December 28, 2012

The Business Philosopher

"Philosophy always requires something more, requires the external, the true, in contrast to which even the fullest existence as such is but a happy moment."

Soren Kierkegaard
19th century Danish philosopher

Isn't that the essence of what business managers strive to achieve?

December 27, 2012

At Some Point You Just Have To Laugh

"I can imagine no more comfortable frame of mind for the conduct of life than a humorous resignation."

W. Somerset Maugham
20th century British playwright/author

Did you ever notice how happy and accepting many elderly seem to be?

They appear to have accepted this quote as true and a goal worthy of achieving.

Now, how to do this before we get old, particularly in our business lives.

December 26, 2012

We Won't Be Like You

"The new organization is edgeless, permeable, amorphous . . . constantly reforming according to need."


This sounds like something a new generation person would say to demonstrate how they are different from all generations gone before them.

And there's a slight implied bias suggesting that the new way will be the better way.

If so, great, we can all benefit from new and better ways.

However before concluding that is so I'd like to hear how this "constantly reforming" organization intends to manage itself.

December 21, 2012

Our Own Jailer

"The chains of habits are too weak to be felt, until they are too strong to be broken."

Samuel Johnson
18th century British author

Not always a bad thing; there are good habits as well as bad.

But you know what this refers to don't you?

December 20, 2012

Averages Are Made Up Of Differences

"The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal."

3rd century BC Greek philosopher

Because it can't be done.

You can treat unequal things and people the same but that doesn't make them equal.

How's your promotion policy?

December 19, 2012

Become The Best!

"We are citizens of the world.  The tragedy of our times is that we don't know this."

Woodrow Wilson
28th president of the United States

And we are still today in all things and none more than business.

As "motherhoodish" as it may sound, the only way to protect ourselves from foreign competition is to continually out perform them.

December 18, 2012

What's In It For Us?

"When a match has equal partners then I fear not."

5th century BC Greek dramatist

The implication being, one should fear when there is not equality.

For a contract to be valid the law requires benefit to both parties.

It is logical then that there must also be mutual benefit in business relations including those between managers and employees.

Win win or all too often it will be lose lose.

December 14, 2012

Shoot To Kill

"If you shoot a king you must kill him."

Ralph Waldo Emerson
19th century American essayist/poet

Not only true of kings but of CEOs and other managers as well.

If the challenge really matters to you, by all means go ahead with it.

However be prepared to leave, you may not survive.

December 13, 2012

Think (But Not Too Much) Before You Act!

"Reflection makes men cowards."

William Hazlitt
18th century British essayist

You need to reflect before taking action but too much thinking about what might happen and you may not act at all.

How do you balance the two?

December 12, 2012

Which Dog Will You Work For?

"Don't mistake pleasure for happiness. They are a different breed of dogs."

Josh Billings
19th century American humorist

Your career may bring one, sometimes both, occasionally neither.

Make sure you strive for the one you need as much if not more than the one you want.

December 11, 2012

Duty To Others

"A sense of duty is useful in work but offensive in personal relations.  People wish to be liked, not to be endured with patient resignation."

Bertrand Russell
19th century British philosopher

But since personal relations are important in business, how do you separate the two?

You don't.

Duties can be accomplished without "enduring" those you perform them for, patient resignation or not.

December 10, 2012

I Promise . . .

"Words pay no debts."

William Shakespeare
16th century British poet/playwright

Your promises to do specific things by a specific time are a form of debt.

Try not to default too often.

December 07, 2012

I Didn't Because _______

"An excuse is worse than a lie, for an excuse is a lie, guarded."

Alexander Pope
18th century English poet

Not always; some excuses are honest explanations for failure.

But I'm being kind.

All too often they are a lie.

December 06, 2012

But What If They're Right?

"Love your enemies for they tell you your faults."

Benjamin Franklin
18th century American statesman/inventor

Not everything they say about you is true.

Only that which is.

December 05, 2012

Behind the Veil Of What Might Be

"It is the dim haze of mystery that adds enchantment to pursuit."

Antoine Rivarol
19th century French writer

"Mystery", "enchantment"; not likely words you associate with your job are they?

Particularly not when you think about your career "pursuit".

But why shouldn't they be?

December 04, 2012

What Are You Building?

"The boy gathers materials for a temple, and then when he is thirty, concludes to build a woodshed."

Henry David Thoreau
19th century American naturalist/poet/philosopher

Sooner or later compromise is a part of all our lives.

Better later than sooner.

December 03, 2012

Made Of Sterner Stuff?

"Such as we are made of, such we be."

William Shakespeare
16th century English poet/playwright

In business as in our personal lives, just as true for our companies as ourselves.

November 30, 2012

The Price Of Winning

"There are some defeats more triumphant than victories."

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne
16th century French philosopher

Ever not get a job or contract you felt you really wanted or needed?

If so you know what this means.

If not you likely one day will.

November 29, 2012

Stagnant Thinking

"The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind."

William Blake
18th century British poet/painter

Notice there is no qualification regarding which opinion.

All opinion.

If you don't believe that to be true, it's time to alter your opinion.

November 28, 2012

Neither Bad Nor Good

"Every moment of light and dark is a miracle."

Walt Whitman
19th century American poet

Yes, if you let them be so.

If you learn as much from the bad times as you enjoy the good.

November 27, 2012

Wicked Osmosis

"To see and listen to the wicked is already the beginning of wickedness."

5th century BC Chinese philosopher

If at the beginning of your career you willingly work with people who compromise their ethics, chances are good you will as well in the future.

Be careful not to become what you didn't set out to be.

November 26, 2012

Rather Be Lucky Than Good?

"Substance is not enough, accident is also required."

Italian proverb

What role does luck play in your career?

November 23, 2012

Because This Is The Way We've Always Done It

"It is the very nature of things human that every act that has once made its appearance and has been recorded in the history of mankind, stays with mankind as a potentiality long after its actuality has become a thing of the past."

Hannah Arendt
20th century German born American political philosopher

That's just the way things are.

Six words that do more to impede progress than anything else.

November 21, 2012

As I See Things

"If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is.  For man has closed himself up till he sees things thru chinks in his cavern."

William Blake
18th century British poet/painter

How much of what you see would you guess is as it is as opposed to how you choose or would like to see it?

November 20, 2012

Temperamental Losses

"A person's fate is their own temper."

Benjamin Disraeli
19th century British politician/author

And how much, how often you lose it will determine how much else you lose.

November 19, 2012

What Else You Got?

"With coarse rice to eat, water to drink, and my bent arm for a pillow--I have still joy in the midst of all these things."

5th century BC Chinese philosopher

I have to believe that positive attitude is a decided advantage when dealing with severe business problems.

What do you think?

November 16, 2012

The Ticking Clock

"I am what you will be, I was what you now are."


For all our differences this does describe us all.

Time is the great leveler.

Use yours wisely.

November 15, 2012

Which Path Will You Take?

"The path is smooth that leadeth on to danger."

William Shakespeare
16th century British poet/playwright

There are two reasons this could be true.

One, because what's at the end of the path is not all that dangerous.

Two, because what's at the end of the path is dangerous and because it is few take that path.

Which do you think it is?

November 14, 2012

I Didn't Know That

"In the end knowledge is based on acknowledgment."

Ludwig Wittgenstein
20th century Austrian-British philosopher

Acknowledgement of what?

That there is much you don't know.

That's very hard for some to do.


November 13, 2012

Being Up When You're Down

"The test of success is not what you do when you are on top.  It's how high you bounce when you hit bottom."

General George S. Patton
20th century US Army General
Suggested by Business Wisdom reader Ron Hixon

There are many variations of this all saying essentially the same thing.

It's easy to be positive when things are going well, tough when they're not.

How are you in both situations?

November 12, 2012

This Hobby Is Killing Me

"A hobby is hard work you wouldn't do for a living."


I've been fortunate to (mostly) enjoy doing what makes me money, a lot of which is "hard work".

I'm also fortunate that I no longer have to do anything just to make money.

A hobby?

November 09, 2012

Let's Ask Bill

"Consult.  To seek another's approval of a course already decided on."

Ambrose Bierce
19th century American newspaperman

As a strategy/planning/"change" consultant, I can attest to this.

How much opinion do you ask for where the real intent is just to support what you've already decided to to do?

November 08, 2012

You Must Move On To Get To The Future

"Finite to fail but infinite to venture."

Emily Dickinson
19th century American poet

What didn't work no longer matters.

Only what might does.

November 07, 2012

Seeing Through You

"Outside show is a poor substitute for inner worth."

6th century Greek fabulist

And sooner rather than later everyone will know which you are predominately.

November 06, 2012

Looking Beyond

"What you see, but can't see over, is as good as infinite."

Thomas Carlyle
19th century British historian

Is it?

What if believing you see what is beyond, causes you to stop looking?

November 05, 2012

That Worries Me!

"I am an old man and have known many troubles, most of which never happened."

Mark Twain
19th century American humorist/author

Talk about business wisdom.

He's telling us that most of what we worry about never amounts to much.

Now I'm worried about what I'm not worried about.

November 02, 2012

I'll Tell You What I Think

"Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance."

3rd century BC Greek philosopher

How appropriate towards the end of this political season where once again there is far too much of two of these, not nearly enough of the third.

And don't think this is just confined to politics.  It's not.

Every aspect of our lives is based more on opinion and ignorance than knowledge.

We just don't act as though that were true.

November 01, 2012

Enjoyable Misfortune

"It is remarkable how much a pinch of malice enhances the penetrating power of an idea or an opinion.  Our ears, it seems, are wonderfully attuned to sneers and evil reports about our fellow men."

Eric Hoffer
20th century American philosopher

Is it easier to believe bad as opposed to good?

Do we more enjoy hearing or imagining the worst than we do the best?

October 31, 2012

Knowing Is Not Doing

"If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience."

George Bernard Shaw
Late 19th/early 20th century Irish poet/co-found of the London School of Economics
(Contributed by Ron Hixon)

While I don't think the unexpected "always" happens, I do so enough to understand the point of this quote.

We are capable of learning from experience, we just don't choose to do so nearly enough.

October 30, 2012

I Feel Your Pain?

"Those that will not hear must be made to feel."

German proverb

Maybe should be but how often will that happen, particularly in business?

Making people "feel" what they cannot "hear" is a lot more difficult than doing the reverse.

October 29, 2012

Ready, Set, Doubt?

"It is always the same; once you are liberated you are forced to ask who you are."

Jean  Baudrillard
20th century French sociologist/philosopher

And for young people "liberation" comes with graduation and first jobs.

You feel you know your strengths and weaknesses.

Do you really?

October 26, 2012

Can There Be Orderly Revolution?

"Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit."

Henry Brooks Adams
19th century American historian

I can see that.

But too much of one at the expense of the other and you end up with nothing.

How do you balance the two, particularly in a large company?

October 25, 2012

Your Replacement Is Here To See You

"To the old, the new is usually bad news."

Eric Hoffer
20th century American philosopher

But as a manager (old) part of your job is to find employees (new) who could potentially do your job.

What do you think of that?

October 24, 2012

The Devil Is The Devil You Don't Know

"For it is not death or hardship that is a fearful thing, but the fear of death and hardship."

1st century Greek philosopher

In business as in our personal lives, we fear what we do not know.

Replace unknowns and assumptions with facts.  Verify, plan, and the right path will become clear, the fear diminished.

October 23, 2012

How Much Time Do We Have Left?

"Nothing is to be rated higher than the value of the day."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Late 18th/early 19th century German poet/author

And still we often wish the day would end.

We can't include time on our balance sheets even though it is the one asset which often has most to do with our success or failure.

October 22, 2012

The Illusion Of Truth

"Pleasure can be supported by an illusion; but happiness rests upon truth."

Nicholas Chamfort
18th century French writer

How many of your business decisions are based upon illusion versus truth?

How do you know which is which?

October 19, 2012

Imagine There's No Imagination

"Imagination is the eye of the soul."

Joseph Joubert
18th century French moralist

If you don't consider yourself to be particularly imaginative, hire some people who are.

October 18, 2012

Foolish Business

"Many talked like philosophers yet lived like fools."


And this doesn't just apply to philosophy either.

A business plan, or management managing without one, are expressions of a philosophy.

October 17, 2012


"Only by acceptance of the past can you alter it."

T.S. Elliot
20th century American-English poet playwright

And before you can accept it you must understand it, including things you've done and said you now wish you hadn't.