isn’t in their vocabulary.   And that shapes the American dream after all, does it not?

Follow the link below to visit our new Business Blog, Advancing the Paperless Office to read more about us.

It’s God’s Will

February 24, 2011

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I’m a firm believer in the expression, “God helps those that help themselves.”

I’m not a big fan of the expression, “It’s God’s will.” Everyone needs to make important decisions every day that affect their own well being. Often you make decisions for others, to a lesser or greater degree, depending on your circle of influence.

Your circle of influence may be considerable, but there are those of us whose circle of influence can be much smaller and still have a much greater impact. Someone else’s decisions can be far reaching, worldwide, but ineffective. You and I can influence a family, maybe friends or a small business. If someone screws up worldwide, it’s up to you and I to win life’s battles… one at a time. That’s the way life should be.

Every day things happen unexpectedly, often uncontrollably, that affect you and me. Some good and bad things happen because we want them to happen. Some people can eat anything, get no exercise and never suffer the consequences. Someone can eat right and get plenty of exercise and never truly see the benefit. Sooner or later someone very close to you will be in a crisis. It may be emotional and or physical. It may be a divorce, an illness, or a death of a family member or friend.

I have a sister, Kay who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s my “littlest” sister. I have two other “little” sisters, Diane and Beth and two brothers. I love them all dearly.

Kay is very close to God and her family. I have it under advisement, that I am only one of hundreds that pray for her, which is a really good thing. Kay and I, we live far apart in so many ways. Oddly enough, we think alike in many ways. If I were to be reincarnated, I think I would be a lot like Kay, obviously an upgraded version due to our combined skill sets (ha-ha) and without the same plumbing, of course. Being a guy is so easy. My boys are much safer than her girls. You know what I mean…

If you know me, you know I don’t look or act like a guy that prays. Surprise! I pray for my family and my friends. I pray for Kay. Maybe this makes no sense to you, but I pray for me first.

That’s right. You’re second. I have tried to convince myself, the reason I have adopted this indulgence is; if I don’t take care of me first, I can’t take care of you. So I pray for you second. This might explain why some of you are so miserable (ha-ha). Get over it! We all have a cross to bear. That’s life. Marcus Aurelius, a way…way… long time along said it best, “Life is what your thoughts make it.”

Then there’s this…if I pray for you, does it really matter? Is God really listening to me? If you are in my prayers, you should pray God is listening, because I don’t pray enough. When I do, I want to make sure it’s important. So get in line! God’s a busy guy (excuse me… but PC would be to say…entity). There are a lot of people out there that need His or Her help a lot more than you or I do.

So why am I not a big fan of the expression, “It’s God’s will?” Well, I’ve heard that expression all too often. When I hear it from someone that I’m trying to help, it leaves me little room to offer my own advice, council; or an alternative. I’m competing with the best. God. So all I can do is pray for you?

Maybe God’s will is a blessing for those who are totally helpless, but if I have one ounce of strength left in my being, I’m going to be looking out for “numero uno” and I pray someone’s got my back. If you know me; if you and I are family or friends, I have your back!

What I love about Kay is she does not hide her love for God and her faith in God, but from my seat at the table, she is totally into the expression, “God helps those that help themselves.”

Kay has explored all her options in terms of her treatment, surgical, chemo and radiation, for her type of cancer. She has consulted with all the resources available to her and recognized all of her opportunities and risks. Once Kay made a decision, she was all in. I love and admire her for that. Most of all, I love her courage, to strike out on her own. Of course, all of you and I have her back.

Kay isn’t looking for someone to blame. She isn’t looking for someone to make it all better… She is all in. Now it is up to you and I to support her. We’re all in. Maybe that’s God’s will?

May you live every day of your life. Jonathon Swift

Missing you, Dad! Long before you’re gone… Happy Father’s Day!

February 13, 2011

There is no warranty on life’s journey.  The only guarantee is the past.  And then there is Alzheimer’s.  Alzheimer’s is a horrible debilitating disease that sets about diminishing the past.

Today there is no remedy for Alzheimer’s.  For Alzheimer’s victims, tomorrow may never come.   It has become an ailment of epidemic proportion, not unlike the “C” word and other world class diseases.

Ronald Reagan had it, my Dad, Martin Gerald “Jerry” Wiessner had it.  Dad was in a losing battle with an unforgiving and relentless disease, Alzheimer’s.  Simply put, Alzheimer’s is an hour glass of life’s memories forever sifting and slipping away. Hundreds of thousands of people, regardless of their position in life, have it.  Hundreds of thousands more will be afflicted and so the journey continues.

President Reagan’s birthday has recently come and gone.  Still an inspiration, five years after leaving office, his final public comments included the following sage words…Excerpts…

“My fellow Americans, I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.”

“So now we feel it is important to share it with you. In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clearer understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it. “

“Unfortunately, as Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience. When the time comes, I am confident that with your help she will face it with faith and courage.”

“I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.”

With Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) the effect is a diminishing past and memories once shared are forgotten. For us, the Wiessner family, especially my Mom, we  lived with AD and its hold on our lives for just shy of a decade.   We had been missing my Dad long before he was gone.  There was no despair.  We had and we have each other and we are united in our efforts to heighten awareness for a cure for AD.

