Archive for April, 2008

practice from the trees

Posted in personal on April 22, 2008 by barryshapiro

Read an article on golf today – the sport not the car – I came across some great advice that’s applicable to just about any sport or business, or really any sort of relationship.

Dean Reinmuth, a leading golf teacher, and an early coach of Phil Mickelson, says “everybody hits bad shots. The best players practice for it. But do amateurs?” Reinmuth’s approach is to take a stroll in the woods or rough near the fairway with a bunch of balls and practice recovering from bad shots. I read this and a light bulb went off in my head. Now, I do enjoy a round of golf now and then and I can tell you that I have probably spent about as much time over the years in the trees as I have on the fairway but I never once thought of practicing recovery from those errant shots.

What if I applied this tip to other areas of my life! What a brilliant concept. Not that we always are clairvoyant enough to see those tress ahead of us in business or in our marriage but there are ways to think our way through the rough patches in advance and be prepared for the high grass, fallen tree branches, roots, twigs, leaf piles and discarded beer cans that might lie in our path, just like on the golf course.

OK, my advice to myself today is THINK! Think of what can go wrong and think about ways to overcome those things, big and small, that can really screw me up. This is good! I like this idea. Kind of like ‘channeling’ or something. I won’t just practice my home run swing in the mirror, I’ll practice my bunting too!

investing

Posted in personal on April 22, 2008 by barryshapiro

I have heard it said that there are only two things in which you can invest: time and money. In order to be successful you have to do both. Usually it is easier to do one over the other but together it seems that you stand a better chance of achieving what you what.

The toughie is money. Most people don’t have a problem giving up at least a little bit of their time if they think it’s going to get them somewhere. But ask that same person to dip into his wallet and it’s often another story. I don’t mean invest in the market or some MLM scheme. It’s easy to get people to dump money into a get rich quick scheme or a stock that promises big returns. I mean invest your money in something less tangible, like your education or a new and expensive tool that can help you get the job done faster.

I remember when the first desktop home computers came out. When I saw my first IBM box with a lack monitor that had orange type and ran DOS, I knew that the world was about to change. Still it was a good four or five years until I went out a bought a computer of my own. By that time they were becoming ubiquitous and I was obviously hurting my business by not having one. So, what took so long? Well, I admit to being a bit overwhelmed by the technology, but also I was put off by the cost. My feeling was why should I invest a couple of thousand dollars in a machine when I have been getting along without one so far? By waiting for so long I probably lost out on some business that I could have had if I had more time, which the computer would have afforded me and saved money by not making as many mistakes, which the computer could have eliminated.

It is also a lot easier to throw money at something that will bring immediate pleasure than something that will only bring some intangible benefit down the road. While I wasn’t spending thousands on computers, I was spending much, much more than that on things like my classic MGB sports car and fat Cuban cigars.  And some illegal pleasures as well. OK, I did enjoy myself. But looking back now, it seems I could have benefited from a more long term view. I could have used that cash to invest in my education and my portfolio. I like real estate and have done well with some investments but realize I could have insured my retirement with just a few modest investments at the time.

I cannot say I have regrets. I don’t believe in them. I did what I did and I stand by it. But in hindsight, I could have had a V-8!

choosing

Posted in personal, Uncategorized with tags , on April 18, 2008 by barryshapiro

Recently I learned of the “Monty Hall Problem.” Not heard of it? It’s a well known theory among psychologists  in the study of what they term ‘cognitive dissonance’ (you can look it up) and it has to do with people’s remarkable ability to rationalize their choices. According to John Tierney in the NY Times, here’s how it works:

Monty shows you 3 doors with a car behind one and a goat behind the other two. If you open the one with the car, you win it. You start by picking a door but before it’s opened Monty will always open another door to reveal a goat. Then he’ll let you open either remaining door. What do you do? Stick with your original choice or choose the other door?

The answer may surprise you. With only two doors left the answer is 50-50 that the car is behind one of them. But when you stick with Door #1, you’ll win only if your original choice was correct, which happens only one in 3 times on average. If you switch, you’ll win whenever your original choice was wrong, which happens 2 out of 3 times! Makes sense right?

So, what does this tell us about the choices we make every day? Maybe nothing… maybe something. It seems to me that we are always second guessing ourselves and in many cases, second guessing our second guesses. I guess that’s third guessing? Then, no matter what the outcome, we rationalize our decision to justify the outcome. (“I picked Door #1 because it had a green stripe and green is my lucky color and it was the day before St. Patrick’s Day).

Of course, the best we can do is make informed decisions based on the facts we have at hand. But facts can change as our perceptions change, situations can change, people change so we make our best educated guesses on what to do and where to go with what we have at hand. Or we can calculate the odds and roll the dice based purely on statistics.  Then we wait to see what really is behind Door #1.

 I have always been one who made a decision based on gut reaction as much as on facts. Then I stick to it no matter what. Then, after the result is in, if it doesn’t work I second guess myself to distraction. If it works out then I gloat! Most of the time, my gut has served me well.  

Lately, however, I have noticed a new approach in my decision making and rationalization process. Stick with the facts. If I just look at what I know at that moment to be true and take the emotion out of the equation, I find myself satisfied no matter the outcome and there is no second guess, or third. So even if I get the goat, I can be satisfied that I made the right decision for me.

And now here’s where the Monty Hall Theory comes in… it’s OK to change your mind!

So, I pick Door #2. And, at the very least, I have goat stew for dinner!

 

 

 

 

Finding That Place

Posted in personal on April 10, 2008 by barryshapiro

It seems that no matter what your endeavor, your career path, your life choices… it all comes down to one simple, fundamental relationship… the one you have with yourself. This is the one I’ve struggled with the most. I’ve struggled with women, bosses, clients, friends and family of course, but, when I was able to step back and really observe what my trials and tribulations were all about, it always came down to me.

Do you know that saying that goes “when you point a finger at someone in blame there are 3 fingers pointing right back at you?” In my life I have spent a great deal of time looking at those 3 damn fingers trying to figure out why they didn’t point somewhere else. Unless you are willing to cut those fingers off, you’re always going to have this issue to grapple with.

That means, of course, that the primary adversary you face in life is always there, never leaves you and challenges your serenity in every moment. So how do you attain peace, enlightenment, sanity, when you are battling such a clever demon? The answer, cliché as it might seem, is one once used as the title of a book we all read in the early 70’s by a fellow named Ram Das (Dr. Richard Alpert): Be Here Now.

Easier said than done, you say, and rightfully so. Yet, at any moment, clarity, truth, love and harmony can strike. It happens when you least expect it and it disappears about as soon as you realize you just had it. You can then spend the rest of your [day/week/month/year/life] trying to recapture the moment. You just want to return to that place where you finally knew what ‘it’ was all about. And then, after a while, you forget about it. And then, once truly forgotten, you have the chance to get it again.

Sounds corny but my experience tells me it’s so.

I was thinking back to a moment I had a long time ago. It was probably around ’76 or ’77 and I was a young, headstrong know-it-all (now I’m an older headstrong know-it-all). I was a staff member at that great amalgamation of self awareness, self-importance and self-delusion, the est Training. At the self-actualizing event known then as The 6 Day Course, in the Berkshire Mountains, I was there to assist the participants jump off a cliff… literally.

It was not an ideal day for jumping off mountains. It had been raining and the trails were muddy and slippery. The culmination of this 6 day long intensive awareness training was the ropes course.

Attendees had a chance to test their mettle by sailing down the mountain on a zip line, repel off a steep cliff or traverse a deep ravine by pulling themselves, hand over hand, on a rope they are tethered to. My job that day was to help them off the cliff by making sure their helmets and straps were secure and, at the right moment, ease them off the edge and across the ravine. Normally a simple task, but this day the rain had made the jump off point a bit too slippery. It was determined that it would be better if they would lower themselves first to a small ledge, less than a foot wide and take the leap from that point. So I worked my way down to the ledge and hung there by a rope as another assistant lowered them to my position. To look at it now, it must have been a scary sight. Most of the people participating had never done anything like this in their lives. What they did not know was neither had I.

So there I was, dandling from a rope, trying to not look down, keep my toes on the ledge and maintain a sense of humor about the whole thing. There must have been at least 50, and maybe twice as many, people who were going to jump that afternoon, so I was up there for a while. At one point during a lull in the action I leaned back over the ravine and dared to look down. With the toes of my hiking boots balancing on a sliver of rock and the rope holding me securely to the earth, I looked out at the scene before me: the mountains, the clouds and the granite below. That’s when I had my moment. That’s when it all began to melt into one great logical universe. I was absolutely whole and perfect in a whole and perfect world. I was as clear as I have ever been before or since about who I was and what I wanted and how I fit. It was amazing… I knew my place.

And then the next person slid down the side of the cliff and I grabbed their straps, shook them, checked their straps and helmets and said hello, goodbye.

We all have our moments hanging off the cliff. the question is what happens after you step off the ledge.

The beginning

Posted in personal on April 4, 2008 by barryshapiro

This is all new to me, the blogging that is. Since I like to write, I fancy myself a writer. I don’t think of myself as a great writer, just someone who likes to write and so here I am writing. I hope to be doing this every day. I know I’ll get the hang of it.

There are so many things I have in mind I can’t think of where to begin. So I’ll start at the beginning. Much thanks and love to Ayesha for helping me get started. If you have not seen this girls art work you need to stop reading and go to her site NOW. this is a stupendous talent. And there is not alot of what I would call real talent out there.

There is a seemingly endless supply of people who can use a computer to create designs that basically all look the same. There are relatively few who actually can create art and just happen to use a computer to do it. I am fortunate to not only know some people who create art but I am very fortunate to know the difference when I see it. Sad to say, most people wouldn’t know that quality if it hit them in the face.

They say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” but if the beholder can’t tell the difference between a work of art and a manufactured piece of crap then who the hell cares what the beholder thinks! Let’s face it, most of America has no taste at all.

I mean, last weekend, according to the NY Times, about a skillion more people went to the movies to see Drillbit Taylor than went to see Stop-Loss. That should tell us something.

Chime in anytime.

Barry

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 1, 2008 by barryshapiro

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