Friday, April 24, 2015

What Would You Write?...

"Harry - you’re a great wizard, you know." 

"I’m not as good as you," said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let go of him.

"Me!" said Hermione. "Books! And cleverness! There are more important things - friendship and bravery and - oh Harry - be careful!" 

                             ~ J.K Rowling

                                Harry Potter and the
                                Sorcerer’s Stone
A few weeks ago, I agreed to meet my friend Gina after work to have a drink and catch up with each other after an absence of about a year.

We agreed to meet Before I Dieat a local dive bar in the Hillcrest area of San Diego called the "Alibi". 

When I got there, there was no parking in the front so I went around the block and parked on a side street.  When I got out of my car, there was a giant blackboard painted on the side of the bar with the heading, "Before I Die..." boldly lettered on the top.

Below the heading, people chalked in relatively mundane promises to themselves and others.

Promises such as... I want to travel... I want to drink all night... I want to marry Victor... I want to be rich and happy...

As I walked into the bar, I couldn’t help but think to myself that these people squandered a great opportunity to open their hearts and dream big... really big!... but instead they chose to take a safe route... even when writing anonymously on the side of a wall...

What I wanted to read was someone searching his soul for a deeper meaning of life... a promise of doing something so hard that she might revolutionize the world (or at least herself)... a commitment to right a great injustice or to develop a talent into a great superpower...

"Why exactly did they set the bar so low as to not really risking anything significant?" I thought to myself.

I recently had the opportunity to Skype with my friend Sam and his wife Carolyn while they sat in their temporary abode in Quito, Ecuador. 

Approximately one year ago, Sam and Carolyn owned a small business, a house and two cars.  Their house had furnishings and their closets and garage was full of things that they believed to be important in their lives.

They have two preteen children who went to school and participated in athletics and other extra-curricular activities.

As a family, their lives were busy... so busy in fact... that they rarely spent much quality time together... but they were living the true American dream... successful, healthy, and safe... but there was something still missing.

After some soul-searching... Sam and Carolyn concluded that they had become slaves to their success and decided to take a giant leap of faith to change their stars.

They decided at that point to abandon their comfortable life and go on a year-long journey to see the world as a family... living together in very close quarters for months at a time without all of the distractions of work or a permanent home...

In a span of 3 months, they sold their business, their home, and gave away all of their possessions to charity (save those that could fit into one suitcase per person)... and left.

In the ten months since they’ve left they have visited over 30 countries on 5 continents.  They have met new friends along the way... and more importantly, the four members of the family have deepened their relationships far more than they ever could have while living their normal lives at home.

Of course, there have been many challenges for Sam and his wife along the way... living out of one suitcase notwithstanding. 

The family has a hard and fast rule... if you buy something new along the way... then you need to dispose of something old... so soon they begin to think in terms of scarcity rather than abundance and what is the purpose and necessity of everything they own.

Their children are being home-schooled (or should I say road-schooled) by both Sam and Carolyn.  Doing this creates some real challenges in that there is no room in the luggage for books or other traditional learning tools, but since they don’t have the distractions of electronic entertainment, sports, maintaining external friendships, the kids have excelled in their studies and now are a full grade ahead of their counterparts they left behind at home.

As I spoke with Sam and Carolyn, I couldn’t help but fantasize just a bit about convincing my wife to leave everything we have behind and setting out to explore the world...

What could we hope to find and what would we learn along the way?
My wife and I love each other deeply... but could we live in such close quarters for months at a time?  In the end, would we end up hating each other... or would our love grow for one another? 

How would we make decisions?... would it be collaborative or would one person take the lead one time and follow the next?

What would it be like to live each day in the moment... not really sure where the next leg of the adventure would take us... could we come to embrace so much uncertainty and upheaval in our lives... can there truly be peace with seemingly so much chaos?

For better or worse, I believe that I am fairly self-actualized... I am aware of many of my own talents and many of my faults...

I don’t believe that I would have any problem living a minimalistic life on the road as I live a pretty simple life now... but what I also accept is that I am a man of structure and habit.  The idea of aimlessly wandering the world frightens me... to a point that I seriously doubt that I could replicate the courage that Sam and his family has displayed (and I don’t even have any young kids to consider!)...

