Monday, December 19, 2011

...from Santa Claus

Every year, on December 25th the world celebrates Christmas. And on that special night many traditions involve the story of a jolly, plump man dressed in red bringing gifts to every home.

So tonight with your children
When you read by their bed
Don’t read them a carol
Read them this blog instead.

The Ten Things I Learned from Santa Claus

1. Have a list and check it twice
It’s well-known that Santa Claus has a list of people he’ll visit that magical night. American tradition, expressed through classic songs, claims that he checks it “twice to find out who is naughty or nice” If you thought your job was overwhelming, image bringing gifts to more than 7 billion people in one night. Stay organized by writing down a list of things to do and check them off as you complete them.  

2. Work hard when needed
In the weeks leading to Christmas, Santa spends an enormous amount of hours getting ready for the special delivery. It seems everywhere I go Santa Claus is there. From my nearest mall to the Holiday Parade on TV, he’ll even drop in to parties I’m at. During November and December, the man also known as Saint Nicholas is working his hardest to deliver on time that holiday joy. Spend the extra hours when needed to get your job done, but make sure that, like Santa, you also take that offseason break.  

3. Listen to others
For years we’ve read business lessons on listening to others, but no one exemplifies this skill as gracefully as Old Saint Nick. In every store and every mall Santa is there listening to millions of kids share their wish list, more importantly, without interrupting and with a smile. And if that weren’t enough, he sits through millions of letters and “listens” to what people say. At work, make a conscious effort to hear others - like the popular Christmas song “sleigh bells ring, are you listening? 

4. Don’t procrastinate
If I had to critique a man that brings so much joy to so many kids in the world, it would be his time-management skills. Why leave it all for the last minute? Isn’t there an easier way than the 24hr global sprint? But then again, I understand - if we paced out Christmas throughout the year, we wouldn’t have that enchanted morning opening gifts next to the evergreen tree. We should be able to pace ourselves better and not leave everything for the last minute.  

5. Staff appropriately
The secret behind Santa is his workshop and all the wonderful elves that work there to make the toys you and I get every year. Without them, there wouldn’t be much to gift every December 25th. And let’s not forget his nine flying reindeer; including the gifted one who leads the way each foggy night - without them, he’d be lost, literally. So much of your success will depend on the team around you, or the one you put together. Make every effort to staff and hire appropriately so that each job is filled with the best candidate.  

6. Providing constructive feedback
Older traditions tell a story of Santa Claus leaving behind a lump of coal in kids’ stockings if they hadn’t been nice all year around – but I can’t say I’ve witnessed it myself. It’s an interesting spin on providing feedback. It would only get better if it came with a list of what we did wrong and how to improve it. Not that I endorse leaving coal to employees and co-workers, but I do encourage you to provide constructive feedback when somebody hasn’t been nice.

7. Give
The history of Saint Nicolas dates back as far as Greek tradition, modernized later by the Dutch as Sinterklass, caricaturized by the American cartoonist Thomas Nast, and more recently marketed by just about everyone, including Coca Cola. But throughout the years, the cultures and traditions remain the same: he represents the spirit of giving. Make sure, every season, you give to those less fortunate.

8. Be jolly
References to a jolly Saint Nicolas began in a satirical fiction called Knickerbockers’ History of New York written in 1809. In 1823, the now famous poem “The Night before Christmas” describes him a little better “He was a chubby, and plump, a right jolly old elf…” This image is what brings so much joy to so many around the world. By following Santa’s jovial and cheerful good-humor you too could have a positive impact on your corporate world.

9. Provide a status on where you are
Not even Santa Claus can escape technology these days. I wonder if he’ll “check in” on his Facebook mobile app this year. In the meantime, you can track him on numerous sites including the North America Air Defense Command (NORAD) As you progress with your work, you might want to check in with your boss, your peers, your direct reports on where you are at. Providing that checkpoint lets everyone know, like with Santa, when the job will get done.

10. Keep traditions alive.
It’s interesting to read how each country celebrates the arrival of Saint Nicholas differently. From the British and Americans (and more) welcoming him to their homes on Christmas Eve, to Hungary, Slovenia (and more) receiving him on December 6th. Some leave cookies, others pies, porridge, and pudding or milk. Despite the differences in customs, all share the century long effort to keep their traditions alive. At your work, it’s your responsibility to keep your corporate culture alive from your prior generation to the one who’s following you.

Santa Claus has given us comfort and joy for many years. His historical good deeds and his recent magical ways make him a role model in generosity, kindness, and simply put humanity.

And although his seasonal marketing might distract us from the true celebration that occurs in Christmas, he still reminds us of a universal religious message “be good and you will get rewarded”

Happy Holidays to all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

...from Steve Jobs

On October 5th 2011, the world lost another visionary. These are some of the lessons he left behind.

Like very few before him, Steve Jobs changed the world in so many ways, from his creation of Apple Computers, to the revolution in Hollywood animation with Pixar, to more recently the invention of the Iphone and Ipad. 

His lessons are available everywhere, including an
Autobigraphy that was released just weeks after his death. These are those ten things he left me behind. 

The Ten Things I Learned from Steve Jobs

1. Think differently
Nothing captures Job’s entrepreneurial behavior like Apple’s 1997 slogan and advertising campaign, Think Different. He defied the conventional ways of doing things and approached them differently. The Iphone isn’t just another phone or another computer. Like those visionaries in the TV ad, you too can break the mold by thinking and acting differently at work. Stand out from everyone else and make a corporate impact.

2. Be persistent and keep pushing
Jobs overcame many obstacles before being the super genius you and I know today. He was given up for adoption by his birth parents, he dropped out of college, and later got fired from the company he created – Apple. His second business, NeXT, got bought out by his first. But that wouldn’t stop him from persisting in what he believed and was passionate for. Believe in yourself and that you can overcome any obstacle, keep pushing and moving forward, only to return stronger –like Jobs who would become CEO of Apple again and one of the most influential people in the world.

3. Keep things simple
After dropping out of college, Jobs travelled to India looking for spiritual enlightenment. It’s said, that that trip and search for Zen is what inspired the simplicity behind Apple products. From its clean packaging to its easy-to-use button, no one could have designed Apple products like Steve Jobs and his engineers. See otherwise in this funny clip here. Find inspiration around you to keep work simple – your emails, your presentations, your speeches, your products.Life has too much going on to complicate it even further for you and your customers.

4. Keep improving the things you do
Just when you thought you had the coolest phone in the world, here comes the Iphone 4. As soon as you saved enough to buy your first Ipad, Apple surprised you with an even better one. Continuously strive for perfection and never be satisfied with your best work improving upon it more and more. Likewise, if you are running a business, pace your innovation out.

5. Demand perfection
Jobs was known to be a perfectionist, a control freak, a strong believer in that he knew what the consumer wanted – not them. Steve wouldn’t just launch products to hit a timeline, or react to a competitive threat; he was genuinely interested in offering the best and wouldn’t launch it until he had it. You start seeing a pattern in successful people, those who demand perfection. For you and me at work, it’s not only demanding but delivering it too.

6. Don’t expect to be taught, teach yourself
After one semester at Reed College, Steve Jobs was unimpressed and dropped out. He went on to surprise everyone with lessons in Sales, Engineering, Computer Programing, Entrepreneurship, Marketing and more. He didn’t sit around waiting to be taught, he proactively learned all these things and had a drive for them. Teach yourself the skills you need to succeed: follow others in the field, take classes, look online, but ultimately find ways to better yourself beyond just college.

7. Be flexiblible on your priorities but stay focused
Steve Jobs originally began working on a tablet, when a breakthrough in technology shifted his focus to creating a phone. In his own words “I put the tablet project on the shelf because the phone was more important” That simple shift in direction led to the IPhone. Once he perfected it they incorporated everything they had learned on what later became the IPad. Have room in your plans to adapt to changes and reprioritize your work, like in these two breakthrough examples it could ultimately lead to bigger and better ideas.

8. Have a management style that works for you
The Steve Jobs you and I saw online giving magical speeches dressed casually in jeans and black shirts, wasn’t the Jobs his employees knew. It’s well documented, including his Autobiography and TIME and FORTUNE magazines, that his management style was controlling, tyrannical, and fierce. He was arrogant, disrespectful, and obsessive. But he had two things working for him: a vision and a way to articulate it. On a personal level, his style is the complete opposite of mine but that’s what worked for him. Choose the managerial style that works best for you, your employees, and your company culture. I leave you only with this message: It’s ok to be a jerk when you have a vision and accompanying success.

9. Do something meaningful for the world
When the world lost Steve Jobs at 56, we all felt it was too soon. But in his short lifetime he had changed the world more than once. His death was marked with memorials all around the world, from consumers at Apple Stores to website of companies he helped create - like Apple and Pixar. His battle with cancer and acknowledgment of death were captured in his 3rd story at the Stanford commencement speech in 2005. The philosophy by which he lived: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

10. Be passionate about what you do
It’s a simple lesson that many times goes undervalued: Enjoy what you do. Jobs couldn’t have done his first job at Atari for many years because it wasn’t his passion. He couldn’t have been anything else, because he wouldn’t have enjoyed it. Ask yourself whether you enjoy what you do and act upon it. This video might inspire you too to get started

Steve Jobs was a genius who changed the world at least the 8 times he made the cover of TIME magazine – matching very few presidents and world leaders. From a garage startup, Jobs and Wozniak
drove the idea of personal computers into every home. Now they are in every hand.  

The lessons above, plus the millions more posted online, led Apple to overtake Microsoft in 2011 in size and profits. Your will to learn and follow them, should guarantee you a similar success story. 

Steve Jobs Thank You.

Friday, October 21, 2011

...from Sam Walton

In 1962, Sam Walton began a business journey that became the world’s largest retailer and the biggest private employer, all behind one simple idea: save people money so they can live better.

Inspired by Walmart’s entrepreneurial story, I looked into the life and lessons of its founder. If a humble man with a simple idea –everyday low costs- could become one of Time Magazine's world’s most influential, why can’t we?

The 10 things I learned from Sam Walton & Walmart

1. Share business lessons with others
Before there was this blog, Sam Walton created a top ten list of his own. Among them, he offers his most successful business lessons on motivating, sharing, communicating, celebrating, listening, and five more. He also left behind a book about his story and the founding of Walmart in Sam Walton Made In America. As you become more experienced at work, take on the responsibility to share your knowledge with others around you. Start with mentoring and coaching and hopefully someday writing too.

2. Proactively interview the experts

Sam Walton was known to carry a yellow pad to take notes as he visited Walmart stores. Later in life, he would take a tape recorder to interview his store employees – and even Kmart’s - to capture ways to improve his business. Over the years, he collected lessons from industry experts, associations, and more into his business plan. As you develop your business, look for experts in the matter and interview them to learn. Many people opened the door to this unknown Arkansas business man who later turned out to be one of this country’s most powerful millionaires.

3. Acknowledge the importance of others

“Give me a W…” Walk into any Walmart early in the morning, and you’ll hear their corporate cheer that ends with “who’s number one? The customer”  From the beginning, he placed great importance in satisfying customers and he understood that doing that meant treating his employee’s right, which included one of the first profit sharing programs. Recognize that there are groups between you and your final customer and acknowledge the hard work they do to satisfy them on your behalf.

4. Experiment with new ideas

From the first Walmart store in Rogers, Ar to their Neighborhood Markets, and Supermercados, to the newly created Walmart Express in 2011, the largest retailer still follows an ideal that Walton began years ago. To grow, you need the will to experiment with new ideas. Some store formats failed quickly, but others - like Sam’s Club - became very successful overnight. Explore and try new ideas and encourage that behavior at work. If it works persist, if it doesn’t learn from it and try again.

