Friday, July 29, 2011

The Artist Inside of Us...

We are the music makers ...and we are the dreamers of dreams - Willy Wonka

Several weeks ago, I went to meet some old friends who were visiting from out of town. They were staying at a swanky hotel in the redeveloped area of downtown San Diego. As I walked toward their hotel, I noticed the beginnings of a large mural that was being painted on the side of an old brick building.
The artist had prepped the large wall by painting it all white which looked like a new canvas and was slowly adding details to the wall in various colors. In the center of the white rectangle was the outline of a large gray whale.

I happened to pass by this same building several times over the next few weeks, I watched as an entire underwater scene materialized on the previously blank wall. Seemingly each day, new features and creatures were added to the mural until the picture was full of life in every type of life form, plants, mammals, birds, fish, and sea creatures that just looked like plants but are really from the animal kingdom.

Now normally I wouldn't have given the creation of the mural much thought except that I also recently was at a street-fair where a woman was creating a giant ice sculpture of an angel using a chain-saw. Carefully she lopped off chunks of ice as the angel emerged from the large solid block.
These two random events led me to the thoughts about the differences between sculpting and painting.

Painting is typically an art form where the artist starts with a blank canvass and continues to add paint until there is a picture. Sculpting, on the other hand, is starting with a mass of media (like marble, wood or in this case, ice) and shedding bits and pieces until the figure beneath the surface is released.
The biggest differentiating factor between painting and sculpting is that in painting, if you don't do it right the first time, you can just paint over the mistake and do it again. Whereas in sculpting, once the material is gone, there is no way to replace it later on. The sculptor knows that mistakes can be costly (if not fatal). Therefore the utmost care must be taken to preserve what is left.

As I get older, I can't help but think how some parts of our lives are like painting while other parts are like sculpting.
There are some elements of our lives where we simply start with a blank slate and continue to add things over the years as we grow older with age. Things like knowledge, experience, and personal relationships continue to grow each year we're alive. Sometimes we add something to the picture only to paint-over the area with something else (this seems especially true with some of our relationships). 
In contrast to the additives listed above, there are other areas of our lives that are eroded and lessened as we grow older. These things would perhaps include our good looks, our athletic abilities, and our overall health. 
In our youth, many of these attributes acted as an outer cover and masked our true inner selves. As we age, we are left with the core of who we really are as the real person beneath emerges. No longer can we hope to succeed with only our "good looks and charm". We are all familiar with this person as our envy turns to pity.
Growing older releases the inner beauty (or ugliness) that is within us all. Substance and character are what we are left with once everything else is stripped away.
The truly interesting thing is that we are our own artists. We are the culmination of our own imagination and hard work.
We are the painters adding to picture each day (should we decide to do so). We have visions, dreams, hopes and goals of what we hope the picture will look like once the painting is finished (and hopefully it'll never be truly finished). We decide what is right and what is wrong in the picture and hopefully work all of our lives in getting it just right.
We are also the sculptors who will create the person beneath the surface as time whittles away. Is there an angel in our ice or a Madonna or David in our marble? Will we be happy with the person we will eventually become or will we rue our mistakes?
Whatever we can dream...we can become. 
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse as we support the artists in all of us.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Anything Is Possible

Here's the thing, if you can't spot the sucker in the first half-hour at the table, then YOU are the sucker - Matt Damon in Rounders
The third Wednesday of July is normally a warm day in San Diego. It's a special day for nearly 50,000 adults looking for a reason to skip a midweek work-day, dress up in seersucker suits and fancy hats, and try their luck at the "sport of kings". It's opening day at Del Mar...where the Surf meets the Turf...
They will scream at the top of their lungs as the horses turn for the stretch run. If the players picked a winner they will curse themselves for not wagering more money on a sure thing. If they lost, they will curse themselves for not selecting the seemingly obvious choice in the race.
"Of course...why didn't I notice that!?", they will mutter to themselves, just before turning the page of the program to the next race and the new information before them.
A few weeks back, I was having dinner with a good friend. We were discussing the remote possibility of California actually splitting into two different states (a far-out idea that makes for sensational headlines and news entertainment). I suggested to my friend that this idea is indeed possible. He was taken aback with my remark.
"You really don't believe that this could really happen do you?", he gasped.
I replied, "No...I don't...but ANYTHING is's just not probable".
In fact, most everything is possible...the earth could be struck by an asteroid tomorrow...OptiFuse could get a $100 million fuse order one son could take out the garbage without being told...the Cubs could actually win the World Series!...
However...these things are also extremely and remotely improbable.
In certain games of chance such as blackjack, roulette, and craps, the probability of a certain outcome is a fixed number. There are only 36 outcomes when a person rolls two dice or 38 outcomes on the spin of a roulette wheel (36 numbers + 0 & 00). These are known quantities and the casino (house) pays a player a slightly lower return than the actual odds of winning (for example, in roulette, the odds of selecting a particular number is 38 to 1but the house pays only 35 to 1 to a winner...a clear advantage to the house).
In other forms of gambling, the odds of winning are fixed, but the payouts can fluctuate. This is the case in state run lotteries where the odds to win are the same for each drawing but the prize is determined by previous drawings and the accumulated prize pool.
In the case of horse racing, pari-mutuel betting occurs. The odds (and subsequent payouts) are solely determined by the pool of betters. Therefore, the best horse in a race could become the longshot if the betting public decides to place their wagers on other horses in the race (such as the horse with a girl jockey dressed in pink silks). The "house" doesn't make its money on a spread between the actual odds and the payouts, but rather by taking a percentage of the overall pool of money spent on a particular race (sometimes as much as 40%!).
When a person goes to a casino, they understand that they are not smarter than the house because the odds of winning are predetermined (and in the casino's favor). They hope to win because they believe that they can get lucky and overcome the odds (in the short term) and come out a winner.
People who gamble on the ponies are different. They truly believe they are smarter than the general public. The other gamblers are emotional bettors who know nothing about the nuances of handicapping, the trainer and jockey statistics, the track biases, and/or the speed ratings. These "professionals" believe that they can select a horse to bet on that is better than the odds being offered by the race track because of the pari-mutuel betting and because the other gamblers are stupid.
The truly interesting thing is that almost EVERYONE at the horse races believes that they are that knowledgeable handicapper and that everyone else is the sucker.
The reality is that every horse entered has a chance to win a particular race. Although if might not be's still very possible...and the real professional player knows this fact.
In the United States, 4 out of 5 businesses will fail within the first 5 years of operation. And of those surviving 20%, another 80% will fail within the second 5 years, leaving just 4% of entrepreneurial enterprises still operating after 10 years (this number is even smaller in certain industries such as restaurants and bars).
Millions of new products will be introduced each and every year. Most will ultimately fail. Some will fail with dramatic fashion - with lots of funding and marketing expertise behind the brand...anyone remember "New Coke"'s "Lisa" computer?...the Ford Edsel?
With such slim odds, why are millions of businesses and products launched year each and every year?
People start businesses and launch new products, because unlike casino games, the odds of winning are not inherently fixed. The odds of creating a successful business are more like pari-mutuel wagering where the odds (and subsequent rewards) shift to those with supposed knowledge and experience.
Many times, skill, experience and determination will indeed win out.
Other times it's just being at the right place at the right time.
Anything is possible...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse as we celebrate our 10-year anniverary - proud to be a member of the 4% club

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Roadmap to Success

Imagine if you polled every grand prize winner of the lottery and asked them for their secret formula for picking the right numbers. Then week after week you play those same numbers as the previous winners. Do you think that after a year of playing those numbers your chances of winning the lottery would increase? Are the people who won the lottery any smarter than you and I? They must be...they've found success and are now multimillionaires.
It might sound ridiculous to compare success with winning the lottery...but many of us do it every day.
We read book after book about the winning strategies of business millionaires, political leaders, and military heroes. We idolize entertainment celebrities who have beaten the odds and found fame and fortune where so many others before them have failed. Our kids strive to one-day become sports stars, using God-given abilities and talents to create multi-million dollar careers.
There is no great magic formula to success, be it financial, artistic, educational, athletic or social. No unifying utopian certaintality.
Success can't be measured by a bank balance or by how many followers a person has on Twitter or by how many touchdowns were thrown in a season.
Yet we seem to continue to prepare the next generations for just this.
Parents are sending their preschool children to private nursery schools with the hopes that these same children will get into the right grade schools, high schools, and ultimately colleges. They hold their children back a grade (or two) so that they are bigger, smarter, and are more mature than their peers. The hope is that they will become leaders, valedictorians, and team captains giving them the self-esteem to be successful in adulthood.
They study mathematics and science. They study languages and social sciences. They study classical music. The children have tutors. They begin taking SAT prep classes while still in the 6th grade (although the actual tests are not taken until the 11th or 12th grade). Parents regularly hire private coaches, mentors and instructors for their kids because the schools are perceived as not doing enough.
These children may graduate from prestigious universities with PhDs and other advanced degrees. A BA or BS in a single major is no longer adequate to compete in the world. They will graduate and do research and other important things to advance humanity.
We are told (and we believe) that this is the sure path to success. Success comes from being a doctor, an attorney, an engineer. Make a lot of money. Buy a lot of things. Be happy.
Next time you visit your doctor (especially if the doctor is a primary care physician), ask her if she is happy that she became a doctor, using their years of training and acquired skills to make people better and healthy. More than likely you'll hear a diatribe about how Medicare and insurance companies are cheating their chosen profession, how she is working 80 hours a week just to keep afloat, and/or how much her malpractice insurance costs have risen due to the over-abundance of attorneys looking to sue "rich doctors".
This is not's insanity!
Being successful doesn't make us happy...
Being happy makes us successful...
How much better would this world be if we spent as much time and effort in teaching happiness to our children as we do math and science? Teaching creativity? Teaching critical and lateral thinking?
At TED (an annual conference dedicated to exploring new and innovative ideas) a few years back, Sir Ken Robinson gave an inspiring talk about the ways we educate our children. In my opinion, it ranks right up there with Dr. Randy Pausch's last lecture. It may be worth a moment of your time to watch and listen (click here to view the video)
We need to explain to our kids that real advances in this world come from people who don't follow the path of the known but instead venture out into the unknown. It comes from people who take the time to make astute observations and formulate new ideas. It comes from people asking questions starting with "if" and "why"?
The problem is that there is no real measurement of happiness. There are no report cards given out at the end of the term rating our happiness. Our happiness doesn't usually come from others (although it may come from helping others). Our happiness doesn't come from how much wealth or things that we've accumulated.
Happiness generally comes from being content with who we are and what we are doing. We want to make a difference. We want to love and be loved. We want meaningful work to do. We want to go to bed each night and feel like we've made a difference that day.
We want our children, friends, co-workers and loved ones to be happy, but we cannot deliver happiness to them. They need to find it themselves. Happiness is derived from the inside and radiated outwards. We alone choose to be happy...or not.
There are countless stories of lottery winners who rue the day that they won. Their new-found riches were supposedly the path to happiness but as it turned out they were just the road to ruin.
Reading about the journeys others have taken may perhaps merit some interest but in the end we draw our own road map...walk down our own paths...find our own success...create our own happiness.
Thank you for listening...and thank you for your support of OptiFuse as we explore the unmapped areas ahead.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Glimpse Behind the Curtain

Back in school, I always found the "why" questions much harder to answer than the "what" questions.

Each Friday, for over two years now, I've been sending out an email to a few thousand customers, potential customers, friends, family and interested parties. The email is then archived (and edited for errors) to a regular blog site (

The site allows readers to review older blogs. Along with the text of each previously sent e-mails, a section is available for reader comments. I had hoped that the "comments section" would eventually replace the numerous private emails I receive each week from readers who share some amazing stories, creative ideas, and fantastic insights regarding the topic at hand. It hasn't turned out the way I had planned thus far but I'm still hopeful it will take root.

Every couple of weeks a few names are added to our mailing list. Every week, a few people choose to opt out of future mailings.

Each email I send allows recipients to click on a link at the bottom to opt-out of future mailings. I realize that not everyone has the time to read my rants and ramblings and that their inboxes are overflowing with daily unwanted mail.

The service I use to send out emails (Constant Contact) allows the person opting out to state a reason as to why they decided to leave. It's an optional field and very few people actually state a reason why they've decided to stop getting my weekly e-mail.

Last week there was a person who decided to opt-out of the weekly emails and wrote a very nice note in the "reason" field. She explained that although my short stories were entertaining, she found them of little use in helping her to grow her business.

I truly believe that feedback is incredibly important as it helps us to make ourselves better and grow. I applaud her honesty and candor.

The thing that really struck a nerve, however, was that she totally missed the entire point of the weekly blogs.

I don't write the blog to tell stories about my life (or the lives of inspirational people I admire)...I tell stories to raise consciousness about how we become people, a better employers / employees, and/or better teachers. It's about sharing ideas to create better relationships, better business models, better customer service, and a better mindset. It's about time management, marketing, sales, creativity, people skills, goal-setting and branding.

In short, the blog is suppose to be ALL about helping her to grow her business. That's the point. It's not really about me (or my company).

Perhaps it's because I write in parables that it was so hard for her to see the messages before her. Perhaps I needed to be more direct. Do this...and then do that...turn left, go 1 mile and then turn right...just like the mechanical voice of my Garmin GPS. Recalculating...

Wouldn't it be nice if life really worked that way?

The reality is that life doesn't follow a set formula. It's a little (or a lot) different for each one of us. Each person on their own particular path to success.

Life is rarely about sharp turns but rather gentle bends in the road (although there are still some hairpin turns out there for us). Many of us don't really know where we want to we just drive along with some semblance of overall direction. Some of us worry a lot about running out of gas, or about what other drivers around us are doing, or whether or not we're making good time to our next destination. Still there are others who just take time to enjoy the scenery or listen to their favorite radio program.

We are all busier than ever these days. Our time has become more valuable than our money (in reality it always was...we just never realized it...until it had run out). There are more and more demands for our precious time. Time is priceless and we need to be judicial with what time we do have.

I certainly don't profess to have all the answers.

In fact...I'd rather spend my time asking questions than searching for answers.

What are you doing to improve your life?...your business?...your relationships? What have you learned today? Whom did you help recently? Are you happy with your life? How can I help you? What are your hopes, dreams and fears? Can I have that last popsicle in the freezer?

Judging from the e-mail responses I receive, the questions that are posed each week seem resonate with many of you. It appears that we are all asking the same questions in our own lives (well...those of you who like popsicles that is).

I just hope that the weekly blog will continue to inspire, inform and help us to understand that we are not alone in this big world.

I very much encourage you to share your stories and thoughts with the rest of the community.

It's might seem hard to be the first one but the fact's much harder to be second or third.

Click here to take a look at one of my favorite videos that illustrates that point. It's relatively easy to be a crazy man's much harder to be the first ones to join in.

Just some thoughts on the "why" rather than the "what".

Thank you for listening...and thank you for your support of OptiFuse as we grow our community together.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Great Acquisition

