Friday, April 27, 2012

Always Be Closing...

"ABC...A - Always...B - Be...C - Closing...Always Be Closing" ~ Alec Baldwin in Glen Geary / Glen Ross
I enjoy driving around town on weekends. 

It’s not because there is less traffic on the road (although there is).  No, I like driving because it gives me a chance to listen to the radio... specifically it allows me to listen to my favorite weekend radio shows on NPR / PBS.

Yes...I happen to be one of those homespun geeks who actually like radio shows with some interesting, educational and/or thought-provoking content.

I enjoy listening to radio programs such as "Car Talk", "Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me", "This American Life", "A Way with Words, and "A Prairie Home Companion".  I find them to be a bit corny at time but still highly entertaining. 

It’s not that conservative AM talk shows, classic rock music, and/or sports call-in shows aren’t entertaining because they are to some people (or else they wouldn’t be on the air).  This type of programming just doesn’t appeal to me much.
I suspect the reason that I’m not generally drawn to these shows doesn’t have much to do with the actual content but rather the seemingly endless stream of commercials, political ads, promos, and public service announcements, stealing time away from the actual program.  In some markets and time-slots, it’s not unusual for a radio station to play up to 20 minutes of ads each prime-time hour. 

Commercial radio is designed to be a for-profit venture and advertising pays the bills.

In contrast to a commercial radio station, public broadcasting doesn’t air advertisements.  Their content is relatively interruption free. 

They do, however, beg for money from their listeners for a short period of time a few times each year.  This time is called "pledge week".

During pledge week, local station employees take to the air to ask their listeners to show their support of the radio station by sending in a donation and becoming a contributing member.

The announcers will extol the virtues of publicly supported media.  They will explain that public radio provides actual content rather than just a host who moderates listener discussions about sports and politics.  They will offer up bribes in the way of tote bags, t-shirts, coffee mugs, music CDs, and other novelties and tchotchkes for donations. 
Pledge week is a time when a public radio station bows its head and holds its hat in front of its listeners and begs for reprieve.  It defends its very existence as an alternative to commercial radio.

Public radio has been around now for 41 years.  Over the years it has honed it skills at walking the ultra-fine line between guilt, praise, and extortion.  They have become experts at asking for money from its listeners.

Marketers and professional sales people can learn a few things from these experts.  During every pledge break you will hear the following pleas and sales pitch:

-     Public broadcasting is selling memberships not sponsorships.  They want you to believe that when you decide to financially support public broadcasting you are joining an exclusive club.  They will tell you that members of their club are more intelligent, more affluent, more interesting and open minded (no one wants to believe that they are closed minded), and more worldly than those people who listen to commercial radio.

-     Big donors (also known as "customers") are born from little donors.  PBS will take any and all donors.  They tell you that even by sending in $5 (the price of a cup of premium coffee), you are doing your part to support the local PBS station.  They know that once they broken your barrier to buy, then it’s no longer a question of yes or no but rather a question of how much.  It’s a long-term strategy that turns one-time customers into long-term patrons.

-     Donors like to be recognized.  By announcing the donor’s name over the air they have publicly acknowledged them and make them feel as though they are important to the station (regardless of the amount of their donation).  It also helps to encourage others to follow the lead of the other people in the community.  Your friends and neighbors are donating so it must be a good thing.  

-     Guilt works!...just ask anyone who knows a Jewish mother (How many Jewish mothers does it take to screw in a light bulb?... none... they’ll just sit there... alone in the dark... waiting for your phone call).  The public radio station will tell you that you’re getting something of value and that you need to pay for it.  Listening to the station and not becoming a member is tantamount to stealing.  They will tell you that all your friends and neighbors have contributed...why not you?  They continually play to your sense of fairness and doing what is just and right. 

-     Why doesn’t public radio give out gifts like gift certificates to restaurants and spas instead of coffee mugs, tote bags and t-shirts?  The reason is that once you use the certificate, it’s gone...there is no reminder sitting on your kitchen counter that you are a supporter of public radio.  When you wear your t-shirt or use your tote bag, you are a walking and talking billboard that advertises to the world that you support and listen to public radio.  Donation gifts are really just marketing tools that continue to pay dividends for months or years. 

