Green Time

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Secret Ingredients for Success

Excuse making is not the answer to moving your business forward and making a success of your efforts  -  working harder is not the answer; you need to change a losing game. 

Work differently like the successful people in this article did:
they subjected themselves to fairly merciless self-examination that prompted reinvention of their goals and the methods by which they endeavored to achieve them.

They looked inward and subjected themselves to brutal self-assessment. 

In interviews with high achievers for a book, the authors expected to hear that talent, persistence, dedication and luck played crucial roles in their success. 

Surprisingly, however, self-awareness played an equally strong role.


The authors learned that challenging our assumptions, objectives, at times even our goals, may sometimes push us further than we thought possible. 


This is  the cognitive approach that Professor Argyris called double-loop learning wherein we are advised  to  question every aspect of our approach, including our methodology, biases and deeply held assumptions. 

..........



Secret Ingredient for Success

By CAMILLE SWEENEY and JOSH GOSFIELD


WHAT does self-awareness have to do with a restaurant empire? A tennis championship? Or a rock star’s dream?

David Chang’s experience is instructive.

Mr. Chang is an internationally renowned, award-winning Korean-American chef, restaurateur and owner of the Momofuku restaurant group with eight restaurants from Toronto to Sydney, and other thriving enterprises, including bakeries and bars, a PBS TV show, guest spots on HBO’s “Treme” and a foodie magazine, Lucky Peach.  

He says he worked himself to the bone to realize his dream — to own a humble noodle bar.

He spent years cooking in some of New York City’s best restaurants, apprenticed in different noodle shops in Japan and then, finally, worked 18-hour days in his tiny restaurant,
Momofuku Noodle Bar.

Mr. Chang could barely pay himself a salary. He had trouble keeping staff. And he was miserably stressed.


He recalls a low moment when he went with his staff on a night off to eat burgers at a restaurant that was everything his wasn’t — packed, critically acclaimed and financially successful.

He could cook better than they did, he thought, so why was his restaurant failing? “I couldn’t figure out what the hell we were doing wrong,” he told us.

Mr. Chang could have blamed someone else for his troubles, or worked harder (though available evidence suggests that might not have been possible) or he could have made minor tweaks to the menu. 

Instead he looked inward and subjected himself to brutal self-assessment.

Was the humble noodle bar of his dreams economically viable? 

Sure, a traditional noodle dish had its charm but wouldn’t work as the mainstay of a restaurant if he hoped to pay his bills.

Mr. Chang changed course. 


Rather than worry about what a noodle bar should serve, he and his cooks stalked the produce at the greenmarket for inspiration. 

Then they went back to the kitchen and cooked as if it was their last meal, crowding the menu with wild combinations of dishes they’d want to eat — tripe and sweetbreads, headcheese and flavor-packed culinary mashups like a Korean-style burrito. 

What happened next Mr. Chang still considers “kind of ridiculous” — the crowds came, rave reviews piled up, awards followed and unimaginable opportunities presented themselves.

During the 1970s, Chris Argyris, a business theorist at Harvard Business School (and now, at 89, a professor emeritus) began to research what happens to organizations and people, like Mr. Chang, when they find obstacles in their paths.

Professor Argyris called the most common response single loop learning — an insular mental process in which we consider possible external or technical reasons for obstacles.


LESS common but vastly more effective is the cognitive approach that Professor Argyris called double-loop learning. 

In this mode we — like Mr. Chang — question every aspect of our approach, including our methodology, biases and deeply held assumptions. 

This more psychologically nuanced self-examination requires that we honestly challenge our beliefs and summon the courage to act on that information, which may lead to fresh ways of thinking about our lives and our goals.

In interviews we did with high achievers for a book, we expected to hear that talent, persistence, dedication and luck played crucial roles in their success. 

Surprisingly, however, self-awareness played an equally strong role.

The successful people we spoke with — in business, entertainment, sports and the arts — all had similar responses when faced with obstacles: they subjected themselves to fairly merciless self-examination that prompted reinvention of their goals and the methods by which they endeavored to achieve them.
The tennis champion Martina Navratilova, for example, told us that after a galling loss to Chris Evert in 1981, she questioned her assumption that she could get by on talent and instinct alone. 

She began a long exploration of every aspect of her game. 

She adopted a rigorous cross-training practice (common today but essentially unheard of at the time), revamped her diet and her mental and tactical game and ultimately transformed herself into the most successful women’s tennis player of her era.

The indie rock band OK Go described how it once operated under the business model of the 20th-century rock band. 

But when industry record sales collapsed and the band members found themselves creatively hamstrung by their recording company, they questioned their tactics. 

Rather than depend on their label, they made wildly unconventional music videos, which went viral, and collaborative art projects with companies like Google, State Farm and Range Rover, which financed future creative endeavors. The band now releases albums on its own label.
No one’s idea of a good time is to take a brutal assessment of their animating assumptions and to acknowledge that those may have contributed to their failure. 

It’s easy to find pat ways to explain why the world has not adequately rewarded our efforts. 


But what we learned from conversation with high achievers is that:


 challenging our assumptions, objectives, at times even our goals, may sometimes push us further than we thought possible. 












Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield are the authors of the forthcoming book “The Art of Doing:  How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well.”


Source:

Secret Ingredient for Success - NYTimes.com



http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/opinion/sunday/secret-ingredient-for-success.html?_r=0





Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why Wall Street Wins Everytime

 The great mystery story in American politics these days is why, over the course of two presidential administrations (one from each party), there’s been no serious federal criminal investigation of Wall Street during a period of what appears to be epic corruption.


One of those rare inside accounts about Why the Government Won't Fight Wall Street:

 "The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins", a new book by Jeff Connaughton, the former aide to Senators Ted Kaufman and Joe Biden.

 He shared this quality with his boss Kaufman, the Delaware Senator who took over Biden's seat and instantly became an irritating (to Wall Street) political force by announcing he wasn’t going to run for re-election. 

"I later learned from reporters that Wall Street was frustrated that they couldn’t find a way to harness Ted or pull in his reins," Jeff writes. "There was no obvious way to pressure Ted because he wasn’t running for re-election."

Kaufman for some time was a go-to guy in the Senate for reform activists and reporters who wanted to find out what was really going on with corruption issues.

He was a leader in a number of areas, attempting to push through (often simple) fixes to issues like high-frequency trading (his advocacy here looked prescient after the "flash crash" of 2010), naked short-selling, and, perhaps most importantly, the Too-Big-To-Fail issue. 

What’s fascinating about Connaughton’s book is that we now get to hear a behind-the-scenes account of who exactly was knocking down simple reform ideas, how they were knocked down, and in some cases we even find out why good ideas were rejected, although some element of mystery certainly remains here.

There are some damning revelations in this book, and overall it’s not a flattering portrait of key Obama administration officials like SEC enforcement chief Robert Khuzami, Department of Justice honchos Eric Holder (who once worked at the same law firm, Covington and Burling, as Connaughton) and Lanny Breuer, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Most damningly, Connaughton writes about something he calls "The Blob," a kind of catchall term describing an oozy pile of Hill insiders who are all incestuously interconnected, sometimes by financial or political ties, sometimes by marriage, sometimes by all three.

And what Connaughton and Kaufman found is that taking on Wall Street even with the aim of imposing simple, logical fixes often inspired immediate hostile responses from The Blob; you’d never know where it was coming from.

In one amazing example described in the book, Kaufman decided he wanted to try to re-instate the so-called "uptick rule," which had existed for seventy years before being rescinded by the SEC in 2007. 

The rule prevents investors from shorting a stock until the stock had ticked up in price. "Forcing short sellers to wait for the price to tick up before they sell more shares gives a breather to a stock in decline and helps prevent bear raids," Connaughton writes.

The uptick rule is controversial on Wall Street – I’ve had some people literally scream at me that it doesn’t do anything, while others have told me that it does help prevent bear attacks of the sort that appeared to help finally topple already-mortally-wounded companies like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers – but what’s inarguable is that Wall Street hates the rule.

Hedge fund types or employees of really any company that engages in short-selling will tend to be most venomous in their opinions of the uptick rule.

Anyway, Connaughton and Kaufman were under the impression that new SEC chief Mary Schapiro would re-instate the uptick rule after taking office. 

When she didn’t, Kaufman wrote her a letter, asking her to take action. When that didn't do the trick, he co-sponsored (with Republican Johnny Isakson) a bill that would have required the SEC to take action.

Nothing happened, and months later, Kaufman gave a grumbling interview to Politico about the issue. One June 30, the paper’s headline read: "Ted Kaufman to SEC; Do Your Job."

The next day, the Blob bit back. Connaughton was in the basement of the Russell building when a Senate staffer whose wife worked for Shapiro shouted at him. From the book:
"Hey, Jeff, you’re in the doghouse." He meant: with his wife's boss  -SEC chief Mary Schapiro.
"Why?" I asked.
"That Politico piece by your boss."
I was taken aback but tried to downplay the matter.
"We just want the SEC to get its work done."
"Remember," he said. "We all wear blue jerseys and play for the Blue Team. I just don’t think that helps."
When Connaughton told Kaufman over the phone what the staffer said, Kaufman exploded. "You call him back right now and tell him I said to go fuck himself in his ear," Kaufman said.

Similarly, when Kaufman tried to advocate for rules that would have prevented naked short-selling, Connaughton was warned by a lobbyist that it would be "bad for my career" if he went after the issue and that "Ted and I looked like deranged conspiracy theorists" for asking if naked short-selling had played a role in the final collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Naked short-selling is another controversial practice. Essentially, when you short a stock, you're supposed to locate shares of that stock before you go out and sell it short.

But what hedge funds and banks have discovered is that the rules provide "leeway" – you can go out and sell shares in a stock without actually having it, provided you have a "reasonable belief" that you can locate the shares.

This leads to the obvious possibility of companies creating false supply in a stock by selling shares they don't have.

Without getting too much into the weeds here, there is an obvious solution to the problem, which essentially would be forcing companies to actually locate shares before selling them.

In their attempt to change the system,Kaufman and Connaughton discovered that the Depository Trust Clearing Corporation, the massive quasi-private organization that clears most all stock trades in America, had come up with just such a fix on their own.

Kaufman recruited some other senators to endorse the idea, and as late as 2009, Connaughton and Kaufman were convinced they were going to get the form.

But before the change could be made, Goldman, Sachs issued "data" showing that there was "no correlation" between naked short selling and price movements.

When Connaughton asked an Isakson staffer what the data said, the staffer, intimidated by Goldman, replied, "The data proves we're full of _it."
 Connaughton looked at the data and realized instantly that---

it was a bunch of irrelevant gobbledygook, 

even firing off an angry letter to Goldman telling them the tactic was beneath even them.

But Goldman’s tactic worked. 

A roundtable to discuss the idea was scheduled by the SEC on September 24, 2009.
Of the nine invited participants, "all but one" were for the status quo.

Connaughton expected the DTCC representatives to unveil their reform idea, but they didn’t:
Afterwards, I went over to [the DTCC representatives] and asked,
"What happened?"
Sheepishly, and to their credit, they admitted:
"We got pulled back." They meant: by their board, by the
Wall Street powers-that-be.

Essentially the same thing happened in Kaufman’s biggest reform attempt, the amendment to the Dodd-Frank bill he co-sponsored with Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, which would have broken up the Too-Big-To-Fail banks.

But the Brown-Kaufman amendment, which was really the meatiest thing in the original Dodd-Frank bill, the one reform that really would have made a difference if it had passed, just died in the suffocating mass of the Blob. 

The key Democrats one after another failed to line up behind it, and in the end it was defeated soundly, with Dick Durbin, the number two man in the Democratic leadership, giving it this epitaph: "a bridge too far."

Again, those interested in understanding the mindset of the people who should be leading the anti-corruption charge ought to read this book. 

It's the weird lack of concern that shines through, like Khuzami’s comment that he’s "not losing sleep" over judges reprimanding his soft-touch settlements with banks, or then Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Ray Lohier’s comment that the thing that most concerned him was "cyber crime."

this is the period of 2008-2009,in the middle of an 
 historic crime-wave on Wall Street.



On the outside we can only deduce the mindset from actions and non-actions...



Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/a-rare-look-at-why-the-government-wont-fight-wall-street-20120918#ixzz27YfQPUZa

Source:
A Rare Look at Why the Government Won't Fight Wall Street | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

 http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/a-rare-look-at-why-the-government-wont-fight-wall-street-20120918#ixzz27YfQPUZa