Thursday, August 28, 2014

What Do We Want? Peace! When Do We Want It? Now

Is there a way to truly find peace in this world? I think so. 

Courtesy of Wiki Commons

What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now.

This is a chant heard at many rallies around the world when craziness is taking over a neighborhood or a community or a state … or an individual. We all want peace. And we want it now.

But what is peace … really?

Peace is several things. True peace is like a sleeping baby. Many of you have probably had that experience. The day you had been waiting for all those nine months. You got through the doctor’s appointments, the late-night cravings, the worries, the baby showers, the sore back and feet, the anticipation. The day finally comes and that little bundle of joy pops out into this earthly realm. There are 10 toes and 10 fingers. She cries a little bit — actually a lot — and you know that everything is fine.

At last, the new mom and dad are moved to a room and the new little bundle of joy — all wrapped up in a pink blanket with a bright pink beanie on her head — is brought into the room. She’s sleeping like a log in her little clear, plastic crib. And all anybody can do is smile. They look down at the sleeping baby, this little miracle of life, and a giant grin spreads across the faces of even the most hardened human.

“She looks so peaceful,” the new dad says as he reaches a soft finger to brush her cheek. “She just looks so peaceful.”

That is real peace. Inside peace anyway. Like calm waters or a sleeping baby, true peace is a resting of our soul. When the world around us is churning with turbulent waters, our souls are safe and calm and clear.

We are at peace.

We want that.

But we also want peace on the outside. And what we are really saying is we want connection, unity with everyone and every thing around us. We want respect, love, admiration, contact, relationships. We want to experience life like a forest of trees that isn’t upset at the bugs and microbes living off its bark or the small animals using it for shade. The tree is at peace with its surroundings. It isn’t jealous. It isn’t angry. It isn’t spiteful.

The giant tree realizes that it needs the microbes and the bugs and the animals, just as much as the animals and bugs and microbes needs the tree. The forest is the forest because of all those organisms. Take anything away and the forest ceases to be a true forest. Oh maybe not right away, but take one part of the ecosystem out of the forest and over time, that forest will die, a slow death.

We need the people and things around us. That’s what makes this place earth. That’s what makes us, us. We want the same unity and connection as the trees and the microbes and the bugs and the animals.

Sometimes we choose something else besides unity. We choose competition, us vs. them, rage, jealousy and the like. But what we want, what we really want, is peace. We want serenity on the inside and the outside. We want the unity of the forest and the peaceful slumber of a newborn baby.

What do you want it?


When can you have it?

If you choose …


What do you do to find peace in this world? Do you have it? Is it attainable? Let us know in the comments section.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

They Can Train A Robot To Do Your Job

I know the video above is a little long (15 minutes) but it lays out the very near future of your job and everybody else's job too. It's worth 15 minutes of your time.

For the last couple of months I've been saying that we are all just holding our jobs until the people that hire us can find a robot to do our work. Corporations pay us just enough to keep us interested until the robots — that are already here — are cheap enough and smart enough to put to work and do our jobs.

Is Any Job Safe?

Trucker? robots can do that

Waitress? Waiter? Barista at a coffee shop? Yep

Warehouse worker? Builder? Oh yeah.

But what about the hard stuff?

Lawyers? Robots can do that

Doctors? Even better than modern doctors

Creative Types? There are robots that can write music that even expert humans can't tell whether it's written by computes or a homo sapien.

Yep, even my latest job - storytelling. Computers can do it right now. And they are doing it more and more every day.

The Robots Are Coming! The Robots Are Coming!

The question then becomes not "if" these robots are coming for our jobs but "how soon"?At the turn of the 20th century most people didn't think that horses would ever be replaced. A horse would always have a job. Except now, with a very few exceptions, they are unemployable. Are humans next?

I know there has to be a positive spin to this but it does make you think.

What do you think? 

What do you think about robots taking over almost every human job? Does it bother you?

What should the next generation focus on when it comes to training for a career? 

Leave a comment in the comment section and let me know what's going on.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Prepare For Any Job Ever: 12 Skills You Need To Learn Now


Learn These Skills, Stay Employed

There’s an old saying that says, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will probably buy a huge bass boat and never come home.” That may or may not actually be the way that saying goes, but it’s something about fishing.

Regardless, the basic premise is if you want to survive, learn a skill. I was reading a blog post from Austin Kleon the other day about the importance of learning a skill (Read it here). One of the things he says is “I would recommend thinking about what the world needs, thinking about what you have to offer, and working hard to build a skill set so that you can fill that void.”

I agree totally. The only way to stay employed in this crazy world is to develop the skills necessary to survive.

The Future of Newspapers And The Mark of the Beast

After working in the newspaper industry for years, kids (and adults) would ask me the future of journalism. The short answer is: I have no freakin’ idea. But the longer answer is: It’s not going away. It may change, but it’s not going away.

People are going to want to read stories about their neighbors. They are going to want to know what’s happening in their community. The key is telling the story. That skill — the skill of crafting a story — is not going to go away. In the future that story may get told totally online, in the cloud or beamed directly into our heads through the Mark of the Beast, but we will get stories. And somebody has to tell them.

There are some very basic things that all humans should know how to do — build a fire, cook, change a tire, and how to record “Keeping Up With The Kardashians — but there are also some basic skills that will keep most homo sapiens employed long past the rise of the apes. Storytelling is one of those.

Cartoonist Scott Adams (famous for his Dilbert comic strip) said there are “12 core human skills” that if everybody can be in the top 25 percent (very good) at most or all of these skills, they would never be out of a job. Author Josh Kaufman wrote a blog post about it here here

You can read the 25 skills yourself, but they are: information assimilation, writing, speaking, mathematics, decision-making, rapport, conflict resolution, scenario-generation, planning, self-awareness, interrelation and skill acquisition.

The History of Every Job Ever 

I did a little research myself some minutes ago on the Internet — The Source Of All Truth — and came up with a list of basic jobs that have that have been around since homo sapiens crawled out of the goo and started talking on their cell phones. Each of these jobs requires one or more of the skills that Adams put in his list.

My list of basic homo sapien jobs and skills required:

1.     Farmer – Grows things. He solves problems and provides for a group of homo sapiens. Skills needed: information assimilation, mathematics, decision-making, planning, and skill acquisition.

2.     Philosopher — Studies the important questions of life and tries to answer the question, “Why are homo sapiens here?” And then she shares that answer with other homo sapiens. Skills needed: information assimilation, writing, speaking, scenario-generation, self-awareness, interrelation and skill acquisition.

3.     Artist — Translates the biggest questions of life and explains them to homo sapiens through words, paint, musical notes, videos, movies, acting, etc. Skills needed: writing, speaking, rapport, scenario-generation, planning, self-awareness, interrelation and skill acquisition.

4.     Tradesman — These are the homo sapiens, who build and make things. One homo sapien designs a product and a tradesman homo sapien brings that vision to reality for the rest of the homo sapiens to enjoy. Skills needed: information assimilation, mathematics, rapport, planning, interrelation and skill acquisition.

5.     Merchant — A merchant is a homo sapien with, for lack of a better term, the gift of gab. She can talk to any homo sapien and convince that homo sapien that he needs whatever she is selling. It’s a rare homo sapien gift. Skills needed: information assimilation, speaking, mathematics, decision-making, rapport, planning, interrelation and skill acquisition.  
6.     Statesman/Politician — These are the leaders of the of the homo sapien world. They set the vision, offer solutions to problems and negotiate peace between groups of homo sapiens. Skills needed: information assimilation, writing, speaking, decision-making, rapport, conflict resolution, scenario-generation, planning, interrelation and skill acquisition.
7.     Warriors — Warriors have no fear. These homo sapiens are willing to put their lives on the line for other homo sapiens. Skills needed: information assimilation, decision-making, rapport, conflict resolution, scenario-generation, planning, interrelation and skill acquisition.
      All of these jobs are still around today in one way or another. Nothing changes. And these skills will always be in demand. 

