From My Perspective: 9/11 Life and Death

In remembrance of  Peter Hashem, Flight 11, Seat 20A
Struck the North Tower at 8:46:40 am EST.

This column is different for me. This one is a little more personal. Unlike my usual columns, this is to not only give some perspective to myself, in a way it might share some with you also.

The only thing I can say to start is: Life is precious. And, when it ends for what ever the reason, at any time, chances are you will not have any control of the timing or the circumstances. So live to your fullest everyday. Regardless of where you are in life for the unexpected, and the horrific, can happen to you, not just someone else.

When the tragedy on 9/11 happened, it changed many of us, if not all. Like most, I remember exactly where I was. I also remember standing in line at my local bank moments after it happened, watching the televisions while waiting in line in utter disbelief along with everyone else in the bank. For all of us – time had stopped.

The days and months that followed with the stories of heroism and the outpouring of help and support are well documented. For myself, living in New England at the time, one had either gone to Ground Zero personally as to try to offer any help or, someone you knew had.

I owned a local deli at the time. The owner of a company which supplied me with breads went back and forth to Ground Zero (GZ)  nightly to pass out muffins and pastries to the rescue teams at working through the night only to drive back to New Hampshire and then start his own deliveries.

No one complained. No one ever mentioned how hard it was. No one was looking for any credit. It was just done. Period! That’s just the way it was and how everyone viewed it.

On that day many of us changed. We viewed life a little differently from that point. Life suddenly hit you with laser focus. You could no longer trivialize the sage of: life is precious. For you now clearly understood the meaning of: death can come at any moment, from anywhere.

No longer was this an esoteric exercise. This was life at its core, and it was playing out in front of our eyes leaving no gray area to ponder. You either got it – or you didn’t. There was no middle ground.

To honor that tragic event, I myself set new rules, new guidelines in how I was going to go forward in life. I decided I would live life – my way, by my rules. And, if I were to die today – so be it.

I could say this because I truly was going ensure I was living.  Not just some bystander in life trying to merely exist or, just get by like so many other do. Those are not the reasons why we’re given life. It’s given to us – to live, to be alive. It’s not to play in some endless game of defense only as to: go along to get along. Rather, it’s to use what ever talents we have or, develop them and push ourselves to not just survive this game but rather to play on offense and thrive! That, is the epitome of living in my world.

September 11, 2001 changed my life forever, Yet, to honor the lives of the people who perished on that tragic day, I decided to use it as a reminder that while on this Earth, I should make sure I was engaged in living.

Live everyday. Take nothing, nor anyone for granted. Live today as to chase the dreams of tomorrow. For if we do that one simple step, whether we reach those dreams or not…

Regardless of when our ticket gets called, it will be known that we had lived.

For you see, Peter was not just someone who tragically died on that day. He was the younger brother of my close friends growing up.
Life doesn’t just happen to someone else. It happens to us all.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

From Vacations to Turmoil…Now What?

Labor Day goes out with a bang, and the work week starts out with a boom that rivals most July 4th celebrations. Some are returning from sand filled beaches, and rolling waves only to feel they’ve stepped in quicksand surrounded by rising seas tormented by Neptune himself. “Hey it’s great to be back!” you’ll hear, followed by some murmuring sound that resembles someone driving on a flat tire. My advice? Don’t fight it, embrace it.

Yes I understand how much it stinks coming back from vacation to a stack of papers or reports. Yes I know the feeling of thinking “Was it worth it? I’m so far behind now!” Or even the dreaded “You’ve got to be kidding me, they did what while I was gone?” (That was always my favorite.) But now there’s really only one thing to do. Fix it.

Embrace the fact that you’re needed. That’s probably the reason there’s turmoil. Use the opportunity to analyze where you need to delegate more. Maybe you’re allowing people to rely too much on you. Maybe you need to empower more of your staff. Maybe you can use this time to clear out customers that are no longer profitable, but are just high maintenance. You get the idea. If you’re returning to an overload of problems instead of just a getting back up to speed,  you need to take a hard look at the what, why, and how of these things.

Use the opportunity to jettison these toxic variables, and send them on a permanent vacation themselves so you can get back to work, and enjoy yourself again. Work might not be easy at times, but it shouldn’t feel like after vacation you’re returning to the dungeon either. After all, you have the keys.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

 

Are Your Views Biased By Your Computer?

Self validation is a wonderful thing. However it can also be a double-edged sword.

If you’re like me, you probably noticed in speaking (if you can get a word in edgewise) with others a real hardline on any given subject with statements and facts to help forge their arguments. But if you ask them where they are getting the information for their viewpoints. a funny little trait is starting to emerge if you listen. A response might take this form, ” I read it everywhere. It’s all over the news, the papers. I read articles all the time and they all say the same thing.” Interesting I’ll say. But then I follow-up with, ” I’ve seen that also, but I also read in (fill in the blank) the exact opposite findings in their research. Where do they go wrong?” The usual response? ” Oh I don’t read that.”  To where my mind goes hmmmmmmm.

It’s not that people are wrong necessarily, but there seems to be a phenom manifesting that’s going under the radar. With today’s computer generated algorithms in anticipating content that you may like, based on content you have already viewed, is it not fair to say it can deliver biased news or opinions with an alarming overload?

Social networking is just that. It’s social. It wants to fit you, and everyone else into a collective sphere of thoughts, and likes. It wants to help push the comfort of the clique, the inside group, the group of similar likes or dislikes with the algorithmic efficiency of keeping out what it thinks you might not like. Sound far-fetched? Try this experiment yourself. Just go do a Google® search on anything you are interested in, but use more than 5 words or so in the query box and watch the results change as you’re typing. Try doing this but don’t just speed type it in and hit enter. Do it methodically. What you’re trying to do is watch the results as the algorithms try to anticipate your needs. For some the results can be glaring. For others the results can be alarming. You might not have noticed just how much you computer knows about you. Social networks, search queries, items you’ve bought, your friends, what they’ve looked for, what they’ve bought, all this quantifiable information is trying to express itself every time you’re at the computer. Why? Because it believes your biases are exactly the best thing to deliver, regardless of anything else. And why shouldn’t it, if you reward its bringing you only your biased information with looking for more of the same.

Gives a modern-day feel to the old adage, ” Show me who you hang around with, and I can tell who you are.”

But I might be biased in that opinion.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

On Steve Jobs… a few thoughts

Today many will wake to the news Mr. Jobs has resigned as CEO. He will most surely be granted another position to stay,and remain part of Apple® as he has asked. It appears his health must be getting the better of him. For many of us who’ve run companies large or small, or tried to start anything from scratch based solely on our vision of what we thought should be, and not accept the status quo regardless of the odds. It was Steve Jobs struggles, and triumphs that was for many of us what we thought about when we too were having our own dark hours.

This is a man who revolutionized everything we now take for granted, computers, music, movies, telephones, and to some degree business itself. But that’s not the important stuff for many. This is a man who at every stage where he could have kicked back and retired with mega bucks refused. He put everything on the line everyday, his money, his reputation, and at times I bet even more, and lost many times. However we’re talking about him today because he turned every loss into a turning point for even greater success. What an amazing story, period.

Although Apple® the company is a wonder of a success in so many ways (It also just became the largest market cap company in the world dethroning Exxon Mobil!) it’s the passion, the vision, the determination of Steve Jobs that I personally hold in reverent respect.

Thank you Mr. Jobs.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

Can We Talk?

I love that line from Joan Rivers because of what it really implied. Can we be honest here, and cut with some of the BS?

I hear over, and over again from sources everywhere on how so many college educated people are disenfranchised in the employment market than ever before. I hear source after source of so-called “experts” tout statistics on how people with college educations are disproportionately out of work relative to their peers from years back. Unemployment or underemployment for anyone is a scary world. Real people have real problems. What they need is advice that is, prudent, workable, and reliable. What they don’t need are these statisticians whom glaringly use data points as a talking point to sound like they know something. As far as I’m concerned, the way they phrase their arguments, and reference their back up data, they know crap. A little blunt? Yes, but I’m sick of them, and so should you.

Over the last few decades our education system has been at the forefront of just how far we can lower the bar while letting everyone believe they raised it. You can find real reports done by credible sources that show most college grads today couldn’t pass the required high school tests of just a few decades ago. All this has done for many is to lengthen the time one can stay in school. This never showed as a problem because employment was bountiful, but when work is scarce it’s not the level of education that matters most times, it’s what you can produce. If you don’t have a track record of being a producer, or the only credentials you have are a list of degrees in “Liberal Arts” times are going to get even tougher. That sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. But no one is saying it, so I might as well step to the front and be the one. After all, that’s what I do.

Statistically, there are more college graduates than ever before. To that point you would of course have more graduates having issues than ever before, but really, so what? It’s a meaningless statistic that does nothing but allow some talking head 15 minutes of fame to fill air time while the unemployed college grad probably sits and watches nodding their head in agreement on why their plight is worse than ever. It’s all bunk.

