SuperHero  Skills  – Observation

Something happened this week to make me move forward another SuperHero piece, this time about expanding your ability to Observe, evaluate and react to what you see or hear.

Being extra good at observation requires you first, to be alert and to be sensing what’s going on around you, to be sensitive to variances or ratios, to think about what you are sensing means, and lastly, how you might use it for some purpose.

Example Nr. 1: Some months back I was reflecting on how many television commercials had Dogs and Cats in them.  Along with Babies, they provide the ultimate feel-good touch to keep you watching to the end.  Dog ownership has become high, and upkeep costs keep mounting.  So, I scouted for some way to get something out of this strong phenomenon.  I identified two successful companies that could be owned as stocks and took positions.  Now, this week the Mars Candy company has decided to get into the pet business by buying one of the companies, VCA (stock symbol WOOF) for 9+ Billion dollars, and a premium of +29% to last week’s stock price.

Interestingly, this was not an “only one person wins” kind of event – several thousand people could have observed and gotten this result. (But Big Warning: Do not move now to buy this stock, as the price is frozen and will not increase for some time to come, while Mars is busy integrating a business that’s totally new to them).

Example Nr.  2: Rather than listening to the news channels tell you how far Hillary was ahead of Trump in 2016, could you have gotten a clue about what might happen by counting Bumper Stickers?  Someone else suggested that they counted Lawn Signs in Ohio to get a correct election prediction.  But how could you cover all the States?  Well, back in 1982, when John Naisbitt wrote his bestseller, Megatrends, he had developed his predictions by team-reading a lot of newspapers from a cross section of the US and noting the parallels he found.  Quite a bit of that style of coverage appears now in the newspaper, USA Today.  What if you made that paper your daily read – could that habit fill the gap?

Example Nr. 3: Here’s a simple one for you to practice on.  There are five branches of military service in our Defense Department. From the largest to the smallest they are the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.  Over a week’s time, count how many of each service’s markers do you see on vehicles.  What does each of the numbers you get say about the pride and respect each group of drivers has for their chosen service (Esprit de Corps/Morale)?  What are your conclusions?  So now, if you wanted to inspire a bunch of people to be your political aides,  which group would probably be easiest to enlist? (See Gracian’s Manual #26)

*  The purpose of learning and improving your SuperHero skills is to put yourself ahead and beyond the rest of the crowd.  In most cases, you only need to be 10% better than everyone else to be significantly superior.  You Observe, to be able to Anticipate, which allows you to React earlier than everyone else.

SuperHero Skills

Becoming a  ” WordSmith”  (Part 1)

There are a number of phrases and gambits that you can learn to use to propel yourself toward an ease of connecting with other people, or, in simply helping you get your way.

These phrases will change your situation, right on the spot!  Consider, for example:

“Take your time.”  (Ray Arenofsky)  Used on the phone, this will put anyone at ease – especially people who are under time pressure stress in a service business.  And, they will love you for the empathy you are showing them.

“Thank you for calling me (Client’s name).  Remember, I’ll always be here for you, whenever you need me”.  This phrase positions you as that person’s dependable and go-to problem solver. You close every call this way.

Maybe the killer- phrase in this series is going to be this one:  “May I give you a Compliment”? When followed by a sincerely meant example, it will disarm people and open doors for you anywhere.  No one ever says, “No” to this question, but now they are primed to hear what you will say.

I’ve used it to bond with people from homeless to rich.  The question and the delivery of the compliment add validity to whatever you are doing, as they allow people to perceive you as a friend, a kindred soul – someone they can trust and open up to.

Maybe a larger question here is, do you have difficulty giving another person a compliment or praise?  If so, consider how this may be holding you back.  People who can recognize what’s  good in others and pass it back to them, will automatically expand and rise themselves.

You see, it’s all about you, after all.

I’m shooting for 15% – Most of what I write isn’t going to apply to You specifically.  If we could see the spectrum of your skills and needs, it would hardly match someone else’s – that’s normal – we’re all very singular in our mental construction, our readiness and our Egos.

Additionally, your present situation is ever-changing.  By next year these ideas will have shifted in their relative value to you.  The ones you love now can become dull, while the ones you are skimming  past now may become the most valued ones.  It’s all OK – expect it,  but plan to re-read.

And a word about veracity and trust: I have personally tried and used all of these ideas, so I know from experience and risk, that they can work.

Musings: Brand Extensions = Stress multipliers

M 1.  Do you remember that tomato-based juice called V8?   It used to be a single choice – that was it, take it or leave it.   Now, however, at my local SuperMarket, there are 35 flavor and size types of V8 Juice to choose from!

What happened?   My son, Clint, who sells to the grocery business, says this is called Brand Extension, the purpose of it being to command more “facings” or space on each store’s shelves, and thereby sell more kinds of V8  Juice.

The point for us to consider here is this:  isn’t this exactly what’s happened in our own lives?

Let’s count –  How many TV channels do you have? Magazines do you read? Restaurants do you eat at?  Doctors do you have? Houses do you own? Unread books are on your Kindle? Kids events do you attend in a year? Potential colleges will you visit to pick one? Credit Cards are in your wallet? Careers have you had? States have you lived in? Friends do you have on Facebook? Uncleared emails and photos are on your smartphone?

Haven’t all of these types of add-ons ramped up your stress?  Consider how easily you can reduce the pressure by cutting everything back to where you only have one of these:  One house, Car, Partner, TV, Job, Bank, Phone number, email address, Hobby, Sport, and so on.

Carry the reduction a step further by reducing the complexity of the choices you’ve made.

Then you will have created the peace and the time, to think and live at the more satisfying level you seek.

And don’t wait for a New Year’s resolution to do this.  Begin now.

Lessons in Money

A $20 Million Loss ? !  –  One of the stories going around last year was that Tim Duncan, the now-retired Power Forward for the San Antonio Spurs pro basketball team had a Financial Adviser who lost 20 million dollars of Duncan’s money and Duncan was suing him for recovery.

Usually,  this happens through some form of a “Cocktail Party” style investment, where the”adviser” is steering money toward something that is hard to quantify but has plenty of “sex appeal” as an idea to own.  Duncan has said he had been positioned in hotels, sports merchandising and wineries – and he lost $20 million dollars!

Let me quickly give you a simple antidote to mistakenly choosing this style of investment: only,and I mean only, invest in something which has its price quoted every day in the newspaper.  Accept nothing less.

Now you can see your values every day, and should you need to have some of your money; a brokerage firm will sell a portion to get funds back to you in three days.  That is Liquidity, people.

Managing/ Chronicles

C 2. When you get the first bad report – you can expect, as things become clearer, that the reports and the situation will be getting worse.  For reference, in 2016 so far, examples at the corporate level have been Chipotle Mexican Grill (Health issues), and Volkswagen AG (Diesel mileage fraud).  Holding back on negative news is common behavior – to minimize the problem at the outset, and hope for better news later.

C 3. Any skill that you work to acquire will  1.  Make it easier to add further skills, and   2. Raise your personal level of confidence.

C 4. Doing hard things will raise your skills.  Doing easy things will not develop anything.


Chronicles/ Lessons in Money

C 8.  The easiest and fastest way to make money is to ask for it.    I’d say I was about 15 years old, when I saw my Father do this.  In addition to his work at the Movie Studios, he was doing residential Architecture out of our house and, to give this some historical perspective, a man like him, in those days, made about $8,000 a year, so, he was charging $250 for a set of house plans.  One evening, a couple had come over and, because he already had a lot of work, when it came time to set the price for the job, my Father paused for a moment and said, “$300”.  The couple said “OK” right away.  After they had left, my Father said, astonished,  “Did you see that?  I just made $50 in 30 seconds”!  (an instant 20% gain, mind you).    Just imagine: That over your lifetime, your ability to ask for money, will bring you thousands of dollars.

Corollary #1 to this idea is: what’s the worst thing they can say?  (and it’s “No”).  You’ve lost nothing.  But think of the gains that are available to you – just for the asking.  When I do this, I’ll get some concession 8 out of 10 times.

Corollary #2 – We’ve all been trained or embarrassed into not asking, so we need to teach   ourselves some words to carry us through.  Try these: “I can’t buy without a discount.”  “Is that the best you can do”?  “What do you have for a Family Price”?  “Who has the power to make this concession?  Will you go talk to him/her”?  “When will this be going on Sale”?

Whether there’s any money to be had or not,  you might want to see what else is available, by starting to ask for add-ons such as car mats, detailing, free maintenance, extended warranties, extra training, free memberships, clothing, tickets, and so on.


Tactics and Techniques

T 1.  Taking Over –  This piece is written with Leanne Fremar, and other Team Managers To Be, in mind.   Last month, Starbucks was clever enough to hire Leanne away from Under Armour, and she will be starting at Starbucks’ Seattle HQ in October.

If I were one of Leanne’s Coaches, I would initially suggest two critical steps, as she takes over.

Step 1.  Select carefully what area you choose to look at first, as this will signal to your  team what your greatest area of expertise is, or what factors (metrics) you consider most important,  or what concern is on the top of your list/mind.

Step 2.  Ask your right-hand people – the ones you are going to absolutely rely on – to do something for you : Examples might be, “Please research X, for me”.  “Bring me everything you can find on Y”.  “Tell me in writing, some ways we can improve/escalate what this department is doing.”   Then, meet your people singly.  Ask “How much time do you need, to do this right?  OK, but no extensions”.

Judge the results they bring you for speed, clarity, quality of thought.  Assess them for PMA, acceptance of your leadership, and intellectual honesty.

The purpose for this is simple: If there’s a “fire” in your department, a week from now,  you want to know who your real firefighters are – who and where you can call for help in an emergency,  because you’ve tested for it.   Secondarily, you’ll have gained a good, quick gauge of the talent pool you’ve inherited.

Starting Up/ Chronicles

C 1. You are what you do.  People are what they do.     This is a stab at an all-encompassing statement for this blog.  When I first doped it out, I thought, ” how clever, you’ve really hit on something here ” !  Then later I discovered that a guy by the name of Aristotle had already said it, 2,300 years ago!

Anyway, I put it first because maybe if you only have one of these, it’s all you will ever need.  From this, all others extend and embellish.

Simply put – If you don’t see it, or enough of it, then it’s not going to be happening.

We will start simply, but get more deep and complex, as we evolve.  And it will all be mixed by subject and difficulty.  Maybe people as young as 14, or as old as whatever, can get some value from these ideas.

Over time, our site will help you sort out the subject-clusters, making it easier to recapture concepts of money, leadership, creativity, personal development and group management, with some handy SuperHero skills thrown in for good measure.

My first blog will fall within the area of “Chronicles” – Information that I developed for my grandchildren – maybe along the lines of, “If I’d known then, what I know now ….”.
But for you, my reader, this time is your then, and your time to learn is now !