Month: January 2013

A Very Touchy Subject – part one

I believe I’m going to touch on a subject that might make a few uncomfortable. However, I think it’s a subject that needs to be addressed for it could have far-reaching implications to whether it moves web traffic as many think it does. Or, could be a catalyst with dramatic monetary implications in ways some would never expect. The subject – porn.

No, I’m not going to sink us into the gutter. However, something is happening via what we deem as “search” that a great many might be unaware. The resulting backlash or acceptance of new policies could alter many things we take for granted. i.e., What’s available or delivered to us on the web.

Another way to put it would be; what you or I currently take for granted as in our expectancy of the results delivered to us via our search queries in Google®. This policy change could possibly exclude you from viewing (or reading) certain results be it now, or in the future.

Currently we take for granted when we initiate a search we have an expectancy as to see everything in an unadulterated format if we have adjusted our settings as to be unfiltered. Make sense that’s not only what one would expect. It’s also what one wants. Results that should be presented or delivered for us to choose from. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Yet, if there’s a policy change that now no longer allows you to see what you expected to see – would you know it? Hence, lies the crux of this discussion.

So, why do I bring up such a topic using porn as the example? Well, many of you might not be aware that Google has changed a feature in their search disabling your ability to adjust your settings as to see or view any pornographic images if you were searching for exactly that – pornographic images.

Now many of you might be saying: “Good! About time. My kids (or any kids) shouldn’t be susceptible in getting a screen full of porn just because they may have typed in a search term that was close – or even if they typed in the word. I’m tired of fighting this problem!” To which I totally agree.

However, this is a little different, with far greater implications for a great deal more. It’s not something you are going to control – it’s now something you have no choice in controlling. And there lies a very different dynamic that changes far more things to all of us than what we see, that might make us blush.

All of us are aware of the controls at our finger tips to filter content we don’t want to see. Regardless of the subject matter, we control the filter based on the setting we want enforced. Want no filters?. Want anything and everything to be seen in a search result and you’ll decide? You can do that. Just now – no longer in Google. And, that fact is very, very, very (did I say very?) important for great deals of research. (not everything revolves around nude pics. Just saying.)

Sometimes you need to weed through a ton of trash to find what you’re looking for. Sometimes, it’s exactly that piece of trash for what ever the reason moves you into searching for something totally unrelated yet, ends up being exactly that missing piece which pulls everything together.

However, you or I are the ones whom decide what is or what isn’t relevant. When I want it all. I want it all. I’ll decide. I’m an adult. As long as I have the filters, if I want to use them, that’s all that’s needed. But, (and it’s a very big but) when the search provider now arbitrarily decides what I can or can not see – does this without my permission – while simultaneously has forbidden me the ability to change it. I’m sorry – something is wrong with this picture.

It’s not that you can’t see dirty pics anymore. It’s just that if you type into Google search the term “wind-work” (Yes, that’s a play on words as to not be so crass) you won’t get a screen full of images. They’ll all be pixellated to obscure them. However if you get real specific as to add a modifier. i.e., “wind-work porn” you’ll get what you thought should have been shown first.

Now again, you might be saying; “So what’s the big deal?” Well, there are a few by my way of thinking. You might not agree however, they are something that does warrant a wider discussion of its implications on everything we hold as “understood” or take for granted about the internet as we now know it today. Never mind going forward.

You see it’s not only that the images themselves have been obscured. The actual results themselves have changed based on a new search delivery criteria that Google has implemented. And, there’s nothing you can do to change it.

For what ever your reason, when you searched for something on Google; you had some expectancy that if you were not applying filters – neither was Google. That is no longer a true statement or assumption one can hold. Google is now also filtering what Google deems is unfiltered – not you. If I want to see exactly what pictures are delivered using an unfiltered (or not using the familiar “Safe” mode) I will not be able to. Period.

They will be obscured unless I switch my criteria for query. And – as long as that image even shows up in my now changed criteria for that search. So as I said earlier. If you didn’t know it was there – how would you ever know if it was to be filtered? Or here’s the bigger question:
What happens when this change of policy is implemented as to affect other searches? Who is in charge of filtering? Us – or them? And, what does that mean to everything we know think of as “true” in respect to a search?

Currently all we are aware of is the  p–n issue. Yet, who’s to say this isn’t going to happen – or isn’t currently happening in your other search queries? How would you know? That’s a very big question you might want to re-read. (Yes, I believe it’s that important.)

One would think my unfiltered search queries within a Google search should fetch me the same results if no filters are applied by the user regardless of where I make those queries. If it’s on the web – the results should be the same. Again, that was the way it was. Now, that is no longer the case. (See footnote below for more) Like I said before the implications for this go far, far beyond what seems as a good idea at first blush. This could impact and change everything.

Let me end this section with this one thought as to put a little weight behind what can seem as hyperbole:

Both the search engine Bing® as well as Yahoo® are currently experiencing a recent as well as noticeable increase in both their users as well as their search metrics. Bing unlike Google has not implemented such a policy and currently is – as it was – prior to Google’s policy change. (which by the way is only about a month or so old as of this writing) On Bing if your settings are in an unfiltered mode (or what’s also known as turning off the “Safe” mode) you still get all. The good – the bad – and the ugly.

