Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

This is the time of year when you should look back at what you accomplished (or didn't accomplish) this past year and set goals for the coming year. 

Here are the 8 categories that I believe every person must work on for a balanced and happy life. Get out a piece of paper and pencil and take a moment to reflect and plan for the future.

1. Family & Friends 
  • Were your friends and family there for you this year? 
  • Did you make new friends this year?
  • Did you drift apart from some friends and family this year? 
  • How are you planning on working on these relationships in the coming year?

2. Religion & Faith
  • How was your faith tested or changed this year?
  • How did religion or faith factor into your life this past year?
  • How will religion or faith factor into your life in the coming year?

3. Work
  • What did you accomplish at your job this past year?
  • Were you happy at your job this past year?
  • Where do you want your career to be a year from now?

4. Health
  • How was your diet and health this year?
  • What diet and health changes do you need to make for next year?

5. Hobbies
  • What new hobbies did you learn this year?
  • What new hobbies do you want to lean this next year?

6. Education
  • What new skills or knowledge did you acquire this year?
  • What classes, books, shows, and topics do you plan on immersing yourself in next year?

7. Travel
  • What new places did you visit this year?
  • Where are you planning on travelling next year? (Outline a savings plan to pay for the trip now.)

8. Comfort
  • When were you pushed out of your comfort zone this year? Was is a good thing?
  • What material possessions did you buy this year? Did they bring you happiness?
  • What do you want to buy next year? 

If you had a bad year this past year, my condolences. Everyone has a bad year eventually. Take this time to realize why it was a bad year so that hopefully next year can be a prosperous and happy one. 

A bad year is usually a result of these four things:
  1. Bad Luck - For reasons beyond a person's control things went wrong. A natural disaster, sickness, injury, and death are a few examples. There's not much a person can do in these cases except keep their head up and work on improving everything in their life they do have control over. Good times will eventually come.
  2. Bad Time Management - Time is a person's most valuable asset. Squandering it away on frivolousness insures that a person will never truly prosper.   
  3. Lack of Direction - Without a plan or goal in life a person is simply waiting on fate or good luck. People should always have a plan of action in place to accomplish their goals. Otherwise you'll disappointingly drift through life.
  4. Chaos - Negative situations such as destructive family members, abusive spouses, and argumentative friends make positive movement in life impossible. Anyone in these situations should do whatever it takes to break free so that they can have a chance at happiness and success.
As always I wish you success, prosperity, and happiness in the new year!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Axiom 15: The Harvard Advantage

Harvard is America's oldest university and boasts one of the most impressive lists of successful graduates in the country. First I'll explain why Harvard graduates are so successful and then I'll show you how you can take advantage of their resources.

Why are Harvard graduates so successful?

Undoubtedly part of their success is a bi-product of strict admissions standards, exorbitant tuition costs, and a network of wealthy aristocrats at their disposal. However these things will only help Harvard graduates get their foot in the door somewhere, it won't necessarily make them successful at what they do. I believe the real value of a Harvard degree lies within the actual education students receive.  

Harvard's MBA program is the best example of how exceptional the school's educational process is. It is heavily centered on case study. Emphasis is placed on problem-solving instead of memorizing dates and statistics. Case study allows students to examine real world problems to see what went wrong and what went right. After working through hundreds of these case studies students are prepared to go out into the business world and deal with pretty much any potential problem that can come up.

This concept in connected to the 10,000 hour rule I wrote about in Axiom 11. Once students have acquired 10,000 of studying real world business problems in school they are to well equipped to deal with real-world problems when they graduate. They have already worked through similar situations in school and are familiar with all of the possible outcomes.

The Harvard difference can be best illustrated by the following quote:

I walk down the street. 
There is a hole. 
I don't see it. 
I fall in. 
It isn't my fault. 
It takes a very long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is still a deep hole.
I pretend not to see it.
I fall in.
I pretend it's still not my fault.
It takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street. 
There is still the same deep hole.
I see it.
I fall in anyway.
It's a habit.
I get out quicker this time.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole.
I see it.
I walk around it.
I don't fall in.

I walk down a different street. 

