The Blog


Adapt And Prosper

A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.  ~ Chinese proverb

At a library fundraiser I attended this weekend, one of the re-enactors told me an interesting fact about antique sewing machines.  She said that Singer machines dated 1940-1945 are rare and highly collectible, because the company became largely an armaments manufacturer during World War II.  The conversation reminded of an article I recently came across, about another American company that survived, thrived and changed society by adapting to similar conditions.  It’s an interesting illustration of the power of entrepreneurial thinking – I hope you enjoy reading this excerpt.

How American industry changed post-Civil War American society

excerpt from America Inc: The 400-year history of American capitalism by Bhu Srinivasan. 

The best-known brands of the early Gilded Age were machine makers themselves. And for companies and their machines, adaptability seemed to be as vital to survival as it was for natural beings. For one company in the midst of an especially large revenue drop-off, salvation was found in a machine designed for the English language.

A Change in industry

In the years after the Civil War, even as the economy boomed, E. Remington & Sons saw its fortunes decline. The company made guns. Soldiers needed them and then, at war’s end, they didn’t. Based in the small town of Ilion, New York, Remington was one of many well-known gunmakers in the North. Following in the footsteps of Eli Whitney — who after his endless frustration in monetizing his cotton gin turned his mechanical genius to gun making — manufacturers in New England, including Samuel Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Remington gave the Union Army a decided advantage in arms. To meet the demands of war, the gunmakers became especially skilled machinists, using the latest in tooling techniques to make precision weapons. Seeing some synergy, an inventor approached E. Remington & Sons with a functional prototype of a new kind of machine for the written word.

Rather than propelling bullets through the air, the typewriter fired letters at paper. Developing the machine had been a long process. As with many inventions, a fortunate series of events needed to converge to create momentum for the final breakthrough. In this case, three men became inspired by an article about a theoretical writing machine in 1867. After repeated trial and error, they found an investor by demonstrating a functional prototype. After some frustration, two of the initial founders left, leaving the third, C. Latham Sholes, to develop the successful permutation: Each key, when pressed, caused a corresponding inked hammer to imprint the character on a piece of paper.

Up to that point, unlike printed works like newspapers, for which a typesetter set the individual letters by hand for the printing press, business correspondence had remained handwritten, prone to error, misinterpretation, and inefficiency. Seeing an opportunity to completely alter business communication, Remington took the prototype and, with its machinists and toolmakers, perfected the typewriter for market. Introduced in 1875, followed by a much bigger launch at the Centennial Celebrations in 1876, the Remington typewriter soon set the standard in offices across America, and Remington became a brand rather than a family manufacturer’s name.

It was to “the pen what the sewing machine is to the needle,” held a contemporary magazine. In the mid-1870s American sewing machine manufacturers, led by the Singer Manufacturing Company, were selling over 500,000 machines per year — a remarkable number considering that the overwhelming majority were for commercial use. While the sewing machine’s ease of use and contributions to efficiency were immediately obvious, the typewriter presented an obstacle: Few knew how to use it — making it inefficient compared with the pen due to its learning curve — and it wasn’t clear if typing was a skill that just anyone could develop.

By 1880 specialized typing schools had begun to offer training. Remarkably, even though the typewriter was destined for the office environment, a place where very few women had roles, the position of typist was open to both men and women from the very beginning. The profession drew in hundreds of women in major cities. With good typists in New York City making as much as $15 to $20 per week — nearly $1,000 per year — the pay was higher than that of many blue-collar men and that of women schoolteachers with years of education. “The excellent feature of this new profession for women,” read an account in a literary journal in the 1880s, was that “any bright girl in from three to six months may obtain sufficient facility with the typewriter to make herself valuable in an office.” As the telegraph office once had done in more limited form, the Remington became the machine that brought thousands of women into the modern office setting.    

Always Room At The Top

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.

~ Charles Darwin

You might be surprised to learn that many familiar businesses started out doing something totally different from what makes them household names today.

For example, have you heard of Fusajiro Yamauchi?  Back in 1889 this Japanese entrepreneur was in the business of manufacturing quality playing cards. At the time, his marketing options were relatively limited – he couldn’t rely on a large email list or social media following to grow his small operation. It was passion for his product that carried him through the usual ups and downs of business ownership.  Eventually his playing card company, Nintendo, began to offer slightly more advanced gaming options – and the rest, as they say, is history.

And did you know that Samsung Sanghoe shipped dried Korean fish, vegetable and their own brand of noodles to customers in Beijing, before changing course and expanding into consumer electronics?

Flexibility and perseverance are critical elements of business success.  After all most of us don’t spend our lives doing the first job or running the first business we ever had…unless you’ve made a career out of that corner lemonade stand ;-)

Opportunity is everywhere, but it’s easy to miss if we’re bogged down in the status quo and going about business as usual.  This is one reason why the most successful people in any field choose to work with a coach.  Effective coaching can help you recognize your blind spots, keep you accountable to your commitments, encourage you when you’re dealing with challenges, and celebrate your victories and achievements with you.  

The hardest battle you’ll ever have to fight is between who you are now and who you want to be.  Fortunately it’s one you don’t need to fight alone.  If you’re facing a career change, starting a new business or looking to uplevel the one you have, consider enrolling in a coaching program as soon as you’re ready to get going.  Options exist for all interests, learning styles and budgets, including workshops, online courses, group programs and masterminds, as well as personalized individual attention.

Every truly successful entrepreneur understands the importance of investing precious time and money wisely. Choosing to invest in yourself and your success first is one of the wisest business decisions you’ll ever make. 

The Quiet Revolution

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

~ Joseph Campbell

Many of us grew up hearing stories about our immigrant ancestors and their pioneering spirit - how they bravely embraced the unknown and left home, family and friends to pursue a better life in a new country. That better life typically included self-employment. While it can sound romantic, it wasn’t particularly unique for the 19th and most of the 20th centuries.  In 1900, 90% of people still worked in small businesses that remained in the same family for decades.

Things began to change with the Industrial Revolution. People scrambled to align themselves with big companies that promised safe modern working conditions and a secure paycheck, so that by the end of the last century more than 90% of people now worked for someone else.  Chances are you grew up with adults who went off to work in the morning to a job you may not have known much about, and who often returned home tired and grumpy after a long day. When it came time for you to decide on a career, you were probably told to go for a safe and secure job…and if you objected you were reminded that work wasn’t supposed to be “fun”. 

Well, the wheel is turning once again. The Great Recession of the early 2000’s has kick-started a new entrepreneurial movement. It’s a “quiet revolution” led by individuals who are challenging the employment status quo, and technology is on their side.  More people than ever are entering the brave new world of self-employment, in search of greater freedom, flexibility and fulfillment in their work. 

Of course whenever you explore new territory you can expect to encounter detours and obstacles, and being an entrepreneur is no exception. You won’t always get things right the first time. But if you’re committed to learning from your stumbling blocks (your mistakes) and turning them into stepping-stones, you’ll do just fine – and more than likely find a valuable treasure that “neither moth or rust can corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal.”

The Best Job In The World

Purpose is the reason you journey.  Passion is the fire that lights your way.

~ Oscar Wilde

Being your own boss might be even better for you than it sounds.  New research has identified a key ingredient to securing a happy and fulfilling career - working for yourself.

A recent study conducted by academics from the universities of Sheffield and Exeter shows the self-employed both enjoy their work more and find it more rewarding – despite longer hours and less job security – than those who work for others. 

The researchers analyzed data from 5,000 workers in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand across a number of sectors – including heath, finance, retail, real estate and education.  Self-employed people were happier and more engaged with their jobs than those working in any other profession. They were also more successful in their careers and felt more satisfied with their professional contributions. Comparison of employees across four job grades – non-managerial workers, supervisors, middle managers and senior managers and director – showed that non-managerial company workers were the least satisfied and engaged.

Co-author Professor Ilke Inceoglu, from the University of Exeter Business School, said: “Being engaged in their jobs makes people feel energised and pleased with their own contribution. Measuring how engaged people are in their work is therefore a really useful way to gauge their wellbeing and shows we must move beyond just looking at job satisfaction.” 

Those who work for themselves also report greater opportunities for innovation, enjoy taking on bigger challenges and find satisfaction in meeting higher standards.  Co-author Professor Peter Warr, from the University of Sheffield, notes: “Professional workers who are self-employed really value the autonomy they have. They have the freedom to innovate, express their own views, have influence beyond their own role and compete with other companies and people.”  The study was published in the journal Work, Employment and Society.

The bottom line is this - while self-employment comes with a number of stresses, including long hours and more uncertainty, people who work in this way tend to be happier and even healthier, at least mentally and emotionally. It’s an option worth considering.

Joy In The Here And Now

Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching.

   Satchel Paige

Some people believe that anything new they want to learn or do always must be difficult and approached in a serious manner.  But what would it be like if the opposite were true? What if life was actually meant to be “fun” a good part of the time?

Science suggests that the more enjoyment you experience while learning or doing something the better your brain functions. Having fun improves your work, your relationships, and your quality of life in general.  The more you infuse your activities with joy and enthusiasm, the more you contribute to your world.

Have you become stuck in some of your habits, perceptions or actions?  Do you feel older than your years, or burdened with responsibilities?  Whatever your age or circumstances, you can reconnect with your sense of fun. All it takes is a willingness to be flexible in your attitude.  Flexibility makes room for growth and excitement, and allows you to adapt and thrive in the face of change.  Being flexible enables you to see new opportunities and capitalize on them.

You only have this one life, and it’s way too short to be dragging your unhappiness along now in the hope of better times to come.  Let today be the day you wake up and give your inner child permission to come out and play. Make a conscious choice to enjoy what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, to see humor in all but the gravest situations, and to include a little foolishness in your serious plans.  The happier you are the healthier and more creative you will be, and the more joy, prosperity and blessings will show up for you and for everyone whose lives you touch.

Self-Talk

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

   William Shakespeare

When was the last time you stopped and listened to what you tell yourself about you?  Well, your subconscious mind is listening and it takes those messages very seriously, whether they are accurate or not. 

The words you use have emotional impact. Because they reflect what you believe about who you are and what you can do, they significantly affect what you are able to accomplish in life. 

Negative self-talk is extremely destructive. It can cause you to give up trying to do something new before you even get started. Here are a few of the most common self-sabotaging messages - do any of these sound familiar?

·      I can't do this

·      I’m not smart enough

·      I'm no good at technology

·      I'll look stupid

·      I’m too old to learn new skills

·      If only...

·      That's just the way I am - there's nothing I can do

Through your thoughts and words, you are a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have the power to create a happier life by changing the tone of your self-talk. However, you must be willing to accept total responsibility for what you think and say about yourself and your potential.

Positive statements like “If they can do it, I can do it; I'll never know until I try; I choose… I prefer... I will...” can help you recognize opportunities and find creative solutions to your challenges.

Remember that your subconscious mind doesn’t know when you’re kidding or telling the truth.  It simply takes you at your word. Words have power, so be as careful about what you say to yourself as to others.

Life On Your Own Terms

A camel is a horse designed by committee.

~ Sir Alec Issigonis.

This week’s post is somewhat longer than most, but I thought you would enjoy this article by Tom Kerr, who publishes a blog and sustainable living newsletter called Truth and Plenty.  It looks at entrepreneurship and “encore” careers from an interesting angle – and certainly provides food for thought.

Who Dictates How You Live Your Life?

I had a friend named Walker who grew up near Memphis.

"I heard Elvis Presley perform at a little roadside honky-tonk," he told me. "He was still undiscovered, and I was on the prom committee at my high school. So I went back to the committee and they said, 'Yes, we have enough to hire him.'"

"Are you kidding? Elvis played at your high school prom?"

"He would have. But the prom committee overruled my idea. Two years later Elvis was the most famous man in America. I decided right then and there that I would never again let a committee tell me what to do with my life."

Walker was one of the rare ones.  According to the Harvard Business Review, most of us choose careers and lifestyles based almost entirely on the expectations of others. Researchers call it "compliant behavior."

You're taught at a very early age to abide by the rules that groups of others set for you to follow, and to pursue that group-think mentality, instead of your own individual goals, desires, and dreams.

Maybe that "life by committee" system worked for your parents or grandparents, but today it's a dead-end street.

A Harris Poll found that nearly one out of three people who earn between $50,000 and $100,000 a year still live paycheck-to-paycheck.  How is that even possible?

The answer is that 70% of them are in debt up to their eyeballs. That makes it hard to see your path forward.

Retirement used to be something you looked forward to. These days it's something you dread, because you're afraid you'll run out of money.  Instead of a time to relax and pursue the things you love, it can be the most stressful phase of your life.

But it does not have to be.

Each of us needs to take another look at what we have, and determine whether we really own it...or if it has started to own us.

Much of what folks think they own is just borrowed from the bank. They charge you an arm and a leg for the privilege of feeling that you're the rightful owner.

Your level of false ownership is even determined by a committee, one that sits around a desk rifling through your confidential credit reports.  You buy a life they say you can afford, and then pay it off in heavy installments until the day you die.

Marjory Wildcraft understands the issue better than most, because she used to run her own investment company.  Now she raises her own food, barters and sells what she doesn't need, and gets paid to teach other people how to do it for themselves. She enjoys more independence and security than ever before, and has great fun leading a wholesome life that gives back to others in sustainable ways.

But you don't have to go whole hog the way Marjory did.  For example, you can launch your own portable career, which only requires one square foot...just enough to hold your laptop. That's what I did when I decided to rightsize my life. Millions of other people have done the same, and it's getting easier by the minute because of breakthroughs in technology and e-commerce.

They say that a camel is really a horse, designed by a committee.

If you don't want your own retirement future to get bent out of shape, take Walker's advice.  The advice is free...but can make your life rich in ways that are not just financial.

~ Tom Kerr

Conquering Clutter – Part 3

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

~ Leonardo Da Vinci.

A Rube Goldberg machine is a contraption, invention, or device that is deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task in a complicated way. Cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg described his eponymous inventions as a “symbol of man’s capacity for exerting maximum effort to accomplish minimal results.” The devices include a series of indirect, convoluted chain reactions that are both ingenious and absurd.

Over the years, the expression “Rube Goldberg” has come to describe any confusing or complicated system that deliberately slows progress and inhibits transparency. The IRS Tax Code, health insurance, financial services, the legal system and customer service for large corporations are just a few examples where planners seem to have consciously chosen the vice of complexity over the virtue of simplicity. I think you would agree that we all pay dearly for this choice.

Your personal goal should be just the opposite…to accomplish maximum results with minimal effort.  To achieve this you must actively embrace simplicity, and deliberately remove complexity and confusion from your daily routines, from your relationships, from your business and from your thinking.

Here are a few ways to “say goodbye to Rube” and simplify your life:

1.    Work on one thing at a time.  Prioritize your “to-do” list in order of importance (important isn’t always the same thing as urgent), then focus on and complete the tasks one at a time. No matter how many things are on that list, whether it’s three or ten or a hundred, there’s really only one thing - the one thing you’re doing right now. In spite of anything else, the one thing you’re doing right now is the only thing that you can do, so relax and give it your full attention.

2.    Eliminate the too-many-goals problem. When you set unreasonable expectations for the time available, you increase your stress level and simultaneously decrease your productivity.  Try the 1-2-3 approach instead: for the next 30-90 days, choose 1 goal in each of 2 sectors (i.e., one personal and one professional), and commit to 3 action steps for each goal.

3.    Declare a “Do Nothing Day” each month and really do nothing that day. Get over the idea that time off from work is automatically time wasted.  The greatest geniuses created space in their thoughts and actions to make room for inspiration to emerge. Leonardo Da Vinci advised, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer; since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose your power of judgment.”


 

Conquering Clutter - Part 2

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

~ William Morris

When we pile up things we don’t use or need, we also accumulate stale energy that can quickly transform into stress. Decluttering your living space makes room for new things to enter, which in turn can help you experience more peace and renewed vitality.

I’ve found this three-part strategy for clearing your home environment a highly effective way to get the job done. You may want to give it a try too.

1. Get rid of “stuff” that you don’t love having around or no longer find useful. Donate or discard clothes that don’t fit or that you haven’t worn for 6 months (a year at most). Toss the old makeup, dispose of appliances, gadgets and accessories you don’t need, and bundle up magazines you’ve already read for trash or recycling.

2. Organize. Start going through all drawers and cupboards in your home one at a time. Choose the messiest one first, empty it and re-organize its contents. Group and store similar items together, so they’re easy to find when you need them. Don’t forget your medicine cabinet - check the expiration dates on your medications, and refill drug and cosmetic items where necessary.

3. Repair and maintain the things you intend to keep. Walk around your house and notice what needs fixing. Is there a piece of furniture that could use a touchup of paint? What about changing any burned out light bulbs, or tackling that leaky faucet or slow drain? Is your car due for routine services such as oil change or tire rotation? And how long have you been meaning to replace a missing button on your clothes?  Keep a list of anything that needs repair and regularly schedule a day for only fixing things. If you have a job that takes less than a minute or two, use your random spare moments to do it right away.  Fixing those smalls things you often put off keeps them from turning into major problems later on, and can give you a great sense of accomplishment as well.  

Conquering Clutter – Part 1

Good order is the foundation of all things.

~ Edmund Burke

You always know it’s the end of January when tax documents from banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions begin to fill your electronic and/or physical mailbox. For me it’s a not-so-gentle reminder that my unorganized box of last year’s receipts and bills (admit it - you probably have one too, even a little one….) needs to be sorted sooner rather than later.  Needless to say, it’s one of my least favorite tasks, and always gets me thinking about the importance of regular “spring cleaning” in all areas of life.  

You know how stressed you feel when you’ve left a few jobs undone for longer than you really would like, and how good it feels to get them done and out of the way!  Here are four tips I’ve found very helpful for tackling money clutter. If you follow through on one each week, your financial life will quickly be back on track and you’ll have a nice system for keeping it there.

1.    Have all your important documents safely stored and conveniently filed.  You might want to invest in one of those systems with colored binders, folders and labels, so that it’s easy to put everything in the proper place on a regular basis.

2.    Get your regular payments scheduled into your calendar and where possible, direct debited.  Electronic banking makes it simple to keep track of due dates, and pay your bills on time all in one place.

3.    Periodically clean out and organize the contents of your wallets and bags. It’s amazing what “treasures” you might find, and how long can lie hidden there!

4.   Go through every piece of paper on your desk and deal with it.  Do one of four things – take care of what’s written there immediately, put it in an “outbox” for short-term attention, file in the proper place for later or permanent reference, or toss it in the shredder or the “circular file”.

Of course, no list is of any use unless it sees some action. So get to it right away – just one task a week, and let me know how you do!

© Clear Simple SOULutions LLC 2017