Hello! Welcome to MarkFord.net
This is the open-for-inspection half-way home for my writing!
What you’ll find here are essays, stories, book chapters, poetry, and journal entries, as well as words and images from others that I want to share.
The bulk of the essays will be about business, wealth building, and personal productivity. But there will also be things I’m equally or more interested in, such as art, education, economics, physics, philosophy, psychology, neurobiology, fitness, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Since much of what you’ll be reading here will be early drafts of work meant for publication I welcome any comments or suggestions you might have that will help me strengthen them.

Steve Mitchell/US Presswire

Do you have the mindset of a champion?

Are you able to look at your career challenges and feel certain you can overcome them? Do you feel, like Mohammed Ali and Michael Jordan must have felt, that you have greatness in your soul?

If your answer is “no,” don’t worry. I don’t have that mindset either.

I never did. I never felt like a natural-born winner. I never had the confidence that the people I admired seemed to have.

Click to continue… Do You Need “the Mindset of a Champion”?

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I have always been interested in martial arts but have never been taken in by stories of masters who could do superhuman things. I’ve heard stories of octogenarian black belts who could disembowel opponents or knock them over with the touch of a finger. My response was always, “How come I never see that in million-dollar mixed martial arts events?” The answer was always, “The master is too refined for that.”

 These videos show what happens when such masters start believing their own BS.

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(Caution: The audio on this video is very loud!)

One of the distinguishing characteristics of contemporary Americans is that they don’t like to debate politics and religion. They are happy to have their own views reinforced by people with similar views but they feel uncomfortable with disagreement. In some countries such as France and oddly Albania, to name to countries I’m modestly familiar with, this inhibition is much less evident.

I recently enjoyed a lively conversation in a bar in Paris in which my interlocutors were an American Jew, a North African Arab and a French diplomat. The conversation was about Israel and her enemies. I was shocked by how easily everyone was able to voice such very different opinions.

You don’t normally think of Americans as prudish and yet in so many ways we are.

Measure for Measure

June 14, 2012 in Briefs

One of the many examples of government-inspired mumbo-jumbo is the idea of measuring unemployment. I’m talking about the oft-quoted unemployment rate.

Why measure unemployment? There’s really no way to do it accurately… and so many ways to fiddle with the numbers. For example, the government normally counts as unemployed only people who have looked for work within the past five weeks. It does not count the underemployed – people who have given up looking for a decent job to work bagging groceries in supermarkets.

Here’s a better idea: Measure employment — the number of people in a given economy who are actually working. Wouldn’t that make more sense? It would not only be easier to understand but also more difficult to monkey with.

Taking this a bit further, we could also measure the amount of money that employed people make, comparing sectors and time frames and so on. Wouldn’t that be more useful?

It’s been said that if you want friends to help you in the bad times, you have to help them in the good times.

That’s not true. A truer statement is that friends come in two varieties: those who help you and those who don’t.

To some people, the helpers are the better friends. Not to me. I appreciate both equally.

Some folks take great pleasure in helping others. They bring soup to the sick, cross the street to offer directions to a stranger, and show up at funerals. They offer help whether you ask for it or not. They enjoy being helpful. That is who they are.

I have friends like this with whom I spend little time. We share few interests. We travel in different social circles. But I know that if anything bad happens to me or someone in my family, they will be there.

Others aren’t there when you might need them. They are off having fun, bringing happiness where happiness is. That is their nature. And I’m fine with that. They are the ones who show up at my office hoping to distract me. To go out for a drink or steal a game of golf.

I value these friends because I know that whenever they walk into my office they will make me smile. I don’t need them to call me when I’m sick or show up at my house when I’m moving furniture. What they give me is what they are capable of giving me, and that is quite enough.

I have all sorts of friends besides the Florence Nightingales and Good Time Charlies. I have “work” friends and Jiu Jitsu mates and crossword-puzzle companions and writer buddies.

I cherish them all.

But there is one kind of friend I don’t much like. And that is the kind that is always trying to make me into a “better” friend.

You know what I’m talking about. People who want you to be closer to them than you want to be.

They are the ones who get upset if you don’t call them on their birthday. Or if you don’t give them as much attention as they feel they deserve.

From what I can see, these people are needy not just in friendship but in every aspect of their lives. They are needy with their lovers. They are needy with their relatives. They are even needy with their children.

Need is anathema to friendship. Friendship is valuable only when it is freely given and received.

There is a great book on this subject that you might have heard of. It was written by M. Scott Peck, M.D., a modern-day Christian philosopher. The book is A Road Less Traveled.

It’s not, as many people think, about marching to the beat of a different drummer. It’s about romantic love – why it is a selfish and not a Christian thing. It’s about what happens to the soul of a person when he loves his fellow man selfishly.

Romantic love, Peck says, is an improper form of the kind of love that should be given only to God. He is right.

I remember reading an article by someone who argued that friendships should be “equal.” What he meant by that was that a good friendship is one in which each friend gives the other friend the same amount and kind of attention that he wants for himself.

He said that you should think about each friendship in terms of an “emotional bank account.” And you should ask yourself, “How many deposits have I made in my EBA with that person?”

This is a bastardization of the Golden Rule. It is another form of neediness. And it is not just immature and dumb, it is dangerous and destructive. It is the primary reason many people can’t sustain good relationships. They are always worrying about whether they are getting as much as they are giving.

If you exhibit this kind of behavior in your relationships – business or personal – you will have few that are long lasting.

To me, a good friendship is one that has value to both people in the relationship. The value does not need to be equal. It just needs to be strong enough to satisfy both parties.

If you haven’t caught my drift, the point I’m making is that good friendships are not balancing acts. You can’t be rich in friendship if you are always trying to equalize your relationships or if you besiege your friends with demands they do not want to meet.

I have no interest in getting anything from my friends other than that which they are happy to give me. And I don’t want to give them anything I don’t feel happy to give.

Furthermore, I don’t expect them to give first. When I meet someone who has qualities and capabilities that I admire, I’m happy to take the first step. If they reciprocate, that tells me this is the kind of friend I want to have. If they don’t – well, I haven’t lost much.

This approach applies to business relationships as well.

I will give you two quick examples:

Last week, I had lunch with a former protege of mine. I had given him some advice that helped him get his business started, and we’ve occasionally gotten together to talk about the direction the business should take. When we met this time, I told him that he was doing a great job and that I thought he could keep growing the business on his own. He looked at me for a few seconds, then shook his head. He said that my input was so important to him that he wanted to formalize the relationship and hire me as a consultant. With that, he pulled out his checkbook and wrote me a check for $60,000. “Your first retainer fee,” he said.

This morning, in the mail, there was a handwritten note from a young man who was also a protege of mine. We got his business up and running years ago, and I haven’t actively helped him in maybe three years. The note was very gracious. He thanked me for helping him develop a million-dollar-a-year income. He enclosed a check for $40,000 as a “token” of his appreciation.

This is the kind of business relationships you can have – rewarding on many levels – if you apply the give-first and don’t-equalize philosophy.

Business doesn’t have to be cutthroat. It doesn’t have to be the kill-or-be-killed environment portrayed so often in the movies. It can be that. But it won’t be if you take Dr. Peck’s unselfish “road less traveled.”

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