A good friend is someone who will help you move, a great friend is someone who will help you move...a body - Anonymous
Over the course of 50 years, I've moved my residence exactly 12 times. 
I spent the first 17 years of my life living in the same small house, sharing a room with my three brothers. 
I still remember the morning I left for college, with my entire inventory of worldly possessions, stuffed into the every nook and cranny of my VW Beetle.  When you share a small bedroom with three others, the amount of things that you can accumulate is somewhat limited by space.  We didn't have much, but we had what we needed.
After arriving in San Diego, I purchased a twin bed, a small desk, and a dresser.  Over the next five years, I moved the 3 pieces of furniture, along with some clothes, books and a few kitchen wares some seven different times.  I didn't have much money back in college so there wasn't much of an opportunity for me to acquire many possessions. 
Each move was a relatively simple procedure; borrow a pick-up truck from a friend, load the furniture and a few boxes, drive to the new location, and unload the furniture and a few boxes. 
A move generally took about 3 hours in total including the drive to the new location - less if I had a friend's help. 
Sometime after school, I found a good steady job, got married, had children, bought a house, and started buying stuff to put into the house. 
There was living room, dining room and office, lawn and garden equipment and spare parts to make repairs to the, books, sports equipment and games for the children...kitchenware,  house ware and cook ware...TVs, stereos, computers, videos, CDs, and manuals...accent pieces, knick-knacks, mementos, and plants...
As we get older, we have the need, the means and the opportunity to start acquiring things.  We buy things that make a house a home.  We buy things out of necessity.  We buy things to be more comfortable.  We buy things for our kids and our pets.     
We buy extras of the same things - just in case we use up the first thing or the first thing breaks.  We need a flashlight, so we go to the big box store and buy six (along with a package of 100 batteries to power our 6 new flashlights).
Soon we run out places to put all of our things,  so its becomes time to move into a bigger house, with more places and rooms to store all of our stuff.
Our move to our new home was no longer a 3-hour affair, but rather a 3-day ordeal.  Family and friends' assistance was no longer a luxury but an actual requirement.  We threw away or donated lots of items that were deemed to have had great value just a while ago. 
After a short time, it became apparent that our old stuff no longer was sufficient for our new home.  The colors and patterns were all wrong, the furniture did not match and there wasn't enough lighting, counter space and closet space.  New stuff...better stuff needed to be acquired in order to live the dream. 
Our closets and garage were cluttered, so we needed to build cabinets and shelving to better store all our stuff.
People bought us gifts:  wedding gifts, birthday gifts, housewarming gifts and anniversary gifts.  Of course these were gifts and subsequently had great sentimental value.  They without a doubt needed to be kept. 
Our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents passed away leaving us with their house-full of prized possessions.  There were boxes of old photos (concerning people and places we didn't know), an antique roll-up desk, old 78 rpm records, stamp collections, old beer bottles, china, silverware, and several National Geographic magazines from the 1950's. 
We watch "Antiques Road Show" each week.  Therefore we tell ourselves, "These items might be valuable as collectables.  We need to keep everything".
After several years passed and through no one's fault, my wife and I decided to part ways.
I moved into a small furnished apartment, bringing only some clothes and my guitar.  Although the situation was a bit complicated, the move itself was easy...two hours and I was all moved-in. 
I was given the opportunity to start anew.  I was free of stuff...of clutter...of unwanted or unneeded possessions.  Of course I'll need to purchase a few household items, but I could keep those to a minimum.  Lean living was my new motto.
Ten years have now passed.  I'm still in the same small apartment.  The rental furniture has since become my own.  The kids have grown and I generally spend more time at Susan's (my long-term girlfriend) home than my own.
Earlier this year, Susan and I discussed buying a new home for the both of us to live, but we  decided that the time wasn't right to make a purchase.  Instead, we decided that it would be best for me to move into her existing home and we would then purchase a home in a few years
As I prepared for my move to Susan's, I started to go through my closets and drawers.  Now I'm not really a shopper.  I don't really decorate.  I don't entertain.  What the heck happened?...
Why do I suddenly have SO much STUFF!!
It's as though my stuff mated like rabbits in the dark and when I opened the closet doors and turned on the lights, I found piles of unwanted or unneeded stuff.  In a relatively short time, I've reacquired all the stuff I left behind...
I've spent the last month separating all my stuff into three piles:  Keep-stuff (and subsequently move), Give-away stuff (things that have some value to friends, family and/or charities), Throw-away stuff (things that have little or no value that can hopefully be recycled at some point). 
At the very least, I've positively decided NOT to do anything pay someone to store my stuff in an off-site location or try to sell off the items, one by one, on Craig's List.
With any hope (and a strong constitution), I will find a way to part company with most of my stuff.  Once again create a fresh new start. 
At ten-step programs (like Alcoholics Anonymous), they say that the first step to recovery is to admit that you actually have a problem...
I have a problem acquiring stuff...can someone help me (move it)?
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we have plenty of stuff to fill your fuse and circuit breaker needs.