I am very proud of my entire family and how they came together and have held together throughout this ordeal with a family member with AD.  They have exhibited unheralded measures of endearment and respect for the spirit of  Jerry, the man, the husband, the father, the grandpa and the grand pa-pa  (Ba-pa).  As you embark on your next journey please know, “We are all going to miss you now that you’re gone Dad, you will live forever in our hearts.”

Visit my amazingly talented sisters’ blogs in support of the fight against Alzheimer’s, where they have given of their time and talent to fight this terrible disease.

Diane: http://dianedidit.com/

Beth: http://quiltersstitchtogether.blogspot.com/

There is a wonderful community of support out there.   Both sisters Beth and Diane have received nationwide recognition for their art through an organization well known for their support of a cure for Alzheimer’s http://alzquilts.org/

Note:  Please help us get the good word out.  Share us on your favorite social media site and Stumble Upon.  Thanks.

Stranded! Kim Tran, an American Success Story – Part Two

January 11, 2011
Malaysia - Refugees (boat people) wading ashore.

Kim and her family survived one major ordeal only to face new challenges landing on a small island short of the island of Pulau Bidong, Malaysia.  Two days and nights later they would land on Pulau Bidong and begin an eleven (11) month odyssey on the island. Hard to believe their flight and their plight was perceived a blessing, but a blessing none the less.

There were thousands of their neighbors, friends and relatives who were less fortunate.  Young children, who’s parents had bought their freedom fell victims to pirates, were raped, had their possessions stolen, were thrown overboard or perished from malnutrition or starvation.  Those who remained behind in Saigon, with children too young to travel or couldn’t afford to buy their freedom met similar fates.

Pulau Bidong, one of the scenic and uninhabited islands off located off Kuala Terengganu, is often remembered as the temporary home of the Vietnamese boat people who fled their war-torn country in the 1970s. Out of the estimated 800,000 Vietnamese who left their country during this period, the biggest proportion, more than a quarter of a million, landed on their shores.

Although the island has the capacity to provide shelter for 4,500 refugees at any one time it took up to as many as 20,000 people at one stage, at the height of the arrival of the boat people. Pulau Bidong served as a half-way house for these people before they were sent to other countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia and several European countries, and it took time to grant approval to those qualified to be accepted as refugees. Those whose applications were rejected were sent to the Sungai Besi Refugee Camp, where they were later forcibly repatriated back to Vietnam after the war.

In the early stages, the refugees, some with nothing except the clothes on their backs, ate anything they could find on the island including monkeys, frogs and squirrels. The wildlife population was decimated. To ensure the refugees got humanitarian aid and better living conditions, the UNHCR through the International Red Cross supervised the activities on the island.

Long-houses and offices made from wood from the local forest were built and the boat people were provided with better basic needs and amenities such as food, schools, workshops, electricity and water. Perhaps to make it just like home, the camp was subsequently turned into a bustling mini Saigon. It had the trappings of a township – post office, church, temple, tailors, hair salons, sundry shops and even disco and bar. One part of the beach was even named Pantai Cina – China Beach – after its more famous counterpart in Vietnam.

In Kim’s own words…

Later I had learned the aid ship following us was a World Vision Missionary ship.  Approaching land, our boat had stopped once the propeller had stuck in the sand.  The boat had begun to tilt.  Someone had yelled “get off the boat as quickly as possible.”   The boat was taking on water.   The men got off the boat and assisted the women and children toward the shore.  I remembered as I walked toward the beach, my head felt heavier than my body.  Once everyone had gotten to shore safely, each family cleared an area for their family and settled on the beach.  The women used whatever spare clothing they could find to cover the sand, so the elderly and children could sit down. While everyone was busy setting up camp for the night, I looked out at where the boat had been.  Within minutes, it had sunk tail first.  I could not believe it.  We were all stranded on this small island with limited food and water supply (of course, I was too young to worry about food or drink, I just thought of how lucky that I did not drown).  Some people from our boat started to look around the island and search for help but did not see anyone else on the island. The men continued to look around the island and talked among themselves.  The women were asked to occupy the kids.  Our caretaker, Anh, told us stories to help us sleep but I could not sleep that night.  I heard too many strange noises close by.  I stared into the sky.  It was clear with plenty of stars out.  I looked again to the horizon.  There was no remnant our boat had ever existed. 

As the sun rose a boat with Malaysian soldiers approached.  The soldiers told everyone on our boat to surrender all of our gold and valuables to them for safe keeping.  They assured everyone that these items would be recorded and returned to us, once we had been accepted by and ready to depart to a new destination.  Most of the people on our boat were skeptical and didn’t want them holding their valuables.  Finally, the soldiers demanded that if no one surrendered their valuables, we would have to stay on this island until they got what they wanted.  So families started to bring a few pieces of gold to the soldiers.  My dad quickly told my sister, My, and other sisters to keep some gold hidden under their clothes.  My family gave up approximately 50 pieces of gold to the soldiers.  At the time, we didn’t know the exact value of the gold.  The soldiers wrote something down (in Malaysian) and had each family sign.  We had no idea what they had written on those documents.  We believed that the gold pieces were as good as gone.  My dad just considered it payment so we could leave the small island in peace, a down payment on our future.

