July 25, 2015

Clearing Your Mindset

Reading about Critical Thinking and Intelligence Analyst work.  Why? Because in a world that is always changing you have to be able to adjust your thinking. Look at things from different perspectives. See what has been done before, and think about other ways to create something new or solve a problem.

Coming up with the same solutions is a path to being outdated, stuck and competing only on price. This is the path to irrelevance and obsolescence.

Seeing the World.
How we see the world is shaped by our assumptions and perceptions. This is an issue because we see only what we expect to see. This mindset is formed from our education, training, viewing, reading and experiences.

There is nothing wrong having a mindset. We all have mindsets. But they can limit what you learn, think about, and the answers you come up with. This is why we work in teams and workshops with people of different responsibilities, professions, and backgrounds. To build a bigger diversified pictures.

The other thing to realize is teams often are as limited as we personally are. Groupthink is a truth we must face and overcome.

Problem Solving Errors
Initial analysis, ideas, and solutions are anchors that can prevent us from going further. They are strong and it takes more information to overcome our snap judgments.

This is why you often see teams trying to solver the wrong problem. They don’t realize they have jumped to a conclusion based on their experience. Have often seen managers blame production people for quality issues and just change the worker.

My saving grace is blaming the system, not the people involved. Allows me to see a bigger picture before trying to define a problem. The problem may have be out of tolerance parts, worn out tooling, bad design, machine wear, chips in the fixture, weak clamping force, and insufficient training.

My weakness is being stuck on one solution, the ‘best’ one. Was especially true when I was young. Experienced co-workers would often want ‘plan B’s to follow. I was try this and adjust if it does not preform as expected. Did not explore options as well as needed. My mindset has changed from learning more about mitigation. 

Mind you often simple problems are often resolved with the first solution. Complicated issues having more risks and less predictable results require us to look deeply, create multiple ideas, and mitigate everything.

A tentative hypothesis is the enemy of new hypotheses. How long does it take you to change your mind?

This comes from our mindsets, and we need to get past our limits to the best of our ability. Especially when dealing with ambiguous situations.

How do We Clear Our Mindset?
Being disciplined and have a checklist is a great start. You want to have a method to follow to not skip steps.

Research the Issue
Who is complaining? Why? What are the consequences?  Costs? Who is affected? What will be the effect for the customer? Effect for their consumer? Collect as much information, data, view points and issues as possible to mitigate.

Use an Organized System to Collect Possible Solutions
Do not overlook anyone’s ideas. Often we can ignore people because they don’t have the credentials. One of the best cost savings involved with came from the material handler and floor sweeper. Great ideas come from anywhere and we can build on them to make them better.

Rank and Prioritize Solutions
Get as many solutions together. How much will it cost to enact them? How much time will it take? Which issues do these solutions solve? The best solution is usually a combination of ideas and methods beyond the initial proposal. Don’t forget the quick fix has to be followed by a permanent solution.

Follow up
Failed solutions are often incomplete implementations. Other issues come up. Orders and new tooling have delays. Project manage plans until they are complete. Save solving the same issue next year.

More reading: 
Psychology of Intelligence Analysis - online book on critical thinking, written by Richards J. Heuer of the CIA

July 11, 2015

Daily Responsibilities vs Bigger Thinking

Which is more important to your success?

  •       Doing a good job every day?
  •       Planning a project?
  •       Accuracy and Detail?
  •       New marketing campaign?
  •       Solving Customers problems?
  •       Creating a New product or service?

 Truth is we need to do all daily and big picture items well to stand out and help our companies compete. Everything is important to succeed.

You have to do your work and know how it fits in the company’s plans and purpose to understand which decisions you need to make. Then you can lead teams to grow your business.

Really enjoyed the Fast Company article and recommend you read it.

Remember we don’t have to choose being average, but can choose to be the exceptional person you were created to be.

June 27, 2015

Living Off Savings

Have you ever been laid off or your spouse loss their job? It’s often not their or your fault, but the business cycle changed or the economy in recession. Worked for one company with only one customer. When the US Navy did not need two suppliers, we were out of business. We feel bad because we did not see it coming.

Working in several industries have been through this cycle and expect to experience it again. My joke with younger workers is there are two types of aerospace employees, those who have been laid off (point to me) and those who will (point to them). Entrepreneurs may have their income go to zero with no warning.

What do you do when you have lost your job? Panic? Get Mad? Usually am in shock, and crawl in bed for a week. Had a co-worker who brought his clubs and played a round of golf every time happened to him.

There are some things you should do when jobs and income disappear:
  1. Breathe. Some deep breaths will help you relax and start to think.
  2. Exercise and take long walks. Humans think better when we move.
  3. Start making a list of all your successes. Not in our nature to compliment ourselves, but these case studies are going to help us get to work.
  4. Cut Spending Now! You need internet (unless you have a kind neighbor), and you don’t need premium cable or Netflix subscriptions. Take in a roommate or rent a room. You want to stretch unemployment and savings as far as you can.
  5. What do you have you can sell? I sold a house because I could not afford the mortgage. Got an extra car? Collectables? If you have to move can you get rid of it now?
  6. Take a taxi job to help you get to your next job. Work temporary, bartend, wait tables, serve coffee, clean houses, consult, drive for Uber, or do telemarketing. No this job does not belong on your resume, but doing anything will help your confidence and recovery. It extends your unemployment benefits, you with people, make a little spending money, and recover your balance.
  7. Research your industry and any related industries. Who is hiring and why? What are the future trends? What new technologies are coming? Reading the last 6 months of industry magazines & newsletters will have you ahead of the hiring managers and create small talk topics to talk about in the interview.
  8. Set a maximum amount of time to apply for jobs. After 6 hours would start to lose my mind.

The goal of these ideas are to lower your stress, get a little fitter, and keep your ability to network and interview. Unemployment destroys your social support and routine. Be the relaxed, confident job applicant with a tan who is ready to get back to work at the interview. You will get back to work sooner.

June 20, 2015

Savings and Emergency Funds

Your future is hard to imagine. Mine did not unfold the way I thought. Imagined growing up in my hometown and working for one company during my career. After college my hometown was in a local recession and few jobs to be had. Wound up working my first job 300 miles away.  Currently working across the country in my 7th state.
Man plans, God laughs.
You do not know how well your industry or your company will do over the next 50 years. Layoffs, horrible bosses, and business closings are real possibilities.
No one can predict their health, accidents, children, nor which natural disasters you will face. So what can you do?
Saving is a cornerstone of wealth. If you don’t have money to invest, you can’t earn more except by working more hours or jobs.
Savings give you options if something happens. You can choose investments, education, nicer vacations, good homes, and better schools for your children. If conditions are going down or crime is rising where you live, you can choose to move to a safer place. You can donate to charities doing good work. Savings are a form of freedom.
Started my current job after being out of work for most of one and a half years. My savings were not very much after being self-employed for six years. Had about $15,000 in savings, an old $3,000 car and no debt.
Five years later have $60,000 in the bank, $85,000 grand in my 401k, and own a house with $100,000 in equity. How did we do it? We did not win the lottery.
Pay Yourself First
Save at least the matching 401k funds your company offers from the start. Do not give up free money and with the tax deduction this will only take a small amount from your take home pay. To get to the maximum am now putting in the 401k I increased my contribution with every raise. You don’t miss the extra money if you don’t see.
Set up a separate credit union savings account for my emergency fund. That $3,000 car could break any time and will not run forever. Put more than a car payment every paycheck in this fund to create an emergency fund. The good news is have over one year's expenses and will pay cash for my next car.
Live Within Your Means
Know how much my monthly expenses are and pay them. Pay my credit card bill in full every month.
The rent was not late nor is the mortgage. Actually refinanced a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage at a lower rate and pay extra principle every month.
We keep monthly expenses low, don’t eat out every weekend and pick affordable restaurants we like. Don’t have all the movie channels, nor the fastest Internet. (Okay added the sports channels because can afford them)
We plan our big purchases and don’t impulse spend. My wife is a tremendous negotiator and will walk away if the price is not right. My last cell phone physically wore out being 7-8 years old. The smart phone has the lowest monthly payments and was paid for by overtime.
Choose Where You Spend
Got prequalified for a mortgage and was surprised how much could borrow. Did I look for a house in that range? No, my wife and I do not need a big house for two. Looked at neighborhoods that fit my commuting, good schools and safe/low crime rates. Aimed for the median price range 40% below what could borrow. (No one says you have to be in debt your whole life) Looked at almost 100 houses before buying a short sale, waiting 6 months to close. Have the smallest house in a very nice neighborhood, cleaned up the dirtiest house and painted. Now just paying off the mortgage.
Yes still driving the $3,000 car. My wife has a good car and mine goes to work to sit outside all day. How nice of a car do I need for 8 miles? It is mechanically sound, maintained and the interior is falling apart. Including repairs have spent ~$1,200 per year.
Have a good paying career, but am in a boom and bust industry. Median price houses sell faster than the expensive houses. Not having debt lets me go where the work is.
My investments are diversified, low cost and fairly conservative. When someone promises high returns they are likely taking high risks or lying. (See Bernie Madoff)
Have good health, auto, homeowners, and long term care insurance. In addition funding a small annuity to afford retirement with Social Security. Will not have to touch the savings for many years.
Being responsible you may not be the wild friend with the fancy home, latest gadgets and crazy expenses. You will not be the homeless person either by learning how to save and invest. Being able to help others is a blessing you won’t forget either. Life is good.

June 13, 2015

How to Build Wealth

Been studying business, successful people and failures for years. It is an interesting and enlightening hobby. Frankly have learned a lot that schools never teach you. A large part of my life is unlearning what I was taught. Let me share one insight today.

First step if you really want to be wealthy. READ. A lot.

Bill Gates of Microsoft and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has put out a couple list of books to read. Bill curated these list for us. He may have read 50 to 200 books this year to recommend 5 - 10 books for us.

Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway have created fortunes by buying and investing in well-run businesses. It is not as easy as it looks.

So how do Warren and Charlie spend their days? They read about 5 - 6 hours per day at the office. Charlie’s children joke he is a book with legs. Warren says it is good they work in different states because they would be talking all day about what they read.

Elon Musk has started several successful businesses Pay Pal, Tesla, SpaceX among others. He is the real life example for the Tony Stark character in the movie Iron Man. “You don’t know what you don’t know. You realize there are all these things out there.” Musk says.

The average Fortune 500 CEO reads about 50 books a year. Rick Warren often reads one book a day. There is usually a reason successful people have a common habits.

“The basic law of wealth creation: principle of asymmetric knowledge – that is, any situation when somebody in a market knows something that nobody else in the market knows, and then has the courage to act on that knowledge.”
- Dr. Jules Goddard

If you want to create wealth, learn by reading. Then take action.

May 25, 2015

In Honor of Veterans

Woke up this morning thinking of my late Uncle John and the calm character this Korean Veteran had with his little sister’s kids. He kept living with mom in his house, even after marrying the love of his life. He grew two good kids of his own, was a leader in the state insurance department, affected by trench foot & circulation issues in his feet. Uncle John was a beacon of calm in a family that often did not have it.
My late great uncle Bob who I barely remember was a Green Beret.
Uncle Bill married into the family was a Navy man in the Pacific for WW2. He lived to 88, outlived 2 wives, and refused to buy Japanese cars or products. Just enjoyed spending time with him when visiting my family in Florida.
My first job was with several veterans of the Seabee’s (We Build. We Fight) WW2 vets Charlie, Phil, Stan, and many others in the large office of 100. Their kindness with fresh out of college kids, working hard, telling jokes, and occasionally singing the Seabee’s anthem for no reason at all. They are part of the reason I never feared growing old.
At worked with Stan who was a German prisoner of WW2. Mistreated, tortured and starved. Stan came back and his military doctor told him not to hold it in. So instead Stan told everyone the truth and even shared it with school presentations. He always had a smile and truly enjoy life, family and work.
At my age have a lot of Vietnam veteran co-workers and friends over the years. Remember the stories Tom told being an aircraft mechanic. His friends being tunnel rats or taking small boats up the river to bring the fight. Tom was most proud of his kids.
Thinking about the men and women vets have worked with it is not their discipline that stands out. Not their contributions to work. It is the humanity, caring, charity, faith and their confidence if something went wrong, they had been through worse, and had faith all would thrive.
The greatness of this country came from ordinary people who were willing to do the extraordinary, and then come home to raise families, work hard, and enjoy life. They are also the reason I mentor others and believe things will always get better.