Friday, December 31, 2010

The Future

I type this post on our families new iPAD. The power of using the Internet any where is a reality for many americans already. These technological advances will fundamentally change how we function.

There is so much power it's hard to comprehend. This calls for much wisdom, the kind that takes time to develop by much experience.
This year I plan to encouraged young people to use their power for good and not waste it. Id love to hear your ideas on my plan.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Power of Organization Informed by Listening

My friend Jeremy and I talked yesterday about what it took to be the President of the USA. He said the only thing that mattered is the President listens to smart folks with good ideas and to give orders to someone to “do it.” I argued the President also needed Organizational skills. To implement any plan takes some organization. Even to organize a meal. We have nine children in our family, and a good 1/5 of the day is spent preparing, making, and cleaning up after meals. If it takes that much effort just to keep us all fed, imagine how much more to implement a plan across the entire USA.  Any president or leader needs to listen to their followers carefully to find out what’s happening on the ground and for solutions. Their job is to coordinate all the different plans to ensure that none of them are cancelling out each other and that all have enough resources. Of course they will delegate project management details to those who have that skill, but the Leader is where the Buck Stops. Thus they need to be able to keep track of the details of the various projects while still listening.

We can all use this boiled down lesson in our own lives. Next year we have things we want to do. I have about 8 projects I am planning on doing. What will allow us to implement all our projects is organization. There’s a few levels of organization. Keeping a notebook where you can update the current status helps. Also weekly To Do lists allow you to make progress every week. And daily To Do lists will allow you to make progress on particulars each day. That way, even if you just make a call or send an email one day a week, you can slowly but surely finish your projects next year. Some projects require many hours of devoted labor such as repainting or remodeling. Putting these items on your calendar will allow you to allot enough time to get them done.

Like you always hear me say, we all have the same 24 hours as Obama has. The only difference is in what we are working on minute by minute. We have the power, but do we have the motivation? That is the real culprit J

Friday, December 24, 2010

All I want for Christmas

My heart overflows with joy as I am surrounded by my family this holiday season. In my family of nine children, I am the oldest. My family lives about eight hours away from me, so I don’t get to see them very often. Getting to know Jane, my youngest sibling who is all of 12 is a real delight. She told me she doesn’t have enough books around the house on history, so I bought her the 1021 page The History of the American People by Paul Johnson. She reads a few pages every night before we go to sleep.

Deciding what to get each of my sisters and brothers for Christmas has been a big challenge. I finally decided to take them to Ross Dress for Less and allow them to select one item of cloths. Then I took them a used bookstore and let them pick out 10 dollars worth of books.  Books hold information on every possible subject. The possibilities of a used bookstore where they can select any book should fill them with amazement. Some of them were excited and looked at each shelf with expectation. My brother, who is 14, said he did not like books. He loves airsoft guns and knows everything about guns. I found him The Patterns of War Since the Eighteenth Century by Larry H. Addington. He said he’d read it! Three of my sisters read avidly. All I want for Christmas is to watch my all little brothers and sisters love to read.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Mentor

My mentor and I meet every week for the past four years. She advises me, inspires me, motivates me, and keeps me on the right track. Our time together is invaluable. Its so crucial for everyone to have at least one mentor that they meet with regularly. Someone who is alike enough in mentality to “get” you and give you that little bit of encouragement that many of your friends won’t be able to provide. But your mentor should also be significantly ahead of you, so that they can be a walking example of success.
  
We talk to each other using a specific format: She reviews all the accomplishments and trials of the previous week. Then she reviews the challenges and goals for the next week. Afterwards I do the same. Then we pray together. We thank God for all the blessings of the previous week, and we pray that he will help us with the challenges of next week. Not everyone will want to do this but it accomplishes the following things for us:
1. Verbalizing all the blessings creates an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
2. Hearing all of her accomplishments and goals inspires me to reach higher.
3. We can encourage each other in the face of tough times because we each remember how we've been thru worse before.
4. She encourages me by not looking at me like I am crazy when I tell her my plans and ideas.