The other idea that prevents me from giving it all up is the idea of having to start all over again from scratch... but would I really be starting all over from square one?  The difference this time around would be that I’ve already done it once... but now I would start with a blank canvas combined with a wealth of knowledge and experience of what I wanted to create.

If we all had the resources of time and money at our disposal, what would we do that expands our horizons?...

Who would we ask to join us on the adventure and why would they trust us so much that they would come?...

What scares us?...

What is it that we want to do before we die?... and would we be brave enough to write it on the side of the building?  

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we believe that there is fear and bravery found in each of us...  

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Single Finger Salute...

"No matter how big a guy might be, Nicky would take him on. You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And if you beat him with a gun, you better kill him, because he’ll keep comin’ back and back until one of you is dead."

                ~ Sam "Ace" Rothstein in Casino
                   (as played by Robert De Niro)

"So what motivated you to start OptiFuse", was the question from a local newspaper reporter.

Sitting before me on the other side of my desk was a feature writer from a local newspaper asking several questions of me for an upcoming article. 

I pondered the question for what seemed like a full minute, although the actual time was more likely 15 seconds.

"Revenge", I finally blurted out.

"Well... that’s an answer I don’t hear every day", she said, matter-of-factly."

I went on with a full explanation.

"Soon after leaving college, I landed a job as a local sales engineer with a company called Bussmann.  At the time, Bussmann was the largest manufacturer of fuses and fuse accessories in the world.

"I spent the next seven years increasing the sales in my region by approximately 1,000 percent literally adding millions of dollars in profits to the company’s bottom line.  I was working 60-70 hours a week for promises of better compensation down the road.  

"After several years of broken promises and excuses,  I decided it was time to leave the company and join up with a local electronics distributor who offered to sell me a percentage of the company in exchange for some ’sweat equity’.  This same supply company also happened to be a distributor of Bussmann products.

"As would be expected due to my experiences at Bussmann, the sales of fuse products at the distributor grew exponentially over the next 8 years to a point that the distributor was now the single largest distributor of Bussmann products in the western United States.

"This success did not go unnoticed at Bussmann.

"Several of the sales managers at Bussmann where becoming increasingly concerned with our market dominance and tried to place as many hurdles in front of us to impede our progress.

"Despite their efforts, we continued to grow their sales, so in desperation of keeping market control, the management at Bussmann decided to pull the plug and completely disfranchise our growing distributor, effectively stealing millions of dollars of business from us and reapportioning it to other distributors in the region."

The reporter was now sitting in front of me in disbelief.

"How could they get away with such a thing?" she queried.

"Unfortunately for us, the distribution contract that we signed gave them the exclusive right to pick and choose to who they wanted to sell their products... even though we had done an exemplary job for them as their distributor we had no say in the decision... it was all about politics and playing the corporate game.

"After the fateful meeting with their management team where they effectively fired us for doing too good of a job, I went back to my office and wrote a business plan to start a new fuse company from scratch called OptiFuse to compete directly against Bussmann.

"The road to success has been anything but easy.  We have been harassed, intimidated, and sued by Bussmann for daring to compete with them in the market. 

"But what the people at Bussmann don’t fully understand is that they have become OptiFuse’s metaphoric dragon to slay.

"Our entire team is motivated by our galvanized but one single goal... to do everything in our power to fight back at the playground bully.

"We may become bruised and bloodied... but we know that we will find a way to make better and more innovative products.  We listen to what our customers are telling us and hope to 'wow' them with better solutions and service.

"With every win, big and small, we believe that we are saluting our competition with our middle finger putting them on notice that they have simply messed with the wrong people."

Psychologists will tell us that true motivation doesn’t come from some wall poster with the headline "Team Work" or a saying on a tee-shirt telling us to "Just Do It".

Our most primal motivation comes not from catchy adages but rather from a sense of insecurity, from over compensating for feelings of unworthiness and inadequacies, and from a need to draw attention to one’s self.

