Sunday, December 26, 2010

Are you GOOD or FLEXIBLE ?


A few days ago, I had a conversation with a client. It went something like this:

Client: I want this and this and that, and I want it for yesterday. I don't care if you have to work nights and week ends, I'm the client, I'm paying you and I'm always right.

Me: I hear you. I will do everything I can to give you the best possible product at a decent price in the shortest time possible; but it will not be exactly as you say because: 1) You're late 2) You do not have the budget and 3) We have other good clients in the pipeline and the word I gave them is worth more than any money you can put on the table.

Client: You're not very flexible.

Me: No we're not. But we're very good instead.

Client: And you're cocky as well.

Me: No, not cocky; honest.

Client: What you're saying is that you are walking out of this deal.

Me: Not exactly. What I am saying is that we will walk out of any deal that will prevent us to deliver top quality.


I am in the service business and I have a variation of this conversation at least once a week.

People are always surprised when a business refuses money, even when the rest of the deal is crappy. For them, it just doesn't make sense. When you think short term, this way of thinking is just impossible.

When you think long term however, it is the only way to go.

FLEXIBLE Business will always:

- say YES
- promise whatever is asked of them
- over-promise and under-deliver
- accept money, regardless of what is attached to it
- bend their own rules and principles

By so doing:

- they will please the client in the short run, but disappoint him in the long run
- burn their staff and lose the respect of their team
- this will lead to high turnover with the added costs, lower morale and other problems that come along with it
- their best people will leave for better (GOOD) companies
- in the end, only the mediocre, insecure and newbies will remain

The more FLEXIBLE they'll be, the more they'll need to be, because by being FLEXIBLE, they will create conditions where is is impossible to be good.

On the other hand, GOOD companies will do just the opposite. By choosing their projects well, they might lose some money short term, but over time they will excel and establish a stellar track record. And by so doing, they will gain the respect of their staff and attract superstars into their team. They will never neglect an established client to accommodate a new one in a hurry. They will also get good client referrals because they will very rarely disappoint their clients. Their word will become more valuable than all the money they will have left on the table.

By refusing jobs where they cannot excel, they'll become better and better. Their portfolio and referrals will attract other interesting customers looking for a GOOD business partner rather than a FLEXIBLE one. And these are the best and most profitable clients a business can have.

You see, it's Pareto's principle all over again: 80% of your profits comes from 20% of your clients. And that's the 20% of very good clients that never complains. On the other hand, 80% of your problems comes from 20% of your clients. These are the ones that are never satisfied, that want you to be more FLEXIBLE.

Be careful not to neglect your good (and quiet) clients to please the vocal ones asking you to be more FLEXIBLE.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What Exactly are the World Bank and the IMF doing?

The income ratio of the one-fifth of the world’s population in the wealthiest countries to the one fifth in the poorest countries went from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 74 to 1 in 1995. And the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for the International Development, the IMF, and the rest of the banks, corporations and governments involved in international “aid” continue to tell us that they are doing their jobs, that progress has been made.” – John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Luck Is Yesterday

I was not a big fan of Josh Hartnett until I saw Lucky Number Slevin. Great acting, great movie.

But that's not the point for today. It's Christmas after all.

The point is in a quote by one of the characters in the movie - The Rabbi:

The unlucky are nothing more than a frame of reference for the lucky. You are unlucky, so I may know that I am not. Unfortunately the lucky never realizes they are lucky until it's too late. Take yourself for instance; yesterday you were better off than you are off today but it took today for you to realize it. But today has arrived and it's too late. You see? People are never happy with what they have. They want what they had, or what someone else has.

Besides the fact that I'm happy to deliver a Christmas message though a Rabbi, I just wanted to remind you of how lucky you probably are.

On this Christmas day, there are children in hospitals, hungry families, war torn countries and the World is unfortunately full of unhappy and unlucky people.

If, like me, you happen to be among the lucky few, take some time to appreciate and enjoy your luck and, if possible, by all means, try to share it around.

Merry Christmas to you all.

- JM

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The End of the Road

I love to drive and am a big fan of road trips.

In December 2001, I drove with my father all the way from Montreal (PQ) to Los Angeles (CA) and back: 11200 km (7000 miles) in 11 days.

In May 2002, with my best buddy Sylvain "Rob" Robillard, during a long week end, we drove from Montreal (PQ) to New Orleans (LA) and back to visit a friend: 6000 km (3750 miles) in 4 days. Including 2 days of party on Bourbon Street.

In 21 years of driving, I had the opportunity to drive (from Montreal, PQ) to the Eastern End of the road (Mingan Archipelago, PQ), the Western End of the Road (Pacific Ocean) and the Southern End of the road (somewhere in the Louisiana Bayou).

