Friday, January 30, 2009

Black Holes and Paradigm Shifts

Merriam-Webster's dictionary states that a black hole is a celestial object that has a gravitational field so strong that light cannot escape it and that it is believed to be created especially in the collapse of a very massive star. Today's economic climate pretty much fits that description in my opinion and it is hard to not caught up in all the swirling bad news that surrounds it day in and day out. The 24-hr news continuously reports that this company is laying off thousands of people, that company is laying off thousands more, the other one is going bankrupt, and it seems to be an unstoppable force with no end in sight. And it's not like they are wrong - it is all true. Thousands of dollars are being lost, jobs are dropping out of sight, and people are feeling a strong pinch. What started as just a housing market problem has leaked over into the entire fabric of the American economy and there is not a sector that is feeling the pinch (with the exception of the dastardly Exxon Mobil).

The thing is, I think this is going to be a paradigm shift in the spending of the typical American consumer and that business needs to adjust to this new environment if it is ever to escape the black hole that it currently is in. I don't know if regular marketing ploys are going to work anymore and I believe that social media utilizing Web 2.0 marketing tactics is the way to go. It just makes sense. I am constantly bombarded day in and day out with advertisements toting how such and such product is going to change my life. And it's everywhere - TV, internet, magazines, billboards, vehicles, emails, sporting events, movies - the list goes on and on. Honestly, where can you go where you are not marketed to? And now, not only am I tired of being constantly sold to, but I don't even have the money in my pocket to buy what I am being promised will revolutionize my life. If I spend my hard-earned dollars, it is going to be on something that I am looking for and find attractive. I want to be in the driver's seat, not riding shotgun.

That is why I believe that Web 2.0 is the way the consumer is going to go. Web 2.0 is all about information and the onus is put on the consumer's own search and research. Selling your product is not going to be about the coolest ad - it is going to be about where I can find more information and what other people are saying about the product. And the companies that can figure this out are going to be the ones that make it through this black hole.

Because this isn't a real black hole - there will be an end at some point in time. But there is going to be a lot of pain and suffering by a lot of people for a while. And more companies and jobs will fall victim to bankruptcy and liquidation before we reach the bottom. For example, even with the complete devastation in the housing market, it is amazing that there is still a glut of builders and trade contractors out there - there has not been enough consolidation, mergers, and acquisitions happening in light of the economic conditions that we are facing. This will have to happen if we are ever going to get out of this mess.

It will be interesting to see what happens over the course of this year, both personally and from an outsider's perspective. In the meantime, I am taking a lot of deep breaths and remembering that there is a sovereign God who loves me and will take care of me, if I truly believe in Him and His promises.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More Thoughts for a Wednesday

1 - Lost is the best mystery show on television. The acting, the stories, it's all amazing. One hour to go! Cannot flippin' wait.

2 - America's Best Dance Crew might be my all-time favorite TV show. I could watch the re-runs forever. The crews are just amazing, the dancing is out of this world, Mario Lopez is hilarious (and has had to have some plastic surgery) and actually a good reality TV host, JC Chavez has found a great second career, Lil' Mama is hilarious, and Shane Sparks is the shiznit. If you don't know, you don't know.

3 - Shoveling snow is not fun. Shoveling ice is less fun than shoveling snow. Yesterday and today's shoveling was like pushing on the end of a rope - an exercise in futility. The only redeeming quality that winter holds for me is the fact that my birthday is in February but even that is not much of a redeeming quality anymore. At least this is the last week of January!

4 - Cardinals v. Steelers - couldn't ask for a better Super Bowl. Kurt Warner or Troy the American Samoan with the long last name and hair for MVP! And while there ultimately will be a "winner", I truly believe that this is one of those games in which both teams are already a winner just for making it to the Super Bowl.

5 - The Dark Knight was robbed! I totally believe that it was a MUCH better movie than The Curious Case of the Benjamin Button. CCBB was a good movie, but there were plot holes all throughout the movie and how it could beat an amazingly acted, directed, and written movie like The Dark Knight shows how truly out of touch the Hollywood elite are with the public. At the very least, hopefully they will award Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar for his amazing performance.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Couple of Thoughts for a Wednesday

1 - Barack Obama's inauguration speech was awesome - I loved it. Whether or not I agree with his rhetoric, policies, or political cabinet picks, I have to say it is refreshing to have a person of eloquence leading the country. Never underestimate the power of words. Tony Blair is one of my all-time favorite political leaders for this reason. He had the ability to speak eloquently and think fast (watch the Prime Minister's questions on CSPAN - it's awesome!) and his speech in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11th was the one that I think people should have paid more attention to. Barack's speech addressed a lot of the nation's fears and had a lot of truth within it and I am so lucky to have witnessed one of the most historic moments in our country's history.

2 - So beyond excited about the premiere of Lost tonight - you don't even know. I have been looking forward to this day since the last episode of last season aired last May and it is finally, FINALLY here!

3 - I am loved by a beyond gracious God, a beyond wonderful family, and an amazing group of friends. So no matter what happens in the next few months, I have remembered that my life here is not about my financial security or independence, but about walking by faith and trusting in a God who I feel I am just getting to know.

4 - Never underestimate the importance of your living environment on your mental and physical health.

5 - I love living on my own in my new apartment! I am so blessed and grateful for this gift and so excited to share it with others! So if you are ever driving by Winchester Street, please stop in and say hello!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Keep an Eye on That Bear...

Think Russia is done rattling it's sword?

Think again.

And, ps, United Nations - you are stunningly quiet on this situation. Why not do something here instead of passing meaningless resolutions on a perennial conflict? You yet again prove your futility.

A Good Little Article

I occasionally receive email updates/articles from this guy and actually read them because I find them immensely interesting. I like this one so much, I would like to share it with the world, because I believe he has a valid point about business in today's economy. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Serving Customers or Making Cars?
Dan Miller

There seems to be a subtle shift that takes place in the history of most businesses. Let's say Barney was a cave man who made great wagons. But there are only 20 people who live in his known world so as soon as he makes 20 wagons he's out of business. If he can't imagine using his skills for anything but wagon-making we might then see him sneaking around at night burning the wagons to rekindle demand. Or the town witch doctor knows he would not be needed if everyone were healthy. So he "creates" illnesses to keep his patients coming back rather than attempting to help them find ultimate health.

Now fast forward to 2008 in America -- same deal. We have auto manufacturers who can't risk making a car that really lasts -- they need 5-year obsolescence. Parts that wear out and systems that malfunction are a necessary component of keeping the machine of making cars in place. It would be self-defeating to make a car that semi-permanently met the customer's needs. You have to hope the customer doesn't stay happy with their purchase for too long.

Do you really think we aren't smart enough to make a lightbulb that would last essentially forever? But what would that do to the sales of lightbulbs?

What if a counselor or chiropractor really helped every client they saw? Got them to a point of healthy functioning on their own? How would he/she pay the mortgage the next month? Keeping people dependent on their services may become more important than seeing them get better.

If you realize your "work" is more dependent on keeping a system in place than on meeting the real needs of your customers, you are indeed vulnerable. Real estate developers, publishing houses, record labels, auto manufacturing and "investment" firms are all suffering in their attempts to keep systems in place rather than responding to the changes in demand of the marketplace.

What we need are new ways to engage our creative skills; not government support to allow us to keep doing what no longer works.

I happen to be a car enthusiast, but I think it's a joke that someone "decided" we needed new models every calendar year? My primary car is a 1991 Mercedes 500SL -- it's 18 years old! It looks great, has great styling and is fun to drive. I'd love to see a 5-year car -- where nothing changed for at least 5 years, or even 10. Can you imagine the streamlining of parts and service, and the reduced waste from excessive manufacturing?

Now -- what are you doing in your work or business to make sure you are serving your customer's needs, even if those needs change?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Book Review: Into the Wild

Into the Wild Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
I got this book for Christmas (sort of) and ended up reading it over break. I really enjoyed this book. I absolutely love the movie - it is one of my all-time favorites. And after reading the book, I am impressed with how well the movie did in capturing Chris McCandless's spirit, as well as Krakauer's opinion about McCandless.

I do not think McCandless was a raving nut. I think he was a young guy full of hubris and ideals and did what very few of us end up doing - living out his dream. Unfortunately, due to a series of events that occurred (some that are conjectured, some that are fact), McCandless never made it back from "the wild" and perished. What is truly sad about his story is that it appears that he had tried to leave his solo adventure, and return to the land of other living human beings, because he had realized, "Happiness Only Real When Shared". And that to me is the true tragedy of his story - he never got a chance to live out what he had learned in the wilderness.

The other thing that struck me was how many people ended up losing their faith in God once he died. Being a believer, and having experienced loss both personally and with friends, I cannot imagine trying to deal with death without a reliance on God. And it struck me that people seem to deal with loss of a loved one (in this case those that knew McCandless) in one of either way - it either drives you away from God or it draws you closer to Him.

I share some of McCandless's views on nature and the effect that it's power and beauty have upon the soul. I also understood his need to go off on his own - yet that a need existed within him that ultimately drove him back to people. It is a shame that such a passionate, amiable young guy passed away before he even began to enter the prime of his life. But he got to live an adventure that few of us would even dare to dream of, and because of that, I do not view his story as one of tragedy, but melancholy - joy that he got to experience a life to the full and sadness that it was cut so short.


View all my reviews.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The futility of the United Nations

In my opinion, the time of the United Nations is over. Today it is nothing more than a bureaucratic nightmare of an organization that has done little in years past to do anything, except help corrupt people profit off crippled nation-states (The Iraqi Food for Oil program anyone?). The final death knell of the United Nations came in 2003 when the United States unilaterally invaded Iraq to take out Saddam Hussein. Though, I would argue that its futility existed long before that, when the Rwandan genocide was allowed to occur in 1994.

I woke up this morning to the radio saying that last night, the UN Security Council had agreed to a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And both sides brushed off the resolution like it was nothing more than a nuisance (read a report about the conflict here). And I can't really blame them, because my first thought when I heard that a resolution had been agreed to was in essence, "Big whoop". What is a resolution going to do about this decades old conflict that seems to perpetuate no matter how many peace talks or cease-fires occur? The way that the Israelis are approaching this, it seems like they are not going to be satisfied until Hamas is blown into oblivion. I don't believe that when Hamas started firing rockets into Israel after the cease-fire brokered by Egypt expired, they expected this kind of response. But I think Israel is out to show (and right before their election, nonetheless) that they have had enough and are not going to stop shelling Gaza until...who knows when?

Also, as much as I respect Condi Rice for her intelligence and education background, I found her statement about the US's abstainment from voting on the resolution laughable and a complete political cop-out for an outgoing administration - "We're going to let Egypt take the lead on this and see if they can broker another cease-fire". Let the corruptest Egyptian politician, Mubarak, broker a cease-fire between these two nations? Right, like that will really work. We'll see how that goes.

So, United Nations, I say your time has come and it's over. You have turned into another League of Nations. Unless you can bring nation-states truly together to do things of significance, instead of passing meaningless resolutions calling for cease-fires, what are you even here for?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Introducing...

Today marks the launch of a subsidiary of this blog called Ruminations and Reflections. I've been kicking this idea around for a little while about just having a blog dedicated to quotes, verses, and sayings that inspire me or that I find useful or helpful. As I collect all these little papers and notecards with these things on them, I've been finding that I want a repository to collect them all, more for my own benefit, but I thought I would share it with the world at large as well :).

If you run across a great quote, verse, or saying, head over to Ruminations and Reflections and post away in the comments, or email them to me and I will post it on there.

Happy 2009 everyone!