Posts Tagged ‘choices’

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Some years ago, I was having lunch with several representatives of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center when the topic of “bad choices” made by teenagers, who ended up in the hospital, arose.  If you have raised a teenager, you can identify with this fear.  Unfortunately, the consequences of bad choices do not end with the teen years.

All of us come into this world at a given state that was determined by our parents.  We didn’t choose our parents, siblings, gender, religion, race, economic standard, color of our hair, etc., etc., etc.  And, thus begins our journey of choices.  As time passes, our choices plot our path in life.  The learning and development years are the most critical for establishing the foundation for how we make choices as adults, as it is during this period that we begin to understand the “risk-reward” trade-off.  Then, all of a sudden, we are adults.

Hopefully along the way we recognize that all choices have consequences.  Growing up it seemed that the consequences were easily recognized because as teenagers we played on the edge and the response was often quick.  As adults, we play in an arena where the consequences of our choices are often difficult to recognize, or more importantly, several steps removed from the decision.  I call this “the second and third order consequences” of decision-making. (https://thinkinthingsover.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/the-second-and-third-order-consequences-8/)

With the advent of the digital world, social media, a dynamic global economy that is wired like a circuit board, and fierce competition at all levels of our lives, all decisions/choices should matter because they ‘could’ have an impact on your ‘future.’  In effect, many everyday choices are no longer simple decisions.  Therefore, get in the habit of thinking about what might happen when you make a decision; beyond the desired result of the decision.  You will be surprised at what you will discover.  In the end, you will make better decisions.

By now you are probably wondering what the connection is between this post and my picture above.  It is a simple choice, what type of beer do I want.  Perhaps a Seasonal Lager.  Is there something else I should consider?  Price perhaps.  Ok, reasonably priced Seasonal Lager; got it.  A pint please! — How about, what is the ABV rating?


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Capital Dome

…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government… it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence.

Over the past several decades I have come to realize the emergence of two realities.  –  The reality of what really is, i.e. the real world, and the reality of the distorted perspective of a group of powerful individuals, i.e. their view of the world.

The focal point of my concern is with our elected officials; specifically our House and Senate leaders as a group.  This is not about Democrats, Republicans, Independents or specific ideologies; it is about governance.  The reality of this group is out-of-whack with the reality of what the citizens expect from our elected officials.  Our citizens expect our elected officials to govern this country on behalf of its citizens; all citizens.  They expect its leaders to do what is in the best interest of our ‘society.’  They expect honesty of purpose, integrity, informed judgment, and the courage to do what is right.  It is that simple.  What I am observing in our elected officials is bizarre.

It seems as if Washington, D.C. has become disconnected from the rest of the country.  They stand for and represent either nebulous constituencies or powerful political action committees (PAC).  As I look around my community and talk to others, I don’t see a manifestation of these nebulous constituencies. or the standard-bearers of the PAC’s.  It is like trying to grasp fog; you can’t get your arms around it.  When I question my elected officials, I usually get a canned and non-committal response from an aide that leaves me more at a loss.  Consequently, I believe that a critical mass of our elected politicians do not have the substance to govern.

The problem is that this pervasive misalignment of reality in Washington, D.C. is having an increasingly negative impact on society in general and business in particular, whereas, it appears the Washington, D.C. group remains unscathed.  Let me give you a comparison.  If business owners ran their companies the same way as Washington, D.C., they would go out of business.  Let me say that again, they would go out of business.  Business owners focus on what is in the best interest of their company and its stakeholders, which includes the community, and perform accordingly.  They either succeed or they fail.

As I watch the theatrical performance of the cast of characters running for our next President, I ask myself; are we at the point Thomas Jefferson was talking about in the Declaration of Independence.  Remember, society is always perfectly positioned to get the government it deserves.  If you leave government unattended, this is what you get.  We have left it unattended for too long.

Let me close by saying that I truly believe that our country has a great future.  The substance of our ‘citizens’ is incredible.  All you have to do is observe the selfless generosity and courage of people in times of crises, the millions of the small business owners who put their personal capital at risk to drive our economy and employ two-thirds of the workforce, the hordes of volunteers who serve our communities, and the bravery of our military community who stand their post in harm’s way so we can enjoy the benefits of this great country.  Our substance is in place, now we need to change Washington, D.C. so they see the real world.

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Fool's Gold

During the gold rush of the 1800’s many prospectors, in their relentless hunt for gold, discovered a mineral know as pyrite (fool’s gold), which looked like gold. The mistake, especially for naive prospectors, was only discovered after mining and transporting all of the mineral they could carry to a local surveyor. In simple terms, they were obsessed in finding their fortune. So anything that looked like what they were looking for quickly, to them, became a reality. The mineral even became a method for tricking unsuspecting prospectors into buying a gold mine that had been “salted” with fool’s gold to give the appearance of a gold mine.

