Thursday, October 30, 2014

Creativity - Curiosity

I am listening to a CD series on how Da Vinci thought. One key skill he had was curiosity. He was probably one of the most curious people to have ever existed. Now curiosity is one of the primary skills that helps increase creativity. When was the last time You had an idea? Being curious is one of the best ways to create new ideas. When was the last time you asked a question? Being curious is one of the best ways to find things to ask questions about. When was the last time you did something new? Being curious is a great way to find new things to do. What are some ways to be more curious? Ask questions, seek to understand, take notes, go and look, talk to people, read new books, take some more notes, and keep a journal. Curiosity is like a muscle. The more you practice being curious, the more curious you become. The more curious you become, the more creative you will be.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Coercion - Doesn't Work Well

If you have to force people to do something, then maybe it's something you should not be doing. Coercion might make someone comply, but you never get the best work or effort from them. The best way to get the best from people is to engage their free will. Always give people options and then when they chose, they are engaging one of the greatest aspects of motivation. What is one of the greatest aspects of motivation? Self-determination. When people feel they are choosing their own path and direction they engage their own self-determination and the result is one of the best ways to engage someones motivation. This is how you get someone to give you their best efforts. this is how you engage someones attention. This is how you get people to move with power and intention.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Economy - Wages

I was reading tonight that the largest employer in the U.S. 50 years ago was General Motors. The average wage in that company at that time was $50 and hour (in today's dollar). Today the largest employer in the U.S. is Walmart. The average wage in that company today is around $10 an hour. My how things have changed. I think that explains exactly what has happened in the U.S. over the last 50 years. We have gone from a manufacturing and production based economy to a retail and service based economy. Unfortunately, retail and service jobs can't pay as much as manufacturing and production based jobs. The margin in profit is not there to support higher wages. For many reasons (which would require way more space) we have squandered what made us prosperous and have become a nation of low wage jobs.

Thanks to globalization and the internet, that will not change. What if government did all it could to encourage manufacturing? How about tax breaks, reduction in regulation and compliance laws, zero interest loans, and maybe a tariff or two on imports (though I know that many times tariffs are counter productive)? Our government could and should be doing much more, but even that I doubt will not help now. It's to late and the U.S. is stuck. We will be a low wage job economy for the foreseeable future. I feel sorry for future generations. They will probably never know how good things could be (and were).

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Personal Improvement - Why?

I think that one of the most important important questions we can ask is why. Why should we do this or that? Why should we sell this or that? Whys should we build this or that? Why should we go here or there? Why should we buy this or that? Why is at the heart of all good decisions. Unfortunately, we do not ask it enough. I know I don't. We also do not ask it as a society. Why do we need public schools? We just assume we do. Why do we need big government to solve our problems? We just assume we do? Why do we need certain laws, or more taxes, or more regulations? I could go on and on, but I think I made my point. We do not ask why enough. We also do not ask why at the highest level of our thinking and beliefs. Maybe if we asked why more often we would not have some of the problems we have now.

Personally, asking why is the best thing you can do for yourself. Why doo I do what I do? Why do I have the job I have? Why do I live where I live? Why do I do what I do? If you spend sometime asking why you might be amazed at what you discover.

Friday, October 24, 2014

California - Poverty

I read today that the U.S. census is using a new measure to gage the level of poverty. Gues which state makes the top of the list with the new measure? That's right, good ole California, where the poverty rate is over 23%. I am not surprised because even though we have many people who are above the poverty line, in California being above the poverty line is not enough. The cost of living in California is one of the highest in the nation. If you are too survive here, you need to make much more than just above the poverty line. In fact, to live a modest middle class life style you need to make over $60,000. Since the median wage in the U.S. is about $28,000 and the average wage about $43,000, most people are not even close to making it in California.