Is this policy change of Google’s now working as a boon for Bing and Yahoo? Could it hurt Google monetarily in a way we currently can’t put into perspective? Who knows, However, with so-called statistics bandied about that most web traffic is dominated by p–n traffic (I’ve seen stats as high as 60% plus)  while at the same time it’s also dominated by people under the age of 25.

Can we as entrepreneurs just ignore this – or the implications it could possibly have?

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

To get a visual idea of exactly what is transpiring here are 2 links to articles currently reporting on this topic. First is their initial report. The second is their confirmed followup. If you’re easily offended by language or pictures be forewarned. (I believe them to be rather tame however, that’s me.)
From WebPro News. by Josh Wolford

Link to first  and  to confirmed

 

 

Wrong For All The Right Reasons

One can’t help but look at the financial markets close as of Friday and not shake their head in bewilderment. For anyone (including myself) that has expressed caution since the beginning of this historic rise we are left scratching our heads. The mantra of “Don’t fight the Fed” has just been spot on. However, that saying was used far before, and for other reasons than to explain what we are currently witnessing today.

Some only read the headlines trying to extrapolate any discernible information for what we see taking place. Others just use a “going with the flow” type strategy because they don’t know what else to do. It can work for a time however, it can set oneself up to do exactly the wrong things at the wrong times.

There’s nothing wrong with being wrong if; your decision-making process was based on sound principles. You can adjust your strategies and tactics based on execution. Yes, there are also times you must just take a “guess.” However, it’s in the knowing of which you’re doing that’s crucial.

Currently across the media there’s the clarion call that the Fed is completely in control. That presumably around some table sits a gathering of people far smarter than any other mere mortals pushing and pulling levers with effortless efficiency controlling the monetary system like an athlete in top form.

People will point to the markets recovery as proof of their gold medal performance. From the outside it’s sure hard to argue with that logic. However, something transpired this week that for anyone that takes business or financial matters seriously; we finally have a glimpse into the window that so far has been sealed shut.

We had in many news outlets writings on, or reporting of, the FOMC releasing the actual meeting transcripts from 2007. Here’s a sample in which you may have seen reported elsewhere across the web:

A conversation as per the recently released FOMC transcripts from 2007. Emphasis added:

Aug. 7, Mr. Dudley: “We’ve done quite a bit of work trying to identify some of the funding questions surrounding Bear Stearns, Countrywide, and some of the commercial-paper programs. There is some strain, but so far it looks as though nothing is really imminent in those areas. Now, could that change quickly? Absolutely.”

Aug. 7, Mr. Fisher: “No amount of rewriting of history will exonerate us if we are not prepared for the more-dire scenarios that were presented by the staff. I would ask that we do some scenario preparation in terms of, should we encounter increased financial-market turbulence, what actions we might take to deal with it.”

Aug. 7, Mr. Bernanke: “I think the odds are that the market will stabilize. Most credits are pretty strong except for parts of the mortgage market.”

So, many of you might be saying, “Yes, and so what. Doesn’t change anything in my mind or the markets.” To which many would agree. However, that’s exactly what you don’t want to think.

When you’re truly serious about business and financial decision-making with real money and or livelihoods on the line. A headline or excerpt is the last thing you’ll use to formulate any decision or strategy. You need context. How was it said – in reference to what or why. You need to know the whole discourse. Anything less – and you’re just guessing.

As I said earlier that window of critical information that many like myself have been clamoring for as to get some glimpse into what is going on behind the curtain was released. The Federal Reserve made public in full detail their meeting from August 2007 in PDF format. You can read it here.

With the beauty of hindsight this document is a must read for anyone serious about the markets and or business. This is a glimpse into the real conversations, and thinking process of the key players that currently “control” the financial markets in a way that is unprecedented.

You need not have sat on, or answered directly to a board. That’s irrelevant. These minutes read as they should. They are laid out where you can read them as if you’re a fly on the wall listening in. They’re not a quick study – nor should they be. There are over 100 pages. Yet, I believe as I’ve said before they are imperative if you wish to get some context as to what is going on within the hallowed halls when the train gave its first signs of coming off the tracks. And, how the key decision makers viewed what was happening and how to deal with it.

I believe for a great many of us it will provide some clarity to what we felt all along.

Not only were we right for being so cautious even as the markets continue to rise. But, the higher the markets rise; the more justification we have for being even more cautious.

Because, to what can be deciphered when one reads what was going on within the minds and how they perceived what was happening. It’s this very same cast of characters that are supposedly still in “control” of what we are currently witnessing.

Maybe we aren’t worried enough.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

How Powerful Is Perception You Ask?

Today, for a great number of people it will be a strange day indeed. What will be at odds is what they perceive as rational; will be replaced with confusion in search of some form of rationale.

As of this writing the miracle story of Apple® told by every investment adviser or financial pundit across the media has now morphed into some version of a horror story to all that listened and literally – bought it.

What should be front and center is in the understanding on what I’ve written or spoken of before; “the issue of perceived as opposed to actual.” Those that have will enjoy no difficulty understanding what’s currently taking place.

