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Monday, July 16, 2012


Jeff reached for his iPhone on the counter of the convenience store after he had picked out his Popsicle from the freezer. It was gone. Just a minute earlier he had placed it on the counter.

He was on a weekend camp out with his Uncle Scott, a Viet Nam war vet. Jeff himself was a veteran of Gulf War I , and for years it had been a tradition to come camping with his uncle, whom he had grown closer to after his own military adventure in Asia.

He finally gave up, and assumed he had left his phone at their campground site, and when they got back from the store, went into his tent to look for the device that he had become addicted to, but seemed to always be losing. No iPhone here either. He borrowed his uncle's iPhone and called his number. No ring sound either.

Jeff retraced his steps and kept returning to the convenience store as the last place he had had his iPhone with him. He suddenly remembered that he had brought along his iPad.

Maybe he could use one of those apps that could find your iPhone! He was happy he had decided against better judgment and had sprung for the more expensive 4GLTE version, and soon he was was looking at a map of the area and lo and behold, there was the red dot indicating his iPhone!

He started walking in the direction that the GPS tracker was pointing him in and soon he came upon another campground, he looked up and saw about 7-8 boys who looked older than high schoolers but too young to be called men.

They were the stereotypical gangbangers, with short buzzcut hair, white wifebeater undershirts, and tattoos on their necks and each knuckle of each hand.

They were all Hispanic and rough looking. Jeff immediately recognized one of the boys from the convenience store and deduced he must have been the one who had lifted his iPhone there.

He went up to boy and said,

"Dude, did you by chance pick up my iPhone by mistake in the convenience store a couple of minutes ago?" 

"I don't have your phone man." the boy replied cold and somewhat rude.

"Look man, I don't want any trouble, OK? I can see the phone is here on my iPad, so just hand it over and we can forget all about this, OK?", Jeff said, trying to get this over with as soon as possible.

"I told you man, I don't have your phone! Now fuck off!" the boy fired back.

Now his friends had perked up and began approaching Jeff slowly.

"Yeah man, why don't you be a good puto and fuck off! One of them sneered at Jeff.

Jeff looked at them and realized that he was outnumbered and although he was 6 foot 2 and could have given them a good run for it, he was not going to be ale to take all of them on by himself. So he backed off and went back to his campground. While the boys laughed.
Back at their campsite, Jeff told his Uncle Scott about what happened. Scott was furious and demanded that they go back and get his iPhone now. Jeff called the police and when he told them what had happened, the police told him that they weren't going to come all the way out there for a lost iPhone. 

Jeff went to the campground next door to see if he could muster some help. A big black man Rahim was camping with his family, his wife and 2 teenage girls who were playing cards at the campground table, and when he heard what had happened, said,

"You know, it's  been a long while since I cracked me some skulls, let's go get your phone man"

On the way, they stopped by the campground managers office, and a Hispanic man came out. Jeff rolled his eyes, there was probably no way he would help. But before he could begin to explain, Rahim said,

"Those motherfuckin Mexicans stole his phone man!" , then stopped short and added, "no offense man...".

The manager looked at Jeff and Rahim and the seething Scott, and then back at Rahim, and said,

"No man, they give us Mexicans a bad name, let's go!"

Off they went. When they got to the boys' campground tensions immediately rose and this time when the boy who denied having Jeff's iPhone walked up to him to confront him again, Jeff grabbed him by the shirt and said,

"Look, give me my iPhone and like I said, this will be over!" The boy reached in his pant pocket and pulled out Jeff's iPhone, but instead of giving it to Jeff, threw it into the camp fire!

At that point all hell broke loose, Rahim began tossing Mexicans like firewood, the manager had two of them each in a headlock and was screaming Spanish obscenities, mostly infused with "tu madre" and "puto".

Uncle Scott had gone full PTSD and with a crazed look in his eyes had one of the boys cornered saying, "Oh yeah! bring it on motherfucker!" over and over again.

After the beatings were over the J-team backed away and went back to their campground.

As they left, one of the boys yelled,

"Hey! We're going to get you, I'll bring my Glock and shoot you later tonight!" to which Uncle Scott yelled "Go right ahead asshole! I've got my SKS with 60 rounds!" Jeff yelled,"Yeah and don't forget my AR15 as well Uncle Scott, but mine only has a 20 round clip though!"

After they got back to their camp, Jeff decided to call the police again and report the stolen iPhone as destruction of private property. This worked and about an hour later a patrol car rolled to a stop at their campground. When the officer stepped out of the cruiser, then entire car squeaked and raised up about 6 inches higher.

"Jeez it's hot!" the wheezing cop said as he wiped the sweat off his bald head. After he took down Jeff's statement, he asked him where the boys' campground was.

"Oh, and they threatened to come shoot us with their Glock tonight." Jeff mentioned just as the cop was about to start walking. "Did you say Glock?" the cop asked nervously, he was sweating even more now.

After some clarification and confirmation that Uncle Scott in fact had an SKS and it really did have a 60 round clip, and that Jeff also had his AR15 and that it indeed had a 20 round clip, asked if they would mind accompanying him to the boys campground.

When they got to the campground as they approached,the cop took out his own gun, looked at it, then back at Uncle Scott and Jeff, shook his head, and put his gun back in his holster, took out his pen and pad, and told them to follow him into the campground. 

Seeing the cop, the boys became scared and were now cooperative. The cop asked if they had brought any guns and to let him see their permits and licenses. The boys brought out 4 handguns, 2 of which were Glocks as promised. As he examined their IDs and paperwork, the cop motioned for Jeff and Uncle Scott to come over.

"OK, keep an eye on them while I run these through the computer in the my car."

A that point Uncle Scott took over and before anyone could say anything, he pulled the SKS out on its strap from his neck, cocked the bolt and yelled,

"OK! Every one of you cocksuckers down on the ground, NOW!"

The cop sighed and looked at Jeff resignedly with a look of "Really?", and trudged back to his car. After a few minutes, he came back, pulled Jeff to the side and said, 

"OK, I've just called in for backup, 4 of them have outstanding warrants, so they are all going in, tell your uncle to keep an eye on them for a while longer."

The next morning, Jeff went back to the now empty boys campgrounds, and kicked aside the ashes in the now dead fire, and saw his iPhone sticking out halfway buried in the black and grey ashes. The battery had exploded and was oozing a reddish fluid, the glass had shattered and was completely burned through. Jeff wiped it off and put it in his back pocket and went back to his uncle at their campground.
Later when he got back home, Jeff pulled out his burnt iPhone and looked at it sadly. Suddenly his eyes lit up and he quickly opened the sim card slot to check it out, maybe it had survived! The wafer thin card slid out of the slot and Jeff examined it carefully holding it up to the light of a desk lamp. He excitedly pulled out his old iPhone 3 from a desk drawer, and slid in the card carefully, and prayed as he powered up his old phone.

The familiar Apple startup icon appeared, and Jeff's face turned from anxious hope to a relieved grin as all of his information restored itself gloriously to the old round bottomed iPhone 3. 

Several days later, when Jeff told me this story, I asked him, 

"So, are you now going to get another 4S, or are you going to wait for the 5?" 

 "What do you think, puto?" Jeff said and grinned.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Taking Advice From Successful People

Recently I received one of those how to succeed, pump you up articles. This one was called "9 Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People" a piece written for Inc. by Jeff Haden. You know the drill, the usual if you emulate those who are successful, it is supposed to rub off on you.

This is almost always a distraction from the primary key element that I have found almost always missing in my own professional life and I am sure yours, namely Dumb Stupid Fucking Luck (DSFL).

Proof? DSFL seems to be inanely prevalent in those individuals labeled “Successful” who now sagely dole out their painfully obvious advice on how they got to be so successful.

Here's an offset of the real world we, who are not so lucky to be sages, live in, against the obvious advice of the sages.

Jeff says that his friends or the successful folks he writes their books for, come from different industries, yet have a common "approach", a "perspective and belief" if you will, that makes them successful. And that it works! Jeff thinks that this is the common reason why they are all so successful.

Rather, my own conclusion, based on the same observational powers as Jeff, is that the real thing that successful people have in common is DSFL. Just using the law of averages, I am pretty sure that I am right and that Jeff is wrong. That, and add to it that rarely can any of the successful repeat their initial trick, that they now claim was their plan all along. From scratch. Without using their past success as the launch pad for success #2.

Do it twice fairly, and I will believe that you are indeed a Golden God. Can’t pull it off again? Means I’m right.

Here's a simple Test:

The following people are the topmost successful people in history. Obvious for their success, or you should know what their success was. The test is to name the second success they had, that was not based on their first one.
Henry Ford      R. H. Macy     F. W. Woolworth      Soichiro Honda     Akio Morita (Sony)
Bill Gates     Harland David Sanders     Walt Disney     Jerry Seinfeld     Elvis Presley

But before I proceed to burst your bubble and explain why you personally haven't "made it" yet, and possibly offer that you may never "make it" statistically, let me qualify why these "success stories of the rich and successful" are in fact useful.

First, we who trudge around in the trenches need hope. If there is no hope the whole universe will actually fall apart right out of the sky. This can best be seen at your average DMV office. The showcase and epitome of institutionalized professional hopelessness.
The DMV exemplifies what happens to you when you lose all hope. When you go to window "C" or "Info" and ask how to replace the drivers license you lost when you got carded at the bar even though you are over 30, the life-sentence DMV staffer will tell you “You need to go to window K for that”. Then when you go to window "K" the same person has walked over and will look you in the eye and ask "How can I help you?" with less emotion than they gave you at the Info window "C".

Or, consider that the DMV has a dress code for dress down Fridays. Khaki pants, Denim button down long sleeve shirt. No exceptions. They don't want you to think they are not professional. Hope is what keeps you from working at the DMV and wearing a Denim shirt with Khakis on Fridays.

The second reason why these stories are useful is they offer a good goal to shoot for. OK, so that's another way of saying Hope. Stop trying and you can't become successful. If you don’t play, you can’t win. Or according to my theory, get DSFL. 
So, here are my reality checks in response to Jeff's "9 Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People". Most of these appear to be post-success philosophies, since almost none of them would get past your average weasel Mid-Manager Level I, who has to nip you in the bud, in order to get that coveted Senior Mid-Manager Level II spot. 

"If that bitch Suzie wasn't in the way. Her numbers are totally unbelievable, she must be fudging them. Why can't Mark see that I am the better choice? I mean we play golf every Friday, do you know how many putts I've blown on purpose?" Yeah, reality.

“1. Time doesn't fill me. I fill time.” Jeff would have you believe that successful people don't work to deadlines. They work quicker than the assignment or task and then fill that remaining time doing more work than everyone else.

Reality: If you do the work faster, they will only give you more work to do. If you do anything too well or too fast, they will punish you for making the rest look bad, and then make you do what you obviously and apparently now "love" to do, for the rest of your life. Always try to Fail up.

“2. The people around me are the people I chose.” Jeff doesn't seem to see the "Duh" factor here. Even though he says it quite eloquently. “Successful people are naturally drawn to successful people.” No argument here, Jeff.

Reality: You don’t get to choose who you work with. That, like most success I argue, is DSFL. Treat everyone fair, don’t talk behind anyone’s back, and well, don’t talk so much. It’s how thoughtful and ponderous you look, not what you actually think. When you do speak, choose vague subtle statements and concepts that upper management can get.

Something like ”There are a lot of realistically cost effective options that we can consider for this challenge Bob, we just need to find the solution that gets the best result for the least cost.”

“3. I have never paid my dues. Remarkably successful people never feel entitled--except to the fruits of their labor.”

Reality: I am stunned by the audacity of this statement. Until I realize that it is of course absolutely true. A successful person benefiting from DSFL couldn’t have possibly had any time to pay any dues, so hence the obvious philosophical insult. The sudden speed of success makes one think you can cut corners, bypass, and end-around to get to your destination.

You actually can’t.

More often you don’t have the authority to make any big decisions, and if you do, your superior is waiting to take the credit for your moment of misguided bravery. Only if it succeeds. Which it rarely will. If it fails, which it almost always will, you are on your own, and your boss will weigh taking the heat for your “moment” from his/her boss, over letting you try out your ideas, just in case you somehow get DSFL. Then prepare yourself to find out he/she told the boss that it was his/her idea all along. To reward you or shut you up, he/she will take you along when he/she gets promoted. Go with him/her.

“4. Experience is irrelevant. Accomplishments are everything.”

Reality: Actually this one I know does not work. Especially in that crucial job interview. There is a nose or sense of smell that an HR or Mid-Manager has that can sniff the scent of unlikelihood on you. If something seems too good to be true, it is usually bullshit. Even if it is true.

“5. Failure is something I accomplish; it doesn't just happen to me.” This and the other moronic concept that the more you fail the more you learn from failure, and that successful people fail a lot or that you should “embrace” failure. I disagree. I think successful people  fail about the same amount as anyone else. They just say that to avoid the harder explanation for DSFL. Because no one mentions the nutritional value and health benefits of failure when they are unsuccessful, they always do it after they have become successful. Then it suddenly becomes an obvious chantable mantra.

Reality: Failure is something you knew would happen, but ignored the many warning signs and sirens in your head telling you not to do it, and then you finally failed to avoid failure. Usually this is the result of someone “Tryin’ Shit” they should not be “Tryin’”. It spills over onto you and your colleagues. Quickly. Failure becomes known quickly and is unstoppable. That’s why it is called failure. Kind of like Faith. Or Death.

“6. Volunteers always win. Whenever you raise your hand you wind up being asked to do more.”

Reality: The early bird gets eaten by the waiting fox. Again, show too much enthusiasm, or scare the rest of your colleagues into worrying about what you are really up to, can lead to disaster. Be as average as you can be. It is a marathon with no end in sight, or one that is eventually going to head towards a cliff. You don’t want to actually win this race. Coming in third or fourth is just fine. If you are first or if you sprint, you may not be able to stop fast enough to change course.

Not too hot. Not too cold. See the Porridge. Be the porridge.

“7. As long as I'm paid well, it's all good. Specialization is good. Focus is good. Finding a niche is good. Generating revenue is great.“ Again, audacity and cocky philosophies especially comes with undeserved success. Or DSFL.

Reality: if you are paid well, you are usually overpaid. Don’t ever be overpaid. if you are, you are a target for the slightest RIF (corporate parlance for “reduction in force”, or layoff). If you get laid off, yes, it might very well be the “best thing that ever happened” to you, but you will only say that if you become successful. Which will only happen if you get DSFL.

“8. People who pay me always have the right to tell me what to do. Instead of complaining, work to align what you like to do with what the people who pay you want you to do. Then you turn issues like control and micro-management into non-issues.” Or, listen to whatever they tell you and then do whatever the hell you want afterwards

Reality: Not a good idea if you get caught. And unlike DSFL, disobeying an order or “going off the reservation”, is the anti-DSFL. And yes, you will get caught every single time. Meet expectations. Barely. Survive. Don’t thrive. The fat get eaten first. The lean are too stringy.

“9. The extra mile is a vast, unpopulated wasteland. That's why the extra mile is such a lonely place. That's also why the extra mile is a place filled with opportunities. Be early. Stay late. Make the extra phone call. Send the extra email. Do the extra research. Help a customer unload or unpack a shipment. Don't wait to be asked; offer. Don't just tell employees what to do--show them what to do and work beside them. Every time you do something, think of one extra thing you can do--especially if other people aren't doing that one thing. Sure, it's hard. But that's what will make you different. And over time, that's what will make you incredibly successful.”

Reality: I left this one completely intact, because this completely exemplifies the utterly cluelessness of successful people with DSFL. “Going the extra mile” is code for kissing up. And the punishment for it is swift and harsh. Usually meted out in generous portions by Mid-Manager Level I. With glee. Make an extra phone call, or send an extra email or do some unauthorized research, and you risk jeopardizing an already sensitive customer or vendor relationship. Better to not meddle. Especially if it ain’t broke. Help a customer unpack or unload? And you risk a union lawsuit.

Be different and be let go.

Final Reality: There is no statistical possibility or probability that everyone will be successful. Most of us will not become successful. It’s not so much that the world needs ditch diggers, but it kind of does. And like a bee sting, or a lightning strike, or a bird shitting on you in mid-flight, the harder you work, the luckier you might get, and sooner or later, or never, you just might find yourself staring straight into the gleaming jaws of DSFL.

Shortly after that, your phone will ring. It will be Jeff asking you what the secret of your success was. Give him any or all of the 9 above. Or make  9 up. Then Jeff will ask to write your book for you. Let him.