Category Archives: Alan’s Quest

The Ideal Career

Someone approached me not long ago and said, “I’ve figure you out. You only do what you love to do and are great at. And you’ve built a career around it.”

That didn’t come as a surprise to me, but it clearly did to him. As I thought about it, I added one component, which is “high impact.” Any two of the three elements won’t lead to complete contribution or complete fulfillment. I’ve sketched it out below. See what you think.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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Create Some Perspective

As consultants, we often need to create perspective. That’s because if we simply and uncritically compare issues and performance around us, we may find we’re on the fast track to the lowest common denominator.

The media fill the air with bad news because that attracts higher ratings than good news. (Do you know that Apple just had a phenomenal quarter, but when results were announced the stock declined?) We become inured to volatility (the market hit a record yesterday). We lack the knowledge to make sound comparisons (compare the US and Canadian health systems or anything else all day long, but Canada is less than one tenth the population of the US, less pluralistic, and with far fewer global accountabilities).

The social media exacerbate the problem, because anyone with a keyboard and an opinion is suddenly an “expert.” (If I hear one more person describe themselves as an “internet marketing expert” I’m going to fall down laughing.) We have people running for school boards, state legislatures, even Congress who have no idea what they’re doing or supposed to do, and we have too many voters choosing candidates on a single position on a single issue (“Do you believe in grass feeling pain or not?”).

With our clients, we have to disabuse them of lack of perspective and false comparisons. What does “good to great” mean? Why would you think the customer is always right? Do you really need “world class” accountants? Why can’t you abandon a market?

Of course, this presupposes that you have an accurate and evolving perspective. That requires continual learning, the courage to voice an opinion, and intellectual firepower. Those traits will place you well in the front of the pack.

At least, that’s my perspective.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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Made My Day

Dear Alan, Thank you for the “Writing on the Wall” videos.  They have inspired me to finally take some bold actions.  I lost a breast to cancer 5 years ago and it has been quite a journey since then. During that time your observations and wit kept me centered and helped me to think big. As I celebrate my 5th year anniversary and am now considered “cancer free” you are among the angels that I quietly consider as part of my tribe…I am grateful for you. jane
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Dangerous Driving in Nantucket

If you park in restricted areas, they tow your car, break your bones, and then fine you.

My car tops out at 205 MPH, so I paid to use their airborne ramp:

© Alan Weiss 2013

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The Island

My Nantucket default routine is to wake up around 6. We’re looking at the Atlantic, so the sun rises on the other side of the house. (At dusk, people throng the beach to watch the sunset and have local Tex/Mex/Seafood at Millie’s.) Over the next 90 minutes, I clean up all email, check AlansForums.com, post three things of value on Twitter, and write.

I may be writing some monthly columns, or parts of a book, or new offerings, or project outlines, or whatever. I have some breakfast (my wife has laid out the coffee and cereal or bagels in an idiot-proof fashion the prior night, though I still louse it up half the time), then walk down the dirt lanes to what passes for a general store, where i can get one of the few copies of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal delivered at 8.

My work for the day is done, my wife is still asleep, and I wander. It’s glorious to awake on an island, especially when you’re living almost on the beach itself. The air is full of life. There are rabbits here which obviously have no natural enemies, and are anything but timid. One, the size of Buddy Beagle, we call “the house rabbit,” since he couldn’t move very quickly even if a threat appeared. He seems to be the top hare.

The gulls land on the swimming pool cover to drink fresh water. They, too, don’t seem bothered by much and come and go as they please.

Last night, we drove home from the Club Car (one of the finest restaurants here among many fine ones) in town in a dense fog, the kind that the high beams make worse, and calling for only the third time I’ve use my car’s fog lights. We had to keep the top up or we would’ve been drenched. It was creepy and fun, but fortunate that we knew all the turns and curves by heart.

I’m typing this in the house’s study, which has a great view of the water and the adjoining acres of eel grass, scrub, and desperate evergreens holding on for dear life. No one is in sight, and there is a feeling of great freedom. It is a creative place but, ironically, one without care.

I used to watch cars crawl by my open bedroom window in the city when I was young, trying to get some air in the apartment during the heat and humidity of August, wondering what my life would be like. Now, I’m watching seals float by in calm seas and invigorating air.

I’m glad I started that way. It’s taught me to appreciate where I am.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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Let’s Move from “Doom and Gloom” to “Alive and Thrive”

Antoine van Agtmael, an emerging markets expert, is quoted in the Wall Street Journal today as believing that the most dynamic emerging market in the world is……….the United States.

“For the first time after 40 years in Asia,” he recounted, “the Chinese complained about American competition.” Labor costs in the US are stable, but have increased by 15 percent in China, annually. He estimates that about 200 companies have moved offshore locations to the U.S. mainland in the recent past. “Nine of ten companies a decade ago were thinking of building plants in China,” he points out, “today it’s about three in ten, and five in ten want to build in the U.S.”

He says that markets are emotional, not necessarily efficient, and that people are realizing  that the American market is a half-full glass, not a half-empty one.

We are surrounded by the doom and gloom patrols, who manage to find the dark cloud in an otherwise bright sky. Within a few days law enforcement, cooperating wonderfully, found and removed two terrorists no one could have anticipated. Yet “pundits,” searching for their Andy Warhol 15 minutes in the lights, are claiming, “This changes everything.”

For every uptick in housing, auto sales, manufacturing, entertainment, and other sectors, someone will find an exception and a negative. The fact is that even with the intractable, juvenile gridlock in Washington, we haven’t fallen off a cliff, fiscal or otherwise. In fact, the country has perhaps the strongest economy in a long time, and continues to have the strongest in the world.

Can we improve our schools, infrastructure, spending habits, and other problem areas? Of course. Are there people harmed by the economic volatility who need jobs and more support? Yes, and we ought to provide them. We’re far from perfect. But let’s stop creating self-inflicted misery.

To a very large extent, we are emotionally driven, and we need to stop listening to those who are actually paid to provide bad news, and find the light. I don’t know about you, but I’m weary of blown-dry reporters who have no credentials and murder the language, standing out on a street unnecessarily to be “on the scene,” who simply wind up saying, “Time will tell.” Edward R. Murrow must be rolling in his grave.

We’re fortunate to be here. Let’s start acting like it, cooperating the way we saw law enforcement cooperating, remaining optimistic, believing and acting with the confidence that we can create even better tomorrows.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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How I Like To Start My Day

To: contrarianconsulting
From:
Joe Tatulli
Message:
Hi Alan,
I was asked to write about how a piece of media had deeply affected my
life for my English Comp class. Below is my submission. Thank you so
much for hosting the free workshop and giving me the book to read!
Cheers, Joe
There have been many times in my life that I was deeply affected by a
piece of media. For this assignment I am going to write about one that
happened about nine months ago. It all started on Twitter when I
stumbled upon a very smart person by the name of Alan Weiss. Alan is
the rock star of consulting, obviously a professional independent
consultant, author of over 40 books and a speaker. One of the coolest
things about Alan was that he lived in East Greenwich, Rhode Island,
which was about fifteen minutes from where I lived. He was known
worldwide for his consulting practice and contrarian strategies, yet
he lived in the same state I did. I started following Alan on Twitter,
and everyday he would post three or four “hits of energy” as he coined
them. I would read these snippets of energy and a lot of them would
make me laugh out loud to myself, and boy I always could use a good
laugh, who doesn’t? The snippets were always so true, and as he would
describe them, “contrarian.”
Alan announced a free speaking engagement in Warwick, RI. A way he
gave back to the community that supported him. Alan would normally
speak to sold out rooms for thousands of dollars per person. For me
this was a chance of a lifetime, even though Alan didn’t really know
me at all, I felt he was helping me change my life for the better. To
hear Alan speak in Warwick, all you needed to do was send him a check
for $50 made out to the East Greenwich Animal Rescue League. I sent in
my check as instructed and received my confirmation to attend the
speaking engagement. I also had to request the day off from work,
which I did.
The day came and I attended an amazing event, I learned so much in
just a few short hours, and hearing and seeing Alan in person was
better than reading his tweets on Twitter and his blog on his website.
That day, Alan also gave me a free copy of one of his newer books, the
book was titled Thrive- Stop wishing your life away (Weiss, 2009).
That book was the piece of media that so deeply affected my life. Even
the title resonated with me so much, I couldn’t wait to read it, and I
didn’t wait too long!
I followed through and did exactly what the book told me to do, stop
wishing my life away! One of the things I had wished to do for the
last 24 years was get my Bachelor’s Degree. I signed up for and now
attend school here at Full Sail University working on a Bachelors
Degree. I had wished to be an entrepreneur my whole life, I knew I was
very creative and had an amazing gift to be able to apply that
creativity and create things. I was always being put down by others,
laughed at, and became a victim of my own low self esteem. I quit my
dead end job and went back to working for myself, as a Marketing
Expert. The name of my business is Startegies, which is an idea I came
up with over 14 years ago, it meant to start using art with a
strategy, thus Startegies. With Startegies, I am now monetizing my
intellectual property and helping others exceed their marketing goals.
I am now working for myself again, instead of working for someone else
for over 50 hours a week. This has given me the ability to spend more
time with my wife and three young children, the real wealth in life.
Real wealth is not monetary, it is the ability to spend time each week
on hobbies and interests, and spend more time with loved ones, and
that is why I stopped wishing my life away! (Weiss)
Weiss, A. (2009). Thrive- stop wishing your life away. (1st ed., Vol.
1). Las Brisas Research Press.
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My Favorite Facebook Sayings

There are so many crappy varied sayings people post on Facebook with photos and art work, that I thought I’d do a service to my readers and post the most ridiculous the most profound ones here:

Favorite Facebook Platitudes

• Don’t worry if you’re behind, you’re enabling others to win.

• Life is meant to involve stumbles and falls. Why else would God have invented cosmetic dentistry?

• If the shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn’t, grow into it. Unless, of course, it’s too small. Then it probably belongs to someone else.

• Human potential is unlimited. Human failure is not. So you have to come out ahead, right?

• Just because others don’t listen to you, doesn’t mean you have no impact so long as you can hear yourself.

• Don’t go changing to try to please me. But do try to please me.

• You will succeed best if you’re original. Just watch what others do.

• They can hit you but they can’t knock you down. The can knock you down, but not forever. They can knock you down forever, but then they can’t hit you any more.

• If you don’t look in the mirror and see beauty, then look in someone else’s mirror.

• Shout “Movie!” in a firehouse. See what happens.

• Accepting failure and defeat is part of growth. Don’t despair if you’re defeated or you fail. But do worry if you never grow.

© Alan Weiss 2012. All rights reserved.

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Innovation from Bentley

We decided my wife’s car needed some extra horsepower.

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The 250

I can’t find a way to respond to a blog entry that Seth Godin made, so I’m doing it here. I like Seth, he’s a fine writer and original thinker and a contributor to all of us. But I don’t like blogs where you can’t respond. If this is my error in not finding the right link, my apologies. But here’s what he wrote:

This is cruel marketing (Seth).

If you’re like me, you’ve gotten dozens of emails over the last week about a promotion that Chase and Living Social are running in which they’re promising local businesses that work within their community a chance to win a grant for $250,000. The emails almost always have the line,

All we need is a vote from 250 kind friends and supporters like you.

Here’s why it’s doubly dangerous. First, clearly the organization doesn’t actually get a grant in exchange for only getting 250 online votes. Hey, 250 online votes won’t even get you a pack of chewing gum these days. No, all the votes do is make you eligible to apply for the grant. And yet the organization, perhaps a worthy one, is now spamming thousands of people offering this sliver of hope, all in rush to get 250 votes, even though the chances that anything will happen are perilously close to zero. There are only 12 grants available in total. That’s pitiful. Hopes raised, hopes dashed.

And then, for the small businesses, the ones who get through this hurdle and then get through the hurdle of the application, once again, hopes raised, hopes dashed.

There’s nothing wrong with competitions and difficult to achieve goals. Nothing wrong with making it hard to get into Brown or get a Gates Foundation grant. The dangerous mistake is making the organizations (and then their core supporters) think it’s likely, or easy. You end up not only burning the brand of Living Social and Chase (who probably had good intentions) but by extension, hurting the brand and permission relationships of the very organizations you’re trying to help. Peter and the wolf… the villagers aren’t going to come next time.

Pepsi did the same thing with charities last year, and my concern is the same: when you activate your supporters, you need a clear path to victory, not a wild goose chase.

One significant way around this: have the outbound messages of the tribe be about more than the grant. Figure out how putting in the effort to help your local organization actually strengthens ties, instead of weakening them. The pursuit could be even better than the prize if you establish the right groundwork.

To be really clear: it’s harder to cut through the clutter than ever before, but just because a gimmick is going to cut through the clutter doesn’t mean you should use it. It doesn’t pay to make a lot of noise if that noise ends up hurting you in the long run.

Okay, I’m back (Alan)

Seth and I both contribute to the “clutter” and “noise” through our online work. We do it, I think, to contribute value to others.

I asked for votes to get me to the 250 because that $250,000 grant, for which I’m now in the second round, would serve to provide travel and expenses for those whom I give scholarships to in my workshops and experiences in any case. It would also provide loans to people in my global communities going through very tough times due to illness and family problems.

I don’t have “tribes,” and I feel tribalism is a curse in the world today, replete with animosities and age-old enmities. I do foster and support communities, which are diverse groups of people worldwide learning and growing together.

I like competition, and I don’t consider 12 grants a “wild goose chase.” I consider them to be a legitimate goal that people with legitimate ends should compete for. That’s why I rallied my communities and exceeded the minimum necessary to get to the next round. If I’m successful, I can help a lot of people. If I’m not, then I’ll try again next time. But I’m not cynical about the offer, sponsored by Chase, that is entirely generous.

As the thought leader in solo consulting, I believe I have to be accessible. Anyone can leave a comment here, agree or disagree, so long as it’s respectful and polite. I don’t know how else to respond to Seth’s postings, since I can’t do it on his site. My respect for him remains high.

I just think he got this one wrong.

© Alan Weiss 2012. All rights reserved.

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