For whatever the reasoning or rationale being given earlier, the “story” that has been Apple is no longer salable as it once was. Hence, if the story can’t be sold – the stock won’t be bought. Which means the stock now must and will be sold.

Fundamentals, P/E ratios, calls of “down right cheap” are all out the window. Why do I make such a claim? Well, here’s just a sample of what was stated at their earnings release. They sold a record number of iPhones®, made billions upon BILLIONS of dollars in profit. Increased their cash in the bank, and a few more amazing stats. These are of a magnitude near any corporation in the world would “die” for.

Yet, they didn’t meet some perceived Wall St. estimate of phones to be sold. They only sold….(wait for it) 47.8 million iPhones this quarter! Up from 37 million sold last quarter. That’s 10 million MORE phones than previous. Not less – more. Yet, the drum beat from the analyst community: “Oh man this company is toast – we were thinking more around 50 million.” Absolutely mind-boggling to anyone that understands business. (It’s more obvious to me by the day all the so-called “analysts” don’t.)

I mean really – are you kidding me? How can one not sit back and laugh at the absurdity of that type of thinking? (Unless you currently own Apple shares. I understand this is no laughing matter nor mean to rub salt.) Which brings me back to perception.

The following is an excerpt from my book contained within the article titled: Lessons We Can Learn From Wall Street

I contend if you know how to look at things you can gain insight that will bust many myths about people we hold dear. And many myths that might be holding you back in business. Here’s a quick point to ponder:

“People are more informed, rational, and will only pay for value.”

That is a myth and is shattered everyday the markets are open. People will pay on what they “perceive” is value. Not whether it is or not.

As much as the story has now changed for the likes of Apple. The exact opposite story is now going to be heralded from the rooftops, and played across every stage and screen known. “The stock market is back!”

Again, on the same day that shares of Apple have fallen like some experiment to prove Newton correct. The story and perception that Apple “was” the market; holding and keeping it up single-handedly from lower levels, that perception has now been dashed.

Remember when it was then the darling of the so-called “smart crowd” not all that long ago? (a few months actually) That viewpoint and perception is now seemingly as far back in time or history as Mr. Newton himself.

As its share price now plunges into Newton’s proverbial awaiting hand, The S&P has catapulted itself to breach back above 1500. A level thought to be nearly as impossible to ascertain as the apple falling toward Newton’s hand would be to reverse in mid free-fall only to re-attach itself to the tree. However, there it is!

Whether or not Apple’s share price falls further or rises is anyone’s guess. You may also couple that guess with whether the S&P will remain at these levels or not. You just need to realize that it is all – a guess. And those guesses are all based on what is perceived as the value. Not its true value. Regardless of price.

If there’s one thing of use that entrepreneurs of all stripes should take away from this real life example today it is this:

Perception is not everything. Many times – It’s the only thing.

If you perceive yourself – and tell yourself the story that you’re only worth an hourly stipend no matter what the rate. So to will your client perceive and believe the story of “that’s all your worth.”

If a client has a million dollar problem that takes you 5 minutes to solve should they: a) Only pay you on the time it took you to fix? Or, b) The perceived savings of value they’ll receive?

Always charge or ask for the perceived value working with you will deliver. i.e., Your bill should be for some percentage of the actual realized savings – irregardless of time. (Would you bill for 10% of hour at an hourly rate of $600. = $60.00?
Or would you bill at 10% of the perceived savings of $600K = $60,000.00?)

Don’t blame your customers for what they’re perceiving your value is to them. They perceive what you can demonstrate. And you should always be perceived as delivering value.

But, they won’t – if you don’t perceive, and believe it first.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

You Won’t Read This Anywhere But Here

What Others Are Afraid To Say About: Women Leaders

I’m going to go out on a limb here because, I actually believe far too many not only cower from what I’m about to say; they disingenuously give reasons why they should.

Personally I’m not scared for talking about some “taboo” styled subject or idea. Maybe that’s because I’ve made a fool of myself more times than I would like to admit. I’ve had practice opening my mouth as in doing or saying stupid things when in actuality I was trying to be cordial or polite. As in: “So, when are you expecting?”

Yep – I said it – and she wasn’t. You probably can’t feel (or be) any more stupid than in those type moments. So trust me – I’m a little more cautious about opening my mouth than I was prior to that. (You’re never the same – ever!)

So with that said I would like to express some thoughts I have about (drum roll please…): Women leaders, and why I believe far too many have some convoluted image of them today. (Yeah, I know. Like I said – brace yourself.)

The real issue or problem at hand is for the many up and coming women leaders. Far – far too many are focusing on the past looking for their clues on what to do for the future. Most women leaders looking to move up the value chain are still acting as if there is some proverbial glass ceiling to be broken. I’m here to say – there isn’t.

That “ceiling” has not only been broken – it’s been shattered. We have women leaders today running some of the worlds largest corporations. Meg Whitman, Sheryl Sandberg, Marrissa Mayer, Arianna Huffington, and more.

What women leaders of both today, and the future have to focus on is not some glass ceiling. Rather:

  • Why are there seemingly so many glass walls or partitions?
  • Why do we not have more of a cross-section of women leaders throughout corporations themselves, at every level, as well as across other markets?

Those are a handful of the questions at hand that should be dealt with and argued about. Not the ceiling.