After this, they left us alone and told us that they would call for assistance.  At that moment, everyone was just relieved, happy and excited that everyone had found FREEDOM.   Later that day, someone was stung by a poisonous sea urchin.  The poison spread so quickly that she went unconscious.  The soldiers called and asked for immediate rescue.  That evening, the rescue boat came.  It only took her and her family and to leave the island first.  They would not take anyone else who had been stranded.  The soldiers pushed the others away from the motor boat.  Someone explained that more boats would be back tomorrow for the rest of us.   That news calmed the remaining people.  One more night, we spent on this isolated island.  The next day around noon time, several boats arrived.  We all packed whatever belongings we had left and we headed toward these boats.  I remembered treading through the clear blue water and attempting to avoid stepping on jelly fish of all colors and sizes that had covered the island’s shoreline.  Luckily no one else got hurt that day.  It was a short ride to a larger island called  Pulau Bidong, where my family would reside for approximately 11 months.  There were plenty of adventures and obstacles to come.

 As we approached new land (Pulau Bidong), we saw the wood dock.  We could see the people on the beach that were Vietnamese by their clothing, which got us all very excited.  Side note:  We all had thought the boats were taking us to main land of Malaysia.  Come to find out, this new home for us all was a refugee camp.  After all of us had gotten off the motor boats, each family looked for a spot for our family on the beach to settle.  Hunger finally hit my family fast and hard.  We were starving. We hadn’t eaten food in several days.  We had only drank water or something close to it.   

There was very little rice left to feed my family of 16 members.  We had to cook rice in a broth to have enough for my family to share.  We shared a small half bowl of white rice soup between us.  We passed the bowl to each family member in turn to sip.  My family had never suffered hunger.  This was a very humbling and frightening experience.  We were a proud family living comfortably to a family starving within a span of 4 days. 

Since the boat that transferred us to Pulau Bidong was the 23rd boat that had arrived at this camp, it was labeled number 23.  The population on Pulau Bidong Island at that time was roughly 40000+ people.  Our boat was assigned to the D or B area of the island.  This was how the island officials would divide and find the families.   That night we slept on a bank along the shore of the island.  The next morning, each family was shown to where we were to live.  When we got to our new home, it was just a patch of dirt.  It was up to us to build a shelter.  Unfortunately for my family, we didn’t have the skill nor the know how to build a structure of any kind and we would rely on other refugees to assist us.  We were tired, fatigued and hungry.  We slept with a plastic tarp for cover.  That 2nd night, thunder and lightning woke us, the rain water soaking us beneath the tarp.   We picked up our belongings to avoid the rain from ruining them.  The rain was so heavy, it poured down the hillside.  We all stood till morning and then we had were provide help to start building our new home. 

My dad and brothers went up the hill to gather woods and branches.  My family had many restless nights in the beginning.  To top it off, I had chronic Asthma attacks.  My family could not get me immediate medical attention.  We had to wait until our family was officially registered into the refugee residential list.  It took two days for the process to be completed.  We were helpless.  We went from a well-to-do family to doing things for ourselves.  It was very difficult life-altering event for our whole family.   Though time was all we had, my family was forced to quickly adapt to our new lives. 

Life on Pulau Bidong - finding clean water was a problem

My family life on Pulau Bidong:

My siblings and I shared one bed. There were 3 beds total in our home.   All of our beds were made with multiple and  uneven branches tied together.  But it was better than the dirt floor.  It was very difficult for my elderly grandmother.  She could not sleep on these beds.  Later on, she bought a wood plank that came from a wrecked boat.  This was used to make a more comfortable bed for her to sleep on.   For cooking, we dug a hole and mounted several rocks for a fire pit.  Other appliances and supplies, we had to buy with gold or money depending on the sellers.  All families received some supplies from the United Nations like rice, instant noodles, and beans.  Note: This is why I dislike beans, especially kidney beans.  To earn a living, my older siblings would buy and sell fresh fruits and others products from a lady, whom was the longest survivor on this island.  This lady would buy her inventory from Malaysian civilians that sail by our island.  The island was deemed a gold mine; for without gold or money no one would survive the hard life.  There was plenty of price gouging.  For instance, one bottle of Coca Cola, which cost 34 Cents, was sold for a $1.00.  This was just a small example.  There was no employment on the island. So, people created their own jobs. 

Some climbed the hill and cut trees for trading with those in need of lumber for shelter or for firewood.  My oldest brother, Jimmy, took on a risky business.  He swam offshore to where Malaysian fishermen boat drifted by.  The fishermen would bring different items to sell items such as axes; hand saws, tents, even cookies, which were in demand in our camp.  Malaysian police patrolled and would beat or kick the sellers and the buyers of these goods.  They would chase off the fishermen. One time, Jimmy had bought 20 axes as the policemen’s canoe was approaching.  Jimmy had to jump off the fisherman boat. The weight of 20 axes sank Jimmy to the bottom of ocean floor.  He panicked but would not give up.  He managed to drag the axes to shore.  Lucky for Jimmy with the weight of the axes he sunk quickly, otherwise the policemen would have beaten him with their sticks regardless if he had surfaced too quickly. 

