Monday, December 29, 2014

Thanks Deepak

Recently we spent a week at the Chopra center participating in the Perfect Health program. What did we learn? What would Deepak do?

Good sleep, good food, meditation, exercise are the ingredients for perfect health. In other words if you want to heal(we probably all could do with little healing) and/or if you want to maintain good health just infuse these ingredients into each day.  This includes mental health. 

Deepak didn't come up with this idea himself. It's the most common sense, most powerful tool to healing. We all know but have conditioned ourselves to forget. Just read between the lines from any healing paradigm from western medicine to Shamanism and you will find this time tested formula. And it works immediately.

Try if for day and feel the difference. Then try it for 2 weeks and feel the evolution. Make it lifestyle and feel the transformation. 

But before we move forward we must listen to our intuition which will tell us what it means to get good sleep, eat well, meditate and exercise because there must me no compromise, or least compromise must come with acute awareness. 

"If you listen to the whispers...."

You will hear that good sleep is 8ish hours starting at 10. Good nutrition is fresh whole food, only food and drink that is good for our body (a hint is that sugar is not good for us), meditation is sitting still without any distraction even if for few minutes(distraction includes cell phone and books), and exercise simply means to move(walking for 30 mins each day counts!!)

"You won't hear the screams" - an Apache proverb

Thanks Deepak for a powerful reminder.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The New Gold Standard

Reading between the lines, it seems that the world, while looking for the new gold standard is nervously holding onto the old.

If I expand my view from this article to the entire internet business section and read between the lines, it seems that the world has found the new gold standard but is nervously adopting it a little bit at a time. Nervous because it's new. Adopting it because it's value is clear.

The new gold standard is adopting a sustainable business strategy on a foundation of strong ethics and principle.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/12/07/sunday-review/the-golden-age.html

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Optimal Performance

We all seek or crave performing optimally. It looks good to onlookers and even if no one is around it certainly feels good to do something well. At work we want to do our jobs well, to make good decisions, to be creative, to be efficient. Playing sports or even board games we try to perform well. At home doing chores, efficiency is optimal. Being part of a family and raising children we want to get it right. Being social, we try to be contributors. It's almost as if trying to perform well is one of our basic instincts.

To achieve optimal performance we look to education, training, practice, and in often, good old fashioned hope. "I hope I do well!"

One of the most powerful tools but yet the most underused and under recognized conduits to optimal performance is nutrition. What, how and when we eat has a huge effect on how we perform. Eating and drinking effects our mind, our body and our resolve.

First order of business is eliminate foods that don't provide nutritional value(and there are many of them), and then find nutritional alternatives for food that is inflammatory. Then put down the fork between each bite. Then don't go and get seconds and certainly be aware of eating snacks. Our bodies are master geniuses and will balance themselves perfectly over time. Give them the right food, and even if we miss a meal here and there over overeat every now and again, and they will take care of the rest.

Within two weeks, without fail, we will start to notice we are stronger, faster, smarter. From Einstein to Djokovic, from an employee sitting in a cube to someone training for their first marathon, from parents to lovers...clarity, awareness, endurance, energy, excitement, fulfillment...will prevail.

"Don't live to eat....EAT to LIVE" as Gandhi would say. 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Being willing to change the concept of myself

These words are advice from Wayne Dyer.  And advice that I embodied last night while trying a couple of yoga poses.  One month ago, after four years of a daily asana practice, I had developed an expectation of what poses I could do and how far into them I could go.  Take a forward fold as an example.  Four years ago, I was lucky to touch my shins.  A month ago, after a few sun salutations, I was able to tilt my hips enough so that my palms could touch the ground. One part of me marveled at the progress, while another part of me was frustrated that my hamstrings were still so tight that I was still far from sandwiching my belly to my straight legs.

Now, after surgery, I can only fold over enough to touch my knees.  Last night my concept of myself was a well progressed forward fold but not far enough.  Because of that concept, only being able to touch my knees, sets off a vortex of frustration and dissatisfaction.  And then I realized, this body that I have at this moment, is my body, is who I am and that I must do my best to experience today with this body.  My physical state now is no different than any other point in my life, meaning that today it can do what it can do, as much as one month ago, it could just do what it could do.  The difference in experiencing life does not depend on whether I can stick my head between my knees, it depends my attention to that moment.

Its time to try and be open to being someone I never imagined I would be...


Why Companies Are Turning To Meditation And Yoga To Boost The Bottom Line

Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna says, "profit is not the goal, profit is the output of a mission driven organization that delivers a consistent product to their customers".  Mr Bertolini fuels this mantra with a personal yoga practice, and a company wide yoga offering.  And per the attached article Promega and others are doing the same thing...successfully boosting their bottom line with yoga and meditation.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/11/mindfulness-capitalism_n_3572952.html

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Be careful what we practice because we will get good at it.

Anything that we do repeatedly is our practice.  Brushing our teeth, checking our emails/Facebook, our daily jobs, eating, driving, exercising, having fun and the many other things that are obvious to the senses.  Not so obvious practices might be procrastination, how we respond to emotions, or our intention behind our actions. Perhaps we wake up each day and think "Welcome to the best day of my life", or perhaps we wake up and think "My job sucks!".  Anything that we do repeatedly, whether its every hour, or every day or every week, is our practice and the more we do the better we get at it and the more it shapes our lives.

What do we want to be good at?  Michael Jordan wanted to win championships so everyday he practiced free throws, dribbling, passing, and running - over and over again.  His mastery of the basics made him great.

First we should look at what we practice, and make sure that we want to good at it.  The next step is thinking about how we practice.  I check my emails all the time, and in this day and age I want to be a good emailer.  However, now that I think about it, checking my email continuously throughout the day seems inefficient, overwhelming and takes me away from other work that is important.  I must start to develop a practice that reduces the amount of email I get and allocate certain times each day for emails.  This practice will be difficult, but the more I do it, the better at it I will become and the more more productive overall I will be.

Our intention rules the roost.  By paying attention to our intention, and by practicing intentions that represent our priorities and who we want to be, then our actions will follow suit.

Practice will make us good at what we want to do and who we want to be.  Start with the basics!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Corporations are our role models

Some believe that we choose our parents. If you don't believe that you must certainly agree that we choose the people that we look up to.  Be it a boss, a mentor, a teacher, a friend or perhaps someone famous.  We choose who influences the way we act and how we think.

Every day, in every way we choose to be influenced by the corporations of the world and in turn corporations help to shape the way we act and think.  Today's technology makes that quite obvious...think iPhone, or Facebook, or Google.  Go back 100 years and think Ford.  Now settle into all the less obvious companies that are part of our lives every day.  Perhaps its the company we work for, or the company with which we partner, and its certainly the companies who manufacture and distribute all the stuff we depend on, from food to fun, clothes to cars, travel to technology.

It seems that choosing the companies that shape our lives is as important as choosing a mentor.

Now lets flip the coin.  Do companies realize their position as role model in this world?  Executives must focus their attention on their impact.  Yes, environmental impact is important, as is social impact. But also the realization that they have a more subtle effect on peoples lives, and that through the matrix of commerce, consumption and corporate structure the general population emulates the behavior of those who run the worlds' corporations.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Accepting Impermanence

I stand naked in front of the mirror and see a colostomy bag hanging from the left side of my abdomen. 

Coming to terms with this new me I realize has many layers. It is a quick study in the importance and effectiveness of leaving the past behind. It is still not such a quick study in not getting sucked in by the future. 

I find myself thinking back to changing my mind about having this surgery, and thinking back to ease and grace of my daily elimination. This nostalgia subsides before becoming destructive when I remember that this change is irreversible. Then I ponder the future. The high maintenance level of a colostomy, being seen with a bag hanging out my clothing, public uncontrolled gastric gas, being intimate. These thoughts linger longer. My mind still does not have to commit to them yet, so they remain as fear. 

In the meantime these thoughts allow me to philosophize. This colostomy is like a balance allowing me to feel the weight of this experience vs what was and what I think might be. It allows me to feel the weight change of what I thought was important, when I look at my priorities through the magnifying glass of the permanent impermanence I see in the mirror.

I went into this surgery, knowing that having a colostomy will not change anything that I want to do with the rest of my life. I went in knowing that that removing the tumor is critical to my healing. I went in knowing that this remedy to this Cancer situation represents my place in time.  

Now I must heal. I must heal patiently, not quickly so that I can take pride in fast recovery. I must take time and let my wounds and my bladder find their way back to functionality, even if it takes longer then expected. I have plenty of time!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Fringe


Silicon Valley is the Fray. It feels like the center of everything as we have settled into a townhouse comfortably nestled between corporate headquarters for Google, Facebook, Apple, Tesla and how many more companies that are changing the way the world lives and thinks. It's nothing like the bustle of a big city but seems to exude as much energy. It's a suburb or perhaps the new urb. The cafes are filled with people talking about growth, innovation and what's best for humanity. The discussions are not inhibited by impossibility. The streets are full of cars, many of them electric one even drives itself. This is the fray. 

Last night we drove less then 10 miles south west and found ourselves  buried in the Santa Cruz mountains. The Sun was on its way down. Golden rolling hills dotted with Chaparral green. The San Andreas fault.  We parked and walked a short distance to view point from where the whole world could be seen. Right about then it sank in. The fringe enveloped me. I felt like I had come home to a place where everything made sense. The wind, the colors, smells. For a brief moment I wanted to follow this moment and this path into infinity, to the leave the fray behind. The moment wrapped around me like a warm blanket and all the uncertainty about upcoming surgery, chemo, finances, my place in the world, fell away. 

I have long known the power of the fringe , but yet I continue to find myself in the fray. Perhaps it's conditioning, but maybe it's the evolution of our species taking its place in my consciousness. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

John of God

We stood in the main hall. Hundreds of us. Dressed in white. Waiting to see John of God. And right then I remembered the wisdom of the Bagavad Gita and thought, we are not waiting, we are practicing Yoga. The yoga of John of God. The first line filed into the Current room, the room where Medium Joao receives people every Wednesday through Friday. Those who sit in the Current, are in closed eyed meditation for 4-5 hours. As the lined filed in, I thought to myself..."now this is yoga!"

It's Wednesday morning and I am here to ask the entities(those Saints and Doctors from Long ago who Medium Joao incorporates) for help in curing this cancer, asking them the remove this tumor.  

I went to Abadainia, Brazil open to all possibility. I left my cynicism, my doubt and my rationalizing brain stateside. Each day I made the ascent from waking up in the world of  the practicality brushing teeth, eating food, and waiting with hundreds of strangers, into a realm where time and space don't seem to exist. This is     not like some supernatural trance, although it might be, it is just what happens when my attention no longer dwells on habitual activity or expectations and I am happy to sit still with no grasping for sensory stimulation. 

Here at the Casa the faith is palpable. Everyone is here to heal. Some are in wheel chairs, or have noticeable ailments. But most seem to look relatively healthy, our imbalances sitting in the far recesses of our mind or body. Our cells crying for help through our nervous system, our emotions, our intuition or perhaps through the lens of a modern medical scanner. Nonetheless, there is harmony and a sense of cohesion. Everyone is there for themselves and yet at the same time ... For each other.

In the 3 days I underwent spirit surgery, sat in the current room, presented notes to the entities of people I know with health challenges, and spent many hours just sitting at the Casa. I experienced transformation. I felt love, the physical feeling of love. It's a deep feeling of awe and gratitude at the life I have, the people I know and the people I don't know. It's a feeling of warmth that courses through my torso leaving peace and contentment in in its wake. 

Does this translate into radical remission...or does it really need to. As an old saying goes...trust in God but tie up your camel.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7KbYpgE7q1w



Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Fast

It occurred to me, that when I have gotten the flu or a cold.  I loose my appetite, and my recovery has been the fastest when I retreat and don't eat anything, even if its for a couple days.  When I force food down my throat as suggested by those hoping to help, I don't get better as fast.   When animals get sick they stop eating for a few days.

It became clear that fasting is our built-in doctor.  Two months ago I started to fast for 24 hours a day, one day a week.  Only water.  And then a few days ago, I completed a week long fast.  Only water.

Day 1 - easy, since I have been practicing.
Day 2 - Hunger pang central - I would have eaten my willpower.
Day 3 - Weak, no energy.  I hunkered down and watched movies all day.
Day 4 - Brilliant - strong yoga, a nice walk, and very productive all around.
Day 5 - Weak again.  Laid low
Day 6 - I felt fine.  Started with a strong yoga, and ran my errands.  Not hungry at all.  
Day 7 - I felt different.  Enough energy to have a normal day.  Started to eat very liquidy light food.

What a week.  Clearly food is not as essential as I would have thought, so its safe to ignore cravings.  Cravings don't mean we need food, cravings mean that I need to satisfy a habit.  Its really amazing how conditioned we are to eat, and what we eat.  At the risk of projecting, I would say that what we do between eating is simply to kill time.  Thats probably a bit of an overstatement, but going a few days without food it certainly seems possible.  It also seems that the line between emotion and food is not dotted but quite bold.  Even in the case of routine meals.  Our bodies and mind know a meal is coming and it changes accordingly, in anticipation.

All things considered, including those not considered...fasting provides tremendous mental clarity.  Going forward if I know that if I am embarking on a project or have to make an important decision...I will first fast for a couple of days.  

Fasting is a portal into a higher level of consciousness. 






The Tumor

After 6 weeks of Chemo and Radiation, and 6 months of radical diet and lifestyle change..."The tumor has not responded that well" - the words of a surgeon after a very thoughtful DRE (digital rectal exam) and digital does not refer to electronic.  This is coming from a person who was not privy to any of my past scans or exams, just what I told him.  He is suggesting that if the tumor is about 3cm, and if that was it size 6 months ago, then its still there.  Its time to remove it!

What terrible news.

But wait, what great news!! The tumor has not gotten bigger.  The CT scan couldn't see it, and only a couple of digits can feel its mass.  Its not bleeding.  It has not gotten bigger.  The cancer cells are living but they are not multiplying...the thing that cancer does best.  Its almost as if the combination of chemo and radiation and diet and meditation overall lifestyle change, has helped this body and brain start to come into homeostasis.  Phase One is complete.

Phase two begins - Diet, rest, remove tumor, more chemo, meditation, laughing, dancing, surfing, loving, back to work....and pilgrimage.  Lets start phase two right where phase one left off and take it from there.  "Every 10,000 mile journey starts with one step."


Monday, September 8, 2014

Tweet from Cerulli

PR Nearly 90% of Managers View Increasing Attention to Environmental, Social & Governance Strategies as Secular Trendbit.ly/1nwF8sl

 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Existential struggle between Bauer and the silence.

Bauer, Jack Bauer from the show 24 last week. Each night we would get sucked into the nail biting drama and then turn off the lights and drift off to a fretful sleep. Watching 24 is so much fun, and I couldn't wait to do it again the next night.  Last night we sat in silence with some opera playing in the background, soft enough so we could hear the nocturnal insects ramping up their evening orchestra, and loud enough to lull us into peaceful contemplation. The starkest of contrasts. 

Today Philipa reflects...."the existential struggle between Bauer and the silence." What's the struggle?