Here’s what you might have heard had  I been on that TV panel….

Let’s go to Mark and get his view…”Well, first let me say in regards to education or degrees. If you are going to be a doctor, lawyer,architect, or some other occupation that requires a certain prerequisite level of education then you need to find a school that not only teaches, but can give you exposure into your chosen vocation while you’re learning. You can not just sit back, study, party, then think about where, or if you want to go to work right away. Those days are now long gone, and if that one point is not realized, no education will help or save you in this economy. If you don’t need a degree for your dream job, either skip the whole college thing, and  try to start working anywhere there is an opening in anything remotely related to your field or if all else fails, think on how you can start the business from scratch if necessary whether part-time or full-time. Anything, do anything, but get started now! You don’t have the luxury of time any longer. And stop listening to the people on TV telling you your plight is different from anyone elses. They’re full of BS! Get going now and take no prisoners.”

All righty then…Lets go to a commercial break!

Mark

© Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

Why a Mid-life Crisis today, Might be the Opportunity of a Life Time.

Somethings are worth repeating. I wrote this article over a year ago, however it seems to have even more relevance today. Life is full of opportunities, if you have the courage to look, and then act.

Posted in Uncategorized on May 3, 2010 by Mark

Some of you think I’m kidding. Some are waiting for the punchline. There isn’t one. I’m being quite frank about the opportunity of a life time, but you must have the courage to grab it, and it wont seem easy at first glance, but here’s the kicker…It is, and here’s why…

Look around you at all your competition who is under the age of, let’s say 30. Most have never held a job till at least the age of 18 if not 21. These once considered “Prime Executive Candidates” have more or less been in school, and continue to stay in school to the ripe old age of 24. The government has just confirmed that they can still regard themselves as a child to the ripe old age of 26. The collective general working knowledge of this group has no, and I mean no understanding of working with or during difficult times. The Savings and Loan crisis of the 80′s seems like something out of the history books akin to reading about Homer . Nice reading, but for them, who needs those ancient teachings in their minds. That’s like, so not today. “Like” Homer didn’t even have a GPS back then so who cares. (satire intended)

If you watch TV, or read interviews on this coveted set of new recruits, you’ll find one over arching theme. ” I want a corner office, 4 weeks vacation, 12 days sick time, and a retirement plan that’s just killer! I want to start in about 2 months because I don’t want to miss out on spring break, and it’ll take at least a week after that to sober up from all the partying dude!”

So I’ll say it one more time.If you have the courage to be honest with yourself, forget about the “age thing” you have in your head. Be ready to show a future employer what you can do, will do, and what you have done.  You’re now in the world of writing your own ticket. With a little more gumption forget about looking for a job, create it.

Who’ll  stop you? The competition?

Mark

Fundamentals vs It’s Different This Time

As we wake on this Monday morning there seems to be a growing fervor from finger pointers everywhere. If you watch the financial channels, or other news outlets all you’ll see are the so-called “smart crowd” explaining why this matters, that doesn’t, and vice versa. It’s truly pathetic in my opinion.

As many of you know from listening to either my talks, or reading my articles I have been what has seemed to be a lone voice on why listening to these “wizards of smart” will be detrimental to not only your wallet, but too your sanity as well.

Over the last 18 months I have written many times why people needed to be cautious. Why people needed to understand that correlation, and causation are not synonymous. Almost to a person would a conversation (which usually turned combative on their part) about either financial markets, or business be defended by the other party with some statement of finality to shut me down, and to end the conversation e.g.: “Well, it’s different this time.” followed by.. “Just look at the market today. It’s higher right? So obviously you’re wrong.” I’m wondering how confident they feel about their argument today.

As of this writing every single person whom expressed just how much smarter they were than everyone else because they understood the great wizardry expressed by the so-called  “smart crowd”, and their merry band in the “wizards of smart club” are now proven absolutely wrong. Any, and all gains just in the financial markets since the now infamous “Flash Crash” have been wiped out. All the gains from the coveted arguments of why QE2 was a reason I knew nothing, and didn’t “get it” are wiped out. All the reasons, and rationals they put into why things are different this time over the last 18 months have been wiped away clean with fundamentals in just 10 days. Funny how that works isn’t it?

All my reasons, and arguments on why I believed this was a more than likely outcome are documented in my articles. I don’t need nor have to try to say “Hey..I said that!” It’s all here, documented, and with dates so at least for me I needn’t have to use the statement that’s almost as dreaded as the “It’s different” argument.

