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

Concert apart

The dictionary defines concert, so the director said Saturday night, as “a musical performance given in public, typically by several performers or of several separate compositions. (2) agreement, accordance, or harmony.” It was an opportunity to enjoy an evening with a thousand fans of symphony music. From the audience standing and singing the Star Spangled Banner to a medley of famous themes like the Sound of Music, the night and the performance were wonderful. And the point in the concert where the conductor asked military veterans to stand and be honored was wonderful.

The night was planned several weeks ago for our friends and us, to have dinner and enjoy the season-opening concert, San Diego Symphony at Bayside – on the waterfront downtown next to the Convention Center. The evening featured famous American composers and included masterful choral singing. Yet the night was unnecessarily in competition with a harbor cruise “party boat” going back and forth in the harbor all evening. While the symphony conductor was the picture of grace and civility, the operator, just offshore of our venue, was deliberately negligent, blaring the distracting beat, “ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum” over and over, and over again. The conductor made light of it, and yet many of my fellow veterans in the audience (from 20 to 80 years in age) were visibly ready to form a boarding party.

It was a great metaphor for the “endangered species” of civility – particularly in America in 2018. On the way home by trolley, a young person zigged and zagged to step in front of us “old people” ( I spent 4 seconds before inserting my card in the ticket-dispensing machine) to try to get her trolley ticket first (until I harrumphed and she demurred). On social media, a person makes a comment both insulting the fans and actually containing some painful truth, of a particular topic (politics), and gets his (insert characteristic here) questioned. But the comment was deliberately meant to provoke anger.

frowny_face

I regularly encounter both Prius and BMW drivers who act as though they are the most important dignitaries on the road -tailgating, careening across lanes – to get two car lengths ahead – in rush hour. When I hold a door open as a courtesy for females (as I do for males) even among my workmates, there is a occasionally a woman under thirty who seems irritated that I did so. But age is not a predictor of civility. I see men my age with yard signs or bumper stickers that declare other human beings idiots, criminals or ignorant. It is common now for people to pick “sides”. There is no tolerance for differing opinion. And there is no standard where dialogue has to be reasoned, calm, and well-supported by easily (verified (and unbiased) observers.

How do we revert to civility norms?

I think that this decline in civility has both been inflamed by social media as well as our education system. For fifty years we have groomed people to believe they have the right to say what they want without consequences. A Utopian desire for harmonious acceptance, order, and a pain-free existence for everyone everywhere is not through government control.  Either some are forced (Constitutional guarantees are repressed by power-brokers; disagreement is labelled “hate speech”) or are bribed (“living wage” increases worker support, recipients of “public assistance” are encouraged to remain on the “dole”) to be obedient, and the result is a lack of civility toward those who have different views.

One christian’s viewpoint

Most among the secular world see the faulty application of Christian theology by many as evidence of a faulty theology rather than faulty human beings.  Any government that promotes officially-sanctioned multiple languages, cultural norms, legal precepts, and political ideologies, is not elevating civility among dis-unified people but instead further isolating individuals and groups into opposing factions. History is full of these lessons. “Balkanization” is a term where multiple ethnic, religious, linguistic, and religious fracturing is present. The first World War all the way through the “ethnic cleansing” in the former Yugoslav (Balkan) states in the 1990s were due to this fracturing. Fear and paranoia of people who will not assimilate is thousands of years old.  But governments that accommodate the noisy separatists and neglect the “deplorables”, risk permanent balkanization.  It has been the national identity, as “Americans” regardless of all the other factors, that has maintained unity in the United States since the Nineteenth Century.  The resurgence of socialism in American culture, in the absence of a truly spiritual understanding of brotherhood, respect, looking after the ill and the truly desperate, leading a peaceful existence and having a strong work ethic, is not going to achieve a concert in America or elsewhere.

Secular proposals to restore civility in America

Americans can try to restore a civil culture through man-made effort.   But how do people restore civility?

  1. Restore ONE NATION: Celebrate our diversity in ethnic heritage but unify everyone who comes here – through the established immigration policies – to become AMERICAN. Stop using hyphen american in all our identifiers.
    1. Establish ONE language.  All business, education, judicial dealings, social interaction should be performed in English.  Teach different idioms and language, but everyone who wants to be a resident must read, write and speak English in everyday situations.  Make it mandatory to pass an oral and written exam within 24 months of arrival – with intent to remain – to reside in the United States, and become a citizen.  Make the language a requirement to obtain any public assistance.
    2. Restore the ONE culture. Quit the divisiveness of public – and public-funded institutions promoting ethnic separatism.  Whatever color, race, creed, or political leanings,  celebrate differences in the context of making the “melting pot” better.
    3. Prohibit any public official or lobbying group on behalf of any non-citizens, extra-national allegiances, from campaigning to support non-citizens, foreign governments, or business interests seeking to change immigration policies without a national vote.
  2. Restore GOD and belief in a Creator as acceptable teaching. Permit use of public property for the exercise of religion as with any other use.  Get government out of the Belief business.
    1. Spiritual beliefs that do not contradict the good order an unity of a nation, are not legally barred.
    2. Atheism does not trump the rights of others to practice their spiritual beliefs in private or in public spaces.
    3. Non-government employers and places of employment that express particular religious beliefs cannot be forced through legal redress to change policies (adding “abortion coverage” to a health plan for an employer that publicly “pro-life”).  Employment conditions are still voluntarily accepted by both parties – employer and employee.
    4. Public (government) employees are barred from expressing support for, or opposition to, insulting, belittling, or deriding a particular religious belief.
    5. The judicial branch of government only decides whether an action violates the law, not whether it is moral, ethical, proper, or the “intent” of the law-makers
  3. No elected official can refuse to enact voter-approved legislation that does NOT
    1. cause physical harm to individuals or groups
    2. bar individuals or groups from activities that do not seek to cause harm (violence, rebellion) or deny others their human rights
  4. No institution of government can be used to manipulate public information, sentiment, or coerce support for a particular national political entity in power. This also means no institution of government can be manipulated to deny another political entity the fair and equal opportunity in elections.
  5. No entity or institution serving the national interest – media service, local, state or national educational institution (public or privately-funded) can bar exercise of the Constitutional “freedom of speech”.
    1. Civility is a voluntary ideal but some focused practices could improve civility:
      1. Practice, starting in the home, schools, and social organizations  that disagreement with the policies of a government official does not condone any action, outburst, or display abusing that office.
      2. Accept the outcome of elections.  Bring change through the ballot box.
      3. Public figures or celebrities should not incite street protests and violence against law enforcement and other public safety officers.
      4. Leaders of religious orders should promote peaceful doctrines, respect for authority, and practices among their adherents.
      5. Engaging in personal attacks on or inciting abuse of the family members of a government official should be restrained by peers and not promoted as entertainment by media business, celebrities, and public officials.

 

Never quit on yourself

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan,

I read this quote tonight, while browsing a blog post with 20 inspirational quotes and accompanying pictures, in themselves, very moving.  A family member in the service is weighing the possibility that he may be discharged for not maintaining the demanding physical standards of that service. (Even athletes get runners knee and shin splints.)

It is news that I know all too well.   As a younger man than he is now,  I also faced the same exhausting bureaucracy of my service branch,  weighing whether or not I would be medically discharged a couple years into my enlistment.  “Hurry up and wait”,  is the operational tempo of everything non-combat-related in the military.  But a determined mind, sharpened by knowledge of your adversary, bureaucracy, and equipped to respectfully and yet, unyieldingly, play ball is honored whether it leads to a win or loss.

Michael Jordan is a legend in the sports world for work ethic and results.  To win a lot, you risk a lot and lose a lot.  But every failure is a lesson in NEVER QUIT.  An opportunity to learn and improve.    I am glad that my wife and kids never quit  under adversity.  When I was young I was tempted several times.   Bouts of self-pity a few times.  Illegitimi Non Carborundum was my dad’s advice to me.    I finished my race by completing a career and retiring as a Navy Senior Chief.   So my son,  whether you serve 20 years or 6 more months,  I will not be prouder of you for never saying “I quit”.  You will always be ARMY STRONG to me.