For drinking water, there were only a few public wells which supported the large population on the island.   We would travel for miles, stood in a long line.  It could stretch for miles and we waited our turn.  Once we reached the well, we would gather a bucket of water.  Public wells soon went dry.  People started to dig their own wells.  Before the water system was built, most private wells were only used for bathing and washing.  The island was undeveloped and not ready to handle people especially large populations.  No sanitary system existed.  Heavy rain would contaminate the water supply and jeopardize the fresh water supply, which made everyone’s life more miserable.  Later on, the United Nations brought in piping and helped build a water system that transferred fresh drinking water for everyone on the island.   

My family tried and gradually adjusted to the lifestyle on the island.  Yet we would continue to pray and hope for a miracle that some country would sponsor us.  My family was low on the list for sponsorship for several reasons.  We were not a part of US military services or affiliated in anyway.  My family was not classified as a priority at that time, the US delegates could not process the sponsorship right away.  My family could only hope and wait for acceptance based on a religious sponsorship.  The biggest problem was the size of my family.  Most groups did not have the financial funds to sponsor 16 people. Our lives on the island were like the movie Groundhog Day and seemed hopelessly mundane.  We all lived day-to-day as  best we could. Churches and temples were built.  W donated wood, tree, and tents.   My brothers, sisters and I would spend our spare time by studying Basic English at any church or temple that offered free classes. 

Who is the shy one? Kim and family - USA - airport

When the last of these boat people left the island in the early 1990s, what remained were mute reminders of recent history: charred wooden buildings and rotting huts which once housed about a quarter of a million boat people since their first arrival in 1978.

Today, the only welcome for visitors to the beach of Pulau Bidong is a barren beachfront stall and glimpses of buildings heavily hidden by overgrown brushwood and bushes. Only emptiness, signboards with Vietnamese characters and names are still on display – ghostly reminder of the past.

Kim recently celebrated her 10th anniversary at Integra Business Systems, Inc.

See Part One…

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Heartache

December 28, 2010
At Eternity’s Gate or On the Threshold of Eternity

When you’re losing someone close, it can empty your heart.  I guess that’s where the expression heartache comes from.

It doesn’t stop there.  You know the feeling.  The one you get in the pit of your stomach.  That tightness radiates back into your thoughts; where sadness is born.

Sadness can linger like a bad cold.  It can leave you weepy, nose dripping, eyes wet and swollen.  It can leave you numb, unresponsive and distant.  Sadness subsides in most. Sadness comes more often during anniversaries and holidays.

It’s easy to recognize an empty heart.  Look for that far away expression.  The one that comes when you see  someone absentia.  They think they are alone or just don’t care about their surroundings.  It’s brought on by a sense of loss.  It can be an illness or irk.  Someone could cause you more pain than you can bear.  You can’t bear the loss.  Sometimes sadness follows anger and easily succumbs to a sense of loss.

Losing someone can take time or it can happen in a moment.  You can fall out of love.  You can disagree with someone and fail to find your way back.  You can lose someone you love or failed to love (enough).

You can watch someone struggle and slowly grow old.  You can listen to them labor to breath.

The most amazing thing about losing someone is dealing with an empty heart.  We don’t talk about it.  We don’t share it.  We prefer to suffer in silence. I guess it is human nature?  We don’t want anyone to know we hurt.

We know those who are feeling sorry for themselves.  You will hear all about all their aches and pains!

And we sure know how to celebrate when we are sad!  We even celebrate death.  It even has leaders called the “funeral party”.  We all get together and cry and hug.  Then we go eat and drink ourselves silly.

‘Tis The Season

December 9, 2010
My Treasures

(‘Tis the season, yeah)
To see the children laughin’
Everybody should be dancin’
Come on and clap your hands ‘cuz

…and so on.  Artist: Mary Mary lyrics

‘Tis the season to spread joy and happiness.  “If you are unhappy, and you know it clap your hands!”.  Uh-oh, wrong song.  True, is it not?  You know when you are unhappy.  Chances are everyone around you knows you’re unhappy, too.

If you’re not feeling the love ask yourself,  “Am I happy?”  I find I rarely ask the question myself, certainly not often enough.  So just in the moment, try it on for size.  Ask the question, “Am I happy?”  The experience can’t be any worse than trying on your favorite pair of jeans.  Ha! Then again it is the holidays!

Seriously, you will probably become as retrospective as I am regarding the question of happiness.  Of course the answer, at least in any moment in time, can be entirely up to you. You may be wondering why am I asking now, at a time when the spirit of giving and receiving is at an all time high?  The holiday season can be a busy, stressful time. Many of us go out of our way to please others.  There’s even this myth that suicide rates are highest during the holidays.  Not so.  Fact is, suicide rates are lowest in the month of December.  The spirit of giving is safe, at least for now.

