Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How to Fix the Economy

"How Would You Fix the Economy?"

This was an article from the St. Petersburg Times Newspaper on Sunday. The Business Section asked readers for ideas on "How Would You Fix the Economy?" This article was one of the ideas submitted...

Dear Mr. President,

Patriotic retirement:

There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force - pay them $1 million apiece severance with the following stipulations:

1) They leave their jobs. Forty million job openings -Unemployment fixed.

2) They buy NEW American cars. Forty million cars ordered - Auto Industry fixed.

3) They either buy a house/pay off their mortgage - Housing Crisis fixed.

Can't get any easier than that!


Friday, March 27, 2009

Funny Political Cartoon

I thought this was hilarious!

. . . and pretty true to life! (so, hilarious, and a little unnerving.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I wanna be like Cristina

Tonight I saw this video of my friend Sarah's sister-in-law, Cristina--(who happens to be competing in Atlanta's biggest loser, and everyone's supposed to go vote for her). . . Anyway, Cristina just ROCKS it out in this video of herself singing a Les Misrables song (with different words).

But it was awesome!!! Seriously, I almost went blind from exposure to sheer awesomeness. As I saw her singing, I realized I NEED to be more like her. I need more guts to just BE awesome in front of a camera--or anywhere for that matter. So, for what it's worth--tonight, you inspired me, Cristina. Thanks.

Here's the blog where I saw her: www.sarajoyner.blogspot.com

(you can go to the blog to see how to WIN $$$ for voting. :)

Also I've tried to embed the video here:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Coersion vs. Choice

I have a friend who's a Communist. We had a conversation about Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. Her take was that it's the government's responsibility to provide for the lower needs (food, shelter, etc.) for as many of a country's citizens as possible. She believed that it was only after the government had effectively provided these needs that the citizens could start thinking about higher needs like 'self actualization' and 'giving back', etc. She felt that from this perspective, the government was totally justified in coercing everyone to give of their means in order to provide for these basic needs.

My view took a top down approach. I argued that it's government's job to do nothing more than preserve my right to seek 'self actualization' in the way that suited me best--and that as a result, I would be better equipped to contribute to others' needs. Of course, functioning in a society that uses currency for acquiring 'self actualizing' endeavors, this argument requires the opportunity to pursue property and wealth in a manner that is uninhibited by the government's propensity to take it from me the moment I earn it.

All entrepreneurship is social entrepreneurship (or charitable in nature or in some other way reaching out to those who would struggle to meet their own needs). Any company that generates profits also generates jobs and products and a general economy that allows for everyone to 'give back'; whereas, none of the 'social programs' we have would work without genuine profit-generating economic stimulating entrepreneurship that earns real money for real people.

The real question is "under what conditions do we give back?" My communist friend says the best way is for the government to take and redistribute what we earn (at the threat of fines, penalties, even jail for noncompliance). I say I am more apt to give generously when CHOOSING to do so, rather than when coerced to give. For instance, tithes and offerings are not coerced, yet people pay them generously because they so choose.

Coercion vs. Choice in Education

We all prefer benefits and rewards to pain; yet, it's a scientifically proven fact that, in general, we all take greater action to prevent the risk of pain, than we do to gain a benefit or reward. It therefore becomes easier to manipulate mankind with the fear of pain than the promise of reward. It's this psychological fact that motivates so many people in so many systems to Coerce, rather than incent a desired Choice.

The psychologically manipulative nature of most educational institutions is particularly vexing to me. The idea that 'students won't act unless they fear some punishment' is really annoying. "You didn't show up at a certain time, so you don't get credit for the class". . . "you didn't do your homework, so you fail the class". . . "you didn't fill out the survey, so you can't continue your education".

Is anyone asking: Did you learn what you hoped to from our institution?

I say let the natural consequence be the consequence. If you don't do your homework, you don't learn, and you're stupid. If, somehow, you don't do your homework, yet you learn. . . show us how you did that, cuz that's AWESOME!!! If you don't fill out the survey, then what? Yeah, you failed to contribute to your school's ability to show the results it may hope to show. If the welfare of your school motivates you, then fill it out. If it doesn't. . . then what? The school should threaten you with a hold on your class registrations so you can't continue to pursue the education you wanted?

All I'm saying is that philosophically, there is FAR more to be gained from natural creative motivations than coerced manipulation. Don't you learn so much more in a class where you are learning because you care about the subject MORE than the grade?

I don't think I'm built differently than anyone else on this: it sucks to be told you HAVE to do something. It's fun to WANT to do something because you care. Why can't institutional educators put some real thought into how to motivate action via the latter, as opposed to the former?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

They just don't get it.

I'm sick of my kids complaining and crying about everything and anything. In an effort to give them a tool to help them mentally cope with the challenges they face in a more positive manner, I started helping them memorize this poem by a 19th century poet, Pheobe Cary:


Suppose, my little lady,
Your doll should break her head,
Could you make it whole by crying
Till your eyes and nose are red?
And would n't it be pleasanter
To treat it as a joke;
And say you're glad "'T was Dolly's
And not your head that broke?"

Suppose you're dressed for walking,
And the rain comes pouring down,
Will it clear off any sooner
Because you scold and frown?
And wouldn't it be nicer
For you to smile than pout,
And so make sunshine in the house
When there is none without?

Suppose your task, my little man,
Is very hard to get,
Will it make it any easier
For you to sit and fret?
And would n't it be wiser
Than waiting like a dunce,
To go to work in earnest
And learn the thing at once?

Suppose that some boys have a horse,
And some a coach and pair,
Will it tire you less while walking
To say, "It is n't fair?"
And would n't it be nobler
To keep your temper sweet,
And in your heart be thankful
You can walk upon your feet?

And suppose the world don't please you,
Nor the way some people do,
Do you think the whole creation
Will be altered just for you?
And is n't it, my boy or girl,
The wisest, bravest plan,
Whatever comes, or does n't come,
To do the best you can?

We got most of the way through the first stanza when I noticed that Brittany had become very quiet, and seemed to be rather disturbed. I asked her what was wrong, and she burst into tears, saying, "I just really don't want my dolls heads to break." For crying out loud!!! I mean, the whole POINT of the story is to NOT cry if it DOES happen--not to mention a hypothetical consideration of the unfortunate possibility of it happening.

Frustrating. I spent some time trying to explain it before I finally just gave up and said, "OK, well lets think about some positive stuff, and not worry about the poem for now." Once again, the kids won.

I think that makes the score- Kids: 2796, Dad: 0

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A note to Sandra Rogers

The following is an email I received today:

From: "Sandra Rogers, International Affairs VP"
To: Blaine
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2009 6:03:33 PM
Subject: [*] Language Skills Survey

Dear Blaine:

The Brigham Young University student body is unique in many ways, particularly in our experience with other cultures and languages, as well as our appreciation of multi-cultural diversity. In the past, information about our students’ language skills has been useful in attracting employment recruiters, securing jobs for students and communicating positive information about the university.

We are requesting your assistance with a short 5-7 minute survey that will help us understand and quantify the experiences of BYU students. We NEED all students to fill out the survey, regardless of your current multi-cultural or language experiences.

Your identification will be deleted prior to data analysis and reporting, so please feel free to give us your honest and candid opinions. If you begin the survey and run out of time, please click the stop button. When you are ready to restart the survey, simply reclick on the link below and you will be returned to where you left off. If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Eric Jenson at eric.jenson@byu.edu


Sandra Rogers

International Affairs Vice President

Click here to begin the survey

Mac users paste the following url in your browser http://axt.byu.edu/mrIWeb/mrIWeb.dll?I.Project=LANGSKILL&id=G333

(This message was sent to multiple recipients from Institutional Assessment and Analysis as authorized by Danny Olsen, Director. No patron will send bulk, unsolicited electronic messages unless expressly authorized)


No big deal, right? Here's the email I was inclined to send as a response, but didn't (for reasons articulated within the email).


----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Blaine D. Hone
To: Blaine USA
Sent: Sunday, March 22, 2009 12:32:36 AM
Subject: Re: [*] Language Skills Survey

Dear Sandra,

Thanks for the survey opportunity. I am interested in benefiting BYU by sharing whatever personal information I can. As I am certain you are concerned with effective communication (as evidenced by some of the content of the survey), I thought you might want to know how this message is making some students feel (. . .at least me; and I don't perceive myself as being radically different from "normal"). [I'm sure some of the blog readers might beg to differ here, of course]

My feedback is simply this: I take issue with the big bold phrase "We NEED all students to fill out the survey (etc.). . ." Reading it, I feel as though I'm somehow required to complete the survey, or that you might seek to coerce cooperation should I opt not to complete it. I, consequently, read into your message a sense of uncomfortable pressure and manipulation--neither of which are appreciated in a student's already "stressful enough" life. Thanks for your consideration.

. . . Here I've read through the above paragraph, and can't help but feel like I'm (quite ironically and hypocritically) coming off as a jerk. Part of me says the best approach would be to kindly fill out the survey (or not, if I don't care to), and not pay any further concern to the manner in which my cooperation was requested. The fact that I'm actually sending you this note is evidence that I'm acting in interest of 'the other' side of me--the one that tells me that if I'm truly interested in BYU's being the best it can be, I'll give constructive feedback to BYU faculty and staff when I'm in a position to do so.

One final thought: I fully acknowledge that how I FEEL about your request is entirely my own responsibility. I recently read somewhere (I believe it was in "Getting to Yes" by Fisher and Ury) that a person will find he is much happier, and that all his negotiations in life will go much smoother if he will but choose to take communications at their best possible meaning, as opposed to their worst. To respond at all to your email would constitute my disregarding this advice. I choose better.


Blaine D. Hone


I ended the email abruptly because it was there that I came to the realization that out of interest in my own growth, I would be better served by NOT sending the email.

Out of interest in who the unknowing non-recepient of my response would have been, I googled 'Sandra Rogers BYU'. I found this photo:

I did a search on BYU's website and found that Sandra Rogers has been working for BYU sine 1980 (if I recall what I read correctly). She was Dean of the Nursing School at BYU until 2008, when she was made vice president of the international department--the office from which she wrote me this week. From her bio, she seems like she's probably a very well-meaning person. She has served humanitarian aid missions (or maybe it was just one), and she's been involved in humanitarian aid efforts in a variety of different countries. She has spoken on faith and hope and the likes at conferences. I can only assume there's a variety of other great works she has done (and continues to do) that make her an absolutely 'salt of the earth' kind of gal.

My point: I'm fairly confident that no threat or affront in any form was meant by her email. What a silly mistake it would have been on my part to assume there was one, and react accordingly. . . .not because I think Sandra Rogers would have been permanently scarred or in some other way hurt by my comment (on the contrary, everything I know about her--which is admittadly very little--tells me she's probably the type of person who would GENUINELY appreciate knowing a way in which she might improve the effects of her communications). No, the mistake would have been for me to act on an assumption that a certain communication was intended a certain way. I think I make this mistake too often, and I hope to "choose better" more often.

For what it's worth. . . I appreciate the lesson I learned tonight from Sandra Rogers.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Jubilee Crowd

I found this interesting. When I went to get a gallon of milk, I walked by the checkout stand at our town's grocery store (yeah. . .we have ONE in our town, and it's great). When I had the milk in hand, and had browsed around for a couple other items, I came back towards the checkout stand. Funny thing. . . the little groups of people that had sort of accumulated by the checkout stand area were NOT checking out. They were just sitting there talking.

The funny thing is. . .this isn't out of the ordinary, it's just what happens. You can't go to Jubilee without knowing someone (and usually wanting to talk to them). I don't know these 7 people (which--as I mentioned--is actually pretty surprising, since the odds of knowning at least 14% [or 1 in 7] of the people in Jubilee at any given moment are pretty high), but it was fun to think for a moment (and capture a picture of it) about one of the awesome reasons I LOVE my little town.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Focus on your sphere of influence

You know that part on "The Mask of Zorro" where Anthony Hopkins teaches Antonio Banderas to focus only on what's in his immediate circle? British Tony tells Spanish Tony that when he's ready to meet his ultimate objective, it will appear in his circle to be dealt with? . . . yeah that was a good part.

Anyway, I feel like my work life has kind of been like that. In 2006, I took on some new responsibilities at work, and I really wanted to "conquer the world" (the world of hot applied joint and crack sealants anyway). . . And that's exactly what I tried to do. I helped reorganize everyone's territory; I helped get a few new reps hired (we still have 2 of the 3); I went to China a few times to get stuff rolling there, and I started trying to get some dealers and various business partnerships going around the nation. etc. etc. etc. I was chasing everything everywhere. I wanted to do it all.

Well, it didn't work out so hot. My China partners' business thinned out, none of my potential dealer partners exploded like I hoped, and nothing really seemed to work out great. I think it was because I didn't give any of these ventures the appropriate focus they each needed. By the end of last year, I felt kind of like where Antonio B. was in Zorro when Anthony H. found him-- just kinda a loser.

So at the start of this year, I drew my circles and started focusing on smaller areas. In January, I had one single goal: to effectively manage my responsibilities with one particular account. I did well there, and the account blossomed. . .and a couple other good things happened that month, as well. The next month, the circle got a little bigger. This month, it has exploded. . .Canada, Venezuela, Ukraine, China . . . I've got business coming to me from all these places--I mean, it's coming to me rather than my having to go chase it. Furthermore, my U.S. dealer network seems to be developing itself in a similar fashion. I focus diligently on what I've got, and the new stuff seems to make its way into my view when I need to handle it.

I'm not saying it's all just "happening". I've been working darn hard, but I've decided to work and focus ONLY on the things I know I can handle. As I have done so, I have been able to handle more and more, and the things that are in my immediate view and focus seem to be getting bigger and broader.

The cool thing is I'm actually able to HANDLE all that's coming my way. It's really fun. I hope I can keep it up.

I share this. . .NOT to brag about the "flow" of the 'ebb and flow' of my business, but to point out a principle I hope to remember: if you focus on what's right in front of you, and do it well, you will eventually have the opportunity to do ALL the things you are meant to do. . . and that opportunity will come when you're prepared to do those things well.

Circles, baby! It's all about focusing on what's in your sphere.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Behold the power of advertising. . .

Wow! I experienced something interesting today. While sitting at the Phoenix airport on a connection to Kansas City, I glanced up at the TV that was playing in the waiting area at the gate. I could scarcely hear much of what was playing, but I could make out the news story if I listened closely. I glanced away for a few seconds, until a commercial promoting travel to India began.

Now, I have never had any interest in anything India. I’ve never cared to go there. I don’t particularly care to pursue business there. I certainly have nothing against the place or any of the people I have met from that region (including India, Nepal, Pakistan, etc.)—and I have more associations with people from these diverse cultures than most people I know. But I just haven’t had the desire to visit the area.

Yet, when this commercial played, I was mesmerized. It literally changed my desires. The music, the art, the colors, the activities portrayed—everything about the commercial spoke to me. The thing could have only been 30 seconds long, yet the impact it made on me—in a busy convoluted setting, mind you—was powerful. I finished watching the commercial thinking: Man, That would be kinda cool to go to India sometime. Upon realizing where my thoughts had gone (namely, “I wonder what kind of business success would justify a trip out that way”) I paused to think about why it was that I suddenly felt differently than I did a moment ago. It was the commercial. In 30 seconds, I went from not caring if I ever see that region of the world to really wanting to go there. AMAZING is the power of effective advertising!

Post Script: Upon recognizing this 30 second advertisement as the source of my motivation for trying to formulate a plan to find my way to India, I actually dropped the line of thinking to focus on more important objectives. But it’s worthwhile to note how effective good advertising can be at helping actually mold desires among its targets.

Application: How much of our hope in a new presidential administration (or other change we pursue as a nation or individual) is based on effectively designed and placed public messages? (Note: this is not a criticism—merely an observation of how we come to see what we see and want what we want.) I wonder how much of what my children come to want, do, and achieve in life is based on messages I don’t even realize they’re receiving. How subtle are the moments that take us to where we ultimately go in life. I wonder how much of where I am (what I have, do, and think) right now was by the calculated design of some or another marketer in one form or another.

Food for thought. . .

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Reality Shows

I don't know what it is, but I think there's something not right about reality shows. . . espeicially "The Bachelor". I'm sure there's no way I could adequately articulate WHY I feel this way, but I do. Wish I could even start to describe what I'm talking about, but I can't. I'll let you know when I have put my finger on what I find so objectionable.

Between now and then. . .for what it's worth: I hate reality shows--especially the Bachelor.