We live in an age of acronyms. I guess they are a form of shorthand. LOL, YOLO, DIY, IMHO, SMH, MTFBWY, FUTAB and ROTFL. If you guessed them all correctly you are in the mainstream of cool. And for those of us who are a bit more advanced in years, here’s the translation in order – Laughing Out Loud (LOL); You Only Live Once (YOLO); Do It Yourself (DIY); In My Humble Opinion (IMHO); Shaking My Head (SMH); May the Force Be With You (MTFBWY); Feet Up, Take a Break (FUTAB), and Rolling On the Floor Laughing (ROTFL).

There’s another acronym I’d like to explore today – FOMO. Give up? It’s the Fear of Missing Out and it can be deadly for entrepreneurs. One of the best examples of the FOMO concept is the crypto currency craze and more specifically, Bitcoin. It’s not important to understand the basics of Bitcoin. What’s more instructive is to understand what has happened in the marketplace. On August 15, 2010, the value of one Bitcoin was $.07. By August 1, 2015, the value of one Bitcoin had risen to $283.04. On November 9, 2016, right after the Presidential election, the value of one Bitcoin had increased to $726.36. On August 1, 2017, a single Bitcoin was worth $2,787.85. By December 20, 2017, the “value” had jumped to $18,486.51, and by February 4, 2018, the value had plummeted back to $8,922.61. Riding a roller coaster at Cedar Point would be considered like a leisurely stroll in the park compared to the volatility of Bitcoin.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of individuals who have jumped into Bitcoin worldwide. Some have used their life savings to buy a stake. Many think they are investing. Most hear the siren song of making a quick buck without truly understanding the risk profile or even the basics of how a crypto currency functions. What drove some people to plunk down $18,486.51 for a single Bitcoin on December 20, 2017, and within 46 days, see their position shrink to $8,922.61? When examining the case studies, it’s apparent that many people were motivated by the Fear of Missing Out.

FOMO is dangerous because it’s an emotional reaction. We work hard to build our businesses, and much of our success comes from analyzing data and making decisions based upon fact – even when it comes to understanding consumer sentiment (which may be emotional in itself). FOMO is impulsive in nature and flies in the face of logical decision making. We face this dilemma every day in one of our business units that is focused on acquiring market-rate apartments across the country. Apartment investments have been hot for the past few years and the fundamentals have been strong. As a result, prices have been driven higher and returns are lower. Press releases abound announcing acquisition after acquisition. It’s easy to feel the pressure to adjust our investment thesis to keep up the pace of our own acquisition initiative. But experience has taught us to resist this temptation.

The first step in avoiding the pitfalls of FOMO is recognizing our susceptibility to it in the first place. This can happen if we have a clear set of standards that guide our approach to the manner in which we operate. Without these standards we are very vulnerable to being tugged or pulled to follow whatever hot trend happens to emerge at the moment. With standards, we can test against that trend to see if there is alignment. If there’s not, we must have the discipline to resist pursuing it.

The second step is to carefully analyze the risks associated with pursuing the trend. This should be a rigorous exercise that identifies all the possible ways things could go wrong and what sort of impact would be felt. Take Bitcoin for example. I’m positive that many Bitcoin buyers have done no risk analysis and really believe they are “investing.” In reality they are just gambling. It’s one thing to speculate with money that one can afford to lose. It’s another thing to put half your life savings on Red 32.

Finally, FOMO can be avoided when we eliminate the emotion of envy. I doubt many Bitcoin investors believe they have been driven by envy. But when they see others “making” huge amounts of money on their Bitcoin “investments” they want to get in on the action. When I was 10 and another kid had ice cream, I wanted ice cream too. I secretly envied the other kid with the cone. FOMO to some extent is the same thing. When others are doing well, let’s rejoice in their good fortune without having any feelings that we are somewhat inferior if we don’t experience the same good fortune.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 85 – Liars.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Minefield

A lot has been made in recent times over insensitivity, hurt feelings and words that are seemingly offensive. There are many sociological factors in play – I’m going to refrain from debating them. Our culture is shifting in seismic fashion and where it will end is anyone’s guess. It’s easy for the modern entrepreneur to get caught up in this brouhaha which I can assure you is a losing proposition. Staying out of the fray is relatively easy but requires discipline.

There are two sides to this coin. Let’s start with our reaction as an entrepreneur to things that are said to us and actions directed our way. We are going to take slings and arrows from a multitude of constituencies. Customers may say horrible things about us and our product or service. Team members may accuse us of a wide range of transgressions. What our competitors say may be even worse. Regulators, bureaucrats, politicians and members of the public in general may be generous in taking their shots at us. At times it may seem that we’re a punching bag and a pin cushion all rolled into one.

So here’s where the discipline enters the picture. It’s 100% our choice whether or not we let ourselves be hurt or otherwise impacted by what others say and do. This isn’t just a matter of having thick skin and amazing resilience. When someone says or does something to us that is negative, we must be able to dispassionately analyze the words or deeds and look for the truth. For example, suppose we are slammed by a customer for a defective product. A product review is posted online that says among other things, “the ABC Company produces a substandard product and their CEO is a crook for taking my money.” Actually, this is a pretty mild review but will work for illustrative purposes.

What is the truth here? Does our company really produce a substandard product? We have to be able to objectively evaluate this claim. Have there been other complaints? If so, how many? Is there a chronic problem with the product or do we truly have a Six Sigma level of success? Assume for a moment that our extremely low error rate is exceptional which allows us to know the real truth . . . we do not produce a substandard product. And the personal statement about the CEO is easily dismissed as an ad hominem attack. Personal attacks like this can generally be completely ignored because they are inherently dishonest. Of course we want to try and solve the problem encountered by our customer, but we choose not to be hurt by what has been said. Boiled down to its simplest form, this is a case of, “if the shoe fits, wear it.” And if it doesn’t, then don’t.

Now to the other side of the coin. How is what we say and do impacting others? This also requires discipline on our part. But again, it’s really very simple. We practice the Golden Rule whereby we treat others as we would want to be treated. Do we make it a practice to denigrate or berate others? Are we guilty of making ad hominem attacks of our own? Before we say something potentially contentious to someone else, do we stop for a brief moment and measure it against the Golden Rule? While it’s true that we all make a choice as to whether we will be hurt or offended, it’s important that we as entrepreneurs try and avoid putting others in the position of having to make such a choice. This doesn’t mean we have to walk on eggshells or adopt political correctness. Instead, we must understand our audience and try and be sensitive to how they might react to us. I’ve always found that focusing on the Golden Rule in such situations is usually sufficient to avoid trampling on the feelings of others.

The interpersonal functioning of society today is fascinating, but can also be bewildering. We choose not to be hurt by what others say and do, and we practice the Golden Rule when communicating or taking action. Taking this approach will help us skirt around the current cultural minefield.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 32 – Three-Legged Stool.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.


Dumpster Fires

Dumpster fires are tricky devils. They usually start out as nothing. Just a bunch of trash sitting in a big metal bin . . . and then someone flicks a cigarette butt or empties hot coals from a grill and the smoldering starts. Who knows what’s really inside the container? It could be aerosol cans, used motor oil, acetone, automotive batteries, paint thinner and a host of other accelerants. After smoldering for a while, the fire gets hotter and hotter until it becomes a raging inferno. If the dumpster is too close to a building, the entire structure could ignite and burn to the ground. Discovered early enough, a simple fire extinguisher could put out the blaze in a matter of seconds. But once it’s out of control the fire department may have a battle on its hands for hours.

There’s an obvious parallel between dumpster fires and the minor irritating problems that entrepreneurs encounter every day. We all experience situations that we tend to ignore. Perhaps there is a petty conflict between two members of our team. Maybe it’s a nagging customer service issue or a piece of equipment in the plant that isn’t functioning properly. We know the problem is there, but we simply choose not to address it wishing and hoping that it will just go away. After all, we have bigger crises to deal with. Right?

But we all know what eventually happens. The conflict between team members blows up big time and someone quits or has to be fired. Other team members are dragged into the drama which impacts productivity and damages our culture. The customer service issue results in the loss of a customer and perhaps a nasty post in the social media world hurting our brand in a much broader way. Now we’re in damage control mode involving multiple members of our team who are trying to restore our reputation. And that piece of equipment in the plant that wasn’t functioning properly? It finally breaks completely, shutting down the entire production line in the process. Oh, and one of our team members was injured when the machine finally died.

Each of these situations began as a small smoldering dumpster fire. Immediate attention (the fire extinguisher) would have resulted in a solution that put out the fire. The wider ranging consequences of inaction would have been avoided. This leads us to conclude that we need to look for small problems every day and intentionally take the necessary steps to fix them. I know that I have small festering issues that need my attention. But sometimes I just don’t want to face them at the moment. So I give myself a 24-hour pass and make sure they pop-up the next day on my task list. I’ve learned that it takes discipline to handle the small stuff or else I’ll eventually have to spend a whole lot more time and money untangling things later. I’ve found that the 24-hour pass approach works well for me. And I may even find myself thinking about what the solution will be before the end of my self-imposed deadline. Unfortunately there is no other trick to it other than “just do it.”

Small seemingly inconsequential problems can explode into dumpster fires that consume our lives. It’s better to take small incremental steps to solve the problems as they arise and then we won’t have to call the fire department because our house is burning down.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.


The Bond

Question: I’ve noticed that some people aren’t following through and doing what they say they’ll do. Does it seem like this has become more of a problem over the years?

Answer: What you are describing has been occurring for time in memoriam so I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s become worse. And it’s not only a crucial issue for entrepreneurs but for everyone else as well. At the root of this is a simple word . . . commitment.

I’m an old school kind of guy and believe that a commitment is the same as a promise. It’s about trust and a my-word-is-my-bond mindset. How we deliver on our commitments to others begins with how we deliver on commitments to ourselves. My parents instilled in me a deep sense of discipline and pride when I was growing up. I had a wide range of chores – some of which I did not particularly like. I practiced the piano for 30-minutes at 5:30 AM on weekdays. I wasn’t given the option of scrapping a practice session. I know I was driven not to disappoint my parents – but in the process they taught me to take pride in what I did and not to disappoint myself. Thus, I learned how to make commitments to myself and keep them.

How can we learn to make meaningful commitments to ourselves? It starts with simple things. Perhaps we say, “I’m going to commit to an exercise program five days a week.” How seriously do we take such a commitment? If we exercise for a couple of weeks and then fall off the wagon, we undoubtedly may rationalize quitting. But are we being true to the bond we’ve created with ourselves? If we can’t even keep the commitments we make to ourselves, how will we fare when we make commitments to others – commitments that others trust and count on us to keep?

If we say to ourselves, “I will try,” or “I think I can,” that’s not really a commitment. When we say “I will,” it is. When we frame commitment to “my word is my bond” and “I will,” we can now set clear standards of accountability for ourselves. I can ask myself, did I keep my word when I said “I will?” This is a very easy question to answer – it’s either yes or no.

Finally, are we prepared to go above and beyond our “legal” obligation to deliver on a commitment? In other words, do we say we’ll do something and if we fail, do we point to the “fine print” and say we’ve measured up anyway? Years ago, one of our sales associates ran into financial difficulties. We loaned him some money and told him to pay us back when he got back on his feet. He was very appreciative and assured us that he would do so. We chose not to put anything in writing and instead operated on the basis of trust. A year later, this associate was closing transactions and making good money. Not once did he ever acknowledge his commitment to pay us back. Because we had no formal contract with him, I suppose the case could be made that he had no legal obligation to pay us back. We never really defined what it meant for him to be “back on his feet.” But he knew what it meant and so did we.

We make commitments only when we are intentional about delivering on them 100%. And when we meet the obligations we commit to ourselves, we are then ready to take the sacred step of honoring the trust placed in us by others.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.