Personal motivation, at the most basic level, is derived from the sum of our fears.  The fear of failure... the fear of abandonment... the fear of inadequacy...   

It’s no secret that many of the most successful people in this world came from a dysfunctional childhood or after a series of failures.

Somewhere along the way they developed a deeply personal and passionate ambition to prove themselves to others. 

Sometimes our best motivation comes from people telling us that we are unable to accomplish something... and so we set out to prove them wrong.

We’ll show them... we say to ourselves...

During his sophomore year at Laney High School in Chicago, Michael Jordan was cut from the varsity basketball team by his coach, Clifton "Pops" Herring (mostly due to the fact that Herring already had a full complement of 11 seniors and 3 juniors on his varsity squad).

Due to this setback, Jordan dedicated himself to playing basketball better and returned the following year to lead Laney High to a number one ranking and eventually a scholarship to the University of North Carolina.

Several years later, as Michael Jordan was being inducted into the basketball hall-of-fame, he asked that Pops Herring be present at the ceremony.  During his inductance speech, he reflected on the day he was cut from the varsity team, and how it motivated him throughout his entire career to do the hard work to consistently become better.

And that was the day, despite all of the success he has had over his career, Michael Jordan was finally able to wag his finger at his former coach and tell him, "Coach... you shouldn’t have cut me".

There are countless other examples of athletes, entrepreneurs, scientists, musicians, and entertainers who defied all odds to rise above the criticisms and their environments to achieve great success...

Those individuals didn’t work hard just to add a few zeros onto their bank balances... or because it brought them celebrity and fame... or to win a Nobel prize or an Oscar.

They became successful because they had something to prove to the naysayers... to their parents... to their siblings... childhood friends... teachers... coaches...

They willed themselves to success because for them failure wasn’t an option... nothing was going to stand in their way... they were going back to their high school reunion as a great success or not at all...

As leaders, it is our jobs to find out what it is that motivates the people around us... as individuals and as a part of our team...

If we are somehow able to align our mutual goals... and harness the energy... then there isn’t anything we can’t accomplish together.

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we are thankful that you are our accomplice by helping us to "stick it to the man"...  

Friday, April 10, 2015

The "P" Words...A Better List...

Calvin:  "I’ve been thinking Hobbes"
Hobbes:  "On a weekend?!"
Calvin:  " wasn’t on purpose..."

                                ~Bill Watterson
                                  Calvin and Hobbes

I recently needed to beg for some forgiveness from a customer for not completing a certain set of tasks I was assigned to accomplish.  I was fully aware of the deadline, but over the course of a few days, several emergencies arose that needed my immediate attention.

When the customer 5 Psreceived my explanation for my tardiness, he responded with the same "5 P’s" that many of us learn in grade school:

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

I suspect that he was slightly upset that I didn’t have any real contingency plans to complete his project, just in case an emergency did come up.

After some time, I began thinking about the "5 P’s"...

In business school, they talk about the "5 P’s" of marketing...

Product, Price, Placement, Promotion and Profit...

 ...or the "5 P’s" of management...

Purpose, Plan, Process, People, Profit (it’s no coincidence that Profit appears on both lists... it was business school after all).

It suddenly occurred to me that I know several other words that started with the letter "P".  

As an entrepreneur and a citizen of the world, I believe that this is a slightly improved list of "P" words and perhaps more accurately describes how most people operate (or at least want to operate) their lives.

5 P s
The 5 "P’s"

Every new idea starts with possibility... namely because everything is possible.

It is possible that the sun won’t come up  tomorrow... it is possible that a time machine exists... it is possible that our universe is nothing more than a speck on the end of a dandelion (ala Horton Hears a Who).

Everything and anything is possible... although those same elements might also be highly improbable.

If you existed on this planet 2000 years ago, you would have thought it was impossible for the earth to orbit the sun since it was proved beyond all doubt, complete with charts and mathematical equations, that the sun orbited the earth.

If you lived only 600 years ago, you, along with almost the entire population, believed that the world was flat and that it was impossible to circle a cube.

200 years ago we knew nothing of microscopic organisms...

Atomic structure has been known for less than 100 years... and DNA structure for only 60 years... the Internet was created 30 years ago... and the human genome has been decoded for exactly 12 years...

What was once declared impossible has now become possible as we push the boundaries of innovation and science.

Possibilities are endless and bound only by our imaginations.


Principles are the fundamental truths in which provide us the foundation and systems to govern our lives.

Our principles are the tenets of our belief system and the core values that we hold self-evident.

Whereas our goals may change, our core values rarely, if ever, change... they are who we are deep down inside...

They are the sum of our inner hopes, dreams and fears...

Our principles are our road map to wherever that place is that we call "success".
Success is defined differently by each person on this earth but that is because we are all driven by a different set of principles divined from our DNA, our experiences, and our environment.  

Our principles are unwavering in the face of adversity or uncertainty. 


Some think of providence with a capital "P" meaning a divine intervention or protection by God or nature.

This gives many people a sense of meaning and great comfort knowing that they are sheltered by a higher power being.

The second meaning of providence (the one with the small "p") is the one that I often like to refer to.

Providence with a small "p" refers to foresight and be ready when the chance of opportunity knocks upon our doors.

So many of us have had great opportunities in our lifetimes... the opportunity for an education... the opportunity for expressing freedoms... the opportunity to fail and fail and fail again... the opportunity to make our own decisions and live our lives by our own design.

Providence teaches us to prepare ourselves for what may lie ahead be it good or bad...

The truly successful people will tell us that their successes come from the intersection of opportunity and preparedness.  This is providence.   

Priority places one thing of more importance over another item of perhaps lesser importance.

Each waking moment we are making decisions that could affect our lives.  With each of our decisions there is an outcome.  The outcome might be beneficial (a positive outcome) or it could be detrimental (a negative outcome).

Many times our decisions have both a positive and negative element associated with the outcome.

For instance, we can chose to stay up late reading a book that helps to educate our minds... however in doing so, we know that we will not get all of the required sleep which could cause us to under-perform the following day.

We had a positive outcome followed by a negative outcome.  In this instance, we placed a higher priority on the learning experience than we did our sleep, knowing in advance, that it would be detrimental to our health and productivity the following day.

Every day we place priorities on certain things that we value.  Priorities help to give us focus on those things that are truly important.

We may value money and wealth... so we work very long hours to help produce those things that we value... but at a cost of not spending time with our families and/or keeping our bodies healthy.

Keenly watching what someone does rather than what they say will give you great insights into a person’s priorities.


Passion is the exhibition of a strong love, enthusiasm, and/or emotion.  It’s the thing that gets us excited to get up each morning to face another day.

When a person is passionate about something or someone, they will not let momentary failure impede their eventual success. 

Passionate people believe in themselves, in others, and in what they are doing because they know that what they are doing will make a difference... today or tomorrow.

Those people who possess passion understand that passion is infectious and that often others will become intoxicated with a similar desire.  The passionate will frequently inspire and energize others by and through their words, actions, and teachings.

When you possess passion, you can move mountains and help people to become better human beings.

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we believe that proper planning is important but that our true success comes from Possibility, Principles, Providence, Priorities, and Passion...

Monday, April 6, 2015

Our Ability to Scale...

"Friendships don’t scale... they are built on mutual trust... one at a time"                         

                           ~Brian Russell

Imagine for a moment that you’ve just invented a new communication device.
This new technology allows you to use the earth’s upper atmosphere to reflect communication waves allowing  you to talk from anywhere to anywhere.

No longer would you need to be within the boundaries of a cell tower... just push a button and you have the ability to talk to another phone "just like it" anywhere on earth.

How much would an invention like this be worth?

Now some people might say that this new technology is worth billions.

I, on the other hand, would say that this invention is totally worthless (for the moment at least).

Why the differing opinions?

The key is the phrase "another phone just like it"... if no one has a phone just like it... than the technology is absolutely worthless because you can’t actually connect with anyone.

What makes a new technology like the one described above  work, is a network of people who actually use the technology.

