business

Dynastic Trust: Advice to The Women My Daughter and Niece Will Someday Be.

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1. Use your advantage to help others instead of hurt them. Other than in sporting... Never do anything that puts others at a disadvantage.

2. In matters of great importance, the best response is offered after emotion and suspicion yield to reason and logic. Wait one day to respond to anything that makes your face hot.

3. Never Ever Ever Ever Ever Give Up. The fear of falling is often more debilitating than the fall itself. It is in falling that we realize our resilience.

4. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It shows you recognize the importance of a task.

5. Sometimes doing nothing is a lot...but when you move, move with purpose.

6. Full Hands In. Full Hands Out.

7. Just tell the truth & never put a price on your principles.

8. Do more than the minimum. 

9. Ski, Surf, Walk, Drive, Ride, Fly & Live in a predictable fashion whenever there are others behind or around you.

10. If you think you can, you will. If you think you can't, you won't.

11. The most Important things you will ever say: "After you", "Please", "Thank You", "I Love You" and "I'm Sorry".

12. Go to bed early. You will accomplish more before others wake than you will after they've gone to sleep.

13. Never drink more than one cocktail with subordinates or superiors. 

14. Dissenting opinions and unpleasant news should only be voiced if some significant good can come of it. Displaying one's level of intelligence or social connectivity does not constitute a "significant good".

15. Those who control others are strong. Those who control themselves are powerful...and more attractive. 

16. It's better to be wrong and alive, then right and dead.

17. Stand back when waiting for an elevator or when someone is exiting a room. If you give people enough space to exit first, there'll be more room for you to enter afterwards.   

18. Never write, text, email or post anything on-line that you wouldn't want to air as a commercial during the Super Bowl.

19. The power in hate, greed, negativity and jealousy is in it's ability to distract you. Don't let it. Never lower yourself to the level of those who thrive on such things. They say misery loves company...and there will always be people who are stressed, overwhelmed and/or unhappy with themselves. Never let them influence your opinion of yourself....because they will definitely try. And be as kind to them as possible. Not because they deserve it but because you are kind.

20. All the world's ills (other than those resulting from chemical or psychological imbalance) can be traced back to poor parenting and/or poor education. Never stop learning! 

21. A person's character is not so easily measured in times of comfort and advantage. The more accurate measure of one's character is taken in the most threatening of times... when weakness is most likely to triumph. Even then, character is not found in one's faults or folly but in the methods and sincerity with which they redeem themselves...and those they've failed.

22. Great intelligence demands even greater patience. 

23. Drugs are a distraction from: doing what truly makes your heart happiest, discovering the most beauty that life has to offer and knowing what day it is...additionally, they make bad ideas seem like decent ones. 

24. Listen carefully. There's a difference between being quiet while waiting for your turn to speak and being quiet in order to hear and consider what someone else is saying. The former requires you to simply close your mouth. The latter requires you to open your mind.

25. When no rule exists, do the right thing. There's always an opportunity / It's never too late to do the right thing.

26. Never buy a house: at the bottom of a hill, near a body of water, with a flat roof or quickly built.

27. There's nothing worse than a bully. Stand up for yourself... and those who can not stand up for themselves.

"The greatest sin that could be committed is the abuse of power. Whether it's mental, physical or economic." - Joe Biden

28. Sustained actions speak louder than words.

29. Never underestimate anyone...especially yourself.

30. In life, there will always be positives and there will always be negatives. Your attitude is driven by which you choose to focus on each and every day. It’s not what happens to you that matters; it’s how you choose to respond. (Read "The Road Less Traveled".)

31. Everything is relative. Everyone's perspective is their reality. 

32. Never recline a seat in coach or fart in an elevator if you can help it. Both may provide some relief but it's usually at the expense of another.

33. Everything is on it's way somewhere. Nothing "goes away" and nothing can be "thrown away".

34. Quality work is expensive. Cheap work costs even more.

35. Be mindful of the ease with which an unintended tone can be imparted to the written word of another. Read "The 5 Minute Manager".

36. Mistakes and inconsistencies are where the natural beauty lies. There is no such thing as "perfect" and there is no such thing as "right" or "wrong" in art.

36. The Platinum Rule: Treat Others as They Want To Be Treated.

37. Nothing great is ever accomplished alone.

38. You can teach most anyone a skill... but you can't teach anyone personality and character.

39. Make time to be still and quiet in nature...then dance in the rain and let yourself get soaked! It's good for the soul.

40. If you're having a problem with a person or situation, look at your own behavior first...and then look at your own behavior again.

41. Treat every one & every place like a campsite... Leave them a little better than how you found them.

42. Exercise is the ultimate antidepressant...and greatest tailor. 

43. When facing any catastrophe, ask yourself: "How much will this matter in 20 years?".

44. Collaborate with people from all different walks of life. The cross-pollination between passionate people from various disciplines enables real innovation to flourish.

45. Be Kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle... hidden or not. 

46. Boys will break your heart (especially when you forget how wonderful your are). Let them. Learn from it.

47. Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer allows you to grow.

48. Stop calling him. Stop texting him. Stop saying things you hope he will hear. If he wanted you, and deserved you...he'd be there.

49. Bellybutton piercings and tattoos are always bad ideas. Self-acceptance is the coolest accessory.

50. Life begins where your comfort zone ends. Be carefree...but don't be careless.

51. Seeing the good in something and building on it is usually more productive than seeing the bad and trying to fix it.

52. You don't have to practice law but you should study law for the sake of your freedom...as both lawyers and judges are human.

53. You will find that some laws are only elucidated once the enforcement of them serves the interest of one (or few) who profit by their application.

54. It's far easier for some to believe a lie that supports one's prejudice and resentment than to maintain an open mind while seeking the truth.

55. You are bound to find some discontent in your life. Don't let that discontent form your opinions, design  your truth or decide your happiness...for hatred, injustice and the absence of peace in the world begins with the prejudice discovered upon projecting self depreciation onto others. 

56. Time doesn't heal all wounds...but it does allow for more experiences which, in turn, yield a different perspective.

57. Don't let anyone define your self-worth...not even him.

58. Trust your instincts.

59. Most people let down their guard after 6 months...if they ever had it up.

60. Be grateful & love with everything you've got as I and your Mom love you. No matter what... forever and beyond. 

61. READ THE DIRECTIONS.

62. Study Immanuel Kant’s Moral Philosophy namely… Categorical and Hypothetical Imperatives & The Formula of the Universal Law of Nature.

