Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Secret Empires a Book Review

Secret Empires by Peter Schweizer

A Book Review By
By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, March 27, 2018

Sometimes words fail me and this is one of those times.  I read Secret Empires page by page, start to finish.  It is extremely well written and very well documented as to the truth of what has been written. 

My take away from the book?  Washington DC is more dirtier than I had ever imagined and that is saying quite a bit considering I grew up in the shadows of the John F. Kennedy Assassination, the LBJ dishonesty in regards to Vietnam; the Richard Nixon Watergate debacle and how could anyone not remember the sexcapades of Bill Clinton.  That was all followed up with Barack Obama, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.  The jury is still out on Donald Trump.

What this book so clearly points out is that there is a much deeper corruption involved within the highest levels of government in Washington that goes far beyond the figurehead names like Joe Biden, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Bill & Hillary Clinton. Except for Bill & Hillary, most have managed to keep their names out of corruption while members of their families and close friends have reaped the financial rewards of their association with the more famous names of their political family members.  This has created corruption at levels most of us could not imagine.

I found this book to be totally disgusting.  Just when I thought it could not get any worse than the headlines on the nightly news shows, you Secret Empires and realize just how bad life and times in Washington DC actually is.  Family members have made BILLIONS of dollars by association with their famous parents primarily through foreign countries who seek to garner favors from the politicians in power and it is supposedly all legal.  If they did the exact same thing within the confines of the United States, they could be brought up on charges but not so if it involved foreign governments.  They have learned how to milk the system and milk it they continue to do while we just look on in amazement.

The corruption is not just a Democrat or a Republican issue, both political parties have engaged in the corruption outlined in this book.  Sadly there seems to be no end in sight especially since the national news media does not seem to care one way or the other.

Financial payoffs that we more closely have associated with foreign governments are now on our doorstep.  It just amazes me that the news media, the very people we have for years entrusted with insuring this kind of corruption does not happen, ignore all signs of it.  You would think that the detailed information this author could discover for his book would be readily available to reporters.  I defy you to find stories in the news about the sons of Joe Biden and John Kerry like you read about in this book.

The content of this book disgusts me.  Frankly I have reached a point in my life that I just don’t care anymore and that seems to be the prevailing lack of concern for most Americans.  Maybe “most Americans” would feel differently IF they were aware of the corruption described in this book; I certainly wasn’t and I pay attention.

Who should read this book?  EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE!  Would I read it again?  No, made me sick enough the first time through it.  Would I buy it as a gift?  Probably not because I seriously doubt anyone would intentionally read a book like this even though they should.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Education, Teachers, Shootings

By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, March 13, 2018

Sometimes you come upon the written or spoken word and you know not from whose lips it came.  This is one of those times when I wish I knew who the author was and how to contact him to thank him for his timely and very pointed comments that follow: 

Dear Students,

I know you. I am a retired teacher of 24 years. I have taught you as 7th graders all the way through 12th grade. This is not a tweet or a text. It’s called a letter; lengthy and substantial. Do you really want to make a difference? Are you sincere about making your schools safe? Don’t walk out, read this instead. Walking out of school is easy compared to what this letter will challenge you to do.

First of all, put down your stupid phone. Look around you at your classmates. Do you see the kid over in the corner, alone? He could likely be our next shooter. He needs a friend. He needs you. Go and talk to him, befriend him. Chances are, he won’t be easy to like, but it’s mainly because no one has tried to like him. Ask him about him. Get to know him. He’s just like you in that respect; he wants someone to recognize him as a fellow human being but few people have ever given him the chance. You can.

Next, see that kid eating lunch all alone? He could likely be our next shooter. Invite him to eat lunch with you. Introduce him into your fold of friends. You’ll most likely catch a lot of flak from the friends you eat with because they don’t want him upsetting the balance of their social order. After all, who you hang out with is critical to your status, is it not? If status is important to you, don’t you think it’s important to him also? The only difference being that he has no status because generally, shooters have no friends. Are you serious about wanting to make your school safe? Invite him to your lunch table and challenge your friends to do something meaningful with thirty minutes of their lives each day.

