Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The First Million - The Un-Comfort Zone with Robert Wilson

THE UN-COMFORT ZONE with Robert Wilson

The First Million

Until I was thirty years old, I wasn’t much of a fisherman. I’d take a rod and reel along on a camping trip, but I never expected to catch much of anything. In my mind, fishing was a relaxing past time you enjoyed with friends and beer. Then my buddy Brian asked me to go fishing. I took him to a lake I knew that was hidden in the woods; and he taught me how to fish for bass. He showed me how to cast my lure along the edge of the lake; how to give the line a couple of tugs to “jig” the lure and attract the fish; then to reel it back in quickly.

I accepted his instructions affably, but with little faith, then popped open a bottle of beer and started to get into the rhythm of relaxation. Cast, tug, reel. Swig. Cast, tug, reel. Swig. Cast, tug, reel... Whoa! Something hit my line. Hard. Really hard! I’d never felt anything like that before. My line started spinning out of the reel with a high-pitched whining sound. I cranked it back in as fast I as could, but the drag was set too low and the fish was pulling it back out faster than I could turn the handle.

Suddenly, a hundred feet in front on me, a bright green monster burst out of the lake. It was a large-mouth bass that came full length out of the water. Shimmering in the sunlight, he shook his head back and forth in an attempt to break free from my hook, then splashed back beneath the surface. I couldn’t believe it - it was just like I’d seen on television - and it was happening to me.

Afraid that I’d lose the fish, I yelled at the top of my lungs, “Brian, Help!” He was nearly halfway around the lake, but he dropped his own rod and charged toward me; yelling instructions all the way. I tightened the drag and reeled the fish in a little, then let him pull the line back out to tire him. It felt like an hour, but was probably less than ten minutes, before I finally got him in. He was 18 inches long and weighed eight pounds. The bass wasn’t the only one to get hooked that day; I was too - I couldn’t wait to go fishing again!

For the first time in my life, I had experienced fishing success. Success in anything is very motivating. It builds confidence and encourages you to keep pursuing that particular endeavor.

Complete Article

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert's programs please visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com

Monday, May 10, 2010

On My Honor - The Un-Comfort Zone

THE UN-COMFORT ZONE with Robert Wilson

With the morning mist still on the Hudson River, and the sun just kissing the cliff tops of the New Jersey Palisade, Aaron Burr, Vice President of the United States shot and killed former Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Political opponents for years, the duelists faced each other after Burr sent these words to Hamilton: “Political opposition can never absolve gentlemen from the necessity of a rigid adherence to the laws of honor.”

Once upon a time people were motivated by honor. Acquiring it, maintaining it, defending it. Bitter duels were fought in its name. I don’t hear much talk about honor anymore.

Could it be the concept of honor is too difficult to understand? Is it truly ineffable - impossible to define - to the point that no one really knows what it means? As a virtue, it has certainly taken a beating when some cultures identify the murder of family members as an “honor killing,” and when criminals such as the Mafia call themselves “men of honor.”

I looked it up in the Webster Dictionary and found the words “reputation” and “integrity.” But, honor seems to be more than that. It is similar to the definition of character which is: “what you do when no one is watching.” Again, it must be more than that. So, I researched what some historical figures said about it. Most of them described honor by what it is not.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Nobody can acquire honor by doing what is wrong.” OK, we’ll assume he means you must do what is right or good. The problem may be that by today’s standards those are up for debate.

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Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an author, humorist, and coach. He works with people who want to achieve more without sacrificing life balance. Contact Robert at www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com

Friday, May 07, 2010

Productivity in the U.S. Probably Cooled, Labor Costs Dropped

Via BusinessWeek

By Shobhana Chandra

May 6 (Bloomberg) -- The productivity of U.S. workers probably rose in the first quarter at the slowest pace in a year as employers took on staff to meet growing demand, economists said before a report today.

Employment may keep growing as companies such as Timken Co., which slashed payrolls and relied on becoming more efficient to lower expenses and protect profits during the recession, now look to expand as sales improve. The drop in labor costs is also helping limit inflation, giving Federal Reserve policy makers room to keep interest rates near zero.