-Portia Nelson

If the quote above was an actual business situation the Harvard graduate would already be familiar with all of the possible outcomes based on research. A mainstream college graduate might actually work through the scenario blindly as it reads and make mistakes until the correct solution is found. Hence the phrase, "Smart people learn from their mistakes. Geniuses learn from the mistakes of others".

 How can you use the Harvard advantage?
  • The Free Method - Learn about your field of interest through a case study approach using the resources readily available to you. This could be talking with industry experts, watching documentaries on television, researching on the Internet, etc. Study about the history of your field and focus on how companies and individuals reacted to problems. Keep in mind that case studies are timeless. So a business failure is just as relevant in 2011 as it was in 1811. 
  • The Inexpensive Method - Check out the resources available at the Harvard Business Review website. They offer books, a magazine, blogs, courses, and other materials that can offer you a more structured way to study cases in your field of interest.  
  • The Expensive Method - Get a professional certificate online from Harvard's Extension School. Many people don't know that they can get a professional certificate from Harvard by simply taking five classes online within three years. The best part is that registration is open to the general public without any requirements for admission. They currently offer five fields of study: Nanotechnology, Strategic Management, Religious Studies, Sustainability, and Web Technology. Imagine how much more your résumé would stand out with a Harvard certification on it! 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Who's Got the Best Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago? Pizzeria UNO, Gino's East, Lou Malnati's, or Giordano's?

On my last trip to Chicago I decided to try to find out who had the city's best deep dish pizza. I became inspired to take on this challenge after watching a rundown on Chicago pizza on the Travel Channel. I decided to hit up the same restaurants as the Travel Channel reviewed: Pizzeria UNO, Lou Malnati's, Gino's East, and Giordano's. The only difference is that in my rundown there are going to be some winners and losers.

So here's how the story went...

I arrived in Chicagoland for a short three day trip. I knew I couldn't eat at all four pizzerias in such a short stay, but luckily I could get a couple of these wonderful pies delivered right to my hotel room. First on the list was Giordano's:


My first night in town I ordered pizza delivered to my hotel from Giordano'sI was pretty excited about this pizza since it was going to be my first deep dish of the trip. The thing about Giordano's is that their pizza comes with a slight twist. It is a stuffed crust pizza with a whole layer of cheese on the bottom. I wasn't sure if this extra layer of cheese was going to make it better or worse than the other pizzas, but I went ahead and ordered a small pepperoni and sausage stuffed pizza to give it a try. 

One hour later this work of art show up at my hotel room:

(Side note: These pizzas take a long time to cook so one hour delivery is the norm.)

I ate as much as I could, which wasn't a whole lot. This is a very filling pizza. Everything was good, the cheese, the sauce, the bread, everything. And while everything tasted good, it wasn't great or phenomenal. I wanted a deep dish pizza that was going to make me say, "Holy Crap! This is amazing!" This was not that pizza.

My other complaint was the stuffed crust. Yeah I know its what they are known for but here's my problem: It makes the pizza feel unbalanced. There's too much cheese and it just makes the pizza too rich to enjoy. Overall though I thought it was a good, but not great, pizza.

Pizzeria UNO

The next day for lunch I was off to Pizzeria UNO. This is like the deep dish pizza mecca. This is the place that deep dish pizza got started way back in 1943. Eating here is like being a part of history. However, just because they were the first deep dish pizza place didn't mean they were still going to be the best deep dish pizza.

I ordered the individual pepperoni lunch special, which I just want to add comes with a soup and a drink for less than $12 - how great is that!

I can't even begin to explain how great the crust was! Out of all the pizza on this adventure UNO's crust was by far the best. (A little side note: The water from Lake Michigan is rich in minerals making it great water for bread making. This is why the deep dish pizzas here in Chicago are better than anywhere else in the country.)

Overall the sauce, cheese, bread, pepperoni - they all blended so well together. My only complaint, and it really is a minor one, was that I wish the sauce was a bit saltier and more flavorful. However, as good as this pizza was I still felt something was lacking.

Gino's East

The next day for lunch I went to Gino's East. The build up to this meal was monumental. I had heard a stranger raving about it to her friends at the mall a day earlier. As soon as we walked in you could see thousands of names marked on the walls from all the satisfied pizza eaters that had been there before.

