Friday, March 25, 2011

And So It Begins...

Several years ago, a good friend of mine, Kathy, had a baby.  A few weeks went by, when I decided to visit her and see the new baby. 

When I got there, Kathy looked as though like she had not slept for several days.  The baby was crying loudly in his crib.  As an experienced father, I asked Kathy if I go upstairs to see what I could do to try and hush the crying.  She gladly agreed. 

"Anything to try and stop it", she tiredly exclaimed.

After some rocking and gentle bouncing, the baby's crying ceased and soon he was sleeping.  I put him back in crib and went back downstairs to visit with my friend. 

For the next 90 minutes, she went on and on about how hard this baby making thing was. 

There were months of swollen ankles, uncomfortable sleepless nights, and nausea followed by 16 hours of labor and childbirth, and now, more sleepless nights trying hard to soothe a newborn that has seemingly developed a bad case of gas and colic.

After some time, the baby woke from his nap and rekindled his crying efforts this time wanting food and most likely to be changed. 

As I let myself out, she headed upstairs to attend to the baby.  As I said good-bye, Kathy cried out, exasperated, "What was I thinking?...I'll NEVER do this again!"

It was a couple of years later when I next saw Kathy.  My kids and I ran into her and her now 3-year old son while on a visit to the local zoo.  She was very obviously pregnant once again. 

When I reminded her of her words of "Never Again", she sighed, "Well...I guess it really wasn't that bad". 

Eric (her husband) and I always wanted a bigger family and I'm not getting any younger".  

"Yes, it is a lot of work to have a child but the rewards that come to me are definitely worth the effort", she said with a smile.

We exchanged some pleasantries and went off to catch-up with our respective children who were growing impatient to visit the different animal exhibits.

My long-term memory reminded me of this incidence this past week as I sat in front of my computer.  I had just completed the registration form to once again ride in the Arthritis Foundation's California Coast Classic (CCC), a 525 mile, 8-day trek, from San Francisco to Los Angeles on a bicycle.

I had completed this exact same ride last October vowing to never attempt such a feat again. 

"One and Done".  "One time - an adventurer...two times - a fool".  "The definition of insanity is to do something over and over looking for different results"

These were my standard answers to people asking me if I was planning to ride again. 

Ugh!  What am I thinking?!!

One of the biggest obstacles I now face is that I have not, in any way, kept up my cycling since last October.  Whereas during the month prior to the ride, I was typically riding 150-250 miles per week, in the 6 months since, I have ridden a grand total of somewhere less than 100 miles.  I have become complacent with my health and have not maintained it the way that I should have.  I became lazy, resting upon my achievements of the past.

As I think about this, I look around at other areas of my life and wonder just how many other aspects of my life that I've taken for granted and not maintained well. 

Do I work as hard as I should to build my company on a daily basis or have I wasted opportunities? 

Do I continue to strive each day to foster better relationships with my friends and loved ones or do I take the people in my life for granted? 

Have I continued to build for an independent financial future or have I spent money needlessly on things I really don't need or want?  

Do I embrace new technologies and ideas or do I cling to the past because it's just too much work to change?

Have I continued with my education by reading and experiencing new things or do I waste precious time in front of the TV watching someone else's "reality".

The key ingredient to achievement is the need to create goals and then do the things necessary to reach the goals...and then even more important...upon reaching your goal, we need to set a NEW goal.

Too often we reach our goal (say to lose 20 pounds) and then forget about setting a new goal (like maintaining our new weight for a period of time).  Then often we regress back to where we started because we never moved the bar just a bit higher.

We worked hard at something...achieved our goal...and got complacent.

My goal last year was to get in shape by training to complete the CCC ride but once that goal was accomplished, I never set a new goal.  Now I need to start again from "square one".

That's the bad news...the good news is that It's never too late to begin again.  It just starts with an idea and a goal and a lot of hard work. 

Perhaps you can take some time these next few days to think about what areas or your life that could use some "goal-refreshing".

The rewards are definitely worth the effort.

So it begins...

Thank you very much for supporting OptiFuse, where we have enjoyed the victories of our past but are moving forward to a stronger future

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hard Choices

In Virgil's classic prose, The Aeneid, an account was told of a decade long siege of the city/state of Troy by the Greeks.  After this 10-year period, the Greek leader Ulysses devised a plan to construct a giant wooden horse.  The wooden horse was left at the gates of Troy as a parting gift while the defeated Greeks sailed back to Athens.

