29 July 2005

Cutting For Good

Our Governor has proposed that government employees work 4 days a week in order to cut down on the overall government payroll. The wailing and gnashing of teeth this proposal generates is, to quote Faulkner, "...sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Let's look at some salient points here:

---The local Government directly or indirectly has 41% of all employed persons in Puerto Rico. The government is thus a bloated construct with payroll expenses so high (over 80% in Education and the Police Department) that there's very little left for even the most basic of public services. If you still don't think that's a problem, how about thinking of these employees as voters that are directly beholden to political leaders for their jobs? Then you can figure out how this same situation leads directly to widespread corruption and bureaucratic gridlock.

---Governor Acevedo faces a contrarian legislature (when they earn My respect, I'll capitalize that word) with self-service very well ahead of public service, a pack more intent on self-aggrandizing monkeyshines than actual lawmaking. Rather than tackle the zoo head-on, Acevedo has opted for "non-confrontation" disguised as "going to the people," making decisions that smack of dim-witted desperation: a laughable "executive take-over" to "move the country forward"; raising taxes before any sort of budget is decided (yes, the legislative monkeys have blocked the budget, but raising taxes before a budget is approved is political idiocy) and now, an attempt to cut expenses by "cutting the work week," even going so far as to trim his own salary by one day "as an example." News flash, Acevedo: The people couldn't care less if you cut your salary because they make a hell of a lot less than you. Instead of looking noble and "leader-like," you're coming across as supercilious and weak, if not stupid.

---Getting government employees to work four days a week is not a reduction: it is a 400% improvement over their usual output. However, at a time when citizens are clamoring for better services and taking in consideration the success of the extended hours many offices have adopted, trying to reduce salaries by cutting one day out of the week is like trying to lose weight by cutting your throat. The problem isn't how many days the employees are working, but how many of them are "working." Study after study shows that government agencies are overstaffed by at least 25-35%, with most of the overstaffing occuring at the "mid-level," the ever-widening trough of do-nothings. Tackling the problem of high government payroll expenses means cutting  jobs. Period.

---"Easy for you to say, Jenius. You don't work for the government." No, that's one of the many reasons I am a Jenius. Yes, cutting government jobs will create disruption, panic, anger and the loss of the coming elections for Acevedo and his party. But: he already acts like he's lost the next elections (raising taxes without a clear and popular agenda is political suicide in Puerto Rico; look it up), has shown himself incapable of enough backbone to make a difference in the executive and legislative branches, or even in his own party and faces a more uncertain economy in the coming few years leading to the inevitable local reaction of "The economy sucks so it's the governor's fault," leading to voting in somebody else.

Given these conditions (only a fanatic would argue against them), wouldn't it behoove Acevedo to try to leave a legacy and at least make a move towards improving Puerto Rico's chance at a True Future? Slashing the government payroll would free up funds to improve services, jump-start government projects and enhance business potential, all of them creating additional opportunities for business growth. That same business growth will provide the jobs "lost" in the government, slowly at first, but with greater speed and power as the opportunities are recognized.

The Future of this Island is not in bigger government: it's in business growth. Government growth stifles business growth and We already have the biggest government We can't afford. Acevedo hasn't the tools to move the government forward: maybe he can use what he has to cut the government back. At the very least, he'll be trying to do something useful, a welcome change We'd applaud if it ever happens.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

28 July 2005

A Response With Kevin

Over at Kevin Shockey's Portal al Exito you'll find an interesting take on the recent events in Puerto Rico and a reference to The Jenius' remarks about the same. In this instance, I'd like to focus on two aspects of Kevin's post:

"First, do you know why strikes are like terrorism? Each involves a threat of force or consequence if demands are not met. Which basically means it is a lose-lose scenario. ...(each) typically starts with a person or group of people with a complaint or some type of sufferage. Then to end each of them requires someone to give in, or the suffering continues. Finally in either case, once a party “gives-in” it completely eliminates any ability to not give in later. Once you meet the demands of strikers, then just like terrorists, every future striker knows that if the situation becomes unbearable, demands will be met. There can be only one position for a highly developed society to take in each of these scenarios, zero tolerance. It is extremely harsh and I hope I never find myself on either side of this lose-lose situation."

The comparison between strikers and terrorists is apt, although obviously in the sense of using the target's reactions as a measurement of the instigator's "success." What We gave the truckers' union--not just its leadership--was the sense of power over Us. In their eyes, We are a mindless beast within their control. The proper way to deal with this, as Kevin indicates, is to simply not allow it. President Reagan was far from a Jenius favorite, but his summary firing of air traffic controllers was the right move and sent shock waves thoughout the nation's unions. Yes, they were forbidden by law to strike, unlike the local truckers. But in the same way air traffic is a national concern in the U.S., so is the logistics of supplying the Island, largely served by truckers. We let them get away with blocking San Juan's streets without so much as a slap on the wrist. They have now had a taste of paralyzing the entire Island and achieved a positive response to their threat. Lord Acton's words are always a warning: "The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to to govern. Every class is unfit to govern...Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

The second aspect in Kevin's post is even more important and of the utmost urgency, a portion of which The Jenius highlighted:

"So here is the big question: 'What sacrifices do we need to make now...in order to rebuild the economy based on a globalized and entrepreneurial view of the world?'...

It is clear to me as I write this, that the time to establish what is the greater value or claim is right now. We have seen how well we as a nation are prepared to face potential sacrifice and it isn’t (wasn’t) pretty. I wonder, do people actually plan for the type of adjustment I’m predicting? Is there an office somewhere in our incompetent government with a plan? I’m sure of the answer and it makes me want to wet my pants right now. And if not the government, then who else might have a plan? Now that I think of it, we don’t even have a plan to improve the economy even during these days of wine and roses. That is probably even more scary."

The Jenius would love to reassure his friend Kevin and others that We indeed are prepared to make the hard decisions, to gird Our loins, face the pain of great effort and lead Puerto Rico to the global prominence its potential implies. It simply isn't so. We, as a group, are not ready and never will be ready. It is up to a minority, a dedicated, visionary, stubborn-to-the-point-of-inhumanity yet open-minded, insatiably curious and adventurous group of souls to create a plan, develop it and make it happen.

It is in Our Hands to make the Change, to give Ourselves the Future We deserve. Unlike Kevin's question, The Jenius doesn't believe in sacrifice: if a greater good comes from the action, then it is investment and We should be investing. If We invest nothing, or invest what amounts to crap, We will gain very little of value. It seems fairly obvious that We are firmly in the midst of the largest investment of crap in Our Future this Island has ever seen. We can change that. We have to. And though The Jenius speaks only for Himself, We will.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

27 July 2005

Mistakes Lead To Success

Scott Berkun is a project management expert who understands that most project management is actually self-management plus managing people. You might think "That's obvious," but let Me ask you: If you've ever managed a project from beginning to end, did you start and focus on tasks, goals, processes to get the job done, or did you focus on and factor in personalities, especially your own?

