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A blog about business, life, learning from failure and striving towards successn 

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The Art of Maintenance

Posted on 30 April, 2015 at 17:05 Comments comments (93)

"A stitch in time saves nine."

If you've ever owned something that lived longer than its expected life, you can normally put that down to regular maintenance.  Maintenance is an often overlooked, but fundamental principle for extending the life of anything - including ourselves.  A car is serviced at regular intervals, the oil is changed, liquids topped up, brakes checked and adjusted and so on.  These slight modifications, though small, prevent larger problems down the track because not only do you replace the lifeblood of the engine (the oil), but you also check regularly to make sure certain tolerances remain within their required range.  Robert Persig talks about this beautifully in his philosophical book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."  It's now a classic and I highly recommend reading it.

It's no different in my line of work. To automate a door successfully you need to ensure that the door functions properly and that it is serviced regularly to ensure the optimum performance of the motor.  We can save ourselves a lot of hassle in the future if we invest a small amount of time providing the right kind of conditions.  The garage door then in some ways is a metaphor for just about anything we value - our homes and all our possessions, our marriages, our family and friends.  All things of value need to be maintained and a little maintenance is a lot easier than a major overhaul when something goes wrong.  A stitch in time saves nine....what are you saving today?  Have an awesome day!

The Importance of Rest

Posted on 28 April, 2015 at 16:25 Comments comments (15)

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”

Alan Cohen



I wanted to talk a little today about the importance of rest and recovery, both for the mind and the body.  It's all well and good to go hammer and tongs at something if you want to get it done, but it's also equally important to factor in periods of rest and recovery in between.  Athletes do it and so should you.  

Without adequate rest our physical bodies cannot repair themselves effectively - which means if we are exercising, all the hard work is nullified.  It's the same with our mental application.  Many of the world's greatest scientists and thinkers have gotten answers to their complex problems only when they rested and put aside their ideas for a period of time - their answer usually then came to them in their sleep or somewhere like the shower, when they weren't even thinking about the problem!

Rest has even been written into the creation story - such is its intrinsic importance.  I'm not advocating constant rest by the way, perhaps just one day a week when you can let your powers regroup.  I've been writing this blog now for something like 15 days straight, but I won't be writing or updating the website tomorrow.  You guessed it - I'm having a rest for a day! How about you?  Do you need a rest too?

Caffeine

Posted on 27 April, 2015 at 16:35 Comments comments (11)
Caffeine.  The gateway drug.
Eddie Vedder

It's now over 3 weeks since I gave up drinking coffee - though I still partake in the occasional caffeinated drink like tea or hot chocolate.  Though I'm aware there is evidence of caffeine's benefits, I'm also painfully aware of the side effects because I experienced them myself.  Let me explain...

Whenever I drank coffee I would sweat profusely - particularly the underarm region and the sweat would really smell bad (sorry if you're eating breakfast right now!).  Add to this a host of other maladies such as muscle twitches, heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, numbness in hands and feet and you can see why I decided to give Mr Caffeine the flick.  How about you?  Have you had similar reactions?  I'd like to hear your comments.

They say that caffeine is a more powerful drug than nicotine and I certainly believe that.  When I gave up coffee I had serious, at times debilitating withdrawal symptoms that include splitting headaches for days on end, nausea and vomiting and a general state of irritability and uneasiness.  It was only through experiencing these symptoms that I realised I was in fact addicted to caffeine - despite what it did to me.

There are several books that have been written about the harmful effects of caffeine over the past several decades, a quick Google search will reveal titles, which will save me going into details.  I haven't actually read any books on the subject, my observations have come from talking to other people and more importantly through my own experiences.  I have however read a few posts about the side effects of caffeine on our ability to think straight and the side effects of withdrawal.  One of my favourite websites or posts relates to an experiment that was carried out by NASA scientists on the side effects of various drugs on spiders, by observing their webs.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating animal testing and don't necessarily agree with it, but I felt this evidence based trial helped demonstrate that the effects of caffeine weren't imagined in our minds.

By observing the webs of spiders exposed to certain drugs including marijuana, speed, lsd etc it is comical to observe that out of all the webs, the most fu#$$d up was the spider on caffeine.  No trace of symmetry and it seems no logical progression in building the web.  Check it out here.  They say a picture paints a thousand words, so I'll let these pictures do the talking.

What about you?  Have you tried to give up, or succeeded in giving up Caffeine?  Did you have any side effects?  What do you think about the webs in the experiments?  As always, I'd be interested in hearing your comments.   Have an awesome day!

Running

Posted on 26 April, 2015 at 16:00 Comments comments (10)
"The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do"
Author Unknown

Today was my fifth straight day running.  I'm half way to my 10 day mini goal - going all the way to 30 days.  It's still hurting, but it's getting a little easier each day....as mentioned previously: "Everything is difficult before it is easy." I think I've just about passed my previous record for the longest consecutive stretch of days running, but this time I want to smash the record, not just pass it.  I've always loved walking and have been walking pretty much every day for the last several years, but running has really added a new dimension.  I thought I was quite fit, but after the first day of running I knew that I wasn't!  I did manage to run for nearly 1.5km on my first day - which seemed like a miracle at the time, but I felt it the next day, and the next, and the next!  In fact today, after 5 straight days of running my body is still hurting, but a lot less than the first few days.  It's getting easier!  I'm now running about 2.8km and plan to stay at this distance until it becomes habit (30 days).  Only then will I consider extending it, but to be honest it's a nice little run that takes less than 20 minutes, so it's really easy to fit in in the morning. 5K would be a nice goal to work towards though.

