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Name of author Rick Baker, P.Eng.

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Too busy to be great at what you do?

by Rick Baker
On Jun 10, 2010
Too busy to be great at what you do?
Are you really busy at work?
Too busy?
Are you too busy to be great at what you do?
If you feel that way once in a while then that’s to be expected…that’s not a problem.
If you feel you are too busy most of the time then that is a problem…not good for you, not good for your employer.
If you feel you are too busy most of the time then you have some choices:
  1. Keep doing what you are doing and hope the feeling goes away
    [the ‘procrastination’ option]
  2. Quit and get a new job
    [the ‘change my job’ option]
  3. Change the way you go about your job so the feeling goes away permanently
    [the ‘change the way I work’ option]
Most people make an effort to change the way they work. They make changes like working extra hours, taking a time-management course, reading a self-help book, asking others for advice, etc. But, more often than not their effort to change the way they work is short-lived and they move into the procrastination mode. They feel overworked yet they continue and carry on.
Sometimes people who feel they overwork but underperform free up enough time to find a new job. Other times their employers pave the path for that by terminating their employment.
Question: how many people do you know who felt overworked [while underperforming], made some changes in the way they went about their business, and lived happily ever after? I mean, how many people made permanent changes for the better?
I have ideas. We should compare notes on this and create a list of How To strategies and tactics.
Things You Can Do To Overcome The Feeling You Are Too Busy To Be Great At Your Job:
Five to ten suggestions ought to give people a good start at it…

Building A Quality Attitude

by Rick Baker
On Apr 13, 2010
Most people know the importance of having a good, positive attitude. Many people talk about it. Some argue with the words like ‘positive mental attitude’…for example Gitomer talks about the ‘YES Attitude’.
Link to Gitomer – YES Attitude
No matter what we call it, we all know we are better off when we have it...so, I like it when people tell us how to go about developing a positive metal attitude.
I recently listened to the CD version of Nido Qubein’s ‘How to Position Yourself for Success’.
Nido Qubein presents a helpful summary for Building a Quality Attitude:
  1. have a positive mental outlook about situations, people and ourselves
  2. associate with people committed to excellence
  3. study the lives and actions of great people, read good books, etc
  4. focus on long-range goals, nothing motivates like achievement
  5. always know what you are going to do next (To Do lists help), set yourself up for easy beginnings...leave a half-completed sentence on your typewriter, lay out your clothes, do a pleasant task first thing in the morning
  6. put real meaning into your life...give everything you've got to everything you do...every minute
  7. adopt a Can Do vocabulary
More about attitude in future blogs…


Attitude: Creating Positive Attitude

7 Ways to Turn Problems into Opportunities

by Rick Baker
On Apr 8, 2010
In his book ‘How to Position Yourself for Success’, Nido Qubein provides a summary of 7 ways to turn problems into opportunities.
7 Ways to Turn Problems into Opportunities
  1. Expect Problems...and be willing to tackle them head on
  2. Plan Solutions for Problems in Advance...so you are confident when they arrive
  3. Focus on Fixing the Problem not on Fixing the Blame
  4. Make sure you understand the Problem before you start to work on fixing it; ensure you are fixing the problem and not just a symptom
  5. Formulate several possible solutions to the problem and examine them
  6. Choose a solution and act
  7. Turn you back on the problem and face your next challenge 
This meshes well with P=2S+O©.
For every Problem we should be able to come up with at least 2 Solutions. And, we should keep our eyes and ears open for great Opportunities, which often are hiding under Problems.
[a link to the first in a series of P=2S+O blogs]
Several of Nido Qubein’s thoughts about problems resonate with me.
A couple of examples:
  • We should not avoid problems. We should face them with courage and confidence [two of our Corporate Values]. And, even better we should expect problems and plan their solutions in advance. We can use the P=2S+O template to help us sort out our thoughts and create our plans. [download P=2S+O template]
  • We should think of many solutions then compare them. In the past, I have been happy to see people present to me two solutions under the P=2S+O process. I have been reluctant to press for more than 2 solutions. I’m going to give that more thought.
More on problems, solutions, & P=2S+O© in future blogs…

Some Ideas About Optimism

by Rick Baker
On Mar 25, 2010
We all know when people say “That glass is half full” they are optimists.
But, how else can we spot them?
Does a person’s communication give us clues?
According to Susan C. Vaughan M.D. the author of ‘Half Full Half Empty, Understanding the Psychological Roots of Optimism’, we can identify optimists through the following 2 characteristics.
Dr. Vaughan says we can identify optimists two ways:
  1. They exhibit a specific attributional style: when they experience successes they tend to take more credit than they deserve and when they experience failures they tend to blame others or unfavourable  circumstances.
  2. They make downward comparisons. For example,  they think or say things like “I am sure glad I am not so and so” [some less fortunate person]. Apparently, the Dalai Lama does this.
According to Susan Vaughan, when we see/listen to optimists we perceive them to be people who inflate their own ‘worth’, fail to give credit to others when such credit is due, and fail to accept responsibility for their failures.  And, optimists sustain their positive self-image by feeling good about being better than others.
Isn’t that just a bit surprising.
Regardless, we can use this to bolster an argument supporting realism…or at least an argument in favour of optimism tempered by realism.
Perhaps the above 2 ‘tests’ could be altered as follows…
Here are two ways to identify realistic-optimists:
  1. They enjoy and celebrate their successes but don’t reduce the role played by others or ignore the fact fortunate circumstances [or luck] also contribute to success [some of the time].
  2. They express appreciation for their good fortune…but keep their downward comparisons to themselves.
PS:  here’s a link to another thought about optimism-pessimism…from a prior blog.
More about P=2S+O and how to  be more optimistic in future blogs…


Optimism & Pessimism | Attitude: Creating Positive Attitude

The Eighth Step Toward Riches - or - The First Mental Trap?

by Rick Baker
On Feb 3, 2009

In 1937, in his classic book 'Think and Grow Rich', Napoleon Hill stated Persistence as the 8th of 13 steps toward riches.

If I'm not mistaken, Bob Proctor stated he forced himself to read the Persistence chapter of Think and Grow Rich every night for a month. Proctor did that to impress upon himself the merit of Hill's words about Persistence...ie, an exercise of leading the mind by example.  

An excerpt of Napoleon Hill thought... 

'There may be no heroic connotation to the word "persistence", but the quality is to the character of man what carbon is to steel.' 

Another quote... 

'Lack of persistence is one of the major causes of failure.' 


'Those who have cultivated the habit of persistence seem to enjoy insurance against failure.' 

And one more... 

'One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat.' 


I recently purchased a copy of André Kukla's 2007 (Anchor Canada) publication of 'Mental Traps - Overthinker's Guide to a Happier Life'. Now, the book title caught my attention. The back cover explains André Kukla is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto...that expanded my interest. (Why not support the efforts of local writers.) And, the table of contents secured my purchase: Kukla’s first mental trap was - Persistence.  

Immediately, having a good memory of the details of the Hill classic and being pretty sure Bob Proctor read the chapter on persistence every day for a month, I was intrigued to see persistence holding the #1 mental-trap position. 

The opening paragraph of Kukla's chapter on persistence is: 

'The first trap, persistence, is to continue to work on projects that have lost their value. The activity had meaning for us once - or we would never have begun. But the meaning has evaporated before we reach the end. Yet we go on, either because we don't notice the change or out of sheer inertia.' 

Another quote... 

'Incredibly, our culture teaches us to regard persistence as a virtue'.  

And another... 

'A useful distinction may be drawn between persistence and perseverance. We persevere when we steadfastly pursue our aims despite the obstacles that are encountered along the way. But we merely persist if we doggedly carry on in directions that are known to lead to a dead end.' 

And one more... 

'The moral imperative to finish everything we start is deeply ingrained. We find it difficult to abandon even the most transparently vapid enterprises in midstream. The mere act of beginning already binds us to continue to the end, whether or not the original reasons for the activity remain valid.' 


Now, here's how one of my dictionaries defines perseverance and persistence... 

Perseverance: a sticking to a purpose or an aim; never giving up what one has set out to do; persistence 

Persistence: the quality or state of being persistent or the act of persisting....where, in the same dictionary, persistent is defined as: persisting; having lasting qualities, especially in the face of dislike, disapproval, or difficulties 


As mentioned above, I was intrigued to see a table of contents citing Persistence as the first mental trap in an 'Overthinker's Guide to a Happier Life' 

To at least some degree, I grew up with Napoleon Hill's philosophies...including his view that Persistence is a necessary step toward riches.  

To put this into perspective, I've read the Napoleon Hill chapter dozens of times while I've read the Kukla chapter a handful of times. So, I believe I fully understand the gory details of Napoleon Hill's thinking and message while I'm much less comfortable with my understanding of Kukla's thinking and message. 

At first-reading of Kukla's differentiation between persistence and perseverance, I thought I was gaining some ground on his views. However, my dictionary removed that.  

My dictionary seems to consider the words persistence and perseverance as more or less interchangeable...note, perseverance is defined as persistence.  


So, what is persistence? 

Is it the 8th step to riches?  

Or, is it the first mental trap?   

An attempt at an answer: 

...going back to my dictionary's definition of persistent: persisting; having lasting qualities, especially in the face of dislike, disapproval, or difficulties. 

Specifically, consider the words 'in the face of dislike, disapproval, or difficulties'. 

This may be a good place to begin to sort out the similarities and differences between what these authors are trying to tell us.  

There's no question Napoleon Hill wanted his readers to be persistent in the face of disapproval from others. That's a very major part of the Hill philosophy. He wrote words like, 'never mind what they say' 

And, be persistent in the face of difficulty is another major Hill message....he wrote, 'If you give up before your goal has been reached, you are a "quitter". A quitter never wins - and a winner never quits. Lift that sentence out, write it on a piece of paper in letters an inch high, and place it where you will see it every night before you go to sleep, and every morning before you go to work.' 

What about 'in the face of dislike'? Napoleon Hill had a strong view on what type of work people should do...that is, he felt people should do work that is a labour of love. That doesn't mean Napoleon Hill expected all aspects of one's work would always be enjoyable/liked.  

Napoleon Hill felt people should think, set goals, create detailed plans, and take persistent action to complete those plans.  

Conversely, André Kukla begins his explanation of the mental trap, persistence, with the following example... 

'We start a Monopoly game with great enthusiasm and - inevitably - get bored before we reach the end. But instead of quitting, we toil on without pleasure "just to get it over with". There can be no clearer waste of time.' 

Kukla presents a number of similar examples. Taken on there own, I expect these examples do not do justice to the substance of Kukla's views. He goes on to say... 

'We may perpetually persist at relationships that have turned irretrievably sour, jobs that hold no present satisfaction for us and no hope for the future, old hobbies that no longer bring us pleasure, daily routines that only burden and restrict our lives.' 

Obviously, this last excerpt covers matters of much more significance than monopoly games. 

Napoleon Hill comments on all of these matters too, except the old hobbies. Hill cautioned against carrying on with things like irretrievably sour relationships and jobs that are not satisfying. He had strong views that most people continued with these sorts of things because of fear of criticism.  

So, there is common ground covered by both Kukla and Hill.  

However, there are fundamental differences and they are not explained away by writer’s style or the fact some common ground exists. 

As mentioned above, Kukla states, 'But we merely persist if we doggedly carry on in directions that are known to lead to a dead end.' 

On the other hand, Hill tells the story of how Henry Ford reacted to his engineers after '...the engineers agreed, to a man, that it was simply impossible to cast an eight-cylinder engine-block in one piece'.   

Here is part of the Henry Ford story, as told by Napoleon Hill: 

'...the engineers agreed, to a man, that it was simply impossible to cast an eight-cylinder engine-block in one piece.  

Ford said, "Produce it anyway." 

"But," they replied, "it's impossible!" 

"Go ahead," Ford commanded, "and stay on the job until you succeed, no matter how much time is required." 

The engineers went ahead. There was nothing else for them to do, if they were to remain on the Ford staff. Six months went by, nothing happened. Another six months passed, and still nothing happened. The engineers tried every conceivable plan to carry out the orders, but the thing seemed out of the question; "impossible!" 

At the end of the year Ford checked with his engineers, and again they informed him they had found no way to carry out his orders. 

"Go right ahead," said Ford. "I want it, and I'll have it." 

They went ahead, and then, as if by a stroke of magic, the secret was discovered. 

The Ford determination had won once more!'  

Consider Kukla's definitions...'We persevere when we steadfastly pursue our aims despite the obstacles that are encountered along the way. But we merely persist if we doggedly carry on in directions that are known to lead to a dead end.' 

Under Kukla’s definitions, Napoleon Hill's story about Henry Ford and his engineers contains one man persevering and many men merely persisting.  

Clearly, knowing the single-cast engine block could be done, Henry Ford persevered and that is something Kukla would not describe as falling into a mental trap.  

However, all of Henry Ford's engineers agreed to a man it was simply impossible to single-cast the engine block yet they doggedly carried on with work they ‘knew’ would lead to a dead end. So, the engineers merely persisted. And, Kukla would describe that as activity done in a mental trap.  

Some could argue that example is not a fair-game way of trying to sort out whether persistence is a necessary step towards riches or a destructive mental trap.  

After all…Henry Ford – why that’s just an exceptional example.   



Attitude: Creating Positive Attitude | Hero Worship | Influencing

Maybe there is an 'I' in Teamwork?

by Rick Baker
On May 24, 2008

In the past, I've written strong critiques of cliché talk about Teamwork in Business 

I've really objected to sayings like, "There is no 'I' in Teamwork".

And, I've penned a new organization structure that would fit both well if business and team sports truly wished to be similar. 

So, I admit I'm not inclined to overstate the similarities shared by business and team sports. However, comparing business to team sports can help us firm up our thoughts about business goals, rules, action, and success...and, of course, about ourselves, other people, and how we can work together. After all, people are people. 

[I recognize professional sports teams are businesses, however, that’s a whole different topic.] 



Some points to consider when comparing business and team sports:  


  • In business, the puck or ball isn’t so easy to define or see and whether or not it can be seen as a tangible thing of possession it is rarely carried by a single person.


  • In business, most roles are heavily skewed to either offense or defense...in business, there are value-addition roles and there are quite different and typically quite separate value-protection roles. 


  • In business the defensive players have significant day-to-day influence over their team’s offensive players and this isn’t common in team sports. 


  • In business, we don’t get to hear tens of thousands unite to create thunderous noise and we don’t get to see standing ovations when we achieve our annual targets. On the other hand, we also don’t get to hear real-time Bronx Cheers or see octopi projectiles coming our way - in fact, stuff like that is frowned upon in business.


  • Most business consultants would be very troubled by managers or leaders who have a style like that of NFL Coach Bill Parcells. In fact, most people in business would say and do whatever they could to make Bill Parcells change and conform to much softer, kinder, and more-empathetic ways.




When we have business goals and we are committed to achieving them it is possible to separate our work into 2 broad categories: work designed to move us toward our goals and work designed to stop action that could reduce our ability to achieve our goals. We could call these offensive and defensive roles.

While there are radical differences between the work of team sports and the work of business a team sports metaphor, laced with offense and defence, can help us sort out our thoughts.  

In sports, there is offensive work and there is defensive work. In sports like North American football the lines are clearly drawn between offense and defence. There are offensive players, trainers, coaches, etc, and there are defensive counterparts. That doesn't mean the roles are permanent. In football one interception causes everyone on both teams to reverse roles instantaneously. For basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc, a change in possession of the ball causes most players to immediately shift their focus from offense to defence and vice-versa.

In many sports, possession of the ball is subject to task-completion/failure rules. In baseball one team gets to be on offense until it fails enough to have 3 outs. If we ignore the pitchers [or at least ignore some of them some of the time] baseball players are half-game defensive players who have the opportunity to take turns being the key point of offense a few times during the other half of each game. It seems to me that must also be happening in cricket but I'm going to need a lot more time to figure that out.

Again, in certain team sports the rules of the game require a sequence of repeated failed offensive actions to cause a change in possession of the ball…that applies to baseball. In other team sports failed offensive action can cause an immediate change of possession where the offense is required to leave the field of play…that applies to North American football. In other team sports, possession changes frequently and as a consequence all the players alternate frequently between offensive and defensive roles and action…that applies to soccer, basketball, and hockey. 

In sports like soccer and basketball, where most or all of the players split their work regularly between offensive and defensive action, the players often focus on one of those roles. Forwards are primarily offensive while defensemen are primarily defensive. However, both types of players alternate roles and take the action that best suits the situation. The situation is defined in terms of many things such as: where are we located on the field?, who holds possession?, and how much time is left in the game? We could describe these team sports players as 'majoring' in one type of work while 'minoring' in the other.  Often possession of the ball dictates their choice of action and always the rules of the game limit the extent of the action.

But, who is carrying the ball in business? 

Does any individual player ever actually carry the puck in corporate business? 

In business, the puck or ball isn’t so easy to define or see and whether or not it can be seen as a tangible thing of possession it is rarely carried by a single person.

Do we ever pull the Purchasing VP with less than a minute on the clock so we have one more person in the Sales Department?



In sports, players cannot gain unfair advantage by going offside and stepping out of bounds carries consequences. 

While there are many official rules, the sports coaches can set bounds on action tighter than the rules of the game. Αs an example: (while I haven't really spent much time on hockey since the Leafs completed their first couple of decades of playoff lackadaisy), maybe goalies are not allowed to cross the centre line? That could be the rule for hockey. On the other hand, the coach could set a team or individual rule that limits the goalie's forward progress to the blue line. The coach may set similar restrictions on defensive players…restricting some players to be defensive defensemen while allowing others to be offensive defensemen. Or, some forwards could be told to back check while others could be set up ice to cherry pick. 

Regardless, in many team sports the players alter their actions swiftly back-and-forth between offense and defense. There are game rules. There are also team/coach rules. In most sports there are considerable rules governing what defensive and offensive players are allowed to do: penalties for offsides stands out as a general rule that applies to many team sports.

[Attention to the rules is very important in sports while in business, particularly smaller and mid-sized business, there often is no detailed rule book.]

In business, most roles are heavily skewed to either offense or defense…in business, there are value-addition roles and there are quite different and typically quite separate value-protection roles. 

There are business-development roles and there are business-risk-management and business-control roles.

This is a key area of difference.  

Ideally, the value adders in business will be considerate of the risks and temper their action when required. Ideally, the risk managers and controllers in business will be considerate of the need to grow through expanded commerce and ease their rules and actions when required.



In business the defensive players have significant day-to-day influence over their team’s offensive players and this isn’t common in team sports.

That is another key difference between team sports and business. As examples: CFOs, legal counsel, and credit managers can dictate policy that limits the day-to-day actions of purchasing, marketing, and sales people.

This control isn't limited to pre-game, pre-set rules...it also happens in an ongoing way during the day-by-day actions of business.

If business and team sports were similar at the action level then we might regularly see many defensive players repeatedly screaming “Be Careful” or “You can’t do that as their offensive players pressed toward the other team's goal. And, if team sports were like business then maybe Bobby Orr would have only scored short-handed goals when he got really lucky flipping the puck in from centre ice? 

This difference identifies a key need in business that seems to go without saying in team sports: in business we need to make efforts to optimize the balance between offense and defense...not just in theory and in practice but also in action throughout the game.



In sports, the scrutiny on action is intense, sometimes off the Richter Scale. Consider penalty kicks, breakaways, and bases-loaded at bats. In these game situations at least 2 people are under intense scrutiny: one offensive person and one defensive person.

Scrutiny of action is extreme in sports. Feedback is immediately-rewarding in sports. Fans scream, sound systems wail, the jumbo screen flashes, and coaches ride emotional roller coasters. [And if you are in Tampa Bay then you get to see a pirate ship fire its cannons.] 

In sports the rewards of the immediate, intense feedback can be positive or negative. In fact, most often it is both positive and negative at the same time. Your team and your fans cheer your success while at least some fans who root for the other team yell insults and deride you and your performance even if it clearly was a terrific piece of action and a scored goal.

Those who watch you perform in sports are biased…and many of them are not timid at all about showing it, wearing it, screaming it, or, from time to time, rioting during or after the game to prove it.  We don’t see that often in business.  In business, feedback about our actions is much more subtle. As business individuals, our action isn’t monitored by a zoomed-in camera lens.  

In business, we don’t get to hear tens of thousands unite to create thunderous noise and we don’t get to see standing ovations when we achieve our annual targets. On the other hand, we also don’t get to hear real-time Bronx Cheers or see octopi projectiles coming our way…in fact, stuff like that is frowned upon in business. 

We see and hear even less immediate feedback in the day-to-day commercial trenches while we are doing the buying and selling action of business. Business people can operate with some privacy, whereas, sometimes, in some sports stadia, your own fans give you that Bronx Cheer.

In sports, sometimes your coach hugs you while tears stream from all eyes. At other times your coach screams vulgarities at you and you can watch replays of the whole thing over and over on the jumbo screen and later you can watch it on the Sports Channel when you get home from the game.  

Missing a penalty shot or letting an overtime goal sneak by you – that’s newsworthy.

Failing to make a sale or paying too much for some raw materials – that’s not newsworthy. 

Scrutiny of performance and feedback on performance – in sports versus in business – are areas where huge differences exist. In sports winning is revered. Winning is revered to the point where critics and fans and coworkers applaud the end result and they also applaud the means to that end result whether the coach is Bill Parcells [known to be a tough autocrat] or Tony Dungy [known to be a real people person].

In business, we often hear coaching-and-counselling advice about teamwork. We hear, “There is no ‘I’ in teamwork”. I suppose team-sports players may hear the same counsel? That counsel seems to be an attempt to state that something about individuals must be of lesser something than something about the team. That interpretation should come across as nebulous. That’s because comments like “There is no ‘I’ in teamwork” are nebulous. Perhaps, the common interpretation isn’t nebulous. Perhaps, the comment means each individual should be prepared to sacrifice personal needs whenever they conflict with team goals. If that’s the case then there are better ways to express that sort of thinking. The reality is: every team consists of individual people, each of whom is an ‘I’. So, rather than talk in terms of letters of the alphabet we should be more specific. For example, we could say the key to team success is optimizing: optimizing the balance between the team’s goals and each individual’s goals and optimizing the balance between each individual’s goals and the goals of each other individual. That would at least allow us to focus on each person’s needs/goals and the needs/goals of the team. We could seek an understanding of whether or not the various goals are similar and aligned. We could talk about individual compromise in objective ways. We could work out acceptable individual adjustments.   



In business, we are much more conflicted about management style and often we hear advice that the likelihood of winning increases under certain leadership and management styles.

Most business consultants would be very troubled by managers or leaders who have a style like that of NFL Coach Bill Parcells. In fact, most people in business would say and do whatever they could to make Bill Parcells change and conform to much softer, kinder, and more-empathetic ways.

[In recognition of another way of looking at it - Bill Parcells did get to present some of his sports-to-business leadership thoughts in Harvard Business Review. The message he presented in HBR made sense. It is interesting to consider his HBR words while watching him in action at the sidelines.] 

Whether Bill Parcells or Tony Dungy, for team sports differences in leadership style, coaching style, and management style are embraced. Style differences are embraced by owners, fans, players, and media critics. Style differences are embraced while a potential to win is in the mind of the sports critic. When the potential to win is no longer in the mind of the sports critic the sports critic often promotes leadership change specifically to bring about a change in leadership style. If the failed sports leader was viewed as ‘too nice’ then the critic would promote a change to tougher leadership – more discipline, more control, and a firmer hand. If the failed leader was viewed as ‘too autocratic’ then the critic would promote a change to a more easy-going leader. Interestingly enough, these sorts of radical changes in style often do bring about near-term success in team sports.  

Sports fans love this stuff...they call in to talk shows, watch the highlights and the pundits, etc.

But, what about in business?  

In business, how often do we hear, “Let’s bring in an autocratic leader to inject a good dose of discipline into this organization”? 



People invented sports.

People invented business.

Both business and sports are fundamental to our human condition.

While business and team sports are both constructs that combine human cooperation and human competition, they are so different it is dangerous to assume too much similarity.

It is particularly dangerous to think the concept of teamwork in business is interchangeable with the concept of teamwork in sports. Business might be much easier to perform if it was performed in a manner similar to the relatively simple way sports teams perform.

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