Even as soon as we sat down a group of girls at the table next to me had just finished eating and was having the waiter take their picture. These were all good signs.

I ordered a half sausage, half pepperoni pizza. One hour and a couple beers later this magnificent pizza was presented to me:

This was one incredible tasting pizza. It was salty, flavorful, well-balanced. It was everything I could want in a pizza. The only downside to this pizza was that UNO's still had them beat on crust. Other than that little complaint this pizza is the best in Chicagoland, hands down.

I finished and walked back out onto the street. A girl was walking by and pointed at Gino's. "Is this a good place for pizza?", she said. I busted out laughing. Gino's is better than good, Gino's is phenomenal. I could have been hit by a car after that meal and died a happy man.

Lou Malnati's

It was my last night in Chicago, and I had one more deep dish pizza left to eat. Lou Malnati's was calling my name, and I was hoping that maybe this last pizza might just be better than all the rest.

I ordered an individual pepperoni with their famous deep dish buttercrust. I started to eat with the best intentions, but I was disappointed. This was a very average pizza. The ingredients seemed to conflict with each other. There were very unbalanced flavors in this pizza. So unfortunately the last night of my deep dish pizza adventure in Chicago ended with disappointment.

My Overall Ratings:

So if you are looking for an overall great pizza experience in Chicago I definitely recommend going to both Pizzeria UNO and Gino's East. I actually think Pizzeria UNO is the best if you take into account the ambiance, side dishes, and service. (I can't speak for Giordano's or Lou Malnati's since I didn't eat at their restaurant.)

Based on pizza taste only Gino's East was my favorite, closely followed by Pizzeria UNO. Third place was Giordano's followed lastly by Lou Malnati's.

Contact Info:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Axiom 14: A Guide to Higher Education

"The purpose of primary education is the development of your weak characteristics; the purpose of university education, the development of your strong."  -Nevin Fenneman

"Never let formal education get in the way of your learning." -Mark Twain

"It is not so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need a college. He can learn them from books. The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks." -Albert Einstein

When my father graduated from college in 1974 only 11% of the people in the U.S. had a college degree. He told me how employers were lined up on campus at the job fairs ready to hire new grads with actual good paying jobs. Times were good then, and I was always brought up that getting a college degree would put me on easy street.

Now let's fast forward to 2003 when I completed my undergraduate degree. The job fairs were an absolute joke, and my fellow classmates were pursuing teaching jobs after failing to find anything in the private sector. I sent out 50 résumés only to receive one internship offer. I was starting to question if the whole college thing was overrated.

On the surface the value of an actual bachelor's degree in society has gone down in value. New online universities and government loans have made it accessible for almost anyone that wants to go college to be able to do so. Couple this with an emphasis of pushing a college education over trade schools and we now have record university enrollment nationwide. Now there are about 30% of people in the U.S. with a college degree. Can someone say education bubble?

More people with college degrees means more competition for the same jobs. It means companies can pay less for better talent. It means with over 9% unemployment nationwide that if you are just graduating college there are probably people way more qualified than you fighting for the same job. It means you'll have to work harder and try some less traditional methods for that piece of the American dream.

A college degree has gone from being a prized asset in itself to a simple general admission ticket to the business world that doesn't always work. You'll have to find other ways to use college to increase your perceived value in the business world.