So if you’re broke or simply aggravated by the gift giving thing you might ask, “What’s with all the gift giving this time of year?”  Well there’s the Christians and Christmas.  Sometime after the birth of Jesus, three seemingly wise men, also known as the Magi, bearing incredibly expensive gifts considering the price of gold today, came to visit the newborn, Jesus Christ.  Or blame ancient Romans who held year end celebrations to honor Saturn, their harvest god; and Mithras, their god of light…  As part of these celebrations, the people prepared special foods, decorated their homes with greenery, and joined in singing and gift giving. These customs gradually became part of gift giving.

Then there’s tens of millions of Americans who don’t even celebrate Christmas religiously, either as followers of non-Christian religions (Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews) or as individuals with no religious affiliation.  What a drag it is to buy gifts for someone you believe is barking up the wrong tree (or cloud). In reality, many different events, both spiritual, religious, and tradition based, are being celebrated in many different ways during these times.

Is it right time to spread good cheer?  Or is it laborious like Ground Hog Day.  Granted it is only a few very cold weeks out of the year.  There’s Black Friday.  Black Friday you camp outside in the freezing cold, gangrene sets in, turns your fingers black and they fall off before you can grab an unbelievable deal on Black Friday.  Cyber Monday specials are already gone because you can’t keyboard without fingers.

One month out of the year, you need to avoid the hype retailers bring to bear.  Retailers would have you trick or treating in Santa Claus costumes and dispensing candy canes in October.

Receiving gifts is equally taxing.  Too often a gift received becomes an albatross around your neck.  A comedic example being the prominent presentation of a framed photo of a friend(s) or relative(s) on the rare occasion (excluding Florida residents) they come to visit.  Personally, I realize this admission alone means there will be hell to pay.

So what makes you happy?  Giving gifts or receiving gifts; decorating your domicile; hanging lights and ornaments on a Christmas tree; preparing a holiday feast for the multitudes?  It’s not so easy.   One long sigh from someone down the hallway, one obscene sign along the highway, a wayward thought, an unkind word, a tear from inside your head and you begin to doubt whether you have an outside chance to be happy.

The answer is, there is no answer… to the question, “Am I happy?”  The definition of happy may be as simple as finding a favorite place in time, in your mind, alone or in a crowd, be it a smile, be it a moment to savor.  I have come to realize right now ‘tis the season.  There is no past.  There is no future.  Give a gift you can return without receiving;  love and respect for your family and friends.  From this gift you will find happiness, especially the returns.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to family and friends of all religions and faith.

One of my favorite expressions – May you live each day of your life.   Jonathon Swift

Kim Tran, an American Success Story

November 12, 2010

Kim Tran

Kim Tran has come a long way.  Perhaps farther than most people, over 12,000 circuitous miles from Saigon to the US, settling in the Tampa Bay area; and further than most IT professionals, from a seven (7) year old Vietnam refugee to a Team Leader; a highly respected and valuable technical support representative with over 9 years of service at Integra Business Systems.

When most children her age were contemplating Kindergarten, Kim’s life lessons were forever altered when South Vietnamese President Duong Van Minh delivered an unconditional surrender to the Communists in the early hours of April 30, 1975. The few remaining Americans evacuated Saigon.

There are all kinds of connotations surrounding the term “boat people”.  Here at Integra, when we think of “boat people” they are personified in Kim Tran.  She’s a person with an easy smile and an even easier laugh, albeit more of a shy giggle.   We at Integra are fortunate to have our very own refugee (survivor) of an era of trauma and suffering that once was the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

KIm Tran - Upper Right with Family in Cho Lon

Many people think of Vietnamese refugees, as only those who were fleeing the country in 1975 as the Americans left Vietnam.  In fact, a large number of refugees “boat people” didn’t flee Vietnam until the late 1970’s when China decided to invade Vietnam.

The Chinese began financing the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia as a counterweight to the Vietnamese communists at this time.  The Khmer Rouge launched ferocious raids into Vietnam in 1975–1978.  Vietnam responded with an invasion that toppled the Khmer Rouge.  The conflict between Vietnam and Cambodia escalated in 1978.  In response, China invaded Vietnam in 1979. The two countries fought a brief border war, known as the Third Indochina War or the Sino-Vietnamese War.

The short but bloody border war with China a year later resulted in a deliberate policy to encourage the departure of ethnic Chinese(Hoa) from Vietnam.  From 1978 to 1979, some 450,000 Hoa left Vietnam by boat as refugees or were expelled across the land border with China.

In the late 1970s the Socialist Republic of Vietnam took increasingly drastic action to transform the capitalist economy of the south into a socialist one and the Hoa in Vietnam were disproportionately affected, leading to the first wave of ‘boat people’, fleeing the Vietnamese communists, primarily from the South, beginning in April 1978.