The "people portion" of project management is crucial to success because it encompasses almost all the vital factors to achieving that success. People do almost all the work, so almost all the potential obstacles and problems are people-related. And one of the aspects that creates the most problems is dealing with mistakes.

Mistakes happen, often. How they are dealt with, by the project leader(s) and project members is often the difference between success and failure. As Steven points out:

"...for many reasons admitting mistakes is difficult. An implied value in many cultures is that our work represents us: if you fail a test, then you are a failure. If you make a mistake then you are a mistake..."

In his excellent post, Steven defines how We can learn from Our mistakes, an immensely valuable skill that everyone should learn in childhood. Steven's essay has many interesting points, some of which The Jenius has excerpted here:

Learning from mistakes requires three things:

1) Putting yourself in situations where you can make interesting mistakes.
2) Having the self-confidence to admit to them.
3) Being courageous about making changes.

Steps 2 and 3 are beyond most people's current self-esteem level, but Step 1 has an intriguing concept: "interesting mistakes." Steven goes on to give his definition of the four kinds of mistakes one can make:

---Stupid: Absurdly dumb things that just happen. Stubbing your toe, dropping your pizza on your neighbor’s fat cat or poking yourself in the eye with a banana.
---Simple: Mistakes that are avoidable but your sequence of decisions made inevitable. Having the power go out in the middle of your party because you forgot to pay the rent, or running out of beer at said party because you didn’t anticipate the number of guests.
---Involved: Mistakes that are understood but require effort to prevent. Regularly arriving late to work/friends, eating fast food for lunch every day, or going bankrupt at your start-up company because of your complete ignorance of basic accounting.
---Complex: Mistakes that have complicated causes and no obvious way to avoid next time. Examples include making tough decisions that have bad results, relationships that fail, or other unpleasant or unsatisfying outcomes to important things.

Now for the kicker:

"The kind of mistakes you make define you. The more interesting the mistakes, the more interesting the life. If your biggest mistakes are missing reruns of tv-shows or buying the wrong lottery ticket you’re not challenging yourself enough to earn more interesting mistakes."

The essay is well-worth reading and absorbing, but in a nutshell:

---One can--and must--learn from mistakes.
---To learn from mistakes, one must be willing to admit to them and be willing to make changes. "If you can’t see the gaps, flaws, or weaknesses in your behavior you’re forever trapped in the same behavior and limitations you’ve always had, possibly since you were a child."
---The quality of your mistakes defines whether you can grow or not. Trivial mistakes lead to trivial growth.

I'll let Steven express the optimism of this approach in his own words:

"So the most important lesson in all of mistake making is to trust that while mistakes are inevitable, if you can learn from the current one, you’ll also be able to learn from future ones. No matter when happens tomorrow you’ll be able to get value from it, and apply it to the day after that. Progress won’t be a straight line but if you keep learning you will have more successes than failures, and the mistakes you make along the way will help you get to where you want to go."

The Jenius Has Quoted.

26 July 2005

Master or Wallower?

"Your situation is exactly what you make it, or allow it to be."

Most everyone nods at the wisdom in that statement...and yet most people absolutely refuse to accept that same wisdom as applying to their lives. The obstacle is fear of responsibility: fear that by accepting the inherent Truth of these words, one will have to face the undeniable fact that what one has--or lacks--is entirely due to one's own decisions and actions.

Maybe a more positive slant would make the same Truth more palatable:

"If it is to be it is up to me."

Nothing The Jenius or anyone else says will make you accept this Truth. You either do, and join the minority that acts as Masters of their Destiny, or you don't, and wallow in the storm-tossed misery of the aimless.

Rates and prices rising? Masters plan and act to reduce their costs, increase their income and adapt. Wallowers bitch and moan, screeching for relief.

Jobs becoming scarce? Masters learn new skills and seek new opportunities. Wallowers wail and pretend they aren't expecting handouts.

The country seems to be sliding into a bleaker future? Masters roll up their sleeves and get to work. Wallowers spend their days in a limbo of gossip and then rake with envious prattle the success of the Masters.

Masters look at the world and strive to understand its reality, then seek to make it what it can be. Wallowers squint at the world, avoid thinking, react like mindless animals to stimuli and seek to avoid the painful ones. Masters create comfort; wallowers wait for it. Masters act; wallowers think they do.

"Your situation is exactly what you make it, or allow it to be."

"If it is to be it is up to me."

You don't need much more than that to make a profound difference in your life...and in Our Future.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

25 July 2005

Three Options

Over dozens of conversations with people of all types, The Jenius has noticed a recurring pattern: We begin by criticizing one aspect of Puerto Rico, only to find that 20 minutes later, We have covered politics, the economy, education, health, ethics (usually “lack of”), debts, morality, business, laws, crime, price increases, infrastructure problems and the media. In other words, We try to “fix” one thing only to discover “everything” needs fixing.

So where does one start? The Jenius doesn’t have the answer, but He is willing to provide options. First, as usual, some ground rules:

If you believe that government (better known as The Fools) is the solution, stop reading. These options are not for you because you aren’t needed.

If you think that most of Our problems are to be solved by Uncle Sam slinging money at Us in ever-greater amounts, go away. These options are not for you because you aren’t wanted.

If you think Puerto Rico can’t solve its Own problems and is thus doomed, take a hike. These options are not for you because you are part of the problem.

These options are for those of Us who take the time to seek solutions, care about Our Future and have the Talent, Will, Intelligence and Vision to put them into action. We may be a minority, but We’re each worth many hundreds of Fools, Fools’ fans, parasites and spineless naysayers.

Here now are 3 options The Jenius believes could help turn the tide. They are all within Our reach as part of the Internet Industry/Knowledge Economy sectors. They all depend on group effort aimed at Island-wide growth, so that unity will provide far-reaching benefits. And lastly, they can be started immediately.

----- Increase the amount of information about the Internet and Knowledge Economy at all levels. Seems obvious, almost trite, but the fact remains that it must be done. The average Puerto Rican is unaware of the value of the Internet as a commercial, economic, industrial and social tool and is woefully under-prepared to deal with the explosive nature of frequent and powerful opportunity sets. Unless We bring them consistent, contextual, valuable information on these topics, We will continue to fail Our generation and the ones coming after.

----- Develop “project teams” to compete only in global markets. These project teams will be self-created, possibly based in existing facilities such as UPR-Mayagüez, the Bayamón campus of the Interamerican University and other such locations. (And indicating that UPR-Mayagüez is part of the government is a niggling point, for who would be better-suited for additional development than the acknowledged local leader in global tech projects?) The purpose of the project teams is to come up with a stream of ideas on how Puerto Rican resources--human, commercial, industrial, technological, innovative--can compete in global markets. Partly-entrepreneurial, partly-academic and wholly tech-oriented, these teams will compete against each other for funding from private sources (local, U.S.- and European-based.)