63.  Listen to The Beatles. There's a lot of wisdom in their simple lyrics and they can be a good "home away from home".

64. Do everything to the best of your ability with the time allotted.

65. Sing out loud.

66. Seeing the good and building on it is always more productive than seeing the bad and trying to change it.

67. In life, you will encounter plenty of "sharks". When you do, summon up all of your strength and punch it in the snout. It will most likely turn and swim away.

68. Always consider the source of the information you receive and the source of the food you eat. Your interests may not be aligned nor your motivations.

69. Resist the notion that there is more hate in the world than love. Although some may profit by magnifying it or by drawing your attention to it - it simply isn't true.

70. Go for the job that offers the best culture and most fulfillment.

71. AIM TO SAVE 30% SPEND 60% & SHARE 10%.

72. Clean tools work better.

73. The best ideas come from wide exposure.

74. "Travel is fatal to ignorance and prejudice" - Mark Twain

75. The best ideas come from great exposure.

76. AIM TO SAVE 30% SPEND 60% & SHARE 10%...and consider an index fund.

77. Decisions, based on a longview approach that considers ancillary impacts, take time.

78. If you can't find something - try straightening up.

79. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it can only be transformed from one form to another... we don't die just because our bodies do. 

 

 

 

Homeostasis: The Result of Successful Management

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I found the following article on Wikipedia and immediately realized the correlation between homeostasis in the scientific world and sustainable success in the business world. I found it very interesting to "edit" the piece by (inserting applicable terms) which serve as viable substitutions to the words preceding them.

For another coherent piece, one might also substitute familial terms along with principles of: love, discipline, respect and education respectively as these scientific concepts are universally sound across every family, school and business that is, at it's core, a small branch of the greater natural world in which we live.

HOMEOSTASIS- 

 "In simple terms, it is a process in which the body's internal environment is kept stable, despite changes in external conditions. The concept was described by Claude Bernarrd as Multiple dynamic equilibrium adjustment and regulation mechanisms make homeostasis possible."

With regard to any given life system (business) an organism (employee) may be a conformer or a regulator.

Regulators (managers) try to maintain parameters at a constant level over possibly wide ambient environmental variations.

Conformers (smart hires) allow the environment to determine their parameters (buy in).

For instance endothermic animals, namely mammals and birds(successful managers) maintain a constant body temperature (standard), while ectothermic animals, namely almost all other organisms (non-managent)unless acted upon may exhibit wide body temperature (behavioral) variation.

Behavioral adaptations (engaged managers) allow ectothermic animals (non-managent) to exert some control over a given parameter.

For instance, reptiles (unsatisfied employees) often rest on sun-heated rocks (strong leaders) in the morning to raise their body temperature (morale, performance or perception).

Regulators (Management) are also responsive to external circumstances (customers, market fluxtuation, demand, competition, etc..), however: if the same sun-baked boulder (motivational leader) happens to host a ground squirrel (colleague / employee requiring less motivation) , the animal's metabolism (colleague's moral, performance, perception, etc...) will adjust to the lesser need for internal heat production (motivation) .[citation needed]

An advantage of homeostatic regulation (effective management) is that it allows an organism (business) to function effectively in a broad range of environmental conditions. For example,ectotherms( non-management employees) tend to become sluggish at low temperatures (when business is slow), whereas a co-located endotherm (manager) may be fully active. That thermal stability comes at a price (higher salary and benefits) since an automatic regulation system (keeping your head when all others about you are losing theirs...) requires additional energy.

All homeostatic control mechanisms (Successful Systems of Operation) have at least three interdependent components for the variable being regulated: The receptor is the sensing component that monitors and responds to changes in the environment (executives / general managers). When the receptor senses a stimulus (performance), it sends information to a "control center", the component that sets the range at which a variable is maintained (board of directors / ownership) The control center (board) determines an appropriate response to the stimulus (performance). In most homeostatic mechanisms, the control center is the brain. The control center then sends signals to effectors (mid-level management), which can be muscles, organs or other structures that receive signals from the receptors (general manager) or control center (directors). After receiving the signal, a change occurs to correct the deviation by either enhancing it with positive feedback or depressing it with negative feedback.[10]

Positive Feedback:

Mechanisms (praise) designed to accelerate or enhance the output created by a stimulus (successful performance) that has already been activated (achieved).

Unlike negative feedback mechanisms that initiate to maintain or regulate (critique / correct) physiological functions within a set and narrow range (underperformance), the positive feedback mechanisms are designed to push levels out of normal ranges (motivate by positive reinforcement).

To achieve this effect, a series of events initiates a cascading process (appreciation and engagement) that builds to increase the effect of the stimulus (performance). This process can be beneficial but is rarely used by the body due to risks of the acceleration's (unwarranted praise/ reward or unnecessary expenses) benefit being diluted.

One positive feedback example event in the body is blood platelet accumulation, which, in turn, causesblood clotting in response to a break or tear in the lining of blood vessels. Another example is the release of oxytocin to intensify the contractions that take place during childbirth.[10]

Negative feedback:

Negative feedback mechanisms consist of reducing the output activity (limiting privileges or offering constructive criticism) of any organ (employee with opportunity to improve) or system (many) back to its normal range of functioning (procedure).

A good example of this is regulating blood pressure. Blood vessels can sense resistance of blood flow against the walls when blood pressure increases. The blood vessels act as the receptors and they relay this message to the brain. The brain then sends a message to the heart and blood vessels, both of which are the effectors. The heart rate would decrease as the blood vessels increase in diameter (known as vasodilation). This change would cause the blood pressure to fall back to its normal range. The opposite would happen when blood pressure decreases, and would cause vasoconstriction.

Another important example is seen when the body is deprived of food. The body would then reset the metabolic set point to a lower than normal value. This would allow the body to continue to function, at a slower rate, even though the body is starving. Therefore, people who deprive themselves of food while trying to lose weight would find it easy to shed weight initially and much harder to lose more after. This is due to the body readjusting itself to a lower metabolic set point to allow the body to survive with its low supply of energy. Exercise can change this effect by increasing the metabolic demand.

Both feedbacks are equally important for the healthy functioning of one's body...

