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. more »

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. more »

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“). more »

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. more »

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. more »

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. more »

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. more »

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. more »

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: more »

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. more »

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. more »

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. more »

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. more »

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. more »

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. more »

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. more »

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. more »

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. more »

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. more »

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?   more »

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. more »

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. more »

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.” more »

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. more »