Should Old Acquaintance….


Welcome to 2019. Yes, 2019. The number you’ll be writing, just to the right of the crossed out 2018, on your checks for the next month.

It seems as though 2018 must have been a horrific year for a lot of people if you pay attention to their social media posts. Yes, the political landscape is a mess. Yes, your 401K has probably diminished in value. Yes, intolerance for fellow man appears to have hit a new low. But, let’s take a moment and take a breath.

Here are facts:

We only fear the unknown and we are hard-wired to be on the defense against such things. Our brains tell us to expect the worst case scenario and out come the claws. It’s nature. You’re not going to change your defensive mechanisms. But, you CAN choose to respond rather than react. A response requires thought. Reaction doesn’t. Just remember this; if your doctor tells you that you have a reaction to your medication, that’s bad. If they tell you that you are responding to it, that’s good. Choose good. Take time to consider how you will respond to life’s challenges. Politically, it seems as though many have forgotten that we have checks and balances in place to keep anyone from having too much power. Don’t feed the trolls. And don’t look at any one “news source” as being valid. It isn’t. It’s likely not a “news” source at all, but an editorial source. Read, listen and develop your OWN opinion based on the facts you can uncover. Own your feelings. You don’t need any of your Facebook friends to agree with you. Leave social media for sharing pictures of what you’re having for dinner and leave politics in front of the keyboard, not hiding behind it.

Your money. If you are fortunate enough to have a 401k, congratulations. If you’re not maxing it out every year, reset your priorities and get on track to take full advantage of either free matching funds, putting off taxes for a while or both. 401k’s are “play money”. The amount in your fund really doesn’t matter unless you’re ready to take it out. We’ve had one hell of a ride for the past few years and the last quarter of 2018 was likely just a taste of a correction that is on the way. We saw a 15% swing during that time-frame (mostly downward). But remember, if your 401k plan is worth its salt, you are buying all the time. It’s a type of “dollar cost averaging”. As long as you keep buying/investing/feeding the fund, you’ll buy at both highs and lows. The trend is and has always been positive. The market will rise and fall, but plot it for more than 15 years and take a look at the trend. It’s still the place to be and you haven’t lost a cent unless you cash it out at the wrong time. Talk to your plan administrator or a private money manager about your investments. Now is THE time so you can bolster or change your strategies for the entire year. Oh, and never borrow from your 401k for anything less than an absolute emergency.

Intolerance. How have we not learned anything? Tribalism. That’s where we are. It’s “us vs them”. The problem, though, is establishing who “us” and “them” really are. Rich vs poor? Blue collar vs white collar? Old vs young? Carnivores vs vegans? Smokers vs non? Gun owners vs non-gun owners? Black vs white? Male vs female? “The Wall” vs the Statue of Liberty? Democrat vs Republican vs……?

How in the world have we found so many things to hate about one another?

Tribalism” re-introduced itself into the mainstream in 2018 as “deep-thinking types” attempted to place a cause and a label on our division as a people.

Like it or not, we’re all in this together. Take a moment and listen to the other side. It’s tough. Why? Re-read my paragraph about defense mechanisms. We fear what we don’t know. This fear causes anxiety and poor decision-making (or worse yet, NO decision-making).

Learn about other people, groups, tribes and consider their thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t take long, but it’s incredibly difficult to open ourselves to the unknown. While there is safety in numbers, you really don’t have to be part of a group. That is ingrained in us from birth, certainly solidified in our school years and continues in our social and work lives as adults. We want to belong. But that “belonging” has its downside. It’s isolating and it holds us back from learning, sharing, tolerating and caring better for ourselves and one another.

Happy New Year.

Today. Without it, there is no tomorrow.

Today.

Let me preface this by saying three things; First, I’m uncomfortable sharing deeply personal information.  Second, this is not written in search of sympathy nor attention. Third, it’s unapologetically long.

I am writing this because I shared my story with a friend and he said our conversation was going to change the way he looked at his day.  If it perhaps does the same for you, then it’s worth the share.

I’m a relatively healthy, middle-aged guy that works out, likes a steak and a cocktail and prefers brown food (fried) to anything colorful (vegetables).  While I once smoked, it was over half a lifetime ago and is a non-factor in my health.

On my birthday in July, I worked a half day and came home early as my wife had planned a wonderful dinner, complete with my annual treat of her red velvet cake.  As I walked through the house I stopped and told her I didn’t feel well.  Just a non-specific thing with a little sharp pain in my chest. You know the one;  It gets your attention for a minute and then you burp and laugh at the fact that you even gave it a thought.  She told me to relax and unwind as she prepared to fire up the grill.  A hand-crafted old fashioned to kick things off, followed by filet mignon, a sea-salt crusted baked potato, roasted corn on the cob (OK, some color is good) and all the “fixings”.  And of course, the red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.  My momentary uneasiness had melted into smiles, laughter and a wonderful evening.

The following day, the same feeling swept over me, only this time it was accompanied by pain in my jaw and some mild discomfort in my left arm.  I popped a couple of baby aspirin and went out to do a quick errand.   I stopped by a “doc in a box” to see if I could get an EKG to put my mind to rest (as opposed to doing what I really should have done in the first place). While the results were normal other symptoms were not, so we headed to the ER.

Poked, prodded, x-rayed and inspected, I was told an overnight stay was appropriate.  The next day a battery of tests were done, capped off with a treadmill stress test.  9.5 minutes into it and at a 15% incline, the cardiologist asked if I ran marathons.  Hardly.  But, apparently many people in my age group don’t make it anywhere near that long as they attempt to hit their max heart rate.  He said that my cardiac fitness was outstanding, that my blood sugar was elevated but otherwise I was to be sent home.  While back in the room preparing to leave I had another bout of minor chest pain.  This time, they popped a nitro tab under my tongue and we’re off for a CT of my heart.

My timing was on point, as had I not experienced that “episode” in my room, I’d have just been on my merry way back home for more cake and perhaps another old fashioned.

By this time it was late and I was told that I was spending another night.  The cardiologist would be by in the morning.

My wife showed up bright and early to be there when the cardiologist would most certainly me that (hopefully) it was all in my head and I should go home and enjoy my Sunday.  It didn’t quite work out that way.

The doctor walked into the room, stood there without batting an eye and bluntly said, “you have coronary artery disease”.

My wife’s face was ashen, exposing a mix of shock and fear.  I told the doctor that he would have to repeat himself and go into detail because “she’s going to need to absorb all of this information.”

But what about that heart of a runner?  The 9.5 minutes on the treadmill?  The hour that I can nail on the elliptical at home?  This didn’t make sense.

After he told us that the damage was widespread he narrowed the focus to the Left Anterior Descending artery, commonly known as the “widow maker”.  This one was the one responsible for most deaths from cardiac events.  The icing on the cake (sugar-free and non-fat, of course) was that the narrowing was due to “soft” plaque.  We learned that “soft” plaque is more likely to slough off and cause stroke and heart attack.  “Hard” plaque is the better of the two and responds more favorably to angioplasty and stents to open and retain flow in the passageways.  The same treatment on the “soft” type is a higher risk because of the flaking and traveling throughout the bloodstream.

The cardiologist described the cocktail of meds that I would be on as they work to quell further damage and blockage of the LAD.  He also told me of the significant lifestyle change on which I was about to embark.

Finally, he explained to me that my “heart of a runner” and my cardiovascular conditioning was what had kept me alive.  His counsel was to continue exactly what I was doing; 5-7 days per week for an hour of work on an elliptical machine.

Armed with a folder full of prescriptions and our heads full of fear and questions, we headed home with a quick stop at CVS to spend some quality time with our new best friends in the pharmacy.

For the next week, my wife wouldn’t tear herself away from the Internet (oh, Lord) and books.  She needed to save me.  Feed me the right things.  Support me in every way she could.  Zero cholesterol.  Low fat.  Little to no saturated fats.  Cheese is gone.  Fried food is gone.  Red meat is gone.  So, I guess the habit of lining up Triscuits and adorning them with hard salami and cheese made for a bad snack.

An interesting dietary point here; if you’re not eating fats, it’s a damned chore to eat enough to support life!  I eat smallish meals all day and really can’t eat more, yet I struggle to net 1,500 calories a day after a workout.  Great for weight loss I suppose, but wow.

(Just moments ago, my son-in-law and grandson met the Pizza Hut driver at the door and paid him for their dinner.  I flipped him the bird. He knows the truth…I miss him dearly.)

About a week into this new way of living, I was going through my pictures on my phone and was somehow surprised that all the pictures I’d posted of outstanding food and drink had perhaps contributed to today’s issue.  Nope, I wasn’t eating well.  Wait, I was eating VERY well, just not healthy.

So, here we are 6 weeks past my birthday and what have I learned? 

First, I learned that I only thought I knew everything about my wife.  I didn’t.  Not even close.  The level of caring, compassion and love that I’d seen from her for nearly 15 years was just the surface.

I’ve learned that TODAY is the day.  Today is the day to embrace and live to its fullest.

I’ve learned that while allowing everything into my life on this day, that I need to continue with my sights on tomorrow.  Put in the hard work to be strong, healthy, have the amount of money it takes to be fully engaged in life, not in the circuses that surround life.

I’ve learned that social media can be a cesspool and often is. While my livelihood somewhat depends on it, it’s sometimes ugly.  Idiots hide behind keyboards.  The ones that claim to know so much frankly are lucky to tie their own shoes.

I’ve learned to not care if I get the approval of others.  If you truly care about me, you’ll care for me even when you don’t approve. If you don’t, I don’t have time in my life for you.  I am blessed with amazing family and friends and I love them all.

I’ve learned that a healthy lifestyle doesn’t suck if your goal is to live long and truly enjoy the gifts with which you’ve been blessed.

I’ve learned to use a different measuring stick for my success.

I’ve learned that I was right about the people that I thought sucked in my life.  They do suck, yet I made excuses for them to others, my family and myself.  No mas.

I’ve learned that second opinions matter when it comes to your health and legal matters.  Question everything, become informed and do your best with that information.

I’ve learned that the Mayo Clinic is the medical version of badass.

I’ve learned that people waste a lot of money sending me offers for life insurance these days. Just stop and save a tree.

I’ve learned that I actually own four 10mm sockets and they’re all part of their respective sets.  I’ll be damned.

I’ve learned that new friends are around every corner if you are honest with them, allow them into your life and expect nothing.

I’ve learned that millennials are proof positive that parents can and do fail.

I’ve learned that people are stunned at true customer service.  On one hand. that allows me to continue to build a thriving business.  On the other, it is a shame that people’s expectations have been forced to be so low.  It ain’t lip-service, kids.  You must walk the walk.

I’ve learned that peanut butter is really, really bad for you.  Dammit.

I’ve learned that not drinking alcohol was as easy as quitting smoking was for me some 35 years ago.  That said, smoking made me stink and feel like crap.  Ketel One with Maytag blue cheese stuffed olives makes me chill and feel just fine.  Guess which one I will partake of in moderation in the future.

I’ve learned that you can just say “I quit” when you’re the President of the HOA and not feel guilty about it.  At all.  It’s called de-stressing your life.  I wasn’t your employee, people.  I was a volunteer.  Treat those remaining with respect.  Nobody owes you squat.

I’ve learned that “whole grain” on the label doesn’t mean squat.

I’ve learned that somehow, through some chemical miracle, Morningstar Farms developed a meatless corndog that is the next best thing to getting one from the booth at the county fair.  Of course, whatever those chemicals are will probably kill me, too, but I’ll go to my Maker with a belly full of delicious corndogs.

I’ve learned that in mid-life, you can actually need to buy smaller clothes instead of larger ones. I understand that this is a rite of passage for those 80+ years of age, but it’s kinda cool now.  Down 15 in 6 weeks while trying to stuff myself and no Keto diet (you do know that crap will ultimately kill you, right?)

I’ve learned (confirmed) that my wife is addicted to Costco and Amazon.  I’m guessing her trips to Costco will be shorter now.  She’s playing along with my diet which means she can no longer visit the little old ladies holding court at every intersection in the store as they hawk their samples of cranberry-infused goat cheese.

I’ve learned that, in general, people in the south truly are gracious and respectful.

I’ve learned that Music Choice on cable kicks Sirius/XM’s ass in every possible way.  Mobile apps allow me to stream my Xfinity Music Choice at the office, in the car/truck or whatever.  Better music and none of the gawd-awful audio (lack of) quality that curses satellite delivered music.

I’ve learned that most politicians are morons because they assume we are the same.

I’ve learned that 576 is a really freaking high triglyceride level.  By the way, I have historically been in the 75-90 range.

I’ve also learned that when it’s that high, they can’t even compute the LDL side of your cholesterol level.  I always felt like being in that 190 to 210 total range was OK because my HDL/LDL ratio was awesome due to elevated HDL from working out a lot.  That only works to a point.  Yup, 576 is WAY high.

I’ve learned that sometimes genetics suck.

You know why I’ve learned all this in the past 6 weeks?  Because I’ve learned to fully embrace TODAY. To get up in the morning and take the time to sit in a chair for about 15 minutes and just absorb it all.  The sounds, the smells, the feel of the air as it surrounds me.  I know, sounds a little zen, huh?  I suppose it is.

I allow myself the time to more completely realize the good that is in my life.  I was heading to a doctor’s appointment yesterday morning and had to take a road that is riddled with construction traffic and backups.  Six weeks ago I would have let it bother me.  It did yesterday, for about 5 seconds.  Then I smiled and turned up the music and went along for the ride with Creedence.

TODAY.  It’s important. I know you’ve heard it a thousand times…”there’s no guarantee of tomorrow”.  Yeah, while that’s true, we all have to prepare for tomorrow, even if it’s one day at a time.

Tell someone you care about them.  Tell your loved ones something they may not know about you!  LISTEN to others.  LIVE the day, don’t just let it go by.  And remember to plan for tomorrow.  For if we don’t, we’ll run out of “todays”.

Thanks for reading.

Analysis Paralysis (And the Need for Consensus)

“Imperfect action beats inaction every time.”Harry S. Truman

Thanks (or no thanks) to the Internet, a world of information is at our fingertips 24/7.  Yesterday, I asked a friend for some suggested reading on Photoshop and his immediate answer was “You Tube”.  How many different answers do you supposed I’d received had I posed that same question on FaceBook?

As someone with nearly 4 decades of research and analysis experience, I can tell you that when you are trying to pinpoint an answer you’ll find exponentially more data to support what you shouldn’t do than what you should.  In fact, many successful products and services are the result of the culling of negatives more so than an artful assembly of positives.  Most people know what they don’t want; few know what they do.

Today, we can research everything from doctors to cars to coffee and get literally thousands of opinions from people “just like us”.  Looking for a quick bite to eat?  Yelp serves up menus, reviews and driving directions in less than 60 seconds.

We have information available to us on virtually any subject every second of every day.  So much that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to know what is and isn’t correct.  The one overwhelmingly prevalent theme that I have noticed is that most positive reviews or recommendations are for the product or service that a given user has already decided to purchase.  While this is certainly logical, as the purchase of the item puts it in the hands of the consumer, it also poses a “chicken or egg” question.   Are they recommending it because they’d done their own homework, bought it and truly like it over another?  Or, are they simply trying to feel better about what they bought by seeing if others agree?  The Search for Consensus.  (Consider this.  Go read reviews.  You’ll see the same trend and it definitely leans toward the justification theory.)  Rarely will a consumer publicly admit that they made a mistake in their purchase.

Analysis Paralysis.  We become so engulfed in information and obsessed by the need to do the “right thing” that we often do nothing at all; at least not in the time in which it was needed.

At some point we have to just make the decision to do something, anything and at the end of the day it will be our gut that makes the final call. If we’re wrong, we have a lesson from which to make a different, better decision the next time.  If we’re right, great.  Weren’t we smart?

When researching a subject, whether it be Photoshop skills or a new coffee, set a time limit on your efforts.  It’s simply too easy to become distracted by the overload of information or by the other “squirrels” in life.  Do your work, reach your limit and make a decision.

If your decision proves to be wrong, so be it.  Don’t beat yourself up over it. Learn from it.  Share with others and move on to the next one.

What do you think?

BJ

 

Sidenote:

Our sister company, VENOMOUS TUNING, sees folks everyday looking for consensus for “what tuner do I use for my GT500?”  They’re not going to find it.  There are large companies that do a good job, but can’t take the time to actually speak to the customers.  Companies that simply have outgrown their internal resources and can’t keep up with the workload and the experience is riddled with disappointment (who wants to wait for weeks on a tune that you just paid for?)  And don’t forget a smattering of little guys that just so happen to own a dyno.  The last thing they “tooned” was a 1999 Subaru but they own a dyno.

Venomous Tuning offers a one-on-one experience for every customer.  We do it by limiting the number of clients we’ll accept.  We’re a few dollars more expensive than the other guys but you’ll get a complete, hands-on custom tune not a “this has always worked” approach.  And, you’ll talk to me.  On the phone, not a helpdesk.

When you’re ready for a completely different level of customer experience, call us at 352-800-4407

CLICK HERE FOR THE VENOMOUS TUNING WEBSITE

Low Tech Thinking in a High Tech World.

Low Tech Thinking in a High Tech World

Over the past couple of weeks, I’m sure you’ve taken a closer look at the invasive technical world in which we live.  The grilling of Mark Zuckerberg by Congress should be eye-opening to us all. Is Alexa really spying on you?  Does your phone hear what’s going on around you 24/7? What about your connected car or truck?

The lack of knowledge by Congress on how social media operates, much less the technical side, is laughable.  While digging for the smoking gun of Cambridge Analytica, the process pulled back the curtain that hides just a portion of the dark side of our insatiable appetite for seamless connectivity.

As I reviewed highlights of Q&A from the proceedings, our collective ignorance of the processes and the repercussions of our need for instant gratification spoke volumes to me.  We wonder how in the world such breeches in security can possibly happen.  How we see ads pop up for items and services we were just talking about.  Who is the Gatekeeper and who is going to protect us from ourselves?

Recently, my wife was “window shopping” from her laptop.  At that moment, an ad for the same company popped up on the sidebar of my browser on MY laptop that was on a table across the room.  In a split second, I had been served an ad based upon my wife’s browsing from the same IP address.  No big deal, unless she had been looking for a gift for me!  Seriously though, there is a privacy policy attached to just about everything on the Internet (don’t worry, our website doesn’t sell or offer your information to anyone for any reason).  Nobody reads the fine print.  Or the large print.  If you need a calculator on your phone, you quickly pull it down from your app store and use it.  The app store has a privacy policy.  As does Google or Apple.  As does the app you downloaded.  Oh, and it also asked for access to your location, your contacts, your phone, your camera and the list goes on.  It’s all there, yet it’s ignored for the sake of that immediate gratification.  Here’s a little suggestion; don’t EVER play the online “games” and “personality quizzes”.

We recently bought a new truck.  It’s as connected as any vehicle I’ve ever seen.  It has its own hotspot available (though I’m not sure why I’d subscribe since I can do the same thing with my phone).  It’s a Ford, so it has Sync 3, which still can’t understand and obey simple commands, but that was expected.  It can connect to my phone via Bluetooth or USB.  And guess what!  There are pages upon pages of Disclaimers and End Use Licensing Agreements in the manual. In fact, pages 586-611 are nothing but that.  Did you know you had an End User License Agreement for your navigation system?  After all, they know where you are.

We don’t think about the impact of today’s technology.  We simply revel in it.  We hop in the car, turn it on and we’re on our merry way while surrounded by monitoring devices.

Yesterday, I received a letter from State Farm explaining to me how I could save 5% on my car insurance and perhaps even more if I would simply subscribe to their new service.  The service includes plugging a device into the OBDII port on my car so the company can monitor my activities and usage of the vehicle.  Have you ever received a letter from an insurance company that upped your rates because they found out you were putting more miles on the car than you had thought you would?  How did they find out?  They buy lists from the automobile companies, oil change stores, tire stores, online stores where you pop in your make/model/year and miles to do a little browsing.  I’m sure State Farm would love to see my trip to the race track and my top speed in a very short distance!  They could, if I was willing to save 5% on my premiums by plugging them into my OBDII port. Sorry, that port is busy.

The fact is that WE are the Gatekeepers.  If we truly need (not just want) all this technology at our fingertips, there is a price to pay.  And the true price is just beginning to be unveiled.  The next time you see the permissions popping up when you add an app, just say no and see what happens.  If you can’t get in, ask yourself if you really needed it.  Either way, the price of technology hardware and software is plummeting and the price and impact on our lives is skyrocketing.

Be safe.

Mental Health Awareness. It’s important to you.

Mental Health Awareness and Its Importance in Your Life

This blog isn’t a feel-good, a “how to” for better business practices or random ramblings.  This one is about a critical issue in our world that robs so many of us of friends, families, love, hopes and dreams.

Much is said about mental health in post-crisis situations.   Whether it’s trying to make sense of an act of terrorism, someone taking their own life or yet another act of senseless violence, those of us left behind do our best to cope.

We discuss what may have been going through the hearts and minds of those involved.  But in the end, none of us, not even mental health professionals, know what took these people to their respective points of no return.

It’s clear to most that those who inflict terror, pain and death upon others are riddled with internal conflicts and demons.  This is a major part of the ongoing debate over mass killings and gun control.  At the risk of creating yet another such debate, I will just state that my personal belief is that very few people are “born evil”.  I believe that it is a state of mind that builds through life’s experiences. I also don’t believe that the color of a weapon matters.  People who want to take another’s life will do so regardless of the tool.

This is but one of the facets of how mental health impacts our lives.  Important, no question, but how many people suffer through other levels of mental and emotional illness that no one is aware of until we lose one of them?

Write this number down now.  (800) 273-8255.  That is the number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.   (800) 273-TALK.

President Trump is calling for more action about mental health issues. Congress is looking into a bill creating a simple 3-digit mental health and suicide hotline. In a time of despair, the act of dialing 3 numbers is a lot simpler and more intuitive than remembering (800) 273-8255.  And while “TALK” is a good way to remember it, this becomes an unnecessary struggle to someone in immediate need of help.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. 

There is a free 24/7 support TEXT line for people in need.  The Crisis Text Line number is 741741.  Take a minute now and add it to your Contacts in your phone.  Make sure your kids know about it.  Have them create a Contact.  Mention it in your social media postings.

Two million people called the crisis line in 2017.  According to CNN that is up from 1.5 million in 2016 and in January of 2018, the year to year total for the month was up 60 PERCENT! 

As I said, this isn’t a feel good or a business tips blog.  It’s a “be aware and help your fellow human being” blog.

I am a fan, participant and member of a large brother/sisterhood of auto enthusiasts.  We lost one of our own this week and the outpouring of love, pain and confusion regarding this man’s taking of his own life is sobering.

“D” was loved and respected by many.  He was a racer, a custom calibrator, a bona-fide gearhead and a friend to just about everyone.  I didn’t know him personally, but his touch is forever imprinted on so many lives.

Facebook is electric with notes of “but I just texted him yesterday”, “we were just laughing about……”.  With so many friends and so much going on in his life, what could have made him choose a permanent answer to what was likely a short-term problem?  That is the issue.  No one will likely ever know.  The questions will remain and haunt those that loved him.  The reactions from friends are normal; they’re pissed off, they’re hurt and confused.  What a selfish act, right?

It certainly seems that way to those of us that he left behind, but this is where greater knowledge for all of us can come into play.    Read, listen, learn.  Use this loss as a catalyst to dive into the processes and become more a part of the lives of the ones we love.  There are too many disruptive forces (read: Internet and smartphones, in particular) that keep us from being truly present in our own lives and in those of whom we love.

I personally lost a son-in-law to suicide.  He had lost a job and had spent months lying to his family about “going to work” every day.  As the lies became thicker and the money became thinner, he was about to be “outed”.  He had been prescribed meds by a “family friend” physician for years without having any updated evaluations.  SOMEONE knew he hadn’t been going to work.  SOMEONE knew he was in trouble.  Yet, NO ONE said anything to his wife who was left behind with a new baby girl.

Someone in your life could be having issues that they are afraid of or too embarrassed to share.  This doesn’t mean that we all need to be on constant alert for signs of something wrong.  What is means is that this is a reminder that we all need to spend some time away from the distractions and pay attention to things that matter.  Learning about mental health.  Knowing the signs of pending trouble.  Reaching out.  Being in the moment so when someone does look for a lifeline that you’re able to recognize it.

This is for “D”.  I didn’t know you personally.  But I know the difference you made in the lives of so many.  Sadly, you didn’t know just how important you really were.  So, I honor your life by writing this blog today.  And if just one person reads it and decides to be more present in life, then you’ve touched another soul.

God Speed.

Please keep these links available for someone in your life:

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/suicidal-behavior

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/

https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Know-the-Warning-Signs

https://afsp.org/

The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point.  We all reach it and at the point in which we do, we initiate change. Think about the times you’ve reached The Tipping Point in your life. Did it cause a shift in lifestyle, a job or perhaps a relationship?

Thinking about those times, can you identify the signs that you’d reached your personal Tipping Point?  More importantly, did you see it coming?  In hindsight, it’s generally clear to us as to when things got to the point where change had to happen.  But, how can we take more control and respond more proactively?

There is the theory that The Tipping Point occurs when the pain of the status quo becomes greater than the feared potential pain from change. Let’s briefly examine a couple of examples-

Sadly, it sometimes comes at a life or death moment such as a heart attack.  If the habits leading up to The Tipping Point included the eating the wrong foods, a lack of exercise and a stressful lifestyle, it is not hard for us to draw the line from A to B.

Now, let’s look at another widespread habit, procrastination.  To some, procrastination can be used as a catalyst.  You’ve given your task marginal thought, been sidetracked by more pressing matters and you’ve known about the deadline.  However, you’ve not made any strides toward completion of the project.  Suddenly, The Tipping Point arrives.  You know in an instant that you must accomplish the task immediately. The pain and discomfort of doing it are far less the consequences of not doing so.

Unfortunately, in both cases, your best work isn’t being done.  You can’t completely un-do the effects of a poor lifestyle. You may live through The Tipping Point and go on to lead a long life, but it won’t be all that it could have been.  In the example of procrastination, The Tipping Point may well have lighted a fire under your tail, but did you give the task the thought and consideration that it really deserved?  Did you consider alternatives?  Is your plan the best it can be?

If you only consider today, I suppose simply making it through The Tipping Point is enough.  After all, you survived a heart attack.  You met your task deadline and the boss never knew that you could have possibly done much better work. Isn’t that enough?

Isn’t that what they tell us to do?  Carpe Diem?  If we worry about tomorrow, how can we live life to its fullest today?  Right there, my friends, is the fly in the ointment.

If your life, love, or business feels good today why should you consider change for tomorrow? Why make the effort and face the uncertainties of change?  Because you haven’t reached The Tipping Point. But you will. 

Just because things seem wonderful today doesn’t mean that they will be tomorrow or in the more distant future.  So, I am going to propose is something to you that is incredibly difficult.  I propose that you step back and take a granular look at your status quo.

Whether you like it or not, examine the factors that have been in play and helped get you where you are today.  It’s hard work.  It will take some time and guidance, otherwise you will likely get off track and will not find what you are seeking.  Identify those forces and situations and consider how you can build on or eliminate them.

You can be responsive and delay your Tipping Point or you can be reactive and play ‘’catch up’’ after the fact.

Do the hard work, even though it doesn’t look necessary.  After all, if the status quo feels good and you are living “for the day”, imagine how amazing the next days could be if you had prepared for and expected them to be even better.

What is your Tipping Point and how are you preparing for it?

Venomous Consulting can help guide you through all these processes.  We are specialists in examining today, uncovering a greater tomorrow and assisting you in building your own road map toward your future.   Call us today and let’s talk about your Tipping Point.

(352) 800-4407

Thanks for reading.

BJ

 

-For additional resources and thoughts, I suggest picking up a copy of Malcom Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.  I read it nearly 20 years ago and while many of the examples may seem dated, the basics will always hold true.

ISBN 0-316-31696-2

Another look at the 80/20 Rule.

I’ve sold things since I was a kid.  Lemonade, newspapers, my services as a lawn mowing entrepreneur, you name it….if it had value I turned it into cash. And, although I was in a town of 5,000 people, I was lucky enough to have a neighbor that was a local business owner.  Herschel took great pride in sharing his secrets of his success with me and although it probably didn’t seem like it at the time, I really was listening.

Looking back, I don’t really recall him using the term 80/20 Rule per se, but he did instill in me the basic premise that you need to take really good care of those that make up the bulk of your sales success.

Over the years, the Rule has become yet another overused and under-actioned buzz phrase bantered about by business coaches (including your’s truly, but I DO insist that it be used and taken very seriously).  While I don’t think about the actual term often, I do use it daily.  I also take keen notice of those who do not, which brings me to the subject of this Venomous Consulting Performance Blog.

There are two methods by which to increase sales.  Go deep or go wide.  Going deep simply means that you fish where there are fish.  You know your market, you have already sold them something and you keep mining that segment with offers of more, better, updated, etc. goods and services.  Going wide is a literal expansion of your client base.  Speaking to those to whom you’ve never communicated in hope of building a larger clientele.  The latter makes sense as it serves to replenish your base as it faces natural attrition.  But, doesn’t the former speak directly to the 80/20 Rule?  Doesn’t 80 percent of your success come from 20 percent of your customers?  Aren’t they your “frequent fliers”?  The answer is……Balance.  Your marketing is an expanse of shifting sand and if you are successful, you navigate with responsiveness rather than reaction. You see the sands moving before you get there.  You bob and weave, yet take the most direct line to riches.

Why this subject today?  Because I am experiencing one of the most blatant examples of what NOT to do as I sit here in a vacation condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.  You see, I “bit” and bought a timeshare about 20 years ago at a place in Mexico that I frequented for diving.  Long story short, it became a part of the Wyndham conglomerate.  So now, not only have I mentally amortized my initial outlay over a 20 year period but I am also slammed with ever-increasing “maintenance fees” that actually equal the cost of the timeshare.

Where is this going?  Remember, the 80/20 Rule in its purest form says that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clientele.

As a timeshare owner, you ARE that 20 percent.  You are the frequent fliers.  You are the users of the product and/or service.  That makes you the potential greatest marketing asset in the world to the company.  You can be a disciple. You are a living, breathing Yelp, Google, Expedia, TripAdvisor review.  After all, who doesn’t read reviews these days?

But rather than being treated as a VIP when you walk into a Wyndham property, you are subjected to treatment worse than if you simply showed up with a Priceline reservation. Again, owners have laid down a ton of money to have preferred access to a resort or line of resorts at which they are comfortable and happy.

At Wyndham resorts, timeshare OWNERS are met at the front desk with a cheerful, helpful representative who gets them a key, a smile and points them to Hell for your parking pass. Hell is the desk where they hold your parking pass hostage while putting on a full court press for you to submit to an ”informational breakfast” so they can “update you on all the great new things” at the resort and with the company.

OK, so not unlike 90% of people, I travel to get to one of these destinations.  Planes, trains and automobiles….packing, people, hunger, general grumpiness are all part of the process.  So, the ONLY thing I care about is getting my stuff to my room and putting my feet up while looking at the ocean.  The LAST think I want is to be sold something that I don’t care about.  Most certainly not NOW!  Leave me alone! And I am absolutely, positively not buying more timeshare points or weeks.  Not from you, not ever.

Let’s take a page from one of the world’s greatest marketing and imaging companies; The Walt Disney Company.  They have timeshares. But, I guarantee you that no one hammers you to go to an informational breakfast, cocktail event, whatever in an effort to sell you anything upon arrival.  It just won’t happen.  What they will do is welcome you, make you feel incredibly valued and assure that you are soon going to be enjoying the Happiest Place on Earth (a Disney mark so I’d better mention that).  Now in a couple of days, after being pampered and treated like you mean something to them, they will very likely slide into a gentle sales mode.  Not a bad thing because they’ve made you love it and you may even want more of a good thing.  That’s the selling deep part.  But, they always sell wide as well.  They want you to be that spokesperson for them.  They give YOU incentives to spread the gospel according to Mickey.

Have you identified your 20 percent?  If you haven’t, you must do so and should do it immediately.  Think of ways to reward them for no particular reason at all.  Surprise them with something to link your company to a good feeling.  Don’t ask for anything in return.  Just let them know you value them.  After you have built that relationship with them, feel free to reward them again for spreading the word about you to their friends and colleagues.  They are Google and Amazon reviews on steroids.  Nurture them and understand that it will be a constant flow of people in and out of that 20 percent level.

Consider how you can move your next 30 percent of your clientele into the top level.  Work that plan.  You’ll be rewarded by the results of some, disappointed at others.   Reap the benefits of the ones that move up and respectfully move the others down the totem pole so you have room for more.

The 80/20 Rule is nothing more than a reminder that business is a constantly moving, living thing. What are you going to do in the next 10 days to breathe some fresh life into your plan.

Oh, and thanks Herschel.  I really did hear you.

 

bj

 

The View From Detroit (and why it matters NOW!)

Did you hear that?  It sounded like a sonic boom!  And the sky lit up!  Was it the meteor or was it the kick off of the North American International Auto Show?

Unlike other auto shows throughout the country and the year, the Detroit show is a full two weeks long because it is the showcase for the manufacturers to present their latest on the World’s Stage.  Week one of the event is dedicated primarily to the press.  From releases to sneak peeks to full-blown reveals, it is the time when the media gathers their facts, figures and high-rez assets and race to the Internet to be the first to publish.  It’s an exciting (and scary) time for auto dealers, supplying vendors, engineers and designers.

And CEOs.

It’s no secret that technology has presented us with transportation options that we couldn’t have dreamed of a mere decade ago.   Lightweight components, better crash protection, power-per-liter that is mind-numbing and all the while holding price points that are for lower than what the technology should garner. So, how will the OEMs align the cost of all this technology with pricing that is acceptable to the consumer as well as offer value to the company and its shareholders?

A few observations from week one of the show:

WHY IT MATTERS

Trucks.  Trucks.  And more trucks.  New (or at least highly updated) offerings from General Motors and FCA (generally Dodge/Ram in this case),

Ford’s worst kept secret ever hits the stage in the form of the all new Ranger.  The Bronco is still on the horizon and when/if it arrives it will be based on the Ranger.  That should be interesting with all the push-back on EcoBoost technology by “purists”.  The rumblings of a “real” car, truck, SUV needing a ‘Murican V8 will continue.

In spite of the fact that these are the latest and greatest truck offerings in history, the Big 3 are already deeply discounting vehicles or financing or both.  What happened to the days of exciting, new cars and trucks driving consumers into showrooms with stars in their eyes and their wallets straining to burst open with cash?  Great for the potential consumer, not so great for everyone involved with selling cars for a living.

Electric Avenue.  In case you haven’t noticed, Elon Musk has set the automotive industry on its heels.  While the Model 3 is experiencing major teething problems, both on the manufacturing and consumer sides, it has put the other OEMs on notice that this technology is not only real, but it’s already here.  And if they’re not already deeply inside the circle, they’re playing catch up.  And if you think convention is balking at EcoBoost technology, just wait until Ford teases the rumored Mustang Hybrid.  There was quite the buzz this week about an electric or hybrid SUV adopting the Mach 1 moniker!  In any case, electric is here and it’s going to be put into overdrive in the next five years. That’s great news for new life in the industry, a hard pill to swallow by the masses and presents an entirely new set of challenges (read: OPPORTUNITIES!!) for the automotive aftermarket. Shameless plug time; If you’re in the automotive aftermarket and you haven’t thought much about how you’re going to capitalize on this quantum leap, we need to talk.  Venomous Consulting can help you navigate these new waters.  They’re vast and they hold many treasures.

OTHER STUFF

From across the “pond”.

The truck-fest continues as does Mercedes-Benz’ model of blessed excess, the 2019 G-Class SUV.  From its size that allows it to stand toe-to-toe with a Hummer to the interior cavernous enough to hold a high school dance, M-B has taken this aging beast back to finishing school.  Since far more of these babies cruise suburban streets than do spend a minute offroad, the focus was on creature comforts like a video monitor the size of a small laptop.  Oh, and there’s a new droptop version (sort of) that looks from the side looks like a mutant Subaru Brat.

The 2019 Acura RDX offers a yet another ransom note of angles with a new front end, yet a smoother, more pleasing side view.  Loaded with high tech, it will no doubt be another top choice of the “you’ll never find me in a mini-van” crowd.  Connectivity is king as an Android-based system is on board. Has the Apple lost some of its luster these days?

The bulk of the other import offerings, at least thus far into the pre-stages of the show, are centered around sporty, edgy, high tech coupes.  Infiniti, Hyundai, BMW and more are sticking with the high zoot tactic, whether visually or virtually.  BMW touts its new Apple-based system as a multi-function gadget but the question is, will they force you into an annual Apple subscription to use all it’s capabilities?  We shall see.

SIGHTINGS

We can’t help wondering if Ford took a page from the iPhone Book of Missteps when they introduced an iconic flashback (the Bullitt, complete with a showing of one of the long, lost Mustangs from the movie and Steve McQueen’s granddaughter piloting the newest incarnation).  Then, within 48 hours launched a CGI video of the Unicorn itself, the new Shelby GT500!  Just yesterday it was released that both sellers and suppliers have deep concerns about orders of the iPhone 8 and 8+ going into 2018.  Why?  Because no sooner did they release it than they unveiled the iPhone X!  It is the zenith of shoot your self in the foot marketing strategies.  So, could Ford perhaps given this some forethought?  The GT500 is an exercise on paper at this point.  In fact, rumors had it dead in the water as recently as a month ago.  But, a new deal with Shelby American allowed the marque breathing room, at least for another year.  While the excitement of 700+ horsepower, coupled with the promise of a corner-carving chassis is appealing (and it most certainly took the torch out of the hand of the Bullitt), the price of admission will likely separate the two quite nicely.  Estimates have the Bullitt in the 50k range and the GT500 north of 70k.  Makes sense as a loaded Mustang GT will sticker for $50,000 all day long.

On the polar opposite side of the Blue Oval, we congratulate Lincoln (yep, Lincoln) for scoring the North American Truck of the Year for 2018 with it’s all new Navigator urban assault vehicle.  It’s a whopper but it’s a beautiful one.

We’ll have more from the North American International Auto Show throughout the weekend.  The Black Tie sneak is tonight and we’ll have fun poking around with pinkies out.

ONE FINAL NOTE

I spent 20 years of my life in Chicago.  90% of it in the Loop.  It’s always fun to watch movies and tv shows being filmed there.  It’s just as much fun to watch them on the screen.  It was very cool to watch the Bullitt hauling down Lower Wacker and across the lower bridge levels over the Chicago River.  My office was literally blocks from there as was my residence.  I’ve driven or walked those routes hundreds of times so the Bullitt video gave me a double-shot of nostalgia. Just like McQueen….timeless cool.

bj

 

 

 

To Tell The Truth (1956- )

It was a simple and innocent (enough) concept for a game show.  A panel of celebrities would question three contestants, all posing as the same person.  They were all “John Doe, a movie stuntman” or some other oddball vocation.  The battery of questions was designed so the panel members could figure out who was the “real John”. The winning contestant was the one that person who could fool the panel and keep them from guessing their true identity.  The show has been on and off the air for 60 years, with a variety of hosts including Alex Trebek, baseball legend Joe Garagiola, football great Lynn Swann, John O’Hurley (of multiple sitcom and dog show fame) and now Anthony Anderson.  That’s not the whole list!

Sadly, lying for fun and prizes sounds like an easy game to play, doesn’t it?  Is there a difference between a little white lie and any other manipulation of facts?

So, what it is that is compelling about getting away with something?  Does it give us a sense of one-upmanship?

A simple web search of a few key words produced a literal Psychology 101 in getting the best of someone else.  So, whether it’s “mean tweets”, twisting the facts to put ourselves in an elevated position (or to belittle someone else), delay a negative judgement toward us or just simply refusing to deal with reality, words matter.

I really can’t remember from whom I first heard this, but I know we hold to this tightly in our home; “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.” 

Another quick web search brought up Pinterest and there it was….our family’s “truth” right there, big and proud.

Think about the truth the next time you listen to or watch a newscast, read an article on your smartphone or simply overhear a conversation in a social setting.  What are the facts?  How can facts, when not presented with clarity, be misconstrued.

Be honest.  Be genuine.  Be yourself.

Words matter.

Truth.

What do you think?

 

BJ

Taxman. Let’s just play the song and enjoy it rather than be in a hurry to file early!

Taxman
Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman
If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.
Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.
Songwriters: George Harrison
Taxman lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
For those of you that own your own business, here’s a quick reminder:
Return​​​​​ ​Due Date
December 2017 (monthly and quarterly)​ January 22, 2018
Annual (calendar year 2017)​ February 5, 2018
January 2018 February 20, 2018
February 2018 March 20, 2018

So, unless you own a business and have to file quarterly, why be in a hurry?  The only reason is if you are entitled to a refund.  And the only reason you would ever have a refund would be if you overpaid and/or didn’t sufficiently prepare to best balance your income and expenses.

It’s interesting that most of us don’t think about what we could do better, smarter, more effectively until April 15th looms.  By that time we have already lost the first quarter of the year.  Plus, it will take you another 45-60 days to fully implement your “this year” strategies.

What should you do today, in mid-January?  Everything that you can!  MileIQ, Hours Tracker and Quick Books “Self-Employed” (if you are) for your smartphone.  Every receipt should go somewhere other than your console, wallet/purse or the trash.  Good habits only take 21 days to become ingrained in us according to the often cited studies of Dr. Maxwell Maltz (A plastic surgeon in the 50s, the good doctor found a pattern that it took an average of 21 days for patients to fully accept their cosmetic changes. Seriously, that’s where the 21 days originated.)

The fact is that it takes longer than that to develop good habits.  So, now, in January is the time to get to busy so you can benefit from your work most of the year.

Oh, and toward the end of this year….let’s say September…would be a great time to take stock in the present and develop some sound strategies and tactics for 2019!  It’ll be here before you know it and you’ll be fully prepared to make it your best!

What do you think?

 

 

bj