Tag: #WPLongform

“+” What Is It Good For? Plus More!

I was sitting down contemplating exactly how I was to go about with a few projects I’m currently working on such as my next book, audio/video projects, speaking projects and more.

As I sat gazing and daydreaming for some reason Google™ popped into my mind, then its “plus” service; and almost immediately I began channeling Edwin Starr’s classic song WAR (Whitfield/Strong -released1970 Motown) as I inserted the word “plus” for “war.”

And yes, daydreaming is a valid and productive process to do, and far too many have forgotten just how important it can be for they have replaced it with unproductive busy work. i.e., Checking in on their social status every 10 seconds. But I digress.

The more I thought about the service, the louder the song seemed to grow in my head. And with that I decided to delete my account and I thought I’d share my reasoning why, for as many of you know I like to use myself as the example where appropriate. Not the all too prevalent…

They read in someone’s book where they read in someone else’s book, that someone wrote about someone else, where they were reading someone else who was writing, where they chronicle a group of other books written by someone else. And while they’ve never done any of it, they’re now writing about what they wrote, so that you can now go out and buy their writings – on what they think you should do. Even though they themselves have never done it. Sorry, once again I digress. But I believe wholeheartedly that point is not made near enough.

So getting back to my reasoning and trying to stay clear of a rant, here is what I’ve both noticed, believe, and other details that have been borne out in absolute fact, not conjecture, or “a reading of tea leaves.”

First: During what is now known as the “social media revolution” you won’t get 1 out of 100 people disagreeing that today the only way to get known, promote, sell, and more is: via social media. In other words you must be on “all” the platforms. e.g. Pintrest™, Facebook™, Twitter™, YouTube™, et al. You must have followers, likes, comments, write for SEO and more. If not – you’re not only “not serious” you’re probably doomed for failure. Only problem with that? It’s bunk. Pure unadulterated trash. Period.

Now why can or do I make such a statement? Easy, it’s because ever since I started – I’ve done none of it.

Oh yes, like many I too at first opened an account on many of these platforms. But after posting maybe once or twice (if at all) I instinctively felt it was all just a waste of time, especially in a true business sense. And so far it’s been proved out my thoughts and realizations were correct. And again – I backed up that argument by not doing any of it. (I can hear the gasps from new readers thinking “That’s blasphemy!”)

However, for those maybe not familiar with my thoughts on this subject let me add to this for there may be a little confusion. i.e., “How do you say social media (SM) is worthless yet you have sharing buttons?”

I didn’t nor don’t say SM is useless or worthless for everything. There are very valid uses as well as fantastic ways for things to be shared, talked about, and more. But (and it’s a very big but) as far as the way its been touted for use to help businesses and entrepreneurs? Not so much.

And I’ve been adamant from the get-go and have stated unabashedly “The only people making real money on social media, are the people selling you their products “on how you need to use social media.” And I still stand by it. It could change, but as of this writing that’s still my viewpoint.

So I thought I’d change the discourse from me just typing to something more along the lines as if you were watching me on stage using some real answers I give when I’m asked very direct and pointed questions from the audience on this very topic in conversation form.

I believe it will help in facilitating as well as giving more understanding of where I’m personally coming from; for there is probably no other topic that people want to try to “skewer the speaker” with as to prove them wrong.

And maybe it will help you also should you decide to follow an even different path because you will be called out as to “explain” yourself.

So with the help of V.V. from StreetCry we put together the following. Just suppose you’re a person in the audience and you were to hear the following questions directed at me from the audience:

Question: You say you don’t use SM yet you have share buttons on your site. Can you explain this?

Me: Sure, I didn’t say there is no purpose for it. I said as far as basing a business on it is what’s getting people in trouble. If people find something on my site that they find interesting and want to share it on say FB or something else, I’m pleased. And I have them there for just that reason. Yet me wasting my time to get them to read me on FB – rather than my own site – seems counterproductive does it not? Thanks, and next question…

Question: In a world now seemingly dominated by the likes of Twitter, how can you be serious about people not using tools such as Twitter?

Me: I didn’t say there isn’t a place or need. What I’ve said is, it’s all purely about business and in just how one is using poor metrics, and wasting a lot of time chasing those metrics. Rather, than doing and focusing on where they should. And that is; getting one customer to actually spend money with you where they are satisfied and willing to not only do it again, but rather, will tell one of their friends that they should also.

That’s where the power is – of sharing or tweeting as it’s called is in my book. Not you trying to build followers for the sake of just “you have X amount of followers.” When one is engaged in doing that for the near exclusion of all else that’s what I mean when I talk about “busy work.” Thanks, next question…

Question: It’s been shown with the “right” strategy Twitter can be a more powerful medium than what traditional platforms once offered; and there is proof of this. So to say one should disregard these seems a little arrogant or at the least a little near-sighted, and maybe, just applicable to your own situation. But for many others it might not be the case. Do you want to try as to explain the difference or at least acknowledge that point where you might be wrong?

Me: Great question, and my first answer to your last statement is – No. But let’s not take “my word” for this. Please let me ask you a question for I feel it demonstrates exactly what I’m trying to show. Let me ask, Do you have a Twitter account?
Response: Yes

Me: And how many followers do you have currently?
Response: Over 35,000

Me: Fine. Can we all be in agreement 35K is a considerable amount especially for an individual? And for this purpose let’s use the “individual” criteria regardless if it’s a business or not because that gives it the highest intrinsic value as a number. Can we all agree on this?
(Everyone responds yes in agreement)

Me: Fair enough. So, how long have you been building up that following?
Response: About 3 years.

Me: Fair enough, so correct me if I state anything wrong. What you’re telling me is over the last 3 years or so you’ve used a strategy that as far as you believe it to be, is working correctly. And, as proof of that work and strategy, as evidenced by it, you have 35,000 people to read your thoughts or hear your ideas. Is that correct?
Response: Yes, that’s about right.

Me: Again, fair enough. Now I on the other-hand over the same period of time have also worked by my own strategy which entails not having an account and having zero followers. Yet, at any given time as we stand here today my thoughts, or my articles are sent directly to other Twitter followers in documented provable metrics of nearly 2,000,000 (yes that’s two million) and hundreds of thousands of others in ancillary metrics such as re-tweets and the like to their followers, etc.

Now let me clarify as so no one thinks I’m being coy with those figures using some cumulative example. That’s at any given time pertaining to any given article or news I might make. So I must ask you – whose strategy seems to be bearing more fruit?

And I’m not trying to show you up or make you feel uncomfortable. However, what I am trying to do is make you think about what you’re doing. Maybe what you are doing is absolutely perfect for your situation. I have no clue on that, only you can answer it. However, if it’s just a “numbers” thing, than you have to weigh it against that evidence and think if you’re getting the results you really want or better yet – need. And if not, maybe be open to other possibilities. Thanks, and next question…

Question: You balk at writing for SEO and other things yet how will you be found on the net if the search engines don’t or can’t find you?

Me: Great question. First, even the most astute SEO developers have found all their work over last few years nullified with changes to Google’s new algorithms and updates as to “help make a better search experience” they say. Some businesses that based their business models solely on SEO have found themselves out of business near overnight. And it’s still happening as we speak.

However, it has been by my own experience “search” as we thought it to be just a mere year ago is irrelevant and useless. The results, the listings, the priorities, all of it just don’t make any sense as far as I’m concerned. Again, all I know is what I see on my side. However, I have enough material as well as intellectual property on the web to base that argument on an informed opinion and analysis where I personally can see changes as I’ve grown, and how results are now laughable as my team or myself look at them when we conduct our own fact-finding missions.

Let me share the latest revelation I had that I believe will help illustrate what I’m trying to convey.

For the last few years as I’ve stated I didn’t involve myself in the whole SM thing. However, the one thing I have done is share all my articles in a Google plus account I had. My thoughts were, I have some Gmail™ accounts I use and it probably wouldn’t hurt to at the least re-post my articles there where it might help with search. I never followed or shared with + as people use it. I just re-posted them there in a “can’t hurt” attitude.

As many of you know as well as you probably do yourself there are things you can do such as set up “alerts” where if your name comes up on the web you’ll be alerted too it. Again, I just like many of you have thought and maybe still do, this is/was a great feature. So I’ve been using it ever since and now it’s going on many years.

What I now can state as far as my experience is that it has become absolutely worthless. Here’s just one example to illustrate.

Both my name, whether it be in a byline from an article I’ve written, or quoted by others on major media sites (such as papers of record) where their readership is in the millions so it’s not as if they wouldn’t be or are not scoured by the search engines. The results in my alerts? Squat, as in zip, zero, nada.

As my reach has grown to where I literally at times am in front of an audience of millions with gusts to 10’s of, at any given time around the globe where I’m referenced by my actual name (and yes spelled correctly) I receive absolutely nothing in way of my name being out there.

Even now when we do our own “search” and look for corresponding results in a query as to try to give an accurate measure as to see where or when. Just over the last year this has changed so much with its responding results; they are not only frustrating – they are by even more accounts downright laughable.

Here’s just one of the latest in a long streak that caused me to rethink a lot of what I’m doing as it pertains to the “web” or “Search” in general.

I was quoted in a major publication. This time it was the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch™ which is far from some outlier news site. And once again nothing. And that’s not counting the 5 other top sites that also carried me in varying ways to an easily quantifiable audience of about 30 million.

Like I said, it’s not like I was asking to be “alerted” if I was found on someone’s personal blog. These are major media sites with worldwide followings. But this isn’t out of the norm…this is, and has been – the norm.

