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In this issue:
- Brainpower tip
- Time tip
- Finance tip
- Security tips
- Health tip/Fitness tips
- Updated problem-solving course
- Thought for the day
1. Brainpower tip
Every now and then, a group comes up with
something brilliant. Of course, we're not talking about a group in the
government--notice the word "brilliant." How do groups do brilliant
things--or anything at all?
In group dynamics, you can see one of four
1. Authoritarianism takes hold. A single person dominates the group, and
expends some intellectual capital on getting the others to go along. Result: The
group is never as bright as its most persuasive member. For an example, look at
the past two CEOs of K-Mart.
2. Democracy takes hold, and all members
expend intellectual capital trying to get the approval of the others. Result:
The best the group can hope for is being a bit less bright than its average
member. As our founding fathers warned, democracy is far from desirable and does
great harm. For an example of how it works, just observe an angry mob.
3. Egalitarianism takes hold, and all members
sacrifice intellectual capital to ensure everyone in the group is
"equal." Result: The group will never be as bright as even its dimmest
member. For an example of how this works, just observe the public education
system in the USA.
4. Mutual respect is the norm. All members
see the other members as having something to contribute, and they see some
members as more talented than others. Everyone sets aside pride and personal
insecurities for the good of the group and its goals. Result: The whole is
greater than the sum of its parts, and each individual is greater than s/he
would have been without that group. For examples of this, look at nearly any
military unit (though part of the government, not run the same way). You can
also look at nearly any group that is accomplishing great things. Chances
are, this is the dominant model they are using.
Just as massively parallel computers can do
far more than a single computer, so can individuals working together accomplish
more than any individual. But the key here is working together. You may
be involved in a group where the individuals are working toward some other
end--such as acceptance. If so, you can turn that around. Start recognizing
individual talents within the group. Ask people if the group exists to
accomplish mission X, or if it exists to make everyone feel better without
accomplishing the mission.
Ask people to set aside petty concerns of ego and
instead elevate themselves through accomplishment. Most people, if given the
chance, will go for accomplishment--the military proves this time and time
again. Treating people with respect and dignity tends to make them set aside
their "vanity pride" and instead take up their "mission
pride." The more you help people see beyond themselves, the more the group
I want to close this tip with a commentary
you might consider political. I consider it a matter of national survival. A
famous politician and advocate of better working conditions for violent
criminals recently released a work of fiction that has made it to the top of
the non-fiction charts. Her concern her whole life has been "what's in it
for me." If you ignore her rhetoric and listen to what she actually says,
you see an insecure person who needs power and adulation--regardless of the cost
She has never made a rent payment or mortgage payment, so she doesn't
have a clue what that obligation is like for anyone else and yet she believes
less individual wealth (via higher taxes and spending) is the right thing for
America. She has had armed guards her whole life, so she doesn't understand why
ordinary Americans oppose being disarmed. She has been chauffeured for her whole
life, and she doesn't understand the stress of a "soccer mom." In
fact, she had daycare provided for her child free of charge by the state--her
concept of "it takes a village" is pure fantasy and her accounting of
it is pure fabrication.
This person would have you believe she is an ideal
candidate for running a major group--such as the federal government--but her
world view is limited strictly to herself and her own pathetic needs. Beware of such people--see the four
scenarios above, and choose wisely.
2. Time tip
The true measure of life is not in the number of breaths
you take, but in the moments that take your breath away. Well, the saying is
something like that.
I recently "failed the test" to be chosen as a
speaker on time management for a sales organization. In a phone interview with
the CEO, I remarked that many people think of time management as a matter of
multi-tasking, and that isn't it. He was incredulous. "Listen here, my
sales people have to multi-task!" Then he went on to tell me how they had
to service X accounts in Y time, etc. Clearly, he knows nothing about sales or
time management. But, he had his mind already made up and he wanted a speaker
who would parrot his own dysfunctional views. That is exactly why
his organization was having the problems it was having. He was focusing on
activity, rather than results.
In most multi-tasking situations, you end up doing neither
activity well. Let's look at two scenarios.
One. Jim is a real multi-tasker. He was making 8 sales
calls per day, but when sales slowed down he figured out how to make 9 sales
calls per day. He's on his cell-phone constantly, when he's driving--and
frequently loses calls in the middle of a conversation or sales pitch. He rushes
from client to client, and they all know how busy he is. You are one of those
clients. You find it hard to get Jim to depart from the script, and he seems to
always be glancing at his watch and considering his next move. He seems harried
rather than efficient. He doesn't know your business and doesn't seem to have
time for you.
Two. The extent of David's multi-tasking is that he
listens to sales tapes or rehearses his next call while driving. He makes a
point of calling on only a few clients each day. He arrives at each one fresh
and full of energy--and attention. You are one of those clients. And you like
David. He asks many questions about your business, has a habit of saying,
"Show me," and his presentations are smooth and confident. When he has
another appointment scheduled later in the day, you are seldom aware of
that--it's as though his whole universe is focused on you.
Which one of these salesmen would "take your breath
away?" You can see that the CEO who decided my material wasn't right for
his sales force made the wrong decision. I have no doubt he will lay people off
and get a bonus for doing so.
The example here is sales, but the concept applies to
everything, including interpersonal relationships.
In most relationships, we give each other the surface
treatment. This is a waste of time, and a waste of the relationship. Don't
give people the surface treatment. Plan and prepare for the engagement. Think
ahead of what you can do to take their breath away. Hint: This usually involves
something that makes it seem as though your universe focuses on them while you
are interacting with them. When they mention something
important to them, ask for more information--show a real interest.
3. Finance tip
Mortgage bankers are offering "sweet
deals" right now. But, many of these are not as sweet as they look. Don't be misled by just one factor--such as the
interest rate. A loan at 4% can be more expensive than a loan at 5%, even with
the same term.
To evaluate a loan properly, look at the size
of the monthly payment times the number of payments. That tells you the true
cost of the loan in straight dollars. It's not the whole story, but it levels
the playing field for comparison.
But, what about the term? If I can
stretch the term to 30 years rather than 10, with the same total cost, isn't
that better? It might be. But, it might not be. You should always be able to
get better terms for the shorter loan, so if the loans are equal then you
have missed a bargain somewhere in the 10-year loan world.
Aren't ARMs a rip-off? That depends on
the ARM and the situation of the borrower. Most people
are in their homes for only 5 years or so. Match your ARM to the time you
plan to spend in your home, and you'll get a much better deal than you would
with a fixed-rate mortgage. The best situation is an ARM within a
fixed-rate. For example, a 7/10 has a 7-year ARM inside a 10-year mortgage.
This particular type of loan is very, very hard to beat because you have a
3-year fixed following a long ARM. I have yet to find a better deal for someone
who plans to stay in a home long enough to recoup the refinancing fees
(typically 2 to 3 years), but it may be out there.
What about the time value of money? The
longer the term, the better--right? Well, that is a good question. When you
consider that the USA has had poor economic policies since the mid-1950s (we
started seeing mass layoffs in the late 1950s and that trend has not abated
since then) and those policies have--over the years--moved into the realm of
the insane, the right question to ask is "What about deflation?"
You can no longer assume a dollar is worth more today than it will be in the
future. The "pay it back with cheaper dollars" strategy assumes
deflation won't exist. Nor can you assume you will have a higher disposable
income in the future--most likely, your income (in real dollars and in
disposable dollars) will decline. In general, relying on the time value of money as a rationale for
not paying down debt is an unsound practice.
What about taking cash out to pay off my
bills? Hey, if you want to risk foreclosure in an era when the home price
bubble can suddenly pop, that's your decision. But, I can't advise you to
do it. If you can take out enough cash to pay off a certain bill--for
example, a car loan--and then rearrange your finances so you are eliminating
a high-cost loan and then use the new cash flow to pay down your mortgage,
then this makes sense. But, taking out cash just so you can spend it or just
so you can pay off a credit card bill without correcting the behaviors that
made that bill large in the first place--that is pure folly.