“Productivity is still pretty good, but we’re likely to see it moderate,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Labor costs are going to remain very modest. The Fed will be on hold for quite some time.”

The Labor Department’s productivity figures are due at 8:30 a.m. in Washington. Economists’ estimates ranged from gains of 1.5 percent to 3.9 percent.

Labor expenses adjusted for the gains in efficiency fell at a 0.7 percent rate after dropping at a 5.9 percent pace the prior quarter, according to the survey median. For all of 2009, labor costs plunged 1.7 percent, the most since records began six decades ago.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Manufacturing Grows for 9th Straight Month

Via CNNMoney.com

By Annalyn Censky, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The manufacturing sector grew for the ninth consecutive month in April, and at its fastest rate since June 2004, according to a report released Monday.

The Tempe, Ariz.-based Institute for Supply Management (ISM) manufacturing index rose to 60.4 in April, from a March reading of 59.6. Any score above 50 indicates growth in the manufacturing sector.

April's number is slightly better than expected, driven by increases in productivity, new orders and manufacturing jobs. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com were expecting a reading of 60.

"Overall, the recovery in manufacturing continues quite strong, and the signs are positive for continued growth," Norbert Ore, chairman of the ISM's survey committee, said in a release.

Of the 18 industries surveyed in the report, 17 reported growth. Apparel, non-metallic minerals and wood products were among the industries showing the strongest growth.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Volcanic Ash May Weigh on European Economy

via The New York Times


FRANKFURT — The past weekend was definitely not a good time to be a Kenyan flower grower, an Israeli avocado farmer, a package tour operator or anyone else trying to run a business that depends on air transport to or from Europe.

Consider TUI, the largest travel operator in Germany. With all the country’s airports closed because of the danger posed by a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland, the company, based in Hanover, had to take extraordinary — and costly — steps to bring customers back from Mediterranean vacations.

Late Saturday, TUI flew 540 of its customers from the Spanish island of Mallorca to Barcelona. After staying overnight in hotels paid for by TUI, the vacationers boarded a dozen buses for a 20-hour trip to Frankfurt. From there they continued home by train.

Economists have begun considering when, and to what extent, the extra costs sustained by companies like TUI — not to mention the airlines — will start to damage Europe’s already shaky economy.

Most say the effects will not be catastrophic if the skies clear soon.

There were signs of hope Sunday as airports in Frankfurt, Berlin and some other European cities reopened on a restricted basis, at least temporarily.

But a longer spell of airport closures — or intermittent disruptions in the coming weeks and months as the volcano continues to erupt and winds carry the ash to Europe — could start to take a toll.

“Given that the recovery of the euro-area economy is anyway so weak, it might have an impact,” Daniel Gros, director of the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels, wrote in an e-mail message.

While most economists are not predicting that the volcano will push Europe back into recession, there is a risk of unexpected consequences that could amplify the economic damage.

Complete Article

Monday, April 12, 2010

Attaboy!!! The Un-Comfort Zone

THE UN-COMFORT ZONE with Robert Wilson

Seventeen years ago, I became the president of my community association. It was a lively organization with scores of activist members who were busy gentrifying an inner city neighborhood. One of my responsibilities was to deliver a monthly speech and conduct a formal meeting with a loud and raucous crowd.

Over the course of my two year stint, I always spoke from behind the lectern with my hands firmly attached to the sides in a white knuckle grip as I read from my notes. When my term ended, I felt that I might have been a more effective leader if I had some real speaking skills, and if I wasn’t so afraid of being in front of an audience.

So, I joined a Toastmaster’s club and began my training as a public speaker. A year later, I had completed ten speeches and the basic program, but I was still firmly attached to both the lectern and my notes. My mentors encouraged me to work without notes and to move away from the lectern. “At least stand to one side of it!” they cajoled. But I was not about to leave my comfort zone. I was plenty uncomfortable just giving a speech. Besides no one could see my legs shaking behind the lectern.

Then the club held a speech contest. A humorous speaking contest. Now, I can tell jokes, so I was game! Four of us entered the competition, and I managed to win the third place ribbon without venturing an inch beyond the safety of the lectern. I can’t recall who placed second, but I’ll never forget the winner. Les Satterfield talked about an airplane flight and he soared about the room with his arms spread wide and the audience roared in laughter at his comic yarn. Later on, as I watched him receive his shiny gold statuette for First Place, I knew I had to have one. I was motivated... but not quite enough.

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Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert's programs please visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Compelled by an Idea - The Un-Comfort Zone with Robert Wilson

Compelled by an Idea by Robert Wilson

I was leaving my last class for the day when I saw my friend, Ken Frankel, working out in the hallway with one of those pistol-grip label makers. I stopped and asked what he was doing.

"The Dean asked me to put the room numbers up in Braille so the blind students can find their classrooms."

As I watched Ken work, I thought of some of the blind students I knew there at Georgia State University. Suddenly the devil got into me and I asked, "Does that thing do the alphabet as well?"
"Yes." Ken replied.

"Excellent! Let's take it over to the men's restroom in the Student Center and put up some graffiti in Braille!"

So we did. The next day we made a point of running into our blind friends, and asking them if they had been keeping up with the graffiti that people were putting up in the stalls.

The typical answer was, "Come on man, why are you asking me that when you know I can't see it?"

So we replied, "Next time you're in there, feel above the toilet paper dispenser."

They did, and within 48 hours every blind student on campus had heard about it. Then they were after us to put up some more! They told us, "This stuff is great!"

Feeling obligated to get some new material, we hit the bars for inspiration. One night we found the mother lode: the men's room at Moe's & Joe's, a 50 year old pub where they never painted over the witticisms scrawled on the walls.

Several mugs of beer and several trips to the restroom later, we filled several sheets of paper with funny bathroom graffiti to take back with us. As we looked at our collection, we came to two conclusions: first that we'd had way too much beer, and second that we should keep collecting graffiti until we had enough for a book.

Little did we know how long that would take! After a few days of active searching we had little to show for our efforts. Somewhat frustrated, we made a decision to just collect new material whenever we happened upon it.

A decade passed, but it was an idea I couldn't forget. It still made me laugh every time I thought of it. I kept the idea alive, and we kept collecting. Finally, 15 years later, our collection was big enough and we found a publisher who agreed with us that it was a very funny idea.

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Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert's programs please visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com

Monday, March 08, 2010

Trading Away Productivity

via The New York Times


FOR a quarter-century, American economic policy has assumed that the keys to durable national prosperity are deregulation, free trade and a swift transition to a post-industrial, services-dominated future.

Such policies, advocates say, drive innovation, which leads to enormous labor productivity and wage gains — more than enough, supposedly, to make up for the labor disruptions that accompany free trade and de-industrialization.

In reality, though, wage gains for the average worker have lagged behind productivity since the early 1980s, a situation that free-traders usually attribute to workers failing to retrain themselves after seeing their jobs outsourced.

But what if wages lag because productivity itself is being grossly overstated, especially in the nation’s manufacturing sector? Then, suddenly, a cornerstone of American economic policy would begin to crumble.

Productivity measures how many worker hours are needed for a given unit of output during a given time period; when hours fall relative to output, labor productivity increases. In 2009, the data show, Americans needed 40 percent fewer hours to produce the same unit of output as in 1980.

But there’s a problem: labor productivity figures, which are calculated by the Labor Department, count only worker hours in America, even though American-owned factories and labs have been steadily transplanted overseas, and foreign workers have contributed significantly to the final products counted in productivity measures.

The result is an apparent drop in the number of worker hours required to produce goods — and thus increased productivity. But actually, the total number of worker hours does not necessarily change.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sometimes You Have to Rip the Cover Off the Book

THE UN-COMFORT ZONE with Robert Wilson

On a summer weekend in 1977, my friend Tony and I made plans to go waterskiing. When he picked me up there were two people in the car that I did not know. He introduced his new girlfriend Sue, and her brother Bubba.

Bubba was the quintessential redneck. Within minutes of getting on the boat, he stuffed a wad of chewing tobacco the size of a baseball in his cheek, then chugged several beers. In less than an hour we were dealing with an irritable drunk. He belched loudly, spit constantly, complained incessantly, and couldn’t string two words together without inserting a profanity. In short, Bubba made our visit to the lake completely unpleasant. Eventually he passed out in the back of the boat and we enjoyed the rest of the day.

My opinion of Bubba’s character, talent and intelligence could not have been lower. I looked upon him as a total loser. A dimwit who would never amount to anything.

At the end of the day, Tony drove Sue and Bubba home first. When we arrived at their home, Bubba was awake and somewhat sober. Sue asked Tony to come inside and see the new dress she’d bought. Then she turned to Bubba and said, “Why don’t you show Robert your chickens?”

Complete Article

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert's programs please visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Conference Board Finds Widening Productivity Gaps

Via ABC News/Money


The Associated Press

The gap in productivity growth between the United States and Europe widened sharply as U.S. businesses were more aggressive in laying off workers and pushing their remaining employees to be more efficient, according to a business research group. Growth in productivity is the key factor in rising living standards.

In a new report, the Conference Board estimated that productivity — the amount of output per hour of work — rose in the United States by 2.5 percent in 2009 while productivity was falling by 1 percent on average in the euro area, the 16 European nations that use the euro currency.

The Conference Board said in a report to be released Wednesday that the gap would narrow in the current year but the United States would still outperform much of the euro area. Conference Board economists forecast that productivity would strengthen to 3 percent growth in the United States in 2010 and return to positive growth of 2 percent in the euro area.

"These are unusually large differences in productivity growth between the United States and Europe," said Bart van Ark, chief economist for the Conference Board, a New York-based research group. "U.S. employers have reacted much more aggressively to the recession than their European counterparts in terms of cutting jobs and hours."

The United States normally has enjoyed stronger productivity in recent years than Europe, an increase many economists attribute to fewer U.S. restrictions prohibiting layoffs than in Europe.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Reward is in the Eye of the Beholder - The Un-Comfort Zone

THE UN-COMFORT ZONE with Robert Wilson

In the early 1970s I was a young teenager who was completely caught up in the Zeitgeist. I admired the long-haired rebels and radicals who were engaged in protesting the establishment and developing the counter-culture. I didn’t really know what any of that meant, but to me it was all about empowering youth and declaring our independence from the adults. My parents in particular.

As with any normal teenager, I was trying to grow up as fast as I could. And, because it annoyed my parents, wearing my hair long was its perfect expression. That, and it was de rigueur among all the teenagers who wanted to be cool. So, the longer the better – or in the immortal words from the title song to the 1968 Broadway Musical HAIR, “Oh, say can you see, My eyes if you can... Then my hair's too short!”

It drove my parents completely crazy. They could not understand why any male would want to wear long hair. We fought about it all the time.

Meanwhile, I was in my first year of high school and the transition to a new school was causing my grades to drop dramatically. My parents saw an advantage, and the law was laid down: keep my grades above a certain minimum or cut my hair. It worked. I brought home a dismal report card, and it was off to the barber shop. Not surprisingly, my next report card met the minimum.

The formula is simple: if you can find out what is valuable to someone, then you have the key to motivating them. For me, at age 13, the length of my hair became the coin of the realm.

Complete Article

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert's programs please visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Does Office Temperature Affect Productivity?

via The First Facility Management

As winter sets in across the country and companies turn up the heat, they may need to readjust the thermostat to keep their workers productive. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, when asked if the temperature at work affected their ability to get work done, more than one in five (22%) workers said that a “too hot” work environment made it difficult to concentrate. Eleven percent of workers said the same about a “too cold” work place.

Overall, more than a quarter (27%) of workers describe the temperature at their work place as “too hot.” On the flip side, 19% reported that the temperature was “too cold,” while 54% said it was “just right.”

Differing opinions on what is too hot or too cold for the office can sometimes cause conflict among cubicle mates. In fact, 10% of workers said they have fought with a co-worker over the office temperature.

Worker disputes over temperature aren’t the only thing affecting work place climate; the economy is also playing a part. In an effort to save money, nearly one in five (19%) workers feel that their company has turned down the office temperature this year.

“There are many factors that can affect work place productivity,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder. “Everything from morale, burnout, and as our survey finds, temperature, can have an impact on workers’ ability to get their work done. If temperature is a concern, workers and employers can easily work together to find common ground so productivity does not suffer.”

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