Friday, September 21, 2012

An Exceptional Life...

The alarm clock rings at 5:30 am.  It’s still dark outside but Dave quickly reaches over and turns off the alarm before it can wake his wife.
He doesn’t hit the snooze button and try to go back to sleep for another 10 minutes, rather he gets himself up and dresses in his morning workout attire.

He goes down stairs and stretches a bit before heading out to run his daily 5 miles.  He is still half-asleep but pushes himself out the door.

In 40 minutes he returns home, bringing the newspaper in from the driveway.

By this time, everyone in the household is up and is stirring with activity.  Dave starts a pot of coffee and reads the headlines of the newspaper while waiting for the coffee to brew.

After a few minutes, he heads upstairs to jump in the shower and get dressed.

At 7:30, Dave pulls out of his driveway heading to his first sales call of the day.  Along the way, Dave calls into the head office on the East Coast to follow-up on some parts that were supposed to go out yesterday to one of his customers.

At 7:45, he arrives at his first sales call.  He checks over his proposal and materials making sure that he has everything before going in.   

He has been calling on this account now for several months with just a little return for his efforts.  He believes that he is close to a breakthrough with this client, as he’s heard grumblings from the client about the recent failures of his competitor’s products in their new application.

At the client meeting, he presents the proposal to the client showing how his product would not only solve their current problem but would also save them a considerable amount of money to boot.

When the meeting was over, Dave went back to his car and entered notes of the meeting on his notebook computer.  He also sent a follow-up email to the several people who were in attendance at the meeting.

Within 15 minutes, he was off to his next meeting.

This is how Dave spends his work days.  Making sales calls and doing the preparation and follow-up work needed to close sales. 

In between sales calls, he sets new appointments for later in the week, returns e-mail and phone calls, and enters important information in the company’s  CRM database for others on his sales team to review.

Dave’s last appointment was at 4 pm that afternoon.  He likes making sales calls at the end of the day because many times his customers are a bit more relaxed knowing that they will be soon going home.

Typically around 6pm, Dave finally arrived back home where he would eat some dinner before heading off to a night class that he is taking at the local college.  On evenings when he didn’t go to school, he helps with the daily household chores and with his children’s homework.
On the weekends, Dave goes to watch his children play in soccer tournaments and baseball games.  On Sunday’s the family goes to church and then out to brunch at their favorite cafe.  Sometimes, Dave takes the afternoon to play some golf or watch football with some friends.

Now to a lot of people reading this accounting of Dave’s life, they will cynically think that this kind of person or life doesn’t really exist in the "real world".  It’s not "reality" TV but rather a storyline from some TV sitcom such as "Leave it to Beaver" or "The Cosby Show". 

However, I’m here to tell you that Dave (not his real name) does indeed exist and I’ve known him personally for over 20 years. 

Dave does indeed have life problems just like you and me.  A while back, a lot of his savings were stolen by a fraudster financier.  His children have peer problems in school and have high anxiety about getting into the college of their choice.  At 52 years old, Dave now experiences certain health issues with his prostrate and arthritic joints.  He is one of his company’s top sales people, but he worries about whether or not his company will be around in 10 more years due to the changing economy.

What Dave also a great amount of self-discipline and an undertanding of what he can and can’t control in his own life.

He gets up each morning and works outs...even if he’s tired...even if the weather is lousy...even if his body says "no"...his mind says "yes".  He knows that God has only given him one body and that although he can’t stop time, he is determined to retard the aging process. 

Dave is not a good sales person...he is a great sales person.  He is constantly honing his craft and skills.  He is disciplined to make a sales call first thing in the morning and the last thing at the end of the day and he doesn’t waste time in between.  His work ethic unmatched by even the most seasoned sales professional.  He is always prepared and he always follows up. 

Dave is a life-long learner.  He is a voracious reader and takes classes in subjects that interest him at the local community college.  His quest for knowledge and understanding is never satisfied.

Although he works hard and takes time to study, he still understands that he has responsibilities as a husband and a father.  It’s very important to him to be a part of his children’s lives.  He takes the time to communicate with his wife and kids each and every day.  He takes pride in his family and in his role as the family’s patriarch.  Most times, he places their needs in front of his own knowing that parenting and maintaining a strong relationship with his wife take effort and determination but he’s always willing to put in the work.

Dave’s life is exceptional because he wants to live an exceptional life.  He isn’t sitting on the sidelines waiting for life to happen.  Dave makes it happen with his disciplined thoughts and more importantly his disciplined actions. 

Dave understands that he is the architect of his own life...and that life takes effort...but the rewards from those efforts are indeed boundless...

We all have the opportunity to learn a thing or two from Dave.  He seems to really get it.

Something to ponder on a Friday morning...

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse, where we hope to have the discipline to continually move forward and becoming better along the way... 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Are We Better Off Today?