Homeostatic imbalance:

Many diseases (business failures) a result of disturbance of homeostasis, a condition known as homeostatic imbalance (mismanagement). As it ages, every organism (business) will lose efficiency in its control systems(process management). The inefficiencies gradually result in an unstable internal environment (dymamics) that increases the risk for illness (losses). In addition, homeostatic imbalance(mismanagement) is also responsible for the physical changes associated with aging (obsolescence). Even more serious than illness (losses) and other characteristics of aging(inefficiency) is death(bankruptcy). Heart failure has been seen where nominal negative feedback mechanisms become overwhelmed, and destructive positive feedback mechanisms then take over.[10]Diseases(failures) that result from a homeostatic imbalance (mismanagement) include diabetes(inability to balance books), dehydration(lack of working capital), hypoglycemia(inability to drive sales), hyperglycemia (lack of infrastructure to handle volume), gout (disruptive employees), and any disease caused by a toxin present in the bloodstream (loss, theft, embezzlement).

All of these conditions result from the presence of an increased amount of a particular substance (problem). In ideal circumstances, homeostatic control mechanisms (successful management) should prevent this imbalance from occurring, but, in some people (organizations), the mechanisms (standard operating procedure, standard of care or systems of operation) do not work efficiently enough or the quantity of the substance (seriousness or lifespan of the problem) exceeds the levels at which it can be managed.

In these cases, medical intervention (outside consulting services) is necessary to restore the balance, or permanent damage to the organs (culture, mission, people power, etc...) may result.

According to the following citation, every illness has aspects to it that are a result of lost homeostasis (managent controls): "Just as we live in a constantly changing world, so do the cells and tissues (businesses) survive in a constantly changing microenvironment (marketplace). The 'normal' or 'physiologic' (profitable or sustainable) state then is achieved by adaptive responses to the ebb and flow of various stimuli (activity and performance) permitting the cells and tissues to adapt and to live in harmony within their microenvironment... Thus, homeostasis is preserved. What is good for individual cell is good for the entire system.

Varieties:

Author George Leonard discusses in his book "Mastery" how homeostasis affects our behavior and who we are. He states that homeostasis will prevent our body from making drastic changes and maintain stability in our lives even if it is detrimental to us.[12]Examples include when an obese person starts exercising, homeostasis in the body resists the activity to maintain stability.[13] Another example Leonard uses is an unstable family where the father has been a raging alcoholic and suddenly stops and the son starts up a drug habit to maintain stability in the family.

A note to other advisors, consultants, parents or anyone looking to champion a turn-around, Leonard also said: "Homeostasis is the main factor that stops people changing their habits because our bodies view change as dangerous unless it is very slow." Expect resistance and unnecessary delays if the need for change isn't first communicated and desired system-wide. Expect success if it is and you have the time and resources to walk them as opposed to pushing them through it.

New Lenses: Evaluating A Business' Process Management From A Montessorial Perspective

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In the book The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the five skills of disruptive innovators, the authors state, “Innovative break-throughs often happen at the intersection of diverse disciplines and fields.” It’s true, there is often merit in taking ideas and innovations from one industry and applying it to one that is unrelated. Travel writer, Giles Foden, has a “cinematic approach” to gain different perspectives in his writing; by varying the lenses through which Foden views the world, he captures the story he wants to tell. On a parallel plain, varying the lens, from wide-lens to zoom may have you seeing your business with fresh perspective.

Carmen Morgan – The Writing on The Wall

I enjoy discovering how things work. And Since I don’t have a job yet, I’ve been spending a lot of time observing business models (mostly retail) and finding a lot of value in looking at them from a “Montessorial perspective”…which is to say, deconstructing their most basic function(s) and then tracing the process backwards from the end of the customer experience back to the production process. It’s how I see my three year old daughter learning mathematics. Her Montessori teachers have broken math down to the core elements of: patience, dexterity, counting and the physical comprehension of quantity

Studying business operations is stimulating largely because of the challenge presented when conventional process systems are often broken to some degree and with a small amount of adjustment…what I like to call: “microfinement of process management”, you can usually find greater efficiency for the multitude of people any single transaction or service affects in it’s lifespan.

The challenging aspect of recognizing curable inefficiencies or identifying potential process improvements is the necessity to view the entire process from an “outside” and “far-sighted” perspective so that every degree of future impact separation can be considered from a distance like a position on a map.

I was going through my closet the other day when it occurred to me that although I was satisfied with the job my dry cleaner was doing with my clothes…all of my shirts seemed to be facing the wrong direction. Instead of the hooks of the hangers making a question mark…they opened to the opposite side (to the right). After trying to relocate the shirts on different bars throughout the closet, I realized that the only fix to this problem was to unbutton every shirt and put them back on the hangers after turning the hanger around so that the hooks of the hangers formed a question mark (opening to the left instead of to the right).

Every article of clothing my drycleaner hung (from my wife’s dresses to my sport jackets) faced the “wrong way”. On our recent move from Philadelphia to Sioux Falls, I had transported a few of shirts and suits that had been dry cleaned in Philadelphia and never came out of the dry cleaning plastic sheaths they were picked-up in.  While in the process of pairing shirts up with suits, I noticed that I was able to slide all of the suits still covered in plastic (from my Philadelphia drycleaner) to the right while standing on the left and viewing them from the front. When I placed a recently dry cleaned shirt in front of these particular suits, the shirt was facing away from me and I was unable to view the pairing as it would appear when worn.   

Thinking that this may just have been the standard operating procedure of one particular dry cleaner…and being happy with that dry cleaner, I made a mental note to ask them if it would be possible to put my shirts facing in the opposite direction upon my next visit.

It wasn't until several trips later to the dry cleaner that I remembered and had asked if it was possible for them to accommodate my peculiar request. The owner of the dry cleaner informed me that they were unable to change the direction of the hangers since all of the garments go through “a machine” and are all hung in the same direction. I tried to explain why I believed all of the shirts were being put on hangers facing in the wrong direction but I was not successful in effectively communicating my point. I dismissed this minor inconvenience like a man who continues to work with slightly broken tools…until I went to a new dry cleaner out of convenience before a trip out of town. I noticed they too had shirts and dresses hung in a similar fashion. 3 dry cleaners later it occurred to me that most every dry cleaner in town was hanging their shirts and what I had decided was the wrong direction. That should have been sufficient evidence that I was the one whose perspective required some adjustment...but regardless of how hard I tried to accept it, it still bothered me.