Lastly, are you completely frustrated by that kid who always disrupts your class and is consistently sent to the principal’s office? He could likely be our next shooter. Do you know why he causes so much trouble? He initiates disruption because that’s the only thing he does that gets him attention, and even bad attention is better than the no attention he receives from you and your classmates. You secretly wish he would get kicked out of school or sent to the alternative disciplinary school so that he wouldn’t disrupt your classes anymore (and) that somehow, he would just disappear. Guess what? He already feels invisible in a school of thousands of classmates, you included. So, before he acts out in your next class, why don’t you tell him you’d be willing to help him with the assignment that was just given? Or why don’t you ask him to join your study group? If you really want to blow his mind, ask him for help on the assignment. He’s never been asked that. Ever.

If you’ve read this far, you probably really do care about the safety of your school. Don’t trust that walking out of school will bring an answer. Gun control or more laws is not, and will not be the answer. You are the answer. Your greeting, your smile, your gentle human touch is the only thing that can change the world of a desperate classmate who may be contemplating something as horrendous as a school shooting. Look past yourself and look past your phone and look into the eyes of a student who no one else sees. Meet the gaze of a fellow human being desperate to make contact with anyone, even just one person; YOU. If you really feel the need to walk, walk toward that person. Your new friendship can relieve the heartache of one person and in doing so; possibly prevent the unjustifiable heartache of hundreds of lives in the future. I know you. I trust you. You are the answer.

And teachers, my fellow guardians of our youth, I know you too. I know the desire of wanting to make a difference in a young person’s life. I know the thrill of stepping in front of a classroom of students but simultaneously intimidated by the trust bestowed upon you. I also know the crushing, sometimes unbearable responsibility that your shoulders are asked to carry. But that’s why you got into teaching, because you have big shoulders; and a big heart. You’re overworked (I would add underpaid, but you didn’t get into teaching for the pay, so it needn’t be said), underappreciated and exhausted. May I add one more item to that list? You’re also a miracle waiting to happen in the life of your worst student. He could likely be our next shooter. The next time (and there’s always a next time) he’s ready to wreak havoc in your classroom, I challenge you to pull him aside and ask him if he’s ok, if there is something bothering him and is there anything you can do to help? Your genuine concern for him may be just the miracle he’s looking for. The miracle we’re all looking for. I know you. I trust you. You are the answer.

A former teacher who is as heartbroken as you and trusting you not to walk out on the real answer,

David (yes, teachers really do have first names) Blair

I read the above letter at the same time I read several posts on Facebook that were very unkind towards teachers and our educational system.  I felt a need to first recognize the above letter as perfectly identifying the problem within our schools when it comes to ignoring students with problems.  Here are my thoughts on the subject of teachers and education.

I have heard all of the arguments regarding teacher’s salaries.  Some of those opinions are just that, opinions, some are actually based upon facts, training and education.  I believe our teachers are underpaid for the work they perform and more importantly for the results we parents expect them to produce.  Nothing will ever change my mind on that premise because it is true.

To be a teacher in most states, at least in the public school system, you must have a college degree.  If a teacher did not get a scholarship to attend college, the cost of the degree is entirely the responsibility of the teacher or the future teacher’s parents.  Yes some teachers receive scholarships, full or partial, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Few teachers I know work an 8 hour day.  Most if not all work MORE than 8 hour days and work during their so-called lunch time as well.  But “people” say they get their summers off.  That is true, they do but they do it WITHOUT PAY unless they arrange to have their pay spread out over an entire year meaning they receive less during the actual school year but do receive compensation over the summer.  The question becomes what do teachers do during the summer months?  A lot of people think they are being paid and doing nothing related to teaching school. The good teachers are expanding their professional abilities by attending classes, workshops, seminars almost always at THEIR own expense with no additional compensation from their school boards.  If you happen to do that for your job, good for you; most do not.

If a teacher obtains a Masters Degree or a Doctorial Degree they usually do so at THEIR own expense.  School Boards typically include an increase in base pay for teachers obtaining such advanced degrees but they do not differentiate between good teachers, mediocre teachers and bad teachers when it comes to pay as they are all on the same pay schedule rather than a compensation system that recognizes exceptional teachers.  One size does not fit all and that is ever so true when it comes to teachers.  As a student, do you remember the differences between the teachers you had while in school?  I do.  Some were great; others not so much.  In fact some where only there to collect a pay check.  Others were there to see that I received the best education possible.  Yet both teachers were paid the same and it was administratively almost impossible to fire teachers much like it is for any government worker.  The inefficient are just “carried” until something changes.