2012 is a presidential election year and with that comes all of the rhetoric associated with campaigns, conventions and debates.
During this election season, there is one question that is being asked (by both parties) that has caused me to stop a moment and think...

"Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

I’ve found myself pondering this question more and more these last few weeks.

It’s really a hard question to answer because it’s primarily based on our own individual perceptions, contexts, and personal situations.

(NOTE: this blog is in no way trying to endorse any candidate or party so please don’t try to read more into this week blog than what is ... a non-partisan examination of the original question "are you better off").

I suspect the original question was raised in order to bring light to the state of the economy and the fact that many people have been hurt financially by the "Great Recession".  Make no mistakes; trillions of dollars have been lost to depressed markets, loss of asset values, and unemployment (and underemployment).

I am fortunate that I have been spared, thus far, from the unemployment line.

Some of my good fortune stems from the fact that I operate my own business but I also am consoled by the fact that I hold a technical degree (BSEE) and have many years of practical design experience. The world’s demand for my skills has not diminished but rather has increased over the last four years so I don’t feel the angst that others have about their future employment... but I am definitely the exception rather than the rule.

Yes, there are others in similar situations as me... where the demand for their particular skills outstrips the supply, therefore employment opportunities for them abound. Some of these professions include healthcare providers, geologists, biologists, chemists, geneticists, and most engineering disciplines - especially those involved with factory automation, robotics, and new product design.

For so many other people, this is simply not the case.  Their jobs have been permanently eliminated due to factory automation, new technology, outsourcing, and overall efficiencies.  For these people, their only hope is to be retrained to learn new skills where employment opportunism are abundant. 

Adding to their financial woes was the bursting of the real estate bubble.  This event wiped out trillions of equity that people had amassed in their homes and nearly bankrupted the financial markets.

It’s probably a safe assumption that both the loss of jobs and the bursting of the real estate bubble were bound to occur regardless of which politely party occupied congress and the presidency. 

There is some good news that has come from this mess.  Personal debt continues to fall, savings are growing, and inflation is mostly non-existent.  These trends will help us to build wealth needed to fuel business investment in the upcoming future.  Hopefully we’ve learned a valuable lesson about debt and bubbles.

Personally, I’ve significantly pared my expenses and paid down my debt so I am indeed a bit better off financially than I was four years ago financially even though my income has remained the same (actually slightly lower).

I can therefore positively state that I am indeed slightly better off today than I was four years ago.

Beyond financial, there are many other areas of people’s lives that can be examined to determine if our lives are a bit better or worse.

After a careful assessment of my own life these past four years, I can offer a quick accounting of my personal balance sheet. 

Everyone’s lives are self-evidently individual so everyone’s results will vary from mine but I offer my own review as one example:


I am four years older so I am inching forward toward my eventual intersection with mortality. I have attempted to forestall the aging process by living a healthy lifestyle but with each year I grow closer to the end. In this way, I am definitely not better than I was four years ago.

Experience and Wisdom

I was having lunch with my twenty-something year old daughter this past week. She is in the midst of beginning a new career, starting new relationships, and potentially finding a new location in which to live.

I’ve been doing my best to impart some great wisdom upon her as to how to hopefully avoid some mistakes and pitfalls that I encountered when I was her age. However, in the end, it does not matter how much fatherly advice I offer her, she will ultimately make her own choices and make her own mistakes. This will provide her with her own unique experiences that she will hopefully use to make better in her future.

I continue to learn new things every day. I make my share of mistakes and hopefully learn from them. Today I make fewer mistakes than I did yesterday and in this way I am categorically better off than I was four years ago.

Security vs. Freedom

I detest the fact that I need to be inconvenienced by security measures employed to increase my personal safety but this is the reality of the society that we live in. Deranged and/or fanatical people now have the means and the opportunity to do innocent civilians great harm. No longer are wars waged upon battlefields but rather they are fought all around us each and every day.

As a response to these threats of harm, our protectors have now created restrictions to our personal liberty, freedom and privacy. In this area, I am sadly worse off than I was four years ago.


While some people may disagree, I believe that we are living in an era of opportunity never experienced before. Opportunity not only is knocking at the door but it is trying to kick the door down.

Recent advances in technology, education and communication have lowered the barriers of entry allowing people with good ideas to prosper. Access to micro-capital, free-lance services, and low-cost, easy-to-use business tools, allow people to develop their ideas into products and services that are easily marketed to potential customers using a variety of communication conduits.

No longer is the world beholden to the gatekeepers who historically have restricted access to capital, development, and markets.

Society, as a whole, is better off these last four years due to the opportunities that continue to increase for its population.

Overall, I believe that we are better off in some areas and worse off in others... most of which are not affected by what happens in Washington, DC and/or who happens to be residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Government does not control our ability to live happy and fulfilled lives, we alone make that determination.