I mentioned this to a few friends who dismissed my attention to this minutia of detail as not only silly but also irrelevant and uninteresting. “Seriously?...Who cares?” they said. But my discomfort with this process intrigued me as if it were a puzzle…or a movie title I couldn't remember. I gave it some serious thought and realized that in a world where most of us are right hand dominant and in a country where we read from left to right it would make perfect sense that the clothing industry would display their garments in the manner I expected...in a way that was not only efficient but also enabled a consumer to envision themselves wearing the garments when sliding them left to right (as a mannequin would mirror them).  

I went to a few stores ranging from low to high-end (The Salvation Army, Target, Khols, The GAP, Macy’s, J.Crew, Brooks Bothers, Nordstrom, Saks 5th Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman). Every one of these retailers had their garments hung on  display racks in the same way. They were all hung so that you can move the items from left to right and quickly observe the shirt, dress, sweater or whatever, on the right hand side facing you as it would be in a mirror if you took the time to try it on. I was discussing this with an executive at Gap North America who told me that she had "spent some time in the fashion industry and explained that it was common knowledge, in retail, that the hanger should always be making a 'question mark' at the top when facing a customer in order to ensure uniformity. Not only on horizontal racks but on rounders [AKA: circular racks) and T-Racks as well. The reason being: so that whether right-handed customers are pulling the garments towards them or pushing the garments away, the garments are always facing the same direction and always 'mirroring' the [right-handed] customer." 

What these dry cleaners are doing by putting garments on hangers where the hook goes to the right instead of the left made me question why such a fundamental convenience was not availed to their customers. There was something to learn here in seeing how their system worked. It posed an interesting life-cycle of service opportunity to learn where the breakdown occurred and how I might prevent similar breakdowns in developing production management systems for restaurants… or for any service related business. I went back to my regular dry cleaner that week and told him that I once had an opportunity to work in a dry cleaner one summer as a boy and had always regretted it because of the mystery of what happens to the clothes when they go behind the wall. I told him that I found it very curious and asked if I could take a peek behind the curtain and see the Great and Powerful OZ. He agreed happily and even offered to show me how each station and each machine works. Not surprisingly, the entire process was a horse-shoe shaped assembly line that went from the left side of the store all the way around to the right of the store where the clothes were picked up. The clothes would travel this path of individual stations after being tagged and sorted by hand at the first station.

Some garments go to the laundering station and some skipped to the dry cleaning station (quite a machine!). After being cleaned, some go to the tailoring station while most go to the next station in a large canvas bin with wheels where they are fit over what looks like a large human figure / dummy. (Every dry cleaner has one and so they typically have a name. Theirs was named Suzie) Once the garment is fit over Suzie, the station operator steps on a large metal pedal that emits enough steam from within Suzie to puff out the garment and instantly steam it. After the steaming, some articles go to a long press and some go to a “hand-ironing” station. After each garment is steamed, pressed and or ironed, they are hung on hangers and pinned with a small numbered tag that corresponds to the number on the ticket originally given to the customer when they drop off their clothes. This whole process goes from left to right until the clothes are then bound together in sections with twisty ties and covered in plastic with the customer's receipt stapled to the plastic. The customer then picks up their order, pays and makes haste to their closet where the white noise of clothes hanging in the wrong direction ensues.

After my back stage tour, I explained how it all made sense to me why the garments were hung the direction they were on the hangers. I explained to the owner that it all made sense to me now and that I understood the garments are hung on the hangers the way they are because the assembly line moved from left to right and you always have the next station in the line receiving the garment from the left and facing them head-on….as is necessary. He smiled upon my “seeing the light” with an almost perceptible sense of satisfaction. I thanked him very much for my tour and left. What I didn’t share with him was that the problem with this process is that it values the employees’ need to see the garments in a convenient head-on fashion but not the end user or customers’ need to.

The owner of the dry cleaner mentioned, before I left, that if I was unhappy with the direction of the shirt on the hanger I could always change hangers as many other customers do. Not only do I find it hard to believe that even five percent of any dry cleaner’s customer are taking their shirts off of the wire hangers and putting them on some other sort of customized hanger in their closet, but if I had the time to do that, I’d probably be washing and pressing my own shirts.  

The easiest way to microfine this process is clearly for the owner/operator to change the direction of their assembly line from LEFT TO RIGHT to RIGHT TO LEFT. This would ensure everyone in-house and at home had the same advantage of viewing the garments in an advantageous fashion (pun intended).

This change would bear only a nominal expense of moving the machines and stations to the opposite side of the store. Doing this would maintain their current efficiency and likely increase their sales exponentially over time due to the fact that the service they are providing is largely identical to their competitors with one exception…they would have a growing base of customers who, perhaps inexplicably, prefer this dry cleaner over another even though they might not be cognizant as to precisely why. The fact, alone, that it would make a customer’s life even the tiniest bit easier, in my mind, is a strong enough case to change the conventional system this operator employs.

This one man’s kindness in offering me a behind-the-scenes  tour of his business, left me with an indelible reminder of the value in consciously considering the lifespan of any product or service beyond the initial point of transaction and the advantage of offering even the subtlest of convenience(s) for one’s customers in a competitive marketplace. 

Risk & Expected Returns: The Applicability of Rock Paper Scissors

NEGOTIATING WITH:

 

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My two laws regarding negotiating are simple:

1. Don't even begin the process until you are armed with an advisor who is experienced and appropriately incentivized

and

2. Don't counter if you can't walk away.

After three years as a Dad, my dimensional understanding of negotiating has broadened into recognizing the need to eliminate risk from the outset. This principle can be witnessed in our home quite regularly as I often pre-select two or more equally appropriate options and allow our daughter to choose one...or pre-select one option out of two that I know my daughter will find extremely undesirable. The result: a win-win 100% of the time. Slanting the field to my advantage is necessary. I can't win otherwise...and if i do, it's a Pyrrhic victory due to the loss of time and stress that ensues.

You’ve heard it before: “Negotiate like a 3 year old.” ...or is it “Negotiate like a 2yr old”?  Or is it "Don't negotiate with a 2 yr old"?  Regardless... dealing with young children can be difficult to say the least but insightful.  They are irrational. They won’t take “No” for an answer, They can have an unlimited supply of whining and tears to gradually wear you down and their idea of compromise is re-wording the same demand over and over. (I've faced clients like this as well).  These tactics reveal themselves both in daily "transaction interactions" and in the games children play themselves as well.

