Saturday, August 11, 2012

Decisions - Made or Avoided

In large corporate organizations it is easy to see how decisions are made by committee. This allows the individual to avoid responsibility and disappear into the group. The same holds true outside of the professional environment. Many people are guilty of surveying friends, and asking “what do you think?” until time forces a decision. As an example, a man may consider buying a new truck and discuss the details with his friends, co-workers, and family. Most likely he knows what truck he wants, but he fails to make the decision. Through committee he can blame a ‘lemon’ on everyone but himself. Another form of decision making is analysis paralysis. Using our truck buyer as an example, this type of decision making is based on the relentless collection of data: facts, figures, reviews, and reports. Data analysis becomes the excuse for failure to make a decision because there may be an additional piece of information either for or against the choice. Perfection regarding the choice is sought, however no decision is ever perfect. Time is the one challenge we all face regarding successful decision making and for some, delay becomes the ultimate decider. Time can successfully steal conscious decision making by forcing a deadline to pass and then becomes an excuse by allowing one to state, “I ran out of time.” Often this is conscious avoidance, or procrastination by true description, and the blame is not the clock but the clock-watcher. Lastly, relying on others to make our choices is the most dangerous form of decision making. For example, as children our parents do this for us or at work supervisors give direction to employees and constantly make decisions for their teams. Thus, it is easy to become guilty of seeking authorities like doctors, teachers, clergy, and even parents to make decisions. It is critical to empower ourselves and take responsibility for making timely decisions in our lives. Opportunities constantly flow forth and although the desire to step forward may burn within us, bad decision making habits will prevent reaping possible rewards. I assert the risk of a bad, personally made decision is far less than the lost opportunity guarded by the safety of inadequate decision making processes.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Naysayers – Don’t be kept down

Naysayers – Don’t be kept down (5/16/2012) Imagine your excitement regarding a new goal, like going back to school or starting a business, and everyone you share your idea with finds problems with it. Parents are guilty of using their personal failures as experience to discourage children and friends allow their own insecurities to trump support. This is my third column regarding opportunities, decision-making and pursuing our dreams. Along the way we must acknowledge the negative influencers who stop us. Many years ago I discovered the type of personality type I would call the "naysayer;" the friend or family member who constantly spews negativity. I am a believer that the ability to recognize and consider opportunities, make effective and timely decisions, and avoid naysayers will propel us forward to new successes. The classic naysayer can be described as “Eeyore” from the “Winnie the Pooh” series of books. At first glance a likable character and friend, but upon examination he is dreadful. For example Eeyore once conversed with Pooh, “Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it is a good morning,” he said. “Which I doubt,” said he said. Eeyore always saw the glass half full, sadly never relishing the hope which comes from optimism. As an optimist, it is hard to acknowledge negative people, but once I found the naysayer and understood their life’s mission is pessimism, cynicism, skepticism, and denial regarding any opportunities it was obvious avoiding these people was critical to my own success. The naysayer would not admire my success and therefore was an enemy to my future. We must challenge ourselves to ask “who do I know that is a naysayer?” Sadly, they may be our spouse, a family member, or close friend. The worst scenario is a trusted confidant as a naysayer. Over time we may not realize this is the case, but unfortunately the naysayer is the most significant obstacle to seizing new opportunities. To recognize those holding you back you must take a close look at your friends and family who constantly find problems with your dreams, goals, and desires. Cheerleaders of your interests will always look for positive outcomes to your opportunities. A supportive friend will debate the merits of your considerations and offer pragmatic opinions. A naysayer, on the other hand, will immediately question the wisdom of your ideas and find nothing but negative consequences. We must beware the naysayer because they will fill us with negative energy and prevent the empowerment we find when taking control of our own lives. Sadly, the naysayer is more devastating when it is someone we love or hold in close esteem because we inherently trust their opinions, sometimes more than our own. My advice is just say no to the naysayer and break away to find freedom in your own successful pursuit of opportunities.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


Opportunities (4/28/2012) Opportunities confront all of us each day but too often the door is closed without ever stepping forward to take a chance. Writing this column my inspiration comes from concern for those I watch missing chances to take advantage of new paths in life. After many observations I have concluded there are two distinct reasons people reject opportunity: fear and inaction. President Roosevelt said, the “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and nothing sums up the reason opportunities are rejected than his infamous saying. When faced with a new challenge many people will create unfounded fears that prevent them from considering a change. For example, an elderly person may reject a free airline ticket to see her grandchildren for fear of dealing with unknown airports, but yet millions of travelers face that fear every travel day. Similarly, overcoming unemployment may be impossible for the fear of moving from established roots, but yet thousands migrate to locales like North Dakota and Nevada to save their families. Second to fear is inaction and is best exemplified by Einstein’s famous quote, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I assert inaction is far easier than action. Thus, when faced with opportunity the effort to take action will succumb to the ease of inaction and the door to opportunity will close. By example a high school student may pass on a college application or a standard test due to the effort required and her laziness is then rewarded by the status quo. Likewise, a job opportunity may be passed because leaving a spouse in a current job is easier than searching for a new job when total income could increase. Often it is easy to observe the opportunities friends and family miss, but impossible to realize when the same occurs personally. Daily I believe each of us are presented opportunities, some consequential and most trivial. The critical trait is to recognize when opportunity knocks and to, at a minimum, give consideration. Understanding fear and inaction as the obstacles to grasping opportunities helps right a course in our lives from status quo to prosperity and adventure. My challenge to you this week is to assess every choice as a new opportunity and to understand how fear and inaction could contribute to saying no. Alternatively this week consider how facing fear and taking action could open doors normally closed. “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” – Sun Tzu.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Generational Reach

