Month: November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all of you around the globe that have taken the time to stop by and read my ideas, thoughts, and sometimes rants, I would like to say to each and every one of you, thank you. I am continually humbled and grateful for your interest.

So on that note from my family to yours: Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

And for those around the globe whom do not partake in our holiday, let it be understood you are in my thoughts of thanks regardless of borders.

Once Again, thank you all!

Mark

 

A Thought For The Week Of Thanks

As we get ready hustling and bustling for not only Thanksgiving but, for the holiday season itself. I thought many of you may need a little reflection or perspective to add to the list of thanks over the next few weeks.

Many of you might be contemplating putting things off till after the holidays both in personal, as well as business matters. Some will use these times as an excuse to postpone business matters such as, trying to get that meeting or, not follow-up as one should under the guise of, “I can use the excuse it was the holidays, etc.” The issue here is that’s exactly what 90% if not more of your competition will do. Don’t let that be you.

I have expressed many times:

“All one needs today as to leave any and all competition behind is to run and/or act, no matter the profession, with impeccable business practices, and you’ll have no competition. Reason? 99% of your competition believes because they have a degree of any sorts. Or, just because they opened a business, that they are “professionals.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Professionalism is way of conducting business, not just being paid in one”

So as you’re giving thanks in any of your entrepreneurial pursuits whether it be for new, present, or future clients just remember: Be the professional that is so lacking in today’s business environment. Be such a professional in the way you conduct your business – your clients are just as happy or thankful they decided to business with you.

This is how your business side shares in the bounty of thanks that’s just as important as sharing with family. For after all, don’t both sides benefit from each other?

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

F.T.W.S.I.J.D.G.I.G.T.

(For those who say I just don’t get it…Get this!)

For those who’ve been with me for a while you know I have been stating: “If not for the interventionist policies of the Federal Reserve manipulating prices within the financial markets, there would be no market.”

I’ve written more than enough articles and they are in the archives to prove I was far ahead of the curve than most, followed by my repulsed thoughts of objectivity when I would see or hear the so-called “smart crowd” paraded across the financial media giving their take on why this market rise was all because of “fundamentals.” (I still cringe even thinking about it.)

So much so I decided there was really nothing more to be said and openly stated I was finished with even following them as often as I did and, would focus my time and thoughts (as well as money) elsewhere. However, Thursday was one of those days where I scratched my head when I watched how the markets opened only to look and find the reasons “why” and burst into laughter. With that said let me make one point clear…

Albeit as I state I don’t follow the financial markets as much as I once did nevertheless, as entrepreneurs that does not mean one can disregard them entirely. As an entrepreneur an understanding of what is transpiring within them is a critical part of your business acumen. Regardless if one likes or dislikes what is transpiring or happening within.

Below I’ll post 2 images. First is Thursday’s market opening in the S&P 500™. The markets closed the day previously weak on some assorted rumors that the Federal Reserve might move forward on the dreaded “Taper.” i.e., Slow or stop their quantitative easing (QE) strategy. Then only to open the following morning with a surge or spike bringing it back within reach of yet another “never before seen in the history of the financial markets” all time high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average™ itself did end the day with its highest closing price ev-va!

What is causing this surge?

What is causing this surge?

Then as I looked around on various news sources, I find the following on the front page of the well read web-site known as Zero Hedge. Below is a screenshot of their front page with the current news articles of that day and time. Note starting at the bottom the headline followed by the time stamp of the posting. For those that may not be aware, Janet Yellen is seen to Wall Street as being not only sympathetic to continuing the present QE model but, (and it’s a very big but) even more inclined to increasing it! The middle post is what gives all this more clarity as to cry just as much as to laugh. (The economic indicators within are horrendous) Then the last headline from one of the latest to state what I have been saying and writing for years now.
(There is now an ever-growing chorus that just a few months ago were both silent or dismissing of such a notion. Now there seems to be a stampede. Who’da thunk it?)

Screen shot of Zero Hedge's front page

Screen shot of Zero Hedge’s front page

Personally I like and respect Charles Schwab very much. He was (and probably still is) an innovator in the markets who plowed the way that many owe a great deal of thanks to. He was one of the first that makes it possible for many to handle their own affairs where it was once near impossible to do. So I thought it was just priceless that it would be his quote as to when and where it took place in time as to give me a chuckle. Reason?

He’s absolutely right! Even though I already knew, as did many of you that have been here.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

For those that are new to the blog I started posting these FTWDIJDGIGT a few years back when people would rush to tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about. It’s now turned into having its own fan club. I thought it was a little more creative than: “I told you so!” And, ticked those very people off with a little more flair.

Knowing Is One Thing – Understanding Is Another

I’ve been working on one of my high end workshops that I’ll be making available for 2014 and beyond.

As I was working on some rough drafts and possible slides I wanted to share with you one that could help many of you understand where either you, as well as others are in the business cycle. And to give you some insights why some are so successful, and others that were the leaders of their markets, are either now irrelevant or worse – insolvent. (As an aside: I believe the chart below is so instructive it’s become the base outline for one of my entire workshops where it cost anywhere from $750.00 to $1900.00 to attend.)

Below I have made a simple chart as to give you a visual representation. And yes, I used a variation on the quote attributed to Warren Buffett. I thought it worked perfectly to help express this process. (It’s also one of my favorites!)

Progression of Business Cycles_edited-2The first step with any business idea is of course the original “leap of faith.” Here is where the innovation cycle begins with either the originator or others within the same sector. (i.e., Think flat screen TV’s as one example.)

Then comes the first leg or hill of the cycle, aka The Innovation leg. Here you’re basically the leader or, in the lead group with little to no competition. Refinements and improvements are the hallmarks at this stage. Here the market is clamoring for your product and prices are highly profitable with a clearly visible growth demand.

Following this comes the Imitation cycle. Here is where everyone now believes you have a hit and decide they want a piece of this growing market. It seems everyone wants to now produce because, they see the demand and believe they can compete with you by undercutting you on price via efficiency in manufacturing. Prices still support robust profits, and demand still appears to be in a steady growth mode on the visible horizon.

Which brings us to the most dangerous part of the cycle when “the idiots” show up. Here is where everyone competes only on one thing – price. And, the quickest and easiest way to compete at this point in the cycle is cut profit margins – make it up on volume. Here is where the most (big or small) wont take the next leap moving onto the next innovation or marketplace leaving the idiots to compete amongst themselves and fall into the pit along with them. Many will never see a profitable day again while squandering any and all resources just trying to stay afloat or relevant.

The main differentiation that distinguishes companies, brands, as well as individuals is when or if they’ll make the next  important leap. This next leap is as important, and for some, it may even be harder than the original leap. Nevertheless, the leap needs to be made as to both have the resources to expend to actually get up the next hill leaving the market as well as the others to battle for scraps amongst themselves. Because – it’s here one will be both seen, as well as be, the leader of the next innovation cycle where the real profits are to be made.

The implications of knowing and understanding where, what, and why you should allocate resources is paramount for any and all entrepreneurs regardless of their market caps. From solo entrepreneur to the global CEO. The implications and application of the above applies.

If you think not put Kodak®, Microsoft®, Apple®, Sony®, Madonna, Boy Bands, Disco, Bob Dylan, breakfast cereals, VHS, DVD’s, or anyone or any product/company into it. See if you can see their leaps or their failures to make those leaps. I believe you’ll be surprised how quickly you can see business successes and failures near intuitively using this one graph as a framework for your thought process.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

If You Thought Patent Trolls Were A Scourge – Meet Their Cousin

Today, a scourge running through businesses across the globe is the now named “patent troll.” For those not that familiar with the term, in a nutshell it means a company, or someone acquires the rights to a patent then scours the landscape looking for any possible infringement that either may or may not be legitimate.

The purpose is to some how bilk money from someone (anyone) either through the courts or, just through the intimidation process of creating a court case where settling is cheaper rather than defending or fighting. i.e., “How much to make this go away?”

Currently it is taking a healthy toll on both innovation as well as balance sheets. But – that’s corporate stuff right? Not like it’s something you should concern yourself with correct? Oh contraire. Meet their newest family member coming to a web site near you. The “Review Troll.” (Yes, I just coined that term.)

Here’s an example of how this game seems to now be taking shape. It goes something like this…

You purchase an item from what you consider to be a legitimate web site or vendor. (“Consider” doesn’t imply they aren’t. They very well can be completely 100% legal, legitimate sellers of goods or services.)
Then for what ever the reasons you are dissatisfied with the transaction. You never received the product, didn’t live up to the description, you couldn’t get anyone to respond to queries, etc.

You then decide as to help others from experiencing what you just went through, you somewhere write or post a negative review of your experience. Believing, you either are helping others or, you were so infuriated you just wanted to get it off your chest. As far as you’re concerned – “It’s over!” However, for the Review Troll –  it’s just begun.

More than likely during the checkout process you just clicked that annoying “You agree to our terms and conditions” that is ubiquitous across the web as to get to the checkout screen. And you, just like most of us, never read them because we feel they’re just boiler plate stuff.

Well, what happens when within that seemingly “boiler plate” dialogue there is to be found a little unnoticed statement where as: You agree not to post any negative reviews or feedback in any form. If you do, you will be required to pay a fine to that company of THOUSANDS of dollars. Followed with: If you refuse to pay – you will be reported to the nation’s top credit bureaus.

Sounds far-fetched correct? Maybe even a little nuts you say as in, “Won’t happen. That has to be illegal or blackmail or something, but what ever it is – it’s wrong!” It would seem not only can it happen, it has happened to a couple in Utah three years after the original incident occurred. Welcome to the new age of the “Review Trolls.” 