The Northern End was missing in my book.

In the same vicinity, I also wanted to visit the mighty LG2 dam, the world's largest underwater power generating station.

So last June, along with my friend Pat, his 4 month old pup Xena, his white FJ Cruiser and red Zodiac boat, we drove from Montreal to Radisson (PQ) and even a little further north to the exact end of the road.

From Montreal, it is a 1400 km (875 miles) drive. When you reach Matagami (800km from Montreal), you have to register before driving futher on the James Bay road. From here it's 650km to the end of the road (Radisson) and there's only one solitary gas station (at the 350 km mark). In an entire day of driving between Matagami and Radisson, we saw a grand total of 5 cars on the road. And this, mind you, was at the height of the high season.

Upon arriving, we visited Hydro Québec dams (LG1 & LG2), the Cree village of Chisasibi (pop. 4000), Radisson (pop. 343) where black bears and wolves roam the streets, the cold shores of James Bay and last but not least, navigated the immense Robert Bourassa Reservoir (1095 sq miles, 3 times the size of Lac St-Jean).

We found an unnamed island we nicknamed Peter Island and camped in total solitude, with only the stars as companions.

This far North (53rd parallel), in early June, sunrise is before 5 AM and sunset around 11 PM so we had plenty of light to take a few pictures.

WikiLeaks - The documentary

I was chatting with Twist Image's president Mitch Joel last year at a Longboard event where he was presenting his new (and very interesting by the way) book Six Pixels of Separation.

It is always fascinating to listen to what Mitch Joel has to say and there are good reasons why he's one of the most prominent Internet Gurus in the World. That day, he told me something that stuck with me.

It ran along the lines: "We're seeing a major change all over the World, this is history shifting. We just can't see it because we are right in the middle of it, but 20 years from now, we'll look back and say: I was there when it happened."

Well, one of these shift has gained momentum in the public's eye and it's Wikileaks and its controversial president Julian Assange.

Here's a short documentary relating Wikileak's rise to fame. Well worth the watch.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The 6th Continent

There is a patch of floating garbage in the North Pacific.

It is twice the size of Texas.

It is so large, it has been dubbed the 6th Continent.

It is not a pretty sight and it is killing the ocean.

One of the major causes is people drinking water from plastic bottles.

In the US alone, 173 589 041 plastic bottles are dumped in the oceans every day.

Yest, you read it right, over 173 million plastic bottles, every day.

Please, stop drinking from disposable plastic bottles and switch to reusable bottles.

It will save you money and give the oceans a chance.


I know some of you will think: We all know this, this is old stuff. Come on man, we're in 2011.

I know, I know.

Yet, everyday, I see decent, educated, wealthy professionals using plastic bottles and I'm wondering at how disconnected from reality they can be.

If you already know how bad drinking water from plastic bottles is, go and tell all your friends. I bet some of them haven't heard the Gospel yet.

Skills vs Fame

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Death of Common Sense

Obituary printed in the London Times

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.

No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

- Knowing when to come in out of the rain; 

- Why the early bird gets the worm;

- Life isn't always fair; 

- and maybe it was my fault. 

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition. 

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. 

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. 

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement. 

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason. 

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers:
- I Know My Rights
I Want It Now 

- Someone Else Is To Blame 

- I'm A Victim 

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

P.S.: Thanks to Steph Kennan for sharing.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Forgotten Man

They are always under the dominion of the superstition of government, and, forgetting that a government produces nothing at all, they leave out of sight the first fact to be remembered in all social discussion – that the state cannot get a cent for any man without taking it from some other man, and this latter must be a man who has produced and saved it.

This latter is the Forgotten Man.

William Graham Sumner

Thursday, June 17, 2010

You are not great just because your country is rich and powerful

I just finished reading Ron Paul's excellent book The Revolution - A Manifesto.

Seriously, a must read for anyone, especially Americans.

Ron Paul is truly a well educated, intelligent and no nonsense type of guy.

I couldn't resist sharing this small excerpt:

“In other words, the problem of empire-building is essentially mystical.

It must somehow foster the impression that a man is great in the degree that his nation is great; that a German as such is superior to a Belgian as such; an Englishman, to an Irishman; an American, to a Mexican: merely because the first-named countries are in each case more powerful than their comparatives.

And people who have no individual stature whatsoever are willing to accept this poisonous nonsense because it gives them a sense of importance without the trouble of any personal effort.”

Felix Morley (1957), in an essay explaining Hitler’s approach

Sunday, June 13, 2010

2 theories of effort

Indeed, the two self-theories take very different views of effort. To incremental theorists, exertion is positive. Since incremental theorists believe that ability is malleable, they see working harder as a way to get better. By contrast, says Dweck, "the entity theory is a system that requires a diet of easy successes." In this schema, if you have to work hard, it means you're not very good.

People therefore choose easy targets that, when hit, affirm their existing abilities but do little to expand them. In a sense, entity theorists want to look like masters without expending the effort to attain mastery. – Daniel Pink, Drive

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why do old people drive so goddam slow?

Why do old people drive so goddam slow? You have had the experience – stuck in a fort-mile-per-hour speed zone in a one-lane road behind some brittle, ancient creature who’s barely going thirty as he daydreams about LBJ. Meanwhile, YER in a rush but the old asshole’s driving as if he’s got all the time in the world. Hey – I got news for ya shithead. Yer eighty-seven years old. Death is not only right around the corner – he might be riding shotgun. If I were eighty-seven years old – full well knowing I might have a heart attack or an aneurysm or if I cut a hard fart the wrong way it might actually blow an internal gasket and make my entire insides explode all over my leather 1994 Cadillac Seville seats – I would drive so fucking fast you would barely be able to identify my car if I ran you over. And what if I did run you over – what’re they gonna do, give me life in jail? I’m eighty-goddam-seven! I think old people should be forced to actually drive the same speed as their age. Eighty-seven is your age AND your speed limit. You better hope I don’t hit my late eighties or early nineties because I will guarantee everyone right now – you better get the fuck out of my way. I’ll kill young people just for spite. And when I say young I mean anyone under seventy-five.

- Dr Dennis Leary, Why We Suck

Why shouldn't I work for the N.S.A.?

Such a great monologue by Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.

Why shouldn't I work for the N.S.A.? That's a tough one, but I'll take a shot. Say I'm working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, 'cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never met, never had no problem with, get killed. Now the politicians are sayin', "Oh, send in the Marines to secure the area" 'cause they don't give a shit. It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number got called, 'cause they were pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some kid from Southie takin' shrapnel in the ass. And he comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And, of course, the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them, but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And they're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back, of course, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and fuckin' play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy's out of work and he can't afford to drive, so he's got to walk to the fuckin' job interviews, which sucks 'cause the shrapnel in his ass is givin' him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he's starvin', 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat, the only blue plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure fuck it, while I'm at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mt Washington Weather

On the afternoon of April 12, 1934, Salvatore Pagliuca, a meteorologist at the summit weather observatory on Mount Washington, had an experience no one else has had before or since.

Mount Washington sometimes gets a little gusty, to put it mildly, and this was a particularly breezy day. In the previous twenty-four hours, the wind speed had not Fallen below 107 miles an hour, and often gusted much higher. When it came time for Pagliuca to take the afternoon readings, the wind was so strong that he tied a rope around his waist and had two colleagues take hold of the other end. As it was, the men had difficulty just getting the weather station door open and needed all their strength to keep Pagliuca from becoming a kind of human kite. How he managed to reach his weather instruments and take readings is not known, nor are his words when he finally tumbled back in, though « Jeeeeeeeesus! » would seem an apt possibility.

What is certain is that Pagliuca had just experienced a surface wind speed of 231 miles an hour. Nothing approaching that velocity has ever been recorded elsewhere.

In The Worst Weather on Earth : A History of the Mt. Washington Observatory, William Lowell Putnam drily notes : « There may be worse weather from time to time, at some forbidding place on Planet Earth, but it has yet to be reliably recorded. » Among the Mount Washington weather station’s many other records are : most weather instruments destroyed, most wind in twenty-four hours (nearly 3,100 miles of it), and lowest windchill (a combination of 100-mph winds and a temperature of -47°F, a severity unmatched even in Antartica).

Washington owes its curiously extreme weather not so much to height or latitude, though both are a factor, as to its position at the precise point High altitude weather systems from Canada and the Great Lakes pile into moist, comparatively warm air from the Atlantic and southern United States. In consequence, it receives 246 inches of snow a year and snowpacks of twenty feet. In one memorable Storm in 1969, 98 inches of snow (that’s eight feet) fell on the summit in three days, Wind is a particular feature; on average it blows at hurricane force (over 75 mph) on two winter days in three and on 40 percent of days overall. Because of the length and bitterness of its winters, the average mean annual temperature at the summit is a meager 52°F – a good 25 degrees lower than at its base. It is a brutal mountain, and yet people go up there – or at least try to – even in winter.

– Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods

A fun experiment at the summit!