Alan’s Monday Morning Memo – 7/21/14

This week’s focus point: It’s 6:30 am on the Jersey shore, and I’m watching some rather plump people run and walk on the boardwalk adjoining the beach, a few who are disciplined, others in movement to some inaudible scherzo. I see some of these same people stuffing themselves at the boardwalk food stands at night. Just as working out at 6 pm to relieve stress which you then experience all over again at 9 am the next day on the job is fruitless, so is pseudo-exercise. If you want to dramatically change something, attack the cause, not the effect. Bandaids don’t cure anything, the point is to avoid cutting yourself. Palliatives never address underlying cause, whether social, economic, or business. If you want to prevent weight gain, be careful about what you eat. If you want to avoid brain drain, be careful about whom you listen to.

Monday Morning Perspective: Poor Mexico, so far from God and near the United States. — Porfirio Diaz during the Mexican Civil War

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Point Pleasant Beach

Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

July 21

 

It’s 6:30 in the morning, and I’m sitting on a small beach chair on our terrace overlooking the Atlantic, which is so serene it’s as if it’s asking permission to come on shore. There’s a light drizzle falling despite the newly-arisen sun, which is why I’m not using the regular furniture out here, but rather cowering under an eave with my lap top.

 

We dined with the family last night in a local landmark, Graziano’s, which has good but not great old-fashioned southern Italian food. The owner herself personally cooks only on Sunday, which she’s done for 47 years, and is a good reason to avoid the place. I was wondering why it was unusually unoccupied until it took over an hour for our meals to appear. The regulars obviously know this. She’s the owner, she can do that if she wants to, but decent food doesn’t overcome extraordinary ineptitude.

 

I bought a “credit card” for $40 at one of the arcades last night, which I can swipe in any of hundreds of machines in our insatiable quest to win the granddaughters 100,000,000 points so that they can buy a A380 for free. It’s a funny sequence: You swipe the card to play the game, the game upchucks tickets for the points you acquire, you then take the tickets (thousands of them bound in a long train) to the ticket-eating machine, which gobbles them up like some kind of rejected creature from the Muppets, and then issues a credit slip, which you take the counter where a human writes you a “check” for the credits which can be used for years (I kid you not). I get my kicks from the ticket-eating machine which is both bizarre and frightening, and I’ve been known to tell small kids in line that I was there before them even though I’m really referring to being on earth before them.

 

The economy is thriving. For the past two years here we’ve seen “vacancy” signs and easily negotiable crowds on the boardwalk and piers. No longer—all the signs are “no vacancy,” traffic is much thicker, and the boardwalk is jammed. These beach resorts are the destination of middle class America (and the odd Canadians who keep apologizing for bumping into you even when it wasn’t them) and people are clearly spending again. (It’s not cheap to come for a long weekend or a week, counting gas, lodging, food (even casual food), beach passes, rentals, games, rides, souvenirs, and so forth.

 

The rain is letting up, and the 1,876th jogger/runner has passed my perch (no bikes allowed). I admire their intent and I’m sure they have the goal of maintaining this exercise post-vacation, but that isn’t going to happen for most of them. That’s because they mostly return to “work” and “jobs,” wherein I don’t have to, because my career is involved with making these kinds of observations.

 

And now I’m done.

photo

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Talent Outs

There was an extensive article in the International Wall Street Journal a few days ago about talent. And it cites research that refutes the “practice 10,000 hours” nonsense. It shows that in some pursuits, very little practice (or none at all) still provided for top performance.

 

I’ve always thought speakers who claimed they practiced the same (boring) speech they’ve given for 20 years regularly before they delivered it yet again were either lying or had a severe learning disability. When you’re really good at something, you can do it regularly and easily “cold.”

 

The amount of practice I put in (with my coach’s evil glare presiding) to shoot free throws (then “foul shots”) didn’t improve my average. On a “cold” day with no practice, I could still shoot 90%. No amount of guided practice made me into a decent baseball pitcher, but I made the all-star team as a lousy shortstop who could hit like crazy. An observer told me, “You have the most natural swing I’ve ever seen.” Still do. Don’t ask me why, I never had a batting coach.

 

I’m not saying that practice doesn’t help many people. I’m sure it aids concert pianists and maybe some golfers, but no amount of it could help me master the simplest of songs or hit a ball on the ground by swinging a club. A great deal of practice hasn’t helped a lot of speakers, from clergy to executives, yet I can speak extemporaneously and galvanize a room.

 

If it were only as simple as “practice” then everyone would master whatever they chose. There is improvement possible, no doubt, but not guaranteed.

 

Talent outs.

 

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle

The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle

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What? Who’s Where?

Beware, the Who’s Who scam is back with us lately, telling you you’ve “qualified” to be listed, meaning that you have enough money to buy the book they produce. Who’s Who books and listings with rare exception are ego-oriented nonsense. I placed my dog, Trotsky, in one, once. That’s how strict the vetting is!

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Departing Bali

It’s a gorgeous morning here (we’re 12 hours ahead of the eastern US) and we’re off to breakfast and the pool. We leave tonight on the 8 pm flight to Singapore, then to Dubai, and home to Boston.

Bali’s people are fantastic, very cordial, and extremely helpful. The streets are clogged with mind-numbing, demolition-derby motorbikes of all sorts, some with infants wedged between parents, some driven by what appear to be 12-year-old girls in school uniforms heading to class. They weave in an out between busses and cars, often on the wrong side of the road, usually with inches to spare. I’m stunned I’ve seen no one hit.

We dined last evening in Mulia, one of the super resorts here, that occupy vast amounts of land on the water. The restaurant was Table 8, and the resort and restaurant have won a slew of awards, including best new offerings in Asia. The restaurant was odd—beautiful decor, but with a buffet as well as set menu, amidst the elegance, and very casual diners, including tables of young kids scrambling over their parents. The wine list was very limited, though I found a nice estate Rioja from 2001.

The food was marvelous, but the place gave the impression of confused intent, with dozens of employees standing idly behind a little used buffet.

DSC_1762IMG_2333© Alan Weiss 2014

 

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Alan’s Monday Morning Memo – 7/14/14

This week’s focus point: When you’re perceived as an expert, people usually don’t quarrel with you or debate you, because they’re eager to learn from you. The accept your predictions, and elicit your advice. They will entertain contrarian and even radical ideas. They will cite you and be proud to have learned from you. They will not argue about your fees. The greatest challenge to being perceived as an expert is between your ears. You have to have the courage of your talent, the conviction of your value. In my coaching I find I’m right about 90 percent of the time. I can achieve that level of effectiveness because I’m not at all concerned about being wrong 10 percent of the time. Success, not perfection.

Monday Morning Perspective: Cet animal est très méchant: Quand on l’attaque, il se défend. (The animal is very wicked: When it is attacked, it defends itself.) — Daniel Patrick Moynihan at the United Nations

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The Innovation Formula: A methodical system for innovation that will add value to your clients and money to your bank account, based on my book used at the Wharton School:
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Directing Traffic

Restaurants here in Bali hire people to direct traffic in and out of their parking lots, because the street traffic is so heavy that drivers otherwise wouldn’t be able to make the turns. They have lighted rods and whistles. The church we attended, in order to accommodate the maximum amount of worshippers in its lot, has attendants who parked the cars in a great, solid mass. But after services, they adroitly directed people out with a minimum of waiting.

What are you doing to direct people out of the “traffic” and the noise and into your business? Do you have features that light the way and allow people to turn to you?

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Bali

IMG_2299 IMG_2300 IMG_2297 IMG_2301 IMG_2302

 

One of the infinity pools at the Four Seasons, Bali; roadside market; large and modern Catholic church where we attended vigil mass celebrated in Indonesian; and a superb restaurant, Merah Putih (suckling pig, prawns, boneless duck) where those lighted columns conduct rain water from the roof through the restaurant, fascinating design.

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Just the Facts, Ma’am

Jack Webb played detective Joe Friday in the old Dragnet TV series, and he was constantly requesting that he be told “just the facts,” and not opinion, hearsay, suggestions, or personal bias.

The same applies to us in consulting. I coach people every week who want to know what to do with the equivalent of schoolyard gossip and casual rumor. Of course employees may say they can to the job better than the boss who got the position through “connections.” Of course senior management is going to claim that people should be motivated because the pay is good, so there must be something wrong with them. Of course sales and R&D will usually blame each other for results below expectations.

These are normal organizational dynamics. You can’t act on them as if you believe you’re hearing the truth! Here is how to deal with what you hear:

1. Ask: What is your evidence for that statement? Can you give me an example of where and when it occurred and who else witnessed it or heard it?

2. Ask: What is the actual observed behavior? How does this manifest itself in front of others?

You don’t want amateur (or even professional) psychoanalysis. You want to know what is actually visible in the environment so that you can verify it yourself. Validate what you hear before acting on it, or you’ll be most likely acting on what people prefer to believe and not what’s actually happening.

It’s bad enough to carry a flame thrower onto the ice. But if you light it, and then point it at your feet, you’ll find yourself quite quickly in cold, deep water. And that’s a fact.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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