For all intents and purposes, I believe these can be a far more debilitating and shocking a revelation on the web than its older family member. Here is a direct link to this the story via KUTV in Salt Lake City. I highly encourage you to view or read it.

In a time where companies and individuals on-line are desperately trying to produce some if not any type of revenue. There will be those out there that will turn to desperate measures, and for some, they will use it as a sword to ward of negative reviews feeling they are within their legitimate rights to do so. This is going to be a mess and I fear will get far worse before it gets better.

Just as in the past companies would send never ordered merchandise to homes and businesses with the seemingly non-threatening note of: “If you like it, keep it and send us a check. If not – just ship it back.” Only to know all too well there would be a myriad of people who would just keep it thinking “Hey I didn’t order this, tough luck on you, I’m keeping it!” Or, “I never received such an item.” Only to then find a torrent of never-ending invoices, then demands, warnings, then suits for penalty to pay. Ruining people’s credit and or good names.

Finally it was challenged in courts and found an illegal or entrapment like practice and was stopped.  (That’s basically why you have the ability to throw junk mail out without opening it. You can’t be bound without your consent.)

Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess. However, I believe this will get far worse going forward before it gets better. Especially since there is the very real possibility there will be people who will take an attitude similar to what many businesses do today: Right, wrong, doesn’t matter. The first instinct of, “How much to make this go away?”

Which feeds the monster even more.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Profiting At The Bottom Line™

This month’s focal point: Amateur Business Etiquette

Understanding the implications you may be implying, or, the recipient is inferring through written correspondence.
(Anything written in any form electronic or paper is considered to apply here.)

When you are asking, or requiring some form of action to be performed by the recipient. i.e.,

  • You need documentation to fulfill some requirement, a notice of a “can,” or “can not do,” etc.
  • Along with a request for action. i.e., Please do, bring, stop, etc.
  • Followed with a deadline, where if that deadline is breached, you would take some form of punitive action. i.e., You’ll not be allowed to…, You’ll be fined, Your privileges will be revoked, Access denied, Car towed, etc.

Call the recipient first if possible or, make any and all attempts to contact them first before sending or leaving any such notice. i.e., Do not leave or send such a notice for them to open or read by themselves. Regardless of how inconsequential the penalty or circumstance may seem to you. Then…

Never highlight (with a highlighter or bold face) any passages of that correspondence if it is the first request. You only highlight when you want your request for action to have the implied tone of a demand and/or threat. i.e., You’re going to follow with immediate recourse and/or possible penalty if not responded to.

There are times for such notations however – Never should you do such a thing for some trivial matter or simple request. i.e., Needed documentation, or other action that may have been, forgotten, misplaced, overlooked, or not originally understood, etc.

Once you highlight (or use bold face text) in a request that has a deadline – You have turned what you may think of as a simple request and/or reminder ipso facto into a threat. Unless you are trying to instil that message – Never do it without thinking. The ramifications can cost you business or customers and, you may never know the reasons why. (If you do become aware, it will probably result from a confrontation with an angry customer. Or worse – they’ll say nothing and move their business elsewhere.)

Case Study: An owner of a business recently transferred their business from one vendor to another. The business was quite substantial. At first they had some rough moments where the original sales person left and not attended to filing the paperwork correctly. The paperwork had been processed for it was required to be “in hand” to start the transactions. After some searching by the new vendor all the paperwork was accounted for and business went on for a few months unhindered.

Then a new salesperson was put in charge of the account where they must have been told to get familiar with their new assigned clients paperwork. This new person noticed a simple document seemed to be missing and acting on their own used a form letter stating requirements. Highlighting such lines as…

  • It is required for you to have proper insurance.  Then again highlighted the rules per their lease documents (Section X, Line Y, per Z, pursuant to, etc.)  Followed by another highlighted line stating – “They had 4 days to comply.”

Then they hand delivered the note, only to leave it hanging on the businesses door to be found by anyone. (The business had yet to open.)

Calmly this owner walked into their office and stated: “Do you not have a phone contact to reach me first before you leave a demand letter such as this hanging on my door?” There was more but I’ll stop here for the sake of brevity.

The reaction? Condescending, “Sorry you took it that way. It was just a request.” Followed with the unmistakable ticked off attitude that somehow this customer was making a mountain from a molehill.

This is amateurism on full display. Don’t allow yourself to be seen in this light for real professionals will not tolerate it. The issue for many is 80% don’t know they are doing it, while 80% of their recipients don’t know or understand either and say nothing. However, for the 20% that do know or do understand – they will act accordingly. Regardless of what you may see as a trifle matter.

To wit: They were notified on the spot their business was moving elsewhere. With no chance for discussions.

A $2.00 highlighter and a free serving of, “I don’t really see what the big deal is here.” Cost them multiples of that persons annual salary. Too bad such a return on investment is to the negative side rather than positive.