While on the subject of education, have you ever wondered how a student could reach the higher levels of High School and still cannot read?  The answer is simple.  The student was a problem like the ones identified in the above letter.  Instead of FIXING THE PROBLEM by holding the student back, the student is advanced to the next grade.  Why does this happen?  Teachers ARE evaluated on the success of their students.  Holding a student back regardless of the student’s ability to advance or not, is an adverse reflection on the teachers evaluation.  No teacher wants that so instead of having a student repeat a grade, they are literally kicked down the road like a rusty old soup can for the next teacher to deal with.  Meanwhile the student’s self-esteem is in the toilet along with his or her future.
NOW FOR THE FACTS.  Our school system is broken if you believe American students and the country should have the best education available on the planet.  The facts prove that this is simply not true.  Think about the direction of our schools when you consider all the political correctness and even political indoctrination that currently exists in most of our schools.  Think about the movement towards having no losers; everyone gets a trophy. 

In “real life” everyone does NOT get a trophy and to be teaching students that they should not worry about doing well in school because they will get a trophy anyway is just boneheaded thinking and teaching.  You either win or you lose; it is that simple.  Can you name the Indianapolis 500 Driver who came in second in the 2005 race?  How about the 2017 race?  Doubt it.  There was only one winner of the race.  It is possible to create win-win situations in business and life but when the attitude exists that everyone gets a trophy, you can forget the win-win situations.  It will almost always turn out that one person wins and everyone else loses.

Look at the statistics for yourself and you decide where America stands in relationship to students from around the world.  If you don’t think this is alarming, I would seriously refrain from operating any heavy machinery for the rest of your life.  These numbers are very disturbing but you decide:

Last comment, I promise.  Let’s assume you are a parent and have 3 school age children.  You want the best education for your children, right?  Of course you would; dumb question.  But in our present school system, government bureaucrats have decided which schools your children MUST attend because of the physical location of the home in which you live is located.  It doesn’t matter to the government whether the school is producing great educational results or not, that is the school you must send your children to. 

You can always choose a private school(s) but let’s be honest.  You pay taxes and tax money is used to fund the public school systems throughout America.  If you choose to send your child or children to a private school(s), you are paying for TWO SCHOOLS, the public one through taxes, the private one through your tuition costs.  How does anyone believe that to be fair?  More importantly, if suddenly all the private schools were to be closed and those students were sent to public schools, the public school systems would be overwhelmed and become more dysfunctional than they already are.
The solution is called School Choice meaning parents would have the right to choose the school for their children to attend.  This would force more emphasis to be placed on failing schools to bring their levels up to more acceptable standards; imagine that, competition actually works.  All schools would no longer receive participation trophies for merely opening their doors – they would have to prove their worth or be shut down and is that not what happens throughout the business communities of the world and life itself?  You fail; you close your doors and then start over.

Given all of the turmoil in our educational systems around the country, think about the above letter and what is expected and what was expected of our teachers in both teaching our children and protecting them from incidents so deplorable as the shooting in Florida.  We are asking a great deal from our teachers and compensate them as if we don’t care.  We care, don’t we?  Somehow I don’t think so.

I can think of no profession so vital to the future of America and the world than the teaching profession.  Isn’t it time we learn to appreciate what we have and treat them accordingly?  If we chose not to, Home Schooling will soon become even more popular than it already is.  Maybe that is not a bad thing.  Maybe that is what would be called the natural progression of things.  When you consider the amount of money we taxpayers pay to the Federal Government that goes just to the Department of Education not to the schools, it is mindboggling especially when you discover that the Department of Education IS NOT one of the delineated responsibilities of the Federal Government.  Imagine that.  We all would be better off giving that money to our local communities to fund education rather than paying huge salaries of bureaucrats in Washington.  Think about that for a moment.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Selling Things, a book review

By Orison Swett Marden (1916)
A book review by Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown March 6 2018

FOR THE RECORD, read this book for the second time.  More amazing than the first time.  I can see so many of today's books on selling and success that others have written within the text of this one book.  I see quotes more recently attributed to others also within the text of this one book.  Keep in mind it was written over 100 years ago and is just as applicable today as it was then.  Could not possibly recommend it more for everyone in sales to read and as stated below, EVERYONE IS INVOLVED IN SALES OF SOME TYPE.  Keep in mind that it WAS written in 1916 and as such contains figures relating to income that today may seem small but it was 1916.

If I were a Real Estate Broker (again), I would take this book and incorporate a training program that would strongly suggest that EVERY agent read it just one chapter at a time and then convene a Mastermind Group of all the willing agents to discuss what the chapter contains.  It would take 29 weeks to go through each chapter but it would be extremely well worth the time and effort.  This is a great book!

SELLING THINGS, don’t be fooled by the title; please.  Everyone is involved in selling something at some time whether it is a product or service or an idea or just debating a subject – we are all selling almost every day of our lives.  So with that said, who would benefit from reading this book?  EVERYONE!  Seriously, everyone would benefit to some degree from Marden’s mindful approach to selling.

I have been involved in real estate sales for more than 33 years and have read well over 1000 books and articles and I can assure you that I had a hard time putting this book down.  There are only 29 chapters but every chapter deals with a very certain aspect of selling and how to become the best at selling your product, service or position.  If you are in sales, this book would prove to be immeasurable when it comes to your success as a sales person or for that matter a manager of sales people.  Every chapter would unto itself be a wonderful subject/topic for a weekly sales meeting of your sales force.  If I were back in the management arena, I would ask that every one of my sales people purchase the Kindle version for only 99 cents; it would be the wisest investment they would have ever made.  Then take a chapter a week.  Ask them to read it, write down their questions, their comments and their ideas and then use a weekly sales meeting to discuss what they had learned.  I can guarantee you it would be something.  No one could possibly read this book and NOT come away with a different attitude towards what they do for a living – sales. 

Marden wrote this in 1916, must have been one of the last books he wrote.  The topics he discusses still apply today, maybe even more so.  Chapter 26, while it describes sales people, could be used as a job description for a sales management position.  A MUST READ if you are in sales.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Your Letter of Credit

Your Letter of Credit

By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, March 5, 2018

“Every man has a letter of credit written on his face.
We are our own best advertisements,
and if we appear to (be) disadvantage(d) in any particular (way)
we are rated accordingly.”

From “Selling Things” by Orison Swett Marden written in 1910

WARNING; some who read this may find it offensive.  Keep in mind, if the shoe fits, wear it or change shoes!

If you read the book, and I sincerely hope you do, you will discover as I did that within the 29 short chapters lies the very description of an effective salesperson.  But I am not in sales you say.  Really?  Do you honestly believe that?  Have you never tried to convince someone of something you believe in or tried to get someone like a employer, manager, fellow-employee, spouse or child to buy into an idea or to buy a product or service?  Or have you applied for a job?  EVERYONE is in sales!  PERIOD!

Read the above quote from the book again.  EVERY man and woman (I updated it), EVERY man has a LETTER OF CREDIT, written on his or her FACE!

I remember another quote that I also believe very much in, “What you think of me is none of my business.”  This is the title of a very good book by Terry Cole-Whittaker:
These two quotes appear to be in contrast with each other and they are.  Everyone should have and maintain their core values and principal beliefs.  When it comes to these two characteristics there should be no compromise – none!  But the first quote is not talking about your core values or principals, Marden is talking about being a successful salesperson and in that he agrees, NEVER compromise your beliefs.

Being successful in sales is NOT about your core values or your beliefs, it is about convincing another person to buy what you are selling whether it is a product or service, a vacation desire or an idea for a better way of doing business.  You are pitching a sale of something you would like to see happen and are hoping that another person agrees to buy it from you.

What Marden writes about in his book and more specifically refers to in the above quote is all about YOU and why you should care about YOU.  I learned a valuable lesson from my late mother when she took me as a youngster back in the 1950s into a men’s clothing store.  A young, good looking guy maybe in his twenties approached us and ask if he could help us (actually her, I was way too young to be buying anything in that store).  She immediately said no but continued to look around the store without his help or assistance.  A few minutes later another young man approached us and asked if HE could help and she said yes, she was looking for a gift for my Dad.  When we left the store, I asked her why she accepted the help of the second salesperson and not the first.  She said the first young man had a beard and she did not trust anyone wearing a beard.

Scoff at that if you wish but consider the fact that both of these young men probably were working on commission sales meaning they did not make a dime if they did not sell something.  When you consider that possibility, are you so ready to scoff at what I wrote about?  Was my mother correct in her thinking that she didn’t feel she could trust someone with a beard?  Absolutely not but that is what she believed.  How she came to believe that I do not know nor did I ask.  Here is the most important lesson of this story.  She was my mother and my mother would never lie to me.  So at the age of 10, what did I now believe?  DON’T TRUST ANYONE WITH A BEARD!  I didn’t need a reason, my mother had said it.