Running really does clear the mind and helps clarify things.  You also feel great afterwards, it's just difficult initially to get motivated until it becomes a habit.  How about you?  I'd like to hear your experience with running, in fact I'd love to hear anything you have to say on any subject.  This blog is turning into somewhat of a monologue!  But I guess sometime soon something I say will strike a chord with somebody reading and we will have a dialogue - until then I'll continue writing.  Have an awesome day.


Listening

Posted on 25 April, 2015 at 16:35 Comments comments (9)

"Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens"
Jimi Hendrix

Listening is often hard to do, particularly when we feel we have something important to say - which is pretty much all the time if you really analyse it.  In fact as Alfred Brendel puts it: Some people don't listen.  They merely wait for their turn to speak.  That's funny, but so true, for I've observed this in myself as well as in others.  It's often quite amusing observing two people meeting who both have something they feel is important to say: it is clear that one person isn't listening to the other, it's like a battle to get their words heard.  Have you noticed this before? Of course it's much easier to observe this in others than ourselves, but it's still possible to see it in ourselves too.  Next time you are dying to say something, try biting your tongue - you'll notice that it hurts! (not literally biting your tongue, but figuratively through the discomfort that arises within us).

By genuinely listening to someone else we acknowlege their being in a way that truly recognises them.  Sometimes simply listening to someone gives them validation, it can give them something far more important than any of our words could ever achieve.  Sometimes a sounding board is all people need.  To be that sounding board is not weakness, for the person speaking will always respect you and look up to you because you had the wisdom and strength of character to truly listen.

If you're one of those people who always seems to get railroaded into a corner by a "talker" and find yourself still listening often an hour later, then congratulations - you've made it.  Surrendering in such moments can bring huge benefits to both parties.  We may hear something in that conversation (or monologue) that completely changes our lives - who knows?  Perhaps the mere act of "letting it out" may bring a new level of understanding to the speaker themselves?  I know sometimes when I've experienced an "ear bashing" in the past, I've felt kind of taken advantage of in a way and have taken action to remove myself from the situation only to realise later that there was nothing else I really had planned to do anyway and that listening a little while longer probably wouldn't have killed me.

Listening is not only a practice we can use to develop tremendous patience, but it's also a way of gaining an incredible amount of respect.  Perhaps you're the person at your work or in your community that people come to for advice?  Rather than seeing this as a burden, see it for the blessing that it is.  The people who seek your advice respect you and they respect you because you've listened to them in the past.

Again, the things I speak about are also things I need to work on, but as always I like to share what I learn along the way.  Ironically I am speaking and you, the reader, are listening - but it's hard to listen when you're writing and until I receive comments I have no choice but to continue speaking.  Thank you for being my sounding board, for listening, for your wisdom.   Have an awesome day

Grace

Posted on 24 April, 2015 at 16:20 Comments comments (11)


“Grace met me where struggle left me”

― Ikechukwu Izuakor



I wanted to talk today about grace.  Grace is difficult to explain, but I guess for me it's best described as a gift.  Have you ever been in some situation that led you to people and places that have changed your life?  Perhaps on the surface the situation or place you were in may not have been an ideal use of your time, but something happened that led to something else, that led to something else and so on.  I always remember a quote from the late Steve Jobs that went something like "You cannot join the dots looking forward, you can only join them looking back."  

I met a painter on a job yesterday and he said that you need to have plans, but be flexible in how they are achieved - this I feel echoes the same sort of sentiment.  He was familiar with grace and in fact talked about it at length.  It was a fascinating discourse.  I also spoke with him and the owner of the house, whose family owns many successful businesses and they talked at length about integrity, about sharing, about sometimes accepting jobs that may be less in pay, but feel better in the heart.  What I learned yesterday from these two amazing people was worth more than money could ever buy and I'm forever grateful.  I walked away from that job yesterday a changed man - I sincerely mean that.

Some things are best left unexplained, because the mystery is what brings grace.  You cannot explain something that cannot be explained and by trying to you destroy it.  So I'll leave it at that.  Thank you.

How to form (or break) a habit.

Posted on 23 April, 2015 at 16:15 Comments comments (2513)

"Everything is difficult before it is easy."  

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe/ Thomas Fuller.


We all know somehow that good habits are the secret of our success, whereas bad habits are in the words of Og Mandion "the unlocked door to failure." With this in mind I thought I'd talk today about habits and the research that has been uncovered in the field of habit acquisition over the last few decades.

Popular research has uncovered a variety of timelines for acquiring a habit, but two of the most commonly accepted are 21 days and 30 days respectively.  The 21 day argument came about through a book written by a plastic surgeon named Dr Maxwell Maltz.  In his 1960 book "Psycho-Cybernetics" his research found that on average amputees required 21 days on average to adjust to the loss of a limb, he went on to argue that people in general take 21 days to adjust to any major life challenge.

I've tried 21 days in the past and it hasn't seemed long enough to fully establish a long term habit, thus I am more in tune with the 30 day method so common in literature these days.  What I don't like though is the time - 30 days is a long time. Let me explain...

30 days is like a massive wall that is standing in front of us, this is why 95% of people give up before the end of 30 days.  In his book "The Miracle Morning" Hal Elron recommends breaking the 30 days into 3 distinct phases, because psychologically there are 3 different levels.  Thus we have three 10 day blocks, or mini goals.  The first 10 days obviously are the hardest, most painful, backs to the wall kind of days and if we can just make it through 10 days, things will get easier.  The next 10 days will still be hard, don't get me wrong, but a slight joy will be in the background.  This joy is the result of the self confidence that comes from having started to achieve something you set out to do, but it still hurts.  By the end of the second 10 days we are approaching the magic 21 days.   It is at precisely at this point though, as Hal argues in his book, that we should keep going in order to cement the habit and make it stick for good.  Days 20 to 30 are the days when we start to enjoy our new habit and it's important to still practise the habit whilst we are in this peak state to reinforce the positive, rather than the negative feelings assosciated with the habit.

I also personally believe that we should celebrate the 10 day milestones along the way to provide a sense of achievement - with a massive celebration at the end.  Why shouldn't we?  How about you?  Have you, like me, struggled in the past to form new habits or break old ones?  Why not recommit today to forming a new habit, or breaking an old one that doesn't serve you any more.  Try the method mentioned above and let me know how you get on.  Remember - everything is difficult before it is easy.



Early Rising

Posted on 22 April, 2015 at 16:55 Comments comments (138)

"Early to be and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise"

Ben Franklin


I'm reading a book at the moment (surprise, surprise) called The Miracle Morning.  It's an inspiring story written by a man named Hal Elron who fought back from a crippling accident to achieve phenomenal success in his life.  You see Hal was driving home one night with his girlfriend when a drunk driver crashed head on into Hal's car at more than 80 miles per hour.  Several bones in his body were broken, including his femur (which was snapped in half).  He was left with brain damage and was told he may not walk again, yet several years later he completed an ultra marathon to raise money for charity.  It's certainly an inspiring story and one worth reading if you're looking for some kind of inspiration.  Here's an Amazon link to the book - I read it on Kindle.

The basis of Hal's book though, for those who may not have the time to read it in its enitirety revolves around the concept of early rising.  After suffering at the hands of crippling debt in the recession of 2008, Hal was seriously depressed and couldn't even drag himself out of bed.  A friend of his suggested he go for a run, because as his friend put it "It helps clear your head and helps you think straight."  Hal hated running (unless he was being chased), nevertheless he took his friend's advice and went for a run that day.  Whilst on that fateful run he had a revelation that would change not only his life, but the lives of thousands of others as well.  Whilst running he was listening to a motivational clip by one of his heroes Jim Rohn.  Rohn basically said that our level of success in life will rarely exceed our level of personal development.   A sudden lightbulb went on in Hal's head as he realised he hadn't been making time to develop his personal life.  He realised that to develop further he would need to set aside a certain period of time each day to work on his own personal development - including implementing many of the things proven to lead to success in his everyday routine - exercise, meditation, affirmations, visualising, reading and writing.   As time went by Hal realised that the only time he could consistently fit in these activities was in the morning when there were less distractions, so he got up an hour earlier.  The rest as they say, is history.

There would not be enough space in this blog, nor enough time for me to expound upon all of Hal's achievement, the point is, he turned abject failure into incredible success simply by finding a few minutes extra each day to consciously work on the things that would lead him to success.  Hal's story has inspired me to start getting up early (I'm writing this at 6:49 a.m, but have been up since 5:15 a.m) - though I was already getting up quite early prior to this.  It is amazing how much you can get done in the morning if you have a little extra time - it reminds me of a saying I once heard about the army - "We get more done before 9 a.m than most people do all day."

What about you?  Do you struggle to find time to do the things you know you need to do, but somehow never find time to do?  What's holding you back?  Perhaps you already get up early?  In that case I'd love to hear about your success.

Tomorrow I'm going to write about how long it takes to develop a habit, something else garnered from Hal Elron's story and also why there are 3 distinct phases in developing or breaking any habit, period.  Hope you can join me then.  

How to fix a loud, squeaky Roller Door - Part 2

Posted on 21 April, 2015 at 16:30 Comments comments (133)


You asked for it.......well, acutally you didn't, but nevertheless I am posting it anyway.  Hope this second video sheds more light on the subject and helps people to fix a loud roller door.  The video got cut off at the end when I tried to pause it, so there may be a third part some time down the track just to sum up.  Have a great day!


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The Canvas of Life - Similarities and Differences

Posted on 20 April, 2015 at 17:05 Comments comments (5)


The Destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide.  If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.  

T.H White


I awoke this morning with an insight I'd never had before.  Usually I forget these when I drift back to sleep, but this morning I managed to remember. For you this insight may already appear obvious, or even common sense, but for me this new level of insight brought with it a kind of peace and a greater depth of understanding about the nature of our existence...whoah, sounds deep doesn't it?


Anyway, what I realised is that life itself is analogous to a giant canvas.  We are all artists in that respect, with each of us working within the confines of a small fragment of that original canvas.  As we collectively go about our everyday lives we focus on an area that is right for us, either out of choice or borne under the weight of circumstance.  As our focus narrows we become more involved and naturally more partial to our own unique take on the world, our own piece of the canvas, and it is simply this narrow focus that leads to division - because it is in fact division. When we take a step back however, whilst still using the metaphor of painting a picture, we can see that our neighbours and in fact our greatest enemies are all painting on the very same canvas - the canvas of life and what they are painting is absolutely essential to the overall picture.  In fact what they are painting is beautiful.   Now I realise this may be an overly romantic way of thinking and if your thinking is more of a classical nature - as defined by Robert Persig in his 1974 classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, then perhaps you could view the world as a giant machine, with the various components collectively leading to the efficient functioning of this giant machine. In either case it's quite clear that each person is but a small piece in a much larger pie and whether we believe it or not we are all working towards the same goal, even if it's not immediately apparent or conscious just what that goal is.


As the events of the past few years have painfully reminded us, we are all different.  Terror attacks and wars have led us down the path of trying to solve our differences.  We see more and more in education that the focus is on understanding.  We are encouraged to learn about others so we can understand them better and in this manner our focus is on difference.  I believe this is going down the wrong track, and what I am saying may be controversial, but I don't mind.  I believe that we are not going to solve the problems created by difference by focussing on difference.  We should instead be focussing on our similarities - as Einstein once said "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."


 It seems self-evident to me that by focussing so much energy on points of difference it actually helps to define and solidify those differences, further strengthening mental positions, to the point where we see people who couldn't have cared less suddenly identifying with a position because it has been defined more and more by the media and society in general.  If my only frame of reference for being understood and accepted is my own unique viewpoint, then my life will be a constant battle to be heard.  Being heard will not lead me to silence, but on the contrary, it will surely fill me with the desire to spread my message further - to gain even more influence?


We cannot ever truly understand everybody else, this is not to say we should remain ignorant, don't get me wrong, but it seems much easier to focus on our similarities and what makes us all humans than to focus exclusively on difference.  It is a lot less complex and a lot quicker route in my opinion and I also believe it will unite, rather than divide us.  By continuing to focus on difference we are inadvertently creating greater division, rather than the kind of unity that we are all seeking inherently.



Our Hierarchy of Needs

Posted on 19 April, 2015 at 17:40 Comments comments (12)

"What a man can be, he must be."

Abraham Maslow


In 1943 American psychologist Abraham Maslow published a paper with the title "A theory of Human Motivation" in the Psychological Review.  The basis of Maslow's paper was that just like social status, our needs as human beings were structured in a hierarchial fashion, with the pinnacle of these needs being the need for self actualisation.


Maslow's now famous hierarchy of needs is often represented by a pyramid - the true shape of any hierarchy, with the base of the pyramid being our Pysiological needs - in other words, our basic metabolic needs for survival.  This need incorporates the need for basic sustenance - food, water and shelter.

Beyond the basic need for survival is the desire for safety.  Once we have our basic survival needs met, we instinctively pursue safety and security, which may manifest itself in a variety of forms such as personal security, financial security, health and well being.  In modern times this may include savings accounts, insurance policies, health care and so on.


Once our physiological and safety needs have been met, the next step in our pyramid - and Maslow's hierarchy of needs, is the need for love and belonging.  Maslow believed that humans generally need to feel accepted as part of their social groups.  Humans also have the need to be loved sexually and non sexually by others and it is a lack of this love he argued that often leads to anxiety, loneliness and depression.


The next level in Maslow's hierarchy is the need for Esteem.  Over the past few years we've seen a proliferation of psychological literature aimed at developing positive self-esteem and self-respect in individuals.  Esteem is higher than love and belonging in Maslow's hierarchy because it fulfills a human's basic desire not only to be accepted, as in the prior level of needs, but also to be valued.  People will often engage in professions or even hobbies that will give them a sense of contribution, but will also give them a chance to gain recognition as being valuable to society.  Within this level Maslow observed two distinct levels of esteem: the first and consequently lesser esteem was the kind of esteem that included a need for recognition, fame and attention, whilst the higher need was more in line with self - respect, evident by the desire for individual mastery, strength and confidence for its own sake, rather than for social acceptance.


This brings us now to the pinnacle of all the needs in Maslow's hierarchy, which we touched upon briefly above, and that is the need for self-actualisation.  This level affords the individual with the need to accomplish everything one can do and be - to realise one's full potential.  This need may vary from person to person. For one it may express itself in the desire to create beautiful art, for another it may manifest itself athletically, or even socially, but without the constraints of "lower" levels of need which have already been fulfilled in the individual. 


Interestingly, in his later years Maslow criticised his own theory, suggesting that there was a further dimension to the hierarchy beyond self actualisation - self-transcendence.  Thus he believed that the self could only find true actualisation by giving itself to something outside of oneself.


This theory is certainly interesting and can be applied to a variety of situations, both individually and collectively in the form of interest groups, organisations, businesses and even governments.  Where are you on the scale?  Can you recognise some of these traits in yourself or others? Maybe you can see parts of yourself in all of them? 


How to fix a loud, squeaky Roller Door - Part 1

Posted on 18 April, 2015 at 18:05 Comments comments (3)

I'm very happy this morning because my football team - Port Adelaide, won their first game of the regular season against our arch nemesis North Melbourne at Etihad stadium.   To celebrate I thought I'd post a practical video, rather than my ususal philosophical ramblings (which are yet to garner any comments!) - I am after all running a garage automation business!  If there is enough interest I will publish part 2 also. 


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Being Unique

Posted on 17 April, 2015 at 18:10 Comments comments (15)

"Every snowflake is unique, yet they are each perfect."

Donald L. Hicks


In a world of how to it is sometimes easy to lose our way.  It's easy to forget our own unique take on the world because the still, quiet voice inside is drowned out by all the noise.  But I'm here to tell you that that voice needs to be heard, because we're each here to celebrate life.


Charlesd Du Bos once said "Joy is but the sign that creative emotion is fulfilling its purpose."  Creative emotion is born out of the freedom and emancipation that comes with being unique.  This uniqueness, or point of difference is also something that is gaining more and more traction in the business world.  When starting a business it's easy to follow set formulas that are tried and tested - the rational side of our beings all know this.  Yet in a world where everyone is trying to get their messages across, sometimes the only way to get that message through to others is to be different, to stand out in some particular way.  It may even border on the absurd, something author Seth Godin  may refer to as a "purple cow."  These zany and funky absurdities - such as a purple cow, may seem strange to an entirely rational being, but our creative and romantic beings not only love creating these differences, but receiving them from others also.


Not everyone needs to go to the lengths of creating the absurd to gain attention however.  If we could analyse the principles as to why absurdity creates attention, it has its roots in uniqueness.  You and I can create a point of difference without being absurd that not only celebrates uniqueness, but also celebrates authenticity - and that's important.  Being authentic means staying true to the values in your heart and using that value system as a compass when offering your products and services to the market place.  


There are a limitless ways to do business, as there are limitless ways to do life.  Having the courage to celebrate our way, not only breeds confidence, but I also believe it breeds success.  Other people will pick up on your authenticity and it will silently give them permission to be authentic as well.  What's best is you won't have to think of a way to express yourself - it will arise spontaneously from the depth of your own being and it will feel right.  You will know it, others will know it and even if there are others who don't agree or approve, you'll be happier because it's a celebration of your own uniqeness and authenticity and it will feel right in your heart.

Consistency and Showing Up

Posted on 16 April, 2015 at 17:50 Comments comments (5)

"Eighty percent of success is showing up." - Woody Allen


There it is again, that dreaded 80/20 concept!  But seriously, I think Woody was onto something when he penned those now famous words.  It's always the small quotes I find are filled with the most wisdom.  Although some may argue that showing up is common sense, it is surprising how few can do it consistently on a long term basis - I should know, I have plenty of experience in the past not doing it!

I really find it surprising that in some circumstances I have called other businesses for quotes or for information and no one gets back to me - ever!  This has not been a rare occurence and actually happens quite frequently.  I often wonder how much money everyday businesses are losing by simply not following up on the leads that they receive?  Surely I am not the only customer?  Now don't get me wrong, I"m not trying to be negative by demoting these businesses or bragging about my own consistency, I simply find it interesting and somewhat intriguing, particularly when you compare the level of service (and consequent success) to big, successful companies like McDonalds for instance.

You can say what you like about the quality of food at McDonalds, but one thing for sure is: they have a great business system.  I've read the book by Ray Kroc ("Grinding it Out - The McDonalds Story"), the middle aged milkshake maker salesman who in 1954 took the concept the McDonald brothers initially established, franchised it and turned it into an international superstar.  Kroc was indeed a smart man, but a lot of his success I believe is attributable to the simple positive habits he developed and implemented - showing up for example.   Walk into any McDonalds in the world and not only will  the food quality be identical, but also, and more importantly the level of service will be identical.  In most cases you're assured of being served within a few minutes, sometimes even less.  There's usually only a couple of registers open, but have you noticed how many there are?  What happens when a line develops?  A new register is opened.  The process repeats until all of the registers are full - then people have to wait..... right?  Wrong!  When I was in London I visited McDonalds after a game at Wembley Stadium and what I saw blew me away.  Initially I was skeptical of even entering the store, for I didn't think we would get served for hours, but to my surprise, not only were McDonalds serving people at the registers, but they had other staff circulating with palm held tablets taking further orders so people didn't have to wait.  We walked out of that jam packed McDonalds in less time than usual!


What McDonalds gets right then and what I intend to follow in my own business, is that they value every customer and they don't let customers (and their money) walk out the door.  They are not complacent, despite their massive size.  It would be easy for a company like that to rest on its laurels and live on the credibility it has developed over the years, but they never do that, they are always proactive.   I've been into fast food restaurants where there are 15 -20 people waiting and there is only one person on the cash register who doesn't seem to be in any hurry and doesn't apologise to any of the customers for the wait.  I usually walk out of these places, not because I'm impatient, but because I think it is not treating a paying customer with respect.  I never usually go back either.  Has this happened to you?  Am I the only one who is bothered by this?


Anyway, enough rambling for today.  I simply wanted to share what I believe to be the secret of success - showing up.  It sounds too simple to be even taken seriously, but it works.  Ray Kroc proved it in McDonalds and you and I can prove it too.  We just have to show up.  What a wonderfully simple and beautiful philosophy that is!

What an Italian economist can teach us about business and life in general

Posted on 15 April, 2015 at 16:05 Comments comments (5)

Every person I have known who has taken The 80/20 Principle, seriously has emerged with useful, in some cases life-changing insights."          
                                                                       Richard Koch


In 1896 an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto published his first paper entitled  "Cours d'économie politique."  Basically this paper explained how in Italy at the time, 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people.  Pareto also noticed in his own garden that 80% of the peas came from 20% of the pods.  His theory, or perhaps insight is now referred to widely as the Pareto principle, or more commonly: the 80 20 rule.

This really is a fascinating rule that seems to pervade a host of different scenarios involving human organisational systems, including business.  For example, it has been widely accepted and proven that 80% of sales in a business come from 20% of customers.  In terms of products themselves, again 80% of sales come from only 20% of products - provided of course you have more than 1 product, or customer!  Going further, to the organisation itself, it has also been demonstrated that 80% of the work is completed by 20% of the workforce.  In terms of complaints, you guessed it - 80% of all complaints come from 20% of the customers.  Fascinating isn't it?

There are other applications to this theory beyond business and economics, for example in computer coding.  Microsoft for example, discovered that by simply fixing the top 20% of  software related bugs, that 80% of the related errors and crashes in any given system were eliminated. It has also been discovered in load testing that 80% of all traffic occurs during 20% of the time.  

In health care in the U.S 20% of all patients are responsible for consuming 80% of the health budget.  In criminology, 80% of all crimes are committed by 20% of criminals. In occupational health and safety, again 80% of all accidents are caused by 20% of the hazards.  In fashion, 80% of your clothes will come from 20% of your wardrobe.  In hospitality, 80% of a restaurant's turnover will come from 20% of its menu.

What then are the practical uses for this rule?  By simply observing this naturally occuring phenomenon we can distribute resources and capital more effectively where it will prove most needed, rather than on an ad hoc basis.  Microsoft is a classic example of a practical application of this principle (though some would argue they could go on to fix the other 80% of the bugs!)

It's probably more important to simply know that the rule exists, then practical applications will reveal themselves as you become more aware of the principles that underly it.  As the Zen proverb goes "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." Like any good story it leaves you thinking long after the story has finished and you start to see more evidence of how the story sums up so many aspects of life that we were once unaware of.
 
How about you?  Have you observed the 80 20 rule in your own life?  How have you used the rule to help your situation or the situation of others?  


The Little Things

Posted on 14 April, 2015 at 18:40 Comments comments (8)

"A jug fills drop by drop."

The Buddha


Several years ago my Mother bought us a gift for our house.  It was a small plaque with a simple inscription:  "Take care of the small things, for one day you may look back and realise that they were the big things."  The older I get and the more years that pass I realise just how much wisdom lies in that simple sentence.  Too often we overlook the small things because we think that they aren't important, or that nobody will notice, when in fact it is our small acts repeated day in and day out that not only give us a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in the present, but will also lead us towards more success in the future.  Ironically, it is only through caring for what we do now that we also care for our future.

We can apply this simple logic to all of our affairs - our relationships, our finances, our health, our work - even our happiness.  Making small steps each day is not hard, neither is not making those steps.  Neither will have any measurable effect in the short term, but their effects over the long term will be dramatic, because our actions have a cumulative, compound effect.  We can insert practically any good habit or bad habit into the following formula:  Habit x Time = Incredible Success / Devastating Failure.  Smoking might be a habit applied to health.  Saving 10% of our income might be a habit we apply to our finances....you get the picture!

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the book "The Tipping Point" sheds light on some fascinating concepts in his book.  Gladwell's book built upon the ground breaking work of author George Kelling in his book "Broken Windows" - a theory that suggests urban disorder and vandalism leads to further crime.  According to Gladwell in New York in the early nineties the city was tormented by a serious crime epidemic - especially on the subway system - where murder was a common occurence.  Upon his election in 1993 the then mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani hired an advisor named William Bratton who was heavily influenced intellectually by Broken Windows author George Kelling.  Bratton built upon earlier reforms that were designed to test the broken window theory in real life.  Basically, instead of tackling the more serious crimes, a "zero tolerance" policy was applied to all violations, but with a particular focus and hard line on petty crimes: fare evasion, public urination, graffiti etc.  The move was widely criticised with many people insisting quite adamently:"Why go after petty things like graffiti artists and hookers when there are more important and serious crimes that need to be addressed?"  Nevertheless, by tackling the small things, the larger things took care of themselves - the murder rate dropped like a stone.  Interesting isn't it?


There are of course detractors from the succes of the above mentioned policy in New York.  People who claim that the results were part of a wider context that included a significant reduction in the level of unemployment in the city around the same time, however this does not explain the countless other examples where the theory has been self evident and supported with a large amount of evidence.  Any of these examples can be uncovered through a simple Google search on broken window theory.

It's interesting to find support among other sources as to how little things matter, but in the end I guess it's kind of just affirming what we already know intrinsically, yet somehow lose sight of in the day to day current of our lives. I've certainly seen in my own life how small things can become quite large (both in a positive and negative way) given sufficient time. How about you? What are the little things in your life?  I'd love to hear your comments.

The Power of Reading

Posted on 13 April, 2015 at 18:25 Comments comments (15)

“When I get a little money, I buy books. If any is left, I buy food and clothes.” — Erasmus


I wanted to write today about something I am passionate about, but wasn't always passionate about and that is the habit of reading.  I didn't read that much throughout my schooling - just enough to get by and even in University, just what I had to.   I guess I hadn't stumbled upon something that really interested me.  Things changed in my mid twenties and onto where I am today where I now find myself frequently engrossed in the pages of a book.

I read (funnily enough) a book several years ago by an author named Burke Hedges - it was called Read and Grow Rich.  It was an older pre-loved book with a very ordinary brown coloured jacket that was originally published in 1999 that I picked up at the Mockingbird Lounge (a second hand bookstore and coffee shop in one) in Brighton for $6.  It isn't a best seller: in fact it currently stands at #395,582 in Amazon's best seller's list, but it was a best seller in its time. This book profoundly changed my life and has since returned my initial investment many times and I'd like to expand upon why that is.

All books (okay most books at least) are written by those who have either knowledge or experience in a given field, but usually they possess both.  What makes reading so fascinating and powerful then, is that it's like you are having a conversation with the person who wrote it.  The only difference being that in the conversation you don't have a chance to respond in person, but that is not always a bad thing, for as Jimi Hendrix once said "Knowledge Speaks but Wisdom Listens."  By reading then, we can get inside the minds of some of the most amazingly successful people in whatever field we are interested in.  By learning what these great minds have to share we can avoid the painful lessons these people went through and go to great lengths to advise us against in their writing.

Burke Hedges was earning $6 an hour building boats in 1986 when he read the book "The Greatest Salesman in the World" by Og Mandino.  The book inspired him to change his life and that day he began a life-long commitment to reading positive and uplifting books.  He has since written 7 best selling books and presents speeches on free enterprise and personal growth to audiences all around the world.  He's also a successful businessman with a string of successful companies.  Reading therefore was the slight edge that lifted this man from the brink of adversity to phenomenal success and he shared his entire story in an insightful and easy to read 120 page book.  Thanks Burke!

Brian Tracy is another author that embraces the power of reading - somewhat boldly stating that if you can read for 30 minuts a day in your chosen field, you're going to double your income every year.  Jeff Olson in his book The Slight Edge also suggests that reading is one of your most prized activities and one of the best uses for your time and that you should consider it as a $10 000 an hour activity, because that is it's true value.  I'm also told that Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, spends 80% of his working hours reading - I wonder what percentage of his personal time he also uses in the same manner?

In any case, I know that reading works, for I have seen the benefits in my own life.  I'm not trying to justify this to myself and I'm not seeking validation for my words, but rather I'm seeking to inspire others to take action for themselves if they haven't already.  The way I see it is that the majority of things we wish to learn have already been written about, it's just up to you and I as to whether or not we decide to listen.

How We Learn to Walk

Posted on 12 April, 2015 at 19:10 Comments comments (2507)


"The two greatest warriors are patience and time"

Leo Tolstoy


I'm reading a book at the moment as part of a new commitment to read a book every week.  It's called "The Slight Edge" by Jeff Olson.  It is a fantastic book and I encourage anyone who wishes to make a positive change in their lives to read it.  The core message in the book for mine, was that of persistence.  Jeff gives an excellent example of what he calls the slight edge in the development of a child (you or I) learning to walk.  At the beginning we slowly dragged ourselves up, but quickly fell down again because we didn't have the strength to maintain our new posture, but we got up again.  We fell down again.  But we didn't stay down, we kept on getting back up and everytime we did that we got a little stronger.  We got up.   We fell down.  We got up.  We fell down.  Day by day  and week by week we eventually took one step, then two, then 3 or 4 - falling down constantly along the way, but before long we were almost running.


I tell this story of past to remind us all that we all have what Jeff expounds upon in his book - that slight edge, that natural persistence seemed so inherent in our early childhood - our learning to walk is proof of this, but somewhere along the way we started to give up on things.  In the same book Olson talks about how by the time we reach school age we have already heard the word "no" 8 times more than we hear the word "Yes."  Is it any wonder he suggests, that only 5% of people go on to achieve all the goals and success they desire by the time they reach the end of their lives, whilst 95% of all people flounder and do not achieve their deepest desires?  What separates the 5% from the 95% according to the book, is not a lack of "How To Manuals", because there has never been more information than there is today, but more of a lack of understanding as to how to do the how - if that makes sense?!  It is our personal philosophy which guides our attitude and this attitude influences the actions that lead us up towards success or down towards failure.


Success then is achieved by a series of small habits repeated daily, not by some quantum leap - though we fantasise that this will be the case with us.  There are many reasons why we do not stick with good habits according to Olson, but one of the overwhelming reasons is that we fail to see progress straight away.  In a world of instant everything we also want instant results, but how long did it take us to put on those 10 kilograms we need to lose?  How long did it take to start losing touch with our families and friends?  These things didn't happen overnight, but they did happen.  A reversal of fortunes will also take time, but it will also take persistent, consistent action over the long term.


To round off this post I'll leave you with a story that was told by Jeff Olson's daughter in the book.  She is also an inspiring young individual who lives the same kind of philosophy as her father.  She told a story about Will Smith, who we all know to be an incredibly successful actor.  Apparantly as the story goes Will's father tore down a wall in their shop that was 16 feet high and around 30 feet long and asked Will and his little brother to rebuild it.  They also had to dig a 6 feet hole for the foundation.  Trouble is, Will was only 12 years old at the time.  He told his Dad it was impossible, yet nevertheless he and his brother set to work to build the wall, mixing the concrete by hand, failing many times along the way.  Every day after school for a year and a half Will and his little brother would build the wall, mixing concrete by hand.  Will said in an interview with Charlie Rose that he remembered standing back looking at the wall and thinking "There's never going to be anything more than a hole here!" because of the sheer enormity of the task, yet in 18 months they laid the final brick.  His father stood back with Will and his brother out the front of the shop and simply said (in Will's words) "Now don't y'all never tell me you can't do somethin" and walked back into the shop.


We may not all have a literal wall to build, but we all have a figurative wall that we need to work on.  A wall, like a pyramid is built brick by brick and only by building in this manner it seems, can we accomplish what we set out to do.

The beginning - learning from failure

Posted on 12 April, 2015 at 6:25 Comments comments (44)

 

“If you reveal your secrets to the wind,

you should not blame the wind for

revealing them to the trees.”

 

 

― Kahlil Gibran


I guess it all begins somewhere...for me and for Garage Door Automation it begins here...right now I'm wondering what I'm doing, why I've decided to start a blog and the usual insecurities that I guess come with this ground - will anyone read it?  Will it show my vulnerability?  Will it make me look stupid? Well I guess possibly all three may happen.  What I'm hoping though is that it can prove an insight into my philosophy of life so that others may not only understand me and what I'm about, but also grow to trust in my business, rather than it being just another face in the crowd.  I guess then I want to put a personality behind the face.  I want the face to talk back to you and to communicate with you, not just try to sell you something.  I guess I also love writing, because with writing people have the choice as to whether they wish to read it or not, in that sense it is a lot more priveleged than the spoken word.  You can always "tune out" to the spoken word, but sometimes it's not always easy to make an escape when there's something else you wish to be doing - social conditioning is a bummer in that sense!

I realise it's probably not a normal thing to do (blogging) given my industry, nevertheless these musings may or may not provide valuable lessons for people starting a business in the future - either what to do, or what NOT to do! Ha, ha.  They'll also be a memorable reminder to myself hopefully. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves here, for this is only the beginning.


For those who know me, this is not my first business venture - and this is where Kahlil Gibran's words whisper into my ear quite loudly and anxiously.  It's probably my fourth serious business in which I've invested a decent amount of time and capital in.  The first was a tutoring business I started in London that almost made ends meet.  The second was a company I started called "Simple Cleaning" here in Adelaide upon returning from Europe and the third is an Ebay business that is still going and growing slowly, but run almost exclusively by my wife.  In between there's been countless other projects and ideas that either fizzled out or were dropped like the proverbial hot potato.  


Looking back now I guess these two aforementioned businesses "stuck" because they were fulfilling - in that they helped others, but they also filled a genuine need people had.  The first two businesses and currently the third never quite got across the line in terms of earnings, but it was close and I believe with the benefit of hindsight that if I had have stuck it out, things might have worked out differently.  But hindsight is always a wise counsellor and the lessons I have learnt through these earlier failures in fact have progressively taken me to greater levels of success.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that success seems to me to be nothing more than building upon failure.  Failure could be seen as the foundations of a pyramid (to use a real world metaphor) with every failure progressively decreasing in size towards the apex.  Each step of the pyramid is consequently a step closer to success and it's failure that is under your feet.

I am not immune to failure, as the above clearly demonstrates.  The difference now is that I seem to have more clarity on why failure led me to the greater understanding I have today.  I am consoled by the fact that if failure should happen again, then I will have built another layer in the pyramid of life.  I also realise that sometimes you have to persevere with the tools you have whilst you wait for better tools to arrive.  As my Dad always says " A good tradesman never blames his tools."


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