Monday 27 July 2015

Sunk Costs; let them be

In life as in business, we make crucial decisions on a regular basis. These decisions affect the way in which we can maximise our time, energy and profit. But we don’t always make the right decisions for the right reasons.

Sunk costs are about the value we place on decisions made in the past, which affect the decisions we make today. The argument being that our decisions are skewed by the emotional investments we stockpile; the larger the total retrospective investment, the harder it becomes to abandon it. 

To make effective decisions, we need to ignore the accumulated value and consider other options, such as replacement and abandonment. To exemplify:-

Three problems, three solutions 

  •  Your current Smartphone cost you £159 two years ago as an upgrade and can no longer support any new apps or o/s upgrades. It’s in great condition. You have all the contacts backed up to your laptop and can transfer them with a bit of head-scratching work to any other phone. You use this phone daily, for business and pleasure. A new improved version is £250 as an upgrade, plus you get a year’s warranty and a cheapo, faux leatherette case in the bargain.

Do you buy the upgrade or stick with the old phone until you can no longer use it? 

You should take the upgrade and put the old one in a box. It could always be an heirloom or similar one day (or not).

  •  Your current car has 83000 miles on the clock, two worn tires and a dodgy gearbox. You use it for your daily commute to your office and for recreational purposes.  A major service interval is also looming on the horizon. Your friend offers you £4500 for the car, but you know it’s worth at least £6000. He knows about the car’s history.

    A newer version of the car is £10000. It’s six months old and comes with a year’s warranty.  It’s not the exact spec as your current car, but is in mint condition with 12000 miles on the clock.  You have the money to buy the car.

Do you keep your car or buy a new one?

You should buy the new one and sell the old one to your friend at his value. You could ask for more, but in the light of its problems, he must be an optimist to want it. Don’t forget to empty all door bins and the boot before passing it on.  

  • Your executive leather briefcase is worn out. You use it daily for business and it’s the first thing on your desk in any meeting. The locks are failing, the inner pockets are tearing at the seams and the exterior is now in need of some patching and retouching. It was given to you as a gift on your birthday by your family eight years ago. It cost them £450. The cost of repairs will come to £135.

    You walk past a newer version on display at the local shop. This also has a USB charging provision and waterproofing. It costs £750. The internet returns the same price deal. It has a two year warranty.

Do you get the briefcase repaired and keep it or do you replace it?

Buy the newer version of the briefcase.  Ask the family to wrap the old one up in bandages, and place it in storage. 

In effect, once you get past the fact that hanging on to an  item or even entire business beyond it's useful life can be detrimental to you, it makes the decision making process to dispose of it, considerably easier to implement. As already iterated at the start, it is our emotional investment in something that can be harder to let go of. But that doesn't compensate for  losses we may then suffer now and moving forward, where rationality is a better paradigm to adapt in order to survive and thrive.

So the next time you face a decision that involves dealing with something that has reached the end of it's useful life in a business context, remember that the value you place on it now, is based entirely on the value it has accumulated for you based on emotional as well as financial metric. The former isn't as easily quantifyable as the latter, but it's the one thing that needs to be assessed with care, when growing and moving forward in a business capacity.


Wednesday 22 July 2015

Running Through My Head, Secretly ; Ice Bubble Magic, Next generation Virtual Reality & More classic arcade games than you can play in a weekend

I'm a big fan of great presentation. From terrific packaging, which includes intricate boxes which are surprisingly easy to open, to the slightly hidden details on things, such as inscriptions on the soles of shoes and coloured stripe trims on the inside of a jacket, which the wearer will see more often than anyone else. It shows that someone cares enough to not only validate and enhance the product that they're trying to sell and market, but also add a little extra personalisation, beyond de-facto branding.

Sometimes this isn't immediately appreciated, but if it's within the bounds of the price rang and point, then it can be a standout which clinches the deal.  In essence, it's all part of the feelgood factor. This can be a fine line to tread, and as long as it's not just trying to 'garnish up' a poor product, with what I've previously referred to as 'gizmo-ing', then let it all play onwards and upwards into the product lifecycle.