Some people or customers will not put up with amateurs in business. They’re looking for and rewarding professionalism. When they’re looking – let them find it’s you that fits their bill. You’ll find something that makes it all worth it.

Loyalty and repeat business.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Profiting At The Bottom Line™ is a monthly memo, which is pithy, powerful, and to the point. It focuses on innovative techniques and or ideas that you can put to work immediately in your daily or business life.

No Reprieve Will Save The ACA’s Bacon

I was speaking with people when the president made an announcement concerning a temporary fix to the now troubled Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka Obamacare.

When the press conference finished a few inferred from the speech that “Well, guess that fixes things for now.” Personally I was shocked by the reaction because from my point of view. Not only did it not fix anything. I believe it just made a bad situation worse. Let me explain as I did to the others.
(Please save the emails. This has nothing to do about a person, political side, or anything else. It’s about understanding business and its implications.)

What’s currently front and center of the ongoing debate aside from the debacle of the web site roll out is the promise: “If you like your policy – you can keep it.”

As its been reported everywhere, millions of subscribers have been notified their former policies have been cancelled. It doesn’t matter if you feel this is right or wrong. It is what it is. According to the ACA rules and regulations. Those policies could no longer exist as products for sale. Not that they shouldn’t continue selling them. It became illegal when the ACA took effect.

That is such a critical distinction to understand than the idea of “just discontinuing.” Why? Because if you can not continue participating in a business structure or market because it’s no longer legal, not just because of a profit motive or any other reason. The first thing any prudent company will do is to get rid of any and all infrastructure pertaining to that old and now illegal business model.

What many forget is the mandate to discontinue offering such policies was told to the marketplace 3 1/2 years ago. It was then stated that this will be the new law and to adjust or discontinue. So, as businesses will do, they began making the necessary changes.

This is not an insignificant point. The healthcare industry is by some reports 1/6 of the total US economy. For 3 1/2 years you have had nearly $3,000,000,000,000.00 (3 Trillion) per year of yearly market infrastructure moving, adjusting, shrinking, growing, and more all behind the scenes. Never-mind the other parts of the economy that has been impacted and making changes accordingly. i.e., People being reduced to part-time, cutting staff to not hit the 50 employee mark, and more.

The reasons for these changes is because of changes in law. Not market conditions. Changes based on changes in law have far more reaching or permanent implications than plain market conditions. Market conditions allow trials at making something unprofitable profitable. Again, if possible or if one is so daring. Law – means done. There is nothing further to try – it’s illegal now, don’t waste anymore time, money, or any other resources. Period.

Why this distinction in understanding is so important is because many (especially some entrepreneurs which surprised me) think the president’s suggestion that one might be able to continue with ones former plan for another year would take some pressure off of people.

Not only do I feel this is ludicrous. I also believe It can’t be done as suggested. This is not some “flick of a switch” or “just pull the files out of the recycle bins” and say..“No Prob – just send in your check.”  It’s far, far, far, (did I say far?) more complicated. Let me express what I’m trying to convey using this analogy:

Imagine if a new law was introduced and passed that would make the production of bacon using smokehouses or smoke was now illegal. From now on the new law would make it both illegal to make or sell bacon produced in or used via the smoking method.

Only bacon made through the chemical process of injecting the flavoring liquid smoke would now be acceptable. By law. However, companies and consumers would have 3 1/2 years to get ready to comply with the new mandates. What do you think bacon producers are going to begin doing?

Immediately changes would be implemented to reduce stockpiles of supplies and more not needed for the production used in smoking. People that manned the ovens would be put on notice their jobs would be discontinued. Others would immediately begin the process for dismantlement of ovens, smokehouses, and their facilities. Then followed with the selling of real estate, equipment, or more. The specialized equipment used would be either sold or scrapped.

You as a consumer may not even notice all this behind the scenes disruption because stores are still carrying the bacon you now and love. However as the supplies get reduced it still might go by almost unnoticed because if it’s not at one store you can still find some at another.

This will go on until on one fateful day, 3 1/2 years later the law takes effect. Your bacon? Gone. Now it’s not only no longer for sale – any left is thrown into the garbage. Now it’s illegal to produce, sell, or consume. Again – by law.

In an uproar from consumers a decision is made to rescind the mandate for another year till people find a better bacon substitute. Sounds great at first blush. However, the smoke houses, and all the other infrastructure that was used to process the now illegal bacon is gone. And no one, no company, no corporation, no sane entrepreneur would try as to put the infrastructure needed for such a complex product back together along with the monetary investments needed to produce for 1 year. (If you don’t think the process of making bacon is complex, you never worked under USDA inspection.)

Insurance is no different to this analogy. People, infrastructure, real estate, and more have been radically changed over the last 3 1/2 years. New companies have begun in anticipation one product would be no longer available. Others have reduced their staff because they would no longer be able to offer their former products. Doctors, hospitals, and more have changed staffing based on accepting or not accepting new or old services. The list is near endless. Remember – this is 1/6 of the total US economy that has been disrupted. Not just a product offering.