Over the last few years I have been probably alerted less than a handful of times. And here’s the kicker, of those times, it’s been to things on my own blog! Things which by their own policies or dictates will tell you are not supposedly counted. For if you follow their policies or dictates this is not supposed to happen (and I do by the way) as to make sure they don’t “ding” you. And yet – there it is. Like I said earlier you can’t make this stuff up, but what’s worse is that’s it’s so laughable it really isn’t funny any longer. It now borders pathetic. But that’s just me.

Not that long ago I would be alerted even if I only showed up on someones blog. An example of this in my earlier days I used the example of showing up on a coffeehouse blog in Salt Lake City as to demonstrate I never knew where my thoughts might end up next. Now I can be quoted, or carried by name in some of the largest media sites across the globe and….pffffffft!

So I know this is a long about answer and has gone a long way, but I think it’s important to illustrate as I try to answer your question clearly. In today’s day and age the way I think about search and all the rest is, the very way I think about my home, phone, or email address.

It must be on the web just like your home must be on a listed city street not in the middle of the woods, and your contact information must be plain, readable, and precise so that people when they leave can send a letter, or call you and it will reach you. Just like if you moved to another city you could tell people where you are and how to find you. Just like we thought years ago about being in the telephone books.

You need to focus your attention that people looking specifically for you – can find you. For find you they will. And the way in which they’ll do that you can’t even begin as to try to game play every option. There are far too many. But if you make it so they can. i.e., Have the actual location properly marked with signage, a clear address, contact info, etc. Whether it be physical or web-based is the most important thing bar anything else.

If you have just those things alone not only will you be found, but you’ll have a more accurate profile on the web than I would garner to say more than half of what’s currently out there. Most sites are down right pitiful. Even those that are supposed to be “open for business” sites.

Then as you grow via your own efforts and word of mouth being spread with other happy customers: expanding that is easy.

But far too many are focused arse backwards. They’re trying to set up for “the millions” when they don’t even have one satisfied customer first. And that’s all I’m trying to relate as far as this topic is concerned. I hope that helps shed some light and with that I have time for one more.

Question: So one must assume that with all your saying or implying the traffic at your own site must be rather large. Can you tell us how much traffic your own site receives?

Me: First let’s get the “assume” or “imply” thing right off the table for it get’s in the way. For numbers mean different things to different people and confuse issues rather than give clarity in some example.

So for the base of this answer let me use this number because it demonstrates what I’m saying more clearly and this way I can’t be said to be “conflating” or “inflating” numbers where the point is lost. So with that said…Let’s say the total traffic to my own site is 1, and I mean that, just one solitary person in a year.

Now you might be aghast at such a thing, especially if I followed up with, “And that’s perfectly fine with me.” And the reason I would be fine and you might be stupefied is for this underlying reason.

The one person that may come to my site might do well over $35,000.00 in a solitary business transaction as in to hire me speak. That’s what I’m concerned with. Getting that one, than another, than another, so on and so forth.

Far too many are worried about getting to 35,000 followers, or “hits” on their site and do absolutely ZERO business in the form of transactions. i.e., Legal tender that will be accepted as deposit by their bank.

That illustrates what I believe is the core fundamental business difference I take that nearly too a person doesn’t. I’m in business – they’re in the vanity business while calling it something else. It may be something else, but what it ain’t – is business.

You can do either/or and there is absolutely nothing wrong with either. But you can’t fool yourself thinking one is something that it’s not.

You must determine first what you are. i.e., a business – or a hobby because both have fundamental differences.

Then once you do that you’ll inherently do the things necessary to advance one or the other and eschew anything that’s not pointedly applicable for the advancement of either. For again. There’s business, and then there’s a hobby.

Many have hobbies they believe are a business, and there are just as many businesses treated as a hobby. This is where most confusion on strategy and tactics not only frustrate people, they can cause real distress in both family life as well as your health.

Just the realization in “the knowing” which one you are, sometimes clears 90% of the things out-of-the-way near  instantaneously you were frustrated with earlier. Don’t let that seemingly small point get lost on you. It sometimes is something that small that makes way for all the big changes you want to happen going forward.

Thanks for some great questions, and thanks for being here!

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Amazon vs Hachette: And Why An Axe May Beat A Hammer

For those not up to speed on the war of words (quite literally) between Amazon™ and Hachette™, it basically revolves around one central theme: Amazon believes a price should be X, and Hachette believes it should be Y. So the question everyone is asking is, “Who’s right?” In my view that’s the wrong question to even begin with.

The reason being is this (and I’m not trying to be coy) both are correct if you understand what the real question and answer should be, and that is: Whomever owns the product owns the right to price. Whomever owns the distribution point (or the store) owns the right to carry it or not. Period.

For those who want to disagree you need look no further for a clear example of this than Apple™.

A distributor and a producer can agree to disagree on what their respective businesses should make in profit, but a distributor is in the distribution business, not the creation of product business. (Regardless if they create their own product within that very same business.) Their models, their strategies, their world view as distributors is not the same as what the producer or creator of a said products business model or priorities are – no matter how much they say, nor how broken they believe them to be.

There also lies within this great debate one of the greatest conundrums that no one (and I mean no one) is addressing. As broken as the publishing business model is debated and pointed to as the broken model of models, I ask: and Amazon’s model is perfection? Hardly.

I’ll follow that statement with this: It might be even more broken and in need of restructure more than the publishing industry. (Yes, I did just make that statement.)

Why would I say such a thing you’re asking? Easy: Let’s not forget Amazon has still yet to prove it can make or turn a profit worthy of its stock valuation. And that question is still up for grabs even though it just celebrated its 20th year since founded.

Some are asking why is this happening to begin with, along with why now? Many thought or believed Amazon was the greatest friend of book publishers, authors and more.

Yes they were, but as I alluded to earlier I believe something has changed in Amazon’s business model that now needs correcting. Something most just turned a blind eye towards as if it would never need to be addressed in the future. i.e., Amazon needs to start turning real profits in order to convince Wall Street that their investment in this retail experiment can actually pay dividends or profits which can be returned to share holders in the future. That future – is now here.

In my view this is just another one of the realizations I’ve warned about rearing its ugly head: Without the Federal Reserves QE pumping and the spigot almost closed, the once hot money now chases cold hard facts. i.e., “Show us the money!” If not – the hot stories will begin to get the cold shoulder, and the once darlings of Wall Street are not only far from immune –  they may have bulls-eyes painted on their backs. (Do you stay in Amazon? Or, do you move to let’s say the next greatest of the same story as in Alibaba’s IPO?)

For all intents and purposes Amazon is still “an experiment” in online retailing. And Wall Street is becoming increasingly incessant on wanting many of the “old” questions answered since the Federal Reserve has been turning off the spigot of free speculation money.

And the question that hangs over Amazon like the sword of Damocles is: Will they ever make money? Or, is this the best it gets?

One needs only look at a stock chart and notice the eery timing coincidence of its descending share price and the announcement that the Federal Reserve was actually serious in reducing the QE flow of free cash.

Remember, for as large and encompassing as Amazon is with all the wonderful things it can and has done to make shopping better; it can only last so long before selling at a loss catches up with it. And that has only been made possible as Wall Street stays committed to the story that “someday” Amazon will make money to justify their investment.

Without that narrative in place and believed, Amazon as we know it changes. Again getting back to “why this is all happening” my view and belief is that the real issue here for Amazon is: Many (including possibly Amazon itself) have forgotten it’s not 1999 anymore.

Just a scant 15 years ago the internet and everything we now take for granted was almost unimaginable. If you were placed in hibernation then only to wake now it would be the equivalent of being a Quaker suddenly transported to the deck of the Enterprise.

Smart phones alone are only 8 years old and the Blackberry™ (a what?) was at the time a marvel of marvels. Today? What is the same is Amazon’s business model. i.e., Sell at break even if not a loss, for as long as it can till they are the dominant (if not only) choice.

The “for as long as it can” part of that statement is what I believe is now jeopardizing that model. Amazon is still if not more convenient as ever as a first go to place to check prices and more. But (and it’s a very big but) it is far from the absolute price dominator on all items it was in respect to just 4 or 5 years ago.

You can buy securely, and find alternatives in about 2 keystrokes today from some of the very retailers Amazon was handily decimating earlier. Many have adjusted their own strategies and are actually beating them at their own game. Not on everything, but in enough places and in enough volume to cause significant concern for the once unquestioned king of margin reduction.

So in getting back to this debate let’s focus and use what’s being argued that currently has to do with eBooks and authors. (putting aside the ever-growing Disney® contention)

Authors create the content to be sold. Amazon distributes that content. But without Amazon authors can still create, still make product available, still have fans, still have sought after products. Amazon? Without authors – they are empty shelves whether tangible or virtual.

Adding more confusion to the mix is the cohort of authors demanding theirs, as well as other publishers, “should just suck it up and stop being greedy.” I can’t help but wonder: Where was the outcry when the price of Prime™ membership increased?

For all intents and purposes, that increase on a customer that only purchased eBooks and didn’t use any other service or purchased an item (for what ever the reason) over a year would be a 100% windfall of net profit to Amazon – not to any authors.

Would it have been “fair” for the publishing industry to argue that increase in price and profit should be distributed how they saw fit? How about the same argument reversed? i.e., The increase in your Prime membership is too much and will drive down customer participation getting less eBooks into customers hands.

Based on Amazon’s own argument – they had every right (if not even more so) to make it. For after all – they actually represented the product and authors.

What is also quite instructive (and much to my amazement) is the very public dealing with customers, authors, and the publishing industry. Not only is this in full view, but rather the distributor is inviting public participation into what is truly a pure business/profit argument.

Even more amazing to me is the lack of, if not deafening silence of what should be the very loudest vocal group of all: The competition!

This alone shows me how hunkered down, scared, lack of strategic vision (just to name a few) many of the businesses that were decimated by the Amazon model have become.

If I were the CEO or the head of sales/marketing let’s say of Barnes and Noble™, I would have a team of the best in advertising whether within my structure or hired out and making ad buys hand over fist and more using this public discourse as fuel why customers could get what they need right where they used to get it – with me or my store.

I also would have my purchasing, author relations, and other departments (as well as myself) on the phones, on planes, on what ever it took and start making deals. And I mean deals using this as a vehicle to cut once unimaginable deals where before they might have never been listened to. But now? All ears would be open.

However, what has been the response? (Insert chirping cricket sound here)

Personally these once formidable competitors are acting like the sheep they’ve become. (i.e., Book retailers of any sort, but not limited to them in isolation either.)

What an opportunity being lost for businesses that relish competition seriously. Here they have an opportunity to push back being handed to them on a silver platter by the very competitor they see as a nemesis, free of charge and – with free shipping. Absolutely amazing to anyone with business sense.

Remember: For as large, dominating, along with great service and free shipping. If you want let’s say Malcolm Gladwell’s latest work you’re not going to go to an empty slot and say, “Oh well, I’ll just buy Michael Sadwell’s latest. They’re probably the same seeing they’re in the same section.” Same thing for a Steven King novel.

Yet, the way this argument is playing out by both Amazon as well as the authors siding with them, one would think Amazon was “the only” place where one could by them.

As I alluded to earlier, if you listened to the deafening silence coming from Amazon’s competitors, it’s easy to believe that to be true. (Again just on the sole issue in a lack of a cohesive, strategic response that has been afforded them via this fight, I am still in absolute total amazement and bewilderment.)

The internet and buying via retail through it too say “has changed” since 1999 is of course an understatement. But, what seems oblivious to all players is Amazon today is more in the camp of “habitual” or “convenience” purchasing rather than what it was back in the early ’00’s where it was truly – in a league of its own with nearly no alternative.

Today there is not the hesitancy to purchase online at other places. As a matter of fact, you can find many items cheaper than Amazon with just as good of an experience from online retailers that have upped their games and learned how to use e-commerce far more effectively than they were just 5 years ago.

Credit card processing, checkout, customer service, and yes – prices can be found that are rivaling Amazon at their own game in many areas.

What might be more at stake and where I feel is the most important area to watch is if in fact Hachette holds firm, refuses to capitulate, and pulls its products or services out from Amazon. As I’ve said over, and over, Whether you agree with one side or the other, the fact remains – Hachette, and their respective authors own the material.

If they decide to pull while at the same time have the guts to increase the retail price of their offerings and distributing them via a more friendly vendor: it may be the first crack in the armor that Amazon has yet to ever face.

Remember: A customer not only can, but will go somewhere else and actually pay more because: The product has value, is worth it, and they want it. Now.

This is the true model that many have forgotten. And no one has forgotten it more than the publishing industry itself. If they can get back to understanding and relating to that basic fundamental principle – the publishing industry model can fix itself.

The reason they’re both in such straits is one forgot, while the other is forgetting exactly what business they are truly in. One business creates the product, the other distributes. The cost and business of creation is not the same as the cost of distribution. For if that were the case, why is there such a thing as copyright?

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Will Facebook Like The New Reality?

Within days Facebook™ will announce their earnings report. However, since their last reporting a new reality has appeared and many of its investors may require a pair of those new virtual reality headsets to parse what Facebook believes is reality: and the reality Wall Street wants. i.e., Where’s the money?

Wall Street (or the markets in general) is notorious for turning once heralded “wonder boy’s” during the IPO process – into just plain “boy’s”

One thing is very different for Zuck and crew this earnings cycle than any previous reports. With the departure of Ben Bernanke and his steady hand at the bubblicious printing press, along with a market currently left confused on whether Janet Yellen will indeed ever turn back on the bubble machine. It’s quite possible many of today’s “disruptive agents” will have more gum on the soles of their shoes than they’ll find readily available via QE to repair bubbled market caps.

When earnings begin missing, or lose their former narrative against earlier business projections, all hell can break loose. Regardless if one can manufacture a “beat” via non GAAP or not.

When money tightens clarity of vision becomes acute. And it’s becomes quite apparent that a bubble has, or is about to burst when, “Hey that sounds great!” is incessantly followed with “But where’s my money?” In bubble times you only hear the former. When the bubble breaks: you can’t get away from the latter.

Remember when it was touted not that long ago (is 24 months too long? but I digress) that Facebook was the “only” place to be for users around the world? The domination for interactions amongst teens would not only build its user base, but solidify long-term loyalty to the platform for years to come. Until they didn’t.

It’s been widely reported teens (once a heralded metric of eyeballs to sell advertisers) were leaving Facebook in droves. So what’s a company to do? Well, buy the company they’re all leaving you for of course. Regardless if its profitable. For in an age of hot money seeking anything, and everything: profits be damned.

Much can be explained away with a growth narrative. Again: You buy the narrative and real profits be damned. Leave the pesky detail of making money to the spin doctors. (otherwise known as financial media.)

So with the user narrative seemingly in place (a metric for many that can make or break the story line) one just can’t help but wonder why during the most recent earnings call this metric wouldn’t be shouted from the rooftops. For as reported in the Washington Post: “Executives on the earnings call didn’t offer specifics about how young people are using the networks — in fact, the company said there was no new data to report.”

Really? I thought this was a growth company, not a legacy. I would expect that from the likes of Cisco™, Microsoft™, or wait…..AOL™? Maybe their new user “likes” are in the “mail?” Too soon for such comparisons? I don’t, but I do have a habit of being early.

Follow this with the stunning purchase price awarded to acquire WhatsApp™.

Remember that little gotta have company Zuck and crew shelled out some $16 BILLION dollars for in a near overnight decision and execution? I guess when you gotta have something, you gotta have it. Regardless if its making a profit to warrant such an acquisition, For again, we’re talking narrative here.

And in a world dominated by free money via the Federal Reserve: a virtual reality can trump true reality anytime, anywhere. No special headset required.

But they should have everything integrated, assessed, and running like a Swiss clock by now correct? I mean that was way back, we’re talking February of this year. That’s nearly 90 days. Well, at least they have the excuse of “the weather” for any missed expectations. Everyone else used it – why not them?

The funny thing is one would think there’s enough there alone to give any investor the jitters as to wonder, “What is going on in there?” But (and it’s a very big but) the hits just keep coming. Like a teenager that stole their parents credit cards, this buying spree I contend can make most Millennial hackers blush.

Forget WhatsApp and the exorbitant price tag paid. Forget Instagram™ and the need to fence in user abandonment. At least for good or ill the business narrative one could put into context. (even as far as one had to stretch their imagination to do so)

However, how in the world does the board along with Zuck himself conclude it’s a good idea before they get even one – just 1 – earnings report under their belt to help alleviate and answer concerns about the decision process of spending over $16 BILLION dollars on a company most investors outside of Silicon Valley knew even existed, to spend and acquire even more?

I’ll wager many investors didn’t respond with, “WhatsApp? What’s that?” It was probably much more in line with, “$16 BILLION?  WTF is up with that?!”

Then, just weeks later, Facebook announced it had purchased the maker of a virtual reality headset maker known as Oculus VR Inc. for a neat $2 BILLION.

What’s $2 billion anyways when you’re talking about the future of the next big thing for social as reported by The Guardian™,  “Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook is getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow – and that virtual reality will be the next social communications platform”

That’s fine I guess, unless you have yet to prove and answer why the $16 Billion you just spent on the social platform of today is working out and generating profits. Profits that can be dispersed as rewards to deserving investors. Or is this why a new reality appendage was really needed? i.e., For the conference call participants.

What just might be more troubling that puzzling is the near immediate purchase of yet another company seemingly unrelated to “social.” The purchase of a drone company named Titan Aerospace.

It’s reported this purchase was only $60 Million dollars. Mere chump change to today’s Silicon Valley hacker elite. (probably found between the cushions in the employee lounge)

It is said this technology is to be at the forefront of providing internet connectivity around the globe to places currently inaccessible. Call me crazy, but when I hear the word “drone” the first thing that comes to mind isn’t: people helping people. It’s more in lines with: people helping to paint bulls-eyes on people.

If I were on a conference call, and I heard the company I was analyzing state, “Oh and by the way – we now have drones.” My next thoughts just might be, “Do I really want to put this company into a Sell recommendation today? But that’s just me.

Then on April 1st, what do I see flash across the financial media? Facebook buying another seemingly unrelated, unprofitable company at a price tag that would shock even a Pentagon procurement agent? Nope.

Just 22 days prior to Facebook’s earnings report (you know, the one where they have to justify all the above for the first time ever!) none other that the COO of the company Sheryl Sandberg sold half, yes – half of her shares in the company she runs.

Not 10%, not 15%, no not even an amount usually used to quell naysayers or skittish investors followed with the much maligned anecdotal “for the sake of paying taxes.” Nope, half.

Now what does that say for a supposedly purported growth company where the upper management is selling? One would think the exponential growth opportunity all the other investors are urged to patiently wait for that they themselves would be waiting for also. You know like that old saying: “In for the long haul.” Well I guess 2 years is an eternity in today’s Silicon Valley elite.

I don’t know about you, but when I see the top brass seemingly implementing their exit strategies, I’m looking for mine. And anyone with any business acumen will tell you, when people within the management are selling – you had better be selling also.