And it's bearing this in mind that the next item came into view :-

Take A Wintry Holiday From Reality With Sony's "Ice Bubbles" Ad

A lot of work went into this ad campaign by sony for the Bravia 4K T.V. range, and it clearly shows. Sony have gone for an approach that reflects the power of their brand and the product, which clearly is a stunning looking piece of audio-visual engineering.

In a way, they've gone in the opposite direction to what I thought they might have, which could have been loud, brash road racing bits intertwinned with action film sonics and f/x. But the delicacy of the visuals and the music are just beautiful to watch.

Speaking of beautiful..

"So Badass You Can't Believe It" Magic Leap Raises $542 Million To Launch The Future Of Computing

At first glance and to be honest, even after reading it through twice, I'm still not exactly sure what this is. However, I will hazard an educated guess that it is something beyond our current paradigm of virtual reality and 3D based technologies used to render visuals. If this is the case, and it looks very much like it is, then the need for headsets, and glasses may be done away with entirely. Almost like a nintendo 3DS effect, but writ larger, which sounds fantastic.

And finally, from the future to the past :-

Internet Archive now lets you play 900 classic arcade games

If you're over a certain age ( let's say 30, to be polite and fair on everyone, including myself), then this will mean something to you. It may even mean a lot. It does to me. I've still got a working commodore 64 and a working Amiga A600 in storage. But I haven't got the time and the werewithal to dig them out, set them up and get them going. This could well be all you need.

And all I need right now, is a little time. Just to go over the words, sentances and rhetorical musings I've written up here. Just a tweak there, a highlight and removal of a few words here.

After all, the way you convey information, matters a great deal. Content may well be king, but presentation is the crown.

Very Softly Catch The Monkey; influencing your social networking behaviour, millions for ello & a large lunchbox is a place to eat.

Are you a nice person? A daft start to this, right? 

Wrong. Not when the doyen of social networking, facebook is involved :-

This Is How Facebook Is Secretly Trying To Make You A Nicer Person

As if allegations of news feed manipulation, content vamooshing ( I couldn't think of a word more hyperbolic to represent the deletion or disappearance of user post content) and all sorts of other fun and frolic isn't enough, facebook are here to now provide some respite in the form of secret reportage for cyberbullying.

The irony isn't lost on me here, but in all fairness they've allowed you to report incumbent nastiness on there, for quite some time using the system itself. I've not had a chance to verify this new algorithim, as my main machine ( a laptop) had to be system restored and ultimately rebuilt in software terms ( ie. reinstallation of lots of programs etc). In the process I've lost my logins for a lot of applications online  When I'm more free timewise, I'll request my logins and check things out.

Notwithstanding some of the articles available online about every move it makes and the consequential knock on effects to everything else ( i.e. some of it is quite doom laden), I think facebook is well into it's maturity phase, and quite possibly entering into it's decline phase. I've written about this elsewhere on other posts, so this in itself isn't news to me. I'm not basing this on absolute fact, but on a more measured sense of analysis; this is more about the natural order of things, and although they are now close to 1.3 billion users,  the main user base, is the under 30's (in the USA) .

And the rest of them? They may well be going over to here :-

Investors Give Ello $5.5 Million Even After It Bans Its Most Obvious Revenue Source

Ello has been around a short while, but long enough to make an impact. In short, it could be looked upon as a 'facebook lite', with the exclusivity ( you have to request an invitation to join up) and the pseudo anonymity factor in comparison to facebook, is part of the appeal. But if you look at their homepage and read the manifesto, then that's where the difference lies :-

Ello's charter makes it legally impossible for it to display ads

This is commendable for now, and a brave move. Obviously it remains to be seen what happens in the future, but where other social networking tools are all trying to maximise ROI ( return on investment), Ello are bucking the trend. It'll be interesting to see what they do for revenue, in the months or even years ahead.

Speaking of the future, when was the last time you opened up an actual retro-style lunchbox to have your lunch? More to the point, when did you last walk into a place that looked like one? :-

McDonald’s Sets Up Huge Lunch Box-Shaped Restaurant To Promote New Items

Now that's what I call brave, bold and smart marketing. I hope this works out, as it looks magnificent.  I can already hear the odd voice of dissent due to their supposed food quality and practices, of which I have to admit I'm not much of a fan either.

However, they have made recent moves to disprove some of this, via reportage and videos, which are available online.  As already stated, this is such a bold move that I commend them on the courage to do this. It'd also be interesting to see how something like this would be recieved in the larger american towns and also in the UK. Let's wait and see.

On a related note, I'm waiting for a call. It's odd how when you know someone's supposed to call you, the phone can become an object of anticipatory suspense and excitement.

It's just like waiting for your food or friend ( or both) to arrive at a restaurant. The smell hits you immediately, and the sensory encapsulation goes into a higher gear.

Time out.

From The Station To Location ; Largest cities expand , The paradox of meditation & Career advice from a lovely lady

I've lived in a number of places in the last decade. And with that comes all manner of readjustments. It has to be said, that if I had the means ( i.e. the money) to do so, I'd rather be semi-nomadic and only stay in the UK during the summer and stay anywhere else that's not so cold and wet for the rest of the year.

There's a restlessness in me that even after years of yoga, hasn't quite abated. I'm glad it's there, cause it's what drives me to achieve and learn more , as well as try newer things. It's all about flow, momentum and change, which is also better known as 'growing'.That in itself is essential to living a fuller life, in my opinion.

Our environments are changing, too. In their own way, they also evolve and grow outwards. Which is why the following makes sense :-

Watch As The World's Biggest Cities Explode In Size Over The Last 200 Years

Overcrowding has become a problem in the bigger cities, and I've noticed this in London many a time, as well as in New York ( or more specifically, Manhattan), and San Francisco ( or SFC Bay Area). The prices have followed suit and yet I know a lot of people who want to live in all the aforementioned places. I've lived and stayed at all of them, and naturally concur. But there does need to be something put in place to redress thre ever increasing cost of living in these places, and the gap it creates for the rest of the surrounding areas.

Socio-economic tension isn't something you really see at a glance, but more or less 'feel' via the incumbent populace and the emotional tonality of a place . It's a combination of the increased pace of life, which is driven by the need to meet extra costs, and all the knock on effects it brings with it. For example, people can become emotionally colder, or at the other extreme, more anxiety ridden and stress prone, as a result of living in that environment within a certain period of time.

Of course, some acclimatize better to certain environments ( e.g. a big city dweller moving to a similar metropolis style environment will feel less jolted and disconnected). It's swings and roundabouts and you do have to be pretty 'street smart' to survive ( and thrive) in 'the big smoke', which is what all big cities are.

On the other hand, there is a real sense of pulse and a living, breathing, almost fizzy energy in these places, that you can just  pick up on. That's not an unhealthy tension, but is more of a 'let's get on with it!' vibe, coupled with 'why not try this?'. In my experience, people tend to take more risks and are more willing to work harder in a more driven environment, than anywhere else. It requires a strong nervous system over the long run and you have to find your own rythym and pace to suit you.

But it's good to be there if you want to be where it's all happening beyond the confines of a drawing board or endless hopeful conversations in a bar or local pub. You can always chill out or de-stress via methods such as yoga and meditation, if you're so inclined. Speaking of which :-

Sam Harris on the Paradox of Meditation and How to Stretch Our Capacity for Everyday Self-Transcendence

The form of yoga I do daily, is in effect a meditation. It's silent and there's no chanting or difficult postures involved. And over the last three years, I have felt gradual, shifting changes in the way I view the world, how I deal with things, what I say and do and so on. I'm more mindful of things, but without having to think about it. That's a paradox in itself, but it's like any habitual practice. As the saying goes, you become what you do the most. So if you're chilled out or at peace more often than not, then that's your preferred state of being.

I'll also add that, at least for me, I've not reneged on alcohol and switched to a vegetarian diet as a result, and I don't sit there thinking or dwelling about that either. In effect, the one thing I have learned, is that if it works for you at some level, then there must be something in it. And that's what it's all about for me. Life should be  about learning and more importantly, about experiencing and feeling a wide spectrum of things, both good and bad.

There is a lot more that can be discussed on this, but that's for another time. For now, there are plenty of websites, both for local events and more generalised information on the internet, if you want to delve further.

Speaking of experiences and feelings, here are some great nuggets of wisdom from a lady I have a soft spot for. She's brilliant. She's also beautiful, articulate, sensitive and intelligent  :-

5 career secrets from Amy Poehler’s new memoir

And on that note, I'm off to find some apples to eat. No, I'm not going to go scrumping,  I'll just buy a  batch. And then open the bag, wash a few under the tap, dry them..

