Book Review: Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing: No-Nonsense Rules from the Ultimate Contrarian and Small Business Guru

Profits Aren't Everything, They're the Only Thing: No-Nonsense Rules from the Ultimate Contrarian and Small Business GuruProfits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing: No-Nonsense Rules from the Ultimate Contrarian and Small Business Guru

by George Cloutier

“Business comes down to how hard you work, how smart you work, in good times and bad. Do more. Get more. And be ruthless in your quest to make money.” George Cloutier (p. ix)

Cloutier is consistent with the above statement throughout his book. It is a book that Gordon Gekko would love because the relentless theme is the priority of profit and the choices a business person must make to keep and maximize it.

His no-nonsense rules are spot on: monitor your numbers and manage your cash flow closely as it is the lifeblood of the business. Fight hard for every sale, weed out bad performers quickly, manage your collections and payables to your advantage, and reward profitability. He forces readers to face the reality of their actions on the success or stagnation of the business when they are tempted to blame the markets, economy, or others. Focusing on collections and managing the budget are practical knowledge but businesses will take their focus off of it to their detriment. Nothing new here but my experience has been that some businesses fail to execute proper management of these pitfalls.

His section for family business (“the best family business has one member” is worth considering for any family-based business. I have seen the negative effects he desribes on non-family employees in certain businesses I have been involved with in the past.

The author supports a compensation structure that is built partially, or in some cases completely, on performance goals. Sales, he says, should be 100% on performance as salary for sales positions often creates mediocrity. However, he also states that the boss has to be a tyrant and the rule for employees is “Don’t think, obey.” My experience has been that when you hire the right employees they can often save the owner from himself. Every owner has blind spots and weaknesses and good employees can provide strength and vision to compensate for his human frailty. His Profit Rule #9 “I Am Your Work God” and #14 “Teamwork is Overrated” were difficult sections for me to read as it seems unrealistic for the business environments I have worked in. I have been in dictatorial businesses as he described an not only were they unpleasant to work in, they weren’t that successful. The lord of the castle model might be perfect for certain businesses where a strong top-down hierarchy is essential for productivity and profitability and the employee primarily contributes labor, but in knowledge-based industries I think this approach would lead to consistent employee dissatisfaction and turnover. The average professional would probably like to to invest in his business but would likely hate working for him.

I’m sure his Profit Rule #4 “Love Your Business More Than Your Family” will guarantee high profits. He states that you must make the choice between your business and maximizing profits or living in financial mediocrity because of outside decisions. Either way, he says, you must make peace with your decision. If you spend time in worship then do it but get back to the business. Remember your competitors are relaxing but you can use it to build up your business and maximize your profits. He does allow that you can spend time on other pursuits when your business flourishes though I doubt that someone who has sacrificed his family, true spiritual growth, and service to others will reach a point where he feels he can do so. If a person follows the author’s advice, I hope he does not marry, and certainly does not have kids, so they will not feel the abandonment or neglect that would be the product of such a narrow focus.

I have chosen to be less successful than I could be (though I am considered quite successful in business) to have a close relationship with my wife and kids, serve others, and enjoy life as I live it. I have known too many who have died long before retirement who sacrificed today for a tomorrow that never came. While I can recommend much of this book I think the short-sighted thinking in this section will make a person miserable in the final review of life regardless of how popular, rich, and profitable he is.

Maybe you can’t have it all, but it is better to have the things that really matter in life. The most profitable things in a person’s life will not be found on a balance sheet.

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Book Review: Creativity, Inc.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True InspirationCreativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
by Ed Catmull

As a fan of Disney Animation and Pixar Studio products, I was interested in going behind the curtain to see how the wizards did their magic. I was especially interested to see how a creative organization manages the mundane business side of finance and teamwork. Ed Catmull accomplished this in providing a glimpse into building a creative business that works with limited budgets, highly individual and often idiosyncratic creative employees, and critical deadlines.

Non-creatives sometimes fail to see that creativity and art often require more hard work and skill development than natural talent. This book reveals the perspiration that accompanies inspiration and, sometimes, a little luck. Catmull describes the creative challenges and solutions to some of Pixar’s beloved works and how, sometimes, the stories we see on the screen are far different from what was first imagined. I recommended the book to my daughter who is studying animation so she can see how Pixar approaches story development, professional reviews of works in progress, and the difficult task of changing something you have put a lot of time into (killing your darlings) in order to make great art.

The book also provides insight into teamwork strategies and building a business. Catmull provides a look at the operation and interrelation of diverse management personalities such as his more reserved style and the dynamic aggressive style of Steve Jobs. Though their personalities were different, they were able to synergize so that the best of both were infused into the corporate culture and both seemed to rub off a bit on the other. The other management characters within Pixar are discussed including their valuable contributions to the company’s success. Not forgotten are the many Pixar employees whose dedication to creating a high quality product that Catmull praises throughout the book.

If you are a creative in any industry, you will gain a lot from the wisdom shared in this book. If you are trying to develop a team or a corporate culture, you will also find much to inspire and educate you in this book.

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Book Review: Making It All Work

Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of LifeMaking It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life
by David Allen

At the turn of the millennium, David Allen released his landmark work Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and changed how many of us managed our time and work environment. Striving for the “mind like water”, Allen, urges readers to use straightforward filing systems and trusted systems, like calendars and useful lists, freeing the mind to focus on the needs of the moment.

Allen has various techniques for effective work such as performing a “mind dump,” unloading all the things that are on our mind, organizing them into meaningful lists of what we can do now and what can, or should be, delayed until some future date. He describes techniques for identifying projects that need multiple actions that do not seem like projects initially, The goal is to develop focus that allows one to decide what is the next action to perform and stay “in the moment” with that task knowing that the other work is not forgotten and has its place.

One unfounded criticism of Allen’s work is that it doesn’t solve the overwork problem but only organizes it. This is far from the truth. Completing the exercises for the horizons of focus honestly and thoughtfully should eliminate some demands one has placed on himself and define a vision for one’s life that allows them to deal with some of the work that appears that would be more appropriate to delegate to others or simply ignore.

I listen to this audiobook frequently to perfect my execution of the model and deepen my understanding of the methods and philosophy behind the system. It was very influential in an article I wrote for high school and college students to help them develop focus and flow in school work.

I would recommend Making It All Work instead of the classic volume that introduced us to Allen, Getting Things Done. Making It All Work provides a mature analysis of the philosophy of his organizational approach and better focus on the horizon view of planning. Much of the criticism of his work arises from a misconception that Allen is not solving the task overload problem, only organizing it. Making It All Work is clearer, though GTD explained it as well, the framework includes determining what needs to be done, what can wait, and what should be ignored.

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Book Review: The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People

The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive PeopleThe Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People
by Kevin Leman

How do you write a management book? Choose your metaphor and let the analogies unfold. Business books based on military organizations and leaders, sports teams and stellar athletes, and historical figures and events fill the shelf. Leman reaches back to a pastoral occupation to draw out modern lessons on leadership.

The author uses a story analogy: a business professor, who raises sheep on the side, mentoring a student by taking him out of the classroom and into the field, the grazing field. I’m not a fan of the story analogy approach as the story is often a weak vehicle to carry the meat of the message. The story in this book is not distracting but it is not engrossing either.

The leadership lessons are solid but will strike some readers as paternalistic as the shepherd-manager is the wise leader and the sheep-employees are foolish, blind, and directionless. If you can look past this there are extremely valuable lessons on engaging with employees and dealing with their personal and professional issues as it affects their work and their interrelationships with fellow workers. The attention to the employee needs, witnessed in popular shows like “Undercover Boss”, is the important lesson of this book. “Have a heart for your sheep” and “remember that great leadership isn’t just professional; it’s personal.” The section on knowing the SHAPE (Strengths, Heart, Attitude, Personality, and Experiences) of employees, I mean the flock, is good reading for any manager. The importance of addressing employee concerns and conflicts is something every manager needs.

It is an easy and short read with many valuable, though not unique, observations. Managers need to be reminded of these principles. A manager who feels disconnected from those who report to him and wants to mentor them, address good and bad behaviors, and learn to develop their talents will benefit from reading this book.

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Is The Performance Evaluation An Idea Whose Time Has Gone?

One of the critical resources of any business, often the most critical, is human capital. People build the products, provide the services, process financial transactions, help customers, and managers supervise these individuals to make sure the work is done. Just as non-human resources are managed and monitored, performance evaluations arose from the need to quantifiably manage and evaluate the performance of individuals as compared with others. The execution of performance evaluations are often dysfunctional, or some would say diabolical, as currently practiced. This paper examines the value of performance evaluations and suggestions for improving the practice.