----- Establish a semi-annual “Vision Symposium” where thoughtful business, academic and industrial leaders in high-tech, education, telecom and other related fields are invited for a 3-day series of small group discussions, idea exchange forums, full-fledged presentations from developing projects and conferences aimed at answering key questions for the global economy. Each Symposium can be sponsored by private companies and universities and by holding two a year, can create a flow of interest, ideas and information that is unmatched in Our current circumstances.

It is impossible to change an entire nation in a matter of weeks. All we can aim for is to change Our part of the nation and let that example lead Us into a better future. These are three options. Whether these or from others, We must choose Our path and act upon that choice. If We do nothing, that's exactly what We'll gain.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

22 July 2005


Does talent really make a difference in Puerto Rico?

The Jenius often hears accounts from talented people expressing their frustration and anger at how agonizingly difficult it is to achieve success in Puerto Rico. It is especially galling to see how other--less talented and less capable--persons "strike it rich" in ways that seem almost magical.

The Jenius has heard these stories and felt the same feelings many times. Yet over time, some answers have emerged. They may not be conclusive or even comforting, but they at least provide a ray of hope.

First of all, Life is not fair. We don't want to hear that right now, but it's a simple Truth.

Second, there is no sense in comparing one's self to another. Regardless of what the clueless majority believe, another person's success does not detract or reflect on your own. Their path is different than yours, Mine or anyone else's.

Third, contrary to popular belief, the majority of success stories, even in Puerto Rico, are based on character, effort, focus and ability. It may seem like the majority are cheating their way to the top, but it simply isn't so. That perception is nothing but the cultural expression of "sour grapes." We may not agree with a person's character, but that doesn't mean it isn't worthy of respect. We never really see how much effort a person puts into his or her work, so We see the end result and conclude it was "easy," thus engendering a negative response. We are often lousy judges of another person's ability unless We compete or collaborate with them in close quarters. And even then, We tend to underestimate its value. And We often discard or ignore a person's level of focus on the goal they have selected. A mediocre mind focused on one thing will always achieve more than a brillinat mind focused on nothing or too many things. We often confuse "simple"--uncomplicated--with "simple," as in dumb. Uncomplicated is good and works better than complexity.

Fourth, in Puerto Rico imagination and creativity are seen as useless, unless one is gossiping. There seems to be an almost atavistic fear of new ideas and new ways of doing things. That fear, and its negative consequences, appear as unneeded obstacles in the paths of talented and visionary persons. This seeking to discard or destroy creative activity is a sister feeling to "sour grapes": by trying to tamp down what could change the world around Us, We can thus continue to feel only the dull ache of dissatisfaction, not the sharp agony of jealousy. In doing so, it also eliminates the ecstasy of a better world.

And finally, success is the byproduct of the learning process. When one continually repeats a pattern, the culprit is one's own lack of perspective to envision the stumbling block and either engineer a new path, eliminate the block or overcome it. Instead of emptily focusing outward on "others," an inward focus will yield greater rewards, both in knowledge and self-esteem.

The Jenius didn't arrive at these points through second-hand experience: He walked each step many times. Yes, the circumstances in Puerto Rico make it more difficult to succeed, but once you've determined what those circumstances are--and accept to continue playing by them--the need to complain should dissipate. Success is a personal matter, subject to personal definition. Despite its oddities, the island is not a zero-sum game where limited resources are shared, (thus My win is always a loss to others.) It is an open-ended game where My victory can create a whole new world.

The only definition of success that matters is your own. The only path that matters is the one you make for yourself. The only way to lose is to quit--or to accept only what others grudgingly give you. Success, if you truly want it, will be yours.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

21 July 2005

Four Rate Hikes

Welcome to the Island of Helium-Based Pricing: power, gasoline, water and tollbooth fees are rising as if the Law of Gravity didn't apply to them.

It doesn't. We can only hope it did.

Power rates will rise 15-60% in the coming months as the "fuel adjustment rate" is applied monthly, a formula so complex the man in charge of "calculating" it couldn't explain to Me how he did it or what the formula actually measures. Must be discouraging to have to do a job you can't explain.

Our power grid is running at near-total capacity, thus has little reserve, relies too much on exposed lines and no real effort is being made to find or develop additional or alternate energy sources. But! Salaries for Power Authority employees keep rising to retain their title of "Best-Paid": the average janitor makes more than an experienced teacher. Don't you just love to subsidize broom-pushing during brownouts and blackouts?

In related fashion, gasoline prices are going up. Everywhere. We tend to forget that in Our "We, the belly-button of the Universe" mentality. Nothing We can do except blame President Bush for barefaced lying to get Our soldiers killed in Iraq, or maybe the Chinese for daring to step into the 21st century or even astrology for some odd convergence of inert matter.

But the crowning misery in the gasoline saga is the panicky rush to gas stations launched by a possible truck driver's strike and the idea--the threat--that gasoline truck drivers would join the strike and deny Us Our daily fuel.

What. A. Crock. Panic-buying in the face of an idle threat is tantamount to saying: Do it to me again! This has been a test and We have been found wanting, just as We have before with three major blockages and several minor ones creating horrible snarls of traffic. The Jenius is not against the right to strike: The Jenius IS against the display of abuse and limp-wristed "authority" shown thus far. Now We have another test and the response is yet again a cowardly tucking of tail between nervous legs.

Truck drivers want to strike? Fine. Gasoline truck drivers want to join them? Fine. Work around it (Wake up, Fools: it's called "thinking) and make the drivers pay for breaking laws. When truck drivers strike and block traffic for hours, the only response is: arrest them and confiscate the vehicles. Blocking traffic for anything other than an emergency is a misdemeanor. Enforce the damn law or strike it from the books. With another tepid response to a threat, all We have now is very happy gasoline retailers, distributors and truck drivers with an inflated sense of power. This is a good thing?

Moving on. Water rates will rise at least 128% for the average user. For The Jenius and His family, this means a bill that rises from under $30.00 to one under $65.00. Not exactly painful to Us, but to the average family, the rate hike will force often-desperate choices.

The problem is not that the rate hike is being implemented (stay with Me here), it's that the rate hike should have happened long ago. Hear Me out: The Water and Sewer Authority, in whatever guise it wishes to mask itself, is a business. It needs to provide a service, charge for it and charge enough to maintain and improve its operation without outside funding. To summarize: it hasn't done that. For political reasons, it has been saddled with too many employees, vegetable-brain planning and a rate structure too feeble to sustain true growth. So, what seemed "cheap" was actually "stupidly cheap."

Estimates of water loss through leaks, ruptures and faulty processing range from 20% to 50%. Even at the low range, recovering that 20% would greatly alleviate the water problem. But it takes money to fix the system and the current revenue rate won't allow for it.

Privatizing was a great idea...if The Fools had truly privatized. Their stipulation was "Take over and fire no one." The WSA had an estimated employee excess of 30-40%, many of them unionized workers jammed to the gills with benefits. No private company can operate with an overhead of one-third too many employees and the end result was as expected: abject failure and a return to the government teat.