-     Public broadcasting will make it very easy to make a pledge (operators are here waiting for your call right now).  They have convenient payment plans that will cost you only pennies a day.  They take checks, cash or credit cards.  They have toll-free numbers.  You can donate on their website.  So easy. 

-     There are VERY persistent.  They understand that repetition of key value statements to their audience is the very essence of marketing.  They will interrupt programming in mid- sentence, if need be, to ask for your support.  The message is loud and clear...during EVERY pledge break. 

-     They are always closing the deal.  "Pick up the phone right now and call to show your support".  This phrase is repeating over and over throughout each pledge break segment.  There is a call to action.  Do something and do it now. 

I do donate to my local PBS station.  Not because I get a gift...not because I feel guilty... not because I want to be a member of their exclusive club... not because I want to feel superior to those people who don’t listen to public radio...

The main reason I donate to public radio is because frankly, I don’t like listening to commercials.  I like having an alternative to commercial radio so I donate in order to keep them in business.

Spring pledge week is now thankfully over...

Every once in a while, it pays to listen to what someone is doing rather than what they are saying. 

Next time pledge week rolls, take a moment to dissect a pledge break to see if there are some tips you can use on your next sales call...

It may give you a new reason to think of PBS as educational...

Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse, where we hope to be your intelligent source of overcurrent protection products.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Grow Up and Act Your Age...

"How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?" - Satchel Paige

I remember quite vividly opening the door to the refrigerator one hot summer day.  From the top shelf, I picked up a full pitcher of iced tea hoping to pour myself a cold drink when all of a sudden I felt the pitcher slip from my grasp.

The plastic pitcher and all its contents came down with a resounding crash on the floor with iced-tea splashing everywhere. 

I assessed the situation, grabbed a kitchen towel, got down on my hands and knees, and began the task of mopping up the brown mess before me. As I was on the floor, I happened to look up.  There was my daughter Sarah looking over me. 

Her hands were on her hips as she bellowed out, "What the HECK is going on in here!!?"

"Mommy is going to be very angry with you for spilling the iced-tea...and now you’re soaking it up with her good dish towel...daddy, you know that iced-tea stains towels!!"

Sarah stared at me with that look of disapproval that most experienced parents give their kids after they discover that they have done something boneheaded.  The look that says "you are a moron but I still love you because you’re my child". 

I looked down at the towel and then back up at my daughter.  She was right of course.  Iced-tea does stain.

"Well I’ll just buy her a new towel then and she’ll never know", I said, thinking quickly and speaking confidently.

She shook her head in disapproval...and ran off to tell her mother everything...

Insult to I was totally busted.

A few seconds later she came back into the kitchen and grabbed a sponge and started helping me to mop up the spill.  For her, helping dad clean-up the mess was far more important than tattling.

I thought to myself.  "Who’s the parent and who’s the kid here?"

Did I mention that my daughter was four years old?

Now jump forward 20 years.  I’m having lunch with Tom, an old acquaintance and fellow entrepreneur.  The conversation concerned an employee who recently left his employ.

"Rachel is no longer with me...she’s working at Steve’s company now...or should I say she was...I called Steve to let him know that he should really rethink hiring Rachel.  I basically told him that she was a bad worker and totally unreliable.  Steve thanked me for the information and told me that he appreciated my help".

I looked puzzled.

"Didn’t you always say that Rachel was a great worker?...she did everything for you", I inquired.

"Well she was...I trusted her with running my entire office...and then she quit to go work for someone like Steve...she left me now without an office now I want to get her back..."

I looked at him incredulously. 

"Seriously? old are you Tom?"   

The typical method to determining a person’s age is to measure the days, months and years since that person’s birth.  This method measures a person’s chronological age.

The longer a person has inhabited a place on earth, the more life experience one hopes to have.  Time allows a person to learn, try new things, fail, adjust, think, remember, create, and grow.

Another way to determine a person age is by the way that they behave.  Sometimes this is called the Emotional Intelligence (EI).  Although the terminology and exact models may vary between psychological schools of thought, the premise of EI remains a constant.

EI is the ability of an individual to perform the following assessments:

1.  Self-Awareness - the ability to recognize different emotions in one’s self.

2.  Self-Management - The ability to control one’s emotions.

3.  Social Awareness - The ability to recognize emotions of others.

4.  Social Management - The ability to manage the emotions of others.

These categories can be summarized into two distinct categories: 

Recognizing emotions in yourself and others and managing emotions in yourself and others.

A people who score high on EI tests tend to understand why they and others feel and act the way they do.  They understand the law of "cause and effect" both on themselves and others.
They are able to control and regulate impulse behavior by considering consequences of the actions prior to starting an action. 

They are also keen at recognizing the emotions of others.  They are good at sensing anger, grief, confidence, frustration, sadness, elation, or fear in others which allows them to provide support, sensitivity, empathy and/or comfort to other people.

In contrast, people who score low on EI tests tend to be selfish, uncaring, maniacal, self-centered, malicious, petty, spiteful and jealous of others.

Young children generally do not possess the capacity to think beyond the current moment.  They want something and they want it now.  They will cry and scream until they get it. 

They are incapable of understanding how their actions create future consequences.  They believe that they are the most important person in the room and the world revolves around them.

As we get older, we begin to understand that other people actually exist (other than to serve us) and that they have feelings and needs. 

If a person’s EI levels are high, they develop a strong set of ethics, self-awareness and high moral character.  They can use emotional awareness to motivate, influence, and inspire others.  It also helps us to manage conflict and empathy by allowing us to see a situation from the perspective of others.

Adults with a low EI tend to be petty, self-absorbed, selfish, highly competitive, and narcissistic.  They have a hard time seeing issues from the point of view of others and are petty, hold grudges and are vindictive.  They are lead by fear and coercion (win-lose) rather than through strong communication and mutual satisfaction (win-win).  They believe that the world is out to get them and that it’s good to take more than one gives.

Although much of our EI is innate or learned at a very young age, we can still re-learn what we know to become a better person.  Truly successful people typically score high on the EI scale knowing that it typically takes the help of others to allow us to achieve at the highest levels.

Simply put...growing old doesn’t make us wise...acting our appropriate age does.

OptiFuse and I thank you very much for your support as we try and act with wisdom each day to provide solutions to your problems.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Discriminating Taste...

Quick...what do the Mormon and Catholic churches, the host of the Master’s Golf Tournament, and Smith, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr colleges all have in common?

If you said they were discriminating organizations you would be right.

All of the above organizations are private institutions that have rules in place which discriminate against certain groups in selecting their membership and/or leadership.

Augusta National Golf Club

The Master’s golf tournament, one of four major tournaments held each year by the PGA, was hosted this past week at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. Unlike the other three major PGA tournaments, The Masters is permanently played at Augusta National.

Augusta National is a private golf club. Official membership at Augusta is a guarded secret but it is widely known fact that not a single woman has been accepted as a member at Augusta National.

Several attempts have been made over the years to try and persuade and pressure the club to accept female members only to be rebuffed by the club’s membership. More recently, an attempt was even aimed at boycotting the Tournament’s key three sponsors (there are only three primary sponsors allowed) so the club decided that it would rather forego sponsorship than be coerced to change its single-sex policies.

Philosophically, I’m okay with a private organization maintaining its membership the way it wants. It doesn’t take any public funds and it is my sole choice whether or not I want to support their golf tournament with my time or money.

One of the more interesting side-bars to this year’s Master’s tournament was the question concerning Virginia Rometty, the newly installed CEO of IBM. As it so happens, IBM is one of those three chosen long-term key sponsors of the Master’s. As part of the quid pro quo of cooperation between IBM and Augusta National, membership to the Club has been historically and traditionally been bestowed upon each reigning CEO of IBM. what does Augusta National do?

To date, Augusta National is still men-only but that may come to an abrupt end shortly as one tradition may trump another tradition.

This isn’t Burger you don’t get it your way... 

Next month, I’m attending my niece’s wedding in Utah. Well...I guess I should be clear...I’m attending my niece’s wedding reception.

My niece is a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints and its followers are known as Mormons.

I am not a member of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints, therefore I am not allowed into the LDS Temple where the actual wedding ceremony will be taking place. Regardless of how silly or stupid this might seem to an outsider, this is their church and this is their rule.

I will very much enjoy myself at the wedding reception visiting with family and making new friends and why do I care if I can’t attend the ceremony?...I don’t.

Many years ago, I was baptized and raised in a Catholic home. I went to parochial school for a few years. I went to mass on Sundays. I participated in church rituals such as Ash Wednesday, Lent, Confession, and meat-less Fridays.

Beyond certain atrocities performed by individual clergy members and later covered up by the church’s hierarchy, which is inexcusable, I have a great deal of respect for the Catholic Church as a religious organization.

They have a set of rules that govern the Church that are seemingly cast in stone...the Catholic Church is not in any way a democratic organization...they are a dictatorship (well...really an oligopoly...with the Pope leading a select few unelected hand-selected leaders)...

But once again, I have the utmost respect for the Church.

They have, over the years, created a set of beliefs, tenets, and rules to guide their church. They have explicitly told its members and prospective members that this is who we are and what we believe in. You can choose to join us or you can choose to not join us. We’re not changing the rules to suit you.

Unfortunately...some people didn’t get the memo...they have chosen to join the church and now are intent to change it to their own liking.

That’s not the way it works...if you don’t like it...leave and join a religious organization that aligns itself more closely with your own personal beliefs. It’s no longer the middle-ages; where you most-likely will be persecuted for not following a certain set of church beliefs.
You can worship freely with those who believe the same way you do. It’s their church not yours.

Single-Sex Education

About nine years ago, my daughter asked her mom and I if she could attend a local all-girls high school (this after attending a more typical co-ed elementary school). It was her belief that by eliminating the distraction of boys during school hours, a greater emphasis could be devoted toward her studies rather than playing the typical social high school games.

For her, school was a place for learning and having boys present only distracted from this goal. Of course there was an all-boys school a few miles away and the two schools engaged in several social activities together such as dances, theatrical and sporting events.

At the college level, there are several well-known same-sex institutions, such as Smith College, Bryn Mawr and Wellesley College (although Wellesley’s enrollment now includes about 2% males) that have educated some of our greatest thinkers and leaders.

Same-sex educational institutions are not bad places to attend school if that is your choice.
The unfortuante thing is that activists are now attempting to break down the walls of so-called injustice by trying to force these campuses to become co-ed. There is no real reason to do this other than the fact that the walls are simply there.

There are plenty of alternatives available if one chooses to go to a co-ed school but that doesn’t seem to be acceptable to a certain segment of the population.


One of the greatest human rights is that to associate. In a free world, we have the expressed opportunity to choose our friends and relationships, choose the places we go to school and work, choose the places we live, choose the people who lead us, and choose where we worship.

In each case, we are free to choose to be included.

However, the flip side to this thought is that the organization is also free to choose or not to choose us in return. They may choose to be exclusive.

We can choose to go to a particular university...but that university must in turn choose us as well...

We can choose to join a club or organization...but they may not accept us for whatever reason...

We can choose to work at a particular company, but the company may choose not to hire us...

We can choose a place of worship, but we must agree to follow their beliefs...

That’s the way any relationship works...nature is a very discriminating...and so is the world...

Myself, I typically only choose to belong where I am wanted and/or where I agree with their beliefs and ideas...and I’m mostly okay with that...

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where it is always our choice to be inclusive rather than being exclusive.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Art of Happiness...

Something strange is happening lately... 

I’m not sure if it’s the idea of getting older or possibly it’s the effect of our prolonged great recession or maybe still it is the lingering fantasy of selecting the winning six numbers of the recent mega lottery. 

Recently, I seem to be having deep intellectual conversations concerning the same subject matter among good friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

The subject of our discussion was the idea of happiness and why some people are extremely happy while other wallow in great unhappiness.

There appear to be a great many theories as to what makes a person happy or unhappy.

However, my friends and I all quickly agreed that certain factors were not the cause of happiness but rather tended to only provide people with excuses for their state of unhappiness. 

Money (Wealth)

It’s well known that money, in itself, does not bring us happiness.  One cannot simply buy happiness (although it is said that a person can rent it for a short amount of time).  Money does have the ability to provide additional options for people such as allowing someone to further their education, travel the world, or spend their time and/or money working to help a disadvantaged population or working with charitable endeavor. 

