There is no security: Helen Keller, St. Augustine, and Woody Allen

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
— Helen Keller

The concept of “security” in business — and in life, as Helen Keller observes — is a Chimera.

You can start with the fact that we are mortal, and that our existence is both tenuous and brief. As a great philosopher once said, “ain’t none of us getting out of here alive.”

So the very idea of trying to create a safe haven is absurd on the face of it.

“The things of this world go where they were always going, so that they shall not be. And in their passing they shred the soul with sick desires because the soul longs to rest secure among the things it loves. But in these things there is no resting place. They do not stay, they go.” — St. Augustine, Confessions.

If you’re an entrepreneur, a business owner, the concept of security is both useful and useless. Twenty years ago when I left a very good job at a very good salary to start my own business, I sometimes was asked the reason. “Security,” I would reply. Since most people associate “security” with a “job” a lot of people found this answer confusing. But I knew that if I had a “job” I could be fired at any time for any reason. If I built a business with lots of clients/customers, they could fire me, too, but it was very unlikely that they would all fire me, at once. Thus, owning my own business was more “secure” to me than working for someone else, no matter how great the job.

Now, I am asked by new clients “How long ‘til I feel secure? When will I be able to relax and know I have it made?” And I usually answer, “Never.”

Success is never permanent. You have to get up the next morning and do it again. And really, you should relax. The universe is expanding and everything is going to explode anyway.

The Package Is The Product

From Print magazine:

Brands That Will Make You Popular

For the most part, people like to associate with winners, consciously and unconsciously. When Doctors Neilissen and Meijers in the Department of Social Psychology at Tilburg University formulated research on brands and social structures they found,”Contemporary consumer culture can be characterized by its primacy on material expenditure as a means of establishing and defining social relationships.” In other words, the brands you wear influence the way people treat you.

In the Tilburg study, students were placed in several areas of a large mall and told to approach shoppers and ask if they would take a brief survey. Some surveyors wore shirts without insignia, others wore polos with a high-end brand logo. Care to guess who was afforded more time by shoppers?

Yes, those who wore high-end logos were obliged 52.2 percent of the time, while unlabeled surveyors got affirmatives just 13.6 percent of the time, prompting the researchers to note, “This supports the prediction that luxury displays yield benefits in social interactions.”

The same researchers also studied how a job applicant would be viewed based on clothes label branding. The results skewed toward the applicant with the luxury label who interviewers found more suitable for the job.

The Pope’s Wise Decision

I make no pretense of passing judgment on the pontificate of Benedict XVI. Although a baptized Catholic (by Cardinal Cushing of Boston, no less), I have accidently missed Mass for the last, oh, 55 years or so. If I ever went back and went to confession, the next in line would have to wait for a year.

I also make no pretense of judging Benedict’s policies on, or responsibility for, the sexual abuse by priests, opposition to birth control, condemnation of gays, or refusal to admit women to the priesthood. We can have all those fights another day, and I daresay that Benedict may eventually be judged as wrong on all of them.

Nonetheless, I admire what the Pope has done in resigning his office, scheduled to take place later this week.

I have a pal whose mother is 91. His father died six years ago, so his mother lives alone. Last year, while driving, she sideswiped three parked cars. The police came to the house and took her license away. The family has various financial interests (they own a shopping center) and his mother continues to run these, sending out rental invoices on an old typewriter and paying the bills. But of course, she has become increasingly forgetful, can’t recall what bills she paid and when, and so on. It is the same situation with her investment portfolio, savings and other financial affairs, right down to the electric bill at her home.

On top of that, she is cantankerous and views with suspicion any attempts to help her.

What is my friend to do? He could go to court and attempt to be named guardian, but the fact is, he loves her. He doesn’t want to be in an adversarial position with her. All options have been explored, including in-home help. She is adamantly opposed.

For obvious reasons, most of us don’t like stepping aside. Look to the world of sports for myriad examples of great players who didn’t know when it was time to go; who hung on and tarnished their own legacies.

Many of my clients are elder law attorneys who see (and help with) these sorts of situations every day.

Pope Benedictus XVI

Pope Benedictus XVI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pope, at age 85, has wisely recognized that he lacks the physical and mental strength to deal with one of the world’s most demanding jobs, and he has found a way to gracefully step aside, despite 600 years of tradition (that’s how long it has been since another pope resigned).

The words of Benedict to residents of a Rome facility for the elderly a couple of months ago hint at his upcoming decision:

“I come to you as Bishop of Rome, but also as an old man visiting his peers. It would be superfluous to say that I am well acquainted with the difficulties, problems and limitations of this age … At times, at a certain age, one may look back nostalgically at the time of our youth when we were fresh and planning for the future. Thus at times our gaze is veiled by sadness, seeing this phase of life as the time of sunset.”

Bravo to Pope Benedict for not clinging to power, for not standing in the way of the energy and strength that younger man might bring to the job, for becoming again Joseph Ratzinger. And may his action be an inspiration to other seniors, who could benefit from letting go of the burdens and responsibilities they have carried for so many years.

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SmartTalk, episode 23

Click below to listen to SmartTalk, episode 23, in which Victor and Mark discuss their encounter with ebola woman; the beauty of Minute Suites; Victor’s new reality show: My Three Sons; how Mark would have run the Red Sox; the advantages of consistency; Mark’s burning desire to do a Christopher Walken impression; Victor’s keys to his successful 2012; the employee as profit center; and Woody Allen’s secret success formula.

http://www.smartmarketingnow.com/smarttalk/episode-23/

I Wish I Had Written That — Oh, Wait. I Did.

Every time someone rips off my intellectual property, I feel two conflicting emotions. The first is a little thrill — hey, somebody out there thinks my stuff is good enough to steal! The second is a resentment that is ignited by several aggravation factors. If you didn’t give me any money, I’m annoyed. If you didn’t ask my permission, I’m annoyed. If you didn’t give me any credit, I am really annoyed. If you are a direct competitor of mine and you just took my work, without payment or attribution or a link, well…I’m moving beyond annoyed to…aggravated.

So, here is an article that has been up since October on a competitor’s website: attorneywebmarketing.net.

My first reaction on reading it was, “My, that’s awfully well written.” (Ha!) My second reaction was, “Hey, wait a second…”

Here is an article written by me a long time ago (Feb. 2005), published in a law journal, and featured on my company’s website.

Mind you, I’m a nice-enough fellow. If someone called me and said, “I’d like to reprint your article, giving you full credit” I’d have said okay — even if that person was a competitor. I’m down with the abundance philosophy: plenty of work for everyone. I’m not so down with competing against my phantom self, however.

So, let’s see…possible explanations. Perhaps Brian French hired some (foreign?) firm to create content for his site, and they are the culprits, and if he knew about the plagiarism, he’d be horrified? Perhaps he, or someone working for him, was lazy and intended to call me and seek permission — but just forgot? I know, god do I know, that creating new, worthwhile intellectual content requires time and thought and work. It would have been easy enough (even without my permission) to have written something that said: “Great article on creating elder law referral sources here” with a link to my article. But instead, it seems, this was deliberately presented as the work of Brian and/or his company.

So, what to do, what to do? Call Brian French and ask him to take it down? Call my lawyer and send a formal cease-and-desist letter? Do nothing, forget it, don’t worry about it?

Or perhaps just write this blog post and hope that embarrassment accomplishes the task?

You have to decide how much you want it

(Disclaimer: I know the grammatical difference between “bad” and “badly.” I’m going for a certain tone here.)

There are lots of things I want, but not enough. Not enough to work and sacrifice to get them. Not enough to spend hard-earned money. Not enough to spend that most precious commodity — time. Not enough to ruin my self-image by sucking at it. Not enough to give up some other thing that I want.

I’d like to speak Chinese. If I could add Mandarin to the English and French I already have, then add Spanish, I could probably communicate with 80 percent of the people on earth. (No idea if that’s true. I just made it up.) But you know, I don’t want it bad enough to study languages 3-4 nights a week for a couple of years.

I want to read every single book on marketing that has ever been written, but not enough to stop watching the Patriots on Sundays in the fall, or the Red Sox pretty much every evening in the summer.

I want ten new clients for SmartMarketing. My kind of clients. Do I want it bad enough to put in the time, make the phone calls, speak at the conferences, put together the emails — to devote the coming months to sales? It seems like a lot of work, a lot of time. There’s a risk that whatever I try won’t work.

I’d rather not. I’d rather you would all line up in my reception area, and wave your checkbooks at me.

Maybe I have enough clients. After all, I’m doing okay. Bills are paid on time, and I’ve got a few bucks left over for toys.

The question is: how bad do I want it?

Maybe I don’t want it bad enough if it will take a lot of time, or costs money, or involves hard work, or carries an element of risk.

I’m afraid that’s how most attorneys I meet think about marketing.

They tell me that they don’t have the money. That’s okay, I say, you could write blog posts, go to networking events, write a book — all of which are free or nearly free.

I don’t have the time, they say. Plus, I don’t have any talent for writing. And I really don’t like those networking things.

But that’s not the real problem, is it? The real problem is, they don’t want it bad enough.

We all play by the same rules. Our time is limited. Our discretionary funds are limited. Our attention span is limited. Our risk tolerance is limited. Our courage is limited. If we want to accomplish something, we are going to have to overcome some of those limits, at least some of the time.

If you want to grow beyond where you are today, you’ll have to go figure out which of those limitations you want to overcome. As for me, I’ve decided I really want those 10 new clients, so in the new year, I am going to take some risks, spend some money and bust my ass.

It might not work. But it won’t be because I don’t want it bad enough.