Tuesday, May 25, 2010

One Rule to...er...Rule Them All

The Golden Rule:

'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'

This rule is for two kinds of people, who are often one and the same. One is a fool, and the other a well intentioned person who seeks to do right by the world. It is the greatest source of hypocrisy in our society. We teach this rule to children with little more thought than to try to avert childhood strife. We know that in childhood, we are closer to equal with our peers than at any other time in our lives. After childhood, we only embrace this rule in the most rudimentary way, and never in our efforts to advance our position.

Do you think that a leader or a successful man subscribes to this rule? Consider this, the next time that you have a request for your boss, and he tells you no, do you think he would appreciate being told in kind no to a request of his or hers? Of course not. The rich, the powerful and the successful all live by a different rule. This rule is the 'Platinum Rule':

'Expect of others that which you would never reasonably expect of yourself'

Be disgusted if you like, but if you are reading this, you are guilty of it without even knowing it. After all, in the place of your employment, you probably have cleaners or staff that scrub toilets. We ask them to complete these tasks because they are below our dignity or pay grade, or any other sorry excuse one can think of.

The first inclination of those who use this rule most successfully is to make the demand of another party. Individuals who wield this tool masterfully need do no more than this. As those less advanced in its use try, they may eventually run into resistance. The game is simple. Make the smallest of consessions as is possible, and give these begrudgingly. This is ideally bolstered with the implied argumentum ad baculum. After all, it should be clear who holds all the cards in this game. The purpose is to quickly get them back under your control so that they will do the things that you would never actually attempt to do yourself.

Do you have an idea that you would never visit upon yourself? Then use the rule with impunity and force those below you to complete this grueling task. After all, it isn't you that will be inconvenienced, and you will receive most all of the credit for the work completed as a competent manager with good instincts.

After a great deal of searching and trying to understand what sets apart the successful from those who are not, it has been boiled down to its essence: The Platinum Rule. The more one can utilize it, the more success will be achieved. The rule, to my knowledge, is universal. It is perhaps with regret that the key to our achievement engages the most reptilian of our instincts. But if you can decouple yourself from your childhood notions of fairness and equality, then you too can be set free and start down the path.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Insane Metaphor

Prepare for a metaphor that is too complicated to follow:

I am currently working on a data center for a medical institution in Texas, and there is a special room with electrical equipment that is dedicated to the functions of the data center. Because this is being built in a renovated building (originally built in 1958ish) this room must be located deep within the bowels of the building, next to all of the air handling equipment and storage on the lower levels.

These rooms contain batteries that could potentially off-gas hydrogen, a highly combustible element. As such, mechanical codes require continuous ventilation to the outside of the building, and the continual intake of fresh make-up air. Well, the mechanical engineer decided that it would be wasteful to simply send thousands of cubic feet of air conditioned air to the outside, after considerable energy had been expended to cool that air (If you've been in Texas in the summer, you'd understand.) His solution was to place an ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator) that would recapture some of that lost energy and transfer it to incoming air. This is not technically correct, but it explains in rough detail what this system does.

How is that a metaphor? Great question. Prepare to board J.T.'s brain vomit express. I would say that budgets are the ERV's of finance. When we send all of our money out, none of it is recaptured. When we don't track our spending, we simply lose that money to the world, and it is gone from us. With the budget, we can curtail the spending and put more back into our pockets for the things that we want or need. As I write this, I can see on top of our living room credenza a piggy bank in which we place all unused funds from cash withdrawls. We are recapturing some of that money rather than spending it on the next item. As a result, the piggy bank is getting heavy!

Recently, we started using Mint, found at mint.com, and so far we are very impressed. Immediately it pointed out to us areas where we are losing money or not making as much money as we could be making elsewhere. It also has a budget feature where you can set budget goals for different categories, and when the budget is complete, it will tell you your monthly savings. After setting up what I believe is a very generous budget, we stand to save over $1,000 a month, which is not an insignificant amount of money. With over $12,000 a year extra that is no longer going to waste, we can do incredible things with that money.

We should not so generously give away the money that we worked so hard for. We exchanged a priceless commodity for it: our time. I want to recapture as much of that energy as possible to yield back some of my life and my time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Problem with the Profession

One of the guys I was talking to at the criterium race a couple of weeks ago shared with me his insight into a particular race held in the summer in Texas. The 'Hotter n' Hell' race is a 100 mile long day race in the dead of summer. I asked if he participated, and he said yes, but that it was over hyped.

I asked him why he felt that way, and he responded, "If you ride hard like we do, then you can finish the race in four to five hours. All the beginners move at a slower pace and bake in the sun all day. It's easier to do what we do." This is wisdom of the highest order.

I'll be the first to say that Architecture students and interns are amongst the dumbest people on the planet. They actually brag about putting in ridiculous hours and pulling all-nighters. They are like the beginners trying to ride 100 miles in grueling conditions, and rather than focusing and working hard to get it out of the way, they trundle along slowly and bake.

Logging hours is not the same as productivity. Anybody can be a warm body and check their facebook all day until the sun goes down. What if they actually worked with dedicated focus? What if as a reward they were given their time back. Do you think people would suffer the perversity of billable hours? I don't think so. We all say that if we could go back and re-do school, it would be totally different. For me, it would have been making the most of the 12 hours a week set aside for studio work, instead of working 40 unproductive hours or more.