Forget the Resume, Learn a Skill

Basically, if you learn all or most of the 12 core human skills, you can do any of the jobs that have been in existence since Jesus wrote the book of Genesis. And if you can do any job in the world, ever, then you should always have a job, even if you have to create your own (especially if you have to create your own).

So forget about majors, and college and writing resumes. The key is learning skills. Fill a void that the world needs. Become very good (be in the top 25 percent of the world’s population) at each skill and set back and wait for the money to come in.

Until then, you might want to hold off on putting that down payment on that new bass boat.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Make $3,650 A Year With Two Solo Cups

Marketing Doesn't Have to Be Hard.

Sometimes you can spend millions of dollars on advertising and maybe not make one sale. And sometimes you can put a couple of Solo cups to work for you and make $3,600.

I walked into a coffee shop today and had to smile when I got to the counter. It wasn’t because I got free coffee (although, it sort of was). It was because of the little genius marketing idea sitting on the counter.

Each week, the baristas at the coffee shop create a question of the week. I call it the “Which is Better?” poll.

Last week the sign out front asked customers “Which is better [implied] Pluto or Scooby Doo?” This week’s question was “Which is better [again, implied] Smoothies or Milkshakes?”

Customers of the coffee shop can “vote” by dropping a dollar in one of two cups — one labeled with a photo of a couple of milkshakes and the other with a photo of smoothies. The shop has also done Captain America vs. Superman, New Ninja Turtles movie vs. Classic Ninja Turtle movie, and last week, Pluto vs. Scooby Doo. You can see from the photo above, Scooby Doo won last week's poll.

The winner at the end of the week, is announced on the counter next week, along with a new question. But the real winner(s) are the baristas, because they get to keep the poll tax each day as tips. Not a bad way to ask for a tip without really asking for a tip.

See, marketing doesn’t have to be hard ... or expensive.

You Can Simplify Your Advertising:

1. Keep it simple — Sometimes it’s just as simple as putting out a shingle and letting folks know you are in “business.” In this case, the baristas are in business for tip money.

2. Put out a tip jar — Let people know that you are in business. Get business cards. Start a website. Tell people you are in business. Put out your “tip jar.”

3. Ask for business — Even if it’s only a dollar (or something that is inexpensive). Put a price on your services and ask people if you can “serve” them.

4. Give something valuable in return — Give people something in return for a little cash that they put in your “tip jar.” Each week, these baristas give everybody in the coffee shop a chance to have their voice heard.


These Baristas Inspire Me

While these baristas aren’t getting rich each week, they do get tips that they might not ordinarily get. For the price of a couple of cups and some paper with two photos and a new question each week, they get $10 a day or so in tips. I’m not great at math but I think that’s about $70 a week and $3,650 a year ($3,660 on leap years). That’s very little cash outlay to get a lot in return. 

By the way, I voted for Milkshakes. And from the looks of things, other people like milkshakes too.

Your Chance to Share 

Have you seen an example of Small-Budget-Big-Bang marketing in action? Please share …

P.S. Don't forget to sign up for the e-mail list (sign up here). If you sign up in the month of August, I'll send you my e-book "Life:Found: How I Got My Out Of Control Life Back and Found Happiness." 


Friday, August 08, 2014

Somebody Please By Me a Rolex — How To Choose The Right Watch

Summer of Change

I’ve been writing a little about my experiences with what I call The Summer of Change. (You can catch up on the serieshere, here and here. )

One of the other things I’ve had to change this summer was finding a new watch. For many years, I always tried to have the latest and greatest watch available — usually several varieties — and wore them all the time. Then a couple of years ago, — Boom! — I just stopped wearing one altogether.

·      I didn’t like the way it felt on my arm.
·      I figured didn’t really need a watch since I have a cell phone
·      I didn’t like the concept of time.