For Ms. Sandberg to sell at such a time, and in such an amount, knowing full well the innuendo and the appearance something like this has along with all the trappings such a move would bring, (again, with the timing) one can’t help but think if the April fools joke is going to be on those left holding their investment.

It may become more clear that the virtual reality coming over the horizon, looks a whole lot more like true reality for anyone who dares to look.

Without the need of any special appendage.

© 2014 Mark St. Cyr

Watching For The Goldman Ticket

In a world filled with innuendo, false flags, and more one thing remains constant: What is Goldman Sachs (GS) up to and more importantly – why?

No matter what one “thinks” about this firm one thing is incontrovertible: they didn’t get where they are because they’re stupid. Far from it.

There’s probably no other company on the world stage that has had more influence in financial matters than GS. Love them or hate them, it doesn’t matter. Yet, to ignore them or to take your eyes off as to discount even their smallest moves as “irrelevant” is at one’s own peril. For GS doesn’t make any move (even taking out the trash) without first considering all the ramifications or exploitations that can come of it first. Period.

Over the last few years to say things in the financial markets have changed would be an understatement. People, technology, regulations, and more have morphed for even the people who once were considered brilliant.

Even those amongst the financial media are now appearing to be scratching their heads more as the markets morph into something unrecognizable to a veteran market maven just 5 short years ago. And the one who seems to be quietly morphing and making moves uncharacteristically associated with Wall Street as one previously imagined is none other than GS itself.

Just the mere mention of GS conjures up conspiracy theories of puppet masters, influence peddling and more. It’s almost as if one is venturing down the path of an old-time parlor game of charades when trying to discuss or comprehend their financial implications or moves. However, the best way around all this is to employ a prism brought forward years ago by the late  Andrew Carnegie (I’m paraphrasing) : “The older I get the less I listen to what people say and the more I pay attention to what they do.” And GS is doing quite a few very interesting things that just leaves one thinking: Hmmmmmm.

When it comes to business, finance, or even politics one thing is certain: you need to look past the notion of impossible or improbable and contemplate that might be exactly why they’ll do.  For no one thinks they will – giving them the edge. And to forget GS is always in search of an edge is to do so at one’s own peril. (e.g., Genghis Kahn ordered his tribes to scale seemingly impossible mountains to attack his enemies precisely for those reasons – and he won)

What might seem as improbable or impossible at first blush just might be the determining factor for producing a profiting reality: no matter how far-reaching it seems. So with that in mind let’s hypothesize regardless how far-fetched or conspiratorial it may seem. And again, the why.

Over the past weeks HFT and all its effects were brought front and center via Michael Lewis’ book, Flash Boys (2014 W. W. Norton & Company). What it also brought attention to if one stepped back taking in a broader view, was the possibly of seeing the missing puzzle piece that helps explain GS’ moves over the past few years, possibly clarifying what too many looked more like a Rorschach test, rather than an unfinished puzzle it just might be.

Remember back in 2012 Reuters™ wrote an article: “Special report: Goldman’s promised land: Salt Lake City” (original article here)

Many were left thinking, “Yeah, OK big deal a new office closer to the west coast. So what?” However, it just struck me a little strange, Utah? As opposed to California, or anywhere else? Why would a company that has always been in the absolute middle of where people, business, and more move there?

Unless that’s exactly what they now want: to be away from the very aspects they once coveted, for those very aspects have shown they may now have possibly become threatening liabilities to both infrastructure as well as staff. Let me explain…

Back in 2009 GS was wooed into choosing Salt Lake City with special tax breaks and incentives to open additional operations there. Probably these decisions were more in line with coming operations under the new regulations and more since it had now become a bank after the 2008 financial crisis, rather than just the investment firm it was known as. But then something interesting happened: The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement.

Suddenly the once heralded upper echelon of world financiers were thrown into a media stew of  “destroyers of the universe” rather than the “masters” they once embraced.

Since then operations and hiring has picked up at a pace more resembling a growing thriving industry rather than the downsizing, melee currently taking place in New York. Another thing you have far fewer of in Salt Lake than in NY is the amount of people locally to protest your industry and commandeer valuable infrastructure and most of all – the people themselves.

Salt Lake City has a growing, thriving population, but it aint no NYC by any means. However, the make up of business culture, and the sheer fewer amount of people to organize into protesters can be quite enticing to an industry that watched thousands parade banners, effigies, and more outside one’s place of work. Let alone when it seemed there were a complicit press more preoccupied with covering the story of an occupy mob on a bankers lawn, rather than worrying about whether the occupants or children inside were safe or not.

Then in 2012 Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast sending the region into total disarray. One of the things we learned during this storm is just how intertwined HFT is to the markets and quite possibly now dictates whether or not the markets will open unless HFT approves – first. (If one remembers the markets were closed two days by what was reported as HFT influence over the exchanges.)

One thing GS doesn’t like being is #2 in anything, and HFT seemed to be making that more of a reality. In a game where the arms race is merely speed: All that money, time, and effort put into people or the obtaining of people in positions of power as to benefit from such cultivation, becomes nearly null and void when your competitor only needs a faster computer to front run your own organic “front running” infrastructure.

There is no other choice than to either – you yourself re-arm and redeploy, or – decide you no longer will fight or play on that battlefield. Hence, the implications of that decision with the following ZH article: Triple Whammy Shocker: Goldman Shutting Down Sigma X? (Link here)

Put this into the context of where it’s now widely reported that GS has become a client of the HFT debilitating exchange IEX Group Inc. headed by CEO Brad Katsuyama featured in Mr. Lewis’ book where GS now seems to be back on (at the least) a level playing field for order execution. And the advantage pendulum once again swings back to GS’.

Not only is their human capital once again returned to Mt. Olympus status, but they get to tear up that page of the ledger dedicated to infrastructure spending on HFT ancillary items. What’s that worth? Millions? Billions? I’ll bet its enough to effect an earnings report that would make a non-GAAP social darling blush.

Throw in the newest mayoral election that installed what many deem as an anti-Wall Street, tax everything that moves or stands still legislature, and you not only get people looking for greener pastures, you bring back to the front of mind that just maybe they no longer need to “look”: they can grow their own even in the desert next to a lake of salt.

Maybe proximity isn’t worth as much as it once was. And quite possibly getting away from that once coveted proximity could be the new edge for the new “Wall Street.”

Imagine you are renowned for hiring the best and brightest for they flock to your doors because they can earn money in amounts unfathomable to middle America. But the “price” for those people trying to earn is also unfathomable once they fully understand a million dollars really doesn’t get you much in NYC after taxes and expenses. And both of those are on the rise seemingly faster there than anywhere else in the country.

But half of that gets you a whole lot more in middle America does it not? I’ll bet it goes more than double that in NYC. And the best and brightest might want to beat an even greater path to GS’ new front door if they don’t have to live in NY or NJ. It’s not like they are moving there in droves, quite the opposite, the exodus has already begun.

Move to Florida, California, Texas, or somewhere else you say? At least you have scenery, cityscape, and all the other attributes at least similar (although not exactly) as NY. But you would be forgetting that first item I stated earlier: A large population base where an OWS inspired group could easily (easily is the operative word) form and wreak havoc.

In Utah? Sure, but I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts far fewer in numbers. Plus, the culture doesn’t seem to lend itself easily for that styled or formed outrage. I could be wrong, but it’s something I would fit into my decision process if safety in another financial calamity happened again. Especially if I thought it could be even worse next time.

A few years back I wrote an article: A “Flick of the Switch”…could this be the next Nightmare on Main St.? In it I posited:

“A flick of the switch means if I have a business in location X, I can just flick a switch and operate in location Y. In years past most companies needed some sort of brick and mortar facility to conduct meaningful trade. That is no longer the norm. As a matter of fact, most of the newer successful businesses of the last decade have been ones that can operate anywhere.”  Followed with:

“…all of Wall St, all Insurance Companies, all Banks, all Online Retailers, all Accounting Firms, all _________ ( you fill in the blank). All of these fall into the “flick of the switch”  type of businesses. They can relocate anywhere in the world in the equivalent of a New York minute. I’m just scratching the surface.”

If we sat down over coffee and I asked your opinion on what you would make of quite possibly the worlds most influential wheelhouse of both political and financial headquarters opening a secondary office in a place many see as the antithesis of NYC and its financial centers. Along with the near sudden shift not only to disengage from former revenue streams but rather jettison them for pennies on the dollar, just at the time when Wall Street is once again being cast in a light of “rigged.”

Adding to that the demonstrated proof that the Federal Reserve as of now is still holding tight to the roll down of QE, and the markets are seemingly showing signs of stress. While at the same time the very firm that quite possibly has an insider edge and view unrivaled amongst its peers is calling or signaling the need for great caution. What would you think?

I know what I’d be thinking…

Who’s in charge of booking executive travel for GS? And has the term Sigma X changed to “Golden ticket?” For just like in the movie 2012 (Centropolis Entertainment 2009) the protagonist was only saved when he knew the type and color of the top 1% tickets.

And Goldman’s I would presume, just like their parachutes – are golden.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Stuck In A Psycho Babble Rut

For years many (and maybe more still) embraced the dribble that was touted as “defining characteristics” of what type of person one was. e.g., “If you were a tree, what type of tree would you be?” Absolute nonsense and irrelevant I have stated many times.

However, that didn’t stop it from being pushed through nearly every Human Resource (HR) department where one was instructed to use such qualifiers to gauge both prospective, as well as hired personnel to predetermine whether or not someone should be hired or promoted.

Personally I believe this has probably hurt or held back more qualified candidates from positions they may have been perfect for by affixing some “label” of: “This person picked the wrong tree so we cut them down.”