Brief history

Most employees are familiar with the annual performance review and numerical rating systems. According to Rock, Davis, & Jones (2014), a weakness in the systems common in the 1970s was managers rating everyone in the middle to avoid problems, which led to the forced ranking system, popularized in the 1980’s, requiring managers to rank some employees high and others low. Kwoh (2012) reports that the forced ranking system, though often called by different names, is still used by about 60% of Fortune 500 companies and some companies, like AIG, use forced ranking to grant proportional bonuses based on scores and identify the lowest performers who must improve performance or be dismissed. Other programs, such as 360 degree feedback programs, solicit information from supervisors and peers to provide analysis of employee performance (Jackson, 2012).

Emotionally charged meeting

Performance evaluations are generally unpopular with managers and employees. Some view it as an “empty process, an HR requirement” and companies consistently give low marks to the value it provides to the organization (Becom & Insler, 2013, p. 43). “Studies show between 6o percent and 90 percent of employees, including managers, dislike the performance evaluation” (Noguchi, 2014, para. 1).

The evaluation setting creates a high-stakes interaction as the employee knows that he or she is being judged by the manager and, in 360 degree evaluations, fellow workers. Without adequate managerial training or safeguards, performance evaluation systems can result in poor employee analysis or mean-spirited bias to the detriment of the employee’s morale and advancement since the ranking will be part of the human resources record. Rock, Davis, & Jones (2014) cite research by the firm i4cp that 75% surveyed thought their performance system was unfair. Buckingham & Goodall (2015) observe “ratings reveal more about the rater than they do about the ratee” (p.44). Culbert (2008) notes that a weakness of 360 degree evaluation system is that peers can use evaluation to settle scores with employees and managers who have wronged them. Workers can also use the 360 degree feedback to discredit fellow employees to increase their chance for a higher bonus. A Microsoft programmer confessed that in a rating system, which Microsoft has since abandoned, the “employees [were] focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies” (Rock, Davis, & Jones, 2014, para. 19).

Creating distrust instead of cooperation

The performance evaluation should provide an opportunity for the manager and employee to cooperate for mutual and organizational success. In reality, the manager often enters the discussion to address uncomfortable issues and justify compensation decisions while dreading the emotionally charged response of the employee who may cry foul and debate the manager’s observations (Culbert 2008). Since most performance evaluations are tied to compensation adjustments and bonuses, the employee may tune out feedback or spend time trying to decide whether the feedback is leading to a positive or negative pay result (Noguchi, 2014). Instead of a constructive relation-building exercise, the performance evaluation can drive a wedge into the manager-employee relationship and create tension and distrust.

Reforming the review

Some companies are trying to reform their performance evaluation process by decoupling the performance management and compensation discussions and using the performance review to provide mentoring and feedback. Effective systems hold both the manager and employee accountable for engagement (Markos & Sridevi, 2010) and allow leaders to encourage performance, act as role models, and celebrate the average performer who still provides a valuable service to the organization (Becom & Insler, 2013). By taking pay confrontations out of the discussion, the manager and employee can focus on professional development and achieving corporate and departmental objectives. Many companies are reforming the process by moving from an uncomfortable annual review to a periodic, or continual, feedback approach. Deloitte has retired the annual review, which consumed almost 2 million hours per year, with employee observations by managers and peers shared when a project ends or, for long projects, quarterly (Buckingham &Goodall, 2015). Some companies, like Juniper Networks, hold special conversation days that are not documented and credit the practice with success in retaining top performing employees (Noguchi, 2014). Deloitte describes their changes as “a continual focus on the future, through regular evaluations and frequent check-ins” (Buckingham & Goodall, 2015, p. 50). Continual conversations about the employee’s performance allow for course corrections in the present rather than identifying weaknesses in the past.

All companies evaluate employee performance, whether formally or informally, and so the process should be fair to the employee, empowering, and build up the relationship between the manager and employee. A dysfunctional process is disruptive and ineffective and should be reformed or replaced. Performance evaluation systems that help managers develop and retain talented workers will provide a strategic advantage over companies who will not change.

NOTE: This was taken from a research paper I wrote for a business class.


Book Review: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of AmazonThe Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

This biography of Jeff Bezos, Amazon, and even Internet e-commerce traces the development of a man, business, and industry that has noticeably transformed American society. The author gives insight into the problems faced by Amazon as it grew into the “Everything Store” and the demanding founder who brought the vision to reality. It is amazing what Bezos and Amazon accomplished despite frequently getting in their own way. I was intrigued by Amazon’s approach to logistical demands, surge challenges (holidays), and surprised about the inbreeding with Walmart. The history behind some of the features that thrived and died: Prime, Auctions… includes the reasons that some of these things were tried; for example, the Auctions experiment to face off with eBay.

The author portrays Jeff Bezos as an intriguing brilliant individual who could be as caustic as Steve Jobs but wasn’t as cool as Steve Jobs. Also explored was its founder’s ability to will an incredible organization into existence focused on customer service and loyalty while sometimes compromising employee service and loyalty. We who work in the tech industry know the Jeff Bezos type and are probably more forgiving of the idiosyncrasies and impaired social skills that is the shadow side of technical brilliance and focus on excellence. We are left with respect for the man and a clear reminder that he is just a man with outstanding qualities that have contributed value to the marketplace and abrasiveness that has created problems.

The abrasive personality is on display in the tumultuous and contentious relationship with book publishers and distributors especially around the development and release of the Kindle. The author describes the market attempts, and failures, to popularize an electronic reader and the eventual success of the Kindle platform. As a Kindle user, and lover of books, I was engrossed in this part of the history and I think most bibliophiles will be as well.

The contentious relationship with the book industry and other suppliers made me consider the same question I had after watching a documentary of Walmart’s relationship with its suppliers: do low prices come at a high cost? We enjoy a convenience of what we need when we need it. My local Walmart is 24-hour and has items that I never thought I’d need after 9pm when most stores close. Amazon has items that would require me to drive across town wasting time and gas in traffic. I am a customer of both organizations. However, we must also balance it with the loss of some local retailers (and their jobs), minimal profits for suppliers (profits that can go into developing new products), livable wages, and perhaps other issues. I did not develop an answer to the question and I imagine we will continue to ponder such questions. There is much to admire and fear about how Amazon became a success. Did we sacrifice some intangibles that we will greatly miss for cheaper products? Have we not been able to calculate the true value of Amazon and Walmart’s contribution to the marketplace in ways that far exceed what we can truly grasp? It may be that in holding onto the Main Street of the past with a false nostalgia and that the cottage industries and small business opportunities these global behemoths created are the success stories we should be cheering. In fact, the end of the book, which chronicles the development of Amazon Web Services which is fueling many Internet businesses that are creating value and jobs worldwide.

I listened to this on the unabridged audiobook and it is well narrated and produced.

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Book Review: How Good Do You Want to Be?

How Good Do You Want to Be?: A Champion's Tips on How to Lead and Succeed at Work and in LifeHow Good Do You Want to Be?: A Champion’s Tips on How to Lead and Succeed at Work and in Life
by Nick Saban

I will readily admit that my favorite motivational books are written by coaches at the top of their profession. In order to achieve their goals they have to inspire assistants and athletes with their vision and direct their actions to achieve excellent results. In college football’s Southeastern Conference, one of the toughest conferences to achieve consistent success, Nick Saban has won both conference and national championships as head coach of LSU and the University of Alabama and enjoyed success in the National Football League.

How Good Do You Want To Be was written before Nick Saban became the coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide but it is obvious from his speeches and results at the University of Alabama that he adheres to the principles in this book. A central theme of the book, and his coaching philosophy, is to focus on what you need to do to perform as a champion and not the results themselves. While this might seem obvious, too often people focus on external factors they can’t control and make excuses for why they cannot be successful due to the economy, environment, their upbringing, or a hundred other reasons. As Saban notes regarding the LSU national championship team:

We never talked as a team or as a staff about championships. We simply focused on the process of becoming champions. p.12

Throughout the book he describes in great detail the importance of maintaining focus, discipline, and healthy communication. His focus on developing effective processes and working the system is critical to business or team success. His principles of leadership are evident in the successful careers of coaches who once served as his assistants. He, in turn, credits Bill Belichick, who wrote the forward to the book, for being a positive role model who helped shape his approach.

I appreciate his focus on success in one’s personal life as a component of overall success. If you have great professional success but leave a trail of broken relationships in your wake you have not succeeded. He practices what he preaches and provides sound guidance in this book for integrating work and personal life.

The book is very well organized and it is easy to highlight the important lessons to learn and the takeaway points. Each chapter ends with a summary of the main points that is useful as a review list.

In contrast to a lot of motivational books that are heavy on platitudes and pep talks, Nick Saban’s process oriented approach inspires by demonstrating that if we develop a good system, focus on our preparation and the factors we can affect, we will achieve good results. His advice for dealing with roadblocks, difficult people and situations, and deficiencies through good decision making, not wishful thinking, is a welcome change from the “grit your teeth and bear it” philosophy of many motivational books.

If you are inspired by the book, I would also recommend you watch the DVD Gamechanger (al) which also discusses the championship approach as practiced by the Alabama Crimson Tide’s 2009 National Championship season. The access to planning, practices, and his home life reflect what you learn from the book.

Roll Tide.

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Supporting Alternative Energy Sources Without Supporting Man-Made Climate Change

I’m Not a Denier – I’m a Skeptic

I hate black and white political arguments. Societal issues are complex but we treat them simplistically. The good versus evil debates about health care, national financial issues, climate change, personality politics, and team-style politics is frustrating for those wanting sensible discussions and problem solving based on defensible research. I’ll go back to dreaming.

I am skeptical of man-made climate change. I do not confidently assert it is not happening.  Non-human factors that affect climate change might be more significant than human activity. I do not know enough, nor do I have time to learn the complex science required to evaluate the data or the arguments. I’m not going to act like an expert either, supporting or opposing climate change when I don’t know enough to evaluate the evidence intelligently. I wonder how many advocates and deniers really understand the science behind their position?

I am skeptical of sensationalized science. I grew up with magazines and nightly news reports breathlessly warning of the new ice age and catastrophic events that never came to pass. This is not a skepticism of science but of journalistic science. Pop science, whether hard or social science, fills airwaves and magazine racks with headline claims that are prone to exaggeration, over-reach, and sensationalism. Exciting headlines draw readers and viewers in ways more reasonable statements do not. (Great articles worth reading: Psychology Today article on 3 ways the media fouls up science stories and Compund Interest infographic on bad science reporting)

I am skeptical of commercialized science. I support government and private support of scientific research but keep a healthy skepticism realizing it can be manipulated and used as a magnet to draw billions of dollars. Financial support of scientific research is not evil nor does it automatically corrupt; however, prospering individuals and companies discovering knowledge that invalidates their income stream face the ethical dilemma of burying the research to preserve their profits or promoting the research for human knowledge that might cause their revenues to perish. Politics, financial markets, and science can be a beneficial trio or disastrous.

I am skeptical of politicized science. Likewise, political legislation and environmental programs can create unintended consequences that make problems worse instead of better. My kids, in public schools, have submitted more educational projects on recycling than could be counted. However, some studies have shown that certain recycling programs expend more energy than they save. Although some government programs can offer positive benefits for the environment, the ethanol program is another example of good intentions gone awry through politics. I’m not advocating we disengage government from environmental stewardship but the marriage is not always beneficial.

I am skeptical of a scientific and media community that declares an end to debate. The argument “all scientists believe in climate change” is both false and revealing. It is a common tactic of the arrogant and vulnerable to close off all debate with an announcement that the intelligentsia have discovered and declared the unchangeable truth and that only the foolish rabble under the control of wealthy corporate interests would oppose this. Ironically, scientists have decried such opposition to scientific inquiry in the past. Perhaps tyranny is not so bad if you are the tyrant. But there is not unanimity in the climate change scientific community and dissension against the groupthink is apparently enforced with coercion. I find sympathy in the article I linked with this comment by Steve McIntyre:

As a general point, it seems to me that, if climate change is as serious a problem as the climate “community” believes, then it will require large measures that need broadly based commitment from all walks of our society. Most “skeptics” are not acolytes of the Koch brothers, but people who have not thus far been convinced that the problem is as serious as represented or that the prescribed policies (wind, solar especially) provide any form of valid insurance against the risk. These are people that the climate “community” should be trying to persuade.

I am skeptical of proponents who do not practice what they preach. It’s curious that some prominent man-made climate change advocates are hesitant to make the short-term sacrifices they want to demand of others. I read magazine articles vigorously attacking climate change opponents and warning of imminent danger to the planet alongside ads for luxury items, non-electric vehicles, and other articles encouraging trips to far away places that require considerable carbon to reach. Climate change activists with frequent flyer miles and multiple vehicles don’t impress me as truly dedicated to the cause–despite how many carbon credits they buy. I’m not saying they are hypocrites; I am saying that they preach a good sermon but embody the challenges of living consistent with their stated beliefs. I’m not throwing stones. We all embrace the virtues of healthy living but can find a good excuse to skip our workout. (For a fascinating discussion of this, watch Dan Ariely’s TEDx Duke University talk on Self-Control)

I am also skeptical of deniers. Those who strongly oppose any idea of human actions influencing climate change also have political influence, media resources, and financial incentives to support their positions. There are reasons of self-interest that could influence them to bury research and influence policy to protect power or revenue. And for the reasons described above, I can’t evaluate the quality of the scientific research and data interpretation to determine whether the deniers or advocates have the better arguments.

But I Support Sustainable Energy

Skepticism aside, I am a big fan of sustainable energy, technological advancement, and reducing our impact on the environment. Even if research established conclusively, for both sides of the issue, that man-made climate change was not happening, pioneering economical technology that reduced our impact on the environment would still be a good thing. Jeep’s “Tread Lightly” campaign is a reasonable and responsible way to live. As a Boy Scout I was taught Wind turbines in an open fieldto “leave no trace” after camping. The Bible entrusted humanity to care for the Earth. Whether we believe human actions impact climate change or not, we do know that all actions have consequences. We should make wise choices that maximize benefits for humanity and reduce negative impact.

Elon Musk apparently believes in human-made climate change and invests in technology to decrease the human impact on the environment. While I am skeptical, I do embrace his approach to the issue: design cool energy technologies. Instead of building electric boxes with wheels he designs electric sports cars,nice sedans, and other vehicles at Tesla. In addition, his SolarCity business explores harnessing the sun’s energy. I don’t have to agree with his interpretation of science (though he is a genius) or his politics (don’t know or care where he stands) but I can get excited about his business and technology advances.

What Could Unite Us?

We need to pioneer energy technologies so we have a range of energy options while reducing our overall energy costs, dependence on foreign (sometimes hostile) governments for raw materials, and environmental impact. Reducing the impact on the environment not only includes digging, drilling, and delivery but also designing systems that do not slice or fry birds in mid-flight or blight the landscape with unsightly power lines. A broken solar mirror has less environmental impact than an oil spill. But it costs energy to make the products that create energy. There is a place for oil, natural gas, coal, solar, thermal, hydro, wind, and other sources to supply our energy needs.

Pioneering new energy solutions would certainly lead to the discovery of exciting technologies that could transform the non-energy parts of our life. Just as the space program gave us technology solutions for daily living, creative research will broaden the body of knowledge and give us a deeper understanding of our world.

Future energy needs could be met with several large-scale and home-based options that harvest energy and expand our body of knowledge. One does not have join a particular political party or swear allegiance to a politico-scientific ideology to do this.

My Introvert Apprehension at Business Conferences

Some of the best educational opportunities in my field are through conferences and seminars. I have attended some great events for my security and contracting work. However many events are an extrovert heaven and an introvert professional purgatory.

I pass on the mixers and the networking events: I prefer my ice not be broken. I have a strong dislike of playing silly games with total strangers to look like a fool in the assumption that if we all look like fools we might want to be friends. Extroverts, please enjoy the games and Congo lines among yourselves; I do not want to stop your fun and I know you need to get it out of your system. I enjoy watching you and I am laughing with you, not at you. But full participation doesn’t agree with my system so I’ll take a mind clearing walk alone.

conferenceI went to a seminar recently where the organizers showed a patriotic slideshow with “Proud to be an American” playing. They provided a small flag in the welcome kit. During this you were encouraged “to react however you felt appropriate.” Soon some people stood up, others waved their flags as they stood. Many were breaking out in a cold sweat. Others looked confused. I am extremely proud to be an American and had just taken my kids to Washington, D.C. However, I felt very awkward and eventually stood when some around me did. Since it wasn’t the national anthem playing, I feel I would have been respectful though seated, reflecting on the images and our great country. My gut was that the extrovert organizers anticipated a hall full of cheering, flag waving, celebration but it fell short of that as well (hint to organizers, you will have better results if you tell your audience how you want them to react–we follow instructions well). I don’t fault the organizers but they must realize that some of us just come to learn new data and skills quietly. Some of us are content to drift in and out without trying to make BFFs. Sorry, that’s just how we roll.

My extrovert wife has playful fun when I return from these events. “Did you make any new friends?” “Did you talk to ANYBODY?”

No…and I had a great time.