5. Turn a bad experience into a positive one.

Before the stores we know today, Sam had a small Ben Franklin franchise in Newport, Arkansas. Although inexperienced at retailing, he grew it profitably in less than five years only to lose it to a lease renewal mistake. Rather than regretting the loss, he saw that as an opportunity to start again – now with the experience. His next project, the commonly known Five-and-Dime in Bentonville, Ar is what ultimately led to the first Walmart store nearby. Don’t let a loss get to you; see it as a way to start all over again even stronger. Don’t be afraid to fail and fail again as long as you can learn from it.

6. Live a simple life

Despite being Fortune Magazine's Richest Man just before he died, Sam Walton lived a pretty simple life. His upbringing and commitment to low costs forced him and his employees to save on everything – which included sharing rooms in low priced hotels. Even with billions of dollars, he still drove a red pick up truck and shopped for clothing in his own stores. An interesting remark from his book is when he questions why people would ever need to buy an island? Reward yourself for your success at work and enjoy the simple things of life, but remember Sam’s words “money is just paper”

7. Join and learn from expert forums

Sam claims to have gained great understanding of the business from his employee’s during his store visits. Nobody knew as much as those interacting with the customer. But he was also very actively involved in business organizations including Church, Scouts, Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, and the NMRI which he led for 15 years. By joining other groups, you’ll get the first hand experience from other experts and a network to do great things. Join clubs and associations in your area that grant you access to other great minds and partner for a greater good.

8. Have purposeful meetings

Early on, a tradition began at Walmart to meet on Saturday mornings to review the business and have nearby store managers learn from each other. The meetings still remain –only less frequent – with an expanded purpose: “share information, lighten the workload, and rally the troops.” Establish a purpose to every meeting you have and make the time count whether it’s to make a decision, work out a problem, or celebrate a successful result. A purposeful meeting is what keeps Walmart employees attending Saturday mornings.

9. Always do things differently

Sam credited a lot of success at his first Newport store to an Ice Cream machine he bought on a $1800 loan and set outside the store – an uncommon practice in small towns those days. Besides multiple business examples, Walmart practices this philosophy even in their stakeholder meetings. I was fortunate to attend the 2010 one in Arkansas and see Jamie Foxx, Enrique Iglesias, Mariah Carey and more. It was a business meeting unlike any other with concerts interrupted by coporate officers sharing yearly business results. Follow one of Sam’s 10 business principles and have “fun”. Break away from the mold and do thing things differently to get ahead of the more conventional competitors.

10. Stay connected to your business

With a competitive mindset to win and a commitment to work hard, Sam was very engaged in the business. But as the company grew it became harder to visit all stores, review every single number on Saturday mornings, or interview more than 400,000 employees at the time. His book has an interesting anecdote of him sharing donuts at 4a.m. with truck drivers to get the scoop on his stores and what was selling well. Despite his geographical and managerial distance, he found ways to remain connected to the business. As you climb the corporate ladder try to do the same.

His vision, societal contributions, and business skills were recognized by the US presidency’s highest civilian award. His legacy is unmet by anyone else, as Walmart became the world’s largest company. And to think, everything started from 10 simple business lessons learned along the way.

Although we don’t share the same fortune, I’m happy to know we share the same ideal – the essence of my blog:

It was a real blessing for me to be so green and ignorant, because it was from that experience that I learned a lesson which stuck with me all through the years: you can learn from everybody” Chapter 2 – Sam Walton, Made in America.

* Walmart and its logo are property of Walmart Stores, Inc.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

...from The Dark Side

In a galaxy far, far away there are business lessons to be learned too.

Generations have grown up to the battle between good and evil captured in the distant imaginary planets of Star Wars. And although most kids end up becoming a corporate Jedi, we can’t ignore the lessons learned along the way from the Dark Side. 

There is resurgence in the Force (yet again) with the release of Star Wars on Blue ray. So, I wanted to pay tribute to over 30 years of an Evil Empire and its relentless pursuit of winning.

It goes to show that we can learn from the bad guys too.

The Ten Things I Learned from The Dark Side of the Force

1. Learn from your mistakes
The Death Star, a planet-like space station was the ultimate super weapon for the evil empire in Star Wars. Fortunately for the good guys, it had a flaw: a two meter wide exhaust vent that was large enough for torpedoes. The Family Guy parody of the 3rd movie, points out how the Empire made a similar mistake again on a rebuilt station. In our corporate planet, our personal responsibility is to better ourselves, learn from our mistakes, and look for ways to correct our flaws.

2. Protect your company information
Both Death Stars –from Episode IV and VI - were destroyed by direct attacks because rebels got access to plans from the ships. In those plans, they found the flaws that would lead to the Empire’s repeated destruction. Protect your company’s information and avoid them falling into rebel hands. The loss of this info could make you vulnerable to attack.

3. Have a succession plan
The bad guys are called the Sith, and even before their rise to power, they had a succession plan with the Emperor always having a backup – from Darth Maul, to Count Dooku, to lastly Darth Vader. In the final chapter, both the Emperor and Vader want to convince Skywalker to join either one –or the other- to rule the world. In your corporate empire have an employee or multiple who could be your left hand person and successor.
See the birth of Vader while this link lasts   

4. Build company loyalty
To protect themselves, the Republic created an army of clones – the classic white armored men that became known as Stormtroopers. From their early training, they had been indoctrinated with absolute loyalty to the Republic even when it came to executing Jedi leaders in Episode III. Without resorting to cloning and evil, build positive loyalty within your organization through business smarts, inspiring behaviors, and great results. 

5. Have a master plan
It took Senator Palpatine many years to control the Galatic Empire in Star Wars as his true identity – Darth Sidious (a.ka. The Emperor). However, from his early days in the planet Naboo he had a master plan on how it would all go down, including turning Anakin Skywalker to the dark side. Don’t expect your career to develop overnight, develop an elaborate plan on how to get where you want to, and setting your dictator-type behaviors aside, work towards achieving your desired job.

6. Take matters into your own hands
When the rebels launched the ultimate attack on the first Death Star, Luke Skywalker was among the leads. As enemy fighters protected the ship, none could target Skywalker’s plane accurately. Disappointed in the results, Darth Vader got onto his own plane in search of shooting down –spoiler alert- his own son. There’s a place for delegating at work, but sometimes when things aren’t going your way, take matters into your own hands. Like Vader, you might not resolve them either, but at least you tried (and saved your life)
See the scene here while this link lasts

7. Reduce risks by testing things out before
In Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader wanted to turn Skywalker to the Emperor by freezing him in Carbonite on the planet of Cloud City. However, he had to be certain the procedure wouldn’t kill his prize, so he tested it on Han Solo first. As you try new and risky tasks at work, try them out first to minimize any risks of failing on the things that could matter more.
See the scene here while this link lasts.

8. Don’t trust those closest to you
In the last Star War film, Revenge of the Sith, we see Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader and turn against his best and only friend, his mentor, his teacher: Obi Wan Kenobi. Imagine raising a kid and teaching him everything you know only to fight him years later. Be careful with those you trust, particularly the ones closest to you who know you all to well – there’s a chance they too could turn to the Dark Side and against you.

9. Double your best work each time
Just when you thought a Lightsaber was the coolest Jedi weapon in the universe, George Lucas comes up with a character that carries two – or a double bladed one – Darth Maul. But that wasn’t enough; in the last movie of the franchise he introduces General Grievous that carries four! Always outdo your best work two fold. When you’ve mastered something; push yourself to take it to the next level.

10. Overcome ignorance and hatred
Anakin Skywalker was a good guy – at least his mom, wife, mentors, and son thought so. But his ignorance of the Dark Side and his misguidance from the malicious Emperor was what led him to evil. The other factor was his unresolved childhood issues. Overcome confusing decisions on what side to join by becoming smarter through research, books, and courses. Oh, and resolve your childhood issues too!  

It’s pretty easy to be tempted by the Dark Side with the promise of power and success, but those stories don’t last long and good always overcomes. Its our job to bring balance to the Force at work everyday.

My final advice would be to learn from the failures of evil, and follow the wisdom of Yoda, a little green Jedi Master with more than 900 years of positive lessons. Check out one of his lessons while this link lasts  "Do or do not, there is no try."

* Star Wars, its logo, characters, pictures, and all related items are registered trademarks and/or copyright of Lucasfilm Ltd.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

...from Famous Italians

For over two thousand years, Italy has gifted our world with rich history, culture, food, and wine. Behind each of their achievements, there is certainly a business lesson too.

As I toured its largest cities this summer, I was intrigued at how this country produced such talented artists, singers, engineers, and more. Curious on their cultural accomplishments, I looked for business lessons in some of their most famous people.

This blog is the road to uncover centuries of business lessons

The Ten Things I Learned from Italiani Famosi (Famous Italians)

1. Expand your skills into other areas.
We’ve all seen a glimpse of Leonardo’s marvels on The DaVinci Code, but for centuries he’s been known for his work as a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer and scientist. How many of us have a resume so diverse? His contemporary at the time, Michalangelo, not only sculpted and painted (see lesson 2) but also designed St. Peter’s dome and the Vatican Swiss guard’s clothing. Be the modern day “universal man”, a name given to Da Vinci, and expand your skills (and resume) in other areas through trainings, classes, cross functional assignments and experiences.

2. Do great work and you’ll get called back for more
In 1508, Michealangelo was asked to paint the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, a project that lasted 4 years and almost left him blind as paint would fall in his eyes. His masterpiece, which includes The Creation of Adam in the center, made him a historical celebrity and landed him another job years later in the same place; painting the altar wall. The Last Judgment, another beautiful piece now adorns the chapel. Create a masterpiece in your everyday work and you will get called back, or certainly land another job.

3. Don’t settle with the way things are

Galileo Galilei is the classic story of someone unsatisfied with the common answer. The famous astronomer was persecuted and imprisoned for challenging the church and opposing the belief that the Earth was the center of the Universe. Today, his work and subsequent theories are considered responsible for the birth of modern science. Have the nerve to challenge the status quo of things, just because something is popular belief, it doesn’t mean its right. Set out to prove something wrong.

4. Don’t lie

Carlo Lorenzini (or Collodi) was an Italian writer from a town outside of Florence. You might not have read his book, but for sure you’ve seen the Disney® version of his fairy tale adventure: Pinocchio. In the story, a wooden puppet’s short nose becomes longer when under stress, especially when he tells a lie. It’s only his good deeds throughout the story that reward him by becoming a human boy. At work, you too will get rewarded by being honest, do the right things and your "corporate" Fairy Godmothers (and/or fathers) will look over you.

5. Watch your back

Julius Cesar was a roman general around 50BC who helped turn the Roman Republic into an Empire by his conquest of Gaul and more. He rose as leader of Rome through civil war and self-proclaimed himself “dictator in perpetuity." His move caused unease in the Senate and ultimately led to his assassination by what could have been his illegitimate son, Brutus. Prevent revolts and discontent at work by doing what’s right and engaging your company’s “senate” - bad behaviors might go punished, even by those closest to you.

6. Be adventurous and take risks

Cristoforo Colombo was born in an independent state in today’s northwest Italy. He had a vision for reaching the East Indies, ironically by sailing West. If the voyage was successful, Spain saw it as gaining an upper hand in Spice Trades with Asia. Although incorrectly credited with discovering America, he did initiate the Spanish colonization of the continent. His willingness to defy the odds and take risks is what lead to the western world we know today. In your work life, be adventurous and dare to navigate upstream and against the odds. Every successful risk if celebrated in rich rewards.

7. Leave a legacy behind

If you walk a University campus you’ll find the School of this or the Hall of that. Airports, Hospitals, and Museums also carry people’s names. The Florence native, Amerigo Vepuccio, was the inspiration behind a continent. As an explorer and cartographer, he was asked to explore the coast of South America, an action that led Waldseemuller to create a world map and name the new continent America, after Vepuccio. Through your hard earned work and social contributions, leave behind a legacy in your name, don’t buy your name on a building, earn it.

8. Protect your inventions

Antonio Meucci was an Italian inventor who left Florence during troubled times in the Italian unification. He ultimately lived in the US, where he filed a Patent Caveat for his idea in 1871 and was financially unable to renew it in 1874. Two years later, Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent in his place and is now more commonly known as the inventor of the telephone, instead of the Italian-American. If you have a good idea, patent it before someone else and do your best to protect it.

9. Makeup for your shortfalls by developing your strengths

Italy’s history is rich in famous opera singers, from Enrico Caruso to Luciano Pavarotti and more recently Andrea Bocelli. Bocelli, despite losing his already poor sight in a football accident at 12, has overcome his obstacle becoming a Grammy Winner, a Guiness World Record holder, and one of People’s 50 most beautiful people. Being blind, didn’t stop the Italian tenor from developing an extraordinary voice and admirable singing career. Put aside your shortfalls at work and develop the strengths by hard work and practice that make you successful. Check out Andrea Bocelli singing about Caruso’s life and death here

10. To win a race you have to be faster
In 1929, Enzo Ferrari founded a car company that is now synonymous with speed: “Scuderia Ferrari” Known globally for its participation in motorsports, it’s the only team in Formula One since its inception and the most successful one. Being faster than your competition will certainly give you some advantage, but not without a quality car to sustain the race. Be faster in driving business than your competitors and maybe someday you’ll own a Ferrari too. Start shopping online at

In a blog that’s intended to keep lessons to 10, it’s impossible to cover all famous Italians. Learn more from the rest on Wikipedia’s List of Italians here  and check out the pictures from my Italy trip on the Facebook Site

Saturday, August 20, 2011

...playing Angry Birds

Angry Birds is property of
Rovio Entertainment Ltd.
Gaming has evolved from bouncing a ball back and forth in monochromatic TV screens to now catapulting wing-less birds across the skies in your hand held mobile phone. Similiarly, business lessons evolved too.

Angry Birds, a video game developed by Finish company Rovio Mobile is the newest sensation in gaming. As one of the top selling apps in the world, it's got to be more than just a game. It's a puzzle on developing business skills.

It consists in shooting colorful, yet angry, birds into well protected green pigs in pursuit of their baby eggs. Check out the cinematic trailer

The Ten Things I Learned...playing Angry Birds

1. Don’t get distracted with small things
Here is a quick recap of the start if you didn’t watch the trailer. A group of birds protect their egg nest until a mosquito gently lands on an egg. As they get distracted attacking the intruder, three hungry pigs steal the eggs. Let the games begin! Be careful not to get distracted with mosquito-sized problems and lose sight of what's truly valuable (or threatening) to your organization.

2. Use the right people for the right task

The game starts off pretty easy with red birds, but as you move onto other levels you'll upgrade to new colorful characters, each with distinct skills. The yellow bird flies faster to break through walls, the blue one breaks up into three smaller birds for wider reach, and so on. As you form your team at work, make sure you're matching your employee's skills to the tasks at hand.

3. Analyze the situation before getting started

Each level is different, and as with any game it only gets harder as you move forward. So before you slingshot your first bird you can scan the scene back-and-forth and get an understanding of the challenge. In your business, analyze any situation before getting to work too quickly. Moving without thinking might misuse your resources - and in real life there is no re-play button. 

4. Don’t let your limitations stop you

When Jakko Lisalo invented the birds at Rovio, according to Wikipedia, the first image had birds without visible wings or legs, but that hasn't stopped them from flying. Don’t let your business shortfalls get in your way, like missing wings you might not have all the skills, but that shouldn’t stop you from catapulting your career. Believe you can fly and you will.

5. Expand your brand through merchandising

What began like an Apple game is now probably in your local Walmart endcap. Through the power of merchandising, the Finland-based company has been able to expand the characters from plush toys to sandals, school kits, and more. Revenues went from .99 cents for every game sold to $59.99 and up. Check out all the fun stuff at If your brand permits, consider expanding its equity beyond your traditional channel.

6. Build strong partnerships
Angry Birds claims to be the number 1 IPhone App sold in over 60 countries on its site at but for while there it lost it's first place in the US to another game. Until they came out with Angry Birds Rio again. The company partnered with 20th Century Fox when they released the cartoon film called Rio that takes place in Brazil. In your field of work, look for business partners with similar interests that can help you become number one, but more importantly stay there.

7. Build trial through sampling
The game has been successful at bringing in new users through free game trials on different devices. All of their versions, starting with the Original, the Seasons, and Rio have had a smaller free formats that I could play before getting hooked. If your products or service permits, consider free sampling to give your consumers a trial, and if you're good they'll come back.

8. Keep up with technology

The company has gone from launching in Apple IOs expanding onto all other phone and gaming devices. More recently, the game has made it onto Facebook and can be downloaded on your PC. What probably started as a couple of friends designing a game, has now become an industry that continuously hires and outsources to keep up with technology and all new formats being launched. Don’t let your company become obsolete by not following your consumer technological trends. 

9. Do more than just getting the job done

The game dynamics are pretty simple; destroy all green pigs and move on to the next level. However, you can always go back and do the same level again for more points or more stars. At work, you'll probably get promoted by getting the job done, but you won’t get far without your company stars and extra points.

10. Consider a different point of view

The team at Rovio is working on a sequel to the game, according to the Huffington Post, where the story will be told from the pigs' perspective. At work, listen to different perspectives and point of views, it’s only fair to get the whole story before making any important decision. 

Career planning and work isn't a game, but ironically if you play it right (and have fun) you'll win. Collecting the right skills, people, and tactics will slingshot you to success. 

Try a free version of the game and find your lessons too.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

...from Rocky Balboa

We all have a shot at the greatest title in the world, just like Rocky Balboa, the classic story of the underdog fighter who had the will and heart to win. After all, if a fictional character can be named 7th greatest movie hero of all times and get inducted into a real-life hall of fame, why couldn’t we?
The Oscar winning franchise, written and stared by Sylvester Stallone, began in 1975 and has raised a generation with lessons on life and winning. Over the last week, I watched the entire Rocky marathon to see what we could learn from The Italian Stallion on business.

Get a feel for the original movie with this quick recap on the MGM might also want to hear the soundtrack while reading through this blog...

The Ten Things I Learned…from Rocky Balboa

1. Give others an opportunity
Rocky didn’t fight his way to fame, he was chosen first. The movie franchise begins with the current boxing champion, Apollo Creed stating he’d like to give “a local Philadelphia boy a shot at the greatest title in the world…” Sadly, Rocky was chosen from a list by the sound of his nickname “The Italian Stallion” and not his skills. Nonetheless, he put on a great fight. Give people a chance to succeed in your business, but choose them on demonstrated skills not on the appeal of their nickname.

2. Define what it is to win
In boxing, you’d think winning means knocking down your opponent. For Rocky, in his first movie, it was about “going the distance”, which meant lasting all 15 rounds with Apollo Creed, the world champion. Winning shouldn’t be what others define it to be, it’s a goal you set for yourself. Define what will make you a winner and ignore preconceived definitions of it.

3. Learn to work with limited resources
Rocky didn’t have it all growing up in the troubled Philadelphia neighborhood. He trained in the streets and the local meat packing industry. Who could forget the classic scenes of Rocky training in the meat freezer? By Rocky IV, he trains in the Siberian outdoors, while his Russian opponent trains with the finest technology and steroids. Essentially, you can’t expect to always have the best tools at work, learn to work with –and appreciate - what you have and let determination do the rest.

4. Size doesn’t matter
The classic tale of David and Goliath was retold in Rocky IV when the champ had to fight Russian Ivan Drago who was half a foot taller and 60lbs heavier. Movie Spoiler: Rocky kicks his butt despite his size. Many of us are employed at smaller companies constantly battling the larger competitor, but when there is a will to win, there is a chance. Boxing is 90% in the skull, according to his trainer Mickey.  You need to learn to outsmart them with skills, speed, and determination.

5. Turn a weakness into a strength
Early in the franchise, we learn that Rocky is a “southpaw” a boxing term that means he was a left-handed boxer. By Rocky II, Mickey’s strategy was to develop his right hand to throw off Apollo in their rematch. Overcoming his weakness made him the heavyweight champion of the world, a title he kept against 10 more challengers. Develop your weaknesses into strengths to win at work. Like Apollo, your coworkers and bosses won’t know what hit them.

6. Do what you do best
When Adrian asks Rocky why he fights, he innocently answers “I fight because I can’t sing or dance” Throughout the story line, he tries different jobs – staring in commercials, cleaning the local meat industry – but recognizes fighting is all he knows, it’s what his best at. Ask yourself if you are doing what you do best. Never lose sight that you too are a fighter, and you pick the ring.

7. Motivate someone
The first couple of movies follow a similar story line, Rocky trains unfocused with some fear, anxiety, and disbelief until someone -mostly his wife Adrian but his trainer Mickey too – motivates him to win with some touching deep speech. At this point, “Eye of the Tiger” kicks in and real training begins. Even the strongest champs need someone by their side to motivate them. As a coach, boss, husband or wife, include motivating others in your everyday tasks, give others the confidence and skills they need to succeed.

8. Don’t leave important things & people unattended
By Rocky V, the champ retires and takes on a Tommy Gunn as a protégé. While he trains “The Machine Gun”, Rocky losses sight of his family, but more importantly his son. He gets so wrapped up in winning through Tommy’s fights, that he fails to realize what Adrian later confessed “you’re losing us, you’re losing your family” We are all guilty of working extra hours at the expense of leaving our loved ones unattended. Winning is really about finding the right balance between your corporate battle and being a champion at home.

9. Don’t point fingers
Thirty years after the first movie, the story ends with Rocky Balboa – the 6th and final film. In it, the retired 50+ year old fighter reconsiders going back to the ring. His son Robert is struggling in the corporate world and blames Rocky for being a shadow over him. Rocky comes back with the most memorable speed of the series, and one lesson that captures it all “go on and get what you’re worth, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him or her…” To me and you, it means taking accountability of our corporate lives and not blaming others for our misfortunes at work.

10. Overcome difficult obstacles – life’s toughest lessons are outside the ring.
Throughout all six movies, Rocky faces difficult times in and outside the ring - losing his trainer Mickey to heart failure, his friend Apollo to a steroid-enhanced opponent, and his wife Adrian to cancer. Add to that list getting punched for endless rounds from Apollo, Clubber, Ivan, Tommy, and more. But the wisest lessons learned in the 6th film was his memorable speed “It's not about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward…that’s how winning is done” You can’t avoid obstacles at work, but you can overcome them to end every scene in your life being a winner.  Don’t take it from me. See the moving lesson on Youtube

I'd like to end with a line from Rocky III when they revealed his bronze statue at the Philadelphia’s Art Museum, “every once in a while a person comes along who defies the odds, who defies logic, and fulfills an incredible dream.” Be that person.

I can’t believe how many lessons I learned from a fictional boxer, and how difficult it was to narrow it to just ten, but that’s the name of my site. Nothing stops my followers from sharing their 11th below. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

...playing Texas Hold'em

Sport analogies are common in the business world, from the lessons in team sports to strategic thinking in chess. This blog looks at a more unconventional one: Texas Hold'em.

This version of Poker has gained some popularity since the 2000s as it’s been more and more televised. Today, it’s become the most popular casino game.

Finding business lessons in cards is a move away from my more traditional blogs on places and personalities; in short, it's a gamble.

The Ten Things I learned…playing Texas Hold’em

1. Set a spending budget
Before starting any gambling, make sure to set a budget and stick to it, otherwise you’ll find yourself broke pretty quickly. Like in business, for any new risky investment, set a spending budget and track against it. If you’re getting a positive return keep playing! If you’ve reached bottom, step out. 

2. Practice in a safe environment
These days, online Poker allows everyone to become familiar with the game and practice their strategies in a risk-free and affordable environment – not to mention the fun. Before starting a new business or launching a risky new product, test your ideas out in smaller markets to become comfortable with how the business game is played -you might want to walk before you run.

3. Be ready to go "all in"
In Texas Hold'em you have four opportunities to place your bets, but at any point - and depending on your chances - be ready to go "all in", an expression and move that requires you to bet everything you have on the table. At work, if you have the pair of aces, you might want to take the risk to go all in, but even with the best cards, there's always a chance you can lose. 

4. Reconsider your moves
As the game progresses, new cards are dealt on the table, from the first three ("the flop") to the next two ("the turn" and the "river") you are given the option to reconsider your move and bets. As in Poker, in every business decision you get a new chance to bet, raise, check, or fold.

5. Understand the probabilities of success
Every combination of cards has a different chance of winning, beginning with the first two in your hand, to the subsequent five dealt on the table. In the end, you’re looking to collect the strongest 5 cards from a particular Poker ranking. At work, we are given new information constantly, like cards dealt on a table, consider your decisions carefully and the probabilities of a successful outcome.

6. Study your competition's moves
Competitors go a long way to put on a "poker face" in professional games. The most interesting ones are the over-the-top glasses, hats, and earphones seen on live TV championships. Winning comes down to outsmarting your competition; like in chess, outsmarting them rests on understanding their moves.

7. Know when to walk away
Poker gives you the option to "fold" at any point and turn in your cards. Unfortunately your bets so far go with them. Sometimes at work we aren’t dealt the most favorable cards, be wise on how to play them or whether to play them at all. 

8. Avoid distractions
The most fun I've had playing the game has been with good friends, good food, and good drinks, but my seriousness increases proportionately with the budget and the risk of the game. Concentrating becomes particularly difficult when you’re having a good time – especially in Vegas with the never ending slot machines sounding in the background. Find room to concentrate on what you're doing, it's probably important.

9. Don’t be afraid to play with the big guys
When you are ready, take some risks at professional tables. I did it in my last visit to Vegas and more than doubled my starting budget. We've all heard before if you want to win big you have to play big. Bring that principle to work each day. 

10. Change if it’s not your thing
Lastly, Texas Hold'em isn’t for everyone. If it’s not your game go ahead and change tables. Similarly, ask yourself if your job is your game. If it is, go all in...If not, consider folding and changing the game.

Each day we go to work we place a new bet. Like in any tournament only a few win the big prize, those who have a strategy, take the risks, and play big. So place some chips on the table, play the right hands, and have no-limits.

Monday, July 11, 2011

...from Professional Photography

Everyone takes pictures but only a select few make it to the list of top photographers and land their dream job on National Geographic. Like in our jobs, those professionals also compete to get recognized and rewarded. Although for some it’s a lucky shot, for most it’s a studied and practiced profession. I’ve taken an interest in photography and, most recently, made it a hobby to become better. I’ve come a long way, from almost returning my new DSLR after a disappointing photo shoot in Paris to testing the waters in a National Geographic online contest.

This is the practical guide of lessons learned while taking pictures - uncropped and unedited.

The Ten Things I Learned…from Professional Photography

1. Planning and patience gets you the perfect moment
The best photographers sit patiently for the perfect sunset, the unexpected animal sprint, or for that annoying tourist to move. The perfect shots you and I see weren’t just lucky, for the most part, they were planned and required patience. In your career, plan for that perfect spot and word hard - be patient getting there, the sunrise will be worth the wait.

2. Practice to get perfect
I’ve read professional photographers take thousands of pictures to get that perfect one we see. In sports, hundreds go unpublished waiting for the exact moment in which a baseball touches the bat. The days of 12, 24, and 36 count films are gone, and digital cameras let you practice. Like anything in life, to be good at what you do at work, you need to practice.

3. Perfect only your best work
When photographers get that perfect picture – out of a thousand – they fine tune it using Photoshop or some other editing software. Alterations can range from cropping and color balance to complicated techniques I wouldn’t even know how to describe. Interestingly, they don’t have this level of involvement with every picture, only their best. Put your finest effort in your best work to make it perfect; for everything else, cropping and color-balancing will do. 

4. See things through a different lens
I stood in chilling silence watching the sun rise over Ayers Rock in the Australian outback, thinking what I had in my view was picture-perfect until a gentleman asked me to take his picture with his fancier camera. The wide angle provided a completely different perspective; it captured an entire different scene just steps away from mine, and my hobby was born. When it comes to your job, see things through other people’s eyes, more commonly expressed as “walk in other people’s shoes”.

5. Focus
An obvious analogy to business lessons, a simple action that unfortunately isn’t put into practice enough in today’s business world. Today’s more sophisticated cameras let you chose what to focus on, and it’s amazing how in seconds you can shift from a bouquet to a single foreground rose. Depending on your business circumstance, change your focus to get a crystal clear image of what it is you want to see and click forward.

6. Be curious
Hobbies let you explore your creative side; in music, painting, and reading everyone can add their unique touch. Photography, and your job, is no different. Like a photographer playing with lighting, speed, angles, and moments, to capture that one-of-a-kind image, you too should explore your creative side and kindle your curiosity at work.

7. Observe others
So maybe you’re not be that creative, no problem, copy others who are. We’re all guilty of taking pictures of scenes we’ve seen before and although we don’t get the credit, it helps us practice the skill and understand our limitations. In today’s world, learn new skills by observing them in others.

8. Smile
No portrait is complete without a cheerful photographer saying “smile”. It’s another simple instruction that goes unused in many business situations. Your most important moments in life were captured with a smile: your birthdays, your graduation, your wedding. Turn your business meetings, although difficult sometimes, into important moments and smile, it’s contagious.

9. Use the right technique for the right moment
Ever wondered what all those buttons on your DSLR camera do? How is AV different than TV? And when do I use P? Trust me they all have a purpose and different results - whether it takes pictures faster, wider, clearer, sharper, or more. Put into practice different leadership styles to match the right situation. Like a dial on a camera, you too can switch from coaching to motivating to providing constructive criticism.

10. Take some chances
I’m realistic with my photographic skills but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming – only that dreaming doesn’t get me anywhere. Actions do. I submitted some pictures to a National Geographic Online Contest pretty certain that I wouldn’t win…but what if I did? I cautiously paid a fee to take a chance, but it’s a personal win nonetheless. You win with every chance you take.

There’s a camera terminology called depth-of-field which describes how much of the scene appears sharp. Hopefully this blog expanded your depth-of-field of business and you now have a much broader & clearer picture of some skills needed for your perfect shot.

Check out some of my favorite pictures on The Ten Things I Learned Facebook Site and become a fan.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

...Following The News

News channels can be a great source of information. On them, you’ll learn anything from global changes to your local daily weather. With so many channels, you are given the option to choose what you want to see, and with that, what you want to learn each day. Today’s blog bulletin comes from newscasters, programing, and its technology. These are the lessons that happen behind the scenes and are brought to you live each day.  
This just in: there are business lessons for you and me in news channels too.

The Ten Things I Learned…Following The News

1. Keep broad news topline
Great communication comes down to a simple rule, keeping it simple. Unfortunately, some news channels overwhelm us with useless information instead of focusing on meaningful reports.  Unless we are the jurors on the trial, we don’t need the information overload, just what happened and the outcome. Keep your broader messages topline and let the details get their timeslot in another show.

2. When presenting, know the subject and the upcoming slides
Weather men could teach us a lesson or two on presentation skills. It’s like standing in front of a large slideshow on the hour, every hour.  For starters, they are proficient in the subject, knowing everything there is on meteorology. Second, they’re always prepared to transition smoothly to that next slide. When presenting, know your subject well by practicing your slides and memorize what’s coming next. 

3. Multitasking without losing control
When Marty McFly, turned on six channels in his version of the future on Back To The Future 2, I thought that would be cool but impossible to follow, but I was just a kid. These days, thanks to DirecTV, I can do the same and switch audio back-and-forth to the channels I care to follow all at the touch of a control. At work, multitask while staying in control. Take a break from Excel to make a call, send an email, and go get water, and then come back to finish that painful spreadsheet.
4. Keep a global perspective
News channels let us see how the world is becoming more and more interconnected each day, how events in one country kick start movements in others. Like the wave in a football stadium, we have synchronized movements that come to a stop when a whole section isn’t watching. No matter your business size, leave a positive global impact around the world, from the brands you sell, the communities you help, to the donations you should be making.

5. Share relevant information
Here’s where blogging allows me to be personal:  I honestly don’t care about Lindsey or Charlie, especially when it comes at the expense of learning what’s happening in my area, my town, or even the world.  In a business environment, keep your topics to what’s relevant to your people. Change the conversation from unimportant issues to the ones that truly affect your employee’s lives

6. Use charismatic speakers that don’t alienate.
Frankly, I’m not a huge fan of guys yelling which stocks to buy, nor sarcastic interviewers looking to embarrass their guests, nor presenters that remind me of Droopy, Eeyore, or Sleepy Smurf delivering the job loss reports. In your business, if you have something important to say, get your strongest and most charismatic speaker to say it, otherwise you’re losing ratings.

7. Be relevant to your target and remain inclusive with secondary targets.
As I surf news channels for that perfect balance of information, I’ll sometimes switch to Univision. Being Hispanic, it lets me learn what’s happening in that community too. I value how they stay true to a mainly Mexican-American target, but wonder how many other cultures go unrepresented.  In marketing to your customers stay true to your target, but remain relevant and include others who share similar interests.

8. Let people decide what they want to hear
Where newspapers have an advantage over 24hr news channels is that they let us flip back and forth between pages to find what’s relevant to each one. Similarly, Goggle News provides a quick snapshot and lets us click on what we want to read, better yet, it allows us to switch between countries and languages. At work, consider a communication vehicle that allows people to choose what they’d want to learn. Consider a website or email with customizable company communications.   

9. Provide a 24 hour service.
Not finding that perfect channel is no excuse to remain uninformed. News is available 24hours online on websites, twitter, facebook, and smartphone apps. The challenge now is learning those means and finding the time to read them. Be accessible to your customers 24-7, in many cases information can’t wait till your next day’s office hours.

10. Balance information and entertainment - there is a place for both. 
Not every news has to be so serious, and that’s where comedy comes in - for those who like it. There’s a place for formal news reporting, and another for making fun of it. TV found a way to bring comic relief through late night shows like Letterman and Leno, and in a more news-like format like Comedy Central’s Daily Show and Colbert Report.  Balance your more serious messages with some respectful comedic relief, but be considerate of the place and time to do so.

Spread the news: there are business lessons every place we look, including the news, reporting live from The Ten Things I, this is Ricardo Aranda saying tune in next time for more business tips taken from the real world.