Seeing the fleeing ships, the Trojans brought the giant horse into their fortified city and placed it in the city's main square.  Unbeknown to the Trojans, Ulysses had placed 30 men inside the horse.  These 30 men emerged from the horse under the cover of darkness and systematically defeated the people of Troy.

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Fast-forward a few millennia to last weekend.  I received an e-mail from one of my college roommate and life-long friend, John.  John went on to explain that he had been contacted by a woman, Rachel, who he had briefly dated while in college.  John had not spoken to Rachel for almost 30 years but somehow she was able to locate him (ah...the wonders of the Internet).

Back in the early 80's, Rachel's adult life was just unfolding.  She was a local beauty queen, a cheerleader for the then San Diego Clippers professional basketball team, and enrolled at San Diego State University studying business administration.  She had an intelligent, good-looking, and financially secure boyfriend (John) who worshiped her.  She had many other close friends who supported her.  Life was good for Rachel.

Then one day she, she announced to John that she had met someone else.  She and her new love were moving from San Diego to Tennessee to be closer to his family.  It happened so suddenly.  John was heart-broken (well for a few weeks anyways...he was quite the "catch" and soon found himself back playing the field quickly forgetting about Rachel).  

That was the last anyone had heard from her in 30 years...until last week.

Out of the blue, Rachel called John to tell him how her life was now in tatters.  

She and the boy she ran off with ended up getting married and having two children.  She and her husband bought a home and were living a good life together.

Then, as she tells it, things changed.  Her husband began drinking a lot and was unfaithful to her so she left him and her children.  She moved in with another man who reportedly abused her, but continued to live with this man for almost ten years.  She was unable to hold a steady job due to the activities of her personal life.  Her ex-husband has poisoned her children so they no longer wanted anything to do with her. 

Rachel eventually moved in with her mother, who had also moved to Tennessee some years before.  However her mother recently kicked Rachel  out (for untold reasons) and got a restraining order against her own daughter.

Tearfully, Rachel called John in San Diego.  She told him that she needed to make a new start. She wanted a do-over.  She wanted to come back home to San Diego and tearfully begged him to help an old friend.

Since his college days, John has done fairly well for himself.  He has built a extremely successful business, has a loving family along with many friends, and helps participate in his community through his giving of time and money. 

As an entrepreneur in the financial sector, he has experience with people who misrepresent themselves to him and has grown a set of antennae to sift out the charlatans and conmen looking to separate him from his money.  Was Rachel just another in a long line of people looking for a hand-out or perhaps worse?  John, needlessly, was skepical.

After discussing the situation with his wife, he decided to cautiously help Rachel if she was truly intent on changing her life.  He agreed to purchase, on her behalf, a one-way ticket plane from Tennessee on two conditions:

1) She needed to find a place to stay. She could in a local women's shelter or with old friends but staying with him at his house was not an option.

2) She needed to prepare a resume and send it to him so he could circulate it among his personal friends and contacts.

A few days later, Rachel e-mailed her resume to John and told him that she had researched local shelters and had selected one for her to stay at while she got herself situated in San Diego.

John sent her resume to several friends asking that they could personally review it and to contact her if they could help with any sort of work. 

Last weekend, John called me personally and retold Rachel's story of woe.  I knew Rachel from way back in college (remember, I was John's roommate at the time).  He wanted to know if I would be able to help.  I explained that I didn't have any positions open but that I did have an extra room that she could stay in until she got herself situated.  John thanked me for my offer, but said that it would be best if waited a few days to see if Rachel was serious about taking control of her own life.  

The following Wednesday she flew from Tennessee to San Diego using a ticket that John and his wife purchased for her. Unfortunately, her plane was several hours late. John called me to ask if I could possibly meet her at the airport and bring her to the shelter.  I agreed.

I met Rachel at the airport.  The years have treated her well.  I took her to the shelter that she had researched and selected.  It wasn't the Hilton but it was fairly clean and somewhat safe.  As I began unloading her luggage, Rachel announced to me that there is no way she could stay at this shelter because it didn't meet her expectations.  The tears began to flow as if on a movie director's cue.

I reloaded her bags back into my car and asked her when her last meal was. We decided to share some Mexican food while we figured out what the next step was.  I decided at once that I didn't trust her enough to invite her to stay the night at my house, so instead I purchased a night at a local hotel and took her there after dinner.

After checking Rachel into the hotel, I called John to tell him of the events of that evening.

After a brief discussion, we both agreed that she had reneged on her side of the contract by not finding shelter.  We were both willing to help but she needed to make the effort to take control of her own life. 

The following morning, John met her at the hotel and explained to her that she had only two choices:  Go to the shelter or go home.  She selected the latter.

A giant horse was left at our gate.  It was a hard choice but we decided it was good idea to leave it there...

Sometimes it's the best thing to do...

Thank you very much for supporting OptiFuse, where sometimes the best answer is simply "no".

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Time To Let It Go

In our life we have the opportunity to make our own choices and create our own individual happiness (or misery) most of the time.  Unfortunately, choosing our parents and our family is not one of the choices we get to make.  This choice is made for us by someone else.

Unless we were raised by a pack of wolves in the forest, we were most likely all raised with some semblance of parents.  (The term "parents" may include such people as grandparents, aunts and uncles, foster parents, or some other adult supervision beyond the people who donated their DNA to beget you).  For many of us, it wasn't really "parents" in a plural sense but rather singlely, mom or dad. 

The point being, that none of us were born and left to fend for ourselves from day one.  We more than likely had some help along the way (even perhaps from a pack of wolves).

Some people were born into horrific situations where poverty, drugs, and physical and/or sexual abuse prevailed.  Others were born into a more stable home environment but needed to deal with more subtle childhood issues such as peer pressure, overbearing parents, academic demands and the stress accompanied by these demands, and anxiety derived from the fear of failure.

For most people, their childhood is a mixture of both good and bad memories.  Each one of us has had to overcome our own particular set of obstacles and hurdles incurred during the journey of "growing up".  The crosses that we each bear are individual and unique regardless of whether or not we shared the same household with 12 siblings or were an only child.

Overcoming these problems is what built our character and helped to define the person we are today.  We learned how to survive and cope from our unique environment and individual situations.  We learned about other people and took management skills away with us to our adult life.

My mom recently came to San Diego to visit me and my brothers.  I don't get to see her very often but spending time with her reminded me of the times we spent together as a family when growing up.  On the one hand, I recall that my early family life was an extremely challenging time for me and my siblings. But yet on the other hand, I consider myself very fortunate to have been placed in an environment where I could learn so many "life skills" early by overcoming adversity that I despised.  

Today, I find so many children who live in overly protected environments.  I often wonder whether or not they will develop the survival and management skills that will help them succeed later in life.  These kids may be "book smart" but are lacking in essential "street smarts".

Children are strongly influenced by their parents, family, friends, school teachers, athletic coaches, and of course their environment.  We consciously and unconsciously learn from the people and places that surround us.

During my recent visit with my mom, it occurred to me that she taught me a skill that I have been using for most of my life that has helped me to avoid stress and anxiety and helped me to live a richer and fuller life.

You see, mom has an incredibly short memory when it comes to transgressions and/or mistakes.  If you have done something to wrong her (not necessarily on purpose but in her eyes nonetheless), she tells you about the way she feels, will give you and opportunity to explain your actions, allows the problem to come to a resolution, and then she forgives you in the absolute.  She will never bring it up again in conversation...ever!

Although it sounds like a simple quality it is actually a more complex three-part process:

1) Confrontation.  When a perceived problem occurs, she will immediately talk directly to the individual who she believes wronged her, tells them exactly how she feels and why she feels this way.  Although she might consult the advice of others she knows that the problem is between her and the other person and will initiate a conversation with them.

Compare this approach to the person who feels they were wronged but harbors those bad feelings for days...weeks...months...years...or even decades.  The resentment and anger continues to build and build over time causing stress and anxiety in the person who was "wronged".

2) Explanation.  She allows the "offender" state their case exactly the way they believed it happened.

She doesn't interrupt but allows you to explain fully and actively listens along the way by asking questions and clarifying statements.  Many times the "offender" was completely unaware of their actions and the effect that it had upon another individual.  

3) Absolution.  All sins are typically forgiven - perhaps upon the promise of never repeating the mistake again.  The issue is forgotten forever, never to be brought up again.

Compare that to people who will continue to bring up the past as if history can somehow be changed.  The transgressions of the past will forever become potential ammunition for arguments in the future.  

True forgiveness is powerful...not only for the person you're forgiving but also for yourself...without'll continue to eat you up from the inside out and eventually destroy you from within...  

I try very hard to manage my personal and professional relationships using the same approach as mom taught me and it seems to work fairly well (although steps 1) and 3) are really hard sometimes).  I feel better by not harboring bad feelings...and my friends, colleagues and loved ones know exactly where they stand with me at all times.