Continually paying homage as to discuss or argue that a ceiling is still in place wastes valuable intellectual capital that would be better placed at real issues for women representation. And, that is at all levels. Not just the corner office.

Today’s typical business books or other literature designed or written for the so-called “Woman Leader” of today reads as if these leaders want some form of romance novel cross pollinated with this years catch-phrase of the business world. It’s pure sophistry, and the current women leaders of today know it, but again far too many of those trying to become one – don’t.

The business world is not a place where it’s a man’s or woman’s world any longer. It’s a producer’s world. Period.

Women who understand that point and focus on actually leading rather than continuing to focus on some exclusionary barrier will not only get ahead of the others – they’ll leap-frog over the countless numbers of others.

During my career I worked for two women CEO’s. Both of these women ran two of the largest food companies in the Northeast region of the US. In particular these women didn’t just own some company that competed in what is considered a dog eat dog – cut-throat – male dominated industry (the wholesale meat industry). They headed both the number #1 and number #2 companies respectively. Again, not from some also competed position. They were the competition.

During my tenure and interactions with these women leaders never did I see anything displayed that resembles what I’ve read on the topic of “Women Leaders” of today. To think that these women have some sort of “feminine side” that needs to be treated differently than their male counterparts to me is insulting. I also believe they would tell you the same.

Running and moving a company forward is the position that can only be filled for any length of time by a true leader. Not a guy leader. Not a woman leader. A leader. Period.

I’m here to state from first hand experience. Go into any meeting, negotiation, or anything else. Sit across the table from either the two women I knew personally, or any other true women leader today and try to address or treat them as some softer, delicate version of the stereotypical male CEO of the past. Not only will you be shown the door: Your head will be handed to you before you cross the threshold.

If we want to help more women to take up the challenges facing many areas of the business world. I believe many need to stop talking or writing from the viewpoint of leadership is only if you conquer the corner office. It’s not.

I will argue it’s more important to address not only women but their male counterparts that leadership is about leading. Not the location of your office.

This is a question that should not only be actively discussed and debated within the women community. It should also be addressed squarely by the women leaders of today as to help the up and coming crop of potential leaders in moving forward:

  • Is it somehow more important for women leaders to focus on and have only the corner office occupied by a woman; yet, the company of 50 – 500 – 5000 – 50K has so few women in leadership roles throughout the organization? And If so – why so?

Please do not misinterpret the above question as some form of convoluted argument for where a quota or something else should help fill this need. Nothing could be further from it, and I don’t subscribe to that model or theory. I’m solidly merit or results based only.

The overarching theme that should be addressed whether it be women or men for that matter is leading. In a business world currently in a state of flux unseen since the industrial revolution with its decentralized replacement. It’s more, and more incumbent on teaching leadership qualities that are imperative to anyone serious about moving forward.

Honest and open debate should be fostered while challenging any and all status quo opinions whether old or new. That is what’s needed today in my view. However, there are far too few willing to venture there. It’s considered “taboo” or worse “chauvinistic” when brought or argued in mixed company. Which proves my point.

When a discussion on or about leadership evolves as to then migrate into male or female formatted questions or answers in my opinion shows that the debate has gone awry. I’ll state it here once again because I truly believe this is not just the point, rather – it’s the only point:

“The business world is not a place where it’s a man’s or woman’s world any longer. It’s a producer’s world. Period.”

It’s myopic for anyone today that’s focused only on persuading today’s potential women leaders that their aspirations should revolve around a job or position that is becoming more and more irrelevant by the day. “The CEO in the corner office.”

What should be addressed – and I argue, is that today’s potential women leaders (and some current ones also) should focus on the leadership aspect. Not the title. True leadership begins and ends with the person or individual. Male or female it doesn’t matter. Especially in a business world that is becoming more and more fragmented not only by the day rather, every moment.

If I seem like I’m a little of base I propose this one thought experiment. What’s the more important answer to the following question:

Company A has a dilemma regarding an issue that could threaten a Billion dollars of their market share. They need answers in regards to their widget manufacturing that seems to be computer related, and they need it now. Do they:

  1. Call HP because they might have the possible solutions oh and by the way Meg Whitman is the CEO? or…
  2. Call Jane Smith. The one person organization where she’s the CEO of Jane Smith Inc. because Jane is regarded as the person with the possible answer.

Everyone, and I mean everyone if focusing on whether or not Jane Smith can rise to fill Meg’s shoes. I’m here to state that any woman leader worth their salt not only doesn’t want to be in that group. They want to be the person or answer to the second question. However, you won’t hear that from anyone else – but me.

True leadership currently has the ability to be expressed in the business world by true leaders irregardless if they sit in some coveted office with a title. Unlike anyone or anytime prior.

And, the quicker this gets figured out and internalized by the future leaders (and some that currently are) be it women or men for that matter; the faster we can get on with moving everything ahead. Better, faster, stronger.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

The Real Issue With Lance

Today all the media is in breathless anticipation of Lance Armstrong’s sit down with Oprah Winfrey. For me I have only one thing to say:
“Thanks a lot for taking the time to remind all of us that believed you were the subject of a witch hunt  – you were nothing but a liar. Now please do us all a great big favor – and just go away.” However, we all know that probably is not going to happen.