So what is California doing about? There is a new move to raise the minimum wage. Will that help? It would if employers actually hired people with low or no skills to work full time at that wage. Unfortunately they will not. There is a reason employers pay low wages to those who have low or no skills. It's because that's all the market will alow. You can't pay some one to do work that the market will pay for. Customers will not pay $10 for a Big Mac. What will happen is that if (and when) the minimum wage is raised employers will slash hours, cut the head count, and automate as much as possible. If that does not keep them profitable, then they will close up shop and move to another state (which is already happening in California). The end result is that employees will make more per hour, but fewer will make more in total pay because hours will be cut, people will be laid off and replaced with technology, or there just will not be any jobs to be had (because the business has moved or closed it's doors). The poverty level will actually increase.

What needs to be done is for the minium wage to be abolished, taxes lowered, regulation streamlined and reduced, workers compensation reformed and made less expensive, union power and influence curtailed, all business related costs lowered as much as possible, and to make the business climate made as positive as possible. Why? Because this will actually create a flood of jobs that will eventually pull people out of poverty.

The only thing that pulls a person out of poverty is a job. The only way that there will be jobs in good quantity (and eventually quality) is if businesses feel that it is in their best interest to be in California. Is that going to happen? Not in my lifetime.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Opinion - Culture and Work Ethic

Does culture affect work ethic? In other words, is it culture that produces societies that seem to be more "laid back" or more "driven"? Or is it some other factor? Based on my living in north and south America and also my travels across north America and most of Europe. Here in my opinion and observation.

I think work ethic has something to do with geography and climate. Since we have all "evolved" around farming, I think that farming (and all the related activities like planting, harvesting, etc...) is a big factor. Northern European cultures tend to be more productive and driven while southern European cultures seem to be more laid back. This makes sense in that it takes much more work to survive in colder climates. In northern Europe the farming season is shorter because of frost and snow. You don't have the luxury of taking it easy. Thus societies in colder regions tend to be more driven (in my opinion and observation). Societies closer to the equator tend to be more laid back. The farming season lasts longer and there is not as great an urgency to get things done (you can take your time harvesting because frost and snow is not necessarily a factor). You can also see this in the U.S. where the south is much more laid back then the north.

What about South America? I think South America reflects a bit of the influence of geography and climate, but it also reflects the huge influence of colonization. I have noticed that the culture in south American countries tend to be like the cultures that colonized them (Argentina like the Spaniards, and Brazil like the Portuguese). I have also notice that the colder the climate, the harder working the population tends to be.

What about Africa and the middle east? I am not sure in these areas since I have not spent any time in the area. I suspect though that climate, geography, and colonization have had their effects. I also think that maybe religion has been an influence as well.

What about Asia? I think there is a different influence in this area and it has to do with farming rice. Cultures that are dependent on rice tend to be harder working than those that don't because rice is very labor intensive and hard to farm. I think that is why you see countries that are closer to the equator in Asia still have a harder working ethic than say European countries that are closer to the equator (or the southern area of the U.S.)

Does that make one culture better than another? No, in no way! it just accounts for some of the differences. Also, cultures are not monolithic. Though some may be more driven or hard working than others, that does not mean every person and that culture is. I also think that each individual also has their own work ethic (or maybe it would be better to call it work style). For example, my wife has a very driven work style. I on the other hand seem to be much more laid back (or lazy as my kids tend to remind me).

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

World News - Terrorist Attack in Canada

The terrorist attack today in Canada came as a surprise to me. First, that it happened in Canada and not in the U.S. or in one of the E.U. countries. The Canadians have not been that involved in the war on terror, so to have them experience a terror attack is surprising. Second, that we have not seen these type of attacks more often. In the west, we have a multitude of soft targets that can be attacked at will. How some gunmen have not attacked a mall or a school or some government office before is surprising considering how unprotected they are. Maybe this is just the first of many such attacks? Can you imagine the effect on our economy in the U.S. if we have gunmen attack our shopping centers or schools? The result would be panic and chaos. So I guess I am surprised that this type of attack has not occurred before, and in the U.S. or the E.U. Then again, maybe it's coming.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Poverty - Lawlessness

I wrote in the past about the moral rot of nations and how that causes them to fall. What then causes poverty? I believe the greatest contributing factor to poverty is lawlessness. That is, the failure of the rule of law and the increasing lawless activities of a population. As I look at countries that have a huge poverty rates I see countries where either there is no justice or crime is rampant (or both). For example, how can people be confident that if they are productive it will not be taken away by criminals or worse, the actions of their government? Why start a business if you are not sure you will be able to keep the profits (or even make one at all). Why plant a field if you are not sure that you can take the crop to market and make a profit? In a country filled with lawlessness and injustice basic economic activity can't take place. No one can better themselves because however they better their lives, it will be taken in one way or another.

How do you fix a lawless situation? The only way is by imposing the rule of law, but you need a lawful entity to do that. You need a lawful law enforcement mechanism and government, which usually does not exist in poverty stricken nations. Maybe what citizens could do is start with enforcing the rule of law in their own neighborhoods and once that is established, then expanding the rule of law to other areas. Is that easy? Absolutely not, and that is why poverty is so persistent. That is also why aid does not seem to help. If you supply aid to a lawless nation it just gets stolen or wasted. It rarely gets to those who need it.

The other issue involved is what happens if the population at large is lawless? Then you have chaos and and there is nothing that can be done. I think this is what concerns me most about the U.S. It is increasingly becoming lawless. There is more and more corruption. The is more and more failure of justice. There is more lawlessness among the population. If the lawlessness persists then we can expect poverty and a host of other social ills to increase. God help us then.

Monday, October 20, 2014

California - When will it run out of money?

Fortunately for California there are plenty of deep pocket democrats, liberals, environmentalists, and technology companies that it might pay it's bills for a while. Unfortunately for the citizens of California, unemployment will remain high (still one of the highest in the nation), taxes and fees will remain high (still one of the highest in the nation), regulation and government intervention will be high (still one of the highest in the nation) the cost of living will remain high (still one of the highest in the nation), and the quality of life will not be all that good (high traffic, crime, and other issues of the like).

I think where California will run into trouble is if real estate and stocks drop in price once again. Much of California's "income" comes from property taxes and capital gains taxes. So if the real estate markets and the stock markets take a dive (which I think they will any time soon), California will have a deficit once again. One other thing that California has working against it is that the state and local governments keep spending more and more. Though the state has a balance budget, it has spent every dime it has taken in and has very little in reserve. One nice downturn and California is going to be hurting.

Well, that was a long way to say that if the economy is fine, California is fine. If the economy tanks, California is going to be in a world of hurt.

One more thing. There has been an exodus of people from the state, but it has mostly been productive conservative individual and businesses. So there is not much left of a conservative base here in the state to keep the politicians from spending as much as they want or get whatever they want (though there has not been many conservatives for many years, there were enough to defeat stupid ballot measures, but that is now gone). So the state keeps digging a whole when it comes to finances and obligations. California's unfunded liabilities are huge and basically will never be paid. There is just not enough money to pay for it all. In the long run, California is doomed. It's not a guess, it's math!

Creativity - Do The Work

One of the enemies of being creative is just not wanting to do the work. You could call it being lazy, but I don't experience it like that. It is easier to just be normal, or like everyone else, or to copy someone or something else. Being truly creative is hard work and I think many times we fail to be truly creative because we don't want to do the hard work it requires to truly birth something new and different. A variation of this is to create something like what you have already created. In this case, you are just copying yourself. Unfortunately, our society sometimes rewards that. If we create something truly new and original, our society sometimes wants more of it and we are left with little option than to go ahead and make something similar. Hey, I've done that because it pays the bills.

True creativity means being willing to do the work it requires. Just go for it and do the work. Don't avoid it. If you have to pay the bills, then go ahead and create something similar to what you have already created, but get started on something new and different as soon as you can. I guess it is a matter of courage. I have also found that the more you work on something different and original, the easier it becomes to start and create something new and different.

Do you want to be remembered for being average or not being able to break out and do something different? Go and start something new as soon as possible and do the work. In the end the reward is worth the effort.