Take, for instance, Rock Paper Scissors. I thought about how this (like many other things my daughter has reintroduced me to) might translate into my line of  business….and here’s what I came up with:

A parallel application I call "Bully Beg Buy" which can be utilized upon entering into negotiations that are already in progress with two or more parties competing for the same thing.

 

BULLY (A.K.A. ROCK)

Bullying functions when one party inflicts fear on another and fear is a great motivator…not the best, but certainly stronger than calculated gains due to the fact that it breaks through the walls of logic and plays heavily on the emotional reaction to imagined physical or social suffering. The instinct to survive socially or even politically within one's professional circles can be the weaker party's Achilles' heel. The flip side of that coin, however is that in negotiations or transactions that involve more than just two parties, bullying as a means to attain an advantage over multiple parties may not work so well. For example: One party pressuring another party to sell to them. In this simple bilateral negotiation, the selling party may be under duress to sell to the bullying party and so the tactic works…but add to this equation another variable such as an additional interested party or a trilateral (or tripartite) agreement upon which the bilateral negotiations rely. The later party’s consideration supporting the promise of the other two parties, (a contingency by definition) is imperative. In a case such as this or in any where there are more than two parties, it is unlikely that the bullying will have an equal impact across degrees of separation. I have seen this diluted pressure often result in the third party coming to the table out of undue influence... but eventually finding and exercising a way to circumvent the transaction via a loop-hole or by intentionally causing some contingency to fail being met prior to closing. “Bully” is vulnerable and that vulnerability resides, predominately, on an emotional level…which brings us to the power of "BEG".

 

BEG (A.K.A. PAPER)

Consult any management or social psychology reference and you will learn that people like talking about themselves. It’s because of the developed ego and sense of self in which we take great stock. People like to feel important. The #1 word used in every language around the globe is “I”…it is for this reason that, all things being equal, when one party (in the case mentioned above: the selling party) is presented with an opportunity to feel strong, important, powerful and/or benevolent, they will most often choose that over the opportunity to feel like a victim. Especially if a negotiation is already in progress and the pressure of "BULLY" is being felt. It’s in this instance that the bullying has likely been taking an emotional toll on the selling party and "BEG" not only offers some relief but also presents a safe exit.

 

BUY (A.K.A. SCISSORS)

Although "BEG" beats "BULLY", bullying and the desire for physical, social or political preservation are often outweighed by the desire for financial gain. After all, what good is money if your dead or worse…a social, political or business-world outcast? "BUY", however does beat "BEG" and it's benefit of making someone feel benevolent. Nothing makes most people feel more powerful, smart or strong than significant financial gain…remember, they can always imagine purchasing social or political collateral such as popularity and be a little benevolent / charitable with some of those large profits later.

Like Rock Paper Scissors, the trick to this method of negotiating relies heavily on two rather large assumptions. The first: that you know which hand all competing parties are going to throw (thus the arena defined as: negotiations already in progress) and two: that no two parties throw the same hand.

 

Swim With The Sharks: Swimming Lessons at The Local College

    "The single greatest mistake a manager can make is not getting out of the way! Provide goals, resources, and leadership... Knowing when to get out of the way is the key."

    -Harvey Mackay: Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive

Replication: A Few Interesting Similarities Between South Dakota and Pennsylvania

Far from being South Dakota's doppleganger, Philadelphia, PA has a population density 10xs greater than that of Sioux Falls, SD and is mentioned in way more songs... but there are some interesting similarities between the two.

Although Pennsylvania is aptly named for the amount of lush foliage and bucolic rolling tree-covered hills that more often call to mind more European landscapes than those of the open and primarily flat prairies of the Midwest; both states share a relatively similar size and shape.

The physical location of each state's major city: PA's Philadelphia and SD's Sioux Falls are not only located in the southeast corners of their respective state but also share the unique proximity to several other regional hubs a relatively short drive away. For Sioux Falls it's: Omaha, Nebraska,   Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota  and Des Moines, Iowa whereas Philadelphia is proximal to: Wilmington, DE,   New York City,   Cherry Hill, New Jersey,  Baltimore, Maryland  and Washington, D.C. .

Both States have major "sister cities" a 5-6hr drive to the west. In Philadelphia it's Pittsburgh and in Sioux Falls, it's Rapid City. Both of which are the state's largest city closest to it's western boarders and neither one really has a hockey team.

Both states share significance with regards to historic battles (Indian Wars vs. Wars for Independence) and are home to some of America's most inspiring symbols of freedom and democracy as well...most notably: Mt. Rushmore, Independence Hall & The Liberty Bell. 

Both states also share some space with more socially (and electronically) independent sub-cultures of religious groups founded largely in-part by men named Jakob. In PA, the Jakob Ammann formed Amish & Mennonites and in SD, the Jakob Hutter founded Huttterites. Both trace their roots back to to the Radical Reformation of the 16th century and are easily identified by their simple living, plain dress and wonderful baked goods at local farmers' markets.

Fortune Magazine and US News both conduct annual reviews and ratings for over 24,000 public schools throughout the country. The more notable (ie; Radnor, Lower Merion, Haverford, Trediffryn/Easttown, Unionville-Chadsford, etc...) in the affluent western suburbs of Philadelphia  (known as the Main Line) rank in the high 700s to low 800s out of 24,000+....ironically the same rankings as the local public schools in Sioux Falls, SD (namely: Roosevelt, Lincoln and Harrisburg.) Whether we elect to send our daughter to public or private school, the fact remains that public school systems this strong, speak volumes about both areas politically as well as culturally. 

We've only been here for about four months so stay tuned for more interesting similarities between these two states.... 

 

The Right Tools for The Right Job: Chopsticks for Kids

Catherine had been asking for her own chopsticks ever since she first saw Mommy and Daddy using them...but her lack of dexterity never seemed to deter her from trying, so hard, to eat with them.

With the use of a rubber band, any take-away sticks can easily be transformed into "training sticks".

The tremendous sense of pride and enjoyment that results from "Doing it!!!" is well worth the additional two minutes of our time.