Here are a few suggestions:
  • The value of your degree is inherently tied to the reputation of the university you attend as well as what you study. Choose your school wisely. An online-only university may have a very low value even if the education is of a very high quality. Compare this perceived value with some of the Ivy league school and the differences will be obvious. Choose the best combination of degree plan and college. A theater arts degree from Harvard is just as useless as MBA from a no-name online university.
  • Use degree scarcity to your advantage. The harder a degree is to obtain the less competition you'll have finding a job and the more money you'll make.
  • An easier degree is not necessarily easier. Degrees that are easier to get (like Liberal Arts) have less value and higher competition in the business world. That being said you don't have to force yourself to try to get a science degree if you are an artist at heart. Just understand you may have to rely on your skills rather than your diploma to find a job once you graduate. 
  • Use Hyperspecialization. Use a unique combination of multiple areas of study to make yourself more valuable and create a sub-category that you can be the best in. So, for example, instead of marketing yourself as a general business major market yourself as an international business major that is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. 
  • Go for the skills, stay for the diploma. The diploma will eventually help you get past that glass ceiling in the business world, but the skills you'll learn could inevitably prove to be much more useful. For people that want to learn certain skills but lack the structure and self-discipline to learn on their own college is the perfect place.
  • Don't break the bank. Every dollar you take out in student loans has to be paid back. You can't wipe away student loans even in bankruptcy. A good rule of thumb is to not take out more in loans than your expected average yearly salary in your field of study.
  • Go one step further with your education. A master's degree is quickly become the new bachelor's degree. I'm seeing more and more job ads that put a strong emphasis on hiring people with graduate degrees. If you can afford to go to school longer consider getting your master's degree. You'll go from a pool of 30% of people with bachelor's degrees to a pool of 8% of people with master's degrees.
  • Use the informal job market. If you feel that a college degree won't open any opportunities for you consider using your relationships to search for a job in the informal job market. There is a great article about that here.
  • Don't use college as a crutch. College is a great choice if you are young and you're not sure what you want to do in life. It can expose you to different ideas in a structured environment that most young people need to learn. However, I will say that college isn't the best choice for everyone, nor is it guaranteed that you will find your true calling simply by going. If you already know what you want from life, and you have the motivation to acquire the skills outside of college and become successful, it doesn't make sense to invest the time or money in a college degree.    

You should go to college if:
  • You want to pursue a career in science, mathematics, accounting, medicine, law, engineering, or architecture.
  • You are young and smart but lack the self-discipline to teach yourself outside of a classroom environment.
  • You can attend for little or no debt incurred, or you are going into a field with proven earnings potential that will allow you to pay back any loans in a timely manner.
  • The university is the most accessible place for you to learn a particular skill, and they can offer resources unavailable anywhere else.
  • Going will allow you to move to a particular city of interest, get a fresh start in life, escape from a bad situation at home, or leave behind friends that are a bad influence.
  • You're not sure what to do in life and want to be exposed to many areas of study.
  • You want the personal satisfaction of having a college diploma and the time and money invested are not an issue to you.
  • You will be able to network with people of interest.   

College may not be right for you if:
  • You want a diploma in liberal arts, business, marketing, advertising, communications, English, theater, music, history, or foreign language.
  • You're older than 25 and you are using college solely to escape the real world so you don't have to find a full-time job.
  • You really don't want to go, but someone else is forcing you to.
  • You're going simply to get a diploma under the false pretext that you'll be rich when you graduate.
  • You'll take on massive personal debt to get educated in a field with low average earnings potential.
  • You are highly ambitious, self-disciplined, and have the resources to educate yourself and become successful on your own.
  • You are a wild child and are going mainly for the parties.
  • You want to go into a field that would be better suited (and cheaper) to study at a trade school.
  • You are already very successful in your career and see a college degree as a security blanket. (Your current skills are probably more valuable than a college degree.)
  • You have a better opportunities available to you such as the chance to study under a master of the field you are interested in, or travel the world.

In the next Axiom I will cover how to use the Harvard approach to learning, and also give you some ideas on adding some killer things to your résumé.

Useful Links

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Little Something You Won't Learn From Your Stockbroker

There's an interesting little phenomenon out there in the stock market you've probably never heard of known as the Halloween Indicator.

The theory is that from May 1st until October 31st the stock market generally goes down and from November 1st to April 30th the market goes up. While I've yet to read any convincing causes for the reason behind why this happens, a historical examination of the Dow seems to prove this hypothesis right.

If you took $10,000 in 1950 and invested in the NYSE index only on May 1st and sold on October 31st every year until 2009 you would have taken a loss of $424. On the other hand, if you did the opposite and invested on November 1st and sold on April 30th you would have a generated a return of $534,348 during that same 59 year period. 

November 1st has just passed and again the trend held true this year. If you had bought the market index on November 1, 2010 (DJI - 11,024.62) and sold on May 1, 2011 (DJI -12,807.36) you would have seen a gain of 13.9%. Likewise from May 1, 2011 (DJI - 12,807.36) to October 31, 2011 (DJI - 11,955.01) the market fell 6.6%.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fried Food Adventure at the State Fair of Texas

Even though it is close to where I live I had never been to the State Fair of Texas until this year. I have always wanted to go and try the different fried foods. So I finally made it out there this year and I was not disappointed. Here were the fried food highlights of 2011:

Fried Salsa - (My Rating: 8.0 out of 10)

This was a surprisingly good concoction that I could easily see on any Mexican fast-food menu. It is made with crushed tortilla chips and served with queso. The salsa flavor was not overpowering or hot. This was my personal favorite at the the fair this year.

Funnel Cake Fries - (My Rating: 7.5 out of 10)

There's not much to explain here. Simply funnel cake in fry form. These were crispy and sweet and really hit the spot.

Fried Beer - (My Rating: 1.0 out of 10)

Absolutely awful! These are breaded pockets filled with warm beer. They are served with a side of queso. If you want the same effect at home take a warm beer and dip bread into it. Yuck!

Fried Bubblegum - (My Rating: 4.5 out of 10)

I was looking forward to this fried item the most, but I was really disappointed. These are fried bubblegum flavored marshmallows served with cake icing and Chiclets. I think they are worth trying because they are so unique, but this isn't something that you'll be craving once you've had it. 

Fletcher's Corny Dog - (My Rating: 7.0 out of 10)

Everyone told me, "You must try the corndogs at the fair!" So I made it a point to seek out the Fletcher's Corny Dog booth. Fletcher's invented the corn dog in the 1940s, so I was excited to have a taste. I have to say I was a little disappointed though. The hot dog part was very smokey and flavorful, but the cornmeal was pretty tasteless. I was also expecting it to be crispy, but instead it was soft. Overall I thought it was a pretty average tasting corn dog. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Axiom 13: Jack of All Trades, Master of None

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
-Robert Heinlein 
"There are three classes of people: Those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see." -Leonaro da Vinci

I've had a lot of hobbies over the course of my life. Now I could sit here and list some of them, but let's just say I've dabbled in enough topics that I'm sure we share some interests in common. I didn't really set out to be this way. It just seems to be the bi-product of the fact I get bored too easily. I'll usually discover some new subject, get a white hot passion for it for a few weeks or months, and then become totally bored with it and move onto something else.

I think this has really worked my advantage in life. It has opened the world up to me and allowed me to connect with more people. Chances are I can walk up to someone whether they are a trash collector or a CEO and relate to them.

Stop and think for a moment about the people you normally talk to each day. What do you talk to them about? Can you only talk to Bob about baseball? Is the only thing on Jane's mind politics? Is Jim a wealth of knowledge on multiple subjects? What do you know that people talk to you about?

When I meet someone new I always poke around the surface for clues about what they are interested in. This especially works well in a business environment when I go to someone's office. I scan for college degree's, pictures, trophies, and any other personal tidbits I can spot. The more obscure the subject I can connect with someone about the stronger the connection I can build with that person. 

Here's another example: In my office I have a clock with the Yuengling Lager logo on it. It is my favorite beer but unfortunately is not sold anywhere here in Texas. That means the people around here really don't have a clue what Yuengling is unless they are either from the East Coast or are knowledgeable about beer. So time after time I've gotten responses like, "I love that beer back home", or "I wish they sold that beer here". It has been a great conversation starter and consistently gives me something more interesting to connect with people on beside the weather or sports. 

From now on make a conscious effort to pursue at least one new hobby every month. It will add to your skill set, allow you to connect with more people, make you more well rounded, open new opportunities, and mature you in a way like no other.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review of Jeff's Egg Cream Sodas

So what the hell is an egg cream soda? I wasn't sure myself until I stumbled onto Jeff's Egg Cream Soda website. Apparently its a mixture of syrup, milk, and soda water. Egg cream sodas are popular up in the New York area where they are normally made and served in delis. They're not typically bottled so no one has really seen or heard of them in a large part of the country.