The "water problem" has been dragging for over 40 years, through (de)generation after (de)generation of Fools. Now We have to pay it, with the added insult that (a) Another rate hike will be needed (not a bold prediction; these are Fools, you know); (b) Service will get worse (perception is reality and We will perceive it to be worse) and (c) The system will not be fixed.

And finally, We have the tollbooths. For nearly a decade, The Jenius made attempt after attempt to find out how much money was collected from tollbooths and what it was used for. Despite numerous attempts, no specific answer to either question was ever given. At first it was a matter of curiousity, then a matter of concern, then pride and finally a matter left for dead. "No one knows." And two years after The Jenius threw in the towel, the local press waded in...and came up empty after several months' effort. For a matter of public money to be this carefully hidden and protected (We are talking a lot of money here: this not an accident), something spurious must be going on.

Note how the 43% rate hike in all tollbooths around the Island is to be implemented despite the fact that public hearings have yet to be held and will not matter a roach's armpit anyway. The rate hike will go into effect in September. The public hearings will be in August. Aren't you excited?

End result: Higher bills, higher expenses, declining services, declining quality of life, The Fools running rampant like butt-naked monkeys and Our Future looking less like "progress" and more like "regress."

No, don't shrug. That's how We got here in the first place.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

20 July 2005


Some time ago The Jenius made mention of bottlenecks, a concept defined by Eli Goldratt in his Theory of Constraints. Bottlenecks usually occur when an information or process stream encounters a resource whose limitations cannot manage the amount of flow it must handle to create adequate ouput. In simpler terms, it gets overwhelmed.

By this definition, a bottleneck can be a machine, person, system or subprocess that needs to act (make a change) in order to continue the overall process. Goldratt focused on machines as bottlenecks, then on subprocesses, then ultimately on systems. But what happens when a person is a bottleneck?

It seems to Me that more often than not, the true bottlenecks in any process are persons. Complicating the situation is the fact that We are more inclined to change machinery or equipment, subprocesses and systems before We truly focus on "the people problem."

Slow worker? Give him a computer!

Inefficient supervisor? Give her another title and a secretary!

Stupid government? Vote yourselves a raise!

Timeout. The Jenius switched gears on you, but not to confuse you. The point is that Our government has a crushing "people problem" and We are nowhere near trying to solve it. What happens is that We let the system itself--composed of folks whose capacities for effectiveness are highly questionable--make blithering noises about "government reform" while the real supervisors--Us--act generally like opium den dwellers.

The government bottlenecks that threaten to choke Our Future are an imminent and pervasive danger. However, trying to force change is never a good idea, so efforts such as "unicamerality" are bound to fail because they are not based on desire, but whim. (And the less than 23% voter turnout should indicate either mass indifference, cynicism, confusion or lack of knowledge, neither of which is the proper state of mind to implement wholesale changes.) Unless We decide that change is necessary and are willing to act to make it happen, We will continue to have circumstances We tolerate with gritted teeth...or ignore outright. First We have to care enough, then We have to want to make a difference.

It's obvious, even to The Jenius, that when it comes to government, We simply don't care enough to change it. Would that We did. And yet We still expect government to be "Daddy BigBucks" and solve Our problems. Would that We didn't.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

19 July 2005

Laws of Money

There is an increasing chorus of voices in the forgotten continent, Africa, that grumble in rising tones that foreign aid should be curtailed or even stopped. Seems that the Western and Eastern powers have taken to throwing money at Africa's troubles, willy-nilly, in an effort to either assuage guilt or buy influence. Either way, the money is not solving many problems and is creating quite a few.

A quote from the Spiegel Online article strikes a sensitive chord:

"Basically it is always the same reasons why development aid in Africa tends to disappear down a black hole: incompetent planning of the donor nations, which means that aid is always distributed according to the wrong priorities, as well as a combination of corruption, selfishness, greed and arbitrary use of government power in the recipient countries themselves."

So We have a situation in which a country receives money from an outside source, without much external guidance (nobody likes strings attached to largesse) and that money is basically wasted because the recipients have the moral values and self-discipline of drunken hyenas.

Puerto Rico, anyone?

True, the situations of African nations and Puerto Rico are widely divergent, but it seems that the end result as to the use of monies is quite similar. We have corruption and Our so-called government seems to be redefining arbitrary use of power every day. Case in point: tollbooth rates are going up in September, despite whatever is said in public hearings to be held in August. This sham is responsible government?

More examples abound and only a subnormal thinker would claim that corruption and unfair government are not part of Puerto Rico's reality. Furthermore, only an idiot would claim We are free of greed and selfishness amongst are "leaders." But these are symptoms: the disease is money as entitlement, essentially a rancid "gift".

In the remarkable book The Seven Laws of Money, Michael Phillips dissects the problem in Laws Five and Six:

*** The Fifth Law: You Can Never Really Give Money Away.

*** The Sixth Law: You Can Never Really Receive Money As A Gift.

Phillips points out in The Fifth Law that giving money away, even if intended to be done freely, creates a relationship, for money in all cases is transferred between people. There may be intermediaries, but they are simply the conduits between one person/a group of people and another person/group of people. Despite bombastic and sonorous claims, no one ever gives money to an idea: it has to be given to people. So in any case, but especially if the people are not worthy of your values, either from personal knowledge (you know they are slimy) or lack of knowledge (you don't know them from Adam and Eve) then giving money forces an obligation on the giver to in some way monitor the ultimate use of that money. Abdication or denial of that obligation--of that responsibility--is but the beginning of a downward spiral.

If you doubt the point, think of this: Do you give money to a person who staggers up to you, with glassy eyes, smelling badly and wearing tattered clothes? If you think the money's for drugs, you often say "No." That's an essence of The Fifth Law.

The Sixth Law indicates that receiving money implies a similar obligation, one based on repayment in some form. Money can be lent/borrowed: the repayment is implicit in the term "loan." Money can be invested, with repayment to be determined according to goals and objectives. But money that is intended to be "given away" still creates an obligation--a contract--that requires performance and an accounting of that performance that is satisfactory to the giver. If the end result of the money's use is incompatible with the giver's goals and/or values, the flow of money stops. Thus it isn't freely given.

Smaller example: You give a child money and then ask what they bought with it. If it's something you agree with, you may give them another, maybe larger gift. If they "wasted" it, you think twice about giving them money again.

What happens at the government level, in Africa, Puerto Rico and elsewhere, is that the givers of the money are not really the owners of the money. Therefore, unless publicly embarrassed, they could give a tinker's damn what happens to the money. This insanity (people you've never met are giving your money to people you've never met) needs to stop...but, of course, it won't. It can only be stemmed at the personal or community level, with a decision to stop sucking at the public teat, to stop viewing the government as some sort of cash-spewing trough and taking it upon one's Self to create one's own money flow. The Laws of Money are few, but they are oh-so-strict. And they reward best, with wealth and power, those who follow them closest.

Make your Own Path to money. Live with your Own Power.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

18 July 2005

Firefly Power

Which would you rather be: a lightbulb or a firefly?

Yes, The Jenius is asking a loony question...for a reason.

Now let's say you choose to be a lightbulb because you can't stand being a bug. That's cool. On the other hand, say you choose being a firefly because they are alive, versus being an inanimate piece of glass and metal. Cool too.

Let me narrow down the question a bit by tossing out these facts:

*** The average lightbulb converts 10% of the supplied energy into light; the rest is generated as heat.

*** The firefly converts 100% of the supplied energy into light.

Okay, now which would you rather be: a lightbulb or a firefly?

It seems to me that, in terms of efficiency, a firefly is a much better choice. Sure, its light might not shine as powerfully as that of a lightbulb, but rating 100% in anything is a remarkable achievement. And when you toss in the reason for a firefly's glowing light--communication--you have an even stronger argument in favor of the lightning bug.

The designed, engineered, hyper-processed, manufactured-billions-of-times-a-year lightbulb is still 10 times less efficient than a firefly at its basic function (casting light.) Metaphor? You know Me so well.

Organic processes, those developed from within, are far more effective and efficient--in the long run--than planned processes, those developed from without. To save Us both time and cut the metaphor to the point: We should be developing Our own processes, in the light of goals We wish to achieve.

Fireflies are 100% efficient because they have to be. It's a matter of choice...or mere survival. I'd rather see it as choice, but it ultimately doesn't matter. Either We improve Our processes--in all aspects of socioeconomic issues--or We continue Our gasping dependency on outside "energy," achieving barely 10% of Our potential.

Metaphor again. And you know what The Jenius means.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

15 July 2005

Social Networking Platform

The amazing Dave Pollard does it again with an incisively perceptive post on Social Networking and how social software has failed to deliver an optimal experience. Part of the post, edited here, deals with the necessary elements for true Social Networking, a veritable blueprint for creating and enhancing a truly effective group of people:

1) Social Relationships Must Meet Four Preconditions: Willingness to establish a relationship with someone presupposes the existence of mutual trust, respect, context, and self-disclosure between the parties. These qualities are exceedingly difficult to achieve without face to face contact. Social Software tries valiantly but for the most part unsuccessfully to provide a basis and framework for these qualities to emerge, using systems of recommendations and endorsements to create reputation, and degrees-of-separation referrals to create verification. The best these tools seem to provide is a rough filter of inappropriate candidates for relationships, a 'negative assurance' that there is no reason to believe you should not enter into a relationship with someone. But we tend to be distrustful of people's online identities because they are so easy to fake and exaggerate... Perhaps the next generation will find ways to do this virtually and more easily, but technology changes faster than culture, and I'm not optimistic that better software design can overcome our cultural resistance to share bits before we share atoms.

2) Relationships Require a Conversational Ice-Breaking: Conversations are much denser and hence more efficient and effective ways of transferring a lot of information while filling in context, than asynchronous communication mechanisms. Likewise, interviews are much more powerful ways to glean information from a subject than surveys... ...I suspect that chemical atoms passing between the parties in face to face conversations play a greater role than we'd care to admit -- even technophiles confess that it's much easier to get to 'know' a stranger in person than using even the most powerful technologies.

3) First Impressions Matter: Our quick Blink judgements about a person, an event or an idea (provided they fit with our frames of understanding and belief) are critically important, and seem very difficult to dislodge with later information, no matter how compelling. Perhaps that's why visual clues about strangers are so highly valued in establishing trust, context, disclosure and respect. "Sniff, sniff, it's OK, he's one of us". Once we have established an impression or initial judgement, what we seem to seek most is reassurance that this initial assessment was valid. This introduces some obvious dangers: ideological echo chambers, groupthink and the proliferation of conspiracy theories for example. And just to make the situation worse. we tend to ignore and turn off information that we cannot (or don't want to) change, which further entrenches those first impressions and judgements. Physical appearance hence becomes an icon of our identity.

4) Information Conveyed by Observation Counts More Than That Conveyed by Language: We instinctively give enormous credibility to our direct sensory observations, while we tend to consider what we're told skeptically. Observation is a rich source of fast understanding and shared context. Our senses simply have much more information-processing bandwidth than the part of our brain that processes the spoken and written word. As a result, it may actually be more important to a relationship to see the other person's environment than to see them. As Dave Snowden says: "We can always know more than we can tell, and we can always tell more than we can write down". Observation allows us to mine data that the person to whom we are speaking cannot convey in words, or may not even be aware of. "Don't tell me, show me."

5) Collaboration is the Miracle Glue of Relationships: Doing something together, the more participatory and challenging the better, immediately establishes deep trust, respect, shared context, disclosure, even a shared identity (e.g. Lennon-McCartney). Collaboration is also an essential precondition to real community, far more effective than any amount of shared gossip, online chat and head-nodding agreement. Until we've worked on something together, our agreements may be simply politeness, insufficient to form the basis for a strong and lasting relationship.

6) Every Interaction Carries the Burden of Our Entire Networks: Throughout any relationship, conversation or interaction our brains are processing a series of social constructs: (a) Information (what am I learning from this interaction?), (b) Meaning (so what -- what does this mean to me?) and (c) Implications (what should I do, decide or expect as a result?) Information, meaning and implications are rarely just personal -- in each interaction we are considering how to forward or explain information and its meaning to others in our networks, how to justify and discuss its implications with others in our networks, and how to motivate others to take what we think are appropriate actions or decisions as a consequence. So there is a huge invisible 'audience' for each network interaction beyond the direct participants in it. Social Networking Applications need to recognize and involve this audience (by recording and forwarding the interaction, by inviting others affected to join in etc.) "I appreciate what you're telling me, but how am I going to explain and work this out with A, B and C?"

7) Social Networks are Complex Systems: Social Software is designed as a solution to a complicated, rather than a complex, problem. We hope that we can one day in some way completely diagram, understand, and optimize use of our complete social networks, but the best we can hope for are possibly dangerous oversimplifications. The complexity of our networks simply cannot be fully known, explained or applied in any predictive way -- there are too many variables and nuances of relationship to fully know, depict, or expect complicated-system software to handle. We should probably therefore be humbler about what we hope Social Networking Applications will be able to do for us. Their goal should perhaps be simply to better understand how our networks benefit us, how we can use them more effectively, and how to improve the quality and value of conversations and other interactions.

The rest of the post (Dave is nothing if not thorough) consists of a series of questions that greatly illuminate a development path for the next-generation of social software. If you're looking for a world-changing programming project, check this out. Seeing as how We are one of the most sociable societies in the world, who better?

The Jenius Has Quoted.

14 July 2005

What Drives You?

This won't take long:

What drives you? What makes you keep moving, tackling the day-to-day stream of Life? What fuels your human engine?

If it's something good--and you will know it--think of how it can be expanded to even greater effect.

If it's something bad--and you will know it--understand that you can choose what motivates you and that unequivocally, good motivators create better results than bad motivators.

If you don't know--and don't bother to find out--well, that says something important about you, doesn't it?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

13 July 2005

Nonconformity Again

"To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."

Those words by poet e.e. cummings echoed the discomfort I felt after yesterday's post. It felt... incomplete, in a way The Jenius has not experienced before.

Reader Gabriel commented on how school batters Us into conformity, beginning with the atrocious idea of using uniforms. For those of you think uniforms are a good thing, here's a question: what do uniforms mean?

Control. Someone controlling someone else, whether it's a policeman or soldier controlling a population or an employer controlling its employees... or a school controlling students. Control demands conformity; to insist on nonconformity is to reject exterior control.

What about happiness? Doesn't swimming against the current cause stress, pain, rejection, abuse?

Is the stress of being your own person worse than the stress of being a face in a crowd, a cipher, a virtual non-entity? If you don't feel any stress in that situation, then you are not feeling and thus are not alive.

Is the pain of rejecting control worse than the pain of having to forcibly accept that control? Again, if you feel no pain under that force, then you are not alive.

Is rejection bad? Only if you see it that way. To be rejected by control freaks is always fun; to be rejected by mindless sheep is unimportant. All other rejections are thus on a personal level and is it worse than acceptance into nothingness?

The abuse nonconformists receive is never permanent. If one can withstand the brutal stupidity of the forces demanding control, one becomes inured to their flailings, and eventually, those same forces cast their eyes away to other, more malleable--weaker--targets. In cowardly irony, they may even hold you up as a symbol of virtue, clothing one's individuality as the intended goal of the control system, but making it clear that very few, very very few, will be "allowed."

Is The Jenius advocating anarchy and chaos? Far from it. What is advocated is the use of one's own mind and judgement, the frequent analysis of societal messages disguised as "rules," the immediate rejection of those intended only to serve as elements of control and the substitution of this fool's garbage for one's personal gold--a higher standard.

Progress is not a product of conformity. Never has been; never will be. Conform and you choose a certain path to stagnation. Challenge, question, defy, push back, endure on your own terms and progress--although not guaranteed--becomes probable. Between a certainty of failure and a probability of success--conformity or noncomformity--which do you choose?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

12 July 2005

Nonconformity Now

Conformity. The acceptance of what is proferred combined with the willful abdication of any interest in improving the situation.

Or if you prefer, the dictionary's version: "Acting according to certain accepted standards; orthodoxy in thoughts and belief; the act of going along with what other people think or do; synonyms: conventionality, normality."

Being part of the group--conforming--is a powerful force in societies. So much so, that going against the group--being a nonconformist--can also mean being abnormal.

The Jenius is definitely abnormal.

But note that in My defintion, I define the trait as one of "acceptance" combined with "abdication," taking what's there while denying one's self a chance at anything else. It seems obvious by now that conformity, to Me, is a crime one commits against himself or herself.

As much as I would enjoy describing why The Jenius is abnormal, a better (for now) topic is: Why are so many other folks "normal"? We might think We are noncomformists, but many of Us say so while living lives that can be neatly boxed into not-so-narrow categories that ultimately spell "You are one of many thousands." What is needed is to pursue Life so that it defies categories and becomes "You are one in many thousands."

Along those lines, I read the following article in the inconsistent business magazine Fast Company. In it, four people attempt to define a small piece of noncomformity, but one with enormous impact: a dream job. Their suggestions are:

Let your dream job evolve.

Connect to your passion.

Pursue the creative spirit.

Those who do, teach.

Again, The Jenius could write hundreds if not thousands of words about His own pursuit, closely aligned with these four suggestions and several more. But the obviously more important topic is: Since anyone can do it, why don't you?

Maybe you are. I suspect many of you aren't. For the good of Our Future, We need more of Us who try to be "abnormal," who refuse to merely accept and who insist on creating their own niche.

And if you're wondering "When does The Jenius teach?", you've just seen an example.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

11 July 2005

Twelve Rules

Many years ago, Ben Stein, he of the monotone delivery, highly-praised intelligence and arch-Republican leanings (he was once a speech-writer and apologist for Richard Nixon) wrote a column that appeared in Penthouse magazine.

Yes, Penthouse.

One of those columns mentioned "Twelve Rules" that Stein found very useful in his daily life and that The Jenius copied out onto a small laminated card. That card has been in The Jenius' wallet for almost 20 years. The Twelve Rules are:

1) I am basically powerless over most of the people I deal with in my work.

2) I am largely powerless over the results of the projects I undertake.

3) Feelings come and feelings go and they are not facts.

4) I am never going to be perfect.

5) Time is my ally, not my enemy.

6) Keep it simple.

7) First things first.

8) Look for the good and praise it.

9) I am often wrong.

10) Make yourself and your wishes clear.

11) Pause when agitated or doubtful.

12) In every situation, I must ask myself if I am the problem.

The advantage of almost 20 years' experience with these rules is that One accumulates enough evidence to prove that they are almost always right. One can argue that the first 2 Rules, concerning limited personal power, are wrong. In fact, any objective study will show you that personal talents, influence and efforts seldom guarantee success. (Ask Michael Jordan if he won every basketball game.) What's important is to understand those limitations and stop forcing issues, a surefire formula for ultimate failure.

Rule #5 increased My productivity as it made clear that time was Mine to use, not that Time was using Me.

Rule #6 focused My tendency to be creative and thus avoid the "snowstorm" effect of too many ideas flying through the air.

Rule #8 made Me a better leader, a more effective co-worker and helped Me feel good as a father.

Rule #9 has helped keep Me humble. Not much, though.

Rule #10 made Me a better communicator and thus a better negotiator, something that always benefits the bottom line.

Rules 11 and 12 have kept Me from making bigger mistakes and have often been the difference between success and failure in many a project.

I fail often to remember Rule #3, but not as often as I used to.

Rule #4 is wrong, but then again, Rule #9 leaves Me with an Open Mind on the subject.

Maybe these Twelve Rules will be useful to You as well.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

08 July 2005

10 Ideas A Day

Few suggestions ever made can deliver powerfully positive results: this is one of them. Without a doubt, you will see dramatic improvement--guranteed improvement--if you do the following:

---Write down 10 ideas every day that can improve your business, career or any other area of interest in your life.---

Yes, it is that simple: Write down 10 ideas, every day, that can improve your area of interest.

At first, you may act surprised: "Ten ideas? Every day?" Although We consider Ourselves "creative," is it possible to come up with 10 new ideas, every day?

Yes. Like many things in life, it looks harder than it really is.

Go beyond your surprise and look at what's being asked of you: To focus your thoughts on positive results for the things that matter most to you.

"To focus your thoughts..." The power of concentration is unlimited.

"...on positive results..." The power of optimism is the bedrock of Success.

"...for the things that matter most to you." Without priorities, nothing is important, nothing is achieved.

Ten ideas a day will generate 300 ideas in one month. Just writing down 300 ideas is a treasure chest that you could spend a lifetime reaping its rewards. You really only need one idea to propel Yourself into the Future You want.

So if it only takes one, why write 300? Or 500? Or 1,130? (Yes, The Jenius has been at this for 113 days.) Because the quality of your ideas rises with the quantity of ideas you generate. In plain words: the more ideas, the better the ideas. It's a law of nature, one You can use to build the future.

One We can all use to build Our Future.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

07 July 2005

London Bridges

Terrorists are cowardly vermin, lower than a pus-filled wart on a roach's filthy butt. However, today's evil cowardice has shown a new side of technology, one that espouses a fundamental change in our form of communicating.

Within minutes of the first bomb in the London subway, pictures and video from camera-phones were being uploaded onto the Internet. Text and voice messages were flashing around the world alerting people about the events, the danger and the fact that the sender and even some of the people around him or her were safe, or at least, only mildly injured.

Less than an hour after the first bomb went off, CNN was showing brief footage taken on a camera-phone--footage downloaded from the Internet. Blogs were flashing news and updates almost every second, almost all of it created and distributed by people who are not journalists. For the first time in this media-saturated age, the Internet was clearly at the forefront of a major global--unexpected--event, almost as if the entire planet had rushed to the scene as spectators.

Three very fundamental themes have been exposed in this tragic attack:

1) News reporting, once controlled by "professionals" and "networks," is now a second-level source of immediate information, unable to compete with the ubiquity of widespread technology.

2) Technology has given the citizen the power of the Fourth Estate, the power to be the freest press ever. But, as any Marvel Comics fan can recite in his sleep, with great power comes great responsibility. Who will teach the masses what that responsibility is and means before it degenerates into vitriolic cacophony?

3) The purpose of terrorism is to disrupt, weaken and ultimately wrench apart the society it targets. Although technology can foment a tendency to isolate, that same technology creates bridges of unity that can spring into being within seconds. The fabric of a society--of societies as a whole--are thus strengthened, not weakened, when events such as those in New York, Madrid and now London are unleashed.

The implications of technology, what The Jenius calls "the sociodigital horizon," are a crucial realm of study for global economic players. Changing today is not as powerful--or as profitable--as changing tomorrow.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

06 July 2005

Attitude Adjustment

About two weeks ago a young man called Me to arrange a meeting about his new project. He arrived on time (a rarity in Our culture and in this day and age of "cell phone-excusable tardiness" The Jenius has fallen in that trap a few times Himself) and proceeded to explain his new software concept.

The Jenius was intrigued as the young (about 22-23 years old) man's idea was well-constructed, simple to execute and worthy of attention by the venture capital firms The Jenius has dealt with in the past. Then The Jenius asked a fatal question: What's your market potential?

The young man spoke eagerly about the 120,000 potential clients his software had in Puerto Rico and how perfect it was for the small business and professional office niches. He spoke with enthusiasm for about five minutes about marketing in San Juan, Ponce, Bayamón, Carolina, Caguas and even a special marketing campaign for the western side of the island.

Then he stopped talking.

I waited. Almost a minute went by and when the young man kept quiet, The Jenius spoke: I'm not interested.

His jaw actually dropped. Before he could ask, I explained that if he saw only Puerto Rico as his market, then I had no interest in the project. There are roughly 6 billion people outside of Puerto Rico and if you can't find a market in those masses, then I can't get interested in what you're doing, no matter how great the idea might be.

He started to explain that of course there was a market outside of Puerto Rico, but that he and his partners hadn't looked into it. I pointed out, perhaps unfairly, that research about global markets cost about the same as research on Puerto Rico and that both could be done at the same time. I added that by not seeing any market outside of Puerto Rico, he had wasted at least one opportunity and possibly several, and that by doing so, he had wasted a good part of his idea's advantage.

The meeting ended there, but it still bothers Me. Why do otherwise bright people insist on seeing only as far as our beaches as "the market," as if the rest of the world simply didn't exist? The focus is on being a small fish in a small pond, when the fact is, We can be big fish in huge oceans. It's a matter of attitude and the sooner We ramp Ours up, the better.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

05 July 2005

Supreme Dictator Ideas

The Jenius has offered this challenge to well over three dozen people over the years and will ask it now of You: Imagine that You have complete power to do in Puerto Rico what you choose to, as Supreme Dictator, but you must achieve your results in only four years. List the top 5 things You would do and why.

In the right company, this challenge starts out as a hoot, then quickly becomes a serious discussion of what to do, how to do it and why it will ultimately change Puerto Rico for the better.

Here are The Jenius' 5 Actions He would take as Supreme Dictator of Puerto Rico:

1) Abolish the Department of Education and replace it with an Education Program that will have a ratio of 90% teachers and 10% "supervisors," with the freedom to create a new curriculum, to be updated every 5 years and with teachers being recertified every 5 years on a sliding scale that also reflects on their pay. Salaries would be tripled, with bonuses for professional growth. Rationale: The current educational system is a waste of human ability both at the teaching and student level. Unless the system is drastically overhauled with an emphasis on the classroom (thus 9 teachers for every "supervisor") and quality teachers, We will languish at the tail-end of the educational race.

2) Privatize power, water, roads and prisons, getting at least 90% of those government employees off the public payroll. Privatization will place the government as the protector of the citizen, therefore no privatization effort will include "holding back" a percentage for the government to hide behind.

3) Create 12 counties in Puerto Rico and consolidate government functions to further reduce the public payroll. Twelve cities will be "county seats" and have the power to set county-wide budgets and regulations. Mayors of "absorbed" cities form the County Council with the mayor of the county seat and three at-large citizens on the County Board. Counties compete for central government funding and operate as quasi-independent regions within the larger Puerto Rican framework.

4) Welfare is converted to work-fare or school-fare. Except for the elderly, all welfare recipients must either work 20 hours a week or go to school for 12 hours a week in order to keep their benefits. To fund this program, property taxes will be adjusted (they were set in the early 50s when real estate was worth 5-7% of today's value), a sales tax will be levied on non-essential items (everything that isn't food, clothes, shelter, healthcare, utilities, non-luxury cars and gasoline), taxes will be lowered to half their current levels (to allow for greater compliance and reporting of actual income), loan interest will not be deductible (except for mortgages or direct healthcare), current "easy" loans at 25-28% interest will be abolished in favor of "deposit loans" (place 20% of loan value in interest-bearing escrow) at 12-16% interest, savings up to 15% of income will be considered as tax deductions and investments in new Puerto Rican companies are 100% tax deductible up to 33% of your reported income. The idea here is to flush out drains on Our economy while bringing forth part of the "underground economy" as benefits.

5) A Puerto Rican World Corps will be established so that every person in Puerto Rico between the ages of 16 and 26 must travel to at least two different countries in South America, Europe, Asia or Africa and spend at least 6 weeks working in each country. The trips are paid for by the government and upon return, each person must prepare a 50-page report on their experience within 30 days of their return. People between 27 and 60 can make similar trips, but must pay at least one-third the costs, depending on the chosen destination. Employers are required to allow the person to make their trips without loss of job or position, but also have the right to make use of their employees' reports for 60 days before the reports become public documents. People who decline to make any trips are ineligible to vote in any elections, cannot hold public office and pay a "World Corps" tax of 3% of their total income every year. People who make one trip can vote only in county elections, serve at the county level and pay a 1.5% tax on their total income. People who complete both trips can vote in all elections, serve at the central government level and are exempt from paying the World Corps tax. The benefits to opening minds and creating a responsible government corps are obvious, but debatable. Everything is debatable. You're welcome to join in.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

04 July 2005

The Time Is Now

Another "lucky" find, product of wandering cyberspace with an open mind, an explorer's heart and harnessed curiosity: Joe Kraus produces the oddly-named Bnoopy, a self-described entrepreneurship blog. A recent post explained his reasons for believing that now is a great time to be an entrepreneur:

It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur

There’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur because it’s never been cheaper to be one. Here’s one example.

Excite.com took $3,000,000 to get from idea to launch. JotSpot took $100,000.

Why on earth is there a 30X difference? There’s probably a lot of reasons, but here are my top four. I’m interested in hearing about what other people think are factors as well.

Hardware is 100X cheaper
In the 10 years between Excite and JotSpot, hardware has literally become 100X cheaper. It’s two factors – Moore’s law and the rise of Linux as an operating system designed to run on generic hardware. Back in the Excite days, we had to buy proprietary Sun hardware and Sun hard drive arrays. Believe me, none of it was cheap.

Today, we buy generic Intel boxes provided by one of a million different suppliers.

Infrastructure software is free
Back in 1993 we had to buy and continue to pay for maintenance on everything we needed just to build our service -- operating systems, compilers, web servers, application servers, databases. You name it. If it was infrastructure, we paid for it. And, not only was it costly, the need to negotiate licenses took time and energy. I remember having a deadline at Excite that required me to buy a Sun compiler through their Japanese office because it was the only office open at the time (probably midnight) and we needed that compiler NOW.

Compare that to today. Free, open source infrastructure is the norm. Get it anytime and anywhere. At JotSpot, and startups everywhere you see Linux, Tomcat, Apache, MySQL, etc. No license cost, no maintenance.

Access to Global Labor Markets
Startups today have unprecedented access to global labor markets. Back in 1993, IBM had access to technical people in India, but little Excite.com did not. Today, with rent-a-coder, elance.com and just plain email, we have access to a world-wide talent pool of experts on a temporary or permanent basis.

SEM changes everything
Ten years ago to reach the market, we had to do expensive distribution deals. We advertised on television and radio and print. We spent a crap-load of money. There’s an old adage in television advertising “I know half my money is wasted. Trouble is, I don’t know what half”. That was us.

It’s an obvious statement to say that search engine marketing changes everything. But the real revolution is the ability to affordably reach small markets. You can know what works and what doesn’t. And, search not only allows niche marketing, it’s global popularity allows mass marketing as well (if you can buy enough keywords).

So What?
It’s nice that it’s cheaper, but what does it mean to entrepreneuring?

More people can and will be entrepreneurs than ever before
A lot more people can raise $100,000 than raise $3,000,000.

Funding sources explode which enables more entrepreneurs
The sources of funding capable of writing $100,000 checks are a lot more plentiful than those capable of writing $3,000,000 checks. It’s a great time to be an angel investor because there are real possibilities of substantial company progress on so little money.

More bootstrapping to profitability
With costs so low, I think you’ll see many more companies raise angel money and take it all the way to profitability.

Higher valuations for VCs.
And, for those that do raise venture capital, I think it means better valuations because you can get far more mature on your $100,000 before you go for the bigger round.

All in all, it’s a great time to be an entrepreneur.

For Puerto Rico, the lower costs mean that We can legitimately access venture capital and use Our native inventiveness in low-cost operating to global advantage. But it requires an act of volition--a choice--to seize this advantage and use it before others crowd Us out.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

01 July 2005

Jump-Start Success

The Jenius found this recently in one His many sidepaths in cyberspace. The original posting can be found here, in a blog called Best Tools for the Job.

Ten Things You Can Do Today to Jump-start Success

1. Read or listen to something that motivates you every single day. If you don’t read another item on this list, take this to heart. Don’t let a single day go by without providing yourself external motivation.

2. Keep a journal of your daily progress and carry it with you wherever you go. Change and progress will happen, but in order to recognize it, you have to record it. An example of a journal entry might be “Started tracking all expenses today, woke up 15 minutes earlier, set goal to read one book a month.” Some days you’ll do more than others, but the important thing is to do something every day and write down what you do.

3. Make goals and re-write them every day.
Your goals will change, don’t worry about making goals that right now feel unattainable or baseless. The hardest part of making big goals is starting. Start by recording between 5 and 10 changes you’d like to make or milestones you’d like to reach within the next three years and re-write the goals, along with a brief note of your current progress every day. Save the lists of goals as you go so you can see how they evolve and you progress. This idea is by no means unique to me, but I do it and I know it works.

4. Keep track of every person you meet. If you don’t feel like you will remember their name, write it down, along with details of the conversations you had with them. Microsoft Outlook or almost any Personal Information Manager is great for storing this type of information. Keep it in a simple, but comprehensive system.

5. Begin investing a portion of your income today.
A great place to start is a high-yield savings account, an IRA or a 401k plan. Do not put off investing until you’ve found the ‘perfect’ investment. If you’re already investing some of your money, bump up the amount you invest a notch.

6. Begin looking for opportunities to build passive income (money that you don’t have to work for once you’ve done the initial work) and write down or begin working on your ideas. The most important thing you can do is be aware of the ideas you already have. Focus on building assets, not more work for yourself.

7. Only sleep as much as you need to. Sleep is obviously important, but don’t use the most important hours of your day dreaming. If you wake up at 7 and go to bed at 11, begin to wake up at 5:30 and go to bed at 10:30. Chances are there is an hour each day that you could use doing the above things that will make you more happy and successful.

8. Look for opportunities to serve. If you are willing to help others, others will be more willing to help you. The benefits of service are real–you will find more happiness and peace through serving than through any amount of time or money.

9. Keep track of every penny that you spend or save.
Record every transaction in the back of your checkbook, in a spiral notebook or in accounting software. By doing it, you’ll begin to discover patterns you never would have found otherwise.

10. Stop being a victim. Focus on what YOU can DO. Stop assigning blame, don’t look for excuses. Take the attitude of ownership. Don’t try to change others, make a decision then take action.

The Jenius Has Quoted.