Many times, however, having a great deal of wealth can be a burden that can actually inhibit our happiness.  Having money increases the expectations, from both ourselves and others, that we will do something meaningful with our wealth. 

That Perfect Person

Some people will wait all of their lives waiting for the perfect person to enter their lives to make them happy.  What they ultimately find is that no one person is actually perfect.  These people live with an unrealistic ideal that will never be satisfied.

Other people might be in a relationship but will tell themselves that they would be happier if their mate would just do this...or possibly that.  They believe that their happiness is being hindered or retarded by someone else... a friend or a loved one.

This also happens when a person blames a family member (or their entire family) as their source of unhappiness.  "If my mother would only stop harassing me...then I would truly be happy."

True happiness does not come from another person.  Happiness comes from inside yourself.

A Certain Event

My grandmother would always say to us, "When my ship finally comes in...I’ll most likely be waiting at the airport". 

She knew that her happiness didn’t depend on a certain event to occur.  She wasn’t waiting for a new promotion at work, to lose weight, to write a best-seller, for the kids to leave for college, or to move to a new home.  Her happiness was here and now rather than off in a distant time and/or location.

Happiness doesn’t come from a certain monumental event that may or may not effect your life.

So if true happiness doesn’t come from money, other people, or certain events...then where does it come from?

It was very easy for my friends and I to agree upon those items above that surely didn’t bring happiness, however it was much more difficult to determine the root causes for what makes people truly happy.

We developed a lot of ideas but mostly agreed on the three basic concepts listed below as possible sources of happiness:


Happy people tend to be goal setters.  They have dreams and aspirations and spend their lives incrementally working toward their goals.  For these people, happiness is more about the journey than the destination. 

They enjoy the small day-to-day victories.  They wake up each morning ready to take on the world and go to bed each evening knowing that they accomplished something that day.

Their lives have purpose and meaning as they work their way down the road to whatever goal they may have. 

Of course they often run into roadblocks along the way, but they will quickly tell you that half the fun is figuring out new ways to do things differently.  They love challenges and to solve puzzles.  For every problem there is a solution.

The challenge of life is what makes them happy.

Helping Others

Happy people don’t look at other people as problems or a source of unhappiness.  They derive pleasure from helping others perhaps a bit less fortunate than themselves.  They enjoy friendships and being in the company of others.

They recognize that they, for whatever reason, may be in a more advantageous position than someone else.  They have an innate desire to help others.

They donate resources such as time and money to helping those in need, expecting nothing in return.  In doing so, they feel better about themselves. 

These people want to leave the world in a better condition than it was before they arrived.  Making a difference and creating a positive legacy truly makes them happy.

The appreciation of others is what makes them happy.

Accepting What You Have

For most people, acceptance is not an easy obstacle to overcome.  A lot of unhappiness stems from people wanting more than what they have.

Wanting a bit more is healthy in terms of achievement and goal setting but accepting what we have is important as it provides us with a certain comfort and peace.  It removes the stress of trying to achieve perfection based on some set of preconceived ideals. 

Modern advertising provides us with a certain vision as to what the perfect lifestyle might look like and we strive to emulate these unrealistic norms in our own lives.

They tell us that we would be happier if we wear a certain brand of clothing, use a particular make-up, join a gym, lose weight, start smoking, stop smoking, drink vodka, drink beer, drive a new car, buy more things, live in a bigger house so we can store all of new things, or watch the new reality show.

Happy people are appreciative for what they have not for what they don’t have.

Our 24-hour news stations like CNN (Constantly Negative News) attempt to frighten us each by reporting only the negative and our inability to control them.

Happy people have learned to accept what the world gives us...the good...the bad...the ugly. 

They are alright with life not being perfect... because it rarely is.

It doesn’t mean that they accept injustices or inequalities... but they try to live their own lives with their own purpose... accepting who they are... what they can do... what they have... where they come from and where they are going...

They never take their God-given talents for granted...their ability to see... hear... speak... smell... think... communicate... and feel...

Happiness is a state of is an art rather than a science...

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we hope to provide our customers a platform for their happiness...