Entries Tagged 'thoughts' ↓

Don’t give the hole away

You hear this a lot if you’re out on the golf course for an “easy” round of 18.  It’s meant for the short to medium length putts that have just enough break that you can’t just aim straight for the hole.  Typically you’ll over estimate the break and you’ll miss the putt badly because you played it outside of the hole.  Instead, you need to focus on how hard you hit it and aim just inside the edge of the hole, so that the ball can USE the gentle break and ease into the hole for your routine birdie.

It’s a simple reminder of a simple concept. Don’t overestimate the break and aim for the freaking hole.

It’s been a while since I’ve reminded myself to quit being stupid.  This is one of those moments.  You’re constantly facing small and medium sized decisions that aren’t going to have an exact clear path to an answer.  Of course this is especially true if your trying to build a business and your resources are extremely limited.  Your trying to maximize effort so that you’re hopefully adding value to the biz.  So when you’re a bit unsure of an answer to the current problem, or whether the problem even makes sense in the current context, go back to the ultimate goal and aim in that direction with your solution.

Go get it, and don’t give the hole away.

Changing Perceptions

Not the easiest thing in the world by any means, but I work on it a lot.

It’s almost certainly why I started writing.  It’s definitely why I quickly jump out of a conversation about software development (what I do and what I know) and into what your doing with your business and how your making it happen.  Probably directly into the challenges you faced trying to make it happen.

People always have a very limited view of who you are.  It’s inevitable.  Take steps to start making those perceptions different than they are.  It’s as simple as engaging a person you don’t normally talk to in something completely unrelated with what you do on a daily basis.  Figure out what they are doing and what their challenges are.  It’s going to make you better.

Most importantly, always be listening.  You’ll start hearing things you don’t agree with all over the place.  Then you can take your shots about what people are missing, which is where you’ll make your mark.

Choose Wisely

Market is going either up or down today, how should I play it?
Which direction should I turn for lunch, left, right, or straight?
What color should I paint my walls, blue, red, orange, or magenta?

More than anytime in your life, possibly in history, you are presented with choices in almost everything you do.  Its no different in business.  Customers are more squirrely than ever.  They want the latest thing yesterday and fads pass in an instant.

So how do you mitigate this choice risk?  Make small, marked decisions and don’t anticipate wildly far off into the future.  This sort of goes along with my views on  “Happy Path” development, but I think it goes deeper into business fundamentals.

Lay the groundwork for future business growth, but don’t build it out fully until the need is there. If you THINK you are going to have a nice niche in another space with what you’re doing now, great. Get revenue first, analyze your business metrics and whether it still makes sense, THEN start to tap into what might be in that other space.

Customers have choice, and its tough to forecast what they will choose tomorrow, much less next year.  Choice is also a behavior., and behavior’s are hard to change. So swim downstream by building incrementally and don’t anticipate years into the future. Whether your involved in a startup or work for a company, lay the groundwork for accomplishing the future, but be patient, smart and incremental in tackling things you think might be successful.

Skills, and Perceived Limitations

“What do you do?”

Nothing wrong with the question at all, but I immediately find it irrelevant to the overall make up of who I am.  Not to mention what I can accomplish. You should too.

Corporations, heck even smaller companies, all do one thing to you immediately.  Place a skill set label on you and immediately draw up what you CANNOT do. You write software? Well, you sure as sh@# can’t talk to customers or perspective clients. You handle customer issues/account problems, no WAY you have enough intellect to know how AWESOME and MAGICAL writing software is. You manage projects? It is physically impossible to understand the sheer VELOCITY of accrual-based accounting.  The list goes on and on.

This is no good. Its a fundamental flaw.  Lets all agree to throw these perceived limitations out the door.

My reasoning is simple. They’re silly.  For example, I understand how to read a balance sheet.  I invest my money in the market diligently. I network in the local community. I follow local and national companies to see where and how they are gaining ground in the market.  I look at business models to see if there is something there that is interesting or different. Yet by day, all I can do is write software and manage the technical side of a product.

My point here is not to brag at all about what I can do.  Not at all.  Hell, that’s really hard to do because I’m not all that smart. It’s to start looking at yourself with the ridiculous skill set that you bring to the table.  Just because you haven’t sold products doesn’t mean you can’t.  Not having tried something is not equal to not being able to do it.  STOP FOLLOWING ALONG WITH THESE PERCEIVED LIMITATIONS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO.

The faster we start to dispel these limitations, the quicker we all become more competitive in the marketplace.  I want to work with an army of skill-diverse, smart, empowered, employees working WITH me. Not ones with super specific skill set worried more about office politics than the end goals of the business.

So start believing in yourself and your skill set.  There is more there than you think.

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Power Of Two

I am probably the farthest thing from a political person you can find on the planet.  I try to follow as much as I can, but I will be the first to admit that I keep elections at arms length. I don’t know why I’m like this.  I take a super keen interest in all things financial, and usually care immensely about my personal bottom line.  Which is why I should be more involved in the candidates and their policy stances.

So here we are with just a couple of months until for the presidential election and I find myself grossly unprepared.  There is still some time for me to sort things out, but it’s unlikely I’ll fully get there.  I can already see the writing on the wall for this.  BOTH candidates are standing on firm footing, and promising tons of change.

Education is the name of the game in politics, and following the issues especially with the media spin and just limitless nature of people having a voice on the web, is tough.  So with my money, when I get into situations like this where filters are broken and EVERYONE has an opinion, I typically fall back on some sort of intelligence quotient.  I like to interact with smart people and get ideas from them, and help me see angles I don’t.  I would like to think that both candidates have some decent level of intelligence, but I can see where one camp really has the edge when it comes to this.  So that’s probably where I’m leaning with my vote.  When all else is equal, I like smart.

Just explaining where my mind will be in November if I can’t figure out where these two candidates REALLY stand, which is likely because that’s what politics is all about.  Smoke and mirrors.

A LOT of people would disagree with this logic and I’m OK with that.  Just tell me why I am wrong.

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Switching Gears

I’ve wrote about adding randomness to your routine here. Its amazing what it will add to your creativity. In that light, I figured why not delve into a follow up on a slightly similar theme. It’s about dealing with adversity, and the challenges of things that will never go away.

Look at it as a constant. There are things in life that are going to try and knock you off track. Those phone calls you get where your stomach turns over a bit. That deadline that is looming at work, but your stuck because you can’t get anyone to help you over the hump. That project that just isn’t what your interested in, so you procrastinate. These things will be there NO MATTER WHAT.

So what do you do in the face of turmoil? Meet it head on. Have that hard conversation. Stay level headed and ALWAYS step back and analyze before jumping rationally into a decision or argument. Its something I’m currently working on. I have always had a tendency to act irrationally, but step back and go, “why did I do or say it that? I could have done it better”. Well, now I’m into action.

I love the churn of chaos more than most people, just because I understand things aren’t perfect. As much as you think so and so (insert person here) is living the dream, they aren’t. Their problems are just a different set than yours.

So switch your gears and learn to deal with a bit of chaos. It’s everywhere.

How to Get There

Direction. Inspiration. Momentum.

People that know me know that I like to boil things down to their simplest aspects.  It might be because I’m slow or not quite as smart as the rest of us out there, but that’s not the point.  Direction, inspiration, and motivation as I see it, are the three things I need everyday to succeed.  You might disagree, and want to talk about being prepared and planning and all the rest of the things people tend to focus on.   To me, that’s missing the forest for the trees.  To clarify, here is a bit about each point.

The first aspect, Direction, is fairly simple.  There is no middle when you are working regardless of whether its for you or for someone else.  Business (and life for that matter) is full of choices.  You need to meet those choices head on, pick a direction and start moving.  The beauty in this strategy is that you can ALWAYS redirect yourself at a later point to adjust.  Your not just “stuck” going down a path.  Picking a direction just trains you to get moving.  The importance of this can’t be overlooked.

Inspiration is another straightforward thing, albeit a bit tougher to define.  We all need good reasons to get things done.  For me its more than good pay, although that is of utmost importance to make sure it is in line.  There needs to be someone or something getting you excited about what you are doing.  You might be making a widget that 1 person in the world will use, but if you FEEL inspired to make that widget then it will be made with extreme intensity and care.  Inspiration is around every corner and can be simple as a conversation with someone, or it can be as complex as complete this project and you might have a monetary bonus involved.  Finding ways to inspire should be on your list of things to accomplish if you want to be a leader instead of a follower.

Momentum is the final piece of the puzzle for me.  There are lots of reasons why I save this for last but it all really comes down to a single aspect.  Once you’ve picked your direction and gotten inspired, completing tasks will “feel” easier.  And with each completed item, you’ll get more and more excited seeing that finish line getting closer and closer.  It’s infectious.  It’s the part of the puzzle that when you look at your watch you can’t believe that 5 hours have passed.  That’s momentum.  Complete disregard for other things and serene focus.

In my mind, all three of these items need the other’s to succeed.  It’s not easy either.  Its work to get the first going, put the second in place, and then follow up with the third, but getting them to work together will all but seal the deal in a successful project.

So contact me. Talk to me about why I’m wrong.  Who knows, you might pick a side, find some encouragement, and start getting things done at an alarming rate.

Do You Really LIKE it?

If this question isn’t the most popular of all time, it has to be close: “How is your job going?”.

Inevitably the kosher answer to this question is, “It’s going good”.

Rarely do you get the outlier event of a person telling you how much they LOVE what they are doing.  And if they do tell you that, they probably are a bit disillusioned about what they are doing and their impact outside of their 4 walls.  (Don’t get me wrong here, there are people that are in this camp that are making a difference. They are also higher burnout candidates. People that will be crashing hard in several years.).  A bit more often you will get the other side of the coin.  It’s the people that tell you they really are having a hard time with their job.  They don’t like it for a myriad of reasons.

The boring “It’s going good” is something I try to avoid.  I’m always taking a side with such a question. Incidentally, it’s probably why my friends think I am a bit TOO opinionated.  Having an opinion is interesting. Being in the middle is easy.

So back to my central point.  If you are in the middle ask yourself “why?”.  What is it about your job that you find incredibly interesting.  What is it you DON’T like.

There is a really easy barometer for this if you have a hard time sorting those two things out. Do you easily forget details about aspects of your job?  Those are probably the things you don’t like.  The things you have to CONSTANTLY remind yourself of.  Write that stuff down and keep a list of it.  Don’t worry you probably already do. You have reminders set up to tell yourself to do it because you won’t naturally want or REMEMBER to.  That will make up your list of things to look for as negatives in your next career move.

This is just some quick and simple personal career and goal planning advice that I try to follow. It can really help immensely, because making career decisions is incredibly hard on either side of the “How is your job going?” question.  Being armed with REAL QUALITATIVE information will be fruitful.

What Your Missing in Managing

There isn’t a more frustrating thing in the world than dealing with management that doesn’t get it.  I know everyone fundamentally has some issue with someone in power at work above them, whether its their direct manager or being out of tune with someone above that lives in the clouds.

It’s only natural. It is like some crazy class system that has been adopted for capitalism.  It kind of makes sense to me, but the lines are getting super blurry as knowledge workers are starting to make up the lions share of the workforce in America.  The difference in skill sets between managers and their minions is getting ever so small.

So what are companies missing?  Why is it always tough to find good people, especially in middle management?

To me it’s simple.  Find people that others WANT TO FOLLOW.  It is a very natural thing for some people to lead. Its a whole different skill set than understanding technology or process or the rest of the underlying business principles.  Those are the skill sets that can be taught.  Having the ability to get others to WANT to follow you IS NOT.

I don’t care if someone has been at a company for 10 years and they work really super hard, and glow in the dark because they are so smart.  It DOES NOT translate into managing teams of people.  You are constantly going to be fighting resistance in these situations because in reality, you have never been a leader.  You have never been able to get several people going in the right direction and hitting on all cylinders and communicating. It’s a really hard thing to accomplish, don’t get me wrong, I do understand that.

So next time you are thinking that a person deserves to be managing because they are really good at their job, step back and give them a huge deserving raise to keep them around.  Take a hard look at them and see if people WANT to follow that person.  OR are they just BETTER at their job than others which deserves merit, but in a whole different way than promoting into managing.

Learn with Stupid (me)

In a world of never-ending lists, I figured why not make one of my own?  I am pretty sure, in the next 5-10 years, all writing whether it be factual or fictional will just be pages of lists.  That way everyone can read the first couple points on each page, make an incorrect inference, and form an opinion that misses the point of the list.  But I digress…

So for MY list, I wanted to lay out 4 concepts I am currently actively following while trading.  These are just loose concepts that help me follow some rules when I am making plays.  And yes it’s beginner crap, but its still stuff I didn’t know when I started adding portfolio positions.

1. Average INTO your positions. I used to just blanket plop down an allotted amount on a particular play, which is really dumb when you think about it. Averaging into a position helps smooth out that crazy volatility that you fight daily.  It also lets you think about whether your making a smart play if the primary or any other trend goes against you before you’ve put your chips in that basket.

2. Monitor your portfolio beta. If you don’t know what Beta is, look it up and learn about it.  Its simple to understand. Its a correlation of sorts to the S&P500 (really whatever underlying you want). If the S&P is going up or down, how is your money going to react.  REALLY helps you understand where you might be on a daily basis by taking a quick glance at the SPY.

3. Speculate smartly. It’s sort of an oxymoron to say something like that, but it’s important. Start to watch how stocks react to events. Ask yourself twice (or 3 times) if you want to go along with the trend of what the crowd is betting on.  I have been burned many a time on this.  Just overall be smart and play low limits when making these bets, that’s all I can say.

4. Sell insurance. I’m at the fledgeling point of my career in this, but I have added it as a tennant of my portfolio.  I have shaved off about 20% of my money to put to work in selling index spreads with defined risk. Its a complicated topic, but there is much to be gained by getting into this game.  It adds an income stream of some sort by collecting premiums from those that are hedging bets. No better way to define it.

So there you go, some of my stock trading principles. Be waiting with baited breath for my next list.