With 20/20 hindsight, I would take the silence(in the form of bugs and opera). However I know the addictive pull of fun TV. It is mind numbing, and feels like a good massage, mind numbing nonetheless. And I look forward to opening Hulu at the end of the day in the same way one can't wait for a glass of red.  But how does hulu play into my  personal growth? Surely after a full day I've earned the right to let my mind be numbed for an hour or two, surely that does not stunt my growth.  I grew and grew all day, and now I'm taking a short rest so I can grow and grow again tomorrow. Perhaps.

But after sitting with the bugs the opera I can feel the difference. Soft stimulation that doesn't require attention, allows the days work to sink in, the evolution is embodied. It's like the "enter button". We spend the day coding but unless we hit the enter button, all it is is computer code and not a functional program. 

Hitting enter is my plan for tonight...or will a new episode of Blue Bloods prevail!!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Does our business look like a big dam?

The mythical giant half snake/half fish...Nyaminyami...is what the Tongan people believe is the god and protecter of the Zambezi River basin.  The building of the Kariba Dam in the 60s angered the Nyaminyami who retreated to the dam gorge from where he unleashed his wrath.  The Tonga people have lost their power and identity, many people have died in the building and subsequent floods, to this day the dam's infrastructure is in danger of failing and the economic backlash arguably contributed to crippling the entire "bread basket of Africa"(the country of Zimabawe).

Or...building dams is just bad business.  As a youngster living in war torn Zimbabwe, I was always intrigued by Kariba and since then I've always been intrigued by dams, wondering if they are indeed good or bad.  As this article suggests, they are bad.  They are industrial ventures that are on the other end of the SEA spectrum.  Communities are destroyed, as is the environment and when its all said and done, their financial strength is  model for what not to do in an economics 101 class.  The heavy loans, social and environmental loss are covered in a shroud of corruption, and "energy for the people" marketing.

Big dams is not SEA business and big dam boardrooms should turn their attention to alternatives for the sake of their own sustainability.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/opinion/sunday/large-dams-just-arent-worth-the-cost.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A7%22%7D

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The GABA effect...

This morning I did my daily yoga practice in the wake of the death of  95 year old yoga guru B.K.S Iyengar.  As my sequence of poses wound down, I spied a photo of Mr. Iyengar at the front of the studio, which prompted me to reflect on the role yoga plays in my life.  

In conclusion I sank into the final pose of lying down meditation realizing that yoga is what I have been  practicing my whole life, and adding the formal practice of poses, breathing and meditation a few years ago, is simply the next step in evolution.  This life long practice of yoga is what we are doing when we pay attention. These yogic moments are when we root ourselves in the present moment in response to fear, challenge, love...when we choose to act in response to something, we are practicing yoga.  When we strive to make ourselves better, we are practicing yoga.  When we unconditionally help another person, we are practicing yoga.

Yoga for me has been carving out a part of each day, to bring awareness to this way of living.  Yoga for me has been to consciously bring this awareness to each of those thousands of moments each day that I am faced with a choice.  The former is easy compared to the latter.  The latter is harder work, and whose reward far surpasses that comforting feeling of drifting off to sleep in a comfortable bed.

Each day I get my downward dog on, and before I step back into the fray, I discover yogic desert...the GABA effect.  GABA is one of our neurotransmitters, increased levels of which provide a calming effect.  Somehow yoga poses increases the GABA in our system, and without fail each day I experience the this experience of calm and clarity.  A feeling that enshrouds me as I stroll back into my choices!!!

Yoga is me taking responsibility for my own evolution.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What would we eat!

Earlier this year when I was coaching the Cate School Squash team, while on a team trip a few of the Cate kids decided to enjoy fast food burgers for breakfast.  As they very happily chowed down on their burgers and fries and cokes, I asked them if they would eat the burgers knowing they had rat poison in them.  Each one of them said...NO.  Then I asked if they could prove there was no rat poison in the burgers.  To that they also said NO and kept eating.

Unless we surfed big waves, most of us would be lucky to hold our breath for 3-4 minutes.  We would be lucky to survive a week without water.  We could probably go without food for a month or two.  This seems to be the hierarchy of our consumption dependence.  Lets take  air for granted and move onto food and water.

Since our life depends on food and water, then surely our quality of life might depend on them as well. At the extreme if you eat food that is bad or tainted, you would feel sick but still live.  At the other extreme if you eat food that is really what your mind and body needs then you will have more energy and more brain power.  Same goes for what you drink.  This possibility doesn't take much scientific evidence to prove, all we need is a week or two of personal nutrition investigation to feel the potential.

Eating for optimal performance is a forgotten art, and its such a paradox, because we all crave higher performance - at work, at the gym, health, video games, socially, in bed! et al.  But yet we so often forget to evaluate our fuel quality and continue to pump in the regular gas.

There are no magic diets out there - from Atkins to Vegan - non of them will work for us.  Because we are each so different.  Nutrition is not about following a diet plan or an archetype diet or a paradigm of eating, nutrition is a balance of what we eat, when we eat and how we each eat and the only way to know what our individual diet should be is to create it for ourselves.  Through personal investigation we should figure out what makes us perform well.

A good start is to stop eating food that is processed with multiple ingredients.  With ingredients we quite often don't know and even if we do, don't really know its individual effect on our performance.  Whole foods like meat, vegetables and grains that have not been given or grown with any chemicals/antibiotics is where we should start and build from their.

Trace amounts of rat poison wont hurt us on any given day...we probably wouldn't even know the difference, but what would its effect be over time?

Corporate Responsibility is here to stay...

Because...."The costs to business and society of getting it wrong and the benefits of getting it right are increasingly apparent"

http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/blog/five-trends-corporate-social-responsbility-global-movement 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Introducing the SEA fund

Over $1 trillion is invested in 720 socially responsible (SRI) Funds. That is up from $200 Billion in 260 SRI funds just 7 years ago.

 After 15 years of working in the financial services industry and four years of working with humanitarian and environmental NGOs, last year it struck me that sustainable and responsible investing is not a gimmick or a fad, but a potentially lucrative way to invest.  I realized that running a company is an expanded version of how we run our personal lives, and that when we live a sustainable lifestyle, it becomes more abundant. 

 So I began the research and I started to find qualitative and quantitative research and meta-analytical experience fortifying this theory. Which led me to the SRI investment industry and I was happy to find a trillion dollars invested in companies with socially and environmentally responsible management.  But as I started to examine the holdings within these funds, the screening process seemed to fall apart, and I was finding companies that were clearly producing unhealthy products, or complicit in ravishing the environment.  One of the most prominent SRI funds goes as far as write the following in their research disclosure...."we may determine that a security is eligible for investment even if a corporation’s profile reflects a mixture of positive and negative social and environmental characteristics.”

 I have whittled down the the hundreds of funds to only two that seem to follow a strong SRI screening process.  Highwater Global, which is an in-house fund run by Baldwin Brothers with $37 million under management and Portfolio 21, which is an open-end mutual fund with $500 million under management. So why so few? Consensus is that it comes down to distribution.  An SRI fund with strict screening will not fall into any existing benchmark or asset allocation, so there is nothing to compare. Performance may trail any given benchmark in the short term.  But as both Highwater and Portfolio 21 have shown that over the long term, they start to run closer to the broad market, if not out-perform. Fund administration costs and high fund employee compensation expectations are most likely another obstacle. 

 But there is clearly a market for an SRI fund that seeks to invest in companies that do not compromise social and environmental awareness when making strategic decisions… companies that strategize for the long term.  From high profile executives like the leaders of Facebook, Google, Whole Foods, Virgin, Patagonia, Tesla et al, to college graduates who feel strongly about the importance of SRI practices, encompass a broad, wealthy and influential market who are passionate about investing in their future.