I was intrigued enough to order Jeff's Rainbow Pack, which includes a six-pack of all four flavors: Jeff's Chocolate Soda, Jeff's Diet Chocolate Soda, Jeff's Vanilla Dream Soda, and Jeff's Orange Dream Soda. You'll probably never see these for sell in any stores so you'll have to order them online if you want to try them for yourself. Shipping soft drinks is quite expensive so expect to pay at least $50 for the experience.

It took about 10 days for me to receive my order in the mail. I was almost doubting if they were going to ship them or not because I never received a tracking number or shipping confirmation. However, finally they did arrive at my doorstep and the anticipation was killing me.

So here's what I though about Jeff's Egg Cream Sodas: 

Jeff's Chocolate Soda - (My Rating: 8.5 out of 10)

The chocolate soda is the flagship of Jeff's sodas. I thought the taste was actually quite good and very unique. I've never had another drink that tasted anything like it. I can see this being a very acquired taste so there will be a lot of people out there who will not like it. However I enjoyed it so much I could easily drink two or three of these in one sitting. It tastes sort of like a mix of Coca Cola and chocolate syrup or chocolate milk. I know that description doesn't make it sound very appealing, but I really liked the flavor.

Jeff's Diet Chocolate Soda - (My Rating: 4.0 out of 10)

I don't enjoy drinking any diet sodas and this was not an exception. It tasted like a cross between flat Diet Coke and chocolate syrup. The chocolate flavor was good, but the soda flavor was not very good. I wasn't able to finish it, but if you like diet sodas (and egg cream sodas) then maybe you'll think otherwise.

Jeff's Vanilla Dream Soda - (My Rating: 5.0 out of 10)

It looked like milk which I thought was a little strange. The taste was like carbonated sweet milk, or carbonated Carnation Instant Breakfast. It tasted okay, but this will definitely be an acquired taste for those that really enjoy this. For me I thought it was a little too strange, so I wouldn't probably order this one again.

Jeff's Orange Dream Soda - (My Rating: 6.5 out of 10)

I have drank a lot of orange cream sodas in my life and this one tastes more like a dreamsicle ice cream than any other one I've ever had. I think why this one works so well is because it has more of a cream flavor rather than a citric soda flavor. The more I drank the better and better it tasted. If you like orange cream sodas this one is worth a look.

Overall Recommendation

If you want a unique experience give these sodas a try. I would recommend trying the chocolate soda and the orange dream soda first. Then you can try the diet chocolate soda and the vanilla dream soda if you are feeling more adventurous. Just realize that these are going to be unlike any other sodas you've had before so YMMV.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Axiom 12: You Can Take on Any Company and Win

"If a company's own research does not make its product obsolete, another's will." 
-Theodore Levitt

"There is no growth industry, only growth opportunities." -Theodore Levitt

"The investor of today does not profit from yesterday's growth." -Warren Buffett

When people trash talk big business it is usually because they believe it oppresses the little people. The belief that somehow an average person can never become successful because big business will stomp them out. I don't believe the situation is as hopeless for the little guy as some people make it out to be, and I believe that everyone has a chance to build an empire.

In 1960 Theodore Levitt wrote a paper called Marketing Myopia. The article is about why big businesses fail. Levitt wrote that the problem is a combination of focusing on the product over the customer and then seeing that product as an infinite growth industry.

The case Levitt uses for an example is the railroad industry. For the first half of the 20th century travelling by train was the only way for people to travel long distances comfortably. The problem was that the railroad companies only saw their business in terms of trains (the product) when they should have seen it in terms of transporting people (the customer). So while the railroad companies focused on improving rail travel the airline industry came along and decimated them by fulfilling the customer's travel need with a better product. 

Understand that customers have needs and there are always new and better ways to fill those needs. Entrepreneurs have taken down the biggest companies time after time because they understood this concept. Likewise, huge corporations like IBM, Apple, Amazon, and Netflix have stayed relevant and successful by changing their product and service offerings to match their customer's needs. 

Levitt's writing teaches us that its not as easy being on the top in business as some people think, and that everyone has a shot at overtaking their competition if they focus on the correct things.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Axiom 11: 10,000 Hours to the Job of Your Dreams

"There is no substitute for hard work." -Thomas Edison

"The daily grind of hard work gets a person polished" -Unkown

There is a book that was published in 2008 called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell. In the book Gladwell examines an earlier study by Anders Ericsson known as The 10,000 Hour Rule.

The 10,000 hour rule states that people who have become extremely successful in what they do all share one thing in common: 10,000 hours or more of experience in their craft. It is practice, not luck, that distinguishes the best and brightest. (I should also point out that 10,000 hours doesn't guarantee greatness either, it just give you a shot at it.) 

Why the number 10,000? Because that's about how long it takes a person to not only hone their skills but to also work through all possible scenarios and problems. By the time a person reaches 10,000 hours of experience there are very few problems that can occur that they haven't worked through before.

This news may be a depressing realization that your dreams are a little further away than you might have thought. That's why I'm here to help with some suggestions.

Here's how to use the 10,000 hour rule to your advantage:
  • Write a summary of all of the skills, hobbies, and experiences you already have. Dig deeper than just job titles you've had. If you were a car salesman, for example, you have experience in negotiations, contracts, etc. You may be able to parlay those skills into other things. You may be closer to 10,000 hours than you think.
  • Take up a hobby. 20 hours a week will be 10,000 hours in 10 years. Not a huge commitment if you are having fun in the process.
  • If you have worked full time for 5 years you already have 10,000 hours of experience in something. What is it?

Sadly there are no shortcuts when it comes to hard work. I've seen many dreamers give up after exerting minimal effort with no results. Great success comes only after hard work. Rome was not built in a day and neither will your dreams.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th - 10 Years Later

Wow, has it really been 10 years? It seems like just yesterday...

It was a Tuesday morning. I was going to the University of Texas at Arlington at the time. I had just turned 21 a few months prior, and a week before I did my last college radio show. Looking back it seemed like such an innocent time before 9/11.

I had a class from 8am until 9:20 that morning. I was a public relations major and was taking a PR class that day. The class went by just as normal as any other day and no one knew that anything bad was going on.

Class let out and I walked downstairs through the lobby of the communications building. There was a group of 15 people or so gathered around a television that had been wheeled out into the hallway. I could see the smoke coming from the World Trade Center on the TV but I didn't realize what was going on. I thought just a small commuter jet had strayed off course and crashed.

When I had reached my next class someone told me the whole story. My class was in a computer lab so I tried to go to online to see what was happening, but the Internet was jammed with all of the traffic.The campus was closed at 11am and I rushed straight home. I spent the rest of the week glued to the television trying to make sense of what had happened.

Even though it was 10 years ago I'm sure it was a day that you remember vividly. Think about how fast time has gone by since then. I can remember my life on that day so well that sometimes I use it to gauge my personal progress. 

Life is short. Life is fragile. Take this little reminder to set goals for yourself and put a plan into action before it is too late. No matter how rich you are you can never buy more time. Integrate a timetable into your list of goals. If you want to take a certain trip overseas, set a date. If you want to start a business, set a date. Don't let another year slip away into obscurity. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Best Meal of My Life Revisited After 6 Years

Back in 2005 I was hardly what you would consider a foodie. However, I was heading out to LA on a trip and wanted to eat at least one really good meal. After doing some research on the Internet Spago in Beverly Hills came up as not only one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles but one of the best in the country. So I made reservations for what would become the best meal I had ever eaten in my life.

I still remember how everything tasted to this day. The first course was an organic vegetable soup, followed by grilled prime ribeye steak for the main course. The dessert was some sort strawberry and ice cream concoction that was phenomenal. 

Wolfgang Puck came over and asked how everything tasted.

"This is the best soup I have ever eaten", I told him.

"You're still young. You still have many great meals left to eat", He told me.

And so a few years had past. I had since traveled many more places and eaten many great meals just like Wolfgang Puck said I would. However, that meal at Spago still held the top spot in my memory.  

Then a funny thing happened. I started to question if I ate there again if the meal would be as good as I remembered. I knew some people that recently ate at Spago in Las Vegas and they didn't seem to rave about it like I was expecting. So I decided as soon as I returned to LA again I would go back to Spago and try to order the exact same meal and see if it was just as good.

So last week I made the return trip to Spago. Wolfgang Puck was there again making the rounds the same as six years ago. I looked at the menu and saw the vegetable soup was not on there this time, so I ordered the Chino Farms tomato soup for the first course.

I casually took a picture with my phone so as to not draw attention to myself. I was a little embarrassed taking pics of the food, and honestly these pictures can never do justice to how amazing this food actually is. 

Anyway, after the first spoonful I knew it was just as good as I had remembered the other soup being. Rich, smooth, pure... delicious. A cracker placed on top to balance the rich flavor of the soup. Absolutely magnificent!    

I was excited about the main course because they still had the grilled prime ribeye steak, the exact same main course I had ordered six years ago.

Buttery, rich, tender. The steak was so delicious that I can only pray that the food in heaven is half as good. It was just as wonderful as I had remembered. Even as I became full I just wanted to eat this dish forever. By this point I knew this meal was the best meal of my life.

So lastly, even as I was bursting at the seams, I had to have dessert. I ordered the melba, which consisted of raspberries, golden raspberries, Tahitian vanilla ice cream, and other various goodies. Wolfgang Puck himself delivered it to the table making it a perfect end to a magnificent meal. 

I didn't get a picture of the melba, which was a shame considering it was not only the highlight of the meal but probably the best food item I have ever consumed in my life.  

All in all Spago was just as good as I remembered, and it still remains the best place I have ever eaten. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Axiom 10: Kaizen

"Education is the progressive discovery of our own ignorance." -William Durant

"Study, study, study, study...." -Golden Boy

It irritates me when people act like know-it-alls. In life these are usually the people that know the least. The term kaizen is a japanese concept meaning, "continual improvement." It means that no matter how much you know or how good you are at what you do there is always room for improvement. The times when we feel like our level of improvement has leveled off are the times that we need to push ourselves the hardest. 

Here are a few ways to implement kaizen into your life if you are feeling stuck: 
  • Take on more responsibility - Whether at work or school, taking on more responsibility opens up new learning experiences. It may put you in a situation where you are working harder for the same amount of money, but you may learn new skills and your bosses will take notice of your hard work. The efforts of your extra labor will eventually payoff.
  • Find a new hobby - A new hobby allows you to learn a new skill and possibly meet new people. Every new hobby you acquire broadens your understanding of the world and opens up new opportunities.
  • Find a mentor - You can improve by learning from someone that is a master in their own field. It may be a living person or a deceased author. Once you go to the right source and ask the right questions you will find the answers you are looking for.
  • Push yourself outside of your comfort zone - If over a long period of time you fall into too much of a rhythm it becomes harder to continually improve. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone will help you overcome this. So for example if you are nervous about travelling force yourself on a road trip. Forcing yourself into uncharted territory emotionally will help you learn about the world and about yourself. It will also overwhelm you with intense emotions. Emotions that we sometimes lose when we get too much into a rhythym.  

Friday, August 12, 2011

Axiom 9: A Good Reputation is Better Than Money in the Bank

"The real measure of wealth is how much you'd be worth if you lost all your money.

"It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.
-Benjamin Franklin

Reputation is probably the single most important factor determining a person's success or failure. Look above at the quote above from Benjamin Franklin. What goes through your mind when you read it? To me, I read the quote and get to where I see Benjamin Franklin's name and its his reputation that solidifies my belief in what I read. His reputation was so great that if he wrote that the sky was pink I might believe it. That, my friends, is the power of reputation. 

For me it has always been better to be honest, hardworking, trustworthy, dependable, and let my handshake be as good as a contract. I know sometimes doing the right thing requires more effort, but unless you are one of the smartest people out there you will get caught if you try to pull a fast one.

Your reputation determines your power over other people. It takes a long time to build and can be lost in an instant. Always air on the side of caution when it comes to your reputation - it is your most prized asset in life.

So how do you build and maintain a good reputation?

Simple. Your reputation is made up of three distinct aspects: confidence, character, and experience. Working on these three aspects will help build your reputation. I will delve more into ways that you can work on these three aspects at a later date.

Until then I highly recommend reading The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. He has a great chapter on the power of reputation.