Are You Kidding Me! These Guys Should Know Better

If you do any online business at all, you know about the importance of having strong passwords to protect your accounts. Some of the top minds in the security industry now suggest you actually use a pass phrase, implying a really long password comprised of multiple parts. And to make it super strong, the pass phrase should include a combination of numbers, upper and lower case letters AND special characters (e.g., @, $).

It’s simple mathematics really: the longer and more complex the password, the longer it takes to hack, and most hackers want fast results, not slow tedious results.

Trick question: who would you think has the strongest password policies on the Internet? I bet you said banks (or other financial fiduciaries). You would think that firms that have the most to protect–gobs and gobs of money–would have the best, most stringent password policies on the Internet. And you would be dead wrong.

Here is just a sampling of some of the password policy limitations of some well known organizations:

Chase: cannot include special characters.

Chase Password Policy

Union Bank: cannot include special characters.

Union Bank Password Policy

Vanguard Mutual Funds: a maximum of 10 characters–are you kidding me.

Vangaurd Passwrod Policy

 American Funds: passwords are not case sensitive–are you kidding me.

American Funds Password Policy

SIT Mutual Funds: a maximum of 10 characters.

SIT Password Policy

And just so you don’t think this is limited to just the financial industry, I present…

Verizon Wireless: no special characters. Verizon Wireless
I could go on but you get the point. How long has the commercial Internet been around? Thirty years. I just find this all too perplexing for words (and yet I managed to blog about it).

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Nothing Happens Until This Happens

For the longest time I never fully appreciated the role of sales in business. When I was a young engineer, I showed up, did my engineering thing and come Friday, money showed up in my checking account. I never spent much time thinking about the fact that for me to be able to have that job, somebody had to sell something. Money had to exchange hands.

It was not until I actually got a job in sales that I had a chance to see up close the cause and effect that sales has on everything in a business. You want better benefits?  Make sales. You want a raise? Make sales. You want to develop the next generation of cool products? Make sales. You want job security? Make sales.

Whether you are in the sales chain or not, you need to have a strong appreciation for the miracle of sales. Yes, it is a miracle. Jobs get created, taxes get paid, products get manufactured, companies go public, fortunes get made and redistributed. And none of that happens without a sale. Engineers—can’t afford them. Accountants—don’t need them. CEO—huh?

People are constantly worrying about job security. Do you want to have job security for eternity? Be an effective salesperson. You will never be without work and you will always make a good income. From an accounting perspective, sales people are the only employees who are not an expense. (Technically they are “Cost of Sales.”)

Are you an entrepreneur? Until you make a sale you are a hobbyist. If you want to start a business (or keep one going) you need to become obsessed with sales. And if you are employed at a company, even if you are not a sales person, you ought to become “sales aware.” You should be able to explain your company’s value proposition to a stranger and you should know what a customers looks like. That way, if you ever sit next to one on an airplane or run into one at a social event, you can tell them about your company and maybe even facilitate a meeting with your sales department. I am always surprised by people who live in fear of losing their jobs, but do not know what their company sells or what a customer looks like. Today, everyone needs to be in sales.

I guess that is what I find so frustrating with a bloated government: too many government agencies filled with too many government employees. Most are good people trying to do a good job, but deep down they do not understand the preciousness of sales. They do not have to convince a customer to part with their money and they do not have to better their competition in the marketplace. Their paycheck shows up without anyone ever having to make a sale. Their pay magically shows up every Friday just as mine did many years ago before I learned the truth about sales in the private sector: nothing happens until that happens.

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Wow! This is Trippy

I was directed to Amazon to read a book by Harry Browne called Fail Safe Investing. It is a book about how to protect yourself financially when you have no idea what the future holds, like today.

As is my usual practice, I read one or two of the reviews: a five star and a one star. In this case there were no one star reviews, so I just read the first five star review. I took a screenshot of it that you can see it (you may have to click on it to enlarge it).

Fail Safe InvestingThe reviewer is discussing Harry Browne’s point that a fail safe portfolio should contain gold. And then he utters something unbelievably prophetic: “So what if gold is in the dumps for a decade or two? When that disaster we can’t even conceive of wrecks the economy…”

Two things to note:

1] The price of gold the day of that review was $275.60. Today the price of gold is $1695, 97

2] It was posted 29 day before 9/11.

That’s trippy.

 

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The Secret of Superstars

Do you ever wonder what separates stars from superstars? What separates Michael Jordon from other great basketball players? What separates Tiger Woods from other great golfers?

It is easy to assume they are superstars because of their superior physical ability. I do not think so. During Michael Jordon’s career there was another basketball player many people would argue had superior physical skills to Michael’s. The player, Dominique Wilkins, was certainly a star during his career, but he was no Michael Jordon. And there are undoubtedly golfers who can out hit Tiger Woods on the golf course. Physical prowess alone cannot not explain it.

Maybe you think superstars have a stronger desire to win than everyone else. Superstars surly love to win, but winning is not what drives them. Stars are driven by the desire to win, not superstars. How can you tell the difference? It is easy. When stars win, they celebrate. For stars, winning is like climbing Mt Everest. It is a journey with a very definite destination: winning. Like the summit on Mt Everest, once they reach their destination they have achieved their goal and so they celebrate. Not so with superstars.

Superstars are not driven by the love of winning. That passion fades too quickly. No, superstars are driven by something much stronger. Superstars are driven by their hatred of losing. For them, competition is not like summiting a mountain, it is like running away from a monster. A monster called losing. And this monster never tires, never gives in and never stops chasing them. It is why their celebrations after winning are so short lived. They have to keep running.

The hatred of losing will drive a person further than the love of winning ever will. It is the curse (or the gift?) that the superstar possesses. It is the only thing that will make someone re-double their effort after they win. It is the necessary ingredient for super stardom.

Unfortunately you cannot pretend to hate losing to make yourself a superstar. It is either within you or it is not. The desire to keep running after you have won the race is not a part of many people. But do not despair. The superstar may win more often than everyone else, but it is likely the enjoy it less. Contentment is not part of the superstar’s existence.

So, the next time you wonder what it would be like to be a superstar, just know that you can actually beat them at something: enjoying winning. You should be content with that.

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The Death of Hope

Hugh Hefner (the founder of Playboy Magazine) once quipped that “marriage is the death of hope.” Without commenting on his observation, I would like to offer an alternative one. I think inertia is the death of hope.

If you have forgotten your high school physics, inertia is the property of matter by which the matter retains its state of rest or its velocity, so long as it is not acted upon by an external force. In simplified terms it means that whatever is happening is going to continue to happen unless something changes. There is even a grammatically incorrect aphorism for this phenomenon:

If you always do what you always done, you always get what you always got.

What is it that you want? More money, a challenging career, better health, a loving relationship? Whatever you are doing at this moment has not gotten you what you want. (If it did, you probably wouldn’t be longing for it.) To get it, something needs to change—that is obvious. So why doesn’t it? Inertia. Human beings succumb to inertia. We keep doing what we are doing unless something outside of us changes things.

Inertia explains why people stay in unfulfilling marriages and unfulfilling jobs. It also explains why people accomplish extraordinary things (like starting a charity) when befallen by some tragic event: the inertia is broken.

Inertia is insidious. It is patient, relentless and more difficult to break the longer it is at work. But it is worse than that, because inertia does its dastardly deed by killing hope. Take away a person’s money, they can earn more. Take away their hope and they is doomed.

Hope is an amazing thing. It can drive you to accomplish almost anything. People have started great businesses without money, without education and without experience. But never without hope. It is the only fuel you need. Whatever it is you want, you can start the journey to acquiring it if all you have is hope. Once hope is gone, all that is left is inertia.

I will not lie to you. Inertia is difficult to break on your own. Absent some external event, changing the course of your life by breaking your inertia is not easy. That is why getting fired from your job can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. Getting fired is definitely an external event that will break your inertia. My getting fired many years ago lead to me discovering my passion for writing. I doubt I would have four books published today had I not gotten fired all those years ago.

So, what can you do to try and break your inertia? While inertia kills hope, hope cannot kill inertia, but it can keep it at bay. You must nurture the hope. Nurture it to slow down the inertia just enough to do one thing: take action. Any action. Take one step in the direction of your hope. And then repeat: nurture the hope, take a step. That’s how it is with overcoming inertia: one step at a time. It’s all you can do on your own. There is no shortcut.

Nurture the hope. Take a step. Repeat. Don’t let the hope die.

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