This type of thinking only needs to take hold in one HR office to then be spread throughout the corporate world propagating in a manner and form that would make a virus blush for its tenacity.

The other issue that I believe is hurting more companies than actually helping is this mindset and set of qualifiers seems to never evolve nor is back tested by the very people promoting it to see if the damn process is valid or even works!

I will bet dollars to doughnuts what never gets discussed in an exit meeting whether for voluntary separation or mandatory is the discussion of…

“Well, they weren’t right for that position because as it’s written here, for what tree they answered:  Ailanthus altissima. It’s so obvious. Quick, get our resident botanist in here and demand they answer why they didn’t catch this mismatch!”

Sounds foolish and it is. Yet, asking in the first place and giving the “correct” answer can make, break, or chainsaw one’s chances. And it’s still being perpetuated today. Why? Because it just seems so damn compelling regardless if it can pass the scientific method.

Can you imagine if you walked into an interview and were asked: What astrological sign are you? Most (I would hope all) would be appalled with good reason. However, the “what tree” hypothesis is pretty much the same is it not? e.g., “We really need an Aries for this job. Sorry, but Gemini’s are just too spooky with that mirror image thing for this company. Again sorry. Next!”

I’ve also written and spoke on one of my pet peeves, the “right brain – left brain” argument or qualifier. I’ve stated many times I believe this subject has been brain-dead for years. But again. you’ll hear it used near everywhere even though it’s now been proven via the scientific method (the only true standard that means anything) it was junk as in pseudoscience.

Its been debunked. (you can read more here) Yet, how often do you yourself still hear or read this theory as if it is now proven fact? I’ll bet you don’t have to think that hard, which gives weight to my point all the more.

In the mid 80’s when this form of psychometric was in its infancy as a prerequisite for hiring at larger companies, I came face to face with a near booklet resembling War and Peace in thickness of psyche styled questions that needed to be answered first as to move me to the next stage of the interview process. I indignantly refused to a then aghast HR director.

I shot back this question as I leafed through the pages: “Who evaluates my answers to these questions?” The reply?” Well  I do.” Then I followed with: “Where is your degree in psychology? I don’t see it hanging next to any other certification you have hanging on your wall. I don’t care what this job pays if this what it takes to be hired at this company – forget it!”

Believe it or not, I won that argument with some give and take on their part. I agreed to answer what I thought was appropriate – they agreed what ever I left blank was fine. I left nearly 80% blank. It seemed all they cared about was they could check off on a list I “filled” it out. This is why HR has so many issues that need to be addressed. They are more concerned with process rather than outcome. But that’s for another column.

After approximately 90 days on the job I was causing quite a ruckus. As a manager I shook up my department (I was in charge of the cook operation for a national roast-beef company.) The department was a mess. The staff was frustrated with other departments treating them like broken toys. Requests for needed upgrades and more fell on deaf ears. They were working long hours with mandatory overtime to keep up production and a whole lot of other issues too numerous to mention. I thought it was deplorable for a company of this stature. It was unnecessary and I decided to do something about it. For after all, this was now “my baby.”

I demanded needed or upgraded items. When I felt was being blown off, I put on a vivid demonstration that would make P.T.Barnum proud.

After the crew complaining for nearly a year about a problem maintenance would not solve with the ovens I shut everything down, taped 100’s of strips of paper inside the ovens as to show the issues with air flow, called the head of quality control, and the senior management to the cook room. Then as if I was on stage I told everyone to focus on the oven windows, hit the switch and let the little strips of paper speak for me. Then I said…

“How do you expect this department to put out a quality product to meet our schedule and customers demands when I can’t get these ovens not only adjusted: But even looked at?  And people want to hold this department accountable for low production numbers as if it’s our fault? I’ll stand here as long as it takes till someone wants to explain it too me.”

The problem was rectified 48 hours later. Our production went through the roof. So much so overtime dropped to near zero, and although I made a difference it also seemed I made some very jealous and angry coworkers. i.e., other department managers.

After about a month of smooth sailing I was called for a meeting with HR. The topic? Why wasn’t I coming in on Saturdays or only working 40 hours unlike the other departments that are running overtime? My response? “Because we don’t need to. Production is ahead of schedule, the staff is clearly now in control of the cook facility, and as you can see by our metrics we’re kicking butt against all other department. I really don’t fully understand the questioning. Am I missing something?”

Apparently I was, for it became abundantly clear they were thrilled with my turn around of the department however, the other managers were complaining that if they needed to be there late at night or on Saturdays that I should be compelled to do the same. Regardless if I was needed or not.

I was appalled (yes this does seem to be a recurring thing for me) the insinuation was clear, to quell the childlike behavior it was implied I needed to come in as to make the others “happy.” I would have none of it.

I shot back: “You mean to tell me that rather than use me as an example for them to get their departments in order so that they too can stop all the overtime issues they are facing as well as the company, you want to punish me for doing the right things so that people incapable of doing their own jobs get the satisfaction of seeing me held hostage as some form of compensation for their incompetence? Am I hearing this all correctly?”

After hemming and hawing it was finally admitted that that was exactly what they were implying. So, I did what seemed like my only true option: I quit. (They also had a policy where the management hierarchy would wear different colored hats to signify rank. Gold, then blue, then green, and so forth. When I started it was decided to not hurt anyone’s self-esteem and that everyone would now wear the same color regardless which became blue. I still have this hard hat some 30 years later for I saved it to remind me of the ridiculous thought processes displayed within a once very cutting edge company. For this thinking went hand in hand with the “what tree” philosophy.)

That company only a few short years later would close putting hundreds out of work. Personally as many of you know I did quite well over the years. I wonder still to this day what trees the other managers gave as answers on their questionnaires.

Again, I would bet dollars to doughnuts if I was able to view them I would read: Mighty Oak, Douglas Fir, Aspen, Ash, and so on. What I’ll bet you wouldn’t read was: Weeping Willow. At least then it might have a chance of having some validity for which has been proved, it does not. The only thing left to ponder on this whole notion in my view is: If a tree falls in a bankruptcy court, does it affect the judgement of the judge? But I digress.

Maybe you think I’m coming down hard on this topic for who am I to question psychological markers or traits that can be beneficial to the hiring process. It’s not like I have a degree or something. I mean, I didn’t even graduate from high school. (actually I have a GED from the University of Southern Maine. How many have a high school diploma from a University? Huh? Huh? Although that’s true I am trying to be funny for people get sooooo uptight about degrees or alphabet soup suffixes) However as it be, I think it’s a fair question so I’ll end with this:

I had been asked my opinion on a psychological evaluation form a person I’m close to received. As I went over it I was left slack-jawed that it was basically the same formulation of questions that I knew were garbage 30 years ago! Yet, there they were as if this were some revelation process that would tell HR or other management clues as to this persons makeup or more.

In what turned into a quest I decided to look into this further for I really couldn’t believe a major company of this size and scale would even be remotely affiliated using this criteria. (this is a publicly held company with Billions in market cap)

I looked back through my library and I found one of my books written by one of the top consultants in the country. He has worked not only for, but has provided one on one leadership counseling and developed strategies for some of the Fortune 50™ let alone 500.

In one of his books written back in the time period (the mid 80’s) of where much of this had originated. He himself had conducted and implemented proprietary metrics that seemed truly note worthy.

They were serious questions and criteria to be filled out with plotting, diagrams, and formulations that helped round out one category from another and so forth. The work and its implications even to a skeptic like myself were compelling. I knew this author and have admired his work for many years so I reached out to him and asked a simple question. (The conversation was private and I didn’t ask if I could share his name so I’m not being coy it’s in respect of inferred confidentiality. However what I can state, is this person does have a Ph.D in psychology, and at one time was the president of a company that specialized in psychometric analyzing tests. So it’s not as if this person doesn’t have standing on this very subject.)

I asked:

“Two quick questions to ask. Both pertain to the same book.

In your book XXXXX you illustrate many samplings of where one would enter numbers and answers then plot these within a system that produces lines or symbols that one can then visually reference to behavior patterns and so forth.

Would you (or do you) still use these as they stand today?

I am only asking because the book is now 25 years old. And sometimes what we once thought as gospel we later find wasn’t as relevant as we first thought.
Personally I find it fascinating and if I was ever to cite or demonstrate it, I want to make sure I give credit where credit is due properly.”

The response:

“I do not use this today. I no longer believe in “labeling” of any kind.

The material is not validated and is way out of date. I would discourage any use of it today.”

(There was a bit more but that’s all that’s needed to make the point)

That is exactly what people on the top of their game do. Even if they may have developed what they thought or considered cutting edge at the time. If it’s proven to not be what they first thought: they move on to better strategies or tactics. Even if it means calling their own past work irrelevant for today’s business world. That’s why I personally consider him a valuable resource.

Too few have the self-confidence and introspective to question themselves or their work and state openly their opinions even if it means calling themselves or their past work out of date or worse, possibly wrong. His candor was a breath of fresh air. So many others (others I know personally) would have went around and jawbone this or that in some dazzling display of trying to baffle with BS as they tried to do anything and everything not to contradict their own work regardless.

Which is probably the reason why we’ll find many of them still trying to convince any and all HR departments that their “New and Improved” version of psycho babble is different from the last.

Problem for the great majority…Some are still buying it.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Am I Frontrunning The HFT Story?

I was asked the above question the other day. It was asked in a tone as if I just happened to write about the topic that now has both the financial, as well as main stream media in an uproar. i.e., right place, right time coincidence. I thought it was a fair question for the person asking was really not that familiar with me and they themselves just became aware of this topic. So, I figured I’d explain why I have standing in this story as opposed to many that suddenly are writing, speaking, and more on a topic they seemed oblivious to just yesterday.