No matter how good Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and/or Pinterest’s underlying platforms are... they are totally useless without the millions of people in the network who also use these services.

The same thing goes for service providers that play in the middle between product and/or service providers and consumers.

Diner’s Club and Carte Blanc credit cards found out this truth many years ago when they failed to reach critical mass...

Those credit card companies failed to enlist enough merchants who actually accepted these cards as payment.

Without the merchants’ participation, consumers couldn’t use their cards and they soon became useless to the consumer who opted to use another brand of credit card (Visa or MasterCard).

Discover is probably on the same track as those two former credit cards... although it may eventually build a strong enough network to give it escape velocity.

Escape velocity is a physics term defining the speed at which a projectile needs to travel in order to break free from the gravitational forces of a larger object... such as a space ship leaving the earth’s gravitational pull.

The internet has allowed new companies to quickly scale up to escape velocity once the concept can be proven. 

Scalability is defined as a platform that, when fully built, can accommodate additional members on the network at little or no additional cost but will grow exponentially in value based on the total number of members contained in the network.    

Companies such as Uber, AirBnB, Dropbox, Snapchat, Spotify and Square didn’t even exist 10 years ago but now they have 100’s of millions of networked users with 10’s of billions in valuation.

Each company provides a valuable service to their user base, but their real value comes from their scalable networks connecting producers with consumers.

So you might now be thinking that the key to creating a great deal of value (and wealth for their founders) is to define and build a new business model that simply fills a common need and then build a scalable platform around that idea... and you would be correct... if it was just that easy.

That would be akin to saying that the only thing necessary to winning the Power Ball Lottery is to simply choose the right numbers... easy to do in theory... but nearly impossible to do in practice.

It is safe to say then that most of the success in the world doesn’t come from scalability but rather it comes from making incremental gains over a long period of time.

In most aspects of people’s lives, more is not better...

It is not better to have more than one significant other at any given time.

Having hundreds of homes or cars does not make your life better... and in fact there is a strong argument that it probably makes your life worse trying to keep track of everything.

And unless you’re "octomom", birthing 8 children at once is not a good thing...

Buying more food Burger!!!that you can possibly eat and watching it spoil is simply just wasteful but go to any Costco or Sam’s Club on a Saturday morning and you’ll see hundreds of people doing just that.

I know more companies that have gone bankrupt, not from having too few customers and sales, but rather from growing faster than their cash-flow allowed.

Often I like to snipe about a national restaurant chain (I’d rather not mention the chain by name)... that prides itself in serving its customers a huge quantity (of really bad) food...

What I have discovered is that people are starting to understand that more is not better... better is better.

Better to find your one true love and stay true to that person than to keep looking to upgrade every few years...

Better to find a career that you love and have the opportunity to grow over time than to continuously go from job to job every few years to make a bit more money doing something you hate.

Better to take your time to hire good people who fit your company’s culture, rather than recruit, hire, train, coach, fire, and repeat over and over...

Better to make quality investments that pay a reasonable rate of return rather than try to gamble on "get-rich-quick" schemes or high-risk ventures.

Better to invest in additional educational experiences... than to spend on luxury vacations.

Better to invest in growing your appreciating assets... rather than spending on growing your closet full of designer clothes and garages full of more unnecessary things.

Better to spend quality time in the present living in the moment... rather than dwelling in the past or pining for the future.

We have but only one life to live... we have only one body to maintain... we have a finite amount of days on this earth to make a difference...

We can continually long to have more and more... or we decide that we already have enough stuff and we should instead be making more of what we already have...

This is not to say that we should stop trying to achieve our goals or creating wealth for ourselves and our family.

We can always lust after more... but for things that make a true difference in our lives...

More knowledge... more experiences... more learning... more charity... more creativity... more kindness... more freedoms... more friendships... more love... more gratitude for what we already have... more opportunities to give back...

Life is full of abundance which gives us the opportunity to scale... the ability to connect... and the prospects of doing something meaningful in our lifetimes.

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we hope to continuously grow... but not so fast as to forget how to provide outstanding service to our loyal customers like you...