Archive for August, 2011

I am a San Francisco Giants fan.

Last year when they won the World Series I went to the front door of my house, opened it and stepped out into the dark, empty  streets of my neighborhood. I then let out a visceral roar of triumph. A fan’s triumph, not that of a player. But having been a fan since 1958, well let’s just say that particular roar had been in storage for quite some time.

The next day when chatting with another long time Giants fan I said the following:

“The Giants winning the World Series: This was a moment in time. Not a dynasty.”

This year the moment in time has passed and the reality of 2011 has set in. For the Giants to make the playoffs, it will take a wooden miracle. That is the Giants will have to lay wood on leather and begin to hit the ball.

Could it happen? Nothing is impossible in baseball. Anyone who watched the Mets come from behind in game 6 of the 1986 world series cannot doubt that. Anyone who remembers the 1951 Giants impossible 9th inning rally in the 3rd playoff game against the Dodgers, punctuated by Bobby Thomson’s homer, can conjure up miracles.

And the 2004 Bosox down three games to zilch against the Yankees and then coming back to win the pennant with four straight.

Yes, miracles can and will happen.

A year ago the Giants were 6 games out with a month to go. This year they are 5 games down (and perhaps more by the time you read this). But last year they were hitting just enough to win. This year they are hitting just enough to lose.

And I have to remember my own words.

This was a moment in time. Not a dynasty.


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Jobs are changing. More and more manufacturing and engineering jobs are going overseas. Most of us know this. It ain’t gonna stop in the near future. Eventually those jobs may come back as the ratio of 2-3 of them no longer equals one of us. Because if this migration is successful (and it is, mostly) the standard of living will go up in other places and the cost of doing business will go up too.

One day companies will be looking down the barrel of the difference between an engineer or manufacturing individual in Asia being about 8,000 miles rather than three of them versus one of us.

So for the time we must be patient. The jobs (or something like them) will come back. It may be a bit like Pet Semetary but that the cost of burying things and bringing them back. In the meantime there are jobs in the USA, just not the jobs that so many of our paper-chasing students are expecting.

The jobs will be more and more in the service sector of things. Not that the other higher level jobs will go away but there won’t be as many of them.

Parents need to right size things and really think about whether their kids need to be worrying about going to expensive schools especially for as undergrads when there is no pay back.  This is the next bubble. The education bubble. Tuition’s are headed up and in many cases rather steeply.

Why pay the bucks if the ROI isn’t there?

It’s a crap shoot on which student will get a decent job. Most won’t. They’ll just have an expensive degree. Sort of like owning a Ferrari but you can only drive on narrow side streets with speed bumps.


The "Pet Semetary" of College Degrees

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Coach-onthego wants to know your Career song.   Add YouTube video for people to experience it live  http://on.fb.me/CareerSong

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Jobs has left his job as CEO of Apple.

The tributes flow in and from a business standpoint the guy deserves every but of applause he has received.

I never wanted to work at Apple even when the chance was there. I was worried about that moment when Jobs and I would be in the elevator together and he would verbally whap me with one of his famous gotcha’s.

A Jobs gotcha was exemplified years ago when he was CEO of Next. He was walking out to parking lot on a Friday evening with a colleague of mine when a new employee who was just getting in his car waved and told Steve to have a nice weekend. Turns out Jobs had met him at the new hire orientation the prior Monday.

Job snapped at him.

Who the hell are you?

The employee smiled weakly, reeling from shock and told the CEO that he was a new employee.

Don’t talk to me until you have done something, Job pasted him.

The rumor at Apple was that if you were headed towards the elevator and Jobs was on a beeline for the same conveyance, alter course and take the stairs.

There are two Steve Jobs.

1.The innovator and visionary.

2. The leader

He has been a rousing success in the first role. A misunderstood exemplar in the second.

Does that mean he is a failure?


Just a flawed human being like the rest of us.

But for me, it is better I was not heading for that elevator because I would have taken it. And if he decided that I was one of his worthy targets (Never ask of him. He will ask of you) then I would have told him that he had me mistaken with someone he could dump his wrath on.

That would have been the end of my time at Apple.

But in a strange way I understood him. He once raged at HR upon his return to the company in 1997, How could you have let this happened!

Apple was in bad shape after years of mismanagement.

He then proceeded to wipe out 2/3rd of the people in that department. In less than a year they were changed out.

Most of my HR friends were on the good-bye list. They didn’t understand what Jobs meant. But I did.

He was uncompromising in his expectations of employees and he probably felt that they should have immolated themselves rather than let the company die in agony. He did not forgive them for it.

And in that, I understood the man more than most. He is what Ayn Rand called the heroic man. He saw things in his own way and pushed on until his vision was a reality. He is that character she created in her books. The Howard Roark’s, the John Galt’s, the Hank Rearden’s. How often I searched for this person among the many leaders I worked with and for over the years. But here was one and I could not have worked for him.

It is still a good idea that we never met.

It would not have been pretty.


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From "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" by T.E. Lawrence

The world is dominated by big men (and tall women).  Those big men who are cut out to maneuver within the power grid of company politics. Title, Money, Recognition. The Big three traps of the world of work (and politics).

Traps? Why?

These are the things that “they”, the company and our bosses grasp us by when they grip the short hairs of our creativity and individuality. In our compromise of the very talents that makes us unique, we dumb ourselves down to servile drones that in reality make us so non unique that anyone could do our jobs.

Lawrence of Arabia was painfully aware of this when retelling his tale of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War One. The illustration above reflects this. Lawrence was not even 5’6″ tall and he wore Arab clothes while surrounded by British serving officers, is peers who wore the stiff military uniforms of the Empire. Perhaps the picture is an over dramatization but being rather short myself, I get it.

A friend asked me the other day how my life might have been different if I had been 6 feet tall instead of 5-6 inches shorter (Help! I am shrinking).

From my gut I said “Well, it would have been altogether different.” No height complex (that’s long gone but it drove me years ago). No drive to know my own uniqueness. Maybe a more mainline personality. Maybe the drive for more power, money, recognition instead of the quest for individuality. Power over influence.

The Java Programming never saved. Microsoft telling us what we could and could not run on the desktop.

Yeah, it would have been different.

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2011 has been an amazing year in the Middle East. The people of Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya have thrown off old dictatorships and have publicly claimed their freedom  and liberty. Syria is in the midst of trying to put down protests that keeps blazing up like a forest fire that refuses to die. Iran watches in its guarded manner knowing that it theocracy could topple easily if they lose control. The Mullah’s than Allah for the presence of the army and its willingness to carry out their will.

The Middle East is like an onion that is being peeled. It looks great on CNN and Fox even though both networks have a tendency to show the shame pictures over and over again while some blond asks another blond to illuminate us.

The truth is tough. The Middle East is not a place of peace. It is a place of wars. Go back and look at its history after the gradual fall of the Ottoman Empire.

These dictatorships were not enlightened. They were mostly bad for the people of the countries that lived under the weight of their master’s cruelty. When you add the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, you begin to see that not even old hegemony is safe when the people rise up.

Of course we have helped. Especially in Iraq and Afghanistan but in the latter case what government fell and what has replaced it. Seems to me, more of the same. Iraq is in  transition. We’re still there so what that country will become is still to be decided despite our worst attempts to create a Western Democracy.

Egypt, Libya and Tunisia could become fundamentalist Islamic states. Theocratic in nature. It happened in Iran which was very westernized. If this happens the USA becomes the enemy because fundamentalist Islam hates the West, no matter what it says. The West gives the promise of freedom while the Middle East Theocracy gives the people  more of what they had. Freedom to be what a oligarchy of mullahs tells them they should be.

This is all up for grabs. Egypt will soon have “free” elections and one of the leading political parties is fundamentalist in nature and does not support good relationships with Israel or The West.

War, war and more war.

That is the promise.

The USA may regret the passing of these terrible dictatorships for two reasons.

1. The new ruling elite will not be friends with the West.

2. The spread of fundamentalist Islam in countries that we would otherwise do business with.

It is in the hands of the people of these countries. What sort of liberty and freedom do they really want? The revolution in Iran held great promise and quickly became a failure in terms of true freedom.

Is that what the people Egypt, Libya and Tunisia want?

The peeling of this onion may end up making us cry.

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Human Resources people are cowards by and large. They hide behind rules and regulations and policy and procedures instead of going in harm’s way.

Harm’s way, by the way is watching over the business. THE BUSINESS. Is the company maximizing it potential to be successful? Are HR people bringing these issues to the forefront and helping management to deal with them in a constructive manner?

I have worked at enough companies in my time (too many companies in fact) to know what my experience tells me.

The answer is NO!

The latest rage is to call themselves business partners (nice moniker) and then sit in meetings and consider that they have arrived. The truth is something else. The bulk of HR people are great for administrative stuff and to handle the dirty work like firings and layoffs. God forbid that they should have an opinion on the business. As a matter of fact God forbid that they have an iota of understanding about how the business works.

No wonder more and more HR departments report to finance or legal. Frankly, based on performance, that’s where they belong. They do best pushing paper from one side of their desk to the other and of course, sit in meetings and take up space.

I know a few real business partners but most of them are marginalized by the expectations of the people who they work for. They are submarines who can’t submerge. Pitchers who can’t pitch.

A new generation of people are becoming HR Professionals. We will see if they have any guts.

Those of you who work in companies: Ask your HR people to explain the business. Ask them how your product is developed and  works. See what the answer is. The truth is out there lurking.



HR Conference


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