Cho Lon (Saigon's Chinatown)

Kim was a seven (7) year old and a victim of circumstance.  Beginning in 1975, the Hoa bore the brunt of socialist transformation in the South (Vietnam).  An announcement on March 24 outlawed all wholesale trade and large business activities, which forced around 30,000 businesses to close down overnight followed up by another that, banned all private trade. Further government policies forced former owners to become farmers in the countryside or join the armed forces and fight at the Vietnam-Cambodia border and confiscated all old and foreign currencies, as well as any Vietnamese currency in excess of the US value of $250 for urban households and $150 by rural households. While such measures were targeted at all bourgeois elements, such measures hurt thec Hoa the hardest and resulted in the takeover of Hoa properties in and around major cities.  Hoa communities offered widespread resistance and clashes left the streets of Cho Lon full of corpses.  These measures, combined with external tensions stemming from Vietnam’s dispute with Cambodia and China in 1978 and 1979 caused an exodus, a majority of the Hoa, many who fled overland into the province of Guangxi, China, from the North and the remainder fled by boat from the South.  Sadly, officials estimated that nearly one-third of these “boat people” perished at sea from starvation, drowning, and pirates, problems that increased when some Asian countries began turning away boat people.  By the end of 1980, the majority of the Hoa had fled from Vietnam.

This is the story of one of the survivors, one of the Chinese refugees “boat people” from the South and her family; our very own Kim Tran.  Kim Tran, a Team Leader and Technical Support Representative for Integra Business Systems, Inc. since June, 2001 will be celebrating her 10 year anniversary with Integra next year.

In her own words…

“Like many other immigrants after the fall of the South Vietnam or Saigon, my family and I had fled from our country in search of a better life.   My name is Kim H Tran.  What I am about to share is my recollections of my family’s escape from Vietnam.  This is my first time ever that I have written about this.  The event started when I was about 7 years old.

My family was financially well off before we left Vietnam.  We lived in downtown Saigon Cho Lon (Big Market), Vietnam.   I remembered after the war in 1975, many lives, including my family’s, changed forever.  The communist soldiers seized and captured what they deemed to be theirs, which was everything valuable…  Then they posted soldiers at each house and business 24/7.  We had two soldiers posted in front of our home.   Their job was to monitor everyone and every activity.  Large businesses shut down and migrated to other cities. Many families lost family members to the communist’s cause, either by choice or by involuntarily draft.  Saigon was no longer an energized and vibrant city.  It was  replaced by turmoil and confusion.  After the war, my family’s schooling was interrupted.  I remembered being sent away to our plantation in Long Khanh,  for several months then rotated to a factory in My Tho, in another city, for several more months.   My grandmother didn’t want to retain anyone who might attract attention to our home and businesses.  As a consequence, those who cared for my siblings and I (our caretakers) were let go except one, Anh.  Anh was presented as one of the sibling in my family to the soldiers.  
 
One day in 1978, I was awokened by my mom.  I was told to be quiet and get dressed.  She gave me 2 sets of clothing and I was told to wear them both.  I was instructed not to bring any of my personal belongings.  Once my younger brothers were dressed, we were led  by someone to the river.  My grandmother, mom, 4 younger brothers and several other people and I got into the small canoe. 

 The oarsman took us all along the river, which led to the open channel. 

Vietnamese canoe owners were paid to transport passensgers to fishing boats.

As we approached daybreak, two patrolling soldiers in a canoe came from the opening of the channel traveling in the opposite direction of our canoe.  They asked the oarsman, where we were headed.  The oarsman replied, “To a wedding across the way.”  I forgot to mention, we had a passenger pretending to be a bride in our canoe.  The soldier inspected the canoe and passengers and we were allowed to proceed on our way.  As their canoe disappeared, the oarsman and several other people began to row toward the ocean as fast as they could.

There was a planned rendezvous with a larger boat.  We finally reached the bigger boat, all of us were rushed onto the boat and we proceeded quickly below to the engine room.  And it was there that my mom, my younger brothers, several other people and myself stayed for days and nights.  We had neither food nor drink.  I couldn’t tell if it was night or day just darkness all around me.  One day, I was awakened by a soft voice calling my name.  I could barely open my eyes due to fatigue.  As I struggled to open my eyes, I saw a bright light crack open and slowly got wider.  I saw a small arm passing a cup toward my way.  I tried to raise my arms to grab it but my arms felt too heavy.

Someone close to me grabbed it and passed it to me.  First sip, I couldn’t tell what I was drinking.  It tasted lemony but salty and smelled funny.  I pass it back but someone encourage me to drink a little bit more to quench my thirst.  I replied I can’t drink, it tasted so bad.  A soft voice told me, yes but tried anyway.  I took another small sip and passed it along to someone else.  That was the first time, I saw a glimpse of daylight since my family and I boarded the boat.  It seemed like an eternity in the darkness. 

Vietnamese Fishing Boat #23 used by “boat people” in mass exodus.

Later that day, the light shined through from the same opening.  People were allowed to come up on deck to get fresh air.  One after another, people rushed to get out of the pit, as I called it.  My brothers, mom, and I weren’t able to reach. My mom was carrying my youngest brother; he was just a toddler then.  Someone jumped down from on top and took us kids up one by one and lifted us onto the deck. 