For the last couple of years, I didn’t even keep up with the time on my phone because I didn’t really buy into the concept of time.

All We Have Is Now
Physicists over the last 150 years or so have sort of debunked time. It really doesn’t exist, at least in the way we think about it. Einstein wrote a paper about time and how weird it is called the Special Theory of Relativity.

The guys at Physics Minute did a nice job of explaining here:

Time is relative. And it’s relative in your life too. Tomorrow is already gone. Tomorrow will never come. All we have is “Now.”

So I didn’t need some gizmo to tell me it was “now.” Thus, I didn’t need a watch.

Also, to me having a watch meant answering to The Man. I didn’t like The Man. I didn’t want to be a slave to The Man. I was The Man.

But in all honestly, I wasn’t The Man, I was a jerk.

Maybe you’ve experienced the same thing. But here’s the problem.  

The world we live in runs on time.

The Man and most other people, who are going to do nice things for you like make your latte and sell you Big Macs or do something simple like pay you, are all running on time.

So in the Summer of Change, I needed a new watch.

Do You Really Need A Watch?

The short answer is yes. Yes, you do. You need a watch. I’m not talking about your cell phone, I’m talking about a timepiece on your wrist. And here are 3 reasons why.

1. It’s part of your fashion statement. A watch is part of who you are. It’s one of those items that you wear that says, “Hey, this guy pays attention to the details.” It’s a nice addition to any outfit from going to the gym to business casual to boardroom attire.

2. It’s easier than digging around in your pocket. You don’t want to be continually fishing around in your pocket for a cell phone. Plus, if you are like me, you are concerned about battery life. My cell phone usually lasts all day unless I do something crazy like make a phone call or text somebody or try to use Google maps. Then it lasts about an hour.
Get a watch.
3. The rest of the world runs on time. It’s time for you to face facts. The rest of the world runs on time. Even though next week doesn’t exist, that job interview you’ve been waiting for is scheduled for then. Don’t obsess over next week’s appointment or last week’s failure — live in the now — but keep a watch around just in case The Man wants to throw more money your way.

Tips For Picking Out a Nice Watch:

1.     Pick a watch that’s classy — I know their current trend in watches is the giant watch face that looks like a grandfather clock on your wrist. Buy one of those if you wish. But also get one that will you can wear to meet your new mentor, who understands a little class.

2.     Pick a watch that’s timeless — Buy a cheap trendy watch if you must, but get a nice watch or two that will still be stylish 40 years from now.

3.     Pick a watch that costs as much as you can afford — A watch is an investment, an heirloom. It doesn’t have to be a Rolex, but if you can afford one why not?

4.     Pick a watch and wear it.

Now it’s your turn. Do you wear a watch? Do you think a timepiece on your wrist is important or do are you satisfied with your cell phone? Let us know in the comments section. Please be sure to leave a comment. And if you like The Summer of Change series, why don’t you share it on Twitter or somewhere you hang out. And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter here.

Oh wow, look at the time. I better be going.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Say Adios to Poverty: 3 Steps to Empower People

"PoorES" by LaNicoya; Amy Lopez - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons
Poverty is rampant not just in America but across the world. The problem seems to be getting worse instead of better. 

But it doesn't have to be that way. 

I read a story not too long ago. The story tracked poverty in rural areas of Texas, Mississippi and the Great Plains.

These places contain some of the nation's 46 million people who live below the poverty line (below $22,050 for a family of four).

As I was reading the story, I wondered: What keeps people from living "the American dream?"

I did not grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth. We always had food (including plenty of Twinkies), clothing, electricity, running water, new clothes and plenty of love around our house, but we were not rich. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized the sacrifice my parents made each year to make sure we had everything we needed.

My parents used a combination of credit, layaway programs and a savvy use of the money they did have to make our lives comfortable.

One area where our family struggled was with fashionable shoes.
"Emil Zatopek running shoes by Adidas 1948" by Zac Allan

We couldn't always afford the fashionable brands when I was a kid. When we needed shoes, we went to the discount store in Longview and bought the knock-offs called "Adios."

They had the same styles and colors, but they only had two stripes instead of Adidas' trademarked three-striped look. But man, I was proud of them and wore them out of the store.

When it was time for college, my parents just were not able to help. So, instead of enrolling for my first semester, I joined the Army National Guard.

"Flickr - The U.S. Army - Drill Sergeant of the Yearby The U.S. Army
While my classmates were attending the fall semester, I went to boot camp and my first Advanced Individual Training course (the shortest one I could find). I got back into town just in time to enroll for the spring semester.

I went to "drill" with the National Guard one weekend a month and worked two or three jobs to supplement my grants from the government to go to school.

I wasn't lazy.

I wasn't looking for a hand-out.

I didn't feel entitled.

I just needed a little help to move up the economic chain.

Most people want the same things I did.

Why don't they succeed?

1. Help people "think" they can — Some people don't "think" they can do succeed. For me, and many other Americans, there was never a doubt about the ability. If you work hard and get a little help (money, contacts or opportunity) most people can find a little piece of the American Dream. But for many, the ability to succeed sounds about as easy as taking a stroll on the moon.

2. Change starts with the mindset. It starts with a good education, of course. The great educator Horace Mann said, "A human being is not attaining his full heights until he is educated." We have to make sure kids have access to a great education, not just in elementary and high school but beyond. A little bit of money invested in a child's education, can save a truck load of money in prisons and other institutions of reform.

3. Empower dreams. Educating a child not just by filling minds with facts and figures but by empowering their mind to dream big dreams. We have to help them "believe" not only in the American Dream but dare to believe they can dream too.

Most people aren't lazy and looking for a hand-out, they really do just need a change in mindset.

The old NAACP commercial used to say, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." I couldn't agree more. But something more important than not wasting a mind, is having faith and hope that all of us can do what we want to do. We may not find a silver spoon but we can find a slice of the American Dream.

Maybe it’s time to stop focusing on what and how we teach the Three R’s and instead, strap on our Adios shoes and start teaching a child to believe in themselves. Helping a child believe in the dream might help us say, "adios" to poverty.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer of Change — The Wisdom of Deion Sanders

This is really weird. Just a couple of months ago, I wrote a newspaper column going on and on about how liberated I was because I didn’t own a suit. And now here I am with my own subscription to freakin’ GQ magazine. What a strange turn of events. 

I have never really had a style to call my own. I was one of those in-betweeners never really dressing up but not quite dressing like the cross between a shadetree mechanic and a homeless person either.
For a long time, dressing up to me was wearing a sportscoat with my jeans and t-shirt. I have owned about six suits in my entire life, never more than two at a time.

My first suit after college was a gift from Aunt Jo. She took me over to a local men’s store, helped me pick out a nice navy blue number, one crisp white dress shirt and a maroon silk tie. I believe she even bought a pocket square to match the tie. It made quite an impression for my first sales job interview. Unfortunately, my lack of sales skills (or any skills at that point) did not leave a great impression and I did not get the job. Fortunately for me, I did not leave a great first impression because if I would have gotten that first sales job I would have sawed off my hand and tried to go on disability after about six months. That was 1987.

Since then, I have worn various degrees of dress up from suit and tie to sportscoat and tie to shirt and tie to something called “business casual,” which is usually oversized, comfortable chinos and a frumpy golf shirt (not POLO, but usually a golf shirt with a logo from whatever company gave it to me). This was my style, at least at work.

On weekends, I was even more laid back. T-shirts, jeans, or shorts were my go-to gear for going just about anywhere. For some strange reason, I used to tuck my t-shirt into my jeans or shorts for a more “formal” look. It turns out all that did was make me look like a “formal” twit.

Then about ten years ago, I jumped off the fashion train and jumped onto the much more comfortable fashion moped.

About two years ago, I gave up completely. I tossed out my last remaining suit, all my polo shirts (with or without company logos), my dress shoes (except one pair) and all of my slacks. All that was left in my closet were t-shirts, a few party frocks and three pairs of pre-washed, relaxed fit, boot-cut jeans. Oh, Jesus, was all of that comfortable. In facet, I bet Jesus himself would have worn the exact same outfits if he were around today. At least I used to think that.

Then the Summer of Change happened. It became the summer of 2014 and I needed a change. I needed an upgrade. I needed to do things differently.

Here are the four steps I followed to look more stylish and fashionable:

Step 1: Do a quick Google search for fashion blogs. I did and immediately found 2 million links to all kinds of ladies’ fashion blogs. I refined my search for “men’s fashion blogs” and came back with 4 million links to all kinds of men’s fashion blogs. Who knew that many men were into fashion? I did not.

It was eye-opening. I learned a ton.

For instance, I always thought that for a man to be fashionable, he had to be uncomfortable. That, I discovered, was not always the case. Many pairs of nice jeans, chinos, wool slacks, dress shirts, fitted polos and shoes of all kinds could be both fashionable and comfy. My God, I love the Summer of Change.

Step 2: Throw out your old shit. I went through my closet and through out all of my old shit. Well, almost all my old shit. I kept a few items to keep in the mix, but most of the old party frocks, boot-cut jeans and 27 pounds of old t-shirts went to Goodwill. My wife joined me in the fashion reboot and together we took about 10 garbage sacks full of clothes to be recycled. It was liberating and scary as hell all at the same time.

Step 3: Start shopping for a new look. I tried to buy just the essentials at first. Here’s my list of essentials:

1.     Navy or grey suit.
2.     One white dress shirt, one light blue dress shirt
3.     Khaki and navy blue dress slacks.
4.     Navy blue sports coat.
5.     Brown dress shoes.
6.     Black dress shoes.
7.     Three or four dress polo shirts
8.     Three or four nice white t-shirts (nothing in a bag).
9.     A dressy henly-collared shirt
10. A nice grey sweatshirt.
11. A nice pair of white tennis shoes sans logo

I think that’s it. I haven’t purchased it all yet, but I’m slowly adding to it when it can. If you have these essentials, I discovered, you can mix and match to come up with a variety of outfits to wear to a variety of events, including events that might have called for a party frock in the past.

Step 4: Wear the new style. Dress up. Even if you feel slightly out of place, dress up. It’s amazing how much more respect and attention you get if you dress up.

Of course, that doesn’t mean wearing a navy blue suit with black cap toes to the beach, but it does mean make sure to wear the best in beach attire when you do hit the beach.

The main thing I learned was that things need to fit. For a man, that means trousers that are slimmer fitting around your leg and just long enough to touch your trousers with maybe a break about halfway up your shin. For shirts, they should hug your body, not too tight but definitely not sagging around your mid section like a produce bag full of broccoli.

A cheap suit can look expensive if it fits right.  And an expensive suit can look cheap if it doesn’t fit right.

Find a tailor, get to know him and let him know the style you are going for.

Why should you dress up? Three reasons.

1.     First impressions — It makes all the difference in the world. Pay attention to details — shoes shined, clothes with a perfect fit, pocket square, nice watch, tie bar, all the little things.
2.     Respect. Dressing up makes you feel better and people around you treat you differently. My good friend Deion Sanders famously says, “If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good you play good. If you play good, they pay good.” And while I don’t want to play cornerback for the Cowboys, I would like to get paid well. (Call me Jerry Jones.).
3.     Flexibility. Dressing up means you are flexible to do other things. If you wear a suit to work, you can take off the tie and throw on a nice polo or t-shirt with it to go out for drinks afterward. Your employee may want to send somebody to see a customer face-to-face. Who is she going to send, a guy with a well-tailored suit or the “business casual” guy with the baggy chinos and the red IBM polo he won at a trade show. Give me the suit guy any day.

Thank the good lord for the Summer of Change.