I’ve written and spoken many times over the years on the dangers of what has been transpiring in the markets via High Frequency Trading (HFT) as its being implemented since the financial meltdown of 2008. So for the sake of brevity here is an excerpt from one of my articles back in 2012 where I opined my thoughts specifically on HFT, the markets overall, and why one needed to think or understand the markets and anything that can jeopardize them, for after all, they truly are the greatest bastion for capitalism via free markets that the world has ever known. They’re the life’s blood of capital formation and enterprise however, they seemed to be no longer exactly that.

Implying they just might be morphing into something or already have changed into something more along the lines of a casino I was warning when hurricane Sandy threatened the East Coast and I posted the article below. To wit:

Adding Fuel To The Fire: With Water

In the article I raised these points…

“How could the electronic markets be closed all day Monday when Sandy was off shore not due to reach landfall till near 8pm EST. Closed all day Tuesday when Sandy had passed and the aftermath apparent. Yet the switches are turned on at 6pm EST Monday night while Sandy was actually overhead wreaking havoc, flooding subways, businesses, and more. Only to watch the electronic markets operate what appeared as flawlessly overnight through all that destructive may lay causing massive blackouts and wind damage leaving millions of people without power.

And yet not as much as a blip. The only blips on the screens (or lack there of) seems to be caused by the continued hand wringing of whether or not to open Wednesday. Something just seems wrong with the reasoning given.”

Followed with this…

“Could it be that the markets were actually closed not because they couldn’t operate but rather that the HFT computers couldn’t operate because what they rely on for their advantage would be gone? i.e., Their proximity.

If the algo’s lost their advantage of order execution they would be at the mercy of efficient markets. You know, that thing they always say they’re responsible for. Heaven forbid there would be a Bid and Ask not generated by them with the ability to be pulled in nano seconds. Rather by an actual order placed with someone willing to actually Buy at said price or Sell. Oh the humanity if that is the case.

Would the markets themselves also have a stake in making sure the illusion of “deep markets” was perpetuated? Imagine if the markets opened and to what is normally reported 70% of all the markets trading didn’t show up because the HFT computers couldn’t play? Would something like this almost be more frightening to the markets than the chaos currently being dealt with in the aftermath of Sandy?”

At the time there were far and few between even bringing up this type of thought. Yet, as we now see, the few of us that were pounding our keyboards or fist making such claims were basically ignored. So much so that the industry itself couldn’t look in the mirror and see how much it was putting at risk the very nature we as a civilized world depended on for a way of life that allows companies to form, people to bring ideas to fruition, a bastion for retiree’s savings, home buying, computers, internet, you name it.

Everything we touch is somehow connected in one way or another to our capital markets. Sure, there will always be winners and losers, that’s capitalism, but what capitalism should never be is in bed with anything remotely resembling something “rigged.” I don’t care how much lipstick the so-called “smart crowd” wanted or wants to put on it. It’s still a pig and it stinks. Period.

As an entrepreneur myself and as one who tries and bring sanity to that field. Not saying anything is a kin to agreeing with it. And I do not. Regardless of how much money one can make in the HFT genre. Capitalism, and free markets are too damn important.

Level playing fields matter. You wouldn’t let your kid play a game where he was on the losing team game, after game, after game knowing full well they’re losing because the umpires are in the pockets of the winning side. So why in the world would you let your business, pension, and more play on a field where at any time – you can lose not because you made a bad decision, but because you were the new putz because the other team just paid more money to make you exactly that.

Truly think about that statement above. It’s not that far removed as an example of what I feel has been going on.

Personally I have no idea of exactly where or how I fit into this whole story as it’s unfolding. I am grateful for the sites that have carried my articles (e.g. Slope of Hope™, ZeroHedge™, and others) when they could have easily dismissed them as commentary running counter intuitive or unproductive to trading and all that’s related to it on Wall Street.

I am also grateful to the very few others voices that kept shouting and pounding in unison similar thoughts or observations I was making. Barry Ritholtz is one, Mark Cuban another and there are others however, there were very few. For a clue on just how few look at the number clamoring and circling the wagons that has taken place throughout the media in defense of HFT. It seems like a thousand to one.

It finally took a writer with enough intellectual and literary standing combined with the testicular fortitude to argue face to face with the financial elite and tell them honestly and forthright when they say: they’re making ice cream, to respond back – who are you kidding? That’s not ice cream and it stinks! And if it’s so good, here – you eat it!

Michael Lewis has been a breath of fresh air with his candor and his tenacity to not only defend his book and the positions he’s taken in it, but to throw all the detractors accusations back at them and make them defend theirs. To that I say bravo.

So again as to answer the initial question I’ll let that be up to you. For it doesn’t really matter what I think in the end as much as it matters what you think. But let me add the following for you consideration.

As of Sunday night of this week the issue of HFT wasn’t even on the radar screen for most of Main St. The issue itself of possible wrong doing or unfair tactics was blatantly dismissed by HFT, the financial media, and Wall Street at large.

By Monday it was topic De-jure across the financial media. By Tuesday afternoon it was still being defended wildly as a “necessity” or “providing a valuable service to the financial markets.” I wrote, then posted my article on this (my own) blog right about noon time and near immediately it was getting hits from across the globe. Then at approx 4pm EST it hit the front page of THE website of record ZeroHedge on this very topic. The headline?

If Algos Were People They’d Be Perp Walked

Nobody, and I mean nobody was making that type of statement. However, it seemed to have struck a chord. For only hours later Bloomberg reported the delay of the most anticipated HFT firms IPO. (link to original story here) And contained within that story the following line: “New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is examining privileges such as enhanced data feeds marketed to high-speed firms, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether those traders are breaking U.S. laws by acting on nonpublic information.”

Add to that as of today the following:

 

Screenshot courtesy of ZeroHedge

Screenshot courtesy of ZeroHedge

And that’s not all. Currently as I’m typing this post it is being reported: The Nasdaq OMX suddenly dropped in a mini-flash crash . Original story link here) Along with BATS you know that HFT company whose CEO took the airwaves and blasted Michael Lewis and Mr. Katsuyama for spewing untruths, only to have the firm publicly state and recant in the press the one who was lying was the CEO himself. Yes that company. (Link to article here) Looks like all that “efficiency” isn’t all that efficient. To wit:

Market Breaks: BATS, NASDAQ Declare Self-Help Against Chicago (link to original article here)

But don’t worry, they play a valuable service as they’re so vehemently wanting to tell everyone.

We all just better hope they have a line to the repair crew that’s just as fast to the exchanges for if not…

We’re all in trouble.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Addendum: I was reminded by a reader after I posted the article of the exchange between Michael Lewis and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show® (Comedy Central) that evening. The exchange was quite candid but what was interesting were the points Mr. Stewart and the phrasing of them that caught this viewers ears. They said: “It sounded like he was reading the points you made in your article verbatim. I nearly fell over!”

Honestly I have no idea. Coincidence? Sure. All I’ll say too that is this. No one was making that case, put that way, using that terminology, especially within the time of the release of Mr. Lewis’ book and that interview to my knowledge, but me. If you look at the clips you can see Mr. Lewis himself seems to be hearing it put precisely that way for the first time as he thinks and answers. All I can say is my points were on the site of record that has been THE leading edge for bringing this subject to light for nearly 5 years and relentlessly making the case where no one else would. So would the writers of that show go there as to get background on this subject and possibly have read my points and decided to use them? Sure why not. But again, it doesn’t matter what I think, it’s what you think that matters in the end. I’ll post the 2 clips below and you can judge for yourself.

I tried getting the source code for the clips however for what it’s worth I’ll just post the link where they ran on  ZeroHedge and you can see them there. Sorry for so many links but in retrospect it’s just easier.

Jon Stewart On HFT: “It’s Not American; It’s Not Even Capitalism. It’s Cheating”

If HFT Algo’s Were People They’d Be Perp Walked

Suddenly the world is a buzz with the revelations that High Frequency Trading (HFT) may be doing more than actually harming the markets, it might be destroying the illusion they still are markets.

This past Sunday the world at large was introduced that maybe, just maybe, something was amiss in the financial markets. However, anyone with more than a passing interest in business, finance, and a little common sense could feel in their gut that something just wasn’t copacetic.

Between the Federal Reserves massive QE experiment amplified by the arms race of algorithmic technologies (aka HFT) to shave off a piece of that pie for themselves has been nothing more than breathtaking.

Currently I am staggered as I watch or read many in the so-called “smart crowd” taking to the financial media outlets professing their ire at (wait for it….) Michael Lewis’ assertion that: “the markets are rigged.”  This is where they have an issue? Really? I mean…Really?

Let’s put a few things into its proper perspective. HFT is currently a catch-all phrase or moniker. At one time when it was first introduced it could be (and was) argued it had a legitimate use in making markets more efficient. However that was some 10 years ago. Today’s HFT seems to have been on an evolution of exploitation and adulterated well past the point of resembling the good idea it once was hailed to be.

Efficient markets are when: real buyers, and real sellers meet, agree, and exchange with the least amount of friction to transact. Note the emphasis on real, it’s not there for style, real means an actual buyer or seller. Period. (Just so we’re clear and not falling down the black hole of what “is” is.)

This point is one of the underlying problems in the markets today. It’s not the only one HFT has adulterated, but it just might be the most important to this discussion. For what everyone seems to be missing as they defend HFT as the great market liquidity engine, that so-called “liquidity” more often than not is fake. So I ask: Is fake now acceptable in the financial markets? For if that’s true: Bernie Madoff might be looking for his get out of jail card.