Again this has been taking place over the last 3 1/2 years. It would take that long if not longer as to just try to reinstate things back 50%. But (and it’s a very big but) to make changes of reversion that would be cancelled 12 months later again? Not a chance.

The only good thing out of the above we can take away for now is…

They left bacon alone – at least for now.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

How To Retire Retirement Troubles

I’m going to make a bold statement and argument right here, right now. If you want to live your life free from most of the self-imposed anxiety many of you cower under. I’m going to state how you can put it all behind you. If, you’re serious.

I was only going to expound on this point in my next book however, I think far too many of you need to truly think about, and get your arms around it, now rather than later. What is this point? Retirement.

Too many of you are becoming paralyzed by what to do about your future and amplifying those fears by your indecision as to what you should be doing today. So – you do nothing. Rinse, repeat.

I want to give you some real food for thought. Agree or disagree with my premise all you like. All I’m suggesting is that you think. Nothing more. So with that, I’ll just make a brief argument for today.

First off, let’s agree right now to forget about waiting to make any real changes or commitments in one’s life till after the holidays. Or, waiting for the “new year” as to set some arbitrary “goals” that probably less than 1 in a hundred of you will continue by February, let alone the entire year when it comes to anything financial. If it’s serious enough (and I mean any change) that a change should be made. Make it now. If not, you’re just kidding yourself that you’ll do something using dates, symbols, unicorns, or rainbows as inspiration.

If you were bleeding you wouldn’t wait till the clock stuck 10 before applying a bandage. Emotional or worrisome bleeding falls under this same umbrella. If you’re worried or something else. The time is now to apply the remedy is it not?

Today, so many of you are held captive by the over arching fear of “doom” called retirement. Questions are asked of one’s self, i.e., “What if I don’t have enough money?” and more. Stop it! This is not an empowering way in the least of looking at your future. Let alone trying to come up with ideas as to correct it.

For many of you it’ll produce nothing more than knee jerk reactions to a load of bunk spoon feed to you through advertising campaigns designed to invoke those very feelings of anxiety over your future. Again, you have those feelings precisely as a result from being caught up in this ruse set up by the very people who profit by your insecurity. i.e., the financial/investment/media complex et al.

I’m not trying to be controversial or contrarian only for the sake of being different. I want you to really think so I’m going to ask you to ponder some thoughts or questions. You may not have the answers immediately however, from right now roll these thoughts around that noggin of yours till you can answer honestly to yourself. And, I mean honestly, not something you’ll blow off as, “Yeah, but I could never do that. That would be hard!” Or, “Well it would be nice but, I just couldn’t make such a change.” Those types of answers are not honest – they’re excuses. Period.
(Remember this is a thought exercise, I’m not saying, nor trying to allude that I’m some sort of financial adviser.)

So here’s the first part of this thought process as to set up some real questions:

If you use the age 65 as most do today as retirement. That would infer that either you or most people would stop working and need to now live from savings or retirement assets.

OK, so how much do you need if on average a person will live moderately healthy and viable to say age 85? (And many will go far beyond.) $1 million? Sorry, not a chance. In just the last 5 years your payable rate of interest doesn’t even cover today’s inflation rates. And, today, we basically have no inflation. (As per the data sets used)

There was a time you could conceivably receive 5% almost risk free, (Just 5 years ago!) but today? Not a chance. So, to generate the same $50K per year off that $1 million some thought sufficient just 5 years ago. Now needs about $4 or $5 million to generate that same $50K. (Don’t let the weight of that math fall by the way side. It’s imperative to really grasp that example.)

And, forget about the old term “risk free.” That is long gone. There is nothing any longer that is even considered “risk free.” No matter what anyone tells you. So, I need to ask: Do you have enough? Or, well along enough as to not worry? My guess for many will be – no. (Never mind the people who were already retired thinking they were set.)

Fair enough. However, that doesn’t change that you need an answer. You either must figure out how you’re going to amass those millions of $’s now needed over and above your original goal. (Which by all means is very possible, but don’t confuse my main point) Or, you are going to have to do something else. There is no alternative. Just “what” is the all important question. The problem with most is the numbers or calculations seem just so far out of reach the only thing they do is to now ignore it. Which places one back into that vortex producing nothing but more feelings of anxiety or helplessness.

If you want control of your life you are going to have to do something about it. Or, you are not only going to have to live with that nagging fear the rest of your adult life. But, (and it’s a very big but) what can be far worse, that picture you fear in the future actually can be far worse later on down the road than you visualize it today. That’s not an understatement. Just look around you to anyone that put their financial faith and well-being anywhere else other – than in themselves. For some the consequences have been devastating.

Again, understand the true ramifications. Really get it in your gut. This is not a game where nothing bad can happen. The game of life doesn’t play games. That’s not a play on words.

So the question for you is this: What can you do about it? Today, not tomorrow. Right now, that proves once and for all that you’re in control of your life and destiny. Regardless of what happens in the markets, economy, the world, what ever.

Here’s my suggestion for you to contemplate. However, let me be right up front and honest in stating – it is probably the hardest undertaking and self-analysis you’ll ever embark in since reaching adulthood. Because this is where the proverbial rubber hits the road, when one decides, then commits, to improving ones life or future. If you believe I’m just throwing hyperbole out there, I’ll follow it by saying the easier of the choices I propose here is probably earning or acquiring the millions of extra $’s. (Hopefully I have your attention still.)

Here’s my argument to consider…

If you decided today that you would no longer buy into the construct of “retirement” as it is now known. That you would continue to work well past the age of 65 only, that you would be doing work that you loved to do. Work that could, and would, supply you with an income stream that more than covered your expenses. (I mean that generates actual, real, legal tender that is accepted by any bank as a deposit. A vocation – not a hobby. Although some hobbies can be turned into true businesses.)  How much money would you now need to retire that would also last you far into the unforeseen future? Answer: Around zero. Because real retirement is a state of mind – not bank balances.

Your retirement is based on the strength you give you, and your decisions. Not on the strength of your bank balances. And – the last 5 years should be more than proof to anyone that what’s in the bank ain’t always all that reliable.

You don’t need to take my word for this way of thinking. Let me read you a quote from my foremost personal hero some of you may know of, Napoleon Hill. (From his recently discovered and released work Outwitting The Devil ©2011 The Napoleon Hill Foundation – Sterling New York (imprint of Sterling Publishing)

“Material and financial fortunes, when reduced to their most liquid terms, are measurable in terms of bank balances. Bank balances are no stronger than banks.”

So with that in mind I ask you: Where is the prudent place to fortify one’s self against the perils inherent in the “retirement” question?
Solely placing your faith and interest in today’s banks for your security or balances? Or, placing one’s interest, paying compounded dividends, that pay off in more than just solidifying one against future turmoil by putting one’s precious fortune (discretionary time and earning power) directly under and in the total control of one’s self?
(This is not to say I’m advocating for one not to save or contribute to retirement savings. Saving and savings is a prudent requisite for everyone.)

I’ll follow that up with another very bold statement (As if I would state something other?) If you’re brave enough, you can retire (mentally) right now. Ending the emotional roller-coaster of fear you’ve probably been riding with no light at the end of some tunnel. (Yes…I just said that.)

Think deeply about it. Don’t blow it off. I mean really think. The consequences on how you answer it can be profound once you understand the implications contained within.

Let me further illuminate what I’m trying to convey using this example:

No matter where you are in life. Whether 20 something or 50 something. (you can be older there’s no age limit) If what you are currently doing has a cut off date. i.e., mandatory retirement. And, you dislike the job or career path. Why not engage (as in start learning or beginning to build it now) in something you love to do that can provide you a living that covers your expenses. Something that if you were given the opportunity to do or start – you wouldn’t or couldn’t dream of ever not doing? i.e., If you’re currently a _________(fill in the blank) and you must give it up at age 65 however you love fixing lawnmowers with a passion. Start working in what ever spare time you have to build a lawnmower repair business? (The key distinction there is business…not pastime.) You fill in the blank and change the business that fits you. Then…consider the implications.

Add to all this, the satisfaction of knowing that if you ever found or liked something different, (or even better) along the path: You could just change direction and do that. Forever if you want. No retirement what so ever unless you say so. Along with your earning power and the ability for it to increase even further, rather than decreasing with time. Is that alone not worth the price of consideration?

70 – 80 – 90 – 100. Doesn’t matter. As long as you want to continue and can get paid for your work. You continue.

If you can buy into this line of thinking then begin by adding what you need to start such a journey into your life today. And run with it. Run like Forest Gump would run. Just run! Leaving the shackles to fall by the way side not caring how or why they fell. Just run! And don’t look back.

Again, really think about what I just proposed. Put yourself in that moment and contemplate: What it would be like for you? What would that do to your psyche? Not only in the future but rather – right now!

Do movie actors or actresses say “OK, I’m 65 I’m done!” Tell that to Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, or any of the others in their latest films. (lest we forget George Burns who still took bookings for his 100th birthday)

How about people such as Jesse James the motorcycle builder? Think at 65 he’s just going to say, “Yep, I’ll just go watch the birds sing now.” I doubt it. Or, forget about all the “stars” per se. How about the local tattoo artist, musician, painter, writer, lawyer, doctor, et al. The ones that truly love what they are doing with a passion. You couldn’t stop them from showing up to their shops if you barred the doors. And, you know this to be true for you’ve seen them for yourselves. You’ve probably even commented silently, “Why are they still doing it?”

Why? For many it’s because they love it. Sure there may be some that have to, but for the many that still love what they do, the fear that you may be harboring is not part of their thinking. Or better yet – not their burden. They’re living on their terms, not some Madison Avenue, Wall Street centered celluloid representation of what “retirement” is or “should be.”

Again, it doesn’t matter if they have millions of dollars in the bank or not. If they (or you) are still viable, still creating, still earning, they (again, or you) don’t have to shoulder the unwanted burden of: “I don’t or won’t ever have enough to retire. So I’ll live a life of fearing I’ll never have enough.” 

No, they live and continue to produce on their terms. Regardless of any age beliefs far too many impose on themselves. And they love living to do it. But again, that’s the hard part for most to understand and begin striving for. Actually, for many – it’s far harder than trying to earn the millions of $’s they think they need. Although, I’ll say again, “Earning the millions is probably easier for most than changing their thoughts.”

How can I say such a thing? Well to be truthful here’s the real reason…
“Not earning the millions of $’s can be blamed on anything or everything except themselves. Not changing ones thoughts can only be blamed on yourself.”
Which is exactly where the crux of any change lies. Shrug the implications of that statement off at your own peril. Because in the end, that’s all everything in life boils down to.

Where one places both the responsibility and the blame is paramount. Get that part correctly in one’s mind, and the rest falls into place as if magically.

Look hypothetically at what your expenses would be weekly or monthly at age 65. Sit down alone somewhere quiet then imagine doing work you loved that provided income that covered those expenses. i.e., selling X goods, or, providing some service, etc.

You can start moving your life towards that direction immediately for probably little to no money right now. Whether it be part-time from your basement, or just to start learning the necessary skills to do it in the future. (go to tattoo school, or what ever.) And you’re done. You’ve just solved your retirement issues. Because – you’re not retiring. Just retiring from what others believe it is. (Which is an uplifting experience in itself.)

Remember, the person writing this and asking you to think different, is a person that started his career unloading sides of beef from rail trucks to then work his way up the corporate ladder to eventually run one of the largest companies in that field. Then retired at the age of 45 nearly a decade ago while everyone else around him said, “Sure, good luck with that.” All without even graduating high school.

So I not only understand the “change your thinking” process better than most. My life is an open book to tell you, If I can change – so can you. For it’s your thinking that cracks the oyster of life open for you. But only you can do it for you. No one else.

This also gives me the authority to share or to tell you from experience that retirement as many envision it (I was one of these myself) is not what one first dreams, or imagines it to be like. For as another one of my heroes Ozzy Osborne once stated when asked why he was recording another record and launching a world tour after he retired just a few years earlier. He said, “Retirement Sucks!”

I couldn’t agree with him more.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Leading Also Requires Directing Those Following

I was driving along the highway the other day when I saw a sticker on the back of a car that just hit me with simplistic brilliance. It read: “Visualize using your turn signals!”

Although it was meant for other drivers. It jarred my thinking as when I have watched many leaders or entrepreneurs suddenly realizing the once great army of followers they believed in command of, or blazing a trail for, suddenly has vanished when they look back over their shoulders. Only to then realize too late they have either wandered onto a battlefield willfully under staffed, or worse, anyone that is still following has no idea why.

Now rather than being of any help to you. You suddenly find yourself needing to explain from the very start, or the beginning, person by person as to why they are there and, what they should do. When this happens there’s never enough time or resources. Then you’re either over run or, in ruin. Why?

It’s really quite simple however, the implications are truly significant. Whether you’re a solo-practitioner, entrepreneur, or CEO of an international conglomerate. Far too many get the great idea or insight, articulate the big vision to the troops or masses, grab the sword or reins, then storm out the gates leaving everyone else to just fall in and take their place.

All sounds perfectly in order and splendid to today’s entrepreneurial mindset and more. Yet, there is an issue that gets lost in the shuffle: Plans or terrains are inevitably going to change. And when they do – how will those behind change or adapt for them? Not you – them.

There will be road blocks, technological challenges, unseen enemies or competitors. All understood by the leaders and in some ways anticipated. But the flaw? Most don’t (or wont) give any signals to the troops or followers of the campaign on direction changes and as to why. They just act or think in a spirit of: They’ll see me turn and they’ll turn!

Sounds rationale but in practice you just may find yourself down the wrong path or, up against a rock and a hard place because you took a wrong turn by mistake and you never knew or realized it. Your followers can also act as helpful guides keeping you from making wrong turns also. And, that’s only if they are aware of where they are going, and why.

Leaders lead. However, if they don’t articulate the what, where, and why you want to venture down certain causeways. Leaving the troops or masses to simply trust where you’re going or intuitively discern. The  ramifications or consequences of this can not only be profound but, rather unwelcome.

For an example or metaphor, just look at the many botched marathon runs that happen round the globe year after year.

Everyone understands they start at Point A. Then finish at Point B. They give the details, set the agendas. promote the event, induce the greatest of talent to compete and drop the starting gate. Then, for whatever the reason someone somewhere forgot to post “this way.” What happens?

