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.

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