We've been through tough times together and as the new year looms big and exciting before us, we head into it with excitement.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Improving Your Brain Storming

The other night we had an improv party Bay Area Improv Theater Toby Martini. We were coming up with ideas for a show, but everyone felt stifled and uncomfortable. My friend Toby Martini (tobymartini.com), a professional Improv actor and business improv seminar leader, jumped in to help us out. He had us sit in a tight circle with our four sets of knees almost touching. He said we would have to name a new product and come up with description and then the slogan. The rules were no matter what anyone said we had to agree and build on top of it.

At first we were a little nervous. But then we got into the flow of it. We invented a dog house with a coffee dispenser in dog food flavors. We invented a little vampire like coffin for children to play with. We were laughing and having so much fun. Within 5 or 6 minutes we were warmed up and ready to start back on the serious business of brainstorming for real. I highly recommend you try this next time you need to brainstorm at a meeting. For more amazing ways to Improv your business, go to Tobymartini.com

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reading Widely Next Year

I usually break my New years resolutions within two weeks, but this year I stuck with it. I wanted to listen to or read one classic every month.

The ones I finished:
Jan 2010: Moby Dick (***) t by Herman Melville,
Feb 2010: Great Expectations (*****) t by Charles Dickens
March 2010: War and Peace (*****) t by Leo Tolstoy
April 2010: Bleak House (*****) t by Charles Dickens,
May 2010:Alice in Wonderland (****) t by Lewis Caroll,
June 2010:Heart of Darkness (***) t by Joseph Conrad,
July 2010: The Idiot (***) t by Fyodor Dostoyevsky,
Aug 2010: Hamlet (****) p by William Shakespeare
Sept 2010: Around The World in Eighty Days (***) p by Jules Vern
Oct 2010: Lord of the Flies (***) p by William Golding,
Nov 2010: Kim (****) p by Rudyard Kipling
Dec 2010: One day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Still in progress)

Finishing this many books has given me a lot to think about.
Here are some of my thoughts.
1. Why aren't there amazing books like these written anymore. If you have a book that you think is equal to War and Peace and Bleak House, please let me know.
2. These books were not only written for pleasure of the reader, but they usually had an alternative motive:
War and Peace is full of Tolstoy's ideaology on how nations are guided by God and no one really knows how to direct a nation. Bleak House is an exposo on how currupt and useless the courts were in England in 1852. In Moby Dick, Melville wants to explain every aspect of whaling.
3. I want to read more classics, but this schedule burned me out.
4. You can't just read the classics, you need to read current books also to keep up on whats going on.
5. Often I've wondered if absorbing classics and a wide variety of books would have any impact on my creativity. I am glad to report that if it worked for me, it can work for you: Reading this many books inspired me to
 A. Write a book for 15 to 25 years olds to get with the program and stop wasting their lives
 B. Make a short movie
 C. Give lots of speeches which you can see on youtube.com/bettworld
 D. Start this blog and my other blog: www.youcanbeasoftwarearchitect.com
6. It makes me stop and listen to people because now I realize from how many different places people might be coming.
7. I feel so lucky to have access to so many great books which many people in history couldn't access

All this to inspire you, if you don't already, to read some classics next year as part of your new years resolutions. Ask me for a recommendation. I am a maven when it comes to books. I know about them and I love sharing and recommending the perfect book for whatever you need to know. Also if you want to recommend your favorite book to me, I'd be delighted!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Serial Experiements: Bett

Today, I followed my own advice and plotted my day on a pie chart. I discovered that if I spend 1 hour every day on each of my hobbies and 8 hours sleeping, I'd have 4 hours left over.

In Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh includes the following quote, "If you have more than three priorities, then you don't have any." -Jim Collins

My mistake was putting it all on one day. Our lives are made up of weeks and months. My theory is that you can only do one thing at a time, but if you schedule things on different days of the week or days of the month, you can get more than 3 things done over time. Time is the key variable in the equation.

I am going to spend next year as an experiment to see how much one person can accomplish.

I am either completely crazy, or a genius. Not really sure if the experiment will be conclusive!

Stay tuned!!

Impending Doom!

Read widely so you can figure out what’s going to happen next.

I just started listening to an audio book called The Next 100 Years by George Friedman. I've only listened to the first 3 hours, so I don't know yet if I can recommend it. He gives a quick insightful overview of history for the pragmatic purpose of predicting the next 100 years. I completely think it’s crazy to even predict next year, but Friedman gives us a macro view. He looks at population trends, geo-politics, and overall ambitions of countries.

The one point he makes which I found instructive is the life cycle of cultures:
1. Barbarism- the belief that ones own view points are the best views and trying to get everyone to agree with you. There is a zest for making an impact in the world.
2. Civilized – accepting others as just as valid as you, while still holding into truths
3. Decadent – thinking that believing in anything is foolish

America is in the first stage. We Americans are always predicting doom and demise of America. It’s because we are in the adolescent phase. It’s practically the American way to believe we are about to fall apart.

The third phase is where the culture gets lax. They stop thinking that they know best and stop trying to impact those around them. They stop taking risks or trying new things. They start withdrawing and losing their zest for life. Becoming so cynical that nothing matters anymore.

As a country the best thing is to be civilized while holding down their beliefs, but its tough to stay there.

Friedman makes a case that America is firmly at the beginning of its power and in the barbarism phase. Some of his reasons include the following:
1. The second largest country’s economy is Japan’s at 5,068,894 but the United States is 14,119,050.
2. Our military controls the all the Earth’s oceans. If anyone in the world wants to send anything anywhere, the US military knows and allows it.  

So he could be right about our country's constant fear of impending doom as just being a cultural thing, or we could be really on the edge of demise. Who can say?

So far the book has been great, but I’ll let you know how the rest of it turns out.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Impact and Laughter

Today, I gave a seminar at the Toastmasters Leadership Institute to teach the audience how to run an 8 week speaking course. I had the most incredible time. The audience also seemed to enjoy it! ;) Anytime you get to be infront of an audience is a chance you have to impact their lives for the better. I love making them laugh and seeing their eyes light up as they learn something. I also really enjoy taking questions and making up answers on the fly. Its such a challenge and a thrill.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Are you Delivering like Zappos?

I just finished a book you must read right now. Go to audible.com or amazon.com or whatever your favorite book retailer is and buy Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh.
Tony narrated the audio version which I listened to over my vacation to Arizona this past two weeks. His voice was very soothing as he explained the how he went from a worm farm to being CEO of Zappos in a very charming funny way. He definitely lived an exciting life, but the second part of the book is all about the Zappos culture. Tony details why he had to develop a defined culture after his mistakes made with his first company LinkExchange. He realized he couldn't let chance control the future of Zappos. In the beginning of any start up, only people whoare friends work at the company.

I experienced this at two of the start ups where I worked. Everything is exciting. People work all hours of the day. You are with your friends all the time. But then slowly start ups hire outsiders who are just there for the money. The culture goes down hill to just a bunch of people there to do a job and get out.

Tony studied what makes people happy such as the following:
1. Have a higher purpose
2. Make progress all the time
3. Get into flow

Then Tony applied it to give Zappos' a higher purpose: to make their customer's happy. He implements the happiness theories thru out the entire company. He has made a science of getting his culture right. He has lots of practical ideas which every company would benefit from.

Reading this book will make you happy, I guarantee it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Armed to the Teeth with Knowlege

In order to survive in our crazy world we must be armed to the teeth with knowledge. Knowledge in the jungle kept our ancestors alive when they watched someone eat a berry and they fell over dead, they remembered not to eat that berry! In the same way, if we don’t know what industries are on their way out, and what industries are on their way in, then we won’t be able to survive. 

Now a days we have so many ways to learn. In the past people could only learn from their parents and the elders in their village. 

Now we have access to almost all the knowledge and wisdom of the ages. Some is stored in easy to access mediums such as movies, comic books, blogs, tweets, websites, magazines, radio, tv, and podcasts. Some of this is stored in mediums which take more effort to access such as people, degree programs, journals, poetry, documentaries, and books. 

The key is the quality of the information you’re absorbing. Make sure that the information is worth remembering.

There are three steps to being able to figure out what’s going to happen next:
1.      Research what happened before (history)
2.      Keep up with daily events (news)
3.      Learn in depth about what’s happening now (documentaries, current events books, podcasts)

The average American reads less than one book a year. They say that if you read 3 books on any subject you will be an expert in that topic. If you can master the power of reading books you will be heads above everyone around you. Almost all successful people have one thing in common: They read veraciously.

 Get the knowledge and arm yourself to the teeth, because the world is changing way to fast too sit back and hope someone else is going to tell you what’s going on.