Why it’s the same……But different.

Unusual times can demand unusual headlines, which is exactly why I used the above.( Yogi Berra might have been the originator.)

I’ve been writing and speaking on the topics of business and the economy, as well as motivation and other topics  people need to navigate these difficult times. Unlike other speakers, or the so called “Gurus” who pitch these..”Get Rich”..”Invest in This”…”Increase Your Income”…” Jump Start Your Business” schemes..I have at least done in life, and in practice what I preach. If you were to steer your life or your business in the direction of these and  more troubling, the so called “Experts”…and…”Talking Heads” on television, or radio. You would  either be  broke, bankrupt, unemployed, or all three combined.

I’ll limit this post to just focus on what the headline truly pertains to, because I could write a book on this subject. ( Don’t be surprised if I do!)

The parallels with 1929 and 2009 are numerous in deed. However, the difference  now is the media. Back in the day when the depression was taking hold the so called ” Spin factor” from the media was almost non existent by today’s standards.  You received your news by either a dominant local or national newspaper, or you heard a variation of the same headlines on the radio and  again only from a limited amount of sources. The news was the “News” not a lot of conjecture and opinions. You also had the man on the street telling experiences to his neighbors, not a so called ” Man in the Street” poll by an unknown source. Listening to the “Media” of late,  you would wake up in the morning being told” The Great Depression is upon us all is lost”….only to be told the next day..” Greatest Buying Opportunity in Stocks and Real Estate since 1939″…Personally, I never knew macro economic shifts could happen daily ( yes, pun intended!), but if you rely on the “Media” for your information as to how your going to position your business or portfolio, well I would imagine your business, your pocketbook, and your sanity are all in the same place….In the dumpster.

Today I watched the financial channels, and to my amazement I heard one person say in response to  reported plummeting economic indicators  ” Well the figure is right in line with expectations…This number is built into the market..We should go up in value from here.” The problem with this was the pushed aside fact of the previous numbers were revised DOWN..to the worst since 1937!  This is the equivalent of someone telling you they thought they had $100 in their pocket , but only found $50 , but since they thought they could have been broke, they can now go out to dinner. However they will not take into consideration that they just received a bill for $200 that went unpaid which will be due tomorrow.

It ceases to amaze me how people who seemingly understand this dynamic are unwilling to do anything to counteract it. If there is one thing I could point to over my years that’s helped me and protected me from some of the worst mistakes a  person could make, is I pay for my information. Yes I pay, and to some I pay far to much. I have been told that they could buy a new car with the money I spend annually. However my “News and Information” is for the purpose of  useful, usable, actionable, and results based information. What they don’t understand is my information buys me the car. Them just buying a car will only give them large repair bills, and even larger headaches!

You need to pay for information….You’ll go broke paying for opinions!

Mark

I have seen the enemy, and the enemy is us.

Understanding why the current dilemma in Washington happens.I was trying to explain the current problems facing all of us to a colleague the other day. It seemed for some reason I just couldn’t get the point across so I came up with this to make my point.
( You fill in The blank because it fits anyone.)…called their Government the other day because they saw that if others were getting a ( Handout or Bailout, you decide.) they should ask also. It wasn’t like they didn’t have any problems, or needed a lot of money. Just something to get them by till the tough times went by.

The phone was answered by a very monotone voice and asked what they needed. Once they were told the voice said…We need to check for funding Please Hold….As they waited, they heard a vehicle screech to a halt at their neighbors home. A number of government officials forced their way into their home, and left with what appeared to be money. The monotone voice came back on the line and stated funding for the request had been appropriated.

The caller putting what they thought happened into words asked if they just took the money from his neighbor? The voice replied. Of course. The government doesn’t really have money of it’s own. It all comes from tax payers. They used to teach that in school, but for other reasons that had been stopped.

Feeling uncomfortable with what happened they asked if their neighbor would know? The voice replied that if they were uncomfortable with taking from someone so close, they could get the final funding from someone else in another region of the country.

Feeling better that they wouldn’t know the person directly they said …That would be better. The voice said fine and hung up the phone.
Later during the year they heard a screech of tires outside their garage. It was the same men they seen go into their neighbors home, but this time they were going into the callers garage. When they asked what they were doing, they were told they had come for one of their cars. Since they had two, someone needed the other. But the caller yelled ” I just bought that! ” Undeterred the government officials put the car on a truck and informed them, that the car was going to a needy cause, and might only need it for a short time, however just in case, if it’s needed for anytime longer, they had better save up because they would still be liable for any repairs or fuel charges. The caller just hung their head, and said I guess what comes around, really does go around.

The problem is not with the pendulum.

You keep hearing this explanation and that explanation for the trouble with the economy. One says “blame this”…another says “blame that”….all seem to be missing the bigger point.  Let me state right here, right now…”There is ..NO…I repeat NO….single reason for the current economic crisis. The situation was caused by a multitude of problems that accumulated, and once they reached the tipping point it was an all out assault to the downside.

Everyone from TV to Radio to what ever has an opinion they want to share saying theirs is correct. Problem is most of them are. An accumulating total of bad ideas gone wrong is what happened, and that brings us back to the pendulum.

Pendulums swing back and forth. We have just witnessed one side of the swing…The other side is now taking place.

Just as hard and as fast as the former swing went, the return stroke can be just as hard, and fast. What most are unaware of is where they are on the swing. Some got off earlier and thought they were safe. Some continued to ride thinking it would go on for ever. Both are coming to realize they were wrong. The problem inherent in a pendulum swing is once you get knocked down, it’s not the first strike that’s lethal. It’s the strike that happens as your trying to regain your footing, and unprepared for the second swing coming from the opposite direction. In a weakened state, and thinking the worst was behind you most will allow themselves the time of being vulnerable to do what they call” Healing from their wounds” not realizing the next punch can be much more severe than the last.

The only thing one can do to be prudent in these economic times is to realize a pendulum swings..That’s what it does, and that’s what it will do. You can not stop the swings in life, nor in economic terms. Your best defense is to grasp the pendulum in it’s swing knowing you’ll have to release at some point. Or make sure your not vulnerable to the swings, and either move out of the way, or Duck!

Mark

© 2009 Mark St.Cyr All Rights Reserved

Wait a second…I thought you wanted to be rich?

I can hear you now….”But I do..But I do!”

Seems there’s a little bit of a conundrum going on with people recently. All you have to do is turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper, or turn on the radio, and as Emeril Lagasse  would say ” BAM!”…..the headlines read…Those Dirty Rich People…Those Rich Wall Street Bankers…Those Rich money toting…you get the idea I’m sure.

Has anyone of late stopped to ponder that being the so-called ”Rich” is part of what it is to be an American. Our fore fathers, parents, and just about anyone whom was part of your life growing up wanted you to be able to have the opportunity to become rich. The problem happening right now is the people who want to blame someone are scouring over the land looking for anyone to lay blame on. The problem of course with this type of thinking is it’s shallow. Daily drum beats of TV news stories and alike help bolster this train of thought in the minds of people who want quick answers to complex questions.  Sometimes you just need more than a 3 minute news headline.

Yes…..banks and other institutions played fast and loose with shareholders money. Yes…. other types of companies took incredible, and incredulous leveraging of assets without proper risk management. However, at the time almost all of these transactions were legal. They might have been made with poor judgment, but when everyone seems to be making money, no one questions as much as they should and blind eyes become more prevalent the longer it continues.

People are slow to ask themselves the questions that they demand from others in a holier than now demeanor. e.g.: When your 401K was growing by double-digit rates…did you complain? When you were signing on the dotted line for that house that was probably 5000 sq. ft. to big…did you complain? When you used your house as an ATM to purchase items that you now look back on as frivolous…did you complain?  A true answer to these questions even if you didn’t partake in them is No.  And with most why would you? As long as everything kept going up why not be on the ride? Within there lies the answer to all the problems. Rides, all rides at some point come to an end.

We are entering a time in our country where things for at least a while are going to be a little different from what they were just 24 months ago. Saving money, being a frugal shopper, dining more at home will probably be more the norm than it used to. In America unlike other countries we have boons, and we have busts. However unlike most other countries…We have had the greatness, and the opportunities to create more boons than any other country on this planet. We will get out of this morass, and we will come out stronger and better prepared for the times in front of us when we stop trying to pin the tail on the Rich and once again get back to trying to become Rich.

Mark

© 2009 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

The difference between Clarity, and Politics

One would have just crawled from under a rock, or beamed in from another planet to have not noticed what is happening in our financial markets. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an opinion on the cause, the root cause, the projected cause,  and on and on and on and…….. You get the picture.

What most are witnessing, but have truly never been exposed to, is the truism of the saying…” The markets are looking for clarity.”  Most difficulties in any environment wont come to full fruition until the extremes are met by both sides of the problem.

Politics by it’s very nature surrounds itself in the ( “Grey Area”)  of problem solving, and problem recognition. Financial matters by their nature only resolve themselves with clarity ( “Black and White”) resolutions. The more vague you can be in the political arena, the more you can bend, and twist, or spin answers and ideas to fit your needs. That is not so where  “Real Money” lives, and works.

If the goal of the government is to try and be as vague as it can to support a political party, or ideology……The worse the financial markets will be.  In fact, they’ll  recede from making any decisions to spend, and or will only take positions that  give “Safe Harbor” to their money, and assets.

This in turn is exactly the opposite of what each side wants, and that  creates the negative feedback loop that we all hear about in the media. It’s at this point when the politics of the day, however political in ideology it may be, must have clarity for the markets to understand so that it may resolve itself to move forward, for good, bad, or indifferent.

Mark

They can’t explain it….But they feel it.