What we’re now going to view from the privacy of our couches is the public spectacle that will be time stamped as the true beginning for the rebuilding of the Lance Armstrong image campaign. Make no mistake about it. This is all that it is. Period.

I’m the first one willing to cut someone slack for poor decisions. Even decisions where they knowingly made the easy choice of lying thinking they would get away with something only to be caught in the end. To me – we’re all flawed.

We’ve all done things we regret, wish we could do over, what ever. However this is not one of those times in my view. This was an ongoing, well orchestrated campaign of pure deceit, lying, intimidation of others, and more. All for personal gain. That is far different than making a mistake.

Personally I’m sick too death of these appallingly staged mea copas. Whether it be some politician, actor, or anyone else. It’s so glaringly PR-101 formulated it just loses all credibility as if there were ever a hint to begin with. (usually there never is)

So many different themes will come forth as some way to justify the why, or the reasoning, or what ever. They’ll throw up anything as some rationale as why one should have mercy on their pathetic story line as in : “Everyone else was, so – I had too!” I wonder if Vegas has a book on how long into the interview before that line is used?

However the real issue for myself is not this chapter in the story. For me it now has nothing to do with Mr. Armstrong – I could care less. It’s what his actions do to all the people like myself that actually believed in him. All of us that really believed he was the great athlete that he claimed to be overcoming all the obstacles from a deadly disease to push through the envelope and not only once again compete – but win!

Although I’m not a cycling fan I like many were caught up in the story line. It’s a great story for anyone who’s faced adversity. Then with the time, after time, after time, of facing down the allegations of doping while never once being found dirty. It had all the ingredients for people to rally around as to cheer him on even more.

Americans probably more than any other country love the underdog. It seems almost part of our DNA. And, the more the underdog gets spat upon – the harder we rally. That’s why when it’s proven that the one spitting was actually the so-called “underdog” a great many of us get down right mad. However, not for the reasons many think.

The real issue for many is the way we’ll now have to look upon others that come after this. No longer will we give leeway to their cries of calling foul as fast as we once did. People like myself that like to give people the benefit of the doubt more often than not will now not offer it as quickly. This will act as a reminder when ever a situation comes up as in: “Yeah they might be telling the truth but, remember the Armstrong deal?” And that just ticks people like myself off.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years:
It’s not the actual deed or person whom first wronged you that you’ll stay mad at. It’s the way you must now treat everyone that comes after that get’s you the most upset.

And that is the real issue or damage people like Lance Armstrong leave in their wake.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Where Are You Investing?

I was re-reading a manifesto of sorts (full article here) by the one of the foremost speaker/consultant’s on the world stage today: Tom Peters.

As I read I believe there is more to this short paragraph than first meets the eye, while at the same time it might be glossed over as just another insightful statement out of many. However, I think there’s something within it that’s a great deal more enlightening for anyone worried about their jobs, their business, their children, their (fill in the blank).

From: What I’ve Come/Am Coming to Believe:

“Three-star generals and admirals (and symphony conductors and sports coaches and police chiefs and fire chiefs) OBSESS about training. Why is it an almost dead certainty that in a random 30-minute interview you are unlikely to hear a CEO touch upon this topic? (I would hazard a guess that most CEOs see IT investments as a “strategic necessity,” but see training expenses as “a necessary evil.”)” – Tom Peters

Stop and think about the last line for just a moment:  “…most CEOs see IT investments as a “strategic necessity,” but see training expenses as “a necessary evil.”

First off, I agree with that statement for I have seen it countless times. Rather than train others (employees, management, whomever) as to be better at problem solving, or empowering them to deal with issues in a more efficient (and many times less expensive) manner. The first thing that get’s the sun is the idea of: “We need a new gizmo 2000 to fix this. And, we’ll pay or validate its expense by eliminating that pesky old thing we refer to as an “employee.” Might work for screwing nuts and bolts. Not so much if you’re trying to avoid customers from feeling they’re the ones to be ____. (again you fill in the blank.)

Although we might think this happens elsewhere. I believe many of us to do this in our own dealings yet don’t realize it as such.

How many look for some new program or app as a way to get organized before they first look to see if maybe it’s our thinking that needs organizing first? How many dash off to get the newest and greatest phone, tablet, PC, or what ever as a way to be more productive first? I could go on however, I believe you see my point.

The first place one needs to spend their resources; is in their own intellectual firepower. Learning, training, and more should not only be something one constantly invests in as to improve ones own capacity or reasoning. It should be the absolute first place one starts. Far too many start with a new gadget or program. Usually this line of thinking only produces ephemeral results. Sometimes it can produce unwanted results as in; a better way to waste ones time while appearing to actually be busy. (Can sign in to check status on every platform with a single click!)

Now I know some of you are saying or thinking: “I wonder if he practices what he’s preaching?” Which I truly feel is a fair question.

Currently I travel all over. I have conversations with people from around the globe. I meet, talk, and have discussions with business leaders of all types as well as others. I write and more away from a traditional desk or office constantly. I am reachable 24/7/365 if need be and I don’t even own a smart phone. Nor are any other of my so-called “productivity” devices at this time linked to some phone contract or carrier. (As in my iPad®, or others are wi-fi only.)

