Category Archives: Inspirational

What If? Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if we always listened to the experts?

You walk down the front walk of your summer home and approach the moving truck parked in the driveway. It is a normal thing in today’s advanced society to work for the same company, but roam from place to place. You think to yourself, “How did they ever live without these portable computers all those years ago?” The ability to take a computer on the road with you wasn’t even a dream in the beginning, but now it’s a reality.

You open the rear door of the moving truck and step up through the narrow opening. The area is very crowded, but there is just enough room for your office chair and a few spare square feet of desk space. “Ahhh… advancements in technology,” you say to the bare walls of the truck. “Now then, let’s kick start this baby.”

After a long day of work in these tight quarters, you step out of the twenty-six foot moving truck and walk back into the house.

You are probably thinking, “C’mon, Tom. What are you talking about? There are no portable computers that require a moving truck to haul them.” Right you are, but this is – WHAT IF?

Here is what was reported in 1949:

Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps only weigh 1 1/2 tons.
-Popular Mechanics, March 1949

Didn’t know someone said that? Just hold on because there is much more to follow.

The truth of it all is that we’ve all been deceived. They have tried to convince us that these computers are worth something. The things we’re doing with them aren’t really productive, they are worthless. You don’t agree? Why not? A couple of really important people did:

Worthless.
-Sir George Bidell Airy (Astronomer Royal of Great Britain), in reference to the potential value of Charles Babbage’s analytical engine. Charles is considered to the the inventor of the computer today.

“What the ____ is it good for?”
-Robert Lloyd (an engineer at IBM) in response to colleagues who insisted that the microprocessor was the future of the computer industry in 1968.

Do you agree? Neither do I, but what if we had listened to them?

How many new computers are shipped every year? Not too many, as a matter of fact it has averaged .09 computers every year for the last forty-five years. Wow! How did we ever do it? Since 1943 we have developed and marketed five whole computers.

I realize that this sounds a little far-fetched, but I can prove it:

“I think there is a world market for about five computers.”
-Thomas Watson, Chairman of the Board of IBM, 1943

In reality, however, we have produced and marketed, not only millions of systems, but literally hundreds of different kinds of computer systems as well. He said five computers, but look at this list of computer types over the last thirty to forty years:

  • ATARI 800
  • IBM
  • Apple II
  • Apple IIe
  • Apple IIgs
  • Apple Macintosh
  • Commodore VIC-20 (I loved this one.)
  • Commodore 64 (Another personal favorite.)
  • Commodore 128
  • Commodore Amiga
  • TRS-80
  • Tandy 1000
  • Adam

I could go on, but I believe that my point is made – but what if?

We don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.
-HP Executive, 1976

Get your feet off my desk, get out of here, you stink, and we’re not going to buy your product.
-Joe Keenan, President of Atari, 1976

There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.
-Ken Olson, President of DEC, 1977

It is a really good thing that we didn’t listen to these wise people. If we had, we would have undoubtedly been greatly delayed in the development of the personal computer system. The first one, the HP executive, was responding to Steve Jobs when he offered HP his Apple II computer design. The second quote was Atari’s response to Steve, and the third quote is just a bit of wisdom from the era.

Steve ignored these people, and financed the development of the Apple II himself. This act launched the personal computer revolution as we know it today – for the most part anyway. But – what if?

Well, we could go on talking about people like Bill Gates and others. But I’ll be nice and simply end by saying I am really glad I have over 8 GB of RAM in all of my computers. Aren’t you, Bill? Or maybe he still has 640k.

Aren’t you glad that you have never said anything that turned out to be wrong in your life? I know I am!

Oh yeah… now for my prediction of the future. I predict that we will all evolve into computers and then the computers will rule the world. It will be like a matrix kind of thing. I wonder if anyone else has ever thought of anything like that?

The reality is that experts can often get caught up in their knowledge of the present and lose sight of the possible.

The point of it all is this: as we enter the new year of 2017, dream. Dream and don’t let those around you say your dreams are impossible. Just dream, plan and act and see what your future may hold.

Happy holidays!

Earning Dividends on Your Mistakes

We often think of mistakes as horrible things. We label them bad, negative or as a failed action. However, it’s possible to learn a lesson that brings value from our mistakes. In reading a book published in 1911, titled How to Systematize the Day’s Work, I came across the following excerpt:

Dividends on Mistakes

A mistake may be made the keystone of system – the foundation of success. The secret is simple: Don’t make the same mistake twice.

The misspelling of a customer’s name – an error in your accounting methods – an unfulfilled promise; these are valuable assets if they teach you exactness.

Let your mistakes shape your system and your system will prevent such mistakes. When you discover a mistake, sit down then and there, and arrange the system to prevent its repetition.

Paint it on your walls; emblazon it on your door; frame it over your desk; say it to your stenographer; think it to yourself; burn it into your brain; this one secret of system, this one essential to success: DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE. (emphasis original)

As I read through this section, I couldn’t help but think about the years of teaching I’ve delivered on documentation and its importance to effective troubleshooting and operations and also the process of becoming an expert. This concept of learning from your mistakes is a big part of becoming an expert and it is a significant factor in becoming an effective technician. Ineffectiveness is often born out of the ignoring of our mistakes, which results in their repeated occurrence. What an excellent insight to begin the new year!

You Ate Your Cheese

“Who Moved My Cheese?” is one of the most popular books in history that addresses change and how to cope with it in your life; however, I would suggest that, for IT professionals and many others, we need an eye-opening, honest book with a title more like, “You Ate Your Cheese.”

You see, the point is that most of the career challenging and life altering work-related changes that occur can be predicted in the technology sector. For example:

  • If you still desire to be supporting Windows 3.1 computers, you ate your cheese.
  • If you still think modems are the best way to connect to the Internet, you ate your cheese.
  • If you think dBase is a modern database, you ate your cheese.
  • If you think Apple is the winner in the mobile phone space, you ate your cheese.
  • If you think InfoSeek is the best search engine, you ate your cheese.
  • If you think Colorado Jumbo 250 tape drives are still a good backup solution, you ate your cheese.
  • If you think Zip drives are the greatest external storage solution ever made, you ate your cheese.
  • If you think 802.11b wireless is fast enough, you ate your cheese.
  • If you think you can control every device users bring into your environment, you ate your cheese.
  • If you think Commodore will make a comeback, you ate your cheese.
  • If you think Windows XP is here to stay, you ate your cheese.
  • If you think Mac OS X will win the OS wars, hmmm, let’s wait and see.

OK. This should be enough to make the point. You eat your cheese when you stick with the knowledge you have and do not grow and learn with the industry. If you think you can master a technology and then just work with that for 20 years, you’re in the wrong industry. I suggest that you consider returning shopping carts to their storage locations at the local departments store. It’s one of the few jobs I know of that is still pretty much like it was 20 years ago. Even in that job, many facilities now have motorized cart pushers to ease the strain on the staff.

Do you see the point? You must continue learning in practically all jobs these days and this is particularly true in IT. If you find yourself in a situation where your skills are no longer in demand, no one moