80/20 Curtains in the Guest Bedroom

(This is a bit off my normal topics on this blog, but hang with me.  The drapery lesson works for productivity readers, too.)

I’ve been studying how the 80/20 rule can be applied to productivity, and to participation on social media platforms, and in other parts of life, for a while now.  Today, a Saturday in July, an example of 80/20 on effort and payoff jumped in front of me.

New sheers in the guest bedroom.

New sheers in the guest bedroom.

The guest bedroom has needed new curtains for a long time.  The existing sheers were sun-damaged and falling apart.  Found the fabric at a thrift shop in Cary before Christmas (it’s after the 4th of July now).  Draped the new fabric over the old curtains as a test, and then never got around to making the time to measure and hem and trim and actually do the work of turning yardage into curtains.

Today is a Saturday; lots of desk-work to be done but a good chance I could get stuck inside with rain on Sunday.  However, Goldsboro is a town that closes on Sunday and if you want to buy anything from a specialty store, you need to shop on Saturday.  I looked at the project to make a list.

The fabric came from a thrift shop, approximately 14 yards in two pieces.  One piece was nearly exactly the right length for one panel.  What if I cut the larger piece into equal lengths? There’s an extra piece about 2 yards long.

Cut fabric to length and let it hang. No hem (yet.)

Cut fabric to length and let it hang. No hem (yet.)

It was easier to cut the old curtains off the rod by slicing the rod pocket than it was to take the rod down, take it apart, and slip the curtains off.  There is no re-use value in this fabric; all the sheers that were here when we moved in have gone into the trash.

Draped the new fabric over the old rod.  Adjusted the length.

Drape yardage over existing curtain rod avoids rod-pocket measuring, pinning, sewing, pressing.

Drape yardage over existing curtain rod avoids rod-pocket measuring, pinning, sewing, pressing.


Effort saved:  measure, cut, press, pin, stitch, unpin, press, hang.

One of these days, I may heat-seal the cut edge of the fabric to prevent fraying.  It doesn’t get much stress, so that can wait a bit.

Even more eventually, I’d love to buy and apply the beaded fringe from the Cloth Barn discount store.  The 4.5 yards of trim this window needs would cost about $45; it would take several hours to apply.  You can see a test swatch of the beading in the picture of the full window, in the far window at the sill.

It can wait.

For the time being, the guest bedroom has new sheers that match the color scheme, for an outlay of $10 (the fabric) and 20 minutes.

The “complete” project would have cost $55 (with beaded trim) and HOURS.

This is what the curtains look like in the early morning sun, the next day:

New sheers in the early morning sun, showing pink & gold chameleon effect.

New sheers in the early morning sun, showing pink & gold chameleon effect.

You decide.  Financially, it’s 80/20 exactly.  Effort-wise, it’s at least 96/4 (second iteration).  Not bad for a hot Saturday morning in July.

Marketing with Pinterest at the MIAR Convention, Mt. Pleasant, MI

I was invited to teach Marketing with Pinterest to REALTORS attending the 2013 MIAR convention at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mount Pleasant, MI.  The course focused much more on MARKETING than Pinterest, and then also with a focus on real estate.  Changed over all of the examples in the presentation.

We set a prerequisite that attendees have a personal Pinterest account with 10 boards and 10 pins each board.

Had a range of real estate focus represented in the attendees, from brokers-in-charge of franchises with 70+ agents, to solos, to smaller offices who sent several agents.  Many VERY lucrative account names were still available, it turns out, and I was impressed that the people in the class recognized the need to claim account names in real time, rather than waiting till they got back to the office.  (Quick check indicates that some of those accounts are already being populated, and the convention didn’t end till Friday evening.)

Good in-class discussion of pinning from the MLS (one picture, full-house, only), tracing images that have been pinned from REALTORS’ websites to see who likes your homes, and pinning at the level of the agency vs. agent accounts.


My travel schedule was such that I flew up late Tuesday, and then had to drive an hour north from Lansing to Mt. Pleasant.  Very nice surprise to find I had a luxury room with fireplace and soaking tub.  Taught the class over lunch break, and then drove south again to be in Lansing for a 6 am departure on Thursday morning because I was teaching again at Wake Tech on Thursday evening.

I’d never seen a wind farm that close.  One of my magazines had a story about a new style of wind turbine; it showed three models that looked just like the ones in the picture but I didn’t have any way to judge height so I don’t know who made these.  I think this is the farm in Gratiot County, near Ithaca, along Highway 127.


Spoliation and Social Media

IANAL, but I am a bit of a junky and can follow a certain amount of legal argument.  I found this story today:

Think Before You Facebook: Emerging Social Media Spoliation Sanctions

Actually, it should be titled, “think before you (delete) Facebook.”

If you can’t bear to read legal argument, here’s the layperson’s (IANAL) understanding:

If you delete ANY social media CONTENT, or ACCOUNTS, once it becomes possible that the content or account is “evidence,” you can be charged with spoliation.



A spoliator of evidence in a legal action is an individual who neglects to produce evidence that is in her possession or control. In such a situation, any inferences that might be drawn against the party are permitted, and the withholding of the evidence is attributed to the person’s presumed knowledge that it would have served to operate against her.

It is possible that lay people can claim ignorance of the law. It is known that lawyers cannot. I would bet that professional social media managers fall closer to lawyers on this point than they do to lay people.

Plan A:

  • Don’t pin or post anything that can be used against your clients. (Duh.)
  • Make sure your clients are not pinning or posting anything that could be used against them. This should be addressed in the Social Media Policy for the account.
  • Make sure your clients know not to delete content or accounts if they get letters from lawyers. Again, this should be addressed in the Social Media Policy.

Plan B:

If something on an account (Facebook is the most commonly cited, but the law doesn’t care about platform) could ever be used against a client, take it down now, before there is any hint or suggestion of a lawsuit.

Once the lawyers have sent their letters, leave it alone.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: the Book

Lots of baby went out with this bathwater.

I found Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport, at the Wake County Library new book shelf last week. Picked it up. Easy enough read; can’t say I read each and every word because many of them made pretty much the same point: Passion does not correlate well with career satisfaction.

Be So Good They Can't Ignore You cover photograph

Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You cover photograph

Would have written a review on Amazon but there were enough reviews there already.

Two points I didn’t see in the 3-star reviews:

Richard Nelson Bolles didn’t advocate for selecting a profession based on passion. I would argue that his entire output was built on a solution to the mismatch between “passion” and career satisfaction; that people who had a passion for God and serving (the clergy) found themselves profoundly out of step because the demands of their work in a church / congregation did not match their innate skills and talents.

“Practice” alone won’t make you love something if you hate the something in the first place. None of the “genius = 10,000 hours on task” gurus have found a good answer to what makes it possible for some people to spend 10,000 hours developing a certain set of skills, while others simply can’t bring themselves to those tasks.

Gee. A book by a professor, with notes, but no bibliography or suggested reading? so I can’t quickly determine if the author has read any of the Gallup Strengths information or the Myers-Briggs type information. Face it: No amount of 10,000 hours in the world will make a 5’7″ person a starting basketball center. There ARE innate gifts, and they are best followed, and this isn’t about “Passion.”

The book would have been more helpful to me if the author had said more about what his own “practice” looked like. What does it look like to “practice” any of the thousands of essentially routine, boring, “feel like a number” jobs in the American workforce? I haven’t figured it out yet.

Pinterest for Realtors

My Realtor-client Gerry Fiks, of Real Estate Services NC, and I attended the Tech Tools for Realtors conference at the Raleigh Realtors Association yesterday.  I was disappointed, to say the least, that Pinterest got almost NO attention.  The speakers focused on smart phone apps and Facebook.

I expect I’ll be working with Gerry more in Evernote and DropBox, both great ways to share information and files without sneaker net.  However, both of those applications require protection.  You can’t share with “everyone.”  I came home and pinned my notes.  Now, I can share what I learned about technology in real estate marketing with Gerry, as we decide what apps he will start using. He can add additional pins to services he learned about in the classes that were scheduled into the same time slot.

Pinboard showing Tech Tools for Realtors.

Tech Tools for Realtors. Geeky Girls lower left.

Both he and I will also be able to share the list of tools with other Realtors.  He can use the list to collaborate, so that both sides of a transaction are using the same tools.  I can use the list to educate my own clients, and show Realtors who come to me for ideas about using Pinterest in their Real Estate Marketing how to highlight their expertise.

If you know about more tools that belong on this board, let me know in the comments below, or @mention the account:  @Gerry Fiks (You have to be following the board for Pinterest to show you the name).

Notes on Optimizing

From Bob Lewis, IS Survivor: July 9, 2012

Posted here because I can never remember all six of the “good, fast and cheap” real life dimensions, and they matter.  Just like change comes in project change and application change, and defects come in project defects and application defects, and they are all very different things.

Understand, I’m a theory-of-constraints guy.

Theory of Constraints says that for every business function, right after ranking the six dimensions of optimization (fixed costs, incremental costs, cycle time, throughput, quality, and excellence) in order of importance, the next step is identifying the most serious barrier to improving the top-ranked dimension, doing what’s necessary to remove it or reduce it until it’s no longer the most serious barrier. If that means customizing the supporting software, so be it.

Repeat ad infinitum.

It’s straightforward. It works.

Even better, you won’t need to renegotiate terms after the thrill of an outsourcing deal is gone.

Superpowers we already have. Or don’t really want.

Women’s magazines regularly run survey articles about what superpowers we wish we had. Just as regularly, these article make me irritated, as the people who respond usually want powers they either already have, or really really don’t want because they haven’t thought through the consequences. Superpowers that are equivalent to absolute dictatorship are also irritating.

Herewith, my responses.

Can’t see a problem with these

I wish I could be with my mother in jail when she was arrested for civil rights work.

Other-oriented. Comforting. Not changing anyone else’s behavior. Check.
Time travel elements are always dicey, of course. Would the civil rights workers have worked any harder if they had known that an African American president was less than 50 years in the future? Probably not. Would they have given up if they thought it would take 50 years to put an African American in the White House? Also, probably not.

Grant worldwide equal rights to women

Sounds good. Say more. What would this look like and how will the various institutions have to change to make it so? How will the women be different on the other side of the power?

And when you’ve thought through all though, realize you have created the next set of seven Harry Potter – magnitude miracle stories. Start typing.  (There’s a reason people write about vampires–it’s easier than making up REAL miracles and superpowers.)

Learn new languages easily

Fact is, we can do this before we are six years old. Lots of neurological reasons why the ability goes away with age, and we’d be in bad shape if we all had the mental skills of a five-year old when we are 40. But if we could figure out how to reinstall the language learning connections into otherwise adult brains, we might have something…
It’s all that hard-shell brain casing. VERY limited real estate. I’d trade the lyrics to Hotel California for fluency in Spanish any day.

Wriggle my nose for a blast of energy

  • This woman hasn’t watched enough Bewitched; her goals are too low.
  • She can wiggle her nose? That’s a superpower all its own…

Probably a really bad idea

No sleep

Good luck with that. We don’t understand why we need to sleep, but it’s pretty universal across mammals, certainly, and most vertebrates (are sharks vertebrates?). Do you really want to be like a shark? There must be something we gain from sleep, and one of these days, we’ll understand it. Accept it.
Limits are good. Sure, you could get more done than every other woman in the car pool, but so can most meth heads, at least till their teeth fall out.

Respond with compassion, always

It’s not a superpower. It’s within you already. If you know that compassion is a possible response, than any time you don’t use it, you are making a choice, sometimes to be a bitch, at other times to simply be tired, or overwhelmed, or limited. 
Those are all fine choice and often necessary choices, IMO, but they are choices, not a lack of a superpower.  (People who have no clue that compassion is always a choice are simply ignorant {insert label here}.)

To be invisible and listen to conversations

Get a Facebook account.

To know the outcome of all the choices I have

This woman MUST be young. I don’t know that I know anyone over 40 who would wish this on themselves. Two words: Christopher Reeve.
Behavioral economics tells us that we are always happier with the choices we make than the alternative, because we’re wired to think that way. In other words, no matter what you decide or which choice you make, it’s the right one. There: I’ve granted a superpower.

The ability to manipulate time

You already have it. Thinking “time” is something outside of yourself, and an enemy that’s keeping you from enjoying your life is like thinking the problem with hoarding is a house that’s too small.

The facility to fly

I could get to Italy by this time tomorrow if I really wanted to go. Everything standing in the way of travel is real-world, not “superpower” related. Make it happen. (Suggestion: start with a passport.)

Predicting Outliers… Or Not

Collins Good to Great Great to Gone

The Collins Trilogy

In the wake of Hurricane Irene, which came near but not over my part of the world this past weekend, I’m thinking about predictions, and control, and how very much we like to think we understand the forces at work in our lives. Hurricanes, however, don’t take orders from the National Weather Service. While business people may read books about what makes any individual business successful at any moment in time, the overall economy, state of innovation, and more factors than I can begin to understand conspire to make any explanation outdated almost as fast as its ink dries.

When asked what represented the greatest challenge for a statesman, or the biggest reason governments didn’t implement their election-year promises (you find the words attributed to a number of leading questions albeit always to the same person), Harold Macmillan replied: ‘Events, my dear boy, events.’ The same could be said about any individual business’ current success. It’s easy to see why some companies didn’t make it, and sometimes it’s possible to see what their successful rivals did differently, but it’s never possible to know exactly what made the difference. Except that’s not what we want to believe. We love certainty. We love thinking that “Because they did THIS, THAT happened.”

Why didn’t Irene wash out in Florida? Why did it skip over (metaphorically) NYC and dump all its rain in Vermont? If State Farm knows, they’re not telling. I did storm prep this time, as did most of my neighbors, because it’s a decision I have to make at least 12 hours in advance of need, at least with a storm that will make landfall in the dark. Most of us will tell you, “Doing storm prep makes the storm stay away… Every time I don’t do it, I’ve been hammered.” That, we can see, is magical thinking, but it’s really not very different at all from what we do with our businesses. (Fact is, it’s never a bad idea to clean up the yard and haul a load of junk to the dump, and it’s simply the storms that give us the incentive to do it today rather than tomorrow, when the boards might come through the window.)

Do what you know to be right. Read about other people’s / business’ experience, and if it makes sense for you, implement. But don’t think any one explanation is a magic bullet that can make your business as good as Circuit City was in 2001… unless you’re also willing to sign up for the same outcome, less than eight years later.

Components of a Decision Support System

Traditionally, the term “decision support system” is used to describe tools with some computer component to help people, usually managers, identify and evaluate options when faced with a complicated decision.  However, you don’t need a computer to use all the components of a decision support system.  A number of brain-based ways of thinking about decisions can be useful and are often much more accessible.  What you need is a way to systematically think through possible outcomes of your choices and compare the relative benefit of each.

10 Minutes, 10 Months, 10 Years

Suzy Welch’s book, 10-10-10, helps you think about the future outcome of decisions you need to make:  what will the outcome be in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years?  (Mixed reviews on Amazon; I found the book helpful.)  Many times, what appears to be more important in 10 minutes (finish the assignment) has a different outcome in 10 years (get more exercise).

Some of the books reviewers think this system is nothing but common sense, without acknowledging that “common sense” is the least common of all the senses.  Other reviewers, including me, realize that regularly thinking through the long term outcome of any of our daily decisions can be a discipline.

Her system gets a little complicated if you have to decide between more than two options or a “go-don’t go” situation.

Round the Clock

When I read Peter Bregman’s post about Visualizing Failure on the HBR blog this morning, I was reminded of another, brain-based, decision support tool I use called “round the clock.”

To use the Round the Clock system yourself, draw a circle on a blank sheet of paper.  Mark at least the quarter hour positions, at 12, 3, 6, and 9.  Now, close your eyes and imagine the best outcome possible for the decision you face.  Make a note of that outcome at the 12 position.

Next, imagine, per Visualizing Failure, the worst possible outcome, given the realistic facts of the choice you are considering.  This outcome goes at the 6 position.

Next, imagine two, different, outcomes, halfway between best possible” and “worst possible.”   One is more good than bad, one is less great and a little more difficult, but neither should be a total failure of the concept.  These outcomes belong at the 3 and 9 spots, respectively.

If your facts and imagination will accommodate you, keep going–differently successful, or un-, outcomes at each of the numbers on the clock face.  However, many decisions only need the major four positions covered, before you understand what course of action you need to take.

If you’re still not sure, give yourself a day to think about the worst possible outcome that you can imagine.  What exactly would that be like?  What warning signals would the situation provide to you, that could indicate a need for a change in plan?  Is it true, like one commenter suggested (admittedly as a very unlikely outcome), that:

What if you quit your job to start your dream company, and you fail, lose all of your money, can’t get another boring job, lose your house, can’t support your family, your family disowns you, you end up on the street, you acquire some deadly disease, and are homeless.

Equating “not starting your dream company” with “homelessness” is an awfully big leap.  Very few people make that leap in one step.  Very few people wind up homeless, as a result of entrepreneurial failure alone, although sometimes stories about business failure make for better cardboard signs than stories about other causes of homelessness.

If you’re pretty sure that your family would not disown you, or that you would find some job any job if your business could not provide the income you needed, then your “worst case outcome” is NOT homelessness, and “living on the street” should not be in the 6:00 position.

You may want to make a note of any warning signs you thought about as you imagine the worse case scenario.

Outcomes are Unknowable

The truth is, any outcome reasonably far into the future, involving other people, is pretty much unknowable from the start.  If it were a 100% sure thing, you wouldn’t need to put your idea through the components of a decision support system, by evaluating individual steps and outcomes against what you know about the world.

We know from research in a number of fields that people are pretty bad about predicting accurately.  However, most people are actually reasonably good at responding to out-of-the-blue unexpected events.  What hurts emotionally are the events that are completely predictable, that we didn’t predict, often because we became too attached to one potential outcome too quickly.

When you do a round-the-clock exercise, you have an opportunity to consider and document the warning signs that could appear along the way, telling you that your path is leading to a 6:00 outcome rather than the noon version in your best dreams.

Similarly, if you regularly practice 10-10-10 thinking, it’s much less likely that you’ll turn around on your next “0” birthday and say, “I sure  wish I’d exercised more…”  At the very least, you’ll understand that you made decisions in favor of some other outcome along the way.

Make a decision to decide…

Big decisions can be intimidating.  Using the components of a decision support system, even with pencil, paper, and your imagination, can cut a big decision into much more manageable parts.   All you need is a way to systematically think through possible outcomes of your choices and compare the relative benefit of each.



Daydream Believer

Daydream Believer

Several days ago, I saw a request on the HARO email asking about business owners who daydreamed and how forced themselves to quit daydreaming and get to work.  IMO, “daydreaming” and “work” are not mutually exclusive.

I don’t know how businesses get created without a dream.  Business starts with an idea, and any way you label it, “ideas” aren’t too far from “daydreams.”

The trick, which is probably what was driving the reporter’s question, lies in turning the idea into reality.

For me, the first step between a dream and reality is writing.  Some people have their best ideas in the shower.  I have my best ideas with a pen in my hand.  Once I recognize I’m in a “day dream” (and, of course, not driving at the same time), I’m writing.  It helps that I write for a living, and paper and pencil are never far out of my reach.  Write the story.

  • What is it that I am thinking about?
  • What do I want to have happen as the outcome?
  • Who’s starring in the latest drama?
  • Why have I cast the story with these players?

Sometimes, simply writing a daydream is enough.  I’ll see, “Oh, I’m still processing XYZ______,” and make a note to discuss the issue next time I talk with the person involved, and poof, the story is gone.

Sometimes, however, I’ll see something bigger.  “Hum,” I thought, the last time this happened, when I found myself dreaming about teaching a class on a topic I know well but never thought to teach. “If she’s never thought of that approach, (this particular “she” is an expert on developing and implementing goals), then maybe this IS new material and maybe I should follow up on it….  Maybe this is a new way of looking at the problem!”

After I write out the story and identify the core elements, the daydream transforms itself into one more business idea.  It needs to be worked into my project list and acted upon, and grown into something that can be sold.  David Allen, of Getting Things Done fame, made his fortune working in this space.

The Universe Baits its Hooks with Daydream Bait

One way to explain daydreams is “universe bait”—God, maker, source; your choice of name—wants to have something created, and dangles hooks baited with ideas in front of our minds.  Those ideas first present as daydreams.  What if …?  Wouldn’t it be great if….?”  I wonder what would happen if …?  If we don’t actually take the bait, the idea moves on, and someone else takes the hook, implements, and turns an idea into reality.  In business, that usually means income.  When that happens, we’re left on the sidelines, saying, “But I had that idea last year!”

I have to admit, I used to be someone whose air castles stayed evanescently in the air, never descending to intersect with my real ilfe.  “Wouldn’t it be perfect if…”, I could go on for hours.  I’d exhaust myself.  Once I started writing out the stories, it wasn’t long before I noticed ideas starting to grow in new directions.  When I committed a train of thought to paper, the next step would appear.  I saw a knitted rug in a book and thought, “I could make that,” and I did.  I’ve since made 72, and sold 40.  Similarly, a thought that ran, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could take this Chatlist outside into my carving tent?” turned into the book Carve Smart a year later.

Two new books are cued up and waiting for me to take the next step.  The goad that will get me over the “it’s too hard” hump is imagining how irritated I will be if I see those ideas, written by someone else, on the shelf at Barnes & Noble.

When I hear people talking “air castle talk,” I don’t suggest they stop. Instead, I ask, “what does the foundation look like?”  They look at me with a blank stare, so I go on.  “What’s the first thing you would need to do if you wanted to live that life?”  A rock-star wannabe girlfriend needs to take guitar lessons.  Her dream of performing in Madison Square Gardens may never happen, but she’ll be a whole lot closer when she knows four guitar chords.  It may turn out that she’s called to be some very different kind of performer, and the universe only dangled the rock concert in front of her because it knew she’d jump at that bait.  She won’t know until and unless she learns to play.

Daydreams outlast dreamers

Ten years ago, a friend was forced to leave her new house because of Black Mold.  She had an agonizing two years of health problems, followed by two moves and attempted remediation, before the problem was solved with a new house.  She dreamed of telling her story on Oprah.  She contacted the producers of the show, but she never heard back.  One woman, one house?  Oprah likes to hear from movements, not individuals.  It’s possible that a different first step—a notice in the grocery store, or Craig’s List, looking for other people affected by mold, suggesting a meeting, self-help, activism–could have been the start of a national movement.  She’ll never know.  Her life moved on.  I just checked today, and there is a “Moms Against Mold” website, started by someone else, several years after my friend’s story.  The idea was in the universe, waiting to be developed.

There are two paths away from “not daydreaming:”

  • Not dreaming
  • Implementing the dreams and making them real

Only one of them has any value.  I can’t stop daydreaming.  I can learn to become faster at taking the hook and building foundations under my air castles.  It’s a nice life.