Entry Point: Starting School on a Part-Time Basis

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When faced with the dilemma of sending Catherine to school on a Full-Time basis (which would include recess, lunch and naps) versus a Part-Time basis (going home at 11:30am), we asked if the tuition could be pro-rated to reflect a gradual increase of time spent there each day.

We thought a gradual introduction to school beginning with a Part-Time schedule would be best and that she would eventually communicate her willingness and/or desire to spend more time at school as she develops relationships and a respective comfort level.  They agreed so long as her pick-up times were during windows that would not be disruptive to the other childrens’ routines. 

With the exception of a few days at her grandparent’s and a few nights in hotels, Catherine hadn’t once taken a nap outside of our home. Although we realized that it would happen…we certainly didn’t want to be married to a date by which it would happen.  Even the thought that she would be lying down for a nap in a strange place was so incredible to imagine that it made me laugh nervously at the teacher's mere mention of it.

So we’re opted to gradually bring her into the waters of Montessori like a bagged goldfish into a new tank . Not that we thought the sudden climate change might have killed her…kids seem pretty pliable and resilient. This gradual introduction served more as psychological transition time for us than for her.

 

A few days later we brought a blanket and Pillow to school with us. The goal was for her to see more of her things there and simply get comfortable with the idea that she could take a nap there if she was so inclined. When I arrived to pick her up at 1:30 yesterday, her teacher Mrs.Berry rushed to greet me with a finger held against her lips. She whispered: “Catherine came in from recess and was so excited to take a nap in her spot that she was actually the first one to lay down!” I asked if I could take a peek through the double-sided mirror and she quietly walked me over. There I could see the my little girl's golden locks peeking out from under a blanket covering her little body with her legs tucked-up under her. Catherine was twirling her hair with one hand while the other was softly tucked for suckling in her mouth. Mrs. Will (her other teacher) was  gently, rythmically, rubbing her back. Suddenly I felt like “this was it”. Like it was all about to come to an end…. I was immediately struck with the heaviness that accompanies a sad farewell in my heart. I suddenly realized that I was going to find her doing more and more without me. Growing up and being magical with other people and I wouldn’t be there to see it...to even hear what she was saying. I fought back a tear…partly of joy and partly of sadness. I drove back home and imagined the joy of relishing something ordinary and mundane with her in the future... like a game of basketball in the driveway after not seeing her for so long. Like Steve Martin in Parenthood only backwards….instead of my eyes welling up from recalling images of her childhood, I was lost, only for a moment, in realizing that her "growing-up" meant relying less on me.

Cold Calling: Learning To Ski at 3

My bucket list includes enjoying quite a few activities with my daughter like: surfing, skiing and sailing...so when she turned three, my wife and I shared the excitement of anticipating Catherine's first gondola ride and first ski lesson.   

The first day we enjoyed the amenities of the hotel and "Apres Ski" as opposed to actual skiing.

We wanted to ease Catherine into skiing by first introducing her to the mountain.  Catherine took a gondola ride to survey some runs from above and, just as we had hoped, began to sense the fun and excitement everywhere around us.  She loved the ride and without her gear felt no pressure to jump right in. 

On Day 2, Catherine protested that she did not want to go to Ski School because : "...I already know how to ski!" The idea of leaving her alone with an unfamiliar group of people to learn something completely new was difficult to digest...and knowing that it might afford me some time to enjoy some of the back bowls after a fresh snowfall felt like an abandonment of my daughter for my own selfish desires. After a few folks "talked us down" we agreed that most of the apprehension was on our end as parents and any fear or discomfort our daughter was expressing was likely a result of what she was picking-up from us.....so we signed her up and our palms immediately began to sweat.

She started out bold and confident...almost cocky. She loved her pink goggles, purple ski pants and even the little spider and pastel colored accents on her white ski sweater....but then learning to ski suddenly involved leaving mom and dad behind... and so my performance as a laissez-faire father began. I walked with her to the chalet and after slowly kissing me goodbye she returned my "thumbs-up" but not my forced smile. Her nervousness was palpable as she willingly... and quietly walked away and joined the instructors who welcomed her into the room.

After what seemed like an hour, my wife and I watched as she finally emerged from the classroom and headed to the instruction area with two other children who seemed to move with a comfort that comes from having done this before. We watched her every move....but took evasive maneuvers like... turning, ducking and spinning so that she wouldn't see us there and desperately call for rescue. Throughout our exercise of stealth (which probably more resembled hippos hiding behind palm trees than anything  "Cloak & Dagger") several other parents approached and asked: "How old is your little one?". They told us tales of when their children, now in their twenties, first started skiing and how the "instructors here are some of the best in the world". All, I'm sure, to put us more at ease...and they did.

After snapping 79 photos or so, I kissed my wife goodbye and took off for a few runs before Ski School let out. I figured everything was going to be fine as Catherine seemed to be adjusting well and was receiving a lot of one-on-one attention. After ten or fifteen minutes however, mommy texted me: "Call when you can. We're done but have fun and take your time". I soon learned that all was apparently going quite well up until CR broke into tears after peeing in her snow pants... during the last 10 minutes of her class. My heart sank at hearing the news. We both knew that it was because, although she went potty before getting dressed, it was cold and she wasn't comfortable enough to speak up to her new "teachers" whom were probably accustomed to kids saying they "have to go" all the time...but were likely able to "hold it". My wife took Catherine to the room to change and then back to the base for some hot cocoa while waiting for Daddy.

The next day mommy and daddy both took on the role of "instructor" themselves (after having carefully observed the techniques employed by the professionals)....with one small difference in the routine. We strategically situated ourselves beside a mountain-top restaurant (complete with restrooms of course) and limited the duration of our sessions. Catherine made it down 20 or 30 feet without falling about a half a dozen times or so...and never had an accident in her bib. I believe she was equally proud of both.  

Overall, Catherine had a lot of fun in a beautiful new setting and left with a newfound appreciation of Apres Ski as a reward that's far more enjoyable after a tough day on the mountain.

Drinking The Kool-Aid: Why Is Everybody So Nice? Seriously.

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We love Sioux Falls! Just when we thought people here in South Dakota were about to “let down their guard” and had fully expected a leveling off of "genuine Sioux Falls hospitality"; I walked into Cleaver’s Gourmet Market to look around and take stock of the place. The store manager (Penny) not only treated me like a long lost friend but also took my order for coffee like an attendant at the Ritz Paris.

“…Regular or decaf? Light roast or dark roast? Flavored or unflavored? Cream? Sugar or Sweetener? What kind of sweetener? ….”

and they don’t even sell coffee. They just offer it to everyone who walks through their door.

Everyone here is so patient and moves at a noticeably slower pace it almost throws you off balance. I don't know why everyone is so nice... It’s almost too good to be true…and now we fear, in the back of our minds, that although South Dakotans may seem to epitomize warm hospitality...perhaps it's because they aim to eat us.

Can’t help but to occasionally think about the conclusion of The Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man"...   "IT’S A COOKBOOK!   IT’S A COOKBOOK!!!” 

Assumptions: Women Have it Tougher Than I Thought

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A nice reminder that although it's not all bubble baths and bon-bons for stay-at-home moms (or dads), that assumption is often made.

The following is an excerpt from an article I read on Forbes.com: 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2012/04/15/a-working-mom-defends-the-lululemon-stay-at-home-mother/ 

“The stay-at-home moms, or the “Lululemon Moms” as the working moms in my community often call them, seem just a bit calmer. Of course, not all of them wear Lululemon workout gear–in fact a lot of them might not even be able to afford $95 or so for yoga pants. Still, the reference to the “Lululemon mom” has become short-hand for what many working moms incorrectly assume to be a certain kind of person.

In reality, I don’t know anything about their lives except that they get to wear comfortable clothing when I am dressed for the office. ”

Although this (and most) parenting articles assume the primary care giver of a child is the mother (as was the focus during the recent Yahoo work-from-home ban). I have however, been finding it easier to insert myself (or rather my gender) into the text.

Although I believe in the fundamental principles of Carl Jung’s identified archetypes of anima and animus, I don’t think it’s all genetic and I debated this point with my mother who counseled me on the magnitude of the undertaking any stay-home dad accepts. I believe a significant portion of our gender identity is largely a result of socialization and suppression. In light of my recent catharsis, I have come to realize that the one benefiting most from my struggles and sacrifices is not my daughter as I had initially presumed… but in fact, it has been me.

This gender-role reversal has allowed me to experience a tremendous amount of growth as a person and adopt a fresh perspective on personal dynamics in general and a newfound appreciation for modern women. I always found it interesting and disappointing that in most professional situations…even even after introducing the woman in the room as the lead, client or principle....most people will still direct their eye contact and conversation at me.  I understand the hard-wired tendency to predominately regard the physically larger (and often louder) presence in the room but it surprises me, that in 2013, women have a great deal more conscious and unconscious gender discrimination to overcome on the professional and domestic fronts than I ever imagined.    

Psychographics : Our New Digs & The Dissipation of Culture Shock

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The above ticket was waiting for me after I knowingly parked at an expired meter and decided to chance it rather than go trollling the nearby shops for change and risk being late for an introductory meeting with a local developer in town. I took a breath before pulling it from my winshield wiper and as I opened it, thought: "Geeze, how much could it be? After all it's Sioux Falls...surely not the $36-$115 fine I was accustomed to back east." As I sat in my truck and scanned my bill for a "total due" I was shocked to find that not only was there no charge or penalty...but someone actually took the time to print up this ticket as a "courtesy notice" and thanked me for visiting downtown Sioux Falls. If this happened in Philadelphia, I would have been searching my surroundings for the hidden cameras and practical jokers at play.

Culture shock such as this has been occurring almost daily.  We have a new and surprising tale of random hospitality and kindness to share with our friends and family back home every week.  I know it must sound like we're simply "making the most of things" here but people in Sioux Falls, South Dakota really make New Hampshireites almost seem blase. 

We arrived here with what I think is a typically common mindset of those relocating or visiting from any major city. We ignorantly suffered the ego-centric assumption that a large population equated not only with a cosmopolitan lifestyle but with quality of amenities as well.

What we discovered rather quickly was that although there may be fewer offerings in a city 1/10th the size of Philadelphia, they were no less in quality. For example, my wife and I are foodies who have grown accustomed to big city privileges like:  Dean & Deluca, Eatily, Reading Terminal Market, The Italian Market, Carlino’s, DiBruno Bros., Wegmans, Chestnut Hill Coffee, Whole Foods, Fox and Obel and Trader Joe’s….we were shocked to find great butcher shops like Look’s Market & Cleavers as well as incredible local mainstream grocers (Hy-Vee and Pomegranite ) who not only stock what we thought were more obscure staples like: Mary’s Gone Crackers Pretzel Stix, Nut Thins, Haloumi, Boucheron, Jamon Iberico, Guanciale / Salame,  Sunbutter and Pop'd Kern… but also have cattle-chutes of  Melissa & Doug-sized  real shopping carts (in addition to the racing car carts of course) for “Shoppers in Training”.

The specialty markets here offer everything we thought was exclusive to big city markets or small European towns (cured meats from Italy, truffles, truffle honey & oil, fois gras, fennel pollen, Illy Coffee, etc…) There are also some amazing local coffee roasters here too… like Black Sheep and  Coffea Roasterie. The local Co-Op sells Peace Coffee and Breadico Breads (best I've ever had in the U.S.) made by David Nepolitano in his local garage turned commissary.

Wonderful beer & wines (Monk’s House of Ale Repute” and “Taylor’s Pantry”) although it is tough to find a reasonably priced ’09 Bordeaux ready to drink now.  

There are no Midwest high-concept restaurant giants or native geniuses like my Philly favorites: Michael Solmonov, Konstantinos Pitsillides, Pierre Calmels, Lee Styer, or Robert Halpern....and quite frankly they would probably only intimidate rather than impress here.

There are, however, restaurants like Bros. Brasserie who would give The Oyster Bar and Royal Tavern a good run for their money with an “Oh My God” burger of their own. A nice mature "old guard" sort of comfortable place: Minerva's, surprisingly wonderful gourmet Mediterranean fare from Saanas, fresh(ish) sushi from Sushi-Masa and cerebral, light-handed (and beautifully executed) haute cuisine from Minnihaha Country Club and Parker’s Bistro whose dishes would not be out of place beside many from the kitchens of Daniel Bouloud, Stephen Starr, Stephanie Izard, or Todd & Ellen Grey.

I think it’ll be a while before the South Dakota sees anything as progressive as Vedge or as hip as Amada, NoMad and Ichimura. But "The Cities" (Minneapolis and St. Paul) aren't too far off.  Nothing here comes close to Birchrunville Store Cafe, Dillworthtown Inn, Per Se, Lacroix or LeBec and that’s ok…we go back to the East Coast occasionally and will always take vacations.

But I do miss offerings like good Pho, Thai, sit down charc staples like Amis and Tria, The Kibitz Room and Wawa’s Turkey Shorties… with salt, pepper, oregano, oil mayo (lil bit) and extra meat (YES)! so perhaps there are few opportunities for me here…

The Power of a Secret: Discovering Something Special

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Sanford is recruiting some pretty talented people (like Kimberly Simpson Earle and Chris Orzechowski) and empowering them with phenomenal resources like significant funding and the most technological devices that few places, if any, in the world are able to avail their researchers and physicians…like the 4th and 5th cardiac stent placement robots in the country and the world’s largest tissue bank for breast cancer research. This tissue bank is Denny Sanford’s greatest advantage in his mission to eradicate breast cancer through genetic isolation of the disease as opposed to only focusing on treatment in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry. And they’re making significant progress. Already, they have identified many more types of breast cancer that respond better to treatments previously reserved for what were believed to have been “completely different” cancers.

Those of you who watch the Big Bang Theory may also appreciate the fact that the Higgs-Boson particle (dark matter) was also discovered here in South Dakota. (In a lab deep within a gold mine under acres of prairie grass and pines in the Black Hills).

What also surprised us was the fact that Sioux Falls really is a great place to raise a family. Their clean air and clean water (cleanest in the country in fact) is almost as impressive as the culture we’ve experienced at every turn during our visits. It’s been like the Chevy Chase film “Funny Farm”. After every encounter, I catch myself looking over my shoulder to see if the mayor is actually dolling out $100 bills and thanking residents for a “great performance” and reminding them to “keep smiling!”.  

Sioux Falls offers us the opportunity to raise our daughter in, what feels like, more of a community than a city or town. It’s interesting to see that, even with all the various funding, many of the rooms at Sanford Hospital have been donated by local families.

Good to Great: Moving from East Coast to Midwest

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My wife brought home a refrigerator magnet one day that read: ”Life begins where your comfort zone ends.”…and so life is certainly about to "begin".

After a lot of careful consideration, lengthy discussion and exhaustive research we decided to sell our dream home in Pennsylvania and move to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The plan is to pack up the contents of our house in the next few weeks (making most of the headway while my wife takes Catherine to see her sick Grandpa in Tampa next week) and store everything neatly in the back basement.

We will list the house just in time to hit the tail end of the summer market with hopes that it will be an attractive situation for someone looking to move into the area before the school year starts in September. We will be shipping my wife’s car and drive my Suburban with one week’s worth of supplies in our (just purchased) Thule Atlantis 1800 (Sonic XL) rooftop carrier, along with a 2yr old and a 125lb Newfoundland... should be interesting to say the least. Below is my navigational chart which is an example of how over-thinking and over-planning allays most anxiety for me. It took quite a bit of time to determine the best times to travel, how long to travel and where to stop based on a myriad of variables including everything from nap times to doggy’s potty breaks and anti-anxiety meds (the dog’s). I learned a lot in my 1 week intensive course in trip planning…like the fact that zoo keepers and vets most often move animals under cloak of darkness when possible to avoid additional visual stimulus and potential anxiety / motion sickness…but we also wanted to see most of the trip as well since neither one of us could ever imagine needing or wanting to make a drive like this again.

Although this level of organization may seem like the science of qiyas when equipped with a state-of-the-art navigation system in my truck, I can’t help but think that a 5-day trip with 5 planned stops for a family traveling with a dog and a baby (neither of which have ever traveled in a car for more than a couple of hours) it’s imperative to identify additional potential stops at dog-friendly hotels in advance. We need alternate targets that can serve as half-way markers between stops in the event Catherine or Lulu just aren’t doing well…AND potential stops / hotels just past our scheduled stops in the event we are able to / need to make up time and can comfortably survive going on a little further….so that explains the thought process a little… 

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Interim Management: Our First Babysitter

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When we visited Sanford Hospital, we were invited to a meet-and-greet dinner and we did not know what to do with our daughter so the plan was simply…for me not to go. They offered to provide a sitter but never having outsourced care for Catherine to anyone other than her Nanny and Grandma... the prospect of leaving her in the care of a total stranger seemed more ridiculous than valeting your car in Caracas.

The plan then changed to telling them we would accept their offer then… moments before dinner, tell them that I or Catherine came down with a terrible illness. After a few conversations with the babysitter’s father, we learned a lot about this young lady. Evidently, she often babysits for visiting physicians and the local attendings as well. We decided to meet her and if Catherine seemed comfortable upon the meeting, I wouldn’t have to fake having food poisoning or dysentery.

So after a quick trip to fill a shopping cart with art supplies, toys, cars, dolls, play-doh and bracelet making kits (we didn’t bring many toys with us) at the local drug store (Lewis), we awaited the arrival of our first ever potential babysitter. She arrived and immediately had a way about her that was positively gentle and kind. Very low key. Pleasant and confident. Catherine was immediately drawn to her and was excited to tell her about her imaginary friends and her new bracelet making kits! After about 5 minutes we began to explain that we were going out for a bit…and before we could explain, we were interrupted with “O.K. Bye Bye Mommy! Bye Bye Daddy! Have a good time!” She kissed us and ran right back to admire her “new babysitter’s very pretty hair”. We made it abundantly clear that a call for ANYTHING would not only be o.k. but welcomed. Any contact from her end would give us the opportunity to “check –in” without looking like the freaks we were. But the calls never came… and we did our best to exercise restraint. (We kept our phones on top of the table, and our trembling hands beneath it. We called the minute we put our coats on to leave the restaurant and everything was fine. Better than fine actually. Diaper change went off without a hitch and Catherine seemed to sense bedtime on her own then selected a few books to be read to her.  Although she didn’t fall off to sleep…she collapsed in our arms after spending her last few drops of energy rushing up to greet us when we walked through the hotel room door.

We’ve since used her (and her two sisters – one of whom brings a guitar and a well-trained voice for sing-a-longs) a few times after that historic night. It’s nice to have an excuse for "date night" when your daughter has got got your back with occasional requests to “see my babysitter sisters because I miss them!”