June 23, 2018

Graduation Speech for Rest of Us

Graduations speeches emphasis how wonderful we are, how far we will go, how we will lead the world, and be the ‘bestiest of the bestiest ever’. But we know we all can’t be no. 1 all at the same time. Who here did not graduate top of their class? 

I have accomplishments. Worked hard, solved problems, created new products, improved safety, and wrote a couple books. Graduated in the top on my class? Nope. Middle of high school class, and bottom third of engineering school. Being a C student never held me back in business. Only HR ever asked my grades, and HR was not the person choosing to hire me or not.

Why can we accomplish much in our lives? Will give you a hint, no one does it alone. Someone like you has an idea. They start researching the idea. They talk with trusted friends and improve it. They raise some seed money to test the idea. Change the idea and try again. Try again and again. 

The reason we succeed is research, collaboration, team work, learning from others mistakes, and learning from our mistakes. Don’t forget a ton of hard work. Success has lots of contributors sweating out details during development, marketing, sales and service.

The reason most people succeed is not that they are perfect. It is they are willing to try. They often fail. But failure is a chance to learn, and successful people will learn from everyone - Family, friends, strangers, people they disagree with, and people they don’t like.

We learn by small trials, testing, and learn to mitigate risks. We don’t take the wildest risk first. By mitigating risks we have ships, trains, trucks, airplanes and rockets. We send satellites throughout the solar system and are observing the universe. Being wrong is how we got here and how the future will be created. “Together, we can find a way” to create abundant energy, abundant food, and better health for all.

Customers are people who make choices, not corporations. People are people - weird, strange, eat odd foods, and make their own choices - which will not be your choices. Take good care of customers, because without sales we will be out of business in a few months. 

Since we will all be wrong at some point, or likely several times a day. Be kind to each other. Ask your parents if they knew what they were doing raising you? Of course they were figuring it out as they went. Raising good adults is one of life’s best accomplishments.

No one knows what the future will hold. Having education, business knowledge, skills, experience, resilience and options are necessary for your career. Try to learn something every day.

Some will scorn what I said. Some will like it. But someday you will go ‘That guy was right, dammit!’ Probably followed by what was his name?

Don’t be afraid to learn, live life, and share what you know. Remember, no matter what, you are loved. From me, your family, your neighbors, people you don’t know, and God with us. No matter how you struggle, how you fail and how you fail again. Love will be with you. 

June 16, 2018

World Debt Bubble

U.S. 329% debt-to-GDP. 
Eurozone 446% debt-to-GDP
China 256% debt-to-GDP (if numbers/estimates trustworthy)

Federal debt, state debt, and city debt [unfunded liabilities included] exceeds $200 trillion. China has similar issues with local & providence governments.

Not included above is corporate debt, which has been increasing. Stock buybacks and financial engineering are not good investments for corporations as the effect is temporary. Debt is better reserved for growing income.

Rising interest rates may trigger next recession. “With the Fed paring back its balance sheet and the federal government increasing its borrowing, the U.S. will have to finance by the end of the year “$400 billion a quarter — that’s a lot, that’s a huge shift from the past.” - Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase

Recent debt-to-GDP data from Ned David Research (NDR):
Japan 590%
France 480%
Germany 279%
Greece 360%
S. Korea 357%
Netherlands 725%
Denmark 585%
Canada 332%
Italy 360%
Portugal 488%
Ireland 828%
Spain 397%
Sweden 467%
Switzerland 382%
UK 476%

When bubbles pop recessions happen. Stocks could fall 50% again. Bonds fall in this scenario as rising interest rates adversely affect bond values. 

No hint any economies are falling apart yet. These scenarios are early observations what may come over the next few years or decade. No one really knows what will happen. But with debt and interest rates growing, the next recession will be painful. 

My thoughts are to have diverse holdings, reduce your debt, and raise cash for the next downturn. There are opportunities in recessions. Diverse holdings could include low cost Vanguard Total World Stocks and Total World Bond ETFs. Other options include precious metals, CDs, US savings bonds, and savings accounts with online banks.

Working on my health, and planning working into my 70s or 80s. Based on family history and improving health care, could be healthy into 90s or 100s. Like to raise more savings.

Credit ‘On My Radar’ by Steve Blumenthal for information & inspiration. Suggest you read:

June 9, 2018

Own Your Mistakes

Everyone screws up. Dad said, “The only people who don’t make mistakes, don’t do anything.” Dad was right.

The natural reaction when you make a mistake is to deny it, keep quiet, or make excuses. All 3 are strong temptations. Don’t.

Made an error on instructions I wrote when a new engineer. The number was not clear enough for the machinist to read easy. The gentleman who brought it up to show me was expecting a fight. He had reasons lined up why I had to change it. 

My response when he showed me my error, “You’re right. I’ll fix it.” He was off balance by that response. Started to explain why, and then paused thinking about what I said. My follow up was, “Will do it right now. Is there anything else?”

Reason to own your mistakes, you will learn. Denial takes energy that can be used to learn. Was able to fix my mistake in a few minutes and get back to other work.

Even if something is not your fault, there may be a lesson you can learn in it. Communicating better. Understanding customers. Even not to use that company’s product or service again. Find value.

 Your boss starts talking with you about your performance. You are surprised it is not good enough. Not time to freak out, but time to ask questions. Could you show me what you expected? Do you have a sample what you are looking for? Who does this well? Let me go talk to him to see what they are doing right?

In short you are making a plan to improve your performance. Then set up follow up meeting. Set a time in one or two weeks to review your actions and ask for more feedback. Then thank them for telling you. (They have given you an opportunity to improve)

Answering difficult feedback with questions and maturity are not natural reactions, but can raise your value to your company. Learning often is followed by more opportunities and responsibilities

May 26, 2018

Serving Others

Memorial Day honors fallen soldiers. We remember their service to our freedoms and country. Most veterans I know say were not heroes. The heroes were those who did not come home.

While this is a great point, we have the soldiers’ and families’ sacrifices including missing time with loved ones. While they say just doing my job, it is quite a job the soldiers and veterans preformed.

People overlook the benefits of military service. You know your work is important and matters. The camaraderie and respect of your peers is hard to replace. As much as they served our country, they served their fellow soldiers. Wartime vets talk about how they fought for the guys with them. They were part of a bigger team and purpose carrying them through hardships.

Blue Angels

We all aren’t soldiers, but we can all serve other people. Charity and service are the biggest joys of life. It gets us out of our heads.

Activities and sports help children grow into responsible adults. Pastors and counselors help people grow through hard times. Charities improve the lives of the suffering. Take comfort with small triumphs. Together we create a better world.

Help a neighbor or relative. Pack or help them move. Lend a skill you have to a stranger or a child. Never know how good you will feel.

This weekend remember those who are no longer with us. Honor veterans and soldiers around us by serving someone who needs it.

May 19, 2018


Life does not go as planned. We have dreams, goals and hopes for life. We are going to win the championship, get a scholarship, perform on TV, be famous, be rich and meet the spouse of our dreams. Raise perfect kids. Live in a mansion.

Real life is more challenging. We are awkward. Very interested in a boy or girl. They aren’t interested and find someone else. Work hard, fail and learn. Try again. Don’t get the promotion. Starting a business or restaurant and it closes. 90% fail in first 5 years. 90% of us don’t have enough or any retirement savings.

Never anticipated:
Failing Junior year of college. (Graduated on time)
Leaving home for work. (Repeated relocations to stay employed)
Getting laid off, being fired, or seeing coworkers laid off.
Being broke.
Months or years unemployment.
Not finding a spouse in 20s. (Married at 46)
Being sued (won, but cost thousands)
Bankruptcy (side effect of lawsuit & investment failure).
Being injured or ill. (Months of rehab & recovery)
Falsely accused of misbehaving & lying in career & marriage.
Family members with mental illness.
Losing loved ones.

It may get depressing. Don’t be.

Met and worked with so many great, talented people. Tried many things and learned skills accumulated. Learn resilience. Got better jobs and businesses. Learning investing. Found joy in serving others, giving away time & effort. Parents tell me how much they love it. When we need help, we learn how wonderful it is to be cared for. Life is good.

Goals change as we live our life. What were your dreams at 18 or 30 does not sound like a dreams at 50 or 60. We adjust. Persevere through hard and frustrating days. We get humility. Work harder and smarter. We develop new talents. Get resilience. We have fun. Tough times don’t last, tough people do.

Don’t be afraid to fail. There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized.  Conan O’Brien talked how losing the Tonight Show led to reinvention and growth. He created a nationwide tour and landed his own show.

Remember you are a child of God. What we wanted is not as good as what He wants for us. You will get through your trials.

“Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.” - Conan O’Brien 

May 12, 2018

The Powerful United States Economy

The US economy is so Productive, it is hard to understand or visualize it. Despite all the news reports and political positions to the contrary, the US competes well worldwide and is well positioned for future growth.

The US produced 24.3% of world’s GDP in 2017, with ~ 4.3% of the world’s population. 

China is the 2nd largest economy producing 14.9% of the world’s GDP, but with ~18.2% of the world’s population. 

Mark Perry, University of Michigan economics and finance professor, has created a chart showing “how ridiculously large and powerful the U.S. economy is”. He compares each state to an equivalent country. 

California - United Kingdom
Texas - Canada
New York - Indonesia
Florida - Indonesia
Illinois - Netherlands
Pennsylvania - Saudi Arabia
#11 Washington State - Iran
(See MarketWatch article for chart.)
California, Texas and New York would be among the 11 biggest world economies if they were countries.

Many reasons for the US dominance - Education. Financial Markets. Banking system. Military and Space investments. Airplane system. Trading ports on two coastlines, the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River system. 

The main reason for success has been our wiliness to let entrepreneurs and investors create new businesses and products. We encourage people to create new intellectual property like software, products, movies, music, books and art.

Better yet we understand failure is part of the process. It is an event, not a description of ourselves. We applaud people who comeback to succeed. Anyone from any background and anywhere can succeed in America. This is essential in people believing in what they are doing to work hard and struggle through the challenges building some new takes.

What can we do? Support ideas and processes to start new businesses. Buy from someone new. One of the failures in the last decade is more businesses closed than new businesses opened.

Work on simplifying government regulations. The idea is have laws be simple to follow, not take everything to court. Do you think other countries are wasting their businesses?

Create new ideas and work hard to build them, for we need everyone.

 “Economy has frequently nothing whatever to do with the amount of money being spent, but with the wisdom used in spending it.” - Henry Ford

May 5, 2018

Develop Your Sense of Thriving

We know life is challenging - work, school, college, health issues, family, activities, news & politics. There are relocations, break ups, divorces, funerals, and difficult people. Hard work and stress are givens in daily life. In spite of it all, life is good.

You need to be your own advocate. Who knows better what you need?

Appreciate the work you do. Make a customer happy. Anticipate what the boss or a coworker needs. Find a mistake and fix it. Mentor someone. Perform a complicated task. There is always something to appreciate in work you participated in and accomplished.

Find what you enjoy. Sit in the sunshine. Walk on the grass. Garden. Cut the lawn. Help a child. Take a run. Draw. Drive somewhere beautiful. Exercise. Take pictures. Pray. Take time for small pleasures. 

You only have to convince yourself. No one else needs to be convinced. We all see how well you are thriving. 

“You have more control than you think. Your attitude, mind-set and willfulness can make all the difference.” - Christine Porath, ‘Mastering Civility’

Graduation Speech for Rest of Us

Graduations speeches emphasis how wonderful we are, how far we will go, how we will lead the world, and be the ‘bestiest of the bestiest eve...