We have laws on the books to protect the markets from people trading on inside information, fraud, and more. People get arrested and perp walked in front of the media as to make examples to show, “This can happen too you!” Yet, if machines are doing the same in an equivalent manner, that’s OK. For this is technology we’re talking here, and we all know without technology, the markets are nothing more than the pits. (pun intended)

Sometimes complicated issues have to be reduced to their smallest form to get an indication on whether or not something is good, bad, or indifferent. And once one reduces this all down to just basic common sense, you don’t need a supercomputer spinning algorithms near the speed of light to come up with the obvious answer of – Duh!

When someone within the financial markets comes across information that is deemed “confidential” then uses that information as to front run said information and profit by it, we throw them in jail for insider trading.

If a machine can detect you placing an order then within nanoseconds execute buy and sell orders throughout the exchanges as to skim a piece or to push markets in a beneficial direction to enrich itself. That’s fine. Are you kidding me?

Since when is it “legal” to insert oneself into a transaction they had no business being involved in? That is not “facilitating” that’s fraudulent skimming, for that “inserted freeloader” was not needed to transact. That’s front running pure and simple. And like I said earlier we perp walk people for that. But an HFT? Nope, that’s now looked upon as “improving liquidity” by the so-called “smart crowd.” Simply jaw dropping in my view.

Add to this the insane notion that these HFT outlets are providing, “deep markets.” Again, I’ll ask, what are we talking about here? Real buyers? Or, the illusion of real buyers? For if anyone remembers, the “Flash Crash” showed everyone just how real and deep the markets were.

All those quotes of illusive bids and ask were anything but illusive: they were illusions. The term “quote stuffing” and its consequences were first highlighted there. Now, it’s as if it never happened or better yet, is defended in an “ancient history” type dismissal.

Ancient history or not, if someone were to set up shop selling land deals at bargain prices touting that the demand was high and pointed to the surrounding landscape pointing out the row upon row of newly constructed facades as proof, you might think or find comfort in the notion, “Well if I need to sell there’s a chance I might find a buyer.”

Then you walked over unbeknownst to find all those freshly constructed home facades were just that – facades resembling a Hollywood movie set. Then what would you think? I know what one should be thinking: “How do I contact the authorities? These people need to be put in jail!”

But if it’s a machine rendering a “virtual reality” showing demands of large bids or asks in any given instrument that’s OK, they’re providing a valuable service to the community showing what it could be like if there were real buyers and sellers I guess. Just don’t think of ever trying to sell or buy one of them, for they disappear faster than a snake-oil salesman can close up shop.

The only good thing that has come out lately on this whole issue of HFT is maybe for the first time in years the cover has been thrown off exposing the parasitic beast that’s been living just beneath the surface passing itself off as a symbiotic entity, rather than the pernicious monster its grown to be.

Now the only question left to ask is: Can they invoke the death penalty for this creature…

Without killing the patient?

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

The Facebook Affect

Nothing conjures up visions of grandeur today faster than anything related to social media. No not using it, that’s for the uninformed.  The real place one wants to focus their eyeballs is in the mad rush to develop something that sounds as if it can make money, then, don’t try selling it to users first. No, first things first. Sell it to the most highly coveted customers known in tech today: the investors.

Get this group on board first and customers be damned for we’re talking cha-ching here. Actual customers or users are secondary to today’s silicon valley mindset. You just need the “story” of users or customers to sell the idea first, not the other way around.

This way of thinking was once laughed upon, but now? It’s the new psyche (or reborn) mindset of tech and just as it was in the 1990’s, this mindset comes to fruition at exactly the wrong time: Right before the bubble bursts.

Social media for all intents and purposes came along at precisely the right time. No not as something spectacular and groundbreaking as connecting people around the globe and more. No, it came at precisely the time Wall Street needed a place (and a story for it) to allocate all that speculative money afforded them via the Federal Reserves QE programs. This was where the real “social networking” story took place. For there is no other place on earth where, the speculation of a customer – trumps an actual one, like on Wall Street.

If you think this is off base just imagine this hypothetical scenario playing out in any closed room meeting.
First pitch: We’ve created this widget that allows customers to do A, B, or C with their devices as never before. Currently we are still developing but we have 25K current users that pay a subscription fee of X, and are looking to expand and offer plans at levels of Y and Z. We are cash flow positive and believe $350 million would take this to the next level. The response? Next!!!

Pitch 2: We’ve created this platform that currently is underdevelopment, has under 10K active users however all the users think it’s currently “the bomb.” It’s a little “buggy” (as in barely works without crashing) yet we feel it’s the alternative to every other similar platform not currently making any money either. If just 1 current user gets 2 of their friends to even try us, we’re talking global with billions, and billions, if nor even more billions of eyeballs to sell ads to. Dude, all we want is $3 BILLION and you can own us: forget about investing for only a piece. It’s a no-brainier! Response? Sold!!!

This is the affect of the tech world’s psyche today. However, this is now being accelerated and perpetuated by none other than the original darling of Wall Street itself, Facebook™ as in, don’t worry, create it and we’ll buy it. For we understand the hearts and brains of hackers unlike anyone else. So don’t worry, just keep window shopping for that Ferrari™. After all, this is silicon valley, and we do things our way, regardless if it makes business sense or not.

The real issue that is troubling from my view is that Zuck and crew are not doing all these so-called “visionary” moves or acquisitions out of strength. I firmly believe they are out of panic, Why?

Well, if history is any guide, to paraphrase the late Andrew Carnegie: “The older I get the less I listen to what people say and the more I pay attention to what they do.” And to my eye Facebook is doing anything but what it should be doing first: Making money that justifies its market cap based on the narrative touted for its existence in the first place: A place that can sell ads that people and companies want to buy consistently because they prove their value to those very customers via the social media platform. Period.

Suddenly throughout the social media space there seems to be outright panic in the once heralded narrative where ad sales would solve all ills along with curing cancer. Guess what? Not only has it not solved or cured anything, the patients seem to be relapsing. Suddenly the prescription of where ad revenues were the only choice for a healthy bottom line, has given way to “alternative medicine.” e.g., Virtual reality and more.

Suddenly we find the Wall Street darlings of today talking, buying, suggesting, hypothesizing anything and everything under the sun other than the business model one thought was their raison d’être: Eyeballs for advertisers to buy ads for. As I said earlier “suddenly” why does one think this is? Well as they say, let’s go to the charts shall we….

 

Charts courtesy of SlopeOfHope.com

Chart courtesy of SlopeOfHope.com

These two bellwethers of the social media space have been on a near meteoric rise. Then seemingly out of nowhere the “book” has been dropped on top of the songbird. However, one thing you haven’t heard to fix this dilemma is anything related to the selling of more ads. Now it’s music and virtual reality.

Yep, that’s the new plan. But wait didn’t we hear that type of talk once before? When was changing the original business model for a newer, better, brighter, more bubblicious model prevalent before fulfilling the promises of the first? Oh yes, that’s right, during the 90’s tech bubble. Imagine that.

As you can see in the above chart Twitter™ it would seem morphed into the proverbial “canary in the coal mine.” In an unrelenting surge to market heights nearly doubling from its IPO debut, it is now flirting with the unthinkable: losing money. (or value)

And where or when did it peak? Right before the Fed decided to pull the plug. Since then not only is no one listening to the tweeting of the once beloved king of songbirds, the bird itself is suggesting maybe you want to hear music via their platform. Sounds novel if one wants to disregard, Pandora™, Spotify™, et al and their commercially viable successes. (or lack there of) I thought they were going to pay the bills via ads in tweets, now they need to become radios?

Facebook’s issue are much deeper and I believe far more ominous. Ponder this scenario from a viewpoint of where you know little to nothing of the player yet had to make a pure business decision on whether to keep, pull, or put more money into a company…

You were sold the narrative that investing in said company would be beneficial to your investment for the company was “the” leader in a market space. It had 1oo’s of millions of active users and was growing that base to be over a billion. The core strategy to monetize all those eyeballs were to sell advertisers the opportunity to get in front of said eyes. Then a new meme begins to take hold where no matter where one turns both people as well as companies are publicly stating they’re being gamed. So-called “likes” (one of the main metrics pushed for validation) are being fraudulently generated across the globe where you can shop online and get deals from not one, but a myriad of dealers falling over-themselves to sell you thousands for mere pennies.

Follow that with the near unrelenting pace Zuck and crew have spent Billions upon Billions of dollars in a frenzy to do what? No, not generate ad sales that help warrant existing business. No, they purchased more companies and ideas that do exactly what they are doing: Hoping these eyeballs will turn into real ad dollars that will eventually pay the expenses and investors.

However as of yet, that’s still the hope, not the reality. But don’t worry, they’ve just bought a company that manufactures virtual reality headsets you can don as to help you out with your perception of what is virtual and what is – reality.

Tack on to that they’ve only spent around $22 BILLION on these “ideas” that hey, someday will turn a profit, right? But again don’t worry because they say they are going to be soooo disruptive in future.

What would you think? I know what both myself as well as a great many others would say: “Get my money out of there – now!” And that seems to be exactly what looks to be transpiring.

FB shares in less than a month have tumbled over $10 a share. That roughly equates to a loss in market cap of around $20 Billion dollars. Tack that onto their recent buying sprees and your far from talking chump change. And I believe it’s just the start.

As it stands currently FB has bled out nearly 25% of its market cap since January between its recent spending spree and Wall Streets recent “demanding of its money back” spree. (market cap of around $170 Billion in January minus approx $20 Billion in acquisitions and another $20 Billion in fallen stock value.)