This is not to say I’m some Luddite, far from it. I was one of the first to have a cellular phone when they first came out (I didn’t have the iconic 80’s Brick – but close to it!) And, have never been without one till as recently as 2006. It was during that time period after 2006 I decided to invest more in increasing the efficiency between my ears, rather than something more efficient I held up to my ear. It was a dramatic shift that changed everything in more ways than I first realized. And to this day people still shake their head in disbelief as if I don’t get what I’m missing. The problem for them is – I do.

When they are unreachable it’s usually because they’re in some closed-door meeting or bad cell. For me it usually means I’m at the pool.

I like watching real birds rather than playing them. Yet, I can only make that statement because I put the investment in myself first. It was there I learned that maybe the better solution to efficiency or productivity was less involvement with efficient productivity wasters.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

A Little Thought and Analysis

I know there are thousands of you who are technical wizards at charting or what is now known as T.A. (technical analysis) Myself, I’m pretty adept. Like many I decided to take over my own finances when the so-called “experts” back in late 2007 early ’08 proved without a shadow of a doubt they had absolutely no clue.

So like many I’ve read the books, went to countless classes, and have had the added benefit of reading or listening to the thoughts of many that post right here. Although one might not agree with every viewpoint or conclusion given. The reasoning behind the “why” for their interpretations is (in my view) the most important part.

So with that said I would like to take a break from the usual and just share a few thoughts and analysis. (T and A) I offer this because I believe many of us just need a break from the screens, talking heads, or politicians to just have a moment to express some thoughts away from the beaten path. It’s a New Year, so with a coffee in hand here’s a few things like the song: “Makes you go hmmmm…”

Anyone whether Bull or Bear if they’re honest with themselves knows that since Bubbly Benny B’s. (Ben Bernanke) now infamous Jackson Hole speech was delivered, if you’ve been a short side player you have been targeted as “The enemy.”

As much of a mantra as “Don’t fight the Fed” has been for many on Wall St. One has to think part of the reason why HFT (high frequency trading) has not only been allowed to operate – its been allowed to flourish for the explicit reasoning that it crushes (not hurts-but crushes) shorts. Some might say: “Well of course, and glad for it!” However, what happens when there are no longer any “shorts” Per se in the markets?

If one follows the open interest of just the CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange) S&P large contract on a daily basis. One can’t help but notice the volume of contracts willing to be held over night has not only diminished. It’s near pitiful.

The S&P 500 is currently at levels (laughably yet true) not seen since 2007, and any hedge fund manager with the possibility of $1 available in redemption by investors (the horror!) will scream: “See -Buy and Hold works!” Yes it did. However, 2/3rds of the traders, investors, and more that should be here taking advantage of that “Buy and Hold” strategy – are gone.

As we hit new highs this week the open interest hardly broke 160K. Yes it went a little higher, then a little lower. However, what’s troubling is this figure used to be in the 500K to 600K range all the time. This should be a concern for anyone Bull or Bear.

How many professionals that made their living trading were themselves wiped out with the MF Global debacle let alone anyone else? For those that were fortunate to have a different clearing house. Does one think they didn’t take notice? That they themselves didn’t “alter” what is in the market at any given time? It has implications. We just might not be fully aware of the dangers if any as they have yet to reveal themselves. Never the less to think there won’t be – or there aren’t any – is fool hearty at best.

Another thing one hears all the time is “Money on the sidelines” or “The risk trade is back on! Just wait till the bond market really starts moving down.” Sounds logical, but not so much if you think about it from the view point of the 50 year old and over John and Janie. The future retirees that lived through 2008. Never mind the 65 and older group already retired.

This is the exact crowd that made the markets what they were going into 2007. Pushing more, and more of their income into the markets as little Jimmie and Julie left home. Sure some took on more debt. However, many more were able to pay for a great part of it by just refinancing or flipping their former homes. The paycheck for a great many was (as laughable as it sounds today) “extra.”

Increasing that 401K contribution by 25% was no skin off anyone’s nose if you could flip your home for a 10% gain yearly. (and that’s being conservative) Not only are they not contributing at the levels they once were – they’re cashing out. Putting money in the Sealy Mattress® Bank and Trust for many is a whole lot safer than anything they care to think of. No matter what anyone says – you are not going to change this groups mind. Period.

For those that are currently in the Bond markets because they didn’t know what else to do during the melt down. Every so-called market maven or talking head is trying to  convince them to come back into the markets with the reasoning that: “Well you’re not earning anything.” I personally believe this falls on deaf ears. I’ll use just one example to ponder. How do you think the few they convinced to move out of bonds into that safe bet of Apple® to $1000 a share are thinking?

So the bonds go down 2% and the “smart crowd” scramble for the cameras panting “See! See! You need to be in stocks!” However, what would it really take for someone who went through 2008 and watched 60% of their wealth disintegrate within months before their eyes? Does one really think a 10% or even 20% loss in bond prices would be un-nerving? Again, let alone the few early birds that took that killer investment advice and jumped into Apple at $650 – and got killed.

