Reading This Post Will Not Make You Money!

This post originally appeared on my personal blog on February 5, 2008.

A week or so ago my daughter and I were watching The Biggest Loser on NBC.

If you haven’t watched it before, it is a reality TV show where overweight contestants compete to see who can lose the most weight each week. A good portion of the show is devoted to all of the exercising the contestants do under the watchful eye of their personal trainers.

It was during one of those segments when my college-aged daughter, a former high school varsity athlete, decided she could use a little exercise herself and asked me where our big exercise ball was.

I was a little annoyed since I was in no mood to really move from the couch – let alone exercise.

I told her “You’ve got to be kidding me! That thing was fully inflated and sitting in the back of the closet under the stairs for over a year – and no one used it. All it was doing was taking up space. When I put the Christmas decorations away a few weeks ago I reorganized the closet and decided to let all of the air out of it, I then folded it up neatly and put it way in the back of the closet along with the Christmas decorations.”

“So…. what does that mean?” she asked.

“Well if you want to exercise you’ll need to go downstairs, find the exercise ball and the pump and then blow it up so you can use it”.

“Nevermind” she said “I’ll just have some Oreos instead”.

*** Continue reading

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A cautionary tale of reinvention and usability

NOTE: This post originally appeared on my personal blog.

There are two grocery stores I frequent in my hometown of Crofton Maryland –Safeway and Giant Foods. One of these stores embraces me with open arms while the other seems to work tirelessly to not have me as a customer.

In relation to me – the two stores are remarkably equal in many ways. They are both approximately the same distance from my house, they are priced comparably and 99% of their offerings are identical.

Having said this – I go to the Giant Foods as infrequently as possible and almost always regret making the decision.

Mostly, I go there for the salad bar (which is the only way they are better than Safeway) or when I happen to be near by and I only need something simple (loaf of bread, gallon of milk, diet cokes etc.).

The reason for this is their lack of usability.

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Why Can’t People Write – a LinkedIn Answer

This was originally posted on my personal blog on January 19, 2008.

I was over at LinkedIn answering a question and when I was done, I figured it was relevant to post it here as well:

The question from Michael Seidle was:

Why can’t people write?

Every time we go to find new employees, we run into an interesting phenomena: a lot of candidates look GREAT until we email them after the interview and get a response back and discover the quality of their writing is, shall we say, defective. Even worse, we’ve had people slip thought the cracks and get hired. Given the importance of email, documentation and communication, are solid writing skills necessary for white collar workers and customer facing employees? How do you ensure candidates have decent writing skills short of giving an essay test? Should we just give the essay test?

And my answer:

I can’t answer the “why can’t they write” question. If it was a matter of cursive or handwriting – well, who cares anymore? That is my opinion anyway.

I know people (my son) who can’t write legibly to save his life – quite literally.

He just never mastered the fine motor skills early on and the schools kept passing him through until he got to middle school and high school and the teachers started complaining about his writing.

But he can type about 60+ WPM and put together coherent sentences and paragraphs better than most college educated students.

I’ve ALWAYS done a lot of interviewing via e-mail – so I get an idea of how well they write, how quickly they respond to e-mails, how polite they are, etc.

I also always ask for a few writing samples:

  • a piece of long correspondence either complaining to a vendor/customer or handling a customer complaint.
  • a document outlining a policy or procedure
  • something else they are proud of

That last one is key. You want people to have a certain pride about their writing. That way, no matter how good they are – they’ll always be looking to improve.

For me, it isn’t just grammar and spelling and putting sentences or paragraphs together.

Its more about readability:

Is their writing concise?

Do they use short sentences and paragraphs? Do they use a lot of white space to cut down on reader fatigue (especially important online)?

Do they get their point across at exactly the right time (not too early, not too late)?

Does their writing have a rhythm?

When applicable, can they tell a good story to get their point across?

Are we asking too much? Probably. For the last few decades our institutions of higher learning have been churning out engineers, accountants, MBAs, and computer scientists by the millions.

Over the next decade or so those skills will become commodities – if they aren’t already.

That’s why a liberal arts education where writing is the bulk of the work is going to be so important for college graduates over the next few decades.

The new economy needs people who can synthesize information, who can create memorable experiences, and who can tell a compelling story.

The best advice I can give to college and high school students isn’t even mine:

“The MFA is the new MBA” – Daniel Pink

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Embracing the Imperfect Blog Post

NOTE: This post originally appeared on my personal blog.

This might come as a shock to my 7 RSS subscribers, but I’m not a very prolific blogger.

Courtesy of PsychoFish (lou) via Flickr

Courtesy of PsychoFish (lou) via Flickr

My lack of blogging is not due to a shortage of ideas or an insurmountable level of effort in putting fingers to keyboard.  It is due to a relatively high – yet achievable – standard I’ve set for myself when it comes to writing.

I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, but I do take pride in how I craft ideas into words.

Unfortunately, this usually means I won’t post at all for one or more of the following reasons:

The Incomplete Blog Post

In real life I like to take both sides of most arguments. I like to be familiar with all the different nuances of an issue and I like to think my ideas are well thought-out and complete.

To this end, I’m reluctant to post something that I consider to be half-baked – or worse – half-assed.

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Finding Your Highest and Best Use

NOTE: This post originally appeared on my personal blog.

Highest and Best Use (HABU) is a principle in real estate and business appraisals that means the true value of a property is whatever value the property would have if it was to be put to its highest and best use.

So for instance, your grandmother might be selling her old house.  As a house, the property is ok.  It’s a little run-down and dated and the bedrooms might be a little small.  As a house it’s probably worth slightly less than similar houses that are a little more modern.

But the house sits on 3 acres of land and this land is zoned for high density residential units (townhouses, apartments, condos).  As raw sub-dividable acreage the property could be worth many times what the house might otherwise sell for.

The actual value of the property isn’t the house itself.  It’s in the land.

In fact, the house itself might be in the way of the highest and best use of property.

Individuals aren’t any different.  You also  have a highest and best use.  It is the true value of your time if you were to work doing the activity that brings you the most money.

And just like Nana’s house, most likely there are activities that you are doing right now that get in the way of your highest and best use.

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Surrender to the System

Steps leading up to the Sydney Opera House by ChewyChua

Steps leading up to the Sydney Opera House by ChewyChua


Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

A few years back I read a profile about day traders. Among the various tidbits on their lifestyle, stress, and work habits was this tidbit:

Most day traders who made money and then lost money – did so because they moved away from their original system.  Most of the day traders they interviewed veered from the trades outlined by their systems because they got greedy or they became emotionally involved in the stock itself.

That is an interesting notion – had they stayed the course success would have been much more likely (though still not guaranteed).

I think this translates well to most things.

Have you ever wanted to do any of the following?

Continue reading

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