On behalf of all of us at OptiFuse, we are so thankful that your support has helped us to be much better off today than we were four years ago.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Preparing for the Worst...

Over the Labor Day weekend, several of our friends managed to get together at the beach for an end-of-the-summer barbeque.  With approximately 10 families in attendance at our little soiree, I counted no less than 30 children present, ranging in ages of new-born to university students.
While eating my lunch, I managed to have a brief conversation with a mom and her daughter Katelyn.  Katelyn was about to begin her senior year of high school in a few days and was giddy with excitement (although she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her enthusiasm to appear cool in the eyes of her friends).

Soon the subject of college arose, and I asked her which universities she was applying to.  With a straight face, she explained that she was only applying to one University... Stanford.

Now I’ve known Katelyn for many years.  She is one of the top students at her high school, is active in several clubs, runs girls track, volunteers at her church, and is working her way toward earning her gold award in Girl Scouts (on par with the Eagle Scout award in Boy Scouts).

Still, Stanford University will receive more than 38,000 freshman applications this year, all from highly qualified students, from which they will accept less than 7,000 students for admission.  This includes highly recruited athletes, wealthy (and giving) legacies, sons and daughters of heads of state and royalty, and other selected individuals who have a fast-track to admission.

Knowing her long odds for admission, I asked her about the other schools she was applying to just in case the Stanford thing didn’t work out.

She then gave me a look that insinuated that I was a crazy man just released from the asylum. 

"I just told you... I’m going to Stanford", she avowed, "plain and simple".

Now it’s one thing to have a focused goal in mind, but it’s something else completely to bet the farm on overwhelming odds against.  She may very well be the a part of 16% who is accepted at Stanford as a freshman, but it’s more likely, she may be instead, a part of the 84% of those who are not accepted.

There is no shame in not being accepted at an elite college.  Much of the decision is beyond a person’s own control.  Most of the kids (if not all) who apply are indeed the brightest and best.  They already represent the top 1-2% of their respective classes so the competition is fierce and highly subjective to the whims of the admissions office.

There are other first-rate schools with fine reputations for academic excellence.  At the very least, Katelyn should consider applying to some of those other schools just in case acceptance to Stanford is not granted.

Those additional college applications would be insurance policies against unforeseen disaster... not saying that it’ll happen... but just in case...

Now as adults... we may laugh at Katelyn’s potential folly (or admire her courageous heart).  We have the privilege of experience, insight and first-hand accounts of history.
We have seen the stock market crash... not once... not twice... but multiple times in our lifetimes. 

We have witnessed the wrath that Mother Nature can cast upon in terms of hurricanes, tornados, floods, wild fires, earthquakes, and tsunamis... and leave death and destruction in her wake.   

We know what it’s like when our parents and grandparents told us to invest in real estate because it’ll never go down in value. 

We have all bet on a sure thing... only to watch that bet come up a loser in the end.

We understand that no matter how hard we plan, our plans can be undermined by forces not brought upon by ourselves.
Not only do we need a plan A... but most of the time we also need to consider a plan B and possibly a plan C as well.  This helps us to create contingencies should our first path be blocked or should a calamity occur along the way.
Critics of contingency planning will claim that if you work at something long and hard, success will surely become yours.  Focus and concentrated effort can overcome the impossible and improbable and turn dreams into reality. 

Focused efforts will indeed help us to achieve more in the long run but there are so many variables that lie outside our immediate control.  Favorable outcomes cannot be solely based upon our hard work and directed energies.

Along with our self-determination come certain elements, both positive and negative, that may affect our final results.  These are the "luck" factors which have figured prominently in most, if not all, great success stories.

I have personally witnessed countless examples of where the "luck factor" contributed more than its fair-share to the success or failure of a project, product, and/or company. 
An idea might be revolutionary, but unfortunately too far ahead of its time to be commercially useful. 

Inventions like the microchip, the microwave oven, and digitized music and video were commercial flops for their innovators.  Unfortunately for them, the time wasn’t right for the world to embrace their new technology.  
It wasn’t until many years after their initial design, that the world finally figured out how to best utilize their new ideas.  They were simply unlucky that the time wasn’t just right to achieve personal success.

Timing and opportunity can also work in favor of a project, design and or company.  There were several winners (and losers) created during the multiple technology bubbles of the recent past. 

What made Google the ultimate winner in search engines?... they weren’t the first nor the best in this space, but they ultimately came out on top beating out Yahoo, Web Crawler, Alta Vista and Excite (just to name a few).

Google’s early success had just as much to do with good fortune as it did with management and/or innovation.

Our friend Katelyn may truly have the best college resume that Stanford University has ever seen.  They would be fools for not accepting her.  However, the final decision is ultimately outside of her control and that’s why she should consider a fallback position should the worst occur.

Always prepare for the worst... yet hope for the best... 
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we try our best to assist you to beat the odds and find success in whatever it is you do.