Without the free money generated via QE looking for a home (any home) where the narrative of speculation trumps true EBIDTA (not non-gap) the only narrative now being spoken will resemble, “where’s my money?”

This is shaping up to be a real psyche change that will have a stunning effect for both silicon valley and the tech world at large. For once it’s shown that the purchasing of billion dollar babies that needn’t talk results only potential results is over – the jig will be up. If it isn’t already.

Once the Federal Reserve demonstrated they were actually serious and cut QE off at the knees in January it changed everything. And I mean – everything.

And that my friends will have a far more disruptive affect neither the tech world nor silicon valley ever dreamed of. But rather – they just may now be having nightmares over.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

 

The Bull On Bossy

Maybe you haven’t noticed but there seems to now be a new war on words, that word today is “bossy.” Now before I start, let me make this declarative statement that’s now a near prerequisite when one states an opinion on what the “opinion police” will declare as off-limits territory.

I understand words have impact, I understand whole heartily words can both hurt as well as lift up. However, I am also adult enough to understand mixed messaging, good intentions gone awry, and out right hypocrisy when I see it. And this latest campaign seems to reek of not only the aforementioned, but quite possibly be sending exactly the wrong message rather than the right one.

Personally I have worked for two women CEO’s. And they were not CEO’s of some craft fair doily supplier to the powder puff convention. These women were in charge of the #1 and #2 largest independent meat companies in New England with sales of nearly half a Billion dollars between them respectfully.

For those not familiar with the wholesale meat business let me state this for I spent nearly my entire career in it. This was one of the last bastions of a real “old boys” club. A club where most had their first cocktails promptly at 5 – and I’m not talking PM. The work was hard, cold, and back-breaking. Not really the place where “girls” would look for opportunities or advancement.

As I sit here typing I am recalling my interactions and first hand knowledge of them. To think that one of them would be offended at being called bossy makes me laugh.

There was no way one could sit across from them and not realize they were women. However, what you also never forgot and didn’t need to be reminded of was: they were the boss. Period. They commanded respect in tone and demeanor not because they were easily offended women, but because they were in charge. I don’t know about you – but I don’t see a guy/girl issue here. Sorry.

Just look at the latest spokespeople coming across the airwaves declaring that “bossy” is something so terrible it can ruin your self-esteem or more. First Condeleeza Rice.

Here is a woman who was the not only the representative, but the conduit to argue for the United States positions that needed to be upheld in face to face meetings with dictators, despots, and others that look upon women with disdain let alone anything else. Did she worry about whether or not they thought of her as “bossy?” Would it not have been a far better thing for her to address this whole meme in a manner such as: I have been in front of the worst refuse the world has to offer, and the names they called me both behind my back and to my face never concerned me. Nor should you let names callers concern you either.

What about Sheryl Sandberg? Here she is running Facebook™ one of the most high-profile companies currently on the planet. When she went in for her interview does one think during the process she might have said: Well, I really want this job but what I won’t tolerate is when I tell people what to do, if they think I’m being bossy. If that happens I’m going to turn in my resignation.  Hardly. Nor would I think she even cares.

Again, would it not be better if this were addressed by someone in her position with the tones of: I run one of the premier, exciting, world-class corporations on the planet. What I never allowed was someone telling me I could never achieve being the boss of such an enterprise. I focused on who I am and what I’m capable of. Not what others thought or called me – as you should too. For I’m proof you can be here also. Just disregard the name callers, and build your dreams on your good name.

Then there’s Beyonce’. Look, I respect her as a performer and business talent. However, when a married with child woman is doing near stripper based videos with songs laced with the other B word, along with her husband renowned for music laced with derogatory words and passages concerning women, I find it a little too hypocritical.

Personally in her case , I think she’s sending out far too many mixed messages in a, “do as I say – not as I do” to even be included in this campaign. Really – bossy bothers her more than b***h? I mean…Really?

This also comes from the same wheelhouse that I have trouble with where people who made it to some of the pinnacles of success stand there and denounce how unfair, impossible, and all the other phrases to many to mention why you can’t do what they have done.

If you think I’m off base on this whole rant let me add in another term I find fits into this discussion that’s just as ridiculous: Glass Ceilings.

Look, there was a time where glass ceilings were very, very, real. However today? Most of them have been shattered. What we do have more of today are glass walls. i.e., Where more women are moving within different organizations at all levels in greater numbers holding ever more positions within the corporate structure. But the ceiling? Sorry, that’s been broken long ago.

To have someone such as any woman CEO of a world dominating corporation with market caps of $10’s or $100’s of Billions give a speech or write on the topic of glass ceilings does a disservice to the people looking to follow their path. It sends all the wrong messages. It reeks of more: “I did it but you may not because of all these hidden forces.” rather than, “I did it, and so can you as I’m proof those forces can be overcome.”

This whole meme of where self-esteem, feelings, and more has really taken a turn down the wrong path. Rather than being the perfect opportunity where people could profess how others can turn obstacles into psychological strength training for one’s protection of psyche or ego. They march out on campaigns that just might be reinforcing the exact opposite of what many of us grew up reciting and internalizing.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

As a matter of fact: Maybe they should be reminding more people of that age-old saying, rather than what they’re currently professing.

But maybe I’m being too bossy to suggest that.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

When Reading The Manual Isn’t Enough

Sometimes when I speak to a group I may start the conversation or workshop off with the following story.

Years back I thought I knew a lot about motorcycles. I knew the brands, the stats, the panache one had over another and so forth. Then I decided I wanted to be seen riding the top dog of the day. So I decided to buy at the time the undisputed fastest production motorcycle available. So intimidating was this bike at the time, just for a comparison in speed: the fastest production cars even today (Porsche™, Ferrari™, et al) boast speeds of Zero to 60 in just over 3 seconds. Thirty years ago this bike straight from the crate did the same in just over two! At the time it was “the” undisputed king of speed. Period.

When I received the bike I rode it according to the manual for it was truly brand new, and there was a break in period to go through. As I read the manual and its instructions I followed them to the letter. I didn’t do this, I was sure to do that, etc. However, after a couple of weeks the bike just didn’t feel right. It just felt like I was riding a log. Yes it was fast, yes it had “get up and go” but I was left let’s say: not as impressed as I was when reading the brochure. I felt for lack of a better term: under-impressed.

Finally I decided to call the dealership and speak to the head mechanic. I told him what I was experiencing and he asked, “Well, how are you riding it?” I said, “I’m going exactly by what the manual says.” He immediately responded, “Oh, no, don’t do that. You’ll kill it!” Then he went on to explain to me that I’ve been babying it far too much. It wanted to run and that’s what it’s made for. He instructed me not to “beat it” but rather to put it through its paces. Get it up towards its top power ranges and so forth, then call him after a week if there’s no change and they’ll bring it in for a check over. So – I did.

After putting down the phone I immediately went out for a ride. I hit the nearest highway and was proceeding up the on ramp. I looked over my shoulder and the coast was clear and decided, “Here we go” and cracked the throttle – hard.

The bike momentarily seemed to wheeze like it was going to stall, then out of no where it took off out from under me as if I were attached to the solid rocket booster of the space shuttle. So fast, with so much torque before I could look at my gauges I was doing near 70mph. I was still in 1st gear!

My fingers were holding on by the mere tips, my legs were nearly off the pegs, and for what little grasp I had it was all that was holding me on from the bike coming out entirely from underneath me leaving me left there rolling on the pavement. I was never so shocked and scared in my life. (and have yet to be to this day)

When I finally grabbed control I immediately slowed, pulled over, and stopped right there on the side of the highway. I got off the bike and started walking as I took off my helmet trying to gain my composure. (I also needed to check my shorts) I was shaking, I nearly lost control and dumped. However, this was what the brute power of this bike was made to do.

I had never been exposed to that type of performance so I had no idea of what to expect. So the fair, “OK” performance I was getting previously was still better than anything I had experienced before, and it was still putting other bikes to shame I was riding with. Even as I was “babying” it. So I never questioned what I was doing – I was questioning the bike.

After that day I knew exactly what I had, and what to do with it. I never had a day of riding that went by as unimpressive. Each ride was exhilarating, and more. Yet, had I followed the manual, word for word, never questioning, I would never have enjoyed it as much as I did. Not only that, I probably would have persuaded others from buying one. For when I was asked, “How is that?” I might have only replied, “It’s OK.” Where now I would say , “Are you kidding me? Like nothing else on the planet!”

Many of today’s motivation or business “How to books” have a lot in common with my old bike’s manual. They’re written by people who read a book, that read a book, on how a book should be written. And now, they want you to read their book.

Like the engineers and lawyers that put the manuals together – they’ve never truly or actually rode the creation and put it through the paces that it’s designed to be put through.

Business and entrepreneurship has a lot in common with performance machines. They’re there to be ridden – driven – put through their paces – to flirt with disaster, and more. If you find yourself feeling of late as if this whole idea of entrepreneurship or motivation really isn’t giving you the kick you thought. (or need) Maybe what you’re doing is reading too many “manuals.”

Maybe what you need to do: is put the book down, get out there, and really “crack the throttle” and move. Experience what it truly means to be in charge of your own destiny. Take that chance, commit to that new project, make that goal of doubling, tripling, or even more your sales or earning projections.

Don’t just “think” about what it might feel like. It’s right there, within you. All the power you need is right there between your ears just as if it were right there in your hands or beneath your foot.

You are the motor. You are the machine. You are the control. Just put down that 295th edition of “How to be you in 598 easy steps” and get out there, trust in yourself, crack your throttles – and hold on.

You’ll be amazed what you can achieve when the one who becomes unbridled – Is You!

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr