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Name of author Rick Baker, P.Eng.

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Looking out for #1

by Rick Baker
On Apr 11, 2013

It can be very difficult to take care of oneself...looking out for #1 can be a real chore.

Machiavelli knew this.

Some 500 years ago Machiavelli wrote the facts of it. For all his wisdom, he is now seen by the ‘mob’ as the harbinger of bad things…sinister, the speaker of the unspeakable. But, like most of us, Machiavelli is at best understood just enough to be misunderstood. While he spoke simple, honest, straight-forward realism, his name is now a cliché for the toughness or nastiness of the human condition around strength and power.

It seems to me Machiavelli just wanted to support his homeland. He just wanted to guide those more powerful than he. He just wanted to be factual and ‘pragmatic’ and he just wanted to sell his novel-efficient ideas concerning lordship and power.

He just wanted a piece of the pie.

He wanted to help others make the pie bigger…and he wanted his piece.

But Machiavelli...boy...this guy was weak on sales skill.

He was horrible at it. Not as bad as some of the people who have worked for me, of course, but that’s another story and Machiavelli’s sales skills were awful nonetheless.

Sure, his words have stood the test of 500 years of time. But, at the time when he wrote them, his words were not selling anyone on anything. In fairness to him, there is no question – it was tough to find a good audience for much in the 1500’s.

Yes, Machiavelli was not that successful in his day. And, history and ‘mob’ rote-thinking has not been much kinder to him. Today’s ‘mob’, none of whom I am sure has ever read a word he put to paper, view Machiavelli as the cliché for manipulative skepticism. And, that is a damn shame. After 500 years it is time to cut this guy some slack.  I mean everyone is pretty happy about giving many others credit where credit is due: Galileo, etc.

So, why not cut some slack for Machiavelli?


Leaders' Thoughts | Thick Skin & Thin Skull

Thick Skulls & Thin Skin

by Rick Baker
On Apr 2, 2013

We will all do better if we spend some time increasing:

  • self-awareness [Who am I?, How do I fit in?, etc.]
  • self-knowledge [What inspires me?, What do I have to offer?, etc.]
  • self-monitoring [What am I doing...and what's driving me to act this way?, How are others reacting to me?, Do I care about their reactions?, etc.]
  • self-regulating [Oh...wait a second...I'm not doing the right thing here...How can I adjust my behaviour?, etc.]
  • self-control [Which is a life-long, challenging process. And, self-control is one of the defining traits of a leader.]
Put another way:
  • am I being thick-skulled...close-minded about others and about myself?
  • am I being thin-skinned...blaming others regularly and taking too many things personally?
Put another way:
  • is my personality magnetic or repulsive to others?
  • do I feel positive or negative about myself?  [link to self-image articles]
On the bright side...
Thick skulls can be thinned...the best way is to start with the one you carry around.


Thin skin can be thickened...the best way is to start with the one you carry around.

Try looking at skins and skulls from different perspectives.

Here's a dark-side way of looking at them...

The majority of people have either thick skulls, or thin skin, or both. Certainly, 'both' is not a rare thing. About 9 out of 10 people have thick skulls or thin skin or both. You know this. You see it every day. You see it all the time.

You know, when you go back to work tomorrow morning, you will be forced to deal with these people: thick skulls and thin skin will lurk or swagger all over the place.

Thick skulls and thin skin will be the body parts of: 

  • many of your co-workers
  • many of your suppliers
  • many of your accountants & lawyers
  • many of your company executives
  • many of your business consultants

Someone with a thick skull will have his car in your assigned parking spot.

Someone with a thin skin will honk her horn at you, shake a finger or a fist at you, and mouth some words at you while you search around the parking lot trying to find another place to put your car.

Good Morning! That stuff will happen before you even get into your work-place building.

Then, you will make it into your building. Then what?

Well, you will encounter more thick skulls and more thin skin. Perhaps, these will be worn by the person who lets you know your access key has expired? Perhaps, it will be the person at the reception desk who again shares with you that contorted frown like, “Oh, it’s you again.”? Perhaps, it will be the nasty look on the coffee-cashier’s face or the nasty tone in the cashier’s voice when you muster the courage to mention you only received change for $5 when you had paid with $10?

A barrage of thick skulls and thin skin will surround you. You will be under thick-skull and thin-skin siege …at your own workplace. Your little castle will have no moat or drawbridge to save you.

But your castle...well, that's only the beginning of it.

Thick skulls and thin skin will be on every beach, on every landing ground, on every field, on every street, and around every hill.

Those with thick skulls and thin skin will be your customers. 

And, here’s another thing to remember…

Those with thick skulls and thin skin will be your competition.


Attitude: Creating Positive Attitude | Thick Skin & Thin Skull

The Danger in Negative Feedback

by Rick Baker
On Mar 11, 2013

For most people, the feedback scales have been skewed in the direction of negativity and 'my perception is right and whatever you’re thinking and doing is wrong'. For most people, this skew has existed since…well, since before they can remember.

Few people, if any, have been recipients of mostly appreciations and positive opinions’. I have met none of them. If we do meet people who have received excessive ‘appreciations and positive feedback’ then perhaps we can feel confident they have put that positivity to good use and their skin is thick enough to take negative criticism.

The rest of us, the vast majority that have been the recipients of excessive negative feedback, need to be handled with more care. 

I'm saying that with as objective a voice as I'm able to come up with. I am not making a moral judgement that 'more care' is the morally-correct thing to do, although for many people that will be the case. I am simply stating that we will achieve better results of we handle performance feedback with more care.

Note: for many years, I have argued in favour of Thick Skin. To the extent we thicken up our skin we do not need to be handled with such care. But, few people take the time and effort to thicken up their skin. Few people have mentors, coaches, or teachers to help them thicken up their skin. And, when it comes to feedback, thin-skinned people need to be handled with care.

Here’s my view: Based on my experience, well-packaged negative feedback will be received poorly by about 50% of people. Poorly-packaged negative feedback will be received poorly by 99% of people. When I say “received poorly” I mean it will not ‘construct’ the outcome the deliverer of the negative feedback desires. Perhaps, 1% of the time, negative/critical feedback can be constructive. This happens when well-packaged negative feedback meets a confident, high-self-image person. The other 99% of the time it cannot be constructive because it is either poorly delivered or poorly received.

That's why I say ‘Constructive Criticism is an Oxymoron’. 

Constructive criticism is an oxymoron and negative feedback does not work because most people cannot deliver it properly and most people cannot receive it properly.


Most people's skin is too thin.


Most people's skulls are too thick.



Here's the picture... 


Criticism: Constructive Criticism is an Oxymoron | Thick Skin & Thin Skull

Thought Tweet #568

by Rick Baker
On Sep 19, 2012

Thought Tweet #568 If you're over your head, it's too late to keep your chin up.


The Thinking Behind The Tweet

Ego and Pride and Denial...they have their purposes, they have their limits.

Best to invest time in self-knowledge before, not after, those limits are surpassed.


Humour | Optimism & Pessimism | Thick Skin & Thin Skull | Thought Tweets

Self-Control: The Battlefield

by Rick Baker
On May 8, 2012

Self-Control: the battlefields where logic is outnumbered by emotions and desires.

It seems most people face a life-long war over self-control. 

The battles about Self-Control happen on 2 fronts:

  1. The Desires Front: where short-term 'pain' fights & struggles with long-term gain 
  2. The Emotions Front: where Logic is alone, surrounded & ounumbered, and must face Emotions
The Desires Front
I am going to make this personal...I am going to talk about chocolate ice cream. I desire that. I desire it on scorching-hot summer days. And, I desire it on bitter-cold winter days. And, I desire it on many days in-between. I also desire healthy arteries and 36" belts. So, the battle lines get drawn. I can have and enjoy the chocolate ice cream today...or...I can have and enjoy good health in the future. Now, I know I could choose a compromise where I limit the amount of chocolate ice cream I eat; however, it is very hard for me to do that because I'm dealing with (1) chocolate and (2) ice cream. Self-control is the battlefield. Logic is surrounded by conflicting desires for and against chocolate ice cream.  
The Emotions Front
One example: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. I remember my parents teaching me that when I was a child. And, I believe I understood the underlying message. However, it took me a number of decades to be able to conquer my emotions to the point where I felt comfortable writing The Joys of Thick Skin & a Thin Skull.  The logic is sound: there is no reason why criticism should cause injury or trigger negative emotions. Yet, for some people, likely for most people, it does. And, some people are born with, or develop at an early age, a natural tendency to experience the emotion of anger when they are criticized. I know that's the way I was. Self-control is the battlefield. Logic faces, its Goliath, Emotions.

Thought Tweet #465

by Rick Baker
On Apr 27, 2012

Thought Tweet #465 High self-esteem increases one's appetite for risk; appetite stimulates initiative.


The Thinking Behind The Tweet

If we work at maintaining high-enough-but-not-excessive self-esteem then we automatically build personal initiative. We also automatically gain more appetite for risk...and comfort with change. That's one little explanation of why it is important to have Thick Skin.

Copyright © 2012. W.F.C (Rick) Baker. All Rights Reserved.