CNN+ Joins Such Iconic Failures As The Edsel, New Coke, And Alf Landon

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At least Google+ lasted nine years. CNN+ barely made it past nine days. The colossal flop doesn’t even merit a “crash and burn” label because that would imply it made it past the launch. The embarrassing fact is CNN+ never got off the ground. Maybe “stillborn” would be a better epitaph.

Every generation needs its version of the Edsel, Ford’s classic foray into product infamy and marketing case studies. The Edsel belongs to the Boomers. Gen X-ers get New Coke. The Millennials now have CNN+. Heck, if you want to go back far enough, you can hang Alf Landon on the Silent Generation (parents of the Boomers).

Each of these failures feature a common trait: hubris. Those in charge simply believed they Continue Reading “CNN+ Joins Such Iconic Failures As The Edsel, New Coke, And Alf Landon”

Why The Harvard MBA Should Be FIREd

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Have you ever played the game of Life? Very early on, you reach a fork in the road. You have to decide whether you’re going to go to college or whether you’re going to go straight into a career.

Does this sound familiar? If it sounds a lot like “What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?” then congratulate yourself. You’re definitely paying attention.

Recall the story of the Sicilian fisherman. When the Harvard MBA tried to convince him to expand his business, the fisherman would have none of it. Why? Because he understood Continue Reading “Why The Harvard MBA Should Be FIREd”

Pyrrhus and Cineas – The True Story Behind The Origin Of The ‘Fisherman’s Parable’

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Ferdinand Bol, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ferdinand Bol, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you search “Fisherman’s Parable,” you’ll find dozens of sites repeating what is commonly labeled in terms of the parable of the “Mexican” fisherman. In truth, most of these sites merely repeat a variation on a theme akin to the “Sicilian” variation told to me by my grandfather.

These sites tend to declare the original author of this story is “anonymous.” A few of the more honest ones cite a specific source, namely Heinrich Theodor Böll, a German writer who received the 1972 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Böll wrote a short story in 1963 titled “Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral” (“Anecdote Concerning the Lowering of Productivity”). Rather than a Harvard MBA, the interlocutor is a “smartly-dressed enterprising” tourist. Instead of being Sicilian (or Mexican, for that matter), the “shabbily dressed local” fisherman was found resting at an unnamed harbor on the west coast of Europe. The rest of the story, including its ironic conclusion, remains very similar.

Still, we can’t credit Böll with an original philosophical insight. In fact, the original source Continue Reading “Pyrrhus and Cineas – The True Story Behind The Origin Of The ‘Fisherman’s Parable’”

‘What Success Means to Me…’

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The Parable of the Sicilian Fisherman and the Harvard MBA
(based on a grandfather’s story to his grandson)*

*My grandfather, an immigrant from Sicily, always laughed when he (repeatedly) told this story to me. If it sounds familiar it’s because this Parable has been told in many different ways by many different ethnic groups. Next week I’ll reveal the story behind the original story and why you may have seen this particular version, albeit with a different international flavor.

One morning, a Fortune 100 CEO, vacationing in a lush Sicilian villa overlooking the warm Mediterranean sands, came upon a local peasant sleeping comfortably against a fig tree. The peasant’s children danced around him, only occasionally tugging at the straw hat that protected his relaxed face from the tropical sun.

The energetic CEO studied the placid scene. Curiosity getting the better of him, the CEO woke the native and asked him what he did for a living.

“I’m a fisherman,” yawned the perplexed peasant.

The CEO then asked the man why he wasn’t fishing.

“I’ve caught enough fish for today,” replied the tranquil fisherman. He didn’t seem to mind the CEO interrupting his quiet family life. “I am the best fisherman on all the seas,” he continued matter-of-factly. “Each morning I take 30 minutes out of my day and haul in a boat-load of fish. This is enough to feed my very large family and still have some left over to share with my less fortunate neighbors. I can then spend the rest of the day watching my children grow or whatever else I want to do.”Continue Reading “‘What Success Means to Me…’”

Capacity Constraints: How Knowing Your Limitations Can Save Your Life (And Your Business)

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There’s a scene towards the end of the classic movie The Outlaw Josey Wales when a bounty hunter saunters in looking for Clint Eastwood’s titular character. When Wales asks him if he’s a bounty hunter, the man says, “A man’s got to do something for a living these days.” To which Wales responds, “Dying ain’t much of a livin’, boy.”

The bounty hunter considers this “advice” and saunters off only to return moments later to, well, let’s just say he wasn’t very good at making a living.

This would have been the perfect moment for Clint to growl “A man’s got to know his Continue Reading “Capacity Constraints: How Knowing Your Limitations Can Save Your Life (And Your Business)”

Busting The ‘If We Ain’t Growing, We’re Dying’ Myth

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Jacob Peter Gowy, Public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsDaedalus carefully showed his son how to apply the wax to affix the feathers to his shoulders and arms. “These wings will work,” he said. “We will finally be free of this prison.”

Ironically, it was Daedalus himself who had created the Labyrinth, a vexing array of “intricate passageways and blind alleys” (at least according to Merriam-Webster). Anyone – or anything – imprisoned in this complicated maze found it nearly impossible to escape. Indeed, mythology claimed only Theseus was able to find his way out of Daedalus’ Labyrinth (primarily because Daedalus gave him a big hint).

Why did Daedalus build the Labyrinth? To imprison the Minotaur, a half-man/half-bull monster (whose origin story is not fit to print in a family newspaper). BTW, Theseus went into the Labyrinth to kill the Minotaur (something to do with the ancient Greek version of Continue Reading “Busting The ‘If We Ain’t Growing, We’re Dying’ Myth”

Did You Know About This Sizzling Greater Western New York Hidden Gem?

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How many times have you heard the phrase “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle?” or some similar variation? It’s almost a universal axiom in marketing and sales. But did you know its connection to the Greater Western New York Region (and Rochester in particular)?

I actually came upon this hidden gem quite by accident. I often binge read old books on favorite subject areas. My theory behind this is simple: “What’s old is new again.” Of course, this idea isn’t new.

In 1858, George Eliot wrote in Scenes of Clerical Life, “History, we know, is apt to repeat itself, and to foist very old incidents upon us with only a slight change in costume.”

With that in mind, I used to binge on old movies. That same principle held there, too.

If you’re familiar with the reason I wrote The Macaroni Kid, (performed by the Monsignor Schnacky Players in 2009), you’ll recognize how this idea can be used in real life.

At the time, I wanted to test the hypothesis that good humor is eternal. So I wrote a Continue Reading “Did You Know About This Sizzling Greater Western New York Hidden Gem?”

Here’s Why You Always Ask The Obvious Question

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Photo by Troy Sherk from FreeImagesHow many times does this happen to you?

Someone asks you for help in dealing with another person. It could be a negotiation, it could be to convince them, it might even be to ask them for a favor. You judiciously listen to their plight, absorbing where each party stands and what exactly the person seeking your help wants.

In your mind, you construct a verbal argument carefully built to nudge the other party towards the position sought by your friend. You start by suggesting your associate ask the Continue Reading “Here’s Why You Always Ask The Obvious Question”

‘There Must Be A Pony In Here Somewhere!’

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If you’re old enough to remember simpler times, you’ll recall this title as the punch-line to one of President Reagan’s favorite jokes. The gag revealed not only Reagan’s engaging sense of humor, but also a lot about his political philosophy and his outlook on life.

The essence of the story goes something like this. It’s Christmas morning and two young brothers hurriedly amble towards the Christmas tree to discover their gifts. On one side lay piles of wonderful toys for one of the boys. He looked at it and sorrowfully said, “They’ll all be broken in a day or two.” The other boy’s gift, on the other side of the tree, was nothing but a pile of manure. He quickly grabbed a shovel and began to dig, joyfully telling his dour sibling, “There’s must be a pony in here somewhere!”

It’s the age-old tale of the wonders of optimism contrasted with the annoyance of Continue Reading “‘There Must Be A Pony In Here Somewhere!’”

The Great American Maxim: Stand Alone And Win

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The Conqueror“The game was created to demonstrate the futility of individual effort. Let the game do its work… If a champion defeats the meaning for which the game was designed, then he must lose.”

So says Mr. Bartholomew in 1975’s classic film Rollerball. It’s an American tale. An epic retelling of the classic mantra that fills the heart of every red-blooded citizen from the very founding of our country.

Don’t believe me? Just look at some of the most popular books, films, or any other place where a character must confront personal and public obstacles in heroic fashion. The most compelling of those stories are built around a single individual.

No, it doesn’t take a village to succeed, it takes self-discipline, self-reliance, and, ultimately, Continue Reading “The Great American Maxim: Stand Alone And Win”