And even if that weren’t the case. How many of you think this conversation is not only possible but, more likely probable?: “Hey Martha, I’m getting us outta them there bonds and getting us back into stocks – What d’ya think?” I’ll bet you she’ll be thinking divorce lawyer not investment adviser.

Then there’s what by all accounts is not only laughable – It’s crazy!

There was a time when such a thing as fundamentals or other long since proven ideas actually worked, and were actually taught or followed in business, academics, and yes – even the halls of congress. Yet, that is no more.

We at one time worried about the value of our currency. The implications of where it was as opposed to others dictated what items were on a valuation or competitive standpoint between nations. It also was a reliable indicator for whether you were on the right track or wrong track economically. Oh my friends those days are long since gone.

It seems not that long ago (yet in dog years it feels like decades so I’ll use that) a nation’s currency was backed by something. Even if it was only the “implied.” Now It’s no longer a question of what it is rather whether or not we get it in some form of: “A full Monty!” – literally.

Just as men have been exaggerating about their private parts to anyone that would listen. So too have the Central Bankers, politicians, et al.

No longer does one need to show a “bazooka.” One only needs to imply that they have one, and will use it if called upon. Much like every teenage boy without a date for the prom. The troubling aspect of this banter is that it’s now taking place across nations, and nearing the high pitch screams of a Justin Bieber concert.

First there was Hank Paulson’s T.A.R.P. then to Bubbly Benny’s QE dot 78.94, followed by Europe’s Monty cabal with their shouts of “We’ve got it, and don’t dare us to unzip.” To now we have Ole Honest Abe of Japan announcing he’s decided his country is going to put to rest any of those old rumors about – (well you know need I say it?) and going to compete on the world stage right along side every other world bank in some troubling adaptation of “It’s a chorus line.”

Then we have what just might be the worst of timing from someone for whom many think this is just “brilliant” as to throw their two cents in (Or should I say Trillions?) Paul Krugman. The Nobel Prize winning economics professor.

He seems to just love the idea of the U.S. government minting a Trillion Dollar coin made from platinum as a way to get around or circumvent the fundamental laws governing the nations currency. What is so scary about this line of thinking let alone the the absurdity of it at face value?

Just like that teenage boy bragging about what he’s keeping out of sight for that “special moment.” What happens when they meet someone who actually has the guts to say: “Yeah – Is it anything like this?” Or worse – It’s actually “That special moment!”

Both scenarios don’t end well for the bragger. And I hear nothing but a lot of braggers across all media. They better hope no one calls the bluff or we could be in for a very lonely ride back from the dance without the one that brung us.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Wasting Time Formulating Catalysts

Far too many look for some type of elusive motivator (or catalyst) to get them in the mood – in the swing – or any other metaphor you want to insert. They’ll convince themselves that without it they just can’t seem to get moving or start that project.

However, that so-called “right time” never seems to show up and the project never gets started. Or the potential client or customer never gets called. Till the only motivation that seems to take over is: “Maybe I should wait a little longer, and try looking for another catalyst. I’ve already waited this long. How much longer could it take? I’ll find or make one sooner or later then I’m bound to get motivated – right?”

The issue believe it or not is actually in the above headline. As convoluted as it sounds at first blush it’s exactly what so many of us do. As we find ourselves unable to break free of inertia we begin to rummage through all the piled up text books (as in all those “From Good to Super Good in 986.4 Easy Steps” type books) Looking for the “magic formula.”

Or we’ll spend mind numbing time rearranging virtual test tubes looking for the right blend of something (anything!) to pour into our beakers. Then walla – just place it on top of a Bunsen burner and watch the magic happen. Then once again reality – no catalyst. Just another failed experiment.

Instead of all the formulas or everything else that seems bandied about by so many so-called “guru’s” I would like to give you a very simple example of a motivator (or catalyst) I learned from one of the most fundamental activities many of us engage in. Running.

Personally I’m an avid runner and been so for decades. I love running yet, no matter how much I enjoy it, there are days (and yes sometimes more) that the last thing in the world I want to do that day – is run.

What I’ve learned over the years is this: The absolute hardest part of running – bar none – is putting on my running shoes. Period.

If I could just get myself to do that one step everything else took care of itself. No extra thinking, no magic formulas, no 263.9 step program, or anything else. Just get my shoes on. Next thing you know I’m running. Then I notice I’m enjoying the run, after which I find myself feeling good about pushing through to actually do it. One thing reinforces the other. All because I just put my shoes on. That’s it – nothing more.

What’s at issue most times is we’ll get ourselves engaged in other activities that mask what we’re actually doing for which they are easily defensible to both ourselves as well as others. We take some form of backseat viewpoint saying: “Hey it’s not that I won’t do it, or start. (what ever “it” might be) It’s just that I’m looking for a better way too start.”

Sound familiar? Sound a little convoluted? Yep, and it’s exactly what so many of us do. We’ll get busy at starting anything except what we actually need to start. And, the busier we can get at being busy – the longer it will take us to actually start. Which is exactly why we started getting busy in the first place. We don’t want to start!

Once you get this fundamental reasoning of what could be at the root cause of most issues we have in getting motivated, the faster we’ll find ourselves actually motivated. It’s in the actual doing where most true motivation begins and ends.