Burial at sea

 

One of the privileges that a Navy man can request,  when the end time comes, is to be buried at sea. While I was on board the USS PETERSON in the mid-1990’s,  I was on the honor detail when we performed the last rites for (ashes of) a veteran of World War II. The ceremony was a solemn, set on the fantail of the destroyer.  Taps was rendered.  The Navy Hymn was played ( we had a boom box with a recording).  An officer, selected by the duty roster, read some words about the veteran and the tradition.  And everything was recorded on videotape for the deceased’s relatives. This was 1994 or 1995, so there was nothing like today’s live streaming technology.   When the time came to commit our Shipmate into the deep,  the wind shifted.   Our brother went partly into the briny — and also across the fantail.  A little splicing that evening in the Media center edited the re-shot final images of the burial at sea.   No need to stress the family with the ‘Sweepers’ call that was mustered up.

A burial — and a rebirth at sea, was exactly what occurred for me personally when I spent eight years on sea duty assignments with three different ships.   As I continue to read letters written in my first two years in the Navy, and from time when I went back into the Navy seven years later, I see a person that I no longer recognize.  I had tackled one of the most-rigorous technical skills the Navy offered,  but it took trial, error, failure, and opportunity that unexpectedly resulted in a review that medically discharged me.   At that time  I was an introverted teenager trying to escape Arizona and a negative self-image by joining the Navy;  in the Eighties, as a twenty-something stuck in a rut, with a challenging relationship, and poor job outlook,  I was able to re-enter the Navy, but only in that same field that had so challenged me previously.   The grass, or rather the salt air was beckoning me and I chose selfishly.   As my letters from this period show, I markedly changed as I matured.  When my personal life fell apart- my then wife took up with someone else,  I became more callous, even cynical at times, and a workaholic.    The go-to guy if something needed to be done.

However , San Diego changed all that.   I, metaphorically, died again, and was reborn –while I was still on active duty and assigned sea duty.   My new spiritual chain of command started with God and Jesus.  You listen when your ISIC (Immediate Superior in Command)  wears actual stars on his uniform. As stuck as  I had been in my past lives and self-interests,  I enjoy now a real freedom with my wife, family and church.  My skills, passions, and commitment is focused positively.   For almost twenty years, I have found that a burial at sea, and resurrection into a new life is truly freeing.  Thank God.

armed with coffee, savvy, and “can-do”

When I was in the military, my role -besides ALL the other roles that I was given, was to maintain electronic communication equipment.  Really, this was an ironic career choice.   I should have gone into the social sciences and language.  The irony is that,  for more than 30 years,  I have been very capable in problem-solving.  When I lack the specific skills I am not afraid to ask questions – usually over strong coffee.

for veteran success

In the military and in an industry, to be effective, a person has to be capable in the role they were hired to do; possess attitude and work ethic for team success, do more than what is necessary and to be creative in problem solving.  At times, it is knowing the proper department person to contact for a quick -turn shipment,  a service request,  or  who stocked a particular adhesive for a repair done outside of the production chain of command.   To advance personally and professionally, a veteran often stands out by mentoring new employees and providing a team manager a “go-to” person.  In the workplace today, there are so many social contracts, sensitive subjects,  and human factors which are at odds with the department production goals and veterans “can-do”, get-the-job-done expertise.  While almost every enterprise challenges workers to do more with less, a veteran generally wants a product that a military end-user would have perform flawlessly when needed.  It might take more veterans in each business unit to overcome some individuals who do not challenge plans, goals, and promises made by leadership,  and to challenge those peers who do only what is necessary to maintain their position.  b3882-10051720openhousecolor397

Problem-solving skills include experiences in a military career to develop civilians into capable specialists.   Raised in an environment that does not cater to individual wants,  does demand personal sacrifice,  and teaches attention to detail,   a veteran is unfazed by office politics,  used to changing priorities from managers and figures out what gets the job done.  Sometimes the response is a cheery dose of salty language.   Circumventing the labor to schedule, exchange email, and discuss tools and equipment needed is a skill many military veterans are well-versed.   The veteran has frequently used a barter program, the unofficial currency in the military, to accomplish a task.  At other times,  it means having the confidence to draw a stopping point and get more hands on deck to troubleshoot a complex set of issues.

working smarter

Once upon a time, I would work myself into burn-out.  I no longer set impossibly-challenging goals and am able to call in reinforcements without hesitation.     Being creative in solving issues, and not volunteering but being assigned, may get a  ‘hanger queens’ successfully leaving my test station.  I leave it to others to foul it up.

Remembering where I came from

Looking through old photo albums, when they were actually processed and printed on

paper,  I spent part of Saturday rewinding about 90 years of my family’s history through some dusty albums that were in my garage storage bins for several years.

my dad

Old photos encourage me.  Even seeing my father looking so athletic and proud with his young son dispels memories  of the many years he was crippled by illness.  My dad was a brilliant, funny and an athletic man.  I spent many years of my youth thinking of many negatives: when dad read something in the Wall Street Journal that said that glow-in-the-dark balls were unsafe, I was marched back to the toy store to get my change back.  When we went on road trips I was drilled on my multiplication tables.  Later when my mom and he were divorced,  and dad took me out on his weekend visit, we would go to nice restaurants,  but he always ordered the cheap meals and we filled up on the free rolls and butter.

Only later as an adult, I remembered that he would drive across the country from his job to attend my middle school and high school graduations.   He took a teaching job near our home so he could spend time with me.  At that time he was still trying to get half his body to respond after a stroke – and dealing with people who would equate debilitation with stupidity.   Far from it  – even in that condition.  He graduated near the top of his class in high school and in college as an aerospace engineer but also played sports.   He probably was motivated to excel as my grandfather’s occupations seemed to change as jobs came and went.   Instead, he worked in missile propulsion and development in the early years.  (Which likely helped me to get the jobs I held that involved trust.)  My father died 28 years ago while I was in the service.  I did not find out for two years.

mom

My mother was a good-looking woman;  as sharp mentally as attractive outwardly.  And it must have been quite the catch for my father.   When my maternal grandparents emigrated from Ireland at the end of WWII, she had to contend with Seniors in high school making fun of her accent.  In New Jersey they did not have much else to poke fun at.   She had graduated at the top of her nursing class at Mount Sinai Hospital, and as an R.N. worked with infants, intensive care, emergency treatment, and supervision.  Looking back at my teen years, it no longer seems odd that she pursued a dream to become an english literature scholar and college teacher in middle age.  She became a nurse for the career opportunity that would always be useful and financially secure.  But her passion was elsewhere. 20170423_150516

Mom’s aged photos showed several beaus – a soldier who looks like he only just lost out to my dad;  and some guys who might have been doctors, attorneys or business people.   Among her circle of friends included a Nobel laureate.  But the family photos bear witness to the changes that time, health, and fortunes – waxing and waning produced.

After deciding to marry again, she later learned that her second husband was attracted to children.  That divorce sealed her future as a bitter woman, more inclined to spend her savings on old horses, rescue dogs, cats and a burro.   You see, I have a sister, an adoptee, whom I have rarely spoken with in forty years.  Robin never forgave her mother for divorcing my father and subjecting her to abuse.   We went separate ways after I initially joined the Navy – and she was the one who suffered at the hands of my mother’s second husband.  After thirty years, we last spent any time together in the few months after my mother’s passing six years ago.

son

I chose to go into the Navy as much for the adventure,  the training – which has become the means I earn a living,  and for several veterans’ benefits, as I did to make a clean break from the family.   That’s actually the ironic part,  as I returned after my first enlistment to the same city, Tucson,  to attend the University of Arizona.  My father, still living at the time, moved to Tucson, and I spent time with him and with my mother – still my most ardent cheerleaders for my success.

I can only speak for myself, but I realized around the age of 39, that all of life’s successes mean less than how you handle failure.  Raised with a concept of the spiritual, but never seeing God,  I was continually trying not to be the sum of my upbringing and family.   But after twenty years of a changed life,  I recognize suffering allowed me to treasure the family I have now.   I realize that there is a God that cares for us, but does not force us to engage with him;  most of the world is suffering at the hands of people. For the goodness and love to have any impact, overcoming self-centered attitudes,  misgivings about our childhood,  misgivings about our marriages or children or jobs or finances or health have to be overcome.  Some people blame God for being on the sidelines. Others have no room for God.  Still others have god in their schedules but not in their driver’s seat.

And that is why I can look at these photo albums of people and places that shaped my life with contentment.  I appreciate family history but I am not bound by the people my parents became nor am I limited by my own shortcomings. I trust in my heavenly Father and Lord.   And the future does not hold any fear for me.