In the business world today, we prospectors, in many cases, are still mining fool’s gold. We go after appearance versus substance. Why, because we see what we want to see. Somewhere along the way when I was just starting out in business I remember an old sage saying ‘nothing is as it appears to be.’ I didn’t understand it at the time, but the concept has never left me. Today, all you have to do is search the internet for something and start going through your hits. Wow, almost every hit promising to meet your need. Slick images, testimonials, reviews, offerings, promotions, guarantees, etc., etc., etc. All you have to do now is pack it up and take it to the surveyor. Unfortunately, in a noticeable number of cases, you discover you have mined fool’s gold.

In many of my blogs I talk about decision-making and how important it is to have a process. When you are obsessed in doing something, regardless if it is in response to an opportunity or a threat, you have to be aware that mines salted with fool’s gold are all around you. Venturing into one of these will consume valuable resources (time, people, and money) and, at the very least, delay you in accomplishing your objective.

Of the three components in effective decision-making, knowledge, especially in today’s world of complex imaging, becomes critical. The more knowledge you can develop before you begin your mining, the better chance you will have in discovering gold. The more you get in the habit of developing knowledge as a part of how you make decisions the more efficient you will become in managing your resources for making decisions. Remember, from your perspective, substance is based on knowledge. Appearance is not.

I’m not saying that everyone can make the ultimate decision if they just build more knowledge. I’m saying that if you can develop a decision-making process that always incorporates a knowledge component; you will make fewer trips to the surveyor with fool’s gold. – It boils down to my favorite quote; “tell me the process you used to make the decision.” Appearance versus substance.

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Several years ago I posted The Second and Third Order Consequences! discussing some of the critical things that must be considered in decision-making. The posting has attracted thousands of views from all over the world.

The focus of the posting was from a business perspective; however, a great deal of the interest has been from a personal perspective. So for a number of months I have been exploring this concept in discussions with individuals and have found an incredible interest in this perspective with younger individuals, e.g. the millennials. Millennials are the largest generational group in the U.S. since the Baby-boomers and are going to have a huge impact on society. So let’s revisit this from two of the attributes most often brought up about this generation.

Social Networks.

Unlike any generation before them, millennials are “tied” to social networks that are ubiquitous. Decision-making in this environment can have instant and lasting consequences at multiple levels. Once a decision has become part of this network it is not easily retrievable. It has legs and will run for a long time. Fun-stuff postings (pictures, comments, videos, etc.) in a social setting can become areas of concern in future potential relationships, e.g., employers.

On the other hand, postings that promote strong personal attributes, accomplishments, community service and competencies can have a very positive impact on future relationships.

Second and Third Order Consequences of Social Networks. – At this time, older generations that are responsible for hiring, or certain industries, might see fun-stuff postings differently. – What is funny is that the older generations did a lot of the same things but didn’t capture them in pictures. Positive postings will also catch their attention and just might get you that interview. Think carefully about your postings and how they can result in consequences beyond the initial post.


Like the generations before them, Millennials like to wear who they are on their sleeves. Tattoos and piercings are the new standards of look-at-me. Like social network decisions mentioned above, body art can run for a long time. I met a wonderful and extremely smart young lady that had to wear long sleeves to hide her tats from her employer. This may not be right, but it was a reality. I asked her if she could do it all over again would she get that many tattoos. Her answer, no.

Second and Third Order Consequences of Self-Expression. – Older generations that are responsible for hiring, or certain industries, might see body art differently. This especially comes up when the employee has to interact with an older customer base. As time passes, millennials will be the hiring agents and be looking to attract like-minded individuals. However for now, consider other possible reactions to your decisions about self-expression to see if there might be unintended consequences down the road.

There are always second and third order consequences to decision-making that must be considered before an important decision is made. The problem is that the point of reference for the initial decision is often the here-and-now. If you hesitate and think beyond the initial impact of your decision, you will make better decisions and have more positive results.

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While the current unemployment/underemployment environment for college graduates is worrisome, it is not unprecedented when looking at historic trends. The November 1, 2014 Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, provides an in-depth discussion of the fallacy of focusing on the current recession as the cause for these challenging times for recent college graduates. So taking a woe-is-me attitude, I can’t do anything about my situation, or basing your employment efforts on what you are being told by the media or others in your predicament, will only make your situation worse.

So what should you do? First, recognize that these are challenging times but they are not unusual. Second, get back into the game, and stay there. It is great to have friends in similar positions that provide support, but you have to be careful that it does not become the basis for a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve seen this over and over again. It provides some comfort that others are struggling like you and, therefore, it must be ok. It is not ok. Finally, develop a written plan of action and stick to it.

Your plan should be simple and easy to follow so you can keep track of your progress and, if necessary, make adjustments along the way. I recently saw a “search plan” where a college graduate had identified their key competencies/capabilities (education, part-time job experience, volunteering, organizations, leadership positions, empowering others, motivation, self-management, critical thinking, execution, etc. — Get the picture?) and linked them to four categories of potential employment (education, human resources, healthcare, and media). They then identified twenty-two target companies/organizations, separated into the four industries.

After some basic research they determined how best to approach a company, which could be email, telephone, mail, online job postings, personal contacts, company/organization portals, etc., or any combination of these. When possible, they developed an approach that was unique to the company, industry, or potential opportunity. They also kept records of the contacts and booked follow-up dates. (One of the best follow-ups to a response or an interview is a personal hand-written note.)

Every day, they spent time on their plan. Will it get them their dream job? Probably not. But it will get them further than just marking-time in their current situation – waiting to be discovered. Plus, they will develop a new skill set and learn along the way. They can’t lose.

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George T. James

August 22, 2012

This is a story of why some businesses succeed and why others fail.

The Porch

It is funny how we can look back on life and remember things that had a significant influence on where we are today. When you ask people about things that ‘shaped’ them during their developmental years you almost always get the name of a family member, teacher, coach, or perhaps a professor. Rightfully so, no one could argue that role models, or people we admire and respect, can have a significant influence on our development.

Interestingly when I go down this memory lane I eventually come back to what happened to me when I was around 12 or 13 years old. What makes this interesting is that it is out of the ordinary and could have easily passed by me without me ever noticing. My event? The porch!

During the spring and summer months as a young boy, I would walk the surrounding neighborhoods looking for houses that needed their grass cut; with my push mower! I would carefully watch yards to see when it would be an opportune time to ask the owner if they would like their yard cut. Actually, it was a lot of walking with little cutting; but I did earn some money and became very comfortable in approaching adults.

About a block from my house lived a friend whose father was having a difficult time finding work. Day after day I would see Mr. W sitting in his rocker on his porch. I would wave as I walked by and he would occasionally say something like, “Find any yards lately?” I would also see Mr. W in church on Sundays with his large family thinking how he must have been praying for some luck in his life.

Spring turned to summer, summer to fall and fall to winter; when I switched from cutting grass to shoveling walks. Seasoned changed but the porch remained. One day as I walked by Mr. W’s house on a cold snowy day, I saw the empty rocker sitting on the porch; obviously too cold for Mr. W to be sitting outside. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

The Discovery

I really don’t know why this hit me; all I know is that it had a significant impact on the rest of my business career. During all of the months that I had observed this unfortunate situation, I didn’t connect the significance of what I was observing. I don’t really know if my perception of Mr. W’s situation was accurate, but my perception was reality to me. The revelation was simple: you have to get off of the porch. What a simple concept! No one is going to come into my yard, walk up on my porch and offer me grass cutting and snow removal jobs. I have to take responsibility for accomplishing what is important to me, and it will not happen by just sitting on the porch.

Opportunities/solutions do not come to you sitting in a rocker on a porch; you have to wander the streets in search of your desired outcome. Over the past thirty plus years I have been amazed at the number of business owners that I have met that have been sitting on the porch expressing concern about some ‘big’ issue that they weren’t actively addressing – for many different reasons. These were significant issues that could have an impact on the future success of their business. Think about the businesses in this current recession that have taken on a ‘bunker mentality’ and are trying to hold out until things get better; waiting on the porch. I wonder if their competition is sitting on their porch.

Porch sitting is about making the choice not to do something when action is required, usually supported by an ill-conceived rationalization of a situation. Consider the following:

· A sixty year-old family business owner saying, “I really don’t need to do succession planning now, I have plenty of time.”

· “I know we really should have a strategic plan in place for the future of our business, but I just don’t have the time to do it, plus I don’t know where to begin.”

· “Eighty percent of our business comes from one large company. One of these days, I’m going to have to find other customers so all of my eggs aren’t in one basket.”

· “We’re a victim of these tough economic times; I can’t do anything about it.”

· “As soon as things quiet down around here, we are going to start working on expanding our product offerings.”

· “I could really use some help in developing better management skills to run my company, but I’m embarrassed to seek the help. I don’t want people to see me as weak.”

Unfortunately, porch sitters do not understand, or simply dismiss, the sense of urgency required for ‘find any yards today.’

Opportunities, or solutions, do not conjure up out of doing nothing; they appear as a result of ‘knocking’ on doors. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to grow your business, develop a strategic plan, establish a succession plan or put an outside board in place; you have to start taking some type of action to make these happen. Remember, in almost all situations where action is required but not taken, TIME will eventually make the decision for you. Unfortunately, it won’t be the caliber of action you would have taken earlier, or it wouldn’t even be your desired result. Oh, by the way, the sixty year-old business owner mentioned above just had a major heart attack without a succession plan in place. Where does that leave the family business?

Think about the strategic issues that need action in your business. What are you sitting on the porch waiting for?


About George James

George James is the founder of James Consulting Group, LLC (www.jamesconsultgrp.com), a consulting practice that helps executives and businesses develop more effective decision-making competencies (ReINVENTive Thinking!®) for improving their organization’s performance.  He has been a facilitator at the Next Generation Institute, and is an instructor/business advisor at the Business Boards Institute at the Goering Center for Family and Private Business at the University of Cincinnati, and is an instructor for High Performance Boards at Aileron, Dayton, OH.

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