The front-runners make a wrong turn and the entire pack follows. Not a few but all. This only gets realized when the event planners realize no one crossed the finish line far later than anticipated. Then to suddenly panic and send out search teams. (Yes – search teams!) Only to find not only the front-runners but, the entire pack still running. Running off course – but still running!

If you are or want to be an effective leader. Whether that be to people directly subordinate to you or leading a market. Don’t think just because you know what to do or why, that others can read your mind. They can’t nor should they. As a leader that responsibility of articulating direction is a requisite for you – not them.

Their requisite is to help and follow without the worry you’re going to lead them where only a search and rescue team will find them.

Visualize the unknown paths. Sure.  Just don’t forget to signal the others behind you when they need to turn. Or stop!

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

As The World Awaits The Song Bird

As the world holds its collective breath for the opening bell of trading in which Twitter® will release its IPO (symbol TWTR ) upon the financial markets. Regardless if it does good, bad, or indifferent. I just wanted to note a few things for you to ponder because, after all is said and done, regardless of hype, this is a business. And as entrepreneurs it is a requisite that you are able to understand business is business. Yes, hype can play its part however, understanding what is, what is not, where the money is made, and where it is not – is not for parlor games. That is for the financial media to play, not you.

So on that note here are a few items as true entrepreneurs you should find interesting. For those of you that find it startling, I’ll contend you paid too much attention and was lulled into the hype. For those that say, “I thought so.” congratulations, you were thinking as you should.

Below is an excerpt from an article I recently read on the financial blog Zerohedge.com. You can read the entire article here.
It was written by Michael Snyder. (The links contained are his as to back up his statements contained within the post. Not mine.) He notes:

#1 In just a few days, the Twitter IPO is expected to raise close to 2 billion dollars even though Twitter actually lost 64.6 million dollars last quarter and has a long history of not being profitable.

#2 It is being projected that after the IPO Twitter could have a market valuation of more than 13 billion dollars.

#3 Twitter is not expected to make a profit until 2015 at the earliest.

#4 According to CNBC, Pinterest is currently valued at 3.8 billion dollars even though it has never earned a profit.

(He goes on to list 10 more points and more which I highly encourage you to visit and read the full article.)

Never mind what their stock valuations are currently. A stock is not a company. The stock today lives in a world of its own divorced from reality. What I’m talking about here is business. What and how are these enterprises going to generate income as in revenue to support these valuations? Remember, if the markets as I have been pounding my fist over the last few years is based purely by Federal Reserve interactions. Adulterating them beyond the resemblance of the financial markets everyone once understood and could agree on. Then these Wall Street darlings can not only crash to Earth without warning, more than likely the bird that should chirp the loudest will be sprawled out in the bottom of the mine shaft. Not only can it happen in the blink of an eye, that blink is now considered an eternity in today’s stock market.

If you think that’s hyperbole or that my past writings about the warnings of High Frequency Trading (HFT) have been unfounded. I thought I would post a link to a short (under 1 hour) documentary explaining exactly what HFT is and what it has done to financial markets and systems. I was just told of it as it was just released this November 4, 2013.

When I first saw it is was just under 10K views. How this insightful short documentary doesn’t go viral will be beyond me. However, one would be surprised just how many people don’t want to know or understand their own finances. People will do almost anything not to do something, rather than to do something.

As one watches or relaxes after this now over-hyped IPO is brought forward. (So much so they felt the need to increase the initial offering) Watch this film and then put into perspective for yourself what you watched take place both in this IPO as well as some of the past. i.e., Facebook® and others. And ask yourself: Was what took place real market based formation? Built upon such things as fundamental analysis consisting of true revenue, profit, and accounting based on 1+1=2? Or, Nothing but HFT front-running orders in ways that make casino owners blush?

As I’ve again pounded this keyboard over the last few years when nobody would give HFT the time of day warning of its corrupting nature and abilities to adulterate the financial markets in ways never before seen. Along with the “free money” flowing from the Federal Reserve via their quantitative easing policies (QE). It would seem not only was I ahead of the curve, but the bulk of Wall Street itself, still doesn’t get it. (as it’s noted within the documentary itself the figure is upwards of 90%)

The Wall Street Code (Marije Meerman, VPRO)

I for one can’t believe anyone that is either an entrepreneur or works within any organization with the entrepreneurial mindset can look at what is taking place in Silicon Valley today, without shaking their head thinking. “OMG!”

Again, I am not saying these are, or are not, great, creative, disrupting, intellectual wonders that provide value. However I believe social media today will not look anything like the social media we now know of today. So forecasting their valuations years into the future form here with any reasonable calculations is near lunacy. (But that wont stop the parade of analysts nor economist from doing so.)

Just as AOL® and Blackberry® were once kings. They too had IPO’s that were all the rage just a few years back. Now? They have been dethroned and disrobed.

So what I am saying is this: As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to know, understand, and quantify the money, from the nonsense.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr