2 comments on “Rules of Argument (part 2)”

Rules of Argument (part 2)

This three-part post will cover six rules of argument that should be important to any knowledge worker, executive, leader, manager, or critical thinker.

     argument = a discussion (an argument is not a quarrel)

     thinking critically = this does not mean thinking negatively. Critical thinking can be completely positive, completely negative, or, more likely, an amalgamation of both.

What follows is a continuation of part 1.

Rule #3: When arguing, if you must raise your voice, do it quickly, and do it for emphasis.

Employ such vocal inflection like a writer would employ italics. On occasion it may be necessary, but be conscious of it. Those on the receiving end of your amplified voice may only tolerate it for so long. Remember to lower it, take a deep breath, and remember that if people think you are about to explode, they might be more concerned with the results of the explosion than they are with the argument you’re attempting to advance.

Rule #4: Try to control your argument.

While “control” is an illusion or a state of mind, and while we human beings find ourselves steeped in our own subjectivity, it is still advisable to attempt control or restraint, especially when you find that your appeals are far more emotionally-driven than they should be. Emotional appeals, of course, may be a component of any argument, but they become lofty unless they are grounded by logical appeals. Similarly, ethical appeals, if relied upon too heavily, can find themselves floating among the unwarranted and unsubstantiated.

This is a problem with such appeals. While logical appeals may seem dry, academic, or simply boring, if delivered responsibly, they should seem more credible and reliable than emotional and ethical appeals. Further, emotional appeals often flirt with bias, prejudice, fallacies, blind assertions, and sweeping over-generalizations. An example of this can be found when a student argues to his professor that he should have earned a higher grade on an assignment. The argument may begin in a responsible manner, for the student may cite logical appeals to advance his contention. If, however, the professor is able to combat each appeal and the student becomes frustrated, the student might blurt, “You’re unfair. You’re mean. You’re outrageous.” In this situation, the student has just articulated three assertions, and as a critical thinker or a person who values the formal constructs of argumentation, he should be prepared to offer an example for each one. Unfortunately, these assertions were (most likely) emotionally-driven. They are steeped in anger, immaturity, and bias.

Try to control your argument by remaining conscious of the appeals you have chosen to employ. Use emotion, for it is attractive, and it can advance an argument. But do not forget to mix it up. And if you find yourself becoming too emotive (relying too heavily on emotional appeals), make a decision immediately to correct your current course of action.

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Finding Peace

Some parents find peace at the end of their child’s recital, or performance, or perhaps, on a lazy Sunday morning when the kids and the dog all slumber on the bed together with Mom and Dad—quiet, relaxed, happy.

Students may find peace—albeit brief—after composing an essay or completing a final exam.

Athletes have regular opportunities to find peace. Peace, like many things, is fleeting. But there is a moment—and every athlete knows this moment—when you’ve turned in a good session, one where you pushed through the uncertainty and the discomfort, the doubt and the discord, and you’ve reached your goal. There’s that moment, when you’re sitting in your truck after a hard swim session, when you’re standing in your driveway after a tough run, or when you’re slumped over the top tube of your bike after a positively brutal ride.

That moment—when you stop moving—and when your brain is no longer urging your body forward—that is a peaceful moment. Everything, in that moment, is right. There are no bills to pay, no errands to run, no complaints to address.

Exercise

Daily exercise might require 20-60 minutes, and it might involve a few minutes of preparation. However, the science suggests that exercising will give you more energy, reduce stress, help you sleep better, and help you feel better about yourself.

Meditation

Meditating is a practice you can engage in daily for 10-20 minutes. If you don’t know how to meditate, you have plenty of options. You might begin with Headspace, an app that provides guided meditation.

Gratitude

If exercise and meditation are too much of a time commitment, then simply spend 5 minutes each day writing down all that you are grateful for. Like exercise and meditation, practicing daily gratitude should help quiet the mind.

I meet people who seem to believe they’ll find peace once they travel. Or they’ll find it when they retire. Or when their kids go off to college. Or when they get that promotion. Or when they get a new car or a bigger house.