Time out.

It Really Doesn't Matter In The Long Run ; The self conscious Suit, The pursuit of being well rounded & Propaganda flavoured poster art

As you get older, certain things matter less. For some, the peer group gets older with them and they can all grow older together, with similar tastes etc.  For others, who tend to be more mobile and have more transitory lifestyles, for example, they're more inclined to have clusters of friends in different places, with more emphasis placed on giving each other different experiences and still managing to connect at some shared core level.

Both the aforementioned are simplified versions of social groupings, but the concept remains the same. You tend to gravitate and look for people with whom you share some conscious ( or subconscious) connection with. I tend to fall into the latter camp more than the first, which is a culmination of a lot of travel which lead to newer experiences and lifestyle changes in the last five years.

It's ironic in a way, as on some level I'm a private person, and yet I'm always open to new people, and am usually the first to strike up a conversation with someone,  cause you learn more from newer situations and surroundings than you do from the tried and true. I'll stand by that, as it's served me well for years on end.

In our more transitory times, being yourself  is important in my opinion, because it makes life easier on many levels. It helps you to feel and be less tired and be more authentic in many areas of your life, including your work. And that concept, brings me onto this :-

The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit: Sylvia Plath’s Lovely, Little-Known Vintage Children’s Book

A wonderful way to educate children about the importance of retaining a sense of self. Would it be out of place today? No, I don't think it would. In fact, with more kids growing up much faster in our hyper connected age of selfies, self promotion and  getting ahead as fast as possible, I think this would in some ways be a complimentary dose of goodness.

It would also be a good way to ironically remind them to perhaps slow down, stop and smell the benefits of being so young, rather than rushing ahead and wanting to be an adult so fast. I could go on in the manner of a wisened, slightly world weary uncle, but I'm not ( the world weary part), so I won't.

'Have fun and be yourself, whilst you still can, for as long as possible' is what I'd rather I've said it. (sticks tongue out and blows raspberry)

And in her own way Daniellle Laporte has addressed a similar vibe :- 

The Ridiculous Pursuit of Being Well-Rounded

What more can I say, other than that I wholeheartedly agree with her. ( nods head sagely)

Just like this blog, which is a collection of my own areas of interest, the use of social media itself, is all about 'putting yourself out there', so to speak. Some might see the use of social media as tantamount to constantly feasting on a diet of multi-level propaganda and adding to it with your own brand of shouts and chants, but that's a harsh take on the zeitgeist.

After all, as I've stated on here many a time, you can always take it or leave it. The level of control is as simple is switching the tab out of the browser, and for the really militant, you can reach for the 'power off' button on your device. But don't throw the gadget you're using out of the window. At least not yet :-

Social Media Propaganda Posters by Aaron Wood

I think they look beautifully rendered, and are tongue in cheek enough to raise more than one smile to the face.

And that's that. No mess, no fuss, just juice. Hang on, wasn't that a slogan for a drink?

Time out.

I've Got A Heart Full Of Soul; The ideal length of all online activity, When you should and shouldn't work for free & Four places to find ideas

I spend more time in the morning on social media, than I do in the afternoon. The reasons for that are simple; I'm mentally more alert then, and the distractionary internet 'twitch switch', as it were, hasn't been activated yet.

By mid-afternoon I'm sometimes ready to call it a day , but finishing what has been started, plus chasing up and readjusting are left for then. And going for too long ( i.e. past 7pm) just leaves me too frazzled to relax for the rest of the evening. So it pays to take breaks and keep productivity in phases of a few hours.

The length of an online interaction, particularly with regards to social media, can have similar rules applied to it :-

Infographic: The Ideal Length of Everything Online, From Tweets to YouTube Videos

Ultimately, whatever you do online is in effect a time/money scenario. In other words, it's your time and someone else's money which is being spent or your own time and money that has been ( and still) is being spent in creating the content. Wether it's in the name of entertainment, fun and/or work ( because work can be fun..discuss), it pays ( pun intended), to know what's going on and why :-

Flowchart: When You Should (and When You Shouldn't) Work for Free

Clicking on the link within the article will take you to a fuller version of the flowchart. Eye opening, informative and enjoyable. Three in one. Just like this post ( hopefully).

And speaking of finding ideas, you need to find the time, space and place to let them in :-

4 Places to Find Big Ideas

Indeed. I wish I had a dog to walk. Having said that, I've seen some of the dogs in the neighbourhood and I somehow get the impression I'd spend more time waiting around them, rather than walking. It gives you the opportunity to talk to other dog owners, connect with them, exchange ideas, numbers and so on. All the while, your dogs are trying to figure out wether they want to connect, too.

Time out.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

There's Always More Than One Way To Do It ;The best time to drink your coffee, 10 Weeks of procrastination & The only interview question that matters.

Tea is my preferred beverage of choice as a 'get me started in the morning' drink. It's either yorkshire gold, or earl grey. Sometimes it's lady grey, depending on what mood I'm in when I hit the supermarket to pick up refills. Coffee comes later on, in accordance with how much of a pick-up I need at the time. Any more than two cups of java in a day, and I tend to feel a bit jittery and slightly edgy. So one cup can hit the spot and keep it sustained for hours on end.

But is there a best time in the day to get your caffeine fix? :-

This Is The Best Time To Drink Your Coffee, According To Science

Interesting stuff. The mid-morning coffee seems to be the one for me, unless I'm in need of a boost before going to the gym, later on in the day. I was aware of the effects of cortisol, and that explains a lot of other things too. I tend to avoid any heavy sugar consumption later on in the day as a rule, and it's rapidly becoming de rigeur to decrease our consumption of processed sugars per se.

Fruit tends to carry some sugars ( fructose is the main one), but these are broken down faster. Processed sugars tend to be of the 'empty calories' variety, and they provide you with a lifting effect which is temporary. In any event, I do wonder what It'd be like to not have any caffeine, and may well attempt that at some point, over the course of a week.

Coffee and tea breaks, with or without snacks, are part of the working day. They're an essential part of the 'downtime' we allocate ourselves , as a reward or a break from detailed work. However, they can also be part of a procrastination process :-

Procrastination For Creative Writers.

Hilarious and true, which makes it an essential double-whammy in my opinion. There's nothing overly wrong with a smidgeon of procrastination.  After all, we're human and not on perpetual motion, like a well programmed android.

But the reasons listed within, are an easy 'black hole in space and time' to fall into. Before you know it, it's 4pm and you've justified half a day ( and more) of web browsing/ internet surfing, as research and development. The reality of course, is that after 25 to 30 minutes, you're window shopping and/or flicking back and forth between youtube and some social media networking site(s).

If you're working for yourself, then that's a day gone in a form of pseudo-absentia, which you may or may not recover down the line. But if you're working for someone else, you've brought yourself one step closer to getting a P45 ( that's the form you're given when you leave or are fired from a job in the UK).

And if you are on the verge of losing your job or are in between different work situations, spare a thought for the boss who has to make a decision on wether to hire or reject the next person who comes in for interview :-

The Only Interview Question That Matters

That's certainly a very in-depth question. More importantly, the question itself is one that has the potential to go deep within the person's character, if approached from both sides with passion.

There's always an alternative way to solve a problem. Even when we think that there isn't a solution, an answer can present itself in the most unexpected of ways. That's where a different sort of procrastination comes into play. It's akin to keeping still and keeping schtum at the same time. I've noticed it happen on a number of occasions, and it's literally like 'what happened there?' and 'why didn't I see that before?' .

Sometimes you have to just wait things out. Other times, you have to keep on digging, and get through a few false edges and corners along the way. In any case, unless you come up with nothing after digging the entire trench or area, then keep on going at a steady pace. Luck, wether of the lord or lady variety, will be there to help you deliver the goods. And you won't need an extra cup of coffee to get there either.

Take The Floor; Add A Wild Card, The million dollar pipe organ & The grocery of the future.

Getting new ideas and concepts across to others, can require levels of patience and tenacity that you never knew you possessed. There are countless stories of accidental proposals turning into winners, and the flipside concept ideas which the individual never intended to push at all, becoming the winning concepts.

Expecting the unexpected and even trying something different, can sometimes pay handsome dividends :-

Want to Sell an Idea? Add a Wild Card

Some of the key inventions of the last century were discovered in a similar manner. The Slinky and The microwave oven were a case of something not quite going according to plan.

I've always loved the concept of  'the happy accident' because it proves that there is room in nature for things not being part of any ordered system we try to create. Looking at us as a species, it is remarkable to see how different we each are, not only on a gender basis, but also right down to minutae that are the result of billions, if not trillions of different combinations and permutations of genetic mutation.

Im not a biologist so the grander and more complex theories about how we are made and have evolved would require me to get more books on the subject. Then I'd disappear ( ideally to a wonderful, well stocked wood cabin in idaho, for instance) for a while to soak it all up. Of course, I'd split my time between soaking up all the local life and scenery too, as all work and no play makes for a dry existence.

Joyless isn't a word you'd use to describe the owner of this particular property :-

video tour of $129K house that has million-dollar pipe organ!

Magnificent. A part of me is very tempted to put a down payment on this, just to keep the organ intact. It sounds so rich, powerful and sweet, that the eccentricity of the house which has two bedrooms just to house all the pipes, is equally as fascinating. hopefully the new owner(s) will ensure the organ is preserved and maintained, as it's such a one-off instrument in this day and age. Maybe the smithsonian could work something out for their archives.

Going from an amazing historic item and structure of interest, to the unseen and unchartered course of the future can be a haphapzard experience. Especially when the future predicted is 50 years from now and it wants to somehow blend into today :-

This Futuristic Grocery Store Is Selling Products You Might Buy 50 Years From Now

Credit must go to Mike Lee for doing this, as it's one of the most ambitious future based plans I've ever seen. As he's already been in the industry for a number of years, it's not as far fetched as it seems.

Future prediction can generally be a minefield, as all sorts of predictions from the last century have proven. But nowadays we're better equiped to make more accurate systemic assessments due to the vast increase in computational power. This in itself allows simulations and forecasting to be far more accurate based upon current trending data.

Taking chances with a view to tomorrow is something we do on a daily basis. The only thing that really matters, is that whatever we sow as the seeds of today, we then go on to cultivate and nurture with care.

Our capacity to innovate isn't in doubt, as hundreds of years worth of progress has proven. It's our capacity to be considerate beyond our own lifespans, that needs to be kept in check. Otherwise the only legacy we'll leave is a large amount of progress at the cost of socioeconomic wastefulness.

There's still time to slow down and remedy that, and if the scribes are to be believed then changes are being made . And that's important so we can have a win-win situation; for the environment and for ourselves.

Add your voice ; Don't be proud to be a workaholic, Productivity advice from smart people & Poo bus

Up until a few years ago, I was constantly working. I'll rephrase that to make it more realistic. I was 'switched on' in work mode, even when I wasn't actually working. So the disparity between being 'on' and 'off'  becomes non-existant. From the moment you get up, to the moment your body, and then mind ( in my case, at least), winds down, your brain is either solving, collating, analysing or looking ahead to the future.

All in all, it's not good for you in the long run :-

Why You Shouldn't Be Proud to Be a Workaholic

A sobering read and a reminder to myself that I (thankfully), reorganised my life at the right time, as I was perpetually starting to feel tired. And that level of tired is beyond a 'happy tired' you get from going to the gym or going for a swim or run. It's like a constant feeling of walking uphill, and it started to increase in intensity. That was the warning sign for me.

Fortunately, as already mentioned here and in many previous posts, I reasessed, rejigged and slotted yoga/meditation into my life. Over time, that changed me enough ( it's an ongoing process) to then change other aspects of my life, from work style all the way to interpersonal scenarios and situations.

Working smarter is the way forward, and allows you more time to actually get on with it, rather than trudge through piles of not necessarily relevant stuff :-

Productivity advice I learned from people smarter than me

I confess to doing quite a few of these already ( replace the 'to do list' card with a large post it every other day, keeping a moleskine style notebook, etc) , and deleting a lot of emails frequently, is a guilt-free experience. I can always sense or more comically, 'smell' the unecessary ones that slip past the spam folder, just by looking at the sender name and subject title. That's the result of over 15 years of sending and recieving far more correspondence electronically than I've ever recieved in physical form.

Not everything that can be called waste, is consigned to the bin :-

Britain's first 'poo bus' hits the streets

My initial reaction to this was to squirm, but having grasped how this all works, it's a sustainable and workable solution. Furthermore, it's better for the air quality and hence the environment too.

As i reflected on earlier, change is an inevitability of life. Wether you like it or not, the days pass by, to become weeks and then months. Before you know it, another year has gone, and with it, have the good times and bad times of the previous 12 months. The way I see it, if you can change one thing about yourself within a year, you've achieved more than those who are resistant to it. In effect, if you can 'go with your inner flow' more often than not, you may get to where you're going faster than you thought. With or without a train, boat or plane.

Dont' forget to stop and smell the roses along the way.

Friday 17 July 2015

Using The Power Of Silence; Knowing when to hold back

Sometimes, there’s a lot to be said for ‘keeping it all in’. No, I don’t mean like this.

What I’m referring to is the moment when you’re trying to emphasise a point by not doing or saying anything, because you have a strong feeling (or hunch) that it’s the right thing to do. It could be anything from trying to explain a valid and alternative viewpoint to someone who is heading for trouble, to trying to get the best customer service in a situation that is potentially tenuous at best or already strained at worst. In effect, by not saying anything more than has already been said, you can turn the tide in your favour.

The ‘Express Raider’ approach to customer service (not a good idea) 

Earlier this week, I had to make a number of phone calls to various customer service departments in different companies in order to get updates on situations, and also to renew subscriptions. Only one of them delivered what I could call a timely and praiseworthy service, with a warm telephone manner. In effect, they went the extra mile and I was given extra discount on the renewal with next to no fuss. As a thank you, I asked that person to send me an email or give me an email address of a manager or superior so I could feed this back, for them going the extra distance meant a lot to me. I do this as I’ve always felt that great service should be given precedence and hopefully, rewarded in some way.

But I only do this occasionally.


Because in the main, my experiences of customer service on the phone, varies from good to diabolical. Or more pointedly, it can be like playing the 1986 arcade game, Express Raider.

As you may have surmised from the short premise above, our hero (or heroine) has to battle their way from one side of the train to the other, in order to get to the loot at the end. There are various villains, thwarters and other incumbents on the train, who are resolute in stopping you from doing this.

But ultimately, persistence pays off at the end. Providing of course, that you can be smart, resilient and patient enough to reach the end of the game.

That’s what it feels like when you’re going through a bad customer service experience. It’s like you’re fighting to be heard, whilst being switched around various levels and scenarios. It’s painful, potentially embarrassing and unpleasant.

The embarrassment can come from somehow feeling like you’ve done something wrong by staying on the phone for so long whilst being seemingly ignored, and also by repeatedly ringing back and feeling the same, only it’s more amplified with each successive call. In effect, it’s akin to feeling rejected.

For the record, I’ve never shouted at anyone when ringing these departments, cause I’ve worked in a similar role myself (more on that later). But it can become a test of endurance, when it should be as smooth as hypothetically driving to a branch of the place (or a storefront) and talking it over in person.

Bend Me, Shape Me, Anyway You Want Me

In particular, one of the aforementioned occasions had me switched four times in 20 minutes, and I repeated the details I gave before the phone was picked up by a human operator (the automated voice system prompts are easy to follow in most instances, and that’s what i initially had to deal with each time) twice. After this, I then asked the third and fourth person i dealt with, to read the notes that the previous people had left on the screen, back to me.

I was told that there were no notes left on the system. No one had bothered to make any notes of any previous calls and it was effectively a time wasted scenario both for the company and me.

I’ve worked in a call centre in my younger days, and I wouldn’t be able to do to a customer what I’d been through here. I don’t understand how that level of interaction is allowed, or even deemed acceptable.

In any event, I laughed (half-heartedly) and then said I will ring back in 40 minutes and if my original call hasn’t been monitored or found anywhere in note form, I will file a complaint and no longer use this company’s services. I also added that this really isn’t what I wanted to do but I will do it nonetheless. I then said nothing more, and stayed on the phone.

The silence on the other end was akin to listening to John Cage’s 4′ 33″, only it wasn’t as atmospheric and nor did it last as long. It was the longest 15 seconds (approximately) of dead air I’ve heard in a while. There was some paper shuffled, but I can’t be sure it was paper. It could even have been the operator’s soul.

The ‘sound of silence’ approach above did the trick. The operator told me that someone from management would call me back, so I took a name and team details, and pithily (but politely) said thanks. Not only did I receive a call-back within 20 minutes, but I received a lengthy apology and details on the person who was responsible for taking my original call. I was also told that action would be taken against this person, and that I was entitled to file a complaint if I still wished and that it would be deemed actionable. And to think that all I did was to stop talking, and keep hanging on in silence for a little longer than usual, twenty minutes earlier.

End Of The Line

The plethora of conclusions one can draw, are that there are potential problems either/or in the training, monitoring and ultimately the managing of staff and their output, as well as their expectations of the job at the call centre. For instance, if you’re feeling like ‘the hamster on a wheel’ and there is not enough personal satisfaction in the role, it’s likely you won’t care enough to deal with a slew of queries, no matter how simple, time and time again. You may start to bristle at work, and look for shortcuts within the system. And eventually you just won’t care at all.

But the other main conclusion to draw is one I’ve long suspected is the real ‘fuel to the fire’ in these sorts of situations, which is saying too much. But having to courage to not talk as much and even keeping silent at the right moment for longer than you think is possible can yield a remarkable turnaround.

However, it’s a challenging thing to do, and can be difficult to gauge. The tension you can feel, is palpable. But it can mean the difference between getting a positive, affirmative result and missing the mark by a fraction, all because it felt too hard to keep quiet for just that little while longer. All it requires, is a smidgeon of extra self-restraint..

A beefeater, any day of the year

If he can do it,  then I can do it.

And so can you. 


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Tuesday 14 July 2015

My Name Is NOT Mary-Ann ; A Creative Space That Bans Technology, 11 Signs You Need A Mental Nap & From A Bedroom to 20 Stores ( and counting)

Assuming you carry a smartphone ( it's okay if you don't), do you always have it at hand? If not, then perhaps you know what this feels like :- 

A Creative Space That Bans Technology To Let You Really Think

Fascinating. On the surface it appears to be comically obvious. But the reality is that a lot of us have some sort of link to technology, readily at hand on our person, which we think ( or feel..or both) we cannot live without. I don't take my phone into the shower or bathroom with me and don't stare at it every five or ten minutes either. That's a start, right?

On a more serious note, I think that going without technology for some part of your day is good for your mental wellbeing. Taking a nap, helps too :-

11 simple but profound signs you need a mental nap.

The last few, although serious, made me giggle. In all earnestness, if you're smashing yourself into the ground on an energy level for your work, and it feels like this for a long period of time, then something somewhere needs to be recitfied or stopped. More importantly, the knackered state and sensation you'll feel as a result, will make it incredibly difficult to then get anything done, on any level, in every area of your life. Getting to a bedroom and staying there for as long as possible, will then seem like heaven. Not a good way to rebalance things when it all gets out of hand. Continual, gradual (re)assesment and correction should help matters along the way, enormously.

Strangely enough, it was in a bedroom, that Kendra Scott started her business :-

From an Extra Bedroom to 20 Stores and Counting: How Kendra Scott Created a Multimillion-Dollar Jewelry Empire

Kudos to Kendra, and her will, determination and tenacity to make it work. She literally made her own luck and didn't let her circumstances impede on her business idea and it's execution. Furthermore, she's giving back by letting other mothers work for her,  by opening up a larger corporate headquarter space with provisions and facilities to enable them to make the transition more smoothly. The fact that it's in her hometown ( Austin, Texas), puts the icing on her cake.

Speaking of which, I think a slice of madeira should put a stop-gap into my day, just about now. With yorkshire gold, and a splash of milk. Perfect.

What's your perfect moment during the day? Do you have one? Maybe you have one, but don't acknowledge it as it's something that's become a ritual. In a strange way, so has mine, but I occasionally stop to remind myself and feel gratitude for it. It reminds me that life isn't an endless sea of hours and days that just knit themselves into a tapestry of another year.

It also reminds me not to take too much for granted. Wether it's the first time you've visited my blog, or the second or even the last, thank you for coming here and stopping by. Maybe we'll meet one day, and I can thank you in person..

.. in which case, I'll let you buy the tea and I'll buy the cake! ;-)