Even if our childhood left us with some unfulfilled expectations and painful memories, we can choose to see the good rather than the bad.  It's our own decision.  We can choose the path of learning.  We can choose to forgive...'s time to let it go...

Thanks to mom for reminding me of this important life lesson and thank you for your continued support of OptiFuse, where we lern from our past to create a better future.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's Your Move

Chess is a board game of skill, played between two opponents.  It is one of the oldest parlor games known and was created about 1,500 years ago in India.  The game was then taken up by the Persians during their conquest of India in 600 A.D.  From there, the Persians taught the game to the Arabian Moors who introduced it to Europeans near the eighth century, during the Moors occupation of Spain.

A chess board consists of 64 alternating colored squares in an 8 x 8 grid.  There are 16 pieces per side consisting of 6 different types of pieces (King (1) , Queen (1) , Bishop (2), Knight (2), Rook or Castle (2), Pawn (8)).  Each piece can be moved to a new square by the player, with the piece's direction and total squares moved governed by the accepted rules.  Each player alternates turns, moving one piece at a time.

The ultimate objective of the game is to capture the opponent's King (checkmate).  This is typically predicated upon first capturing your opponents other board pieces, creating and defending your own strategic positions, and cutting off escape routes for the King.

The winning chess player typically anticipates their opponent's moves far in advance and creates a strategy to counteract any foreseeable situation.  They sometimes create strategies to intentionally lose a piece to their opponent to gain an advantage and ultimately win the game.  The best chess players are masters of responding and not reacting to situations placed before them.

The differentiation between reacting and responding is a subtle nuance but extremely important to winning chess.

A reaction is a voluntary or involuntary impulse to a certain stimulus.  When we react, we generally don't think...we do.  A reaction is immediate.  A reaction is emotional.  A reation doesn't take multiple alternatives into account but relies on an immediate and impulsive move.

In contrast, when we respond, we think first and then we do.  A response is deliberate.  A response is calculated.  A response is strategic.

Reacting is quick and easy...Responding takes time and thought and many times is very difficult.

Imagine that you've spent a lot of time trying to close sale.  You've spent countless hours to create and foster personal and professional relationships with the key decision makers at your customer.  You've painstakingly analyzed your customer's needs and crafted tailored solutions to satisfy those needs.  You've researched competitive alternatives and put together key elements to demonstrate maximum investment returns for your customer. 

After months of wrok, you're meeting with your customer to hopefully sign a long-term contract and they drop a bombshell on you. 

Your customer tells you that they've taken your ideas and given those ideas to your competitor, who in turn can provide that same solution for less cost.  Moreover, a 3-year contract has already been signed with the other supplier.  They feel horrible about doing this to you and apologize over and over but tell you that in the end that they needed to cost savings that the other supplier was willing to offer in order to stay competitive in their own market.

Now at that you react?...or do you respond?

If you decide to react...

...will you show anger toward the customer?
...will you use profanity?
...will you disparage your competitor or customer to others?
...will you threaten legal action?
...will you stop selling other items to your customer because they can't be trusted anymore?
...will you take out anger on your co-workers and/or subordinates?...


If you decide to respond...

...will you ask more questions about the terms of the deal to see if it a least part of it can be salvaged in some way?
...will you use their feelings of guilt to award you some other business (perhaps even more profitable business)?
...will you use the situation as a learning experience for yourself and your team?
...will you contact the competitor to see if they need anything from you to fulfill the contract (since the concept was yours to begin with, it's quite possible that they have no idea how to make it work and will need your consulting assistance - billable hours of course)?
...will you start working with your customer on their next generation project (this time perhaps with some contractual obligations on the front end of the work)?

It's hard not to react to adverse situations.  After all...we are all human and we all have emotions.

In the academy award winning movie, The Godfather (Part I), the Corleone brothers, together discussed ways to respond to an assassination attempt on their father.  The youngest brother, Michael tells the others that he would avenge their father by killing those responsible for the plot.  The oldest brother, Sonny, tells Michael that he's reacting and making this personal.  Michael responds to his brother by saying "It's not personal,'s strictly business".

Michael understood that this wasn't about was about making lemonade out of lemons...or in this case...dead men from live men...and in doing so, showing the other families that the Corleones were still in a position of strength with or without their father.

The next time something adverse happens to you...personally or porfessionally...will you do something without thinking and simply react?...or will you pause for a moment, take a deep breath, think about the situation at hand, formulate a plan and respond?

It's your move....

Thank you for supporting OptiFuse, where we try to respond to and not react to all of our customers' needs