When we engage or look at motivation through this prism we get a clearer picture of what real or true motivation is. Once we begin doing what needs to be done, we simultaneously begin reinforcing our auto-piloted, self-centered, congratulatory ego that just loves to take over as to pat ourselves on the back for actually getting too it.

If you need to call prospects or problem customers don’t wait till you’re “in the mood.” Sit down and start dialing. Need to start that new project? Get out the whiteboard now and start drawing or get with your partner or co-worker by saying: “I’m starting X right now. Any suggestions?” Or if you need to write that proposal, or letter, or contract start by opening the program now. Even if it’s to only enter their name or the idea. Start. Period.

You’ll find the rest will take care of itself. You’ll notice when you push through the hardest part of which is the “just starting.”  The rest just seemingly falls into line. No need to look up differing formulations from this professor or that one. No need to re-read that stack of books of “How to Get Motivated in 2639.83 Easy Steps.” No – just one step is needed and is the most fundamental root answer to almost everything keeping you from moving forward.

Just start!

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

It’s A-Live!

Today ends the Free PDF downloadable edition.

I would like to take this time and wish a heartfelt Thank you; to everyone that took advantage during this offer. It was a great success passing any and all my expectations.

Currently it is available at Amazon.

You may leave a review if you wish at any time: Click here if you wish to go there.

It will be available on many others however, each has their own windows for how long it takes. Amazon was the quickest by far. IBooks™, Barnes and Noble™, and many others will be a few weeks, while others over a month. (I have absolutely no idea why!) I will post them as they are available.

Currently I am working in the studio on the audio book version. I think you’ll be surprised with the final results. Trust me when I say: “This wont sound like your parents speakers – literally.”

Screen shot 2013-01-09 at 9.53.06 PMClick Here To Go

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

A Moment About Motivation

Over the years I’ve read countless so-called “motivational books.” There’s been the good – the bad – and the down right disturbing. Yet, I continue to do so for the pure reasoning that you need always be engaged. Even with what may seem at the time to be purely moronic.

It’s within those “sometimes”  you just might find that nugget of inspiration or clarity. Doesn’t mean you search out the flawed thinking. It’s just that sometimes you can’t avoid it. So you might as well try to search for some value. Even if that value is only to help solidify earlier perceptions.

Believe it or not most people have something to offer the world. Whether it be insights you never would have noticed on your own. To the most fundamental point of realizing you hope (or pray) that no one ever sees you through the eyes such as you’re seeing someone. That alone is sometimes worth the price.

The motivation industry is full of charlatans, hucksters, and others. (for the sake of civil discourse I’ll stop here) I myself was once again exposed to another real life example of a “snake oil” thumping sales pitcher.  So with an inquisitive bent I listened to a rather obscure “Millionaire” maker the other day.

Personally I find listening to people from another era and how they were perceiving difficulties and advising others how to navigate not only interesting, but actually it helps me to understand more about “what” I do. (I personally find examples from the 1930’s and 40’s at times fascinating) If only for the hope if nothing less I can discern the “what or why” as to warn others of “who or what” to stay away from.

The information as well as the delivery of what the author was saying I found interesting. However, the person responsible for making this information possible, i.e., “the producer,” and pitchman was horrible. I’m not using hyperbole. His intro into the material for this long since deceased speaker I wager had them rolling over in their place of rest. His introduction rant was only 2 and 1/2 minutes long. Yet, I shut it off either 5 or 6 times before I got through it! It was dreadful.

The lead into the material was this person’s version of “why” you should listen. This was inline with both sounding, as well as the presentation of nearly every late night “cure-all” huckster clamoring for screen time between 1 and 5 am. It was not only everything I rail against, it seamed I was listening to the real-life inspiration for Chris Farley’s famous SNL skit of a motivational speaker with the punchline “I live in a van – down by the river.”

There’s nothing wrong with anyone or any company promoting works of others whether from this time period or before. Yet, I feel these types do a great dis-service to everyone as a whole when they pile on some gobbly gook trying to insert themselves as if they’re part of the reason why you should listen. I believe they turn off more people than they actually tune in.

The first criteria one should use as to filter out most of these hucksters should be: “Have they actually done what they’re professing?” I’ve found in far too many cases these types read a book on someone or something, and now they consider themselves an “expert” because they expertly read the book. That’s not a play on words. I mean it.

If you want to learn about business, or about what goes through the mind of someone at the pinnacle of a topic you want to start with the person whom actually went through it. Not a person giving their insights on what they “think” the person went through.

If you want to learn how to drive a race car at a competitive level you want to start researching actual professional drivers for their thoughts or writings. Not someone writing about it whose entire body of experience has been they spent years as a “pit pass” ticket holder.

We do this far more often than we want to admit. Our first thoughts should be in questioning what makes this person a reason why I should listen. Second, what exactly is the agenda they’re doing this? Third, is it the pitch that’s drawing me in? Or is it the actual material I want to hear regardless of the pitch?

If your committed to, or you’ve bought into the idea that self-improvement is a life long quest or discipline you’ll realize there’s no way you’ll ever get to hear the good without enduring some of the ugly. It’s par for the course. However, what you can do is try as in cut down the absolute ridiculous. While saving both your time – and sanity.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr