0 comments on “Bucket List”

Bucket List

When was the last time you looked at your bucket list? A bucket list should hold us accountable for the things we want to do in life. It should be a source of excitement, providing us with one more reason to wake up in the morning. My bucket list consists primarily of new places and new experiences, ten of which I highly recommend.

10. En route to Machu Picchu, this is one of the camp sites along the Inca Trail. The elevation is approximately 12,000 feet, which is just high enough to reach out and touch the clouds. IMG_5977

9. Lopburi, Thailand has been overtaken by monkeys, most of whom have formed two gangs. Each gang occupies a temple on opposing sides of the street. When the monkeys are not swinging from telephone lines and climbing atop vehicles stopped at red lights, you’ll likely find many catching a short nap in the shade. img_2026

8. The Terracotta Army in Xian, China was discovered in 1974 when local farmers were supposedly digging a well. The sculptures were buried around 210-209 BCE. Each warrior is mesmerizing, as no two faces are alike, and while some are missing parts of their body, they do not break rank. They stand, and they appear prepared to move forward. img_2454

7.  The Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt is considered the second largest ancient religious site in the world (the first is Angkor Wat). Pictured here is a glimpse of Hypostyle Hall, home to 134 massive columns carved with mesmerizing hieroglyphs. IMG_7333

6. The Tunnels of Cu Chi in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam comprise an immense tunnel network that took approximately 25 years to build. The tunnels were used extensively by the Viet Cong guerillas, but they were also home to many Vietnamese. People lived in these secret tunnels. Travelers, escorted by a guide, can now crawl through the tunnels. (Just try not to get stuck in one of the many tight bends, like I did. It made for quite a scare). cu chi

5.  This is what sunrise on the Great Wall of China looked like on a cold morning in February, 2004. I was able to get onto the wall at 3 a.m. and hike to Simatai (the highest part of the Great Wall). I hiked only a few miles by head torch, the help of a few friends, and a bit of luck. Current measurements put the length of the Great Wall at over 13,000 miles. light blues - Copy

4.  If you like lavenders and purples and blues, every sunset in Koh Samui, Thailand will call to you. img_1046

3.  The Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Lisbon, Portugal rests stoically on the edge of the Tagus River, celebrating 33 figures for their role in the Age of Exploration. Padrao dos Descobrimentos

2.  In Palermo, Sicily, an evening stroll after eating handmade pasta and drinking local red wine is precisely what’s necessary so you can do it again tomorrow. img_1683

1.  Just as some nations protect rain forests, Dubai, UAE protects its ever-decreasing deserts. Sand-boarding, as Michelle is doing below, is a thrilling way to see the majestic sand dunes that once characterized the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf. Sandboarding

What’s on your bucket list? What have you crossed off recently? And what are you looking forward to?

2 comments on “Winning Psychology”

Winning Psychology

Many books never age for me. Huck is still Huck; Holden is still Holden; Think And Grow Rich and The Magic of Thinking Big still resonate. I read and re-read these books. The books are the same, but I have changed. This remains a curious method for measuring growth.

Recently I re-read Dr. Denis Waitley’s The Psychology of Winning. Published in 1979, plenty might consider it ancient. But its wheels are still true.

Here are the takeaways that I find most valuable:

Make a List of “I Am’s.”

Create two columns. Place your assets or “I am good at” in one column. Place your liabilities or “I need improvement in” in the other column. Pick your ten best traits and your ten traits needing the most improvement. Take the first three liabilities and schedule an activity or find a winner who will help you improve in each of the three areas.

Accepting Compliments

One good indicator of an individual’s opinion of himself is the way he can accept a compliment. It is incredible how low-achievers belittle and demean themselves when others try to pay them value:

“I’d like to congratulate you on a job well done.”

“Oh, it was nothing . . . I was just lucky I guess.”

“Wow, that was a great shot you made!”

“Yeah, I had my eyes closed.”

“That’s a good looking suit. Is it new?”

 “No, I’ve been thinking of giving it to Goodwill.”

The Loser believes that the quality of humility should be pushed over the cliff into humorous humiliation. And the devastating fact is that the robot self-image is always listening and accepts these negative barbs as facts to store as reality.

The Winners in life accept compliments by simply saying “thank you.” Bob Hope says “thank you”; Frank Boorman says “thank you”; Steve Cauthen, after winning the Triple Crown, doesn’t say “gee, I almost fell off my horse”; he says “thank you.” Neil Armstrong, Jack Nicklaus, Cheryl Tiegs, Nancy Loopez, Chris Evert all say “thank you.” Self-esteem is the quality of simply saying “thank you,” and accepting value that is paid to you by others.

Wants and Desires

Make a list of five of your most important current wants or desires, and right next to each . . . put down what the benefit or payoff is to you when you achieve it. Look at this list before you go to bed each night and upon awakening each morning.


Indeed, Dr. Waitley’s Psychology of Winning has reminded me of the things I’ve lost focus on. And today, when the competition for your attention is likely greater than it has ever been before (the incessant alerts, updates, notifications via smartphones, computers, social media, etc.), one of his admonitions hits home: “Concentrate all your energy and intensity, without distraction, on the successful completion of your current project. Finish what you start.”

0 comments on “Finding Peace”

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.

0 comments on “Transformation”

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 “Core Values”

Core Values

With exception to sashimi, the one time I’ve eaten part of an animal in its most unadulterated post-mortem state was when I ate a goat’s heart in Rajasthan, India.

I was in the desert, confronted by miles of yellow sand and an occasional weed jutting up from the ground like two outstretched arms after a long slumber. It was dusk.

A goat had just been killed by two of the Bedouins with whom I’d been traveling. One held the goat down while the other cut its throat. They proceeded to dismantle the animal. This was all done on a small blanket, on the sun-colored sand, wind blowing just enough to remind you it’s there.

The strips of meat that were pulled from the body would soon see a flame and then become the main ingredient in a stew. But the heart, which had been beating 30 minutes ago, was special. It was a prize. And as their guest, it was offered to me.

I held it in my right hand. It was warm. Uncooked. Its viscous blood coating the sides of my fingers. I didn’t want to eat it. Oh how I wish it could’ve sat in coconut milk and spices, like the cow brain I tried in Jakarta . . . or have been deep fried like the water snake I ate in Shanghai.

Instead, there it was. Undressed. In my hand. I gripped it like I was trying to assess its weight, almost like a pitcher holding a rosin bag as he stands on the mound, trying to figure out what to throw next.

I was not steady. Thick blood rivulets plopped from the heart and onto the sand canvas beneath me, looking like a yellow and crimson Jackson Pollock.

I held it up to my mouth. At that angle, the blood began to creep past the meaty part of my palm and onto my wrist. As it greeted my forearm, it was time to make a decision. Go big or go home. I opened my mouth and thrust the heart deep into me, like I would a jelly donut. My jaws clenched. The thick warm blood—the taste of mercury—shot through my mouth and coated my throat. Then my teeth, instinctively, sawed back and forth through the ventricles. I didn’t know the inside of a heart was so tough, so I cut with my teeth and pulled with my hand until the heart broke free. With a full-body Popeye-esque thrust, I tipped my head back to jerk the heart down my throat and into a place I could soon forget.

Then, with blood smeared about my face, I offered the heart, now an oblong crescent shape, to my Bedouin hosts.

They accepted, greedily devouring what remained.


When I consider why I took a bite of the goat heart (as opposed to handing it back to my hosts), the answer is clear: respect. I’d rather endure gag-reflexes and gastronomic fears than be disrespectful to people who’d been good to me, for respect is one of my core values. Make sure that your company’s core values are consistent with your own. If accountability is one of your company’s core values, then you’d do well to hold yourself accountable not only at work but also at home. Leadership is not a part-time job.

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.