Our mission is to place a spotlight on the paradigm of human and environmental interdependence. To provide an environment where people can participate in the mission while also enjoying its benefits. How we use our money is an expression of the energy we wish to extend to the world and a direct correlation to what we get back. An investment fund is an active vehicle, which can lead and teach, connect like-minded people, provide objectivity and improve the lives of investors, and simultaneously offer opportunity to under served and under resourced segments of the community.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Money is Power...be conscious how we use our power!!

Consider this...money is the expression of our power.  Where do we invest our power???

Money represents how we use our power, how we respond to power.  How we use money represents our priorities.  If we spend money on someone, whether we are buying them a gift, buying them a meal, perhaps even buying ourselves a new outfit to wear when we see someone...we are we subtly asserting our power.  How about when someone spends money on us, do we feel a bit vulnerable, or that we owe that person - that they have power over us?

If this at all rings true, expand it into the big picture.  Consider what we really want to accomplish - which most likely will include making more money.  Perhaps we want a new car, to run a marathon, to loose weight, to get a promotion or have our own company, to provide for our family, to have our preferred political party elected,  to mend a relationship, to preserve a beautiful piece of nature, to give food to a homeless person, to wake up in the morning with no anxiety, to be seen by others as worthwhile, an investment in our future.  Where and how do we spend our money and where do we resist.  

Take a few minutes to careful consider whats really most important to you and how it aligns with money.  Are there places where you can re-allocate spending, or perhaps take the "conditionality" out of spending and receiving.  How can you best invest in your future and the future of the people around you who matter most?

 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Looking for a better Return on Investment?

If we want to prepare for a marathon, we run a few times a week.  If we want to prepare to be a singer, we exercise our voice.  If we want to make any part of our functionality better, we train...we practice.  What do we do if we want our mind to perform better, to make make smarter, more effective decisions/choices...we must train, we must practice.  This article is not new news, its old news but how many of us train our brains, how many of us practice for making smarter choices?  

We have to be careful what we practice...we will get good at it!!!

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/meditation-for-strivers

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The tide is rising!!!

The most interesting thing about this article is that it is the most emailed New York Times article today,  in an edition of the paper covering a terrible war, a frightening plane crash and a stock market charging through an all time high.  And yet the the article that people find the most appealing, the one we want to share most is about how we become the happiest by being social, by giving our time and energy to others.  Im sure few would argue that the free market is designed by us as a tool to attain happiness, and that seems to be our intention in using it.  When the dust settles though we quite often find that we have over-used the free market and have gone speeding past out happiness zone.  To get back there usually requires us to be more attentive to our family, friends and community, to live with all of their best interests in our mind.

In 50 years of ruling Spain the Caliph of Cordoba enjoyed loyal subjects, fearful enemies, respect honor, power and riches and this is what he had to say in hindsight...."“I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: They amount to 14.”

When we use the free market well, we profit and we live well and fulfilled. The tide of this awareness is clearly rising...

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/20/opinion/sunday/arthur-c-brooks-love-people-not-pleasure.html?mabReward=RI%3A9&action=click&contentCollection=Middle%20East&region=Footer&module=Recommendation&src=recg&pgtype=article

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bees make us more profitable!

"Farmers who planted their entire field would earn about $27,000 in profit per farm, whereas those who left a third unplanted for bees to nest and forage in would earn $65,000 on a farm of similar size."

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/15/opinion/bees-and-colony-collapse.html?mabReward=RI%3A7&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&region=CColumn&module=Recommendation&src=rechp&WT.nav=RecEngine&_r=0

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What would Gandhi eat?

Nothing!

Gandhi is known for his fasting for political reasons, but also he also fasted for health reasons, a practice that goes back thousands of years.

Today, I fast.  With the intention of 24 hours with only water...perhaps some miso soup for dinner.  This being the latest addition to the healing regiment/paradigm.  The research is pointing to fasting being a great way to re-bout the immune system while detoxing the system.  For me the sale was the fact that when we or animals are sick, we go hide under a bush and stop eating until we are better...fasting seems to be one of natures way to heal.  Many doctors are now starting to use fasting as part of their treatment plans for a number of diseases.

Gandhi spent his life experimenting with food.  His mantra was "Eat to live"...not Live to eat.  Gandhi learned what to eat so that he would maximize his potential and his experience.  His diet energized him, made him smarter,  made his body flexible and strong.  

The Virgin says compassion is a competitive advantage

Flying Virgin airlines from booking the ticket to disembarking at the end of the journey may be the most pleasant way to travel.  Why? The employee's ooze love of their jobs.  The prices, the food, the movies, all are so much fun.  But then I pause and say well, I'm flying...probably one of the highest carbon emitters - http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/life/us-and-europes-most-eco-airlines-revealed-173008 - and there you have it!!!  My decisions may not be the most environmentally friendly one, and Virgin is complicit, but at least they are working in the right direction.  In a world where we are all complicit, those who recognize our reality and operate with as much compassion as possible are the most successful!!!

"In business, as in nature, companies that want to survive aren’t mindlessly pursuing profits at the expense of people and the planet; they are smart enough to know that caring and cooperation are key. "

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/234837

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

SEA (Socially and Environmentally Aware) Stock-picking

Investing has become such a complex process that most of us turn over our money MBA’s and Doctorates to manage. The paradigm encourages us to seek Alpha (performance better than the broad market index), which turns into a quagmire of buying and selling that leaves most people worse then the broad market index over 30 years. The potential lesson, is invest in the broad market and leave it and in the end you will more then likely end up with a higher return then anyone you know…easier said then done.

With that being said – if we take our investing to the next level and invest in companies that have clear plan for the long term with SEA corporate policies/principles, we set ourselves up for being even more profitable.

Where to start? Well SEA investing might not be as daunting and as complex as investing as we know it. SEA investing takes our natural born intuition, especially since we are looking for corporate characteristics that correlate to the human condition – who we are. Each of us has as much potential as MBAs and Doctors to identify good companies – in the same way we might make long-term friends or partners or plan for our children’s future or our own retirement.

Here are some guidelines through which I ran the company Costco (COST) – an operator of membership warehouses.

  1. Is the company public - YES

  2. Does the company sell products that are healthy and constructive to people - YES

  3. Does the company charge a reasonable price for their product - YES

  4. Does the company minimize its negative impact on the environment - YES

  5. Does the company treat all employees like partners - YES

  6. Does the company provide fair opportunity to labor and sellers -YES

  7. Does the company donate at least 5% of its annual profit to charity - NO

  8. Does the company’s executive team receive a reasonable compensation – YES

  9. Are the company’s assets greater then its liabilities – YES

  10. Is the company profitable (does the company show a trend of or toward profitability in the last 5 years) – YES


Based on this analysis I would say the only thing that stands out is Costco’s Philanthropy. I believe that SEA companies should be donating at least 5% of their profits back to sustainable charity unless they are clearly redirecting their philanthropy in other directions.

  1. Public companies provide the easiest and most liquid access as investors, unless a private company is offering private investment perhaps in the form of venture capital or private placement.

  2. My Dad shops at COSTCO – a person who boycotts Walmart and has his own vegetable garden, and turns his nose up at anyone with more then 4 cylinders in there car. In my experience Coscto food is high quality and although may not be Whole Foods potential, it provides food and other retail products of a higher quality then most others.

  3. From filet mignon to flat screen TVs, Costco has some of the most competitive prices for the highest quality products

  4. Here is an example of the steps Costco is taking to be an environmental steward - http://www.opb.org/news/blog/ecotrope/12-fish-you-wont-find-at-costco-anymore/ - Based on a quick scan of a google search, in the last 5 years Costco is making great strides in its environmental impact.

  5. This article echo’s much of what is said about Costco on the internet - http://www.enn.com/environmental_policy/article/44802 and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/19/reasons-love-costco_n_4275774.html

  6. There does not seem anything on the web implying that Costco treats its vendors unfairly or sells products which are produced by unfair labor conditions

  7. In 2012 Costco gave away $23.5 Million in cash to charity. Only about 1% of its profit that year

  8. Costco paid its executive team $20 million last year. Yes a lot of money, but also a lot less then other corporations of that size, which tend to average around $35 million

  9. http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bs?s=COST+Balance+Sheet&annual

  10. Yes, and has also outperformed the S&P 500 in the period since it became public

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Day 28

A few days ago was the 28th day of radiation and chemo therapy.  For 25 of those days the radiation was targeted in the area around the tumor, with the intention of targeting any possible cancer in the nodes or surrounding tissue as well as the tumor.  The last three days the radiation was "coned down" to target the tumor directly.

The treatment went smoothly, with the most obvious side affect being a bit of a raw bum and a much more active digestive system(not to be confused with diarrhea).  If anything there were times where I felt like I was a bit hung over...more-so in the beginning of the treatment.

The question now hangs in the air - how the the cancer respond to the treatment.  Since the affects of both the chemo and the radiation are still active, the question won't be answered until I am scanned again in a month.

The other question in the air that keeps getting answered, is am I doing everything possible to cure the cancer and the answer is that I am doing everything possible to heal!  Curing is to get rid of the immediate symptoms, while healing is getting to the bottom of the root cause, so that the symptoms do not reoccur.  The chemo and radiation have been critical to the cure, but only play a small role in my healing.

A doctor recently told me that the source of all disease is the brain.  He admits that he is in the business of curing that disease, but he does not elaborate on preventing the return of the disease.  That is advanced strategy in this day and age, particularly in the science community.  Homeopathic and other healing methodologies are exploring the frontiers of healing. These frontiers are difficult to quantify and quantification is what we look for when making decisions about our well being.  But the good news is we are all living on the frontier.

Take stress for example.  A tangible feeling.  A feeling that doesn't feel good.  A feeling where the source can be identified...if we pay attention.  A feeling we can get rid of.  There is not much argument out there against the fact that stress can lead to disease.  With some patience and some diligence we can decrease our stress and subsequently begin the healing process(or perhaps the process of prevention).  There is only upside - peace of mind and healthy body!!!


The Path of Kyosei

"Many companies around the world believe that they have a moral duty to respond to global problems such as Third World poverty, the deterioration of the natural environment, and endless trade battles. But few have realized that their survival actually depends on their response. Global corporations rely on educated workers, consumers with money to spend, a healthy natural environment, and peaceful coexistence between nations and ethnic groups. This reality is to me a great source of hope: at this watershed period in history, it is in the interests of the world’s most powerful corporations to work for the advancement of global peace and prosperity. To put it simply, global companies have no future if the earth has no future."...

http://hbr.org/1997/07/the-path-of-kyosei/ar/1

Friday, June 27, 2014

Starbuck's employees are offered a free college education...

With a few strings attached but no long term obligation.  With a college degree employees may move on from baristaship...even if it means leaving the company.  By investing in its employees well-being Starbucks will take a short term loss, but will lower its turnover in the long term - improving service quality which will no doubt increase revenues.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/an-education-from-starbucks-1403562708

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why is it profitable to protect the environment?

One way is to consider the value of services that the environment provides.  Nature provides services like pollinating crops, purifying water, protecting us from storms, producing fish, and many many more - services that we depend on.  These services are provided to us for free!

The value of these services in 1997 was $125 trillion (compared to the world's GNP of $75 trillion)

In business we consider the cost of services that we need when calculating our profit margins, but I doubt the value of natural services are considered and why should they be...these services are our birth rights as residents of earth. That is, until these services start to degrade.  Since 1997, the value of the services the earth provides has decreased by $20 trillion, and where we have become dependent or have taken these services for granted, this has started to cost us money.  

What comes to mind is the money we are spending on water, farming fish, property damage from storms, and how much will it cost us take over pollination if the Bee's disappear.

Take a long look at your balance sheet and see if any of these types of costs might be creeping in and eroding your profit margins.

Every business from mining to manufacturing, from farming to fashion, from entertainment to banking, from healthcare to technology all have financial stakes in the environment.  

http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=14-P13-00025&segmentID=4

 

 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Am I an alcoholic?

For 26 years, booze has been the cornerstone of my social life. I don't remember a fun night out without drinking...I don't remember a lot of nights when I did drink! Dinner with a friend or friends has always been at least a beer or wine. Parties and bars...usually a potpourri of options. Weddings...unrecognizable without drinks. Work dinners...the same story. Afternoon braai's...so much fun!

Since that fateful teenage night when I discovered the social ease of a drink, I've built dependence on drinking for the fun that comes from the source of that which makes us happy...interacting with people.

Although the last few years has seen a large organic decrease in the quantity that I drink. It was still there until 4 months ago when I decided to stop because alcohol's toxicity seems carcinogenic...especially since it's always listed as one of the lead causes of colon cancer.

Since that fateful day I have started to rediscover who I am. I am navigating my social network without the performing enhancement, without the boredom killer, without the inhibition inhibitor...it's a whole new world. It's world that does not look anything like it did before. 

It's going to take a lot of getting used to! 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Long Way In...

As the crow flies, radiation takes the shortest route to the cancers ground zero. A triangulation of 3 beams meet in a well targeted rectangular perimeter around the tumor, joining forces to damage the cells' DNA, in hopes of starting a chain reaction where the malignant cells stop dividing.  The chemotherapy takes a little longer working its way into the blood and finding its way to areas where it may do the same thing.

This regiment of therapy for my specific situation takes about 6 weeks.  I coming to realize that this 6 weeks is just a blip in the time needed to establish body that stops the spread of cancer.

Working with cancer is like becoming fluent in a new language.  We start with the basics like daily pleasantries, then we perhaps takes some schooling, and then we live in an environment where that language is spoken.  And in time our fluency evolves, as does our accent.  Sometimes it takes years before we can put down the dictionary, and even then we are still learning new words and expressions every day.  At some point, we will look up and we are fluent, and we smile at ourselves stumbling over basic words a few years before.  This is assuming we didn't leave the environment where the language is spoken and the rust starts the creep in.

Its starting to sink in that no matter how effective medical treatment might be in the short term, its not the end of the journey, and in fact the journey is just beginning.  And its important to implement into my daily routine those activities that work to create balance, and that balance is a delicate measurement that is constantly changing and requires my full attention.

There is no quick fix.  Its a rest-of-life process!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

"What would Google do?"

I cant seem to think of one person that I might know that has not been impacted by Google.  Can you?

Google's corporate motto is ...Dont be Evil! Its written in their Prospectus. Their belief is that they would be better served in the world if they do good things even if it means forgoing some short term gains.

This seems to be working out nicely for them.

“What Would Google Do?” – As the book by Jeff Jarvis says…”companies need to learn from Google and grow by building platforms to help others prosper“.  Thats what Google does…they help others prosper.  We all have free access to most everything Google has to offer so that we can improve our lives...learn, stay in touch, build our business's.  Yes, Google makes an incredible amount of money by advertising but their first order of business was/is to create free conflict free access to information.  If you search for this book on Google, the first option to buy it is by Amazon (not GooglePlay)

www.google.com

 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Big Number

Last year 72% of S&P 500 companies published sustainability reports.  In 2011 - only 20% did it!

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB20001424052702304710104579608562794001026

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Timeline

This week as chemoRT continued to run its course I took time to ponder this journey so far...

Unknown date(a few months before diagnosis) - started to see a bit of blood in my stool, but brushed it off.
Mid-January 2014 - went to see a South African Sangoma(also referred to as a Witch Doctor) in Santa Barbara.  The first thing he said after throwing a bag of bones in front of me..."Is there any reason that you might be in immediate danger".  I did not, but thought it might be a good time to get a full medical checkup.
Early February - join my partner in Cape Town
Late February - went for blood tests looking for parasites(perhaps Bilharzia).  Tests were negative so went for a colonoscopy expecting possible  Polyps or Hemorrhoids.
March 8 - "Tim, I afraid its not the best news"
A few days later - Colorectal surgeon staged the cancer as T3N0.  He gave me two options - radiation, with surgery as a possible follow-up, but not recommended.  The other option was an abdominal perineum resection(APR) which he believed would give me the best chance of cure.  I would be left with a stoma bag for the rest of my life. I asked for a second opinion
March 16 - Stopped eating sugar(except for whole foods), dairy, alcohol, caffeine, grains. I had been a vegetarian for the last 4 years.
March 17 - Started daily meditation prior to sunrise.
Late March - a second opinion at a different hospital recommended the same surgical solution.  Notified that my insurance company will not cover me since they consider this a pre-existing condition (sign up for Obamacare)
Late March - Continue research both in the medical world and alternative(Sono-Photo dynamic therapy, EMDR, Demartini, Ayahuasca, Supplements)
End of March - Scheduled APR surgery for April 12(not covered by Obamacare)
March 30 - Have lost 15 pounds in the last 2 weeks from my diet change
Early April - Discuss my situation by phone with multiple Oncologists and Surgeons in the U.S.  Come to discover a more effective approach is pre-operative chemoRT.
April 8 - Am told by the surgeon that nodes are likely involved (which would make the staging T3N1)
April 10 - Cancel surgery.  I feel that to lower the chance of re-occurance I must have neo-adjuvant ChemoRT
April 14 - Discover that the earliest they can start chemoRT is 7 weeks out, and it would be a treatment that hasn't been used in the U.S. for 20 years.
Late April - My partner and I decide to move to Philadelphia to receive neo-adjuvant ChemoRT at U Penn in Philadelphia.
April 29 - I am still on a 100% Alkaline diet - and have not lost any additional weight. Tomorrow I will add back eggs once a week and start to experiment with more grains. No dairy, no alcohol, no sugar, nothing processed could be permanent.
May 5 - Meet a Medical Oncologist, a Radiation Oncologist and a Surgeon at the Abramson Cancer Center.  They recommend 28 days of radiation while taking Capecitabine, then I will wait for a month after which they will scan me again to see how the tumor has reacted and then will proceed with surgery.  Because of the position of the tumor, they expect APR surgery
Mid May - PETscan and MRI are taken to re-stage the cancer (No Changes) - they believe that nodes are not involved - and to plan the radiation.
May 27 - 1st Day of ChemoRT.  Each day we walk 1.5 miles to the hospital - 6.15 am appointment.  Radiation takes a few minutes.  Chemo is taken orally after breakfast and dinner.
June 17 - Side effects have been subtle thus far.  Digestion has been more active and less consistent.  Appetite is still good but less food types are appealing - Fruit and carbs seem to be my cravings.  My energy levels are good.
June 18 - Who knows...





Monday, June 16, 2014

Tesla shares their Secrets

As you approach the new Tesla, the door handles come out to meet you. Getting into the seat is like slipping into the near and distant future.  Extreme comfort, few gadgets and tapping the accelerator releases massive power...and not a sound.  Completely electric.  Its like driving an iPhone.

Last week Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, announced that he will share its secrets.  By taking down the patents he has on this world changing technology.  What's clear is Tesla's intent to spread opportunity and to protect the environment.  But Elon Musk is a pure capitalist so what might not be so clear is as he says...."We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard."  

He believes that sharing his secrets will make him more profitable.

http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/all-our-patent-are-belong-you

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Does being ethical Pay???

"For companies, the implications of this study -- albeit limited -- are apparent. Efforts to move toward ethical production, and promote that behavior, appear to be a wise investment. In other words, if you act in a socially responsible manner, and advertise that fact, you may be able to charge slightly more for your products.

On the other hand, it appears to be even more important to stay away from goods that are unethically produced. Consumers may still purchase your products, but only at a substantial discount."

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB121018735490274425

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Corporate ethics is key to financial success

"A study done at the University of Chicago by Prof. Curtis Verschoor and published in Management Accounting found that companies with a defined corporate commitment to ethical principles do better financially than companies that don’t make ethics a key management component.  Public shaming of Nike’s sweatshop conditions and slave wages paid to overseas workers led to a 27% drop in its earnings several years ago. And recently, the shocking disregard of ethics and subsequent scandals led to financial disaster for Enron, Arthur Anderson, WorldCom, Global Crossing, and others."

http://www.visionarylead.org/articles/spbus.htm

Monday, June 9, 2014

Domini Social Investments

Key Issues

Before we invest in a company, our researchers work to understand how it is addressing the key sustainability challenges it faces. We also engage with corporate management to improve their social and environmental performance.

Learn more about how we approach the following key issues:

  • Environment: Companies that meet the long-term environmental challenges of their industries can benefit the environment and their shareholders. Learn about our comprehensive approach to the promotion of environmental sustainability.
  • Human Rights: Universal human dignity is a long-term objective of the Domini Funds. Learn about how we pursue this objective through in-depth research and effective engagement.
  • Consumer Health & Safety: Consumer health and safety presents a multi-faceted set of issues for a variety of industries. Our researchers look closely at product safety controversies and recalls, and programs to reduce the use of toxic chemicals.
  • Diversity: In a global economy, diversity is a hallmark of a well-managed corporation with a culture based on merit and open to new ideas and perspectives.
  • Harmful & Addictive Products: Learn why certain industries, including tobacco, military weapons, firearms and nuclear power are fundamentally misaligned with our long-term goals.

 

 

http://www.domini.com/responsible-investing/key-issues

Investing in companies that are socially and environmentally considerate(SEC)

1 Trillion dollars!!!...is invested in companies that are socially and environmentally considerate.  Many funds and Investment managers specialize in this type of investment and spend the time to analyze how considerate companies might be.  There are many criteria that are published by these Investment Managers, some are standard across the board while some managers differentiate themselves by digging a little deeper.  

At some level we are all investment managers.  We invest in our own well being (brushing our teeth, exercising, saving money, eating and sleeping well...etc.) all day and every day, and just like money managers some of us are more successful then others.  Lets take our own intuitive experience and create a fund of companies that are SEC.  Here are some thoughts:

- Philanthropy is at least 5% of annual after tax profit

- Executive compensation is the lowest in that specific industry

- Lowest employee turnover within an industry

- Products that enhance customers lives

- High quality product - would we use it?!

- High customer service ratings

- Low climate and environmental footprint

- Long term (>10 years) financial goals

- Long term company strategy (>100 years)

 

Lets start a fund!!!

Socially, Environmentally, and Ethically Responsible (SEER)

Ex Navy Seal and CEO of Patagonia Michael Crooke travels the world consulting fortune 500 companies on how to do business through the SEER lens.  SEER values are:

  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Financial strength
  • Product/service quality

Executives from around the world are starting to realize that these values go hand in hand, and you can no longer focus on "Financial strength" alone.  Mr. Crooke has also founded a SEER certificate program available for MBA students at Pepperdine University.

http://bschool.pepperdine.edu/programs/full-time-mba/seer/michael-crooke.htm

Saturday, June 7, 2014

How to cure cancer...

As a teenager  heard a story about a family friend that often ponder.  The friends had a grandchild who was born with HIV because her mother had AIDS.  The child was cared for by by her grand parents from a very early age.  A few years after they started caring for her, she was tested negative for HIV.  This confounded everyone.  How is this possible? The girls grandparents believe that only possible explanation is that they gave her so much tender loving care.  Love!

"Spontaneous remission" is a term used for the unexpected cure of a disease that appears to be progressing in severity.  It happens sometimes in diseases like cancer. It is unexplainable, at least with todays  understanding and vocabulary.  How is this possible?

My research to find this miraculous cure has taken me in and out of hospitals, homeopathic doctors, integrative medicine, Ayurvedic doctors, Therapists, Shamans, and across the internet. As we all know there are vast differences in opinions about how one should treat cancer.  Some turn their nose up at the medical world, while the medical world is often offended by alternative opinions.  But, Im finding that there is a common subtle theme running among all opinions...from oncologists to witch doctors...and that is, cure and prevention comes from homeostasis, or balance.

What does balance mean and how do we find it? Well I think a great start is to notice how we feel when we start to get sick, maybe its just a cold.  How do we react, how do we decide make ourselves better, what food do we crave, how does our body feel.  These are all subtle messages that can help us find where we might be imbalanced and what we can work on, whether we are sick or not.  I know that when I start to come down with a cold, my first instinct is to wish I felt normal again, and to do whatever it takes for that to happen as soon as possible so that I can get back to my busy life without hindrance.  Im not as hungry as often in the day as I usually might be.  My hips and shoulders and other joints are stiffer then usual.

Im learning now that these signals from our bodies, are requests, asking us to stop or start doing certain things.  To stop being as busy, to stop wishing away time, to eat more mindfully, and to find counter activity to give those muscles and joints always being used some reprieve...rather then sitting all day, get up and walk around more. This is balance.

Balance or homeostasis will be different for everyone, as distinct as our finger print.  And therefore there is not a formula for us to follow.  We must find this balance for ourselves.  Diet books, fitness instructors or regimes, self-help books, therapists, doctors et al;  are all sources of information, but ultimately its is up to us each individually to find our own balance.  We must pay attention, so we can start to discover and implement what food is best for us, how much rest we must get, how much we work, how we socialize...how we live.

We demand instant relief, which falls into the same category as instant gratification...and we hold doctors accountable if we don't get it.  Doctors believe in the placebo effect, but can't explain it...no-one can.  I've heard Doctors say the source of all disease is the mind - the same doctors who resort to medicine and surgery.  We demand results that in this day and age only medicine and surgery can come closest to guaranteeing...quickly.  But between the lines, the cure-all is balance.

Homeostasis takes time, it is hard work(because it requires change).  In extreme situations, balance may include surgery or an operation but these are only part of the solution, and just the beginning.  I must NOT be passive in my own well-being.

I must take responsibility for my own well-being and for my own growth and evolution!!!






Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Great companies

"Good to Great" by Jim Collins, a great company is defined by consistent superior performance compared to competitors over a period of 30 years.  When he searched for companies that might fit those criteria, he ended up only finding a handful.  So of all the thousands and thousands of public companies, only 11 consistently were great.  Furthermore when he analyzed the possible reasons, he found undertones of consciousness, of passion, of executives acting for the benefit of a much bigger picture, of happy employees and happy customers...of harmony in the marketplace. Rather then scrambling for the quick big buck, these companies are the most profitable because they invest for the long term by thinking beyond "Profit"!

So "What Would Google Do?" - As the book by Jeff Jarvis says..."companies need to learn from Google and grow by building platforms to help others prosper".  Thats Google does...they help others prosper.  Google doesn't have a 30 year track record yet, but they certainly seem to be blazing the trail to Greatness!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Friday, May 30, 2014

Day 4

Today is Day 4 of a chemo-radiation.  The daily routine so far is - wake up at 5am; meditate; we walk 1.5miles to the hospital in time for a 6.15 am appointment; replace my pants with a hospital gown; lie belly down on the LINAC(Linear Accelerator); two people line up the tattoo marks they made on my pelvis with the machine; receive 3 spurts of radiation; re-robe; walk back to the apartment; home by 7.30 am; eat breakfast; take chemo pills (Capecetabine); business as usual for the rest of the day; more chemo before bed; off to lalaland.

Both chemo and radiation is toxic for the body, since in their journey to remove cancer cells, they can take healthy cells with them.  To wake up and knowingly put huge doses of toxins in my body, in order to heal myself is a paradox that is taking some getting used to, even after I have made well educated decision to do so.  I'm thankful every day to my body for being ready to endure the onslaught, and thanks, rest and what I decide to feed it, is the best that I know I can do.

I reflect now, that chemoRT pales in comparison to the onslaught I've subjected my body to up until now - heavy exercise with little relief, mindless eating, partying like a rock star...not to mention the anxiety!  So as I enjoy a nostalgic moment of the good old days,  I appreciate even more, the chemoRT journey that is just beginning, the journey I'm taking into the good new days!

The good new days begin with many lessons.  Simple lessons that seem to be good pillars for good living - "thanks, rest and I what I decide to feed it" - for example.  Going back to the basics and taking the "granted" out of everything I take for granted. Starting with breathing - our most desperate lifeline, followed closely by water, with eating a distant third.  Only then can I consider my role in this life...and to make bloody sure I don't take that for granted...the role or the life!


The free market is like nature...

And money is like reward.

Imagine a forest.  Trees, bushes, plants, animals, air, soil.  The tree drops its leaves on the ground which nourishes the soil.  Animals live in the trees and feed from its leaves, and they then nourish the soil.  This all comes full circle to nourish the tree.  This is one example of millions of ways that nature works to sustain itself.  Organisms give and in return are rewarded with growth.  Organisms take only what they need.  When this happens a rich, sustainable  community is formed and flourishes until an organism stops giving or takes more then they need.

The free market is the same.  Trees are like Fortune 500 companies and small coffee shops are like insects.  Harmony not only is possible but more rewarding to all.  The more big companies give to the community and environment (in the form of good products and philanthropy) and the less they take the more they are rewarded over the long term.  This also goes for small business.

They key to a companies long term success is having clients and resources, and the key to having sustainable clients and resources is to make sure that the latter are nourished.

 

 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Patagonia lets their employee's surf

Patagonia employees wake up in the morning and cant wait to get to work.  Each day they know they each play a role in building a company that will last 100 years, and if the surf's up...then off they go.  How does one go about building a company that will last 100 years...

There are two stories about Patagonia that come to mind.  One is a personal experience told to me by a friend who walked into a Patagonia store looking for a waterproof warm jacket - Patagonia's bread and butter for north of $200! When my friend walked into the store he was asked how they could assist him.  After hearing what he needed, they asked if he had a fleece at home as well as a waterproof shell.  They suggested that that combination could be a great alternative to a new jacket.  My friend left happy without a new jacket.  This Patagonia employee saved my friend $200 and saved the environment the strain of making a new jacket!

The second story is told by the ex-CEO of Patagonia.  The company was getting a lot of complaints about a new line of fleece, about how the odor of sweat would not come out in the wash.  A fairly easy fix would be to switch to another form of material which was fairly synthetic.  When this decision reached the CEO's desk, the proposed fix did not sit well with him so he decided to send the problem to Patagonia's scientists to try to find a solution, which they did - crab shells that had been washed up on the beach could be used for the needed material!  This much more expensive, much delayed solution to the problem was the path that Patagonia took...better for the environment, and what ended up being a much higher quality for the client.

Patagonia takes the long term approach, considerate of their employees, their clients and the community and environment around them - these are their priorities and a side affect is sustained profitability (a good chunk of which they donate to charity), profitability that has put them ahead of their competitors over the long haul.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dabbawala

Over 100 years ago, in Mumbai India,  the Dabbawala service was founded.  It delivers lunch boxes to people at work after picking it up from their homes in the morning and then returns the empty lunchbox that afternoon.  Today 5000 employees deliver 130,000 peoples lunches each day.  And rarely is there an error!  So for over 100 years this service has endured famines, wars, monsoons, riots, terrorist attacks, the industrial and age, and still they achieve their one simple goal...on-time delivery.

When it comes down to it, their efficiency and reliability is not because of some magic business process nor is it because they use the most advance technology, nor is it because they've hired a high priced CEO...it is simply because they each have a deep respect for each other, and for their clients receiving their lunch each day on time.  They do this work for very little money, but yet do it happily and efficiently.

Here...social awareness and consciousness...is the pillar for an organization's longevity and effectiveness!!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Constructive Behavior


What motivates us to do what we do each day? Survival , surely, is our most primal motivator. But in the first world has survival been redefined, to mean....managing our image and our ego. Is survival nowadays evolved to feeding our self-esteem, and to numbing our fears and anxiety?



With stage T3N0 rectal cancer, doctors are quite confident that they can get rid of the cancer with a combination of chemo-radiation and tumor removing surgery.  This possibility makes me take a sigh of relief and I can go about my business as usual.

However the tumor is so low in my rectum that the surgery will mean I will be left with a stoma bag for the rest of my life, and therefore my digestive life as I know it would be changed forever.  Never mind the fact that I would have a bag hanging out of my belly. What about days at the beach, or yoga without a shirt, or lying in bed with my girlfriend?  Functionally people live very full lives with a stoma bag...it's the emotional adjustment that's the kicker. This possibility makes the sigh, a little less relieving.

And then there is reoccurrence which is always possible. In a successful tumor removing surgery, there is always a possibility of reoccurrence.

So my self esteem combined with my fear of reoccurrence has made me re-evaluate my "business as usual". At the first level, any hope of "spontaneous tumor recession" ...aka "a miracle" surely can be manifested with a massive lifestyle change. So a week into knowing I had cancer...everything changed.  I now "eat/drink to live" rather then "live to eat/drink". I now look for stillness and steer away from the chaos of daily life. I now wake up at 5/6am each day and welcome the day with the birds. And the list goes on!

The second level is that this new "business as usually" will most likely need to stick and evolve in order to minimize the chance or reoccurrence.

The best news is the third level. The third level is a beautiful discovery in that the quality and clarity of life has increased exponentially because of this new "business as usual" I feel better, smarter, younger, energized!

This third level is what motivates me nowadays, it's like I've discovered a spring of vitality. But the spring is high up on a mountain, and since I don't live there I need to climb that mountain every day....and it's a difficult hike...but it's getting easier...I'm getting fitter.

And each time I'm tempted by a nice hot latte, a big glass of red, a rich piece of bread and butter, a salty potato chip, a piece of chocolate, my cravings or any other destructive behavior need to make it through the possibility of missing out on a better life, and if thats not enough then the grim reaper is lurking and if he's not scary enough then my dreaded ego awaits!

     

Friday, May 16, 2014

"The Emperor of Maladies"

There are two sides to every story, as the old saying goes.  A friend once amended that and said there are three, yours, mine and the truth.

Two months ago I heard the words "I'm afraid its not the best news, the tumor is cancerous"

Since then I have emerged myself in discovering the truth....my truth, everyone else's truth and the whole truth.  Within days I learned that I had stage IIa rectal cancer, which means that the tumor has grown enough to pass through more then one layer of tissue but has not likely reached any lymph nodes, nor is it likely to have reached any organs.  The latter two are not certainties but very unlikely based on what doctors can see on various scans.  How can this be so imprecise?  Because cancer is our normal cells not acting normally, and only really becomes obvious when quite a few have started to act up.

Next I learned that doctors have a lot of experience treating people with cancer and that I can be rest assured that with stage a IIa tumor, my chances of a cure are quite high.  Surgical removal of the tumor is a great option and pre surgical chemo-radiation is an even better option.

Next I started to learn how cancer is caused and affected by lifestyle - for example - anxiety, exercise (too much or too little), our intentions and especially what and how we eat and drink.  The last two months have been like taking a course in nutrition, which has upended what I thought was my very healthy diet!

Between the lines I have lived and looked for the truth, and I continue to practice my discoveries.  The hardest part about the truth, is admitting when it has changed, and then changing with it.

In one week, I begin chemo-radiation at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

This post's title is the title of book


Social and environmental consideration is now a legal corporate form

Benefit corporation or B-corp is corporate form that is designed for for-profit entities that want to consider society and the environment in addition to profit in their decision making process.  The purpose of a B-corp is to protect a companies social environmental mission, while raising growth capital.  There are over 1000 companies registered as a B-corp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benefit_corporation

https://www.bcorporation.net/

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Statistical study shows that it is profitable to be socially considerate

In 1999 Business week asked the question..."Can business meet new social, environmental and financial expectations and still win?"

This question prompted a study titled "Corporate Social and Financial Performance: A Meta-analysis" by Marc Orlitzky, Frank L. Schmidt, Sara L. Rynes.

Based on this meta-analysis(combining and contrasting existing studies) integrating 30 years of research, the answer to the introductory question is affirmative.  The results show that there is a positive association between corporate social performance and corporate financial performance across industries and across study contexts.

http://www.sustainabilitymanagement.net/public/corporate%20social%20and%20financial%20performance.pdf

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Social and Environmental Awareness is the Ultimate Competitive Edge

The evidence is in and its not just the subjective opinions or even objective opinions for that matter of a select few.  It’s statistical.  It is woven into the numbers.  The money, the number by which we measure almost everything is showing us that social and environmental responsibility leads to higher profit margins.  How can this be?  Isn’t Social Responsibility a radical new train of thought that is reserved only for those, time and financially privileged enough to act accordingly so that they may add it to their marketing campaign.  Isn’t the road to financial success paved by shrewd decisions, cost cutting and ingenious marketing campaigns?  Isn’t the marketplace too competitive for compassion?

The world is a couple of centuries into an industrial age, where success is taught to hinge on some of the aforementioned questions.  But the whole time there has been a reoccurring theme, that can be seen by looking at the numbers.  An intention of compassion, even in the most cut throat of board rooms, leads to more sustainable profit.  Being compassionate is a sure way to gain an edge over a business’s competition…over the long term.  And there lies the trick.  We wake up in the morning worried about being able to retire comfortably, but yet, when we get to work, we bite and claw for short-term profit.  Short term is so yesterday.  Long term and sustainability is where it’s at!  Why?  Well, it just feels better.  Just like a warm cup of soup might feel better then if its cold.  We might have to wait a few minutes, but it feels so much better.  An old Afghan saying – “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is so sweet”

So where is the evidence.  It’s everywhere. Start by pulling up a chart of your favorite index and compare it to the ETF – DSI.  If you like what you see, I won’t have to get into too much more detail.

In 1999, Business Week posed the question – “Can business meet new social environmental and financial expectations an still win?”  This prompted a study which was published as Corporate Social and Financial Performance: A Meta-analysis, by

Marc Orlitzky, Frank L. Schmidt, Sara L. Rynes. This meta-analysis using 30 years of empirical data concluded that corporate virtue in the form of social and to a lesser extent environmental responsibility is rewarding in more ways then one. There is a positive correlation between corporate, social and environmental responsibility and corporate financial profit.

If you walk into a Patagonia store, ready to pay $200 for a new jacket, the sales associate will ask you about your existing wardrobe to help you figure out if you really need to buy their jacket after-all

Benefit Corporation or B-Corp is a corporate form for for-profit entities that want to consider society and the environment in addition to profit in their decision making process.

 

This is just a sampling of the evidence, but likely more then enough to think twice about the intention behind our next decision.