Another story from my past and fortunately or unfortunately it also involved my mother.  Whenever someone would approach our front door that she did not recognize, she would tell us to be quiet, “it’s a salesman!”  Again it came from my mother so there must be good reason not to answer the door when a salesman knocked.  60 plus years later, there is something deep inside of me that suggests I should not trust anyone knocking at my door that I do not know. 

I entered the real estate business in 1980 and became a real estate broker in 1982.  I attended many sales classes and taught them myself that suggested people new to the business should “knock on doors.”  This means that if they want to develop a customer base they needed to meet people and one way to accomplish that was to “knock on doors.”  But wait, my mother had told me not to trust strangers who just knocked on our door.  Can you understand why knocking on doors was so difficult for me to do?  Can you understand how prejudice in all forms are initially created and then passed along?

If you haven’t already begun to understand what I am attempting to convey let me explain it in a very brief statement.

It does not matter what YOU think!
Right or wrong, tt’s all about what a probable CUSTOMER thinks!
It IS true, it’s what the CUTOMER thinks!

We as sales people, and we all are in sales of one type or another, truly do wear our own personal “letters of credit” on our bodies as we talk to people who we want to buy from us.  From head to toe we are, at least on the outside, who we appear to be.  Short, tall, thin, overweight, bearded, clean shaven, long hair, short hair, well dressed, not well dressed, moderate jewelry, overdone jewelry, tattoos, no tattoos, shined shoes, no shined shoes (more of an expression in the 1900s when “blackened” shoes was the acceptable look), and a pleasant or unpleasant smell – DIFFERENCES!

Do you think the bearded salesman would have chosen to wear his beard if he knew for certain that it would have cost him a commission on the sale my mother made that day?  Maybe so; maybe not.  Here’s a better question.  If the salesman was married, do you think his spouse would be concerned that he failed to make a sale because he preferred to wear a beard?

Before beard wearing readers get so angry with me, the beard is only a symbol or metaphor what I am attempting to put importance on – THINGS MATTER.   In the case of the bearded salesperson – what was more important, making money or wearing the beard?  What IS more important, making money or having tattoos on your arms, neck and even your face?  What IS more important, making money or having body piercings?    What IS more important, making money or wearing what YOU think is appropriate rather than what a CUSTOMER might expect?

Let me be clear.  None of these things unto themselves are necessarily bad.  They become bad IF the CUSTOMER has some form of prejudice against them or they fail to meet the CUSTOMER’S expectations.  Keep in mind if YOU do not outwardly meet the CUSTOMER’S expectations, there are others in sales that will

To put this into perspective, assume that you make a sale and you will receive a check for $1000.00.  Being a younger person, you see nothing wrong with having body piercings but the customer is anything but young, in fact the customer is elderly.  The elderly person may accept body piercings but in my elderly world, probably not.  Therefore you can think and believe that what someone else thinks of you is none of your business but it IS your business if it prevents you from making the sale.

You may think that in your world having tattoos or having body piercings are acceptable and they probably are.  But are you prepared to do business, makes sales, ONLY in your immediate world or environment?  If so, fine but for most people they need to expand their world to be more inclusive when it comes to attracting more customers.

Be aware that there is an age difference and that difference equates to potential income, or not.  If you choose to ignore what older people believe to be acceptable, you choose to limit your sales and ultimately your income. 

FOR OLDER READERS, THE EXACT OPPOSITE IS ALSO TRUE.  If YOU are trying to sell someone your product, services or idea, are you limiting your customer base by imposing your expectations on probable customers?  My guess is that you are.

What does all this mean?  It means exactly what Marden wrote in the above quote – you ARE wearing your “Letter of Credit” on your face (body, wardrobe, language, words, and/or attitude or even the car you drive or the cleanliness of your car).  The probable or potential customer can see it all, as can the world.  Exactly what image do you want the customer and the world to see?  More importantly, it may be fitting in the world you live but will it be acceptable in the world you may live in tomorrow?  This may be the MOST important question of all that only you can answer: WHAT IMAGINE DO YOU WANT A POTENTIAL FUTURE IMPLOYER TO SEE?  If you were the employer would you hire the person YOU see at the initial interview or would you find it difficult if not impossible to see beyond what you outwardly see and never give the job applicant to prove him or herself to you in spite of how they at first appear.  Remember, it is the objective of the employer to hire people that represent the “look” of the company they want the public to see.  IT MATTERS!

Remember, “Never judge a book by its cover!”

Also remember, it is almost impossible NOT to judge a book or a person but its cover.

How do you want people to see you?

Your call!