When in little Moscow

American sailors on liberty in Pusan, South Korea before 1999 used to talk about going to Texas Street. Dive bars and cheap eats.

When I visited Pusan in 1999 while aboard USS CORONADO, I remember a Russian carrier in port. Russian bar girls. To avoid uncomfortable conversations, my shipmate and I had a line popularized by Steven Segal: “I’m just a cook!” Didn’t see any Russian sailors. But I picked up a few words in Russian.

красивая девушка

I don’t know what it’s like today, but I left there thinking the bar district had become “Russia Street”.

Learned a little bit about being stationed in South Korea. I learned how to order a Starbucks in Korean. “Grande Mocha”.

IMG_5618And I know not to enter any Asian establishment with a “barber pole” out front. Was told they were “massage” parlors. Wonder if they also do haircuts?

Foreign travel sure is educational.

Entrepreneurship part 2

Continued from Thursday, 9 August

Common sense is a very important attribute to entrepreneurs.  Articles written for Entrepreneur.comReuters, the New York Times, and studies by universities all investigate the characteristics of those who start a business, develop a market, create an industry, or adapt a technology.  While many are not satisfied working for someone else’s vision, it is more difficult for innovators and skilled workers to start out on their own.  The latter may be no less motivated to succeed but the risks in starting a business, losing investment, failing, time spent making improvements or tinkering on the next venture often hold the majority back.

Years ago, when I went to work for a small business, I asked the small group who formed that technology business how and why they started.   It was a product that they were all experts supporting, and improving,  and when the corporation decided there was not enough profit to continue supporting it, these engineers stepped up.  The military customers were still actively deploying these systems so, as entrepreneurs, the men formed a company, bought the contract,  and networked with the stakeholders.  It lead to additional work.

Seeing a market where there was none, and understanding human nature,  an entrepreneur is a visionary.   As I enter my sixtieth year,  I have seen several ideas grabbed by entrepreneurs become world- changing products like the personal computer ( I had interviewed with IBM in 1986 but decided the Navy was more promising than a “personal” computer).  Netflix is a huge company today, with an internet distribution network,  it’s own productions, and ever-growing valuation.    I decided to forego investment in Netflix when it was a buck or two in the early 2000s – because I thought the DVD market would dry up.

Another entrepreneur is Kevin Plank, CEO of UnderArmour.   Creating a line of athletic clothing that wicks away moisture,  his products have been worn by soldiers, sailors, NFL players, college athletes, and even retired Senior Chiefs.   Wearing a UnderArmour shirt with the “I served”, it not only is functional when I am working out but is a statement.   After working for an entrepreneur for more than twelve years, I see a lot of value in his vision of the company as an internet services company (satellite) that services seamless connectivity on commercial, business and military aircraft, as well as secure networking systems.

I need to get more serious about my other ventures, particularly marketing.  Common sense. Vision.  Understanding people.  Maybe I should revisit that Tony Robbins interview.

 

 

Entrepreneurship part 1 of 2

I had a great conversation Wednesday evening at my “rest stop” on the way home from work.  With my evening commute often taking an hour and a half or more, sometimes I meet my wife for her dinner break at a Japanese-style poki place nearby.   I enjoy the sushi poki bowls at the one place, but the clientele’s average age is about a third of mine.  I know more people at the Starbucks across their parking lot than at Poki.  Now that I am more earnest about healthy living, my other haunt, a cigar lounge, also near her work, is someplace I only stop in once or twice a month. The cigar place is a comfortable spot, like the fictional Cheers lounge in the 1990s TV show of the same name.  But with banter over cigars in place of alcohol.    I get recharged with some great conversation, which in turn generates ideas for blog posts.

Entrepreneurs, engineers, teachers, male nurses, mechanics and delivery drivers frequent Liberty Tobacco.  Retired military men talk sports and politics. Some talk classic cars and motorcycles.  One of my acquaintances is a Ferrari delivery driver.  Another is an engineer who travels around the country to install or repair equipment at some large manufacturing companies.  Tonight I chatted with a Navy veteran turned software engineer.  We talked engineering and designing the apps that he puts on the cycling machines found in high-end gyms and rehabilitation studios – the ones that feature pelotons, scenic rides, or other distractions for indoor training.   We talked about Amazon web services and designing web applications.  One of the new tools I heard about tonight is called TERAFORM which to most bloggers in my WordPress community is likely an uninteresting topic.  But to engineers and web designer geeks  – and me tonight, an opportunity to talk about one’s passion.

For couple months now, I have been dealing with a complex engineering issue at work.  But this week I have had the opportunity to work with a brilliant peer.  He is analyzing by means of a methodical series of software images he redesigned,  clues to a particularly irritating unknown failure in a device I have been troubleshooting.  Until I started working with him, we knew “when” it stopped working, but did not know the “why”.   Even an old Senior Chief is open to learning something.

After working forty years,  I realize that there are two types of people and two types of challenges I enjoy.   Entrepreneurs, like Virgin company’s  Richard Branson; my employer, Viasat CEO, Mark Dankberg; or my former college Russian professor who started an immersion language and travel program 40 years ago.    And the second type are technical experts, be they engineers, mechanics or horticulturists.   To my shame,  my onetime boss, a construction foreman- I was in my early twenties – retorted to my arrogant comment about my apparent lack of skill, that he never met many geniuses but he would always take a “dumba%% with common sense” in his line of work.

To be successful as an entrepreneur,  a person requires initiative,  unyielding determination and great insight into human nature.  An interview I watched online featured Tony Robbins who is an expert in human nature.  He has coached people to reach inside themselves and conquer their shortcomings for nearly forty years.  Understanding what is important to one’s client, customer or consumer, and how to satisfy their particular problem or need is key to becoming successful.  Innovators may develop a revolutionary product or service.  But it is the entrepreneurs who change the world by solving a problem for people with that innovation.

(To be continued)

 

If you should happen to be in the San Diego region or know someone who is, particularly a Active Duty or former service member considering a home purchase, I can highly recommend Doug Diemer as a loan officer. He treated me very well, made the process of a VA refinance loan easy and has followed up with me quarterly. There is a lot of noise in the mortgage refinancing industry. And it helps to have someone to recommend.

Doug_Diemer

Ask the Chief: dress for success

In the manner of dressing for work,  the corporate world I entered in 2000,  was a lot like the corporate world where my father worked.  That is,  suits, or sport coats with button-down shirts and ties,  nice slacks and polished leather shoes.  With the corporate headquarters in Washington, D.C. and the CEO and founder a product of the late 1950s, we dressed up even when we never left the office.  But employment in San Diego in the new Millennium was being influenced more by Silicon Valley than Wall Street or Foggy Bottom in D.C.

Not surprisingly, the client of my employers in that first decade of the Twenty-First Century were the Naval officers and senior civilian staff (SPAWAR) who oversaw technical development in ships, electronic systems and aircraft for the Navy and Marine Corps. Since the military has prescribed uniforms for daily wear, and standardized grooming,  these military officers had a certain expectation for civilians who supported their efforts.

In published articles in the Wall Street Journal and Scientific American , studies have shown also that dressing well, whether in button-down shirt and tie,  or  “business casual”,  in the years since my father’s generation retired,  has positive benefits on worker advancement, attitude and productivity.  When I first interviewed at my company eleven years ago, I was still a member or the Navy Reserve and a Chief Petty Officer, so I arrived fit, clean-shaven, with shined shoes, and in a tailored suit.  When the offer of employment was accepted,  I was told that the dress code, when our clients were not on site, was more casual.  California in general and San Diego, in particular,  is a center of technical businesses, Integrated Circuits, Biotech, software companies and avionics.  But with several universities in the area,  interns and later their graduates were recruited and accommodated with casual dress options, flexible working hours and amenities from gyms to coffee houses to volleyball courts.  Of course, the industrial standard requirements for manufacturing areas are as uniform in required dress as the military.

While senior management of the major divisions were often more formal due frequent meetings with senior-level clients, it was still an office environment where a staff meeting occurred at 10 AM to allow for surfing or gym workouts.   In the last ten years however, the growth of the company has changed the culture slightly.  From acquisitions, becoming a publicly-traded company, and increasing leadership roles in major technical boards, advisory groups and other businesses, business casual, including button-down shirts, nice tailored polos (with the corporate logo) and slacks and leather shoes is increasingly seen in the middle and senior division-management and those groomed for their next level.  New hires, and casual employees who make a significant contribution to a project  (read “brain trust”) are often the ones who are more casually attired year-round.

What does all this mean for the transitioning military member who has the education or the skills to enter the corporate world?  It means having to adjust their “uniform” for the workday.   While it may seem refreshing to wear baggy shorts and sandals,  or hair that recalls more of the college dorm life than a corporate environment,  one’s work ethic and contribution to a project, may be hindered.  During meetings with military or senior government clients,  a sharp appearance can foster more productive outcome.    And the more ambitious a former military member becomes, there is value in a certain standout appearance.

This also seems to motivate employees to maintain or enhance a certain fitness and healthier lifestyle.  Not only because the workplace may subsidize health insurance for workers more generously for fitness, but also it reflects better on the employee’s advancement opportunities.  (Of course,  this does not imply that any of the equal opportunity standards that govern employment are overlooked.)  A sharper appearance and a healthier overall person is more often a better candidate when looking at similar qualifications.

Self-made

Do you think “outside the box”?  In other words, when you were a child were you chided for coloring outside the lines in a coloring book or for using “wrong” color crayons for subjects?  Did you ask a lot of questions? Were you someone who could ace your tests in school but were bored with rules, homework, and projects that “wasted” your time?   At work, do you get easily frustrated with the forms, chain of approvals, and eventual denial of your ideas for improving productivity?

Why is it that some of the best marketers and entrepreneurs came from humble beginnings, school dropouts and the like?  Perhaps these individuals are an anomaly.  Scholarly articles on the subject of entrepreneurship indicate that past success, “coloring outside the lines”, and stellar educational credentials predispose a person to be a successful entrepreneur,  it is not necessarily required to make a successful venture.    Some of the people I  am familiar with personally have built businesses though focused effort and personal ambition.  Yet many of today’s workers never achieve a level of comfort that is not mortgaged (homes,  cars, recreational vehicles).  We all become chained to our standard of living because of company health plans, steady paycheck and known, if not satisfying expectations.   Whatever happened to the people who threw everything they owned into a covered wagon and headed West into the undeveloped land in the 1800s?

What happened to the “American Dream”?

As one of the last Baby Boomers,  I have spent more than forty years. half in the military and half in the private sector, employed by someone else’s vision.  A year before I turn sixty,  I am wondering whether playing by “rules”, following the “Baby Boomer” model of (1) get a good education, (2a) join the military,  (2b) get a good job ,  and (3) through hard work and long working hours/effort  buy into the “American Dream”.  Is getting married, raising kids to have the same dreams, sending them to college; and retiring comfortably at some age around sixty or sixty-five still possible?  Somehow in the  past forty years, everything got more expensive,  taxes, fees,  and legal restrictions got ever-more difficult to compensate in order to obtain that retirement.  And so, for many, a second-income became necessary just to stay “even”.

Entrepreneurs are self-made

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was not born into wealth.  He was the son of a teenage mom, and adopted by his mother’s second husband (who had arrived from Cuba a few years earlier knowing only a few words in English).  He held a variety of jobs growing up.  Brilliant and obsessed to make a better life, he was a garage-inventor.  Perhaps the early struggles in his family, helped him focus on academic achievement, which in turn lead him to Princeton. When he decided later to follow his passion, it was then he founded what would become Amazon.   And we know how successful Amazon has become.

Richard Branson, son of an attorney in England, has childhood dyslexia.  He dropped out of school and at sixteen founded a music magazine.  The billionaire founder of the Virgin group began with money from that venture to found a music studio.   Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Corp, was a brilliant college dropout who created the company in his parent’s garage.  While Mark Zuckerberg attended Harvard after very impressive scholastic achievement, he certainly built Facebook from a combination of intellect and ambition.  Logan Green and John Zimmer , former college students, created the ride-sharing service from improvements they learned from a service Zimmer built to help college students get around via Craigslist and Facebook linking.

At the end of the Nineteenth Century,  my maternal great-great-uncle, Philip Ward, an impoverished immigrant from Belfast (then Ulster) Ireland, established a mail-order business ( Bullock and Ward), in Chicago and the Mid-West, a rival to Sears, Roebuck and J.C. Penneys.  It did well until the beginning of the First World War.   Other maternal Irish family forebears had built businesses in the linen trade and chocolates (confections) in Ireland that prospered up until the Second World War.   My paternal ancestors came to New York from Poland and became tradesmen and entrepreneurs, engineers and shopkeepers.

Members of my family and extended family have been motivated by necessity  as well as intellect to have successful careers.   A Registered Nurse and single mother who went to school, worked, and raised her children, excelling at each to create a balanced life.  Mothers who achieved position and higher income with the largest corporations to support their families.  Entrepreneurs and marketing trainers who helped a national network improve their businesses.   And  some have followed a path a little more  “outside the lines” to create opportunity for themselves and for others through a nationally recognized  network marketing firm.

Find your why

What sort of vacation have you taken this year?   What trade-off have you made to have that new(er) car so you can get to work?    How often have you used that 5th wheel in your driveway since you signed the payment plan?    What size apartment have you been limited to because of income?  Are you working harder and longer to pay for the child-care for your kids?  Do you spend more time ill or seeing a specialist than enjoying mid-life?

For me,  I have driven eighty (80) miles or more every work-day for eleven years to my employer.    And that employer pays me enough now, to pay for my home – small that it is – and my new used car, but also means that my wife also has to work very long hours to  pay our bills and hope for retirement someday.    We do not have a pile of money.  And the years spent in search of “retirement” is perhaps the motive for wanting something better.

 Finding “time and money”

The old saying about being able to have time OR money, but not both has certainly had some application in the second decade of the Twenty-first Century.   But the additional reality is that your Government will take its cut of whatever you do extra.    However, the way to continue to earn is through residual income. That is income that continues  and increases beyond your own effort and time to earn it.

And with health problems for the last twenty years, a focus on healthy living and exercise – so I can afford to “retire” and ENJOY it – are reasons I chose to get involved with Beach Body.   I’ve seen what a niece has built through diligent effort -hard work- over eight years, in that she overcame health issues, and can work from home – a home her business afforded herself and her husband, while being mom to her two kids.  And she has been actively involved helping about 1600 people through her business build income and better lives in the process.

Like everything else in life,  the amount of effort put into an education, a career, a business venture, or a personal life is directly responsible for the achievement.   In the military, just about everyone who maintains an “average” performance can retire after twenty years with an average stipend. But additional effort and preparation can result in someone being selected as a Chief Petty Officer.  And of those,  even more effort, preparation, and focus, someone may retire as a Senior Chief ( or Master Chief).   With effort, and single-minded focus, someone may achieve an Amazon,  an Apple, a Facebook.  or a Beach Body enterprise.    Or even the 6 AM commute, ten-hour day, and 5 PM commute home.

Entrepreneurs.   Work Ethic plus an American ( or Latino, Canadian or British) Dream.

I have to go.  I need to go workout.

If you want to know more about an opportunity to get healthier, or help your child who loves the gym but is working double-shifts all the time,  check out  BeachBody

 

What has “comfort zone” to do with “success”?

In the United States Navy,  and by extension, the other military services,  an individual has fairly equal opportunity to rise up the advancement ladder, and to qualify for challenging assignments.    Leadership, as practiced by some I have had the great fortune to be mentored by, has been recognized by their being awarded positions among the highest authority and responsibility in that service.   By mentorship I mean, demonstrating integrity,  fortitude (in spite of personal hardships), a commitment to excellence and encouraging others to reach beyond “comfort” in doing.

“Every Sailor has the potential to lead. I don’t care if it’s a seaman recruit or someone higher ranking than myself. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. ” (All Hands Call, Norfolk, VA 01 May 2007)

 

“The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice as to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other in dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them respect for himself; while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his subordinates, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.”
LTG John M. Schofield, 1879

Ask people whether they have a dream visceral enough they want accomplished.  Material possessions,  security, education, or a deeply-committed and loving marital relationship.   Then ask those same people if they were willing to do whatever it took, in terms of work,  being sleep-deprived, learning difficult lessons, memorizing, practicing, enduring criticism and overcoming obstacles to achieve their dreams.   Fewer might push on.  Of that reduced number,  how many would endure whatever life handed them in the pursuit of that dream, as days became weeks, and weeks became months, and months became years?   Fewer perhaps.  In an article in Forbes,  a contributor has published eight traits to predict future success.  These include delaying gratification, being seriously motivated and organized, believing that they make the choices which affect their outcomes, and having fortitude during adversity.   Predictably, past success leads to future success.

To achieve “success”,  whatever that may be in terms of the dreams one has,  requires steadfast devotion.   Integrity.  Mental and physical toughness.   And determination that there is no “giving up or giving in”.   It may be an enlisted member’s goal to become an Officer or senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO).  For others, it might be to earn membership into the ranks of the SEALs.   The few Navy warriors who complete the BUDS training to become SEALs achieve their first qualifier.  Training continues from there.  Other services have their special forces as well.

But it can also be the single mother who is raising three young children,  in school for a professional certification, who then cares for her children,  studies all night, and maintains the family chores all at the same time.  And excels.    Or it can be the aging sailor with a dream to become a Chief Petty Officer who  commits to every training session,  early morning fitness challenge, seeks, finds and puts into practice the guidance from others with decades of leadership expertise.

“Success” can be the married young engineer, father of two, one a newborn, who spends time with his children and wife at those critical “family-building” times.  Yet he is working early or into late hours, and finding innovative and productive solutions to technical challenges simultaneously.

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[a] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. – Matthew 19: 28 -29 (NIV)

And then there are the spiritually-rewarding opportunities that define “success”.  The young graduate of a university with a business degree, sought by several businesses, who voluntarily goes to aid the victims of a natural disaster (Hurricane Katrina, and the Haitian earthquake), as an unpaid volunteer for a charitable organization,  finds a mission and a calling that becomes a career.

“A business is simply an idea to make other people’s lives better.”  –Richard Branson

Many of the most-recognized entrepreneurs today did not find instant reward and acceptance when they began.  Whether it was Ray Kroc and McDonalds,  or  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple,  or my company’s CEO, Mark Dankberg and his team,  it took determination, confidence,  a pursuit of excellence, and vision for the people they attracted, and the customers they served.  But each built multi-billion dollar, world-changing enterprise.

Do you have the integrity, the guts, and the desire to improve others with a dream you want to achieve.  Are you willing to get out of your “comfort zone” to achieve them?