The Compass vs. The Clock, Put First Things First
 |  January 23, 2014
Compass vs. The Clock, Put First Things Firstby Chris Banescu - The realization that something is not right with our lives can manifest itself in various ways. A feeling of emptiness, a bothersome disquiet, or a strange pain, like a deep sadness or a heartache, gradually or suddenly begins to trouble our souls. We feel guilty, anxious, unsatisfied, stressed, or sad even in moments when we ought to be at peace and carefree; when we should be relaxing or enjoying ourselves. For some this pain is only a vague discomfort. For others, including yours truly, the pain can often be intense and unrelenting; sometimes lasting for long stretches of time. I discovered the reason for this mysterious affliction in the book First Things First, written by Stephen Covey, Roger Merrill, and Rebecca Merrill. They describe this particular grief as the “pain of the gap,” the gap we sense between the compass and the clock in our lives. Every time we don’t put first things first, when we fail to follow our calling and vocation and focus on the most important things in life, our conscience warns us that something’s not right and corrective measures and proactive actions are required. The book employs the metaphor of the compass to describe what is most important and valued in our individual lives. The compass represents our specific calling, values, vision, most cherished relationships, principles, and mission in life. It embodies the core reason and meaning of our existence. The clock, on the other hand, symbolizes what we do with, and how we spend our time. It represents our daily schedules, including our work, appointments, commitments, and various other activities. Warning Signs The warning signs appear when we sense a gap between our compass and our clock. This happens when our time is devoted to activities that don’t support what’s truly important or meaningful in our lives or we don’t spend enough quality time with our loved ones. The symptoms frequently appear when we waste time just surviving, working ourselves to death, or pursuing worldly pleasures or distractions. We squander our precious time on superficial endeavors that do not enrich our lives, strengthen our spirits, build healthy relationships, or help us reach our full potential as men and women created in the image and likeness of God. Some never take the time to reflect and understand what truly defines the unique compass in their lives. Others lack the required willpower and discipline required to even begin this journey back to normality. Some start and quickly give up when the daily cares and distractions of the world overwhelm and discourage us. Others quit because they are afraid of failure; they give up before trying. But try we must, if we’re to lead a purposeful and meaningful life, in accordance with how God created us to live. Based on personal experience, ignoring the pain doesn’t make it go away. Burying ourselves in more busy work intensifies the heartache. Leisure activities won’t help. Worldly distractions and entertainment make the pain worse. Intense exercise or sporting activities provide only a brief respite. More rest and relaxation are not the answers either. Prayer and meditation without a corresponding change of heart and direction offer only temporary relief. Interestingly enough, the more freedom we have, the harder it may be to effectively deal with this affliction. Faced with so many other things we can do and are free to pursue, we easily can, and many frequently do, choose the wrong “cure” or find multiple ways to cover it up and ignore it. We may increase the amount of work, leisure activities, entertainment, amusements, or other diversions hoping to dull the pain. Unfortunately those options offer only short-term relief and fail to address the underlying cause of our angst. We inadvertently widen the gap between the compass and the clock and aggravate our condition. Instead of getting better, we get worse. Put First Things First The only effective way to address the root cause and find relief from this spiritual discomfort is to put first things first. We must make a conscious effort to dedicate enough of our time, focus, and energies on those meaningful activities and relationships that bring us closer to our Creator, fulfill our unique vocations, and bless us with true peace, joy, and fulfillment; that help us be “human” in a godly sense. But how can we pursue such lofty goals? Our hectic and increasingly crowded daily schedules are already full. There aren’t enough hours in the day to finish everything we “must” do and the problems we “have” to tackle. Where can we find the time and energy to figure out how to align our compass and clock and then focus on what’s truly important? We’re already too busy, over-worked, stressed, and exhausted. How do we break the vicious cycles that have become our daily habits and have expanded the compass and clock gap into an enormous chasm? Humility We must begin in humility. True humility allows us to see ourselves as we really are and see reality as it really is. Humble people recognize that everything in this life is a gift from our Creator. They understand that without God’s energy, wisdom, love, power, and help we are lost. “Be still and know that I am God,” command the Scriptures in Psalm 46. We are called to be still, to let go and surrender ourselves to the Lord’s will. Humility helps us realize that by ourselves it’s impossible to find true meaning and lasting happiness. However, with God’s support “all things are possible.” Only when we admit this truth and place our lives, faith, hopes, and dreams into His hands can we begin to place first things first. Silence Then, we must seek the daily practice of silence. This is an extremely difficult task in the increasingly connected, busy, noisy, and frenzied world we live in. We’re surrounded by endless distractions delivered quickly via global communications networks available wherever we go. Easy access to instant gratification can condition us to avoid silence, trapping us into a destructive cycle that eventually eliminates all silence from our waking hours. Yet, silence for our souls is like oxygen for our bodies, it is a basic human necessity. “True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment,” wrote William Penn. Silence facilitates and supports our spiritual life, just like oxygen fuels and maintains the biological processes that sustain our physical bodies. To find peace, we must first get away from any noise and distractions; no email, phone, smartphone, TV, Internet, radio, or interruptions from friends, family, or anyone else. Then we must sit alone in silence for at least 15-20 minutes each day, being attentive to God’s presence in our hearts and listening to that eternal, stronger, quieter, and wiser voice which speaks across eternity. “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls,” observed Mother Teresa. Prayer Silence also helps us with prayer, the next important daily requirement in putting first things first. “When one keeps silent, he is given time and freedom for prayer and gathering; when, however, he passes his hours heedlessly, he does not have time for prayer, and from his heedless speech he also derives different sins. For this reason the holy Fathers placed the virtue of silence at the head of the virtues, for without this no virtue is able to stand in the soul of man,” counseled Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos. Prayer plows the field of our mind and soul, preparing us to receive the inspiration, guidance, and insights needed for find what is meaningful and important in our lives. Prayer opens the lines of communication with our eternal Father. It allows Him to illumine us with His wisdom and understanding so we can identify and pursue the first things first. Prayer also dispels fears, strengthens hearts, and brings real peace, all key ingredients needed in our daily struggles. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Self-Examination and Reflection Once silence and prayer have prepared our hearts and minds, we can being a process of self-examination and reflection. We’re now ready to discover the important first things in our lives. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” observed Socrates. A life lived without proper reflection and meditation can become mere survival, a life “lived in quiet desperation,” Henry David Thoreau once said. A human being without purpose, direction, and meaningful goals is like a ship without a rudder. He wonders about aimlessly, tossed to and fro on the storms of life, without control over his destiny or the course of his life. This is no way to live. Self-reflection and self-examination will allow us to discern and identify the first things in our lives: our calling and vocation (the most important work we should be doing) and the special and meaningful relationships that truly matter in eternity. These are the things that we must begin to focus on and consider as the highest priorities in our lives. Courage to Act and Stay the Course! All our prayers, self-examination, self-reflection, prioritization, and preparations must lead to action. We cannot spend time only contemplating without the proactive and pragmatic steps needed to move us forward. As the old saying goes, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Just thinking and praying about what we should do is not enough. We must get busy working and doing what we know is right. This is often the hardest part. We must overcome our fears and muster the courage to act and nurture the necessary determination and discipline to stay the course. “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others. … You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor,” wrote Aristotle. There’s no getting around doing this hard work. We must fight these daily battles and keep our priorities straight. We must find and make time for what is truly important in our lives. Be ready to struggle, to be tested, to fall, to fail, to begin to doubt. Don’t get discouraged. This is normal. This is part of the process. This is how the saw is sharpened and the steel is hardened. There is no other way. Don’t give up. Keep going. Stay the course! Always remember this encouragement from Scriptures: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

The Government’s War on the Little Guy
 |  November 25, 2013
Government war on the little guyby John Stossel - Marty the Magician performed magic tricks for kids, including the traditional rabbit-out-of-a-hat. Then one day: "I was signing autographs and taking pictures with children and their parents," he told me. "Suddenly, a badge was thrown into the mix, and an inspector said, 'Let me see your license.'" In "Harry Potter" books, a creepy Ministry of Magic controls young wizards. Now in the USA, government regulates stage magicians—one of the countless ways it makes life harder for the little guy. Marty's torment didn't end with a demand for his license. "She said, from now on, you cannot use your rabbit until you fill out paperwork, pay the $40 license fee. We'll have to inspect your home." Ten times since, regulators showed up unannounced at Marty's house. At one point, an inspector he hadn't seen before appeared. He hoped things had changed for the better. "I got a new inspector and I said, oh, did my first one retire? She said, 'No, good news! We've increased our budget and we have more inspectors now. So we'll be able to visit you more often.'" Here are your tax dollars at work. The inspectors told Marty that the Animal Welfare Act required him to file paperwork demonstrating that he had "a comprehensive written disaster plan detailing everything I would do with my rabbit in the event of a fire, a flood, a tornado, an ice storm." The federal forms list "common emergencies likely to happen to your facility ... not necessarily limited to: structural fire, electrical outage, disruption in clean water or feed supply, disruption in access to facility (e.g., road closures), intentional attack on the facilities ... earthquake, landslide/mudslide/avalanche ... " Sadly, this Kafkaesque enforcement of petty rules is not a bizarre exception. Some regulation is useful. But when we passively accept government regulation of everything, thinking we're protecting people from evil corporations run amok, we're really making life harder for ordinary people. Every profession, from cab driving to floral arrangement, is now burdened with complex rules. You can't even give tours of Washington, D.C., the city that produces most of these insane rules, without getting a special license. Tour guides must pay about $200 for criminal background checks, provide four personal references, show passport photos and pass a written test—a difficult one. People who reflexively defend government may feel no pity for businesses that face extra costs: Let businesses pay fees and take tests—we don't want unlicensed tour guides describing famous statues incorrectly! But these costs add up. Often, they make a small, barely profitable business impossible to operate. These rules also violate Americans' right to free speech. They are unnecessary. If tour guides are no good, people can patronize others. The government doesn't need to be gatekeeper. These rules generally prevail because existing businesses are politically connected. They capture licensing boards and use license rules to crush competition from businesses just getting started. In some places, you can't open a business like a limo service or moving van company unless you can prove that your business is needed and won't undermine existing businesses in the same field. But undermining competition is the whole idea. If Starbucks or Home Depot had to prove new coffee shops and hardware stores were "needed," we wouldn't have those companies. Apparently they were needed, since these companies thrived, but no one could have "proven" that beforehand. Jeff Rowes, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties group that defends many people caught up in regulatory cases, says, "America was conceived as a sea of liberty with islands of government power. We're now a sea of government power with ever-shrinking islands of liberty." The little guys don't have an army of lawyers to defend those islands of liberty one regulatory battle at a time. We should get rid of most of these regulations -- and sail back, together, to a free country. HT: Reason.com

Three Things a Great Leader Would Never Say
 |  October 19, 2013
Things a Great Leader Would Never Say by Les McKeown - Great leadership is hard. Very occasionally, it's pretty simple-- like just not saying dumb things. In the spirit of simple leadership, I give you my personal top three dumb things leaders shouldn't say. No doubt your mileage will vary: 1. "Don't bring me any surprises." I hear it all the time, and so do you (maybe you're even guilty of it yourself)-- a leader is blindsided by some event they couldn't have predicted, and, out of embarrassment, swears they'll never be caught unawares again. At first they work harder, longer, assimilating data like an apocalypse is on the horizon that only they can avert, but then...bam. Another unexpected shoe drops, another unpredictable event occurs, and our leader is left with egg on their face all over again. Redoubling their efforts, the leader adds another layer of protection against catastrophe - a mantra they begin doling out to all their direct reports: "Don't bring me any surprises" (or its close cousin "Don't bring me any bad news"). Well, guess what happens when you tell people often enough not to bring you any bad news or surprises? They don't bring you any bad news or surprises. Does that mean that all of a sudden there isn't any bad news items or surprises going around? Of course not. It just means they're brushing them under the carpet...because, well, because you told them to. (Where did you think they were going to put all the bad news and surprises you told them not to bring to you?) Which in turn means that there is now a time bomb waiting to explode right in your face. If you're concerned about predictability and consistency, do yourself a favor and don't try to wish away bad news or surprises. Try the opposite. How about telling people "The first whiff you get of bad news or a surprise, bring it right here." That way you do actually stand a chance of controlling things. 2. "If you were an animal, what kind of an animal would you be?" Or "What body of water would you be?", or "What books influenced you when you were young?" or "What's your favorite color?" --any question, in fact, that you think provides some deep insight into whether or not a potential employee has the 'right stuff'. It's all meaningless pseudo-psychological mumbo jumbo, and adds precisely zero to a true understanding of a candidate's ability to do the job you're hiring for. If you need to ask one of these pointless, irrelevant questions for your own peace of mind, by all means go ahead. Just don't confuse what's going on with an effective job interview. 3. "Don't take it personally." Really? You're talking to, let me check...yes, a person, about them, their work, their livelihood, their ideas, their sense of competence, their choices, their discretionary effort, their life's work, and you're telling them not to take it personally? How about you give every person who works for you a free pass for a week to make whatever comments they like to your face about what you say, do, or suggest, in whatever terms they wish, so long as they preface it with "Don't take this personally...". If you don't think the act of working with others is in any way 'personal', perhaps you might be better thinking of a career as, I don't know, a beekeeper, perhaps? They really don't take things personally. HT: Inc.com

The Sociopath In The Office Next Door
 |  September 19, 2013
Sociopath In The Office Next Door by Davia Temin - Evil in the office. If you think about it, you’ll probably realize you’ve seen it play out at least once in your career. All of a sudden a well-running, friendly, effective group or company begins to disintegrate for no apparent reason. People start to become demoralized and dysfunctional, efficiency plummets, client service and sales suffer and convoluted mistakes are made, up to and including illegal behavior such as fraud and larceny. Employees begin to develop psychosomatic illnesses, sick time rises and the best talent starts to leave. What used to be a great work situation turns into a nightmare. More often than not this dysfunction can be traced to the entry of one new employee, perhaps the boss, his or his assistant, the head of HR or a new shop steward. And when you start to explore, you find that, though the person may look and act apparently normal–even charming–all those around him or her are suffering. Four (4) percent of the global population is made up of sociopaths, Dr. Martha Stout, psychologist and clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, tells us in her book The Sociopath Next Door. That means one out of every 25 human beings has no conscience, no sense of right or wrong, no empathy, no ability to understand emotion–no soul. Worse, while they can mimic emotion, they see other humans as mere pawns or saps, to be used for their benefit or amusement, or both. Add that to the fact that science now is questioning whether there is any difference at all between sociopaths and psychopaths, and that those with narcissistic personality disorder also have some of the same characteristics (an inability to care about anyone but themselves), it means that “evil” is all around us, even at work. Sociopaths lie with impunity Sociopaths lie with impunity, cast blame where it does not belong, humiliate and berate their direct reports or colleagues. They set up coworkers, betray confidences and undercut good work because it is a threat to them. Some start life by killing small animals, while others are not that obvious. Regardless, they progress to more mayhem as they go. And, while some go on to become full-fledged serial killers, or Bernie Madoffs, others channel their efforts closer to home or the workplace. Picture a new boss who comes in to head the sales department of a high-tech company. At first he seems too good to be true. Attractive, well-spoken and suave, he says all the right things and makes all the right promises. Then things start to go off a bit. He starts blaming and humiliating individuals in public for mistakes they claim they did not make. He may target one or two individuals, or start playing team members against once another. Talk starts to turn sarcastic and hurtful. Jokes become nasty, profane and mean-spirited, while tempers begin to flare as shouting becomes more acceptable. Rumor and gossip flourish where little had existed before: “Did you know that X has a drinking problem? Y is leaving his wife? XY is really having a homosexual affair?” People are rarely praised. And if they are, it is hollow. Client requests and needs start to be flagrantly ignored. And so it goes. At first it is almost impossible to believe that one person is causing all of this trouble. And some people never believe it. One friend of mine described a coworker who his team named “Mephistopheles,” because he did seem to be the “second coming of the devil,” and everyone saw it. Wherever he went, trouble followed, but he skirted just above the ethical line. And he was successful in what he did. So, when I asked my friend if Mephistopheles was ever fired, he answered, “Oh, not for a very long time. They just let him pass. Eventually, though, he was caught up in a round of layoffs, because no one would defend him?” And this is the problem: The smarter the sociopath, the harder it is to catch him or her. And, the more destructive they can become to individuals who interact with them and the organization as a whole. Who knows, you may have come in contact with them in your job already. I know that in my work as a crisis manager, I have. In fact, these individuals are often ground zero in creating the ethical crises that companies get caught up in. Is there anything that can be done? Is there anything that can be done? Psychologists now think such behavior is prompted in large part by brain dysfunction, and that neither medicine, talk therapy nor any kind of treatment will ever work. (See the September/October issue of Scientific American“Inside the Mind of a Psychopath.”) The best thing that you can do when face to face with a sociopath is to avoid contact–distance yourself, as far and as fast as you can. Other suggestions, some adapted from Martha Stout’s work, include:
  • Trust your instincts. If you think a colleague is a sociopath, don’t go into denial; accept that this may well be so.
  • Keep records. Many of these folks do their most damage one-on-one, so that if reported, it becomes “he says” vs. “she says.” If legal in your state, you can capture some of this behavior on tape. At least save all your e-mails, phone messages and the like. Whether or not your use it, it will shore up your own sense of reality, if you start to doubt yourself and your perceptions.
  • Call the person out. In very savvy and careful ways, of course. If he or she has been lying about you, talk to others about it in a smart fashion: “I have no idea why he is lying so blatantly, but he’s been going around saying X about me, and here is evidence that this is completely false. Why would he be lying so much? Have you seen other incidences of it?”
  • Never, ever trust that person again. They will not change.
  • Don’t buy into others’ excuses of them.
  • Defend yourself. If you are targeted, talk powerfully with the truth. Never let a lie that you know of stand.
  • Leave. It is a final resort, but if your organization does not see the light quickly, or if the sociopath runs the organization, do not wait too long. Justice does not always come swiftly, and this is why you have saved your money–so you can leave a bad situation before it takes a terrible toll on you.
  • Help and support others. You can be a beacon when they find themselves in similar situations.
We are used to fighting evil on the battlefield. But good people rarely can anticipate, or even recognize, evil behavior up close in the workplace–until it is too late. One of the benefits of Martha Stout’s book is that it helps us accept the fact that at least one out of 25 is a sociopath. And the more we can accept that this does play out in the workplace, the more we can fight it on that front and the more we can minimize the damage. A good goal, I think, when faced with unconscionable behavior. HT: Forbes

Jeff Bezos (Amazon): Top Ten Maxims for Business Success
 |  July 25, 2013
Jeff Bezos Amazon Top Ten Maxims for Business Success Chris Banescu - Jeff Bezos, the founder and current CEO of Amazon.com, offers ten maxims that have helped him turn Amazon into the world-class company it is today. Leaders should consider these important principles if they want to insure the long-term success of their businesses. The list was compiled by George Anders, Forbes contributor who writes about management, careers and unforgettable personalities. This story appeared in the April 23, 2012 issue of FORBES magazine. 1. “Base your strategy on things that won’t change.” Selling lipstick, tractor seats, e-book readers and data storage is all part of one big plan with three big constants: offer wider selection, lower prices and fast, reliable delivery. 2. “Obsess over customers.” Early on Bezos brought an empty chair into meetings so lieutenants would be forced to think about the crucial participant who wasn’t in the room: the customer. Now that ­surrogate’s role is played by specially trained employees, dubbed “Customer Experience Bar Raisers.” When they frown, vice ­presidents tremble. 3. “We are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.” Many of Amazon’s expansions look like money-losing distractions at first. That sometimes sends the company’s stock price skidding and evokes analysts’ scorn. Bezos shrugs. If the new initiatives make strategic sense to him, a five-to-seven-year financial payoff is okay. 4. “There are two kinds of companies: those that try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second.” Lots of retailers talk about holding down costs and passing the savings to the consumer. Few do so as intently as Amazon, where “frugality” is one of eight official company values. The ­reward for putting up with cheap office ­furniture: a $90 billion stock market valuation and 35% revenue growth. 5. “Determine what your customers need, and work backwards.” Specs for Amazon’s big new projects such as its Kindle tablets and e-book readers have been defined by customers’ desires rather than engineers’ tastes. If customers don’t want something it’s gone, even if that means breaking apart a once powerful department. 6. “Our culture is friendly and intense, but if push comes to shove we’ll settle for intense.” Data reigns supreme at Amazon, particularly head-to-head tests of customers’ reactions to different features or site designs. Bezos calls it “a culture of metrics.” With dozens of these gladiator-style showdowns under way each week, there isn’t much time for soothing words or elaborate rituals of social cohesion. 7. “If you want to be inventive, you have to be willing to fail.” Early on the company hired a lot of editors to write book and music reviews—and then ­decided to use customers’ critiques instead. A foray into auctions flopped. Bezos regards such stumbles as a part of life, as long as Amazon can learn something useful. 8. “In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.” Amazon’s ad budgets are surprisingly small for a retailer of its size. Bezos believes old-fashioned word-of-mouth has become even more important in the digital age—so he prefers low-key process improvements that are meant to get happy customers buzzing. One favorite: Amazon’s war on clamshell packaging, so toys and other shipments will be easier to open. 9. “Everyone has to be able to work in a call center.” Complaints can be devastating in the age of viral tweets and blogs. Bezos asks thousands of Amazon managers, including ­himself, to ­attend two days of call-center training each year. The payoff: humility and empathy for the customer. 10. “This is Day 1 for the Internet. We still have so much to learn.” Bezos first made that observation in 1997, in his initial letter to Amazon’s shareholders. He hasn’t budged from it. At Amazon’s new headquarters two of the largest buildings are Day 1 North and Day 1 South. In interviews Bezos still talks about the Internet as an ­uncharted world, imperfectly understood and yielding new surprises all the time. HT: Forbes.com

California Income Tax Rates 2013 and Beyond, Highest Taxes in America
 |  May 18, 2013
California Income Tax Rates Highest in America by Chris Banescu - Following the passage of Proposition 30 in November 2012, California's income tax rates have reached an astronomical 13.3% rate. Not only does California now have the most progressive income tax rates of all the states, individuals begin paying an 6% rate at $27,898 and an 8% rate at $38,727 in income, but it now surpassed Hawaii (11% top rate) as the state with the highest income tax rate in America. According to a 2013 survey from Chief Executive magazine California's business climate ranks dead last among all 50 states. Is it any wonder that so many companies, corporations, and high income individuals continue to flee California and relocate to other states? Proposition 30 raised income tax rates for all Californians earning more than $250,000 per year. It progressively increased tax rates from 1% to 3% for all individuals and families earning above that level. Higher income households now face a 10.8% to 29.1% increase in overall tax rates. Interestingly enough, when doing a web search for "California Income Tax Rates" none of the official state websites actually list the 2013 tax rates and the specific income breakdowns. Even the State of California Franchise Tax Board only shows the 2012 tax rates and has not updated tax tables to reflect the higher 2013 rates, more than 7 months since the passage of Prop. 30. Furthermore, except for a Bank Rate link that displays an incomplete list of the 2013 tax rates, none of the other top 20 search results provided by Google list the correct 2013 California income tax rates. Here's a brief summary of the California income tax rates effective as of January 1, 2013. I also compiled a more complete chart that includes the Individual and Joint Filers income brackets that is included below. California Income Tax Rates as of 2013 for single and married filing separately taxpayers:
  • 1% on the first $7,455 of taxable income.
  • 2% on taxable income between $7,456 and $17,676.
  • 4% on taxable income between $17,677 and $27,897.
  • 6% on taxable income between $27,898 and $38,726.
  • 8% on taxable income between $38,727 and $48,942.
  • 9.3% on taxable income between $48,943 and 250,000.
  • 10.3% on taxable income between $250,001 and 300,000.
  • 11.3% on taxable income between $300,001 and $500,000.
  • 12.3% on taxable income between $500,001 and $1,000,000.
  • 13.3% on taxable income of $1,000,001 and above.
Welcome to Taxifornia, the state with the most progressive and punitive tax rates in America as of 2013! Democrats control both houses of the California State Legislature and have veto-proof supermajorities allowing them to continue to raise taxes at will; which they have been pursuing via multiple bills that will make it even easier for state lawmakers to raise taxes and fees on all California taxpayers. California Income Tax Rates
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Top State Income Tax Rates for All 50 States
 |  May 15, 2013
Top State Income Tax Rates Americaby Chris Banescu - The Tax Foundation has released a comprehensive graphic that summarizes the top state income tax rates for all 50 states. It provides a very clear picture of the tax situation across the United States. The chart is reproduced below. California (13.3%), Hawaii (11%), and Oregon (9.9%) have the highest marginal tax rates in America. Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming, on the other hand, are the only seven states with no income tax. The Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that has monitored tax policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. Top State Income Tax Rates America
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Cronyism Undermines the Beneficial Role of Business in Society
 |  April 13, 2013
Cronyism Undermines Capitalism and Free Markets by Sam Patterson - The role that business plays in society is straightforward – businesses produce goods and services that people consider beneficial. If a business can do that while wisely using resources, it makes a profit. Successful businesses benefit society by producing goods or services which improve people’s lives, and are then rewarded with profit. Those profits enable businesses to innovate or offer more goods and services, further improving people’s lives. Businesses must cater to the needs of society or they will find that they are not rewarded with profit and may well no longer exist. At least, that’s how it works in a free market. There is another path for businesses to make profit other than providing valuable products. It’s called cronyism. Cronyism occurs when a business colludes with government officials to create unfair legislation and/or regulations which give them benefits they could not have otherwise obtained voluntarily. Cronyism allows businesses to succeed without fulfilling the needs of society. Instead of directing their resources towards satisfying consumers, businesses find it more profitable to use those resources to get government favors. Also, instead of the government making decisions about how to use its resources to protect our liberty and property, they instead determine where to send resources based on the political influence of their cronies. All of the resources diverted toward cronyism from both business and government could instead be used to improve the quality of life for the rest of society. The beneficial role of business in American society is being undermined by cronyism right now. Examples are abundant, from regulations on light bulbs to ill-decided loans made to the energy industry to taxpayers footing the bill for hundreds of billions of dollars to bailout companies with close ties to the government. Federal government officials frequently gives grants, loans, tax credits and other special favors to their politically connected friends and business associates or even entire industries. Legislation or regulations (sometimes drafted by the businesses themselves) are often designed to stifle competition and create barriers to entry in the market, or even to mandate that consumers purchase a certain product. The businesses in these examples are not benefiting society by providing valuable products to consumers, but are instead harming society by directing their resources in collusion with the government. A society whose businesses engage in cronyism instead of serving people will not be prosperous, and in America it is clear that cronyism is becoming a more common choice. This increase is easy to explain. Businesses will only lobby for their unfair benefits if the government has enough power and resources to give them away, and the size and scope of our federal government has been steadily increasing. If we want to end the harm that cronyism is doing by perverting business’ proper role in society, then we must limit the ability of the government to grant these favors. If the government upholds only the rules necessary for the protection of economic freedom, and doesn’t have the power or resources to engage in cronyism, then businesses will not seek government favors and will instead seek to serve society’s needs. HT: Economic Freedom

Seeing Yourself as Others See You Key to Being a Great Leader
 |  March 21, 2013
Seeing Yourself as Others See Youby Linda Hill & Kent Lineback - Becoming a great boss required courage — in particular, the courage to find out how others see you. Almost certainly, others' perceptions of you will differ in important and perhaps disconcerting ways from your self-perceptions. ... This is an important topic. It's not about being liked or popular, as some assumed in reading our previous blog. It's about your ability to exert influence, which is your major task as a manager. If you don't know how your words and actions are perceived and understood, if you don't know if others trust you (and if they don't, why not), if you don't know what others want and expect from you, how can you exert the influence you want? The problem is, how do you find out? ... Simply asking is unlikely to produce a true or complete answer. As the boss, you will often have trouble finding out the truth about anything, especially when it's negative or problematic. Even if you're trusted, people are still aware you hold the keys to promotions, pay, and choice assignments. And if you're not trusted, why would anyone tell you the truth? Though there are no simple solutions, we can offer some guidelines: You're more likely to hear what people think and feel, if you've established real, ongoing human connections with them. Think of your interactions with those around you — your people, your colleagues, even your boss and others above you. Is there an easy give-and-take between you? Are you able to carry on a real conversation about a variety of topics, business and personal? Can you disagree and respectfully discuss your differences? Without such connections, which require time to establish, little else you do is likely to uncover others' thoughts and feelings, especially about you as a boss. You're more likely to hear people's real thoughts and feelings once you've established a history of reacting calmly and constructively to comments of all kinds, even when they're personal and not positive. You needn't accept everything you hear. But when you disagree, do you seek clarification, pose thoughtful questions, and ask for examples? Or do you respond angrily and deny defensively what you're hearing? If you want to know what people think, you cannot deny the reality of their perceptions, even when you disagree. Only as people test your tolerance will you slowly build a reputation for a willingness to hear and accept candid comments. Seek out people's perceptions and perspectives in the context of a specific task, project, or program. Asking broad, general questions can feel threatening to those you're asking, particularly if they work for you. So, develop a practice of "checking in" with people at the beginning and end of a piece of work (and in the middle if it's a lengthy project). At the start, ask what people hope and expect to get from you, the boss, through the course of the work. At the end, ask if people got what they needed. Use the specific piece of work as a setting for a candid discussion of what worked and what didn't, where you might have done less or more, and what you should do differently next time. That discussion can sometimes serve as a springboard to a more general discussion about you as a manager and what people need from you. This approach can work even for everyday tasks. Every time you make an assignment or request, no matter how small, ask if what you want is clear. And then ask what the person needs from you, if anything, to perform that task. The answer will often be, "Nothing." But when the person does make a request, agree on what you will do, do it, and then check back to see if everything, including your role, worked out as hoped. Approaching every task, large or small, this way may or may not produce direct game-changing insights for you, but it will create relationships in which people know you're open to their thoughts and insights. Build a developmental network of people who will give you candid feedback. These should obviously be people you trust and with whom you have strong, ongoing relationships. These people can give you reactions to what they see and hear from you and can communicate to you what they hear about you from others in the organization. They are most likely to be peers and colleagues and may include an older and more senior mentor. But personal networks don't usually include those who work for you because including them can complicate your relationship and color your judgment in making hard decisions that involve them. Finally, if she's willing, your boss can also be a valuable source of feedback based on her own experience with you, and she can pass on what she hears about you from others. It requires a boss who's willing to be a strong coach and developer and not just the judge who evaluates your performance. Such a relationship, if you can encourage and create it, offers clear advantages. Your boss has access to organizational information and commentary not available — but useful — to you and so can offer a broader perspective on how you're perceived. She's also likely to speak candidly with you. It's certainly worth testing whether your boss is willing to play this role. All these approaches require time and ongoing effort. Getting the truth about how you're perceived and whether you're trusted doesn't only require the right questions. It requires the right relationships. HT: HBR

Relying On Customer Trust To Help You Weather A Tough Economy
 |  February 17, 2013
Customer Trust Customer Service Key to Successby Don Peppers - You’ve probably heard the joke: Two hunters confront a large grizzly bear. Their weapons misfire and the bear comes at them. The first hunter takes off running, but the second one pauses briefly to discard his hunting boots and put on running shoes. "Don’t waste so much time!" the first hunter yells over his shoulder, "Running shoes aren’t going to be enough to outrun that bear!" The second hunter, quickly catching up with his friend, replies "I don’t need to outrun the bear. I just need to outrun you!" So now the question is: Do you have the right shoes to outrun your competitors? You might want to consider how well your customers trust you to act in their interest. In tough times, buyers want to economize every bit as much as sellers do, so customers cut back, simplify, and search for reliability. Discount stores benefit as consumers look for bargains, but customer-oriented sellers also benefit, as customers seek out businesses they can trust. USAA, for example, has a well-earned reputation for being trustworthy. An insurance firm catering to current and former military personnel and their families, USAA ranked first--by a considerable margin--in a recent study by Forrester in what the research firm called “customer advocacy,” or “the perception by customers that a firm does what's best for them, not just what's best for its own bottom line.” USAA is so dedicated to acting in its customers’ interests that immediately following the first Gulf War, it sent out unsolicited refunds for auto insurance premiums to some of its customers who had been away on overseas duty, and had obviously not been driving their cars during this period. More than 2500 of these customers mailed their refunds back to the company, many of them including notes of thanks and suggesting that the money would be put to better use keeping USAA financially sound. Respecting your customers’ interests requires a good dose of customer insight, because you can’t understand what the customer’s interest is unless you can appreciate the customer’s own point of view. And in a downturn, customer insight not only helps a company earn the trust of its customers, but it also provides a platform for economizing and cutting costs in its own operations. Think about it. Even in the worst economy imaginable--even if unemployment were 20% instead of just 9%--there would still be some customers happy to buy your product. If you have the tools and systems to know which customers those are--if you have the right customer insight--you can almost certainly outrun your competitors. Customer insight is always helpful, but in a recession it can make the difference between success and failure. Retaining good customers is simply a more cost-efficient way to compete in a more cost-sensitive environment. So when the economy tanks, rather than simply assuming the fetal position and hoping for the best, take some time out first to bolster your customer-oriented services and do a better job of earning your customers’ trust. Here are four places to start:
  • Identify the most valuable 20% or 30% of your customers and reach out to them with unsolicited benefits and personalized offers. Consider prioritized service, facilitated deliveries, customized invoicing cycles, more helpful information, and so forth.
  • If you have to cut costs, then economize first by reducing or better automating the service provided to low-value customers.
  • Strengthen your customer interaction processes. Reinforce your phone and email communications resources and set up better listening posts in social media as well. Create priority channels for your best customers to reach you.
  • And when you look for ways to streamline your business and run more efficiently, think about focusing on the particular types of customers whose needs you meet best.
These are the kinds of strategies that work in a downturn. The CIO at a mid-sized food services company, for example, told my firm that during the last downturn they stopped “beating the bushes for new customers” and concentrated instead on retaining their best customers. The result was that many of those accounts grew in volume and became more profitable in the middle of the recession, as customers consolidated their own spending with the supplier they trusted the most. And one specialty chemical maker’s director of finance told us that prior to the last downturn the company had identified its top 20% of customers by profitability. During the downturn they were able to focus on these customers, “looking for ways to improve product sales and services, reduce costs, and strengthen relationships.” Because they had taken these actions, the finance director said, while the downturn hurt company sales, profitability didn’t suffer nearly as much. Economic cycles are inevitable. You can blame the Tea Party or the Orator in Chief, hedge fund plutocrats or the ratings agencies, but the simple fact is that downs are as inevitable as ups are, and it doesn’t take anyone to “cause” them. The right economic policies may help soften the blow of a downturn, but simulation studies have shown that any competitive economic system will oscillate, even with no outside perturbation at all. It’s just what economies do. So whether the US economy heads into recession again this year or not, your business would be wise to keep a good pair of customer-trust running shoes handy. Depardieu has been looking for a new home after telling France's newly elected socialist prime minister that he would surrender his passport and French social security card in protest of the tax. Moscow hopes its lower tax rate will attract a "massive migration of rich Europeans to Russia." Russia already ranks seventh in millionaires worth more than $30 million. And Deloitte expects the number of Russian millionaires to triple to 1.2 million by 2020. (America, by comparison, has 5.2 million millionaires.) Take note, Mr. President: Russia's flat-tax miracle has helped bring its budget back into balance. Its revenues from income taxes have more than doubled since the single, low tax rate was instated. Communist China, which now runs a socialist market economy, also welcomes millionaires. And it's been creating record numbers of them since reducing its tax burden. There are now 1.1 million millionaires in China — a national record — and 63,500 multimillionaires and billionaires. Since abolishing its agriculture tax and slashing its tax on small businesses by 50%, China has enjoyed the world's biggest gains in the number of rich (though granted, coming off a low base). The vast majority of millionaires in China are business owners, who are taking advantage of the government's recent market reforms and pro-business tax incentives. As part of its post-crisis economic stimulus package, Beijing is reforming its VAT tax, which would cut corporate taxes as well. And just two months ago, it launched a new round of tax-cutting measures that will help more than 900,000 companies throughout China. Meanwhile, back in formerly supercapitalistic America, our leaders have agreed to jack up taxes on small businesses. Obama's new fiscal-cliff tax hike on individual filers earning $400,000 or more in income will hit more than 750,000 small-business owners. They account for more than 56% of all income from such firms and employ tens of millions of workers, both of which will be hurt by the higher rate. Yet Obama says "there is still more to do" to make sure "the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share." He vows to make "our tax code more progressive than it's been in decades." Funny how the Russians and Chinese figured out that class-warfare ideology doesn't work and is in fact, a recipe for failure. Funny how communists know that lower taxes grow the economy and keep you competitive. As our president mau-maus the rich to "pay their fair share" to help fund his massive social programs, America, like Europe, risks losing a fair share of its wealth and power to communist superpowers that have rethought and reformed their command-and-control economies. Obama thinks he's taking the nation "Forward!" But he's really taking it back to the failed past. HT: FastCompany

Superpower Role Reversal And The Flat Tax Miracle
 |  January 11, 2013
Russia Flat Tax Capitalism Freedomby Jeff Haden - While the U.S. punishes millionaires, Russia and China reward them. In the upside-down era of Barack Obama, the capitalists act like communists and the communists act like capitalists. Our multimillionaire president frowns on "millionaires and billionaires" and soaks them with higher taxes. But Russia loves them and even offers refugees of high-tax countries asylum. Last week, the Kremlin, once headquarters of the Evil Empire, granted millionaire French actor Gerard Depardieu Russian citizenship so he can avail himself of Russia's 13% flat tax and avoid his home country's proposed new 75% supertax on millionaires. Depardieu has been looking for a new home after telling France's newly elected socialist prime minister that he would surrender his passport and French social security card in protest of the tax. Moscow hopes its lower tax rate will attract a "massive migration of rich Europeans to Russia." Russia already ranks seventh in millionaires worth more than $30 million. And Deloitte expects the number of Russian millionaires to triple to 1.2 million by 2020. (America, by comparison, has 5.2 million millionaires.) Take note, Mr. President: Russia's flat-tax miracle has helped bring its budget back into balance. Its revenues from income taxes have more than doubled since the single, low tax rate was instated. Communist China, which now runs a socialist market economy, also welcomes millionaires. And it's been creating record numbers of them since reducing its tax burden. There are now 1.1 million millionaires in China — a national record — and 63,500 multimillionaires and billionaires. Since abolishing its agriculture tax and slashing its tax on small businesses by 50%, China has enjoyed the world's biggest gains in the number of rich (though granted, coming off a low base). The vast majority of millionaires in China are business owners, who are taking advantage of the government's recent market reforms and pro-business tax incentives. As part of its post-crisis economic stimulus package, Beijing is reforming its VAT tax, which would cut corporate taxes as well. And just two months ago, it launched a new round of tax-cutting measures that will help more than 900,000 companies throughout China. Meanwhile, back in formerly supercapitalistic America, our leaders have agreed to jack up taxes on small businesses. Obama's new fiscal-cliff tax hike on individual filers earning $400,000 or more in income will hit more than 750,000 small-business owners. They account for more than 56% of all income from such firms and employ tens of millions of workers, both of which will be hurt by the higher rate. Yet Obama says "there is still more to do" to make sure "the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share." He vows to make "our tax code more progressive than it's been in decades." Funny how the Russians and Chinese figured out that class-warfare ideology doesn't work and is in fact, a recipe for failure. Funny how communists know that lower taxes grow the economy and keep you competitive. As our president mau-maus the rich to "pay their fair share" to help fund his massive social programs, America, like Europe, risks losing a fair share of its wealth and power to communist superpowers that have rethought and reformed their command-and-control economies. Obama thinks he's taking the nation "Forward!" But he's really taking it back to the failed past. HT: IBD Editorials

Motivating Employees: 7 Things Great Bosses Do
 |  November 21, 2012
Things Great Bosses Do by Jeff Haden - Great bosses do these things. The rest don't--because these simple gestures would never occur to them. Where employees are concerned, great leaders don't take. Great leaders give--especially these seven things: 1. They give a glimpse of vulnerability. To employees, you're often not a person. You're a boss. (Kind of like when you were in school and you saw a teacher at the grocery store; it was jarring and uncomfortable because teachers weren't people. They were teachers.) That's why showing vulnerability is a humanizing way to break down the artificial barrier that typically separates bosses from employees. One easy way to break down that barrier is to ask for help. But don't ask the wrong way. Don't puff out your chest, assume the power-position, and in your deepest voice intone, "Listen, John, I need your help." John knows you don't really need his help. You want him to do something. Instead ask the right way. Imagine you've traveled to an unfamiliar place, you only know a few words of the language, and you're both lost and a little scared. How would you ask for help? You would be humble. You would be real. You'd cringe a little and dip your head slightly and say, "Can you help me?" Asked that way, John would know you truly needed help. You've lowered your guard. You're vulnerable. And you're not afraid to show it. By showing vulnerability, you lift the other person. You implicitly recognize her skills while extending trust. And you set a great example: Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength. 2. They give a nudge. From the employee's point of view the best ideas are never your ideas. The best ideas are their ideas, and rightly so. So don't spell out what you want done. Leave room for initiative. Leave room for ownership. When you describe what you want to be done, paint with a broad brush. Give employees room to take your ideas and make them their own. They'll do more than you imagined possible--and they'll feel a sense of satisfaction and gratification that simply following instructions can never provide. 3. They give unexpected attention. Everyone loves attention. Unfortunately you don't have unlimited time to devote to each employee. So make the most of the time you do have. Don't just comment on the big stuff, the stuff you're supposed to focus on. Notice a small detail. Praise a particular phrase she used to smooth the transition from customer conflict to problem resolution. Praise how he swung by another employee's desk to grab paperwork he could deliver on his way to another office. Pick something small, something positive, something helpful--something unexpected--to show you really pay attention. Pick out details and employees know you're watching--in a good way--and not only will they work harder, more importantly they will feel better about themselves. 4. They give employees a break. He messed up. Badly. Not only are you a little pissed, this is a teachable moment. You feel compelled to talk about it, possibly at length. Don't. For a good employee, the lesson is already learned. Catch his eye, nod, let it go, and help him fix the problem. Once in a while employees can all use a break. When they get one they never forget it. And they try really hard to show they deserved that break--and to make sure they never need another one. 5. They give a peek inside. My boss was nearly yelling at a supplier who hadn't met a key timeline. It wasn't ugly but it was close. In the middle of their "discussion," when the supplier glanced away, he turned and winked at me. My boss was signaling that his emotional display was partly for effect, that he had a plan in mind and that I was in on things. I was an insider. We were partners. We were in it together. It's easy, as an employee, not to feel like you and your boss are in it together. Make sure your employees do. Give them occasional peeks inside. 6. They give an undeserved compliment. Compliments don't always have to be earned. Sometimes a compliment can be like a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you see something in employees that they don't see--at least not yet--they often try hard to fulfill the belief you have in them. That happened to me. I went out for wrestling in ninth grade and was nervous, scared, intimidated--pick any fearful adjective. It fit. A week or so into practices I heard the coach talking to one of the seniors. "That kid there," he said, referring to me, "will be a state champion by the time he's a senior." He was wrong. It turned out I wasn't. But I immediately felt more confident, more self-assured, and incredibly motivated. Those feelings lasted for a long time. He believed in me. And I started to believe in myself. 7. They give a hat rack. Employees who need something--whether it's a day off, a favor, a break, a chance--often come to you with hat in hand. They're vulnerable because they need. Take their hat and hang it up for them. You may not be able to provide what they want, but you can work through their issue with compassion and generosity and grace. Never let an employee stand with hat in hand. It's one of the worst feelings possible--and one you can make instantly disappear. HT: Inc.com

The Dirty Little Secret Of Overnight Successes
 |  November 15, 2012
Secret Of Overnight Success by Josh Linkner - As Chris Dixon pointed out in a recent blog postAngry Birds, the incredibly popular game, was software maker Rovio’s 52nd attempt. They spent eight years and nearly went bankrupt before finally creating their massive hit. James Dyson failed in 5,126 prototypes before perfecting his revolutionary vacuum cleaner. Groupon was put on life support and nearly shut down at one point in its meteoric rise. When looking at the most successful people and organizations, we often imagine geniuses with a smooth journey straight to the promised land. But when you really examine nearly every success story, they are filled with crushing defeats, near-death experiences, and countless setbacks. We often celebrate companies and individuals once they've achieved undeniable success, but shun their disruptive thinking before reaching such a pinnacle. Before Oprah was Oprah, before Jobs was Jobs, they were labeled as misguided dreamers rather than future captains of industry. In your life, you've probably had a setback or two. When you stumble, it's tempting the throw in the towel and accept defeat. There's always an attractive excuse waiting eagerly, hoping you'll take the easy way out. But the most successful people forge ahead. They realize that mistakes are simply data, providing new information to adjust your approach going forward. The ubiquitous WD-40 lubricant got its name because the first 39 experiments failed. WD-40 literally stands for “Water Displacement--40th Attempt.” If they gave up early on like most of us do, we'd sure have a lot more squeaky hinges in the world. You have a mission to accomplish and an enormous impact to make. You will inevitably endure some "failures" along your journey, but you must realize that persistence and determination have always been primary ingredients in accomplishment. Don't cave to your mistakes, embrace them. In fact, mistakes are simply the portals of discovery. There's an old saying that "every bull’s-eye is the result of a hundred misses." So the next time you feel the sting of failure, just realize you're likely one shot closer to hitting your target. And who knows? Maybe after a few dozen failures and months or years of hard work, you might just be that next "overnight" success. HT: Fast Company

California Faces Large Tax Increases with Propositions 30 and 38
 |  October 29, 2012
California Tax Increases by Chris Banescu - California taxpayers, already paying some of the highest income and sales tax rates in the country, will face even higher taxes this November. If California voters approve Propositions 30 and 38, the state Sales Tax rate will rise to 7.5% and the Income Tax rates paid by individuals and families at all income levels will rise significantly, with higher income taxpayers having to pay an astronomical 15.5% tax rate. Proposition 38 will raise income tax rates for all Californians earning more than $7,316 per year. It will increase tax rates from 0.4% to 2.2% across all income levels above that limit. This represents a 17.5% to 20% increase in overall tax rates for low and middle income taxpayers and a 17.2% to 21.4% increase for higher income households. Proposition 30 will raise income tax rates for all Californians earning more than $250,000 per year. It will progressively increase tax rates from 1% to 3% for all individuals and families earning above that level. Higher income households will see a 10.8% to 29.1% increase in overall tax rates. Prop 38 also raises the state sales tax rate to 7.5% from the current 7.25% for everyone. Combined, both propositions raise taxes significantly for a vast majority of taxpayers in California. These punitive tax rates will further deteriorate California's economic conditions, lead to even more job losses, and force more individuals and businesses to flee the state. Already, large numbers of middle class and high income individuals have left the state in the last decade. These latest tax increases will accelerate the process. The chart below shows the large tax increases Californians face on November 6, 2012 if these 2 propositions pass. I compiled the data from both propositions to show how all taxpayers earning more than $7,316 will be affected. Vote NO on Propositions 30 and 38 to help California's economy and protect the taxpayers. California Income Tax Increases 2012 Propositions 30 and 38
Click here to view Larger Chart!

Franchisors Warn Obamacare Will Halve Profits
 |  September 17, 2012
Franchisors warn Obamacare will halve profitsby Paul Bedard The International Franchise Association held a convention in Washington this week where most of the Radio Shack, Dunkin Donuts, Curves and other franchisers were grumbling about new federal regulations, especially the impact of Obamacare. Most, said Atlanta Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken franchiser David Barr, presumed that the reports about how hard Obamacare will hit them were overblown. "They had their head in the sand," he told Secrets. That is until he pulled out his powerpoint showing how funding Obamacare will cut his --and likely their-- profits in half overnight. With simple math the small business folks understood, he spelled out that their only choice is to slash employee hours so they aren't eligible for company-paid health care or stop offering insurance and pay the $2,000 per employee fine. Barr has 23 stores with 421 employees, 109 of whom are full-time. Of those, he provides 30 with health insurance. Barr said he pays 81 percent of their Blue Cross Blue Shield policy, or $4,073 of $5,028 for individuals, more for families, for a total bill of $129,000 a year. Employees pay $995. Under Obamacare, however, he will have to provide health insurance for all 109 full-time workers, a cost of $444,000, or two and half times more than his current costs. That $315,000 increase is equal to just over half his annual profit, after expenses, or 1.5 percent of sales. As a result, he said, "I'm not paying $444,000." Providing no insurance would result in a federal fine of $158,000, $29,000 more than he now spends but the lowest cost possible under the Obamacare law. So he now views that as his cap and he'll either cut worker hours or replace them with machines to get his costs down or dump them on the public health exchange and pay the fine. "Every business has a way to eliminate jobs," he said, "but that's not good for them or me." But that's not all. His experience tells him that most low-wage workers he would have to cover under Obamacare won't take it because their $995 share is too high, meaning those the program was set up for won't see any benefit. And those who do will because they have major health issues, likely resulting in higher premiums to him. Washington Examiner

Ten Success Principles to Remember
 |  September 9, 2012
Keys to Success Ten Principles to Remember Listed below are ten principles of success to always remember. These are ideas many of us already know or have seen elsewhere. We often need to be reminded of important lessons we've already discovered but quickly forget.
  1. There is no progress without action. What is not started today is never finished tomorrow. Some of the greatest ideas never made it. Why? Because the genius behind the idea failed to take action. So take action now and begin to move in the right direction. Once you get started every step afterwards gets easier and easier. Eventually, what had once been invisible, starts to become visible, and what once felt unattainable, starts to become a reality.
  2. You must believe you can. It all starts with a dream. Add confidence, and it becomes a belief. Add commitment, and it becomes a goal in sight. Add action, and it becomes a part of your life. Add determination and time, and your dream becomes a reality.
  3. You are the only person responsible for your success. The best part of your life will start on the day you decide your life is your own – no one to lean on, rely on, or blame. You are in control of your future. Believe with all your heart that you will do what you were made to do. It may be tough at times, but don't give up. There is no happiness and success to be found by playing it safe and settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
  4. Failure is necessary. Don’t wake up at seventy-five years of age sighing over what you should have tried, but didn’t because you were afraid to fail. Just do it, and be willing to fail and learn along the way. Very few people get it right the first time. In fact, most people fail to get it right the first few times. If what you tried today didn’t turn out as you hoped, tomorrow is a new opportunity to do it differently. Interpret each failure as a lesson on the road to success.
  5. Persistence always wins. As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” It may take more than one swing to compose an efficient hit, so make sure not to give up on strike #1. And remember, a river cuts through rocks not because of its power at a given moment, but because of its persistence over time.
  6. Focus is everything. When you are too busy looking behind and around you, people are passing you. If you never focus clearly on something, you will never be 100% efficient at anything. Multi-tasking might seem to make you efficient at getting multiple tasks done at once, but it usually reduces your efficiency in dealing with each individual task.
  7. You don’t have to invent the wheel. Actually, to be successful you don’t have to invent anything at all. Coming up with a new invention or idea is one way to achieve success, but it's not necessary. Many entrepreneurs and business owners have found success by taking something that already existed and simply putting their own twist on it (their unique selling proposition). Think about Apple for instance. As Steve Jobs once said, “Good artists copy, great artist steal. Creativity is connecting things.” Connecting things means seeking inspiration from great ideas that already exist and adding your own useful twist.
  8. Success is a journey of countless baby steps. It’s a constant process of growth. If you want to be successful, you must continue to hold yourself to a higher standard than everyone else. You must strive to constantly improve. Oftentimes a person or organization will be successful, but then stop and rest on its laurels. A person may become lazy, and an organization may succumb to weaknesses or competition. Sustained success means continually improving even if others don't see a need for it. Remember, greatness is not so much where we stand at any given time, but the direction and goals we're moving towards.
  9. Positivity fuels productivity. Thoughts are like the steering wheel that moves our life in the right direction. Success comes from positive energy. You can choose to get caught up in the negativity surrounding you, or you can decide to do something positive about your situation. You always have a choice. Remember, happiness is an element of success, and the happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, they use positive energy to make the best of what they have.
  10. Helping others is a big part of being successful. Successful people constantly come up with new ideas, new projects, and new and innovative ways of helping others. This means that your aims and objectives don't benefit you alone, but also help others as well. Bottom line: Your long-term success is directly tied to how well you serve your customers and how ethically and fairly you treat your employees.
HT: Adapted from Marc and Angel site.

Five Myths About Free Enterprise
 |  August 25, 2012
Free Enterprise Free-Markets Ethical Capitalism by Arthur Brooks - The 2012 presidential campaign is shaping up to be a battle of two economic philosophies. One favors a greater redistributive and regulatory role for the government; the other prioritizes the values of free enterprise, including private property, individual liberty and limited government. Given the economic hardships the United States has endured in recent years, it is tempting to conclude that free markets are no longer best for us — but that would misread our history, and buy into myths about the impact of free enterprise. 1. Free enterprise hurts the poor. The Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 and plenty of politicians would have us believe that the free-market system is a contest between the ultra-rich and everyone else (the “99 percent”). But in fact, there never has been a greater force for helping the poor than free enterprise. Since 1970, the percentage of the world’s population living on the equivalent of less than a dollar a day has fallen by more than 80 percent. Hundreds of millions of people have been pulled out of grinding deprivation. This miracle was not the result of U.N. development projects or U.S. foreign aid. It was free trade, rule of law, property rights and entrepreneurship that achieved this miracle. In China alone, free trade and foreign investment lifted 400 million Chinese out of absolute poverty between 1981 and 2001. Whatever the Occupy movement claims, every American earning more than $34,000 a year is in the world’s top 1 percent, as World Bank economist Branko Milanovic calculates in his book “The Haves and the Have-Nots.” Americans make up less than 5 percent of the planet’s population, but we’re about half the members of the world’s 1 percent. And we’ve accomplished that through our commitment to free enterprise. 2. Free markets are driven by greed. I once asked Charles Schwab how he built the $16 billion investment company bearing his name. He never said a word about money. He spoke instead about accomplishing personal goals, creating good jobs for employees and the sacrifices along the way — including when he took a second mortgage on his home so he could make payroll. Entrepreneurs are rarely driven by greed. According to Careerbuilder.com, in 2011, small-business owners made 19 percent less money per year than government managers. And as Northwestern University business professor Steven Rogers has shown, the average entrepreneur fails about four times before succeeding. Free markets and entrepreneurship are driven not by greed but by earned success. For some people, earned success means business success, while for others, it means helping the poor, raising good kids, building a nonprofit, or making beautiful art — whatever allows people to create value in their lives and in the lives of others. Earned success gets at the heart of “the pursuit of happiness.” The General Social Survey from the University of Chicago reveals that people who say they feel “very successful” or “completely successful” in their work lives are twice as likely to say they are very happy about their overall lives than people who feel “somewhat successful.” And it doesn’t matter if they earn more or less; the differences persist. 3. Free enterprise breeds envy. Americans don’t resent the wealthy. In a poll in April, the Pew Research Center found that 88 percent said they admired people who get rich by working hard. This is one way the United States is exceptional. In the World Values Survey conducted between 2005 and 2007, researchers asked people in 54 nations whether success flows from hard work or from luck and connections. Americans were more likely than people in other developed countries — twice as likely as the French, for example — to say success comes from hard work. In a society that rewards initiative and offers opportunity, free enterprise fosters aspiration and ambition. In a social democracy with economic stagnation, you find envy, resentment, unrest — just look at Greece and Spain, where people are demanding government benefits instead of demanding to keep more of what they earn. 4. The free market caused the financial meltdown. It wasn’t free enterprise that was at fault; it was the lack of free enterprise. Statism and its co-dependent spouse — corporate cronyism — melted down our economy. As my American Enterprise Institute colleague Peter Wallison has documented, two decades of misguided government policy contributed to a massive bubble in housing. When it began to deflate, so did the whole financial system. And who showed up first in the bailout line? Large corporations, including car companies and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Find me an opportunistic politician chumming the waters with tax loopholes, and I’ll show you a corporate shark. This isn’t the free market at work — not even close. It’s a toxic mix of big government and its corporate clients. We need more free enterprise, not less — free enterprise where entrepreneurs put their money on the line and earn a profit or suffer a loss. 5. Free enterprise is unfair. When I was an economics professor, my students would sometimes argue that it was “not fair” for the rich to have so much more than the poor. So halfway through the course, I proposed that a quarter of the points earned by the top half of the class be passed on to the students in the lower half, to improve grade equality. Unanimously, the students agreed that this would be unfair. I didn’t have to spell out my point much. Income redistribution is necessary to pay for the state and desirable to finance a social safety net, but as long as incomes are legitimately earned, redistribution is not intrinsically “fair.” For a majority of Americans, fairness means not redistribution, but rewarding merit — and that is what free enterprise does. In 2006, the World Values Survey asked a sample of Americans to consider two similarly placed workers, one of whom was more reliable and efficient than the other. Was it fair, they asked, that the better one was paid more? Approximately 89 percent of respondents said it was. And since 1973, the General Social Survey has asked Americans this question: “Some people say that people get ahead by their own hard work; others say that lucky breaks or help from other people are more important. Which do you think is most important?” For 40 years, between 60 percent and 70 percent of Americans have chosen “hard work.” Unless you believe that Americans don’t earn their success, you must recognize that free enterprise makes our nation more fair. HT: Washington Post

Changing Education Paradigms
 |  August 7, 2012
Changing Education Paradigms Sir Ken Robinson In this talk from RSA Animate, Sir Ken Robinson lays out the link between 3 troubling trends: rising drop-out rates, schools' dwindling stake in the arts, and ADHD. An important, timely talk for parents and teachers. Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence. The animation in the video below is very good and illustrates his points well. The transcript of his lecture is also include underneath the video. Changing Education Paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson Every country on earth at the moment is reforming public education. There are two reasons for it. The first of them is economic. People are trying to work out “how do we educate our children to take their place in the economies of the 21st century”? How do we do that, given that we can’t anticipate what the economy will look like at the end of next week as the recent turmoil is demonstrating? How do we do that? The second, though, is cultural. Every country on earth is trying to figure out how do we educate our children so they have a sense of cultural identity and so that we can pass on the cultural genes of our communities while being part of the process of globalization; how do we square that circle? The problem is, they’re trying to meet the future by doing what they did in the past, and on the way they’re alienating millions of kids who don’t see any purpose in going to school. When we went to school, we were kept there with a story which is if you worked hard and did well, and got a college degree, you would have a job. Our kids don’t believe that! And they’re right not to, by the way. You’re better having a degree than not, but it’s not a guarantee anymore, and particularly not if the route to it marginalizes most of the things that you think are important about yourself. And so people say we have to raise standards if this is a breakthrough. You know, like, really? Yes! We should! Why would you lower them? I haven’t come across an argument that persuades me of lowering them. But raising them, of course we should raise them. The problem is, the current system of education was designed and conceived and constructed for a different age. It was conceived in the intellectual culture of the enlightenment and in the economic circumstances of the industrial revolution. Before the middle of the 19th century there were no systems of public education. Not really… I mean you could get educated by Jesuits, you know, if you had the money. But public education, paid for from taxation, compulsory to everybody, and free at the point of delivery, that was a revolutionary idea. And many people objected to it. They said “It’s not possible for many street kids, working class children, to benefit from public education. They’re incapable of learning to read and write, and why are we spending time on this?” So there’s also built into it a whole series of assumptions about social structure and capacity. It was driven by an economic imperative of the time, but running right through it was an intellectual model of the mind, which was essentially the Enlightenment view of intelligence that real intelligence consists in this certain type of reductive reasoning and a knowledge of the classics, originally, what we’ve come to think of as academic ability. And this is deep in the gene pool of public education, that there are really two types of people, academic and non-academic, smart people and non-smart people. And the consequence of that is that many brilliant people think they’re not because they’ve been judged against this particular view of the mind. So we have twin pillars: economic and intellectual. And my view is that this model has caused chaos in many people’s lives. It’s been great for some; there have been people who have benefited wonderfully from it. But most people have not. Instead they suffer this: this is the modern epidemic, and it’s as misplaced, and it’s as fictitious: this is the plague of ADHD. Now this is a map of the instance of ADHD in America or prescriptions for ADHD. Don’t mistake me; I don’t mean to say there is no such thing as Attention-Deficit Disorder. I’m not qualified to say if there is such a thing. I know that a great majority of psychologists and pediatricians think there is such a thing. But it’s still a matter of debate. What I do know for a fact is it’s not an epidemic. These kids are being medicated as routinely as we had our tonsils taken out, and on the same whimsical basis and for the same reason: medical fashion. Our children are living in the most intensive stimulating period in the history of the earth. They’re being besieged with information and coerced for attention from every platform: computers, from iPhones, from advertising hoardings, from hundreds of television channels. And we’re penalizing them now for getting distracted. From what? Boring stuff. At school, for the most part. It seems to me not a coincidence, totally, that the instance of ADHD has risen in parallel with the growth of the standardized testing. Now these kids are being given Ritalin and Aderol and all manner of things, often quite dangerous drugs, to get them focused and calm them down. But according to this, Attention-Deficit Disorder increases as you travel east across the country. People start losing interest in Oklahoma, they can hardly think straight in Arkansas, and by the time they get to Washington they’ve lost it completely (and there are separate reasons for that, I believe). It’s a fictitious epidemic. If you think of it, the arts, and I don’t say this exclusively to the arts, I think it’s also true of science and of maths, but I say about arts particularly because they are the victims of this mentality currently, particularly. The arts especially address the idea of aesthetic experience. An aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak, when you are present in the current moment, when you are resonating with the excitement of this thing that you’re experiencing, when you are fully alive. An anesthetic is when you shut your senses off and deaden yourself to what’s happening. And a lot of these drugs are that. We are getting our children through education by anesthetizing them. And I think we should be doing the exact opposite. We shouldn’t be putting them to sleep, we should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves! But the model we have is this: I believe we have a system of education that is modeled on the interests of industrialism and in the image of it. I’ll give you a couple of examples. Schools are still pretty much organized on factory lines: ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects. We still educate children by batches, you know, we put them through the system by age group. Why do we do that? Why is there this assumption that the most important thing kids have in common is how old they are? You know, it’s like the most important thing about them is their date of manufacture. Well, I know some kids who are are much better than other kids at the same age in different disciplines, or at different times of the day, or better in smaller groups than large groups, or sometimes they want to be on their own. If you’re interested in the model of learning you don’t start from this production line mentality. It’s essentially about conformity and it’s increasingly about that as you look at the growth of standardized testing and standardized curricula. And it’s about standardization. I believe we’ve got to go in the exact opposite direction. That’s what I mean about changing the paradigm. There was a great study done recently of divergent thinking. It was published a couple years ago. Divergent thinking isn’t the same thing as creativity. I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. Divergent thinking isn’t a synonym but it’s an essential capacity for creativity. It’s the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question, lots of possible ways of interpreting a question, to think (what Ed De Bond would probably call) laterally, to think not just in linear or convergent ways, to see multiple answers, not one! So, I mean, there are tests for this. One kind of cod example would be people might be asked to say “how many uses can you think of for a paper clip?” All those routine questions. Most people might be able to come up with ten or fifteen. People who are good at this might come up with two hundred. And they do that by saying, “well, could the paper clip be two hundred feet tall and made out of foam rubber?” You know, like “does it have to be a paper clip as we know it, Jim”. Now there are tests for this, and they gave them to fifteen hundred people in a book called “Break Point and Beyond”. And on the protocol of the test, if you scored above a certain level, you’d be considered to be a genius at divergent thinking. Okay? So my question to you is, what percentage of the people tested, of the fifteen hundred, scored at genius level for divergent thinking? Now you need to know one more thing about them: these were kindergarten children. So what do you think? What percentage at genius level? Eighty? You think eighty? Okay. Ninety-eight percent. Now, the thing about this was it was a longitudinal study. So they re-tested the same children five years later, age of eight to ten. What do you think? Fifty? They re-tested them again five years later at ages thirteen to fifteen. You can see a trend here, can’t you? Now, this tells an interesting story, because you could have imagined it going the other way, couldn’t you? You start off not being very good, but you get better as you get older. But this shows two things. One is, we all have this capacity, and two, it mostly deteriorates. Now a lot of things have happened to these kids as they’ve grown up. A lot. But one of the most important things that happened to them, I am convinced, is that by now, they have become educated. They know they’ve spent ten years in school being told there’s one answer, it’s in the back. And don’t look! And don’t copy! Because that’s cheating! I mean, outside schools, that’s called collaboration, you know, but inside schools… Now this isn’t because teachers want it this way, it’s just because it happens that way. It’s because it’s in the gene pool of education. We have to think differently about human capacity. We have to get over this old conception of academic, non-academic, abstract, theoretical, vocational… and see it for what it is, a myth. Second, you have to recognize that most great learning happens in groups, that collaboration is the stuff of growth. If you atomize people and separate them and judge them separately, we form a kind of disjunction between them and their natural learning environment. And thirdly, it’s crucially about the culture of our institutions, the habits of institution and the habitats that they occupy.

Win an Olympic Medal, Pay the IRS
 |  August 2, 2012
Win an Olympic Medals, Pay the IRS by Chris Banescu - What better way for the U.S. government to "thank" our Olympic athletes for all the years of hard work, enormous efforts, and many personal and financial sacrifices in pursuit of excellence, than to compel them to pay taxes on their Olympic medals and prize money. Yes, my fellow Americans, U.S. Olympians must pay income taxes on both the medals and the prize money granted for gold, silver, and bronze. Besides the actual gold, silver, and bronze medals given to the top three Olympians in each event, prizes are also awarded. For the London Olympics athletes receive $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze. According to the IRS, American medalists must report as income not only their prize money but also the market value of the actual metal in each medal they win. As Americans for Tax Reform explains, based on current commodity prices, a gold medal is worth approximately $675, a silver medal is worth about $385, and a bronze medal is worth under $5.  With a top tax rate of 35%, here’s how much U.S. Olympic medal winners may have to pay in federal income taxes to the IRS, and that’s before additional state income taxes may also be due:
Medal Medal Tax Prize Tax Total Federal Tax
Gold $236 $8,750 $8,986
Silver $135 $5,250 $5,385
Bronze $2 $3,500 $3,502

U.S. gold medal winners will owe the IRS up to $8,986 in taxes. Silver medal winners will owe up to $5,385. Bronze medal winners will owe up to $3,502. Granted, not all American Olympians will be taxed at the highest rate, but for many who earn other income this is certainly a strong possibility. And if they are residents of a U.S. state that has an income tax, these hardworking athletes will have to pay even more income taxes on their prizes. California for example has a marginal tax rate of 9.3%. This means that Olympians from California will face an even more outrageous tax bill. In addition to the federal taxes they would owe, gold medal winners will have to pay another $2,387 in California income taxes. Silver medal winners will pay $1,407. Bronze medal winners will pay $930. To add insult to injury, the IRS' insidious tax policies put American athletes at a further disadvantage.
Not only do our Olympic athletes have to pay taxes on their medals and prizes - chances are their competitors on the field will face no such taxation when they get home. Because the U.S. is virtually the only developed nation that taxes "worldwide" income earned overseas by its taxpayers, our Olympic athletes face a competitive disadvantage that has nothing to do with sports.

Discern Truth and Solve Problems
 |  July 30, 2012
Discern Truth Solve Problemsby Chris Banescu Life must be a continuous journey in discerning truth and solving problems. Courage gives us the determination to accept truth. Discipline allows us to consistently and creatively deal with the problems. Mistakes don't become failures until we refuse to correct them. Often, long-term failures develop when we purposely ignore truth and make excuses instead of taking the necessary steps to correct our mistakes.

Economy Is Tanking; Why Are Markets Up?
 |  July 28, 2012
Markets Up Mitt Romney Responsible by Chris Banescu - The latest economic data released Thursday confirms what all Americans, especially business owners, already knew.  Economic growth has slowed down to a measly 1.5% (from 2% the previous quarter), job growth continues to languish with nationwide unemployment at a dismal 8.2%, consumer confidence has fallen to its lowest level this year, and consumer spending is also tanking.  Household purchases, which represent approximately 70% of GDP, grew at the slowest pace in a year.  Recent surveys show that Americans have lost approximately 40% of their net worth in the last few years, and poverty rates are reaching levels not seen in this country since the 1960s. So, why are the markets up?   Everything confirms that our bleak economic situation just got worse.  Obama's anti-business, anti-job growth, and punitive taxation schemes have not changed.  The administration's stifling and oppressive regulatory policies continue unabated.  The European situation has not improved or stabilized much, despite repeated assurances from the European Central Bank.  The Federal Reserve in the United States is already out of options, despite speculation from the so-called financial "experts" who believe that another round of "stimulus" may occur, even though the Fed signaled just the opposite last week.  Given the poor record of previous easing and the near-zero interest rates, there is very little the Fed can do now. So what could possibly have influenced the financial markets to push the Dow Jones, S&P 500, and Nasdaq averages into solid positive gains for the day? Interestingly enough, the Rasmussen Reports released yesterday their latest Presidential Tracking Poll.  It shows that for the first time in this election cycle, presidential candidate Mitt Romney has pulled ahead.  He now has a 5-point lead over President Obama.  Mr. Romney now polls at 49% of voter support versus 44% for Obama. Mitt Romney Leads Obama The same poll reveals that 49% of Americans trust Romney to better handle the economy, while only 43% place that kind of trust in President Obama.  Nearly a majority of Americans are finally beginning to understand that only a pro-business, pro-free markets, pro-capitalism, and pro-low taxes president will get America out of the dreadful financial and economic straits we're in and put the country back on the right course. Could this be the real reason why the markets responded with such enthusiasm?  I suspect that that might have something to do with it. UPDATE - Monday 7/30/2012: Apparently I'm not the only one to notice the correlation between Mitt Romney's improving chances of winning the November elections and the increased optimism of U.S. financial markets. CNBC is reporting similar analysis from other sources:
One analysis concludes that last week's sharp three-day market surge can only mean that Wall Street is banking on a victory from Republican Mitt Romney. That's the logical interpretation one can draw from a rally amid conditions that otherwise would demand a selloff, Morgan Stanley chief U.S. equity strategist Adam S. Parker said in an analysis that asserts there is no other reason now to like stocks than a Romney win. http://www.cnbc.com/id/48400076

Seven Reasons Why Venture Capitalists Will Hate Your Idea
 |  July 23, 2012
Entrepreneurship Venture Capitalists by Josh Linkner - Having witnessed thousands of entrepreneurial pitches as a venture capitalist, I’ve seen the gamut from the good, the bad and the ugly. Of the pitches any VC sees, very few will actually receive funding; there are a lot of factors in that equation, so even for those companies that might be appealing, terms, location, market share, traction and other hurdles sometimes get in the way of signing a check. However, you’ve got no shot at funding if your potential venture capitalist flat-out hates your idea. If your “next great” idea has any of the following characteristics, there’s a solid chance a VC isn’t going to dig it. Copycat: Groupon for pet owners isn’t going to give me that warm fuzzy feeling. Neither is Zaarly for furniture craftsmen. The world doesn’t need another “me too” anything, and your venture capitalist should be the first to tell you as such. Ultimately execution is worshipped, but first, innovation is rewarded. “Vitamin”: At 2:00 am with a throbbing migraine, many consumers would trudge out to the pharmacy to get pain medication – anything to ease the pain. Yet nobody in their right mind would head out to the store at that hour to get vitamins. Your idea should provide the same help: if you’ve got a “vitamin” idea, it’s an added convenience, but doesn’t solve a true real-world consumer pain – and won’t develop a following. Vague: If you can’t sum up your product’s main features in one clear sentence, then your product isn’t explicitly defined. Simplicity is a beautiful thing: pick something specific and hit it out of the park. Don’t try doing too much across too many platforms, or you’ll risk being C-level at everything. Weak Gameplan: Your pro-formas and business plan should give a clearly defined, specific course of action with step-by-step milestones and goals. Being light on details is a red flag for a VC, because she’ll want to know where you’re headed in the next ninety days, one year, and five years. If you can’t clearly articulate what you’ll be putting the VC money toward, why should a VC give it to you? Top-Heavy: The best ideas need a top-notch team to transform them from dream to reality. If your founding team members all excel in the same field, your chance for success is lower than those with a diverse set of skills and experiences. Obviously domain experience never hurts but even for green entrepreneurs, variety is the spice of life. Ho-hum: If you get up to pitch and sound just as excited as the teacher asking for “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?”, your shot at getting me excited is long-gone. You should be bursting at the seams with your passion for the idea to the point that it’s contagious. If this is the next humankind-altering concept, act like it.  If you aren’t leaping-out-of-your-chair excited, how do you expect an investor to be? Mini: While many of us VCs do our best to do good things in the world, venture capitalists are not philanthropists. Your investment opportunity should provide a VC with the potential for a 10X return – minimum. For professional investors with risk capital, you need to be pitching an idea that could someday be a large public company, not a local drycleaner. If your idea is little, you may have a great small business in the making, but you’ll have a hard time getting a VC to step up. The ideas I get excited about might not be the same as the ones exciting another VC out there – that’s why there’s a variety of firms, and a ton of hopeful startups; something for everyone. However, any smart venture capitalist would agree that she’d be most excited by an innovative, unique, straight-forward company that has all its ducks in a row, solves a real consumer pain, and is run by a rockstar group of entrepreneurs.  Hey, I wouldn’t hate that either. HT: Forbes.com

What Would Winston Do?
 |  July 11, 2012
Winston Churchill Leadership In 1940, a war-weary Britain was on the verge of capitulation. Here's how Churchill turned it around--and what it means for you. by Hitendra Wadhwa - In 1940, when Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain, the nation was in a state of severe crisis. Not only had its military suffered several setbacks in World War II, but the Prime Minister's war Cabinet, deeply demoralized, was pushing Churchill to reach out to Italy's Benito Mussolini to help orchestrate a truce with Hitler. Churchill knew that Hitler could not be trusted and that negotiating with him would effectively constitute surrender. He desperately needed to win over his Cabinet. So he told them, "I am convinced that every man of you would rise up and tear me down from my place if I were for one moment to contemplate parley or surrender. If this long island story of ours is to last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground." The response? A standing ovation. The voices of appeasement were quelled. This story yields profound lessons about how great leaders—in business as well as politics—inspire greatness. As Churchill understood, people need to be reminded of their positive qualities—and their poor behavior must be characterized as being out of character. Accusations and scolding only reinforce the negatives. Most of us know this instinctively, but in the heat of the moment, it's easy to forget how powerful an insight it can be. In an experiment at Harvard in the early 2000s, for example, psychologists gave a math test to a group of college students, all Asian American women. Researchers randomly split the group into two. Before being given the test, one group was subtly reminded that they were women; the other that they were Asian Americans. What happened? The first group performed below average; the second group, above it. The lesson: Perceptions—in this case, that women are weak in math and that Asian Americans excel in it—can have a huge impact on performance. Other studies have found the same thing. In the 1970s, researchers at Harvard asked subjects to take a math test, then paired them up to role-play a boss and an assistant. Then they were given another test. The scores of the assistants dropped an average of 50%. As the leader of a company, of course, you are constantly faced with employees who do not perform up to expectations. What should you do? The single worst thing is to call them lazy and attempt to shame them into taking action. Instead, employees need to be reminded of what they are capable of accomplishing, even as you observe that they are falling short of their potential. Which brings us back to Sir Winston. In his early days as Prime Minister, Churchill also had to exhort a war-weary military, Parliament, and public to stay the course. In a make-or-break speech to the House of Commons, Churchill acknowledged "the darker side of our danger and burdens" and went on to say, "It is in adversity that British qualities shine the brightest, and it is under these extraordinary tests that the character of our slowly wrought institutions reveals its latent, invisible strength." The speech has been credited with helping to revive Britain's sagging spirits and gradually changing the course of the war. So if your people seem to have lost some of the passion they once had for their jobs and your company—and, let's face it, working at a start-up can be a very rocky ride—why not take a page from Churchill and passionately remind them about the light within them? Who knows what possibilities you may create? HT: Inc.com (originally posted 5/29/2012) [caption id="attachment_881" align="aligncenter" width="575" caption="Winston Churchill inspects British troops in 1941."]Winston Churchill inspects British troops in 1941.[/caption]

Government Spending Does Not Create Economic Growth
 |  June 27, 2012
Government Spending Does Not Create Economic Growth If you knew a dollar invested in something would wind up losing more than a dollar, would you consider that a good investment? The government does just that when it starts spending taxpayer dollars or borrowed money which future generations must pay back with interest. In the video below Professor Antony Davies of Duquesne University explains the unseen costs of government spending and the best way to stimulate the economy: the private sector. Professor Antony Davies explains:
"There's a misconception that when the government spends money it creates jobs. ... What we're forgetting is that the money doesn't fall from space. The government obtains the money by taxing or borrowing. And when it does those things jobs are destroyed. So at the end of the day the government isn't creating jobs, it's moving jobs. Jobs leave where the government taxes and borrows and appear where the government spends."
Professor Davies summarizes what the economic data shows:
"In the best case scenario what we see is still no relationship between government spending and economic growth. In the worst-case scenario, we actually see a negative relationship. That is, as the government spends more money, the economy actually contracts."
Does Government Spending Create Economic Growth?

Ten Enemies of Personal Greatness
 |  June 15, 2012
Enemies of Personal Greatness by Marc - Beware!  These ten inner enemies can quickly erode your grandest plans and your noblest intentions.  They can drain your life of passion and potential, and fill your spirit with lifelong regret.
  1. Always taking the path of least resistance. – Just because you are struggling does NOT mean you are failing.  Every great success requires some kind of struggle to get there.  Good things don’t come to those who wait.  Good things come to those who work hard and struggle to pursue the goals and dreams they believe in.
  2. Comparing yourself to everyone else. – You will never fully believe in yourself if you keep comparing yourself to everyone else.  Being true to yourself in thoughts, words and actions is as important as being kind and true to others.
  3. Worrying too much about what others think of you. – As long as you are worried about what others think of you, you are owned by them.  Only when you require no approval from outside yourself can you own yourself.  If you’re being true to yourself and it isn’t enough for the people around you, change the people around you.
  4. Ignoring your gut instincts. – There’s a difference between being agreeable and agreeing to everything.  Give yourself permission to immediately walk away from anything that gives you bad vibes.  There is no need to explain or make sense of it.  Just trust the little inner voice when it’s telling you, “This is a bad idea.”
  5. Holding on when you need to move on. – Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting, it means you choose happiness over hurt.  Sometimes you have to love people from a distance and give them the space and time to get their minds right before you let them back into your life.
  6. Living in the past. – If you don’t leave your past in the past, it will destroy your future.  Live for what today has to offer, not for what yesterday has taken away.  Life is a journey that is only traveled once.  Today’s moments quickly become tomorrow’s memories.  So appreciate every moment for what it is, because the greatest gift of life is life itself. 
  7. Doing the wrong things just because others are too. – Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it.  Right is right, even if you are the only one doing it.  Always do what you know in your heart is right, for you.
  8. Allowing small problems to overwhelm you. – Everything is going to be alright; maybe not today but eventually.  When you’re upset, ask yourself, “Will this matter to me in a year’s time?”  Most of the time it won’t.  Remember, sometimes bad things in life open up your eyes to the good things you weren’t paying attention to before.
  9. Surrendering to the draw of comfort. – The most common and harmful addiction in the world is the draw of comfort.  Why pursue greatness when you’ve already got 324 channels and a recliner?  Just pass the chip dip and forget about your grand plans.  NO!  The truth is growth begins at the end of your comfort zone.  Stepping outside of your comfort zone will put things into perspective from an angle you can’t grasp now, and open doors of opportunity that would otherwise not exist. 
  10. NOT believing that you CAN. – If we don’t know that greatness is possible, we won’t bother attempting it.  All too often, we literally do not know any better than good enough.  Sometimes you have to try to do what you think you can’t do, so you realize that you actually CAN.  And sometimes it takes more than one attempt.  If ‘Plan A’ doesn’t work out, don’t fret; the alphabet has another 25 letters that would be happy to give you a chance to get it right.  The wrong choices usually bring us to the right places, eventually.  But you must believe in your own potential to get there.
HT: Marc and Angel Hack Life