One Thing & Another

Notes From My Journal

LG wants to start a factory in Detroit building desalinization plants. Why Detroit? I don’t know. But he’s an engineer. A good one. I’m sure he has a valid reason.

He says such a facility would “make a fortune.” Why was he telling me? Am I his version of “the money”?

I don’t invest in what I don’t know, and I know nothing about the desalinization business. So I don’t encourage him. “Interesting,” is all I say.

“You know why?” he says.

I shrug.

“Because the world is quickly running out of potable water.”

“Really? Like when?”

“Soon. The people of Flint are already drinking bottled water.”

“Ah,” I say. I actually know that. I’ve been watching Flint City on Netflix. (I recommend it.)

LG’s a bright guy. And he’s a creative and successful former engineer, sometime investor, and up-and-down entrepreneur. And if anyone could build such a plant in Detroit, he could.

But I have a problem with business plans built on predictions: When they are right about the event, they are invariably wrong about the timing.

Research almost any industry-changing innovation and you will discover that the first few iterations of it were failures. Because, as Malcolm Gladwell so convincingly argued in The Tipping Point, big money is made when the market jumps on a trend that had been growing for some time.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. What they should have added was that if you want to make money with your invention be careful not to be early. Watch the market for a while and jump in at the tipping point, when the bubble of water above the rim of the glass is about to spill over.

 

Today’s Word: wifty (adjective)

Wifty (WIFF-tee) is a slang term that means impractical, flighty, or scatterbrained. Example from the Canadian journalist Jennifer Moroz: “Hybrid and electric cars… are no longer the wifty dreams of environmentalists.”

 

From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

Don’t Work With Your Mouth Full

There was a time when all my meals were business meals. Breakfasts and lunches were frantic working sessions with fellow workers. Dinners were planning sessions with partners or business-building conversations with colleagues. I was talking with my mouth full three times a day. And, no, it wasn’t pretty.

Twenty pounds too heavy, I suffered from migraine headaches and ulcers. For years, I never tasted my food. Gradually, I acquired allergic reactions to certain foods – all the good ones, of course. It was miserable.

Nowadays, I try to keep my business meetings and my meals away from each other. I recommend that you do the same.

If you value your health above all (and you probably should), you’ll want to eat your meals in tranquility. Eat light. Listen to music. Forget about work for a few moments.

Business and food don’t easily go together, but every so often, you won’t be able to avoid it. In such cases, I recommend you do what I try to do. (All my ideas in this area come from the ever-wise K, who has always understood what I’ve only recently discovered: Meals are not about eating but socializing. And their purpose is not to consume the maximum amount of food in the least amount of time but rather to cultivate valued relationships.)

1. Prepare the venue.

If the meal is worth having at all, it’s worth preparing for. If it’s your choice, select the right restaurant, find out in advance the preferences of your guest, speak to the maître d’ so that you get the right table, waiter, etc.

2. Prepare for the business conversation.

Figure out what you want to get from the meeting. Think about the best way to get it. Bring what you need to present your points. Be prepared to change your plans if your guest would rather not discuss business while eating.

3. Prepare for the social conversation.

Some portion of the meal is usually devoted to a friendly chat. Don’t waste that time talking about yourself. Instead, ask questions about your guest’s family, hobbies, interests, and projects. Be interested, complimentary.

4. Eat as if you went to finishing school.

I tend to eat like Attila the Hun. I tell myself that all entrepreneurs eat that way. Of course, that can’t be true. If it were, business meals would be illegal, not deductible.

In the words of Miss Piggy, “Never eat more than you can lift.”

 

It’s Good to Know: About Great Movies

To save you the trouble, I’ve been systematically watching the movies on an international film critics’ list of “the 100 best movies ever made.” If I can find the time, I view one per week. This past month, I’ve seen three truly great films – all of which I can recommend: Citizen Kane, All About Eve, and Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

They are very different movies, but they share one quality: The dialog is both smart and true.

I’m not sure I can properly explain what I mean by that. These three movies are populated, in part, by intelligent characters who say smart and/or clever things. They make statements that are, in themselves, little bits of art.

But they also talk about their situations – and their feelings – in ways that are truer and deeper somehow than you get with modern movie fare.

Well, I told you I wouldn’t be able to explain it. Certainly not in these few words. But see these movies for yourself and tell me if you don’t agree.

 

Fun Fact

 About 40,000 Americans are injured by toilets each year.

 

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