I’ve had many people asking me what I think of the recent events that are unfolding, and if I can suggest any type of advice.

The common thread that runs  through all their questions is…” I can’t put my finger on it, but I feel like something bad is about to happen.” It’s very, very scary for people who feel what they thought the future might hold, now just might hold some of their worst nightmares. They’re  watching  TV, or listening to the radio only to hear so called “Experts” pontificate their views of what will, or wont happen in the coming year.

The reason for this feeling of vertigo is no one, and I mean… no one truly knows. We as a people, and as a nation are truly living through historic times. Just imagine  a little over a year ago,  you told someone of the things you are witnessing today. They would have called you crazy! Now with 401Ks losing 40 to 50 % of their value, homes losing the same, and the possible nationalizing of banks in the United States. All seemed impossible to imagine a year ago, never mind live through it today.

In troubling times instead of being scared, and nervous, you need to start being concerned, and prudent so you can begin to take control of your fears. You can no longer take something for granted, and you must start taking control. Many wont even open their 401k statements because they can’t bare to see the devastation to their wealth. Some aren’t preparing for job loss because they think it wont happen to them.  If this is the type of behavior you find yourself doing, your not in control of your life  as much as you may think.

No one can guarantee what the future holds. Some will thrive in this type of economy, some will not. What’s important, is that you are doing everything within your power to not take anything, and I mean anything for granted. It’s the equivalent of your gut telling you a storm is brewing, you may not need to run for shelter now, but you had better make sure there’s provisions ready just in case.

Mark

Only the best need apply, but…….

Only the best need apply, but we’re not going to pay you as such. That seems to be the new paradigm that is coming from Washington to anyone who wants to be in partners with the government. I’ve talked with a lot of people on this subject recently, and I am amazed on the different visceral reactions from people.

The problem is…well….visceral. It’s the reaction people give when they don’t ( or wont! ) give any reasoning to their reactions. It’s all from the gut, and no where else.  Thoughts from the gut can be very reliable at times.  I’m personally a big fan of Malcom Gladwell’s work “BLINK”….However, you must be able to also reason with your gut feelings  on whether it’s the only instinct you should follow, or just a piece of the puzzle you need to assemble.

It might make sense at first glance to put an arbitrary cap on compensation, but if you just finished school at an “Ivy League” college, and finished your MBA at Harvard, you’re not going to look towards a so called “job” with an earnings cap. The only people in the end who’ll apply are ones with the “cap” being higher than any amount they could ever dream of making, and that brings us back to…will the best apply?

Mark

Let the Games Begin!

Thanks to everyone for your patience in waiting for the new web site and blog to be posted. It seemed like an eternity to get things to the point of where I could feel comfortable with the look and feel of the sites.

Are they perfect?…No. Will they ever be perfect?….Maybe, I don’t know, but that goes to the heart of my first post on this new site. As some of you know I have what is called a (TM) phrase on my web site. It reads ” If you wait for perfection before doing…..Then perfectly waiting is all you’ll do!” I wrote it years ago, and it still stands. If you’re waiting for the world to be perfect before you start something, you probably wont.  If you’re waiting for the perfect economic condition to start….it’s probably already passed you by. I could go on, and on, and on…..I hope you’re getting the picture.

In today’s world whether it’s economic, political, social, or whatever. The one truth that has any merit is this……What is your offering?….and does it add value to your customers. That’s  it, nothing else is needed.  It’s pretty much wrapped up in that statement. The days of companies, people, and others just trying or doing things on a whim are over. Yes….dead and buried, and no one will care about  how it used to be back  in the ” Good Ole Days” . Today’s world offers people, and companies whom offer the value proposition, and  deliver on that value an unprecedented opportunity which has been shunned in the last decades. The inferior people, companies, and tools of the past will not  survive.  Here’s an example……17 different widget stores selling the same items with horrible customer service, and employees more concerned with talking on the phone or other workers than trying to help you….Sorry, that’s  coming to an end right now. Job applicant just throwing their resumes in willy nilly and not caring if it’s filled out correctly, or they are not dressed properly for an interview?….I can hear the door hitting them from here. I’m not saying this will all take place tomorrow, but  I am saying….”Mediocrity will not be tolerated any longer!”…..Value for clients, value for the customer, value for the achievers, and yes….value for you, if you wish to embrace this new world and wanting to contribute with value.  I can not stress enough how strongly I feel on this subject, but if you want get a sense I’ll tell you this…Not only have I decided to speak to more groups, and business leaders than ever before….I’ve also raised my speaking fees. In today’s economic climate…..You either have value…Or you don’t.

Just ponder a few lines from one of my favorite songs, and band Pink Floyd….The song , and album Wish You Were Here….

“Did they get you to trade your hero’s for ghosts?…. Hot ashes for Trees?…Hot air for a cool breeze?

Cold comfort for change?….and did you exchange…a walk on part in the war…..for a lead role in a cage?”

Hope you decide to join in.

Mark