I got my first breath; the fresh open air filled my lung so quickly that it hurt.  I felt a boost of energy.  We were then allowed to stay above, seemingly safe from danger.  I looked out onto the ocean and as far as my eyes could see, all that surrounded us was the deep, dark ocean.  No birds or land in site.

As evening came, someone yelled out to get everyone below.  Once more, we were rushed down into the dark, smelly, pit of hell.  Everyone was told to keep silent.   A lady sitting next to me was pregnant and had a toddler.  The toddler wasn’t feeling well and started to cry.  Up above the deck, someone hushed us and told us all to keep the kids quiet.  This lady had to quiet her child by using her hand to cover her toddler’s mouth.  She held her child close to her body.  It seemed like hours.  The engine grew louder as it strained for more power.  The smell of engine oil burning became even stronger and almost unbearable.  The boat rocked violently from side to side with such force that people were thrown one on top of another. 

Soon I heard voices but I couldn’t recognize what was being said.   I heard a lot of commotion above me, but I couldn’t see anything but darkness.  Someone opened the hatch from where we were hiding below and spoke out.  I still couldn’t understand what that person was saying.  Another voice said, “It’s OK, come on up.”  People slowly climbed out one by one, all of them frightened.  When it was my turn, I remember a pair of large arms grabbed me and pulled me up.  I was passed to another person.  I must have blacked out. 

When I came to, I was on a big ship.  Later I learned it was a World Vision missionary ship.  People were talking strange, I couldn’t understand word.  I found myself wearing a strange think woven sheet around me.  Someone passed me some French biscuits (cookies).  I received several shots in the arm.  They directed me to follow the crowd towards our boat.  There was more turmoil back and forth from those on our boat with those on the ship.  Women from our boat started crying, which led us kids to also cry.  In the end, unwillingly, we had no choice but to board our smaller boat.  The ship departed but followed us for a time.  Morning came and evening came.  We felt lost and abandoned.  The rescue ship long since disappeared.   As our boat traveled on the open ocean, seemingly aimless, I saw wood planks floating very close to our boat.  First there was one, then another and then even more.  People started to worry.  Then the captain on our boat yelled out, “I see land ahead.”   The mood on our boat changed from one of doom to one of relief.  The boat grounded.  Those who could got off the boat and assisted the others to shore.  They carried women and children on their backs.  Once on dry land, I rememebered looking back and watching the boat sink into the sea.  We were stranded.

Kim has recently celebrated her 10th anniversary at Integra Business Systems, Inc.

To be continued… see Part Two

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Best friends!

October 15, 2010

Man’s best friend!

The expression can truly be a misnomer because it works both ways.  In my case, Cody is my best friend.  I’m not mincing words.  Everyone knows he’s the guy.   There’s no competition.

I’m not picking up anyone else’s poop.  I won’t give anyone else a bath, at least not with flea and tick shampoo.  If you’re nudging me with your cold nose and you’re asking me to get up in the middle of the night to take you out so you can pee in my back yard, what are the chances I’m OK with that?  Only for my man Cody Bear.

What are best friends?  I have to believe best friends will do just about anything for you.  They aren’t going to pick up your poop, but they are willing to change your diapers and clean up after you.

I’m saying, they will drag your ass out of bar when you are being booed for singing karaoke.

They will refuse to loan you money when they know you’re throwing good money after bad.

They are your best friends in the first place because they share your “bucket list”.

Best friends will give you grief, let you grieve, and they will be there when you are ready to let go.

There is no such thing as fair weather friends.  Friends are friends or they are suspects.  It’s not their decision to make.  Friends are friends until you decide otherwise.  You can take them or leave them.

What’s wrong with having sometime friends?  That is the key to friendships.   If you decide a friend is no longer a friend, is he still someone else’s friend?

Why can’t you have a friend that likes a part of you?  Friends may like some of what you do, some of who you are; but not all of you.  So what?

You have to be a saint to be everyone’s best friend so why not just be a friend to anyone who wishes to enjoy your company?  It’s not mutually exclusive.  I have friends I have offended, at least in some respects.  They may have even been offended by some of my other of my friends.

How many of you hang out with someone else’s friends for a friend’s sake?  That’s a good friend!

Cody Bear, “Bear” being the operative word, is a saint.  Bears forage for food heavily throughout the Summer and Fall months so they can hibernate throughout Winter.  They survive until Spring on the fat they have stored.

Unfortunately Cody, my Chocolate Lab has exceeded his quota and he doesn’t hibernate, choosing to forage throughout the Winter months, as well.  Before you jump to any conclusions, he is fed two measured cups of dry all natural, gluten free food each day with a rawhide chew for dessert and a small treat each time he does his business.  So think thyroid problem.

We treat him for that, too, but the medication makes him hyperactive and if you knew Cody, hyperactive means heavy breathing.  “This dog don’t hunt”!  He’s not jumping through burning hoops or running in circles chasing his tail.  A fifteen minute walk/sniffathon is enough to drive a patient man to the brink and Cody to barely avoid the 911 call for an EMT.

All that said, the Bear and I are soul mates.  If I want Cody to lose some weight all I have to do is leave town.  I can pull out the suitcase and just watch him go into a tailspin.  It’s to the point I pack in the dark, when he’s not around; carry my roller bag so he can’t hear me roll for my exit.