Generational Reach (3/21/2012) Have you ever considered your legacy or the legacy of your family who came before you? The immediate touch to our children and grandchildren is obvious, but have you considered the stories your grandchildren will tell their grandchildren about you? In their book, The Fourth Turning, authors William Strauss ad Neal Howe propose the theory of generational reach. They describe this as memory span; the distance between the lives that touched you connected to the lives you will touch. Since reading about this concept I have considered thoughtfully who I am based on memories of my grandfather and how my grandchildren will remember me. When technology is factored into the concept an awareness of complexity becomes more apparent. To calculate your generational reach, think of the oldest person who influenced your life and their birthday. For me, it is my paternal grandfather, born 1899. Next, we must identify the youngest person you will touch. Most likely this will be a grandchild; if unborn today assume your youngest child will bear your grandchild at age 35 year and your unborn grandson will live to be 85 years old. For me, my son Ty will be 35 in 2047 and his son or daughter, my future grandchild, will live 85 years to 2125. Thus, my reach is (2125-1899) 226 years. I believe generational reach helps understand the differences in views toward politics, values, and everyday culture. Immigrants carry fresh in their mind the struggles to come to America and place value on family, hard work, and maintain their roots. Many families have been in American since the late 19th century or early 20th century, thus generational reach to a different time is a fresh memory, easily reached through one or two generations. In contrast, families with roots dating back to the late 18th century and early 19th century have lost touch with the fight to escape persecution and enjoy the fruits of others thrust upon them by an entitlement society. I believe generational reach slows progressive policies and grounds values in time. Shifts in culture acceptance of previously questionable behaviors are slowed. However, generational reach may also create rebellion as youth work to prove elders wrong and undo values established for conservative reasons. Take, for example, the late 1960’s when the hippie-youth counter-culture rebelled against the establishment of the day. Arguments were made regarding the disconnect between youthful opinion over the Vietnam War versus politicians sending other people’s sons to Southeast Asia. Today, similar disconnects are evolving as the Millennials protest , through the Occupy movements, decisions of an elder-political class intent on enslaving future generations through an unpayable debt. The generational reach today comes from the millennials whose grandparents tell stories of the thievery of banks in then 1930s and see similarities to today’s big banks. These same millennials will tell their grandchildren about the great recession and the lost decades of economic prosperity and how their future was stolen like their great-grandparents. They will touch forever lives extending forward another century in the history of America.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

When are Races Won?

When are Races Won? (3/14/2012) Last summer I wrote a column titled, “The Media Elects Presidents;” a now prophetic article regarding the influence of corporate media on the nominations. Since the spring of 2011 the Republican nomination process has been underway although it did not officially start until the first Tuesday in January of this year. However, long ago it appeared a decision was made anointing Mitt Romney as the heir to the Republican nomination. My goal here is not to offer an opinion on the qualifications of the candidates, but instead want to analyze the process. Watching the recent Russian elections many media outlets around the world reported possible election fraud and manipulation. I believe Americans have always believed our elections were above such accusations and not subject to manipulation or theft. However, many seem to acknowledge questionable tactics in municipal elections like Chicago’s mayoral races, either like the Daly’s in the past or the most recent residency issues of Emmanuel. Similarly, the Bush and Gore vote division propelled true questions of integrity in our own system to the forefront of our attention. As of this week, there are only four candidates in the race: Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul. Of the bound delegates, according to the GOP web site, Romney leads with 339, Gingrich is second with 107, and Santorum is third with 95 delegates. Paul is clearly trailing in fourth place with 22 awarded delegates. Throughout the nomination race I have been puzzled by reporting from major media outlets like the case where Santorum won the Iowa Caucus, not Romney, even though the media was quick to report differently. Although Romney holds a sizable lead over his next closest competitor, only one-third of the total delegates have been awarded. Watching the process last summer and fall demonstrated a candidate’s demise could arrive without much warning. Regardless, since my original column eight months ago Romney has been the declared winner. I feel the problem with the constant polling and predictions of who will win is the voter apathy created. First instance, if Romney is the winner – as declared by the media before the race started, then why bother voting? When a voter believes his vote no longer matters he chooses to not participate in the process and ultimately fulfills the hypothesis that his vote no longer matters. If results were held back, speculation by the media held back, and no forecasts were made I assert the voters would remain more objective in the process and choose the candidate they feel best qualified for the job.