Don’t wait to find peace. Create daily opportunities to swim in it. To bathe in it. To enjoy it, however brief it may be.

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Transformation

I was slow for most of the 15 years I spent as a triathlete. Not until 2014 did I become fast. People who knew me when it took 12-14 hours to finish an Ironman have asked, “How is it possible that you went from finishing in 12-14 hours to 9 1/2 hours?”

Determining how to transform begins by asking specific questions, and these questions can be applied to any endeavor. I wanted to transform from slow to fast, but these questions cross over to other things, like going from fat to fit, lazy to motivated, bad to good, poor to rich.

Step One. Ask yourself:  Do I look like __________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

The first thing I did was take a hard look at the “fast guys.” Did I look like them? The answer was “no.”

This compelled me to action.

I lost 20 pounds. Losing 20 pounds was simple, but not easy. I had to stop drinking. (Alcohol was not keeping me heavy. However, the nutritional choices I made after a few pints of Guinness certainly kept me more plump than necessary. I’m referring specifically to how good a can of Pringles—the whole can—tastes while enjoying a good beer buzz, or how great a few hotdogs taste at a ballgame. I didn’t make these poor nutritional choices when I was sober. But give me a few drinks, and pow! I’d eat everything.)

I also shaved my head. And I shaved my legs. (Body hair has been proven to slow people down in the water and on the bike.)

So in looking at what you want to become, one question is very simple: Do you look like “them?” (What actions can you take to close the gap?)

Unfortunately, after losing weight, I still did not look like them. Physically, I was getting close. But then I looked at their equipment. They had aero wheels, aero helmets, and carbon fiber time-trial bikes. I did not.

Step Two to the transformation:  Do I work like __________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

Asking myself this question led to a realization: many of the fast guys I met were training 20-25 hours per week. I was training 10-15 hours per week.

Step Three to the transformation: Do I think like _________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

I thought it looked cool to look like you’re suffering. And sure, maybe that’s cool. But what’s cooler? The way these guys make it look so easy. (I thought going sub-11 hours in an Ironman was fast. My friend Keish, who’s always been a fast guy, is disappointed if he doesn’t go sub-10. For him, sub-10 is not a PR. It’s simply an expectation.)

Step Four to the transformation: Do I execute like ___________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

For me, the question was simple: Do I race like them? In simply comparing my transition times to the fast guys, there were enormous differences. They transitioned with urgency. I would dilly dally. (In life it’s encouraged to stop and smell the roses. In triathlon, not so much).

The answers to these four questions—and the subsequent changes I made—are the “magic formula” to the transformation I enjoyed.

Of course, my contention is that these sorts of questions are applicable to any endeavor. If you want to improve at something, simply have a look at those who are succeeding. What are they doing differently? And why? Answer these questions, see how the answers relate to you, and then adapt accordingly.

0 comments on “A Dynamic Life”

A Dynamic Life

James Citrin’s The Dynamic Path is among the most valuable books I’ve read. Like many titles that reside in the success-literature canon, Citrin identifies and describes key characteristics of successful people. However, Citrin observes that the most successful and most inspiring travel along something called The Dynamic Path, which is a series of three stages:

Stage 1: The Champion achieves excellence as an individual or member of a team in sports or business.

Stage 2: The Great Leader transcends individual accomplishment and becomes dedicated to the individual and collective achievement of others.

Stage 3: The Legacy is left by those leaders, household names or otherwise, who achieve meaningful societal change and enduring results.

Let’s say that you are currently traveling along The Dynamic Path. Where are you today? Are you The Champion, The Great Leader, or The Legacy? If you are currently striving to become The Champion, have a look at your goals. Make sure you continue to refine them. Similarly, if you are trying to transcend individual accomplishment, or if you are focused on your legacy, refine your goals accordingly.

In his book, Citrin interviews Buzz Aldrin, Colin Powell, Bono, Tony Hawk, and a host of other top-performers. When interviewing famed cycling coach, Chris Carmichael, Carmichael offers this insight about the role of 99% in aspiring champions: “People hold back that 1 last percent so they don’t have to face not being good enough. If there is always something they could have done better, they are still safe.”

Consider that for a moment. Do you hold back? Have you done so recently? How has this affected your trajectory?

Carmichael’s observation is punctuated by sports psychologist, Bob Rotella, who notes: “It is actually much easier for people to work hard than it is to believe in themselves. I think there are so many people who are really talented and hardworking who don’t believe in themselves. What strikes me more than anything is that in the American culture, we have sold the importance of the work ethic for years so totally and completely that we have lots of people who will work their tail off and yet will choose to never believe in themselves.”

Is this you? What systems do you need to put into place so that you can go from aspiring champion to champion? What systems do you need to put into place so that you can make sure that you are traveling along The Dynamic Path?

0 comments on “Don’t Go There”

Don’t Go There

Honduras. It shares borders with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. “It has one of the highest murder rates in the world,” according to the US Department of State. “Criminals, acting both individually and in gangs, in and around certain areas of Tegucigalpa . . . engage in murder, extortion, and other violent crimes.”

This isn’t about fake news. It’s about characterizing an entire country based on the actions of a few. In the world of fallacies, we might call this a Hasty Generalization.

I booked my flight.

The goal was not to put myself in harm’s way. The goal was to simply get on the ground for four days in Honduras to see if the characterization of this nation was reasonable.

I landed at Toncontin International Airport, approximately 6 miles from Honduras’ capital, Tegucigalpa. My first stop was Riviera, a restaurant that’s been making yucca con chicharron (fried pork belly or fried pork rinds over cabbage and yucca) for 70 years.

Honduras 1

It was delicious.

I checked into the Hyatt Place in Tegucigalpa, all the while conscious of confirmation bias, knowing that I mustn’t simply search for information that confirms my preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. This was hard, as my first impressions of Tegucigalpa (and the surrounding areas) were favorable.

For four days, I traveled around Tegucigalpa. I felt safe. Secure. The Honduran people are like many of us, just trying to enjoy a better life.

This is a recurring theme in my travels. Had I trusted the news, I’d never have gone to Colombia 11 years ago, or Croatia, or Cambodia. At this rate, I should probably book flights to North Korea and the Congo.

The takeaway is this: when you hear people speaking categorically about a person, a business, or a country, know that their credibility should be questioned. Rarely can something be entirely bad. And sometimes the only way to prove it is to conduct your own research.

Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, New York City . . . they each have dodgy areas. And so does Honduras. There are murderers, drug-dealers, and folks bent on extortion. But to suggest that something is entirely bad based on the actions of a few is unreasonable.

0 comments on “Financial Checkup Checklist”

Financial Checkup Checklist

Summer is here, which is the perfect time do a Financial Checkup for your business.  This article suggests tackling the “6 P’s” of a financial checkup.  In the Spring you have tax season and fiscal year-end reporting, so who has time?  In the Fall companies are making a push to finish strong to meet year-end quotas before new business shuts down for the holidays.  Winter is too late to effect change for the year, and it is hard to advance work when so many people are out on vacation (or sick!).  This makes the Summer a great time for a financial checkup.

What is a financial checkup exactly?  It could be a lot of things, but here are six ideas.  Pick three of them (one per category) to accomplish.  Show that you are committed to the financial health of your business, and your business will definitely thank you in return.

Business Model Review (do at least one)

  1. Plan – re-visit your business plan. The prior year financials (the key benchmark) should be final, so use it as the foundation for a refresh of your business plan.  Do it for current year and next year.  Add another year, and you have the coveted 3-year financial plan.

A Plan is great for:

  • businesses involved in a significant financial transaction.
  • businesses that consider great planning a key to their success.
  1. Projections – prepare quarterly forecasts to see what you think the business will look like in terms of revenue growth, operating profits (EBIDTA), working capital, and the capacity to service debt and distribute capital. These are all critical financial measures regarding the health of your business.

Projections are great for:

  • giving to banks and lenders so they become more comfortable and confident in your business.
  • owners and stakeholders, so they can see how today’s business will look tomorrow.
  • leaders and managers, who can use projections to set goals and measure results.

Profits and Cash Flow Review (do at least one)

  1. Performance Reports – this could include monthly or quarterly income statements or Profit & Loss (P&L) reports. Sales trends can be analyzed to see if new business is healthy or anemic.  P&Ls can calculate profit margins and expense ratios, to show how effective you are in managing costs relative to sales generated.  Many business leaders have little time to study detailed reports, so create one-sheet scorecards with infographs and bullet point summaries. Reports are of no use if they are not read.  Create a monthly production report package, to keep an ongoing pulse on the state of your business.

Performance Reports are great for:

  • managers and leaders that want accountability for business results.
  • sharing with stakeholders, banks, and lenders, to prove that you can articulate your business from a financial perspective.
  1. Profit Conversions – profits stuck in receivables are bad for cash flow and bad for your bank account. The longer the receivable is outstanding the less likely you will be able to collect.

Summer is great for getting your cash receipts in order.  Get backlogged invoices sent out promptly.  Review credit terms for down payment and installment billings, and revisit your financing and late fee policies.  Collect all open receivables.

Reviewing cash payments is equally important.  Set up a sensible weekly check run process.  Review credit terms of key suppliers, and negotiate them.  Examine vendor due dates to see who might accept a more favorable payment schedule.

You can never have too much cash on hand, and here you can boost cash without having to sell more or spend less.  You are simply managing your cash better.

Profit conversions are great for:

  • companies running a thin line with cash and working capital.
  • companies that are interested in building that emergency “cushion” for the unexpected.
  • companies that want to go from good to great in their cash management practices.

Resource Assessment

  1. People – you count on people to make your company perform. Is everyone on the team signed up for at least one educational or development class?  Are people allowed to work on a pet project that supports the company?  People are what make the difference, and investing in people is great for:
  • building morale and team spirit.
  • developing talent and skills inside the business, so you can outperform the competition.
  1. Platforms – along with people, your company systems make up the key resources to run your business. Use the Summer to identify all key systems the business relies on to operate.  It can vary by industry, but computer and data networks, accounting and payroll systems, customer and CRM systems, and online systems and tools are universally important to businesses large and small.  Are you able to make a case that all your systems are working seamlessly and smoothly?  Can your systems today support your future growth?  If you can’t answer confidently to these questions, a system review may be your key Summer project.

Platform reviews are great for:

  • companies wanting to run leaner to increase profits and optimize enterprise value.
  • companies managing change.
  • companies that plan to grow significantly.

  360 degrees of Small Business Solutions

Arima Business Solutions (ABS) is a business management consulting firm located in the heart of the San Fernando Valley.  We specialize in solving the most top-of-mind problems for small business owners.  We offer a deep skill set and know how on running the finances, operations, and marketing areas of a small business.  This makes ABS uniquely equipped to provide 360-degrees of client service.  Finance consultants often do strictly finance while marketing firms focus mainly on sales and branding.  The best solutions are balanced solutions, that examine not just one, but all of the key areas that are important to your business.

0 comments on “Be Uncompromising”

Be Uncompromising

Many Americans are familiar with the story of Henry Ford and his drive to produce the V-8. As the story goes, “When Henry Ford decided to produce his famous V-8 motor, he chose to build an engine with the entire eight cylinders cast in one block, and instructed his engineers to produce a design for the engine. The design was placed on paper, but the engineers agreed, to a man, that it was simply impossible to cast an eight-cylinder engine-block in one piece.”

Ford’s reply was simple: “Produce it anyway.”

A story that some may be less familiar with is the story of the Burj Al Arab. I’ve been there twice, and each time I’ve marveled at the achievement it represents. The Burj Al Arab is the iconic structure standing approximately 1,000 feet off the coast of Dubai, UAE.

burj al arab

Completed in 1999, the Burj al Arab was the tallest hotel in the world for several years. However, when the vision for this self-proclaimed 7-star hotel was conceived, the ruler of Dubai was told it was impossible.

It was to be a hotel that looked like the sail on a yacht, and it should appear to float atop an island. In the words of the guide who showed us around the property, “The lead architect was perplexed. He said, ‘I cannot create land. An island is not possible.’”

The ruler of Dubai simply replied: “You build it. Or I’ll find somebody who can.”

burj3

Sure enough, just as Ford’s engineers found a way to build the impossible V-8, the architect (along with an army of engineers) found a way to construct an artificial island that could support a hotel consisting of 70,000 cubic meters of concrete and 9,000 tons of steel.

There is a lot of emphasis placed on compromise, but it seems to work best when people are trying to avoid conflict or when they have shared goals. If you fancy yourself a dreamer, a visionary, or an entrepreneur, consider the cost of compromise. Sometimes it is essential to be uncompromising.

0 comments on “Prepared to Pivot”

Prepared to Pivot

It was a simple plan. Fly to Malaysia, get collected by a family-friend, and drive to her place in George Town.

But there was a problem. When I landed at the airport in Penang, my friend was not there. It was 11:30 p.m., and I was curbside. Had it been less humid, I still would’ve been sweating.

An hour passed. Most of the passengers from my flight had already gone. There was an announcement over the Airport’s P.A.: “The airport will be closing in 30 minutes.”

Already, I’d noted fewer taxis. And while I didn’t know much about the airport, I knew that it was approximately 30 minutes away from the capital, George Town. I knew little of Penang (and Malaysia in general), and I hadn’t any way to contact my friend. What was at first curious started to become concerning, especially as I heard the announcement: “The airport is now closed.”

Moments ago passengers were exiting baggage claim, greeting loved ones, and securing transportation. Now I could hear moths banging against light fixtures. But there was one taxi remaining. Two German tourists were loading their gear into the trunk. I dug deep to resurrect my three years of high school German. “Entschuldigung, entschuldigung,” I said. “Sprechen sie Englisch?”

Fortunately, they spoke some English. They agreed to let me share a taxi with them to George Town. Upon arrival, since I hadn’t a place to stay, and since it was now almost 1:00 a.m., and since the local hotels were fully-booked for Chinese New Year, my new German friends agreed to let me share their hotel room as well.

Upon waking, I learned that the hotelier spoke little English and that the hotel was without Internet. I hit the streets, and over the next three hours I determined that most of the local businesses (including Internet cafes) were closed because of Chinese New Year, and they would remain closed for the next few days.

I pivoted.

Pivoting requires one to move decisively after gathering as much information as possible. I listed over a dozen options (ending my holiday was not one of them). The most viable was to take a bus to Thailand. So I did. And 9 hours later I was enjoying a can of Singha on the beach in Phuket.

The takeaway is this: I had a plan. (I planned to see Malaysia. I planned to stay with my friend.) Tenacity is important, but we mustn’t try to force a round peg into a square hole. In travel, just as in life and in business, assess whether you are advancing an agenda or forcing it. If it’s the latter, be prepared to pivot.

0 comments on “Surprise Yourself”

Surprise Yourself

I don’t like surprises.

It’s not that I don’t champion spontaneity. It’s that I see my day as a closed-energy equation, one where I’ll need to allocate my energy stores in order to perform optimally. If I don’t know what’s going on, then allocation becomes sub-optimal at best.

There is a scene in Pretty Woman, where Julia Roberts’ character describes herself as a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl.” Well, that may work for many. But I am not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda guy.  In fact, if I had a playbook that identified the rules in my life, this would be one of them.

Of course, as is often the case, there are exceptions. There are moments in life—when you’re with your significant other, or spending time with your kids, or sifting through a work-related problem or a health-related issue—when surprises make you smile. These moments give you a reason to keep going.

The other day, for instance, I awoke exhausted and unmotivated. I struggled to read a few pages from a sports biography, brushed my nose when I was endeavoring to brush my teeth, haphazardly applied sunblock, and made my way downstairs.

As I drank my espresso and ate my oatmeal, I seriously considered skipping my swim and run session in favor of going back upstairs to get a few more hours of sleep. After all, my wife and dog were up there. And they looked (and sounded) comfortable.

But I reminded myself that the decisions I make when it’s early in the morning—when it’s dark and cold—those decisions shouldn’t be trusted as much as the decision I made the night before, when I was clear-headed. When I had a plan. When I was motivated.

So I trudged on, got into my truck, and reached the pool just after 5:30 AM. I was still exhausted.

They say a car uses a lot of energy to start. But it relies on far less energy once it’s rolling.

Well, I’d used a lot of energy that morning just to get into my jammers and onto the pool deck. But once I got into the pool, and once I did a warm-up of 500 yards, I started to feel pretty good.

Half way through the workout, the whiteboard indicated that we needed to do another 500. This was not all out. Just a 500. So I swam, with effort, but I didn’t go anaerobic or hypoxic. Typically, if I were going hard, I’d come in around 7:05-7:10.

When I hit the wall, my time was 6:51. (I didn’t believe it at first, but after conferring with my Garmin, I was convinced). Wow. I was officially surprised! And it was not on a day when I felt rested. It was not on a day when I exuded motivation. I hadn’t even gone all out!

Michael Phelps would likely hang up his Speedos if he ever swam a 500 in 6:51. But I was absolutely stoked!  It was a reminder that, indeed, most rules do have exceptions. And if I can be a party to these sorts of exceptions in sport, then bring ’em on!

To permeate a quiet confidence, to know that your happiness cannot be taken away from you, not today . . . that is the benefit of a breakthrough. That is the benefit of a stunning surprise in sport.

I suppose you can’t plan to surprise yourself. But perhaps if you take a chance, take a risk, push yourself—perhaps you speak up at a meeting, or organize a family getaway, or learn a musical instrument, or a foreign language. Perhaps you find a trail, or a pool, or a bike. If you take a chance . . . if you put yourself out there . . . it’s exciting to see what can happen.

Believe in the power of you. Allow yourself the luxury of dreams. Make the time to pursue them. And you might just surprise yourself.

0 comments on “Remember “The Magic of Thinking Big””

Remember “The Magic of Thinking Big”

Originally published in 1959, Dr. David J. Schwartz’s entrepreneurial bible should warrant residence in your library. And while many of us have read his seminal work, The Magic of Thinking Big, we may not review it as often as we should.

“You are what you think you are.” —David J. Schwartz

“Don’t blame others when you receive a setback. Remember, how you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win.” —David J. Schwartz

Here are three highlights from his work:

Rid Yourself of Excusitis

Schwartz writes about his amputee friend who is an excellent golfer: “One day I asked him how he had been able to develop such a near-perfect style with just one arm. I mentioned that most golfers with two arms can’t do nearly as well. His reply says a lot, ‘Well, it’s my experience,’ he said, ‘that the right attitude and one arm will beat the wrong attitude and two arms every time.’ The right attitude and one arm will beat the wrong attitude and two arms every time. Think about that for a while. It holds true not only on the golf course but in every facet of life.”

Build Confidence by Managing Your Memory

Schwartz argues that “Your brain is very much like a bank. Every day you make thought deposits in your ‘mind bank.'” Schwartz likens negative thought deposits to fertilizing weeds, and he offers this plan: “Just before you go to sleep, deposit good thoughts in your memory bank. Count your blessings. Recall the many good things you have to be thankful for: your wife or husband, your children, your friends, your health. Recall the good things you saw people do today. Recall your little victories and accomplishments. Go over the reasons why you are glad to be alive.”

Vitality Is Essential

Schwartz writes: “In everything you do, life it up. Enthusiasm, or lack of it, shows through in everything you do and say. Life up your handshaking. When you shake hands, shake. Make your handclasp say, ‘I’m glad to know you.’ ‘I am glad to see you again.’ A conservative, mouse-like handshake is worse than no handshake at all. It makes people think, ‘This guy is more dead than alive.’ Try to find a highly successful person with a conservative handshake. You’ll have to look a long, long time.” And about smiles, Schwartz writes: “Life up your smiles. Smile with your eyes. Nobody likes an artificial, pasted-on, rubbery smile. When you smile, smile. Show a few teeth. Maybe your teeth aren’t attractive, but that’s really unimportant. For when you smile, people don’t see your teeth. They see a warm, enthusiastic personality, someone they like.”

One way to inoculate yourself from small thinking is to devour success literature. Consider adding The Magic of Thinking Big to your daily ritual.