I will be home soon my friend!

“We are golden”

September 22, 2010

“We are golden”, taken from the song Woodstock

The song is by Joni Mitchell and here are the lyrics

I came upon a child of god
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to yasgurs farm
I’m going to join in a rock n roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

——————

Mid-September we had the good fortune to visit Napa, Sonoma and the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) which was a pleasant diversion from the repressive heat and humidity in Tampa, FL.  What a scenic smorgasbord!  The vistas afforded us along the PCH, were seemingly in relief of every hairpin curve, and unequalled by the last, were spectacular (more on the wine country and the PCH later). 

This post is all about the journey.  Our travels took us south from Sonoma on Hwy 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge.  Good advice from the omniscient Charles allowed us to travel mostly rush hour free.  The journey began in Sonoma and took us through  a very eclectic part of San Francisco.

San Francisco didn’t disappoint its climatic reputation for chilling shades of grey.  Shades of grey were evident even in people’s faces.  People’s faces were nothing short of grim.  Granted it was early, in particular for students.  And their faces could be interpreted to be determined.  Somehow their expressions seemed to fall short.  Determined would include optimism.  There was plenty of time sitting at stop lights to people watch, up close and personal.  Their faces seemed short on both optimism and pessimism.  Instead, people seemed disenchanted if not just plain tired.  Maybe it was the houses, stacked upon each other; or the people getting in each other’s way, skilled at avoidance, but not in familiarity, which bred an absence of smiles.

Fortunately there was a change of face during our journey.  It was very similar to travelling over the Golden Gate Bridge.  People’s faces brightened measurably as we moved south from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. As we left San Francisco behind, traversed the Golden Gate Bridge we felt a mixture of emotion.  As we reached its apex, we enjoyed views of the city and the Pacific.  This brought us a sense of relief and optimism, looking forward to visiting the coastal cities of Monterey, Carmel and San Simeon; and the state parks showcasing majestic redwoods and the coastline along the Pacific Ocean.  “Back to the Garden.”

Turning the Page on 2013

January 1, 2014

new-year-visual

My New Year’s message for 2014 is to turn the page on 2013.  Not that I have regrets.  Well  maybe a few…

It never ceases to amaze me, even at my ripe old age, how naïve I can be!  The best intentions…

I have been taught to always emphasize the positive.  Politics aside, 2013 has been a true test.  So let’s see where this missive takes me.

I have been blessed with good fortune. I cannot emphasize enough, how fortunate I am.  I would do well to remind myself of as much, often.  Still, it is important to note, good fortune is more often earned than not and there is also the dark side.

There is always someone or something out there to challenge your rite of passage to peace of mind.  To which my best advice is to live life in the right here, and the right now.

I am a serial entrepreneur and a business owner.  Success as a business owner and as an entrepreneur is highly overrated.  Learn from Steve Jobs.  Don’t watch the movie.  Read the book.

Lesson learned the hard way, there’s little need to venture beyond my own front door to find true love and affection.  I can find the gifts life brings, right here at home with my family and friends.

It seems I chose the hard way or the hard way chose me. Not heeding the preceding advice, I chose the life of an entrepreneur and a business owner.  If I choose to assimilate my own advice, I would spend more time with my people, my customers, my partners and less time under the hood.

There are people much better qualified to deal with the mechanics of a business.  I’m mechanically deficient.  There are good mechanics and there are the people that piss them off.  I’m one of those people.  If I piss off a good mechanic, in the end they will always prove I’m right.  To me that’s success…

Again, I digress.  I will preface the following well-travelled and well-worn advice again by saying I am in good health and business is great.  I am very fortunate.  The Cheshire Cat from the Wizard of Oz said it best, and I paraphrase, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.

Life comes with warning labels.  How you choose to deal with them is called experience.   After six decades on this earth, four decades in business, celebrating 25 years in business, I have learned, if you are not looking ahead, you will lose your way.  Nose to the grindstone and all that… is seriously overrated.  So head’s up.  Comebacks are rare and they’re often costly.

Experience has taught me to shed self-doubt, to listen to my gut and not listen to the compelling voices that surround me, the voices that can box me in.

Now for my 2013 New Year’s resolution, I want to turn my life inside-out.  I am going to look past the face in the mirror.  Not to neglect each smile wrinkle that tells a story of lessons learned, but to open new doors.  See more faces.  Turn more pages.

My New Year’s resolution extends to you.  My best advice to you is, if you’re not looking outside the box people put you in, you’ll miss the faces.  You will miss the smiles, the frowns, the joy, the anger, and the fear.  That’s life.  Face it.

A good friend of mine ends each message to me with a new beginning…that message is “Onward!”  It seems fitting, here and now!

Onward! and Happy New Year!

P.S.  What comes to mind is, that I am writing this missive to my (future) grandchildren.  Today we live in a world of TMI, and zetabytes of content.  Later on I hope my grandkids dust this message off.  My hope is if “I WordPress, I perpetuate!”  To my grandkids I say, “Please Google me!”

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