What statement is that you ask?

“I told you this could happen!”

Mark

© Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

You Never Know Just Whom You May Be Talking To

I’ve been both humbled, and infuriated at times when speaking with some people. Most times I’ll bet you get just as angry when someone starts talking at you with some superiority complex displayed by every word that seems to dribble from their lips. Usually this gets under ones skin because the person babbling has made no effort in finding out what you might know on any given subject they’re currently filibustering . They display with their attitude, and vernacular that they could care less, because after all, they know everything, or they’re consumed in self-importance.

The complete opposite happens when you’re more interested in what the other party might have to say or know. That is when something interesting or surprising can take place. Not only may you learn something new, you may also learn that the person you thought was just some hired help turns out to have been hired by Presidents, Kings, Queens, and a few other dignitaries that you’ve only seen on television. But that can only happen if you keep your own ego in check.

The other day I was out sight-seeing in my area. There was a building I have seen from the road that is just magnificent. It’s a public building however there are no signs or markers indicating the company or occupants within. As I drove around the lot looking for clues I spotted a man tending to the beautiful gardens at the front of the building. I went over and asked if he could tell me who occupied the building or its purpose. He graciously informed me of the occupants, then he casually pointed out the architecture styling, the reason why it was built to its proportions, and so on. It was a wonderfully explained cliff note of the building. I then commented on how wonderful the gardens looked, and asked if he services other gardens like this, or does this one take up all his time. That’s when I was just about floored. Turns out not only does he maintain this garden, but is responsible for a few others of the most renowned places in this area. Also when royalty, dignitaries, or Presidents come to the area, it is he whom gets the call when anything floral is needed. And at the personal request of some. He was soft-spoken non-braggadocios, just conversationally answering my queries as the exchange went on. On one point when I asked about if dogs can make his work tough because of what they can do to a landscape at times, he laughed and said “Oh no..I love dogs. Besides I also breed a few. Do you know President ________?” I said yes. “Well have you seen his dog _______? That’s one of my dogs.” I was flabbergasted. How interesting this conversation has been I was thinking to myself. (I don’t believe I have the right to state which President, nor the dog in case you’re wondering why the blanks.)

So next time when you think you should pan being polite or cordial to the gardener, maid, or anyone else you profile as being not worth your attention be fore warned.

They might be on a first name basis with the most powerful people on the planet.
Just saying.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights reserved

 

Lessons I Learned From Running

As some of you know I’m an avid runner. I’ve been running on a consistent basis for decades now. (I just had to put that decades thing in) I was thinking the other day on how dealing with the act of running relates to life in general. Here are few things I was pondering:

  • The hardest part I’ve found about running was putting on my shoes. After that, the rest just followed.
  • Not being able to have that extra slice of pizza was harder than running.
  • Run outdoors whenever possible. Given a choice hamsters would not choose the treadmill. Keep yourself away from a cage when ever possible.
  • Run in all-weather conditions. If you wait for only perfect days, you’ll rarely ever run. Don’t wait for perfection.
  • If caught in the rain don’t get mad, you’re giving everyone else something to laugh at. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • If you notice you’re the only one running, is it because you’re that disciplined, or maybe you haven’t seen the crowd that runs while you’re in the shower. Don’t just assume it’s only you doing something.
  • Sometimes running too slow will give you more aches, and pains than running faster. Discomfort might be happening because your holding back.
  • Running uphill can be easier on the joints than running downhill because you are more in control going up. Beware allowing gravity to do your work for you. It can be a double-edged sword.
  • Get hydrated before you start a run as well as after. If you try while you’re running it’ll be too late. Preparation helps avoid pain.
  • If your going to be a dedicated runner, forget trying to buy shoes on the cheap. There are times when you have to bite bullets, and buy the best regardless of how much it goes against your wallet.
  • Ask questions of people who run, and are dedicated just like you. Chances are you’ll both learn something you didn’t know before because both of you want to become even better.
  • Always carry protection. You may know every dog in the neighborhood, but you might not know his new friend. You never know who’ll meet.
  • Not all aches, and pains need to be treated the same. Don’t use them as an excuse as to not do something you know you can.
  • One pass time can give way to another, and at the same time. I never liked reading fiction, but I now have listened to more fiction audiobooks than I have read Non-Fiction in the past year. You can always mix things up, and open new doors.
  • The people who beep at you are not saying hi, they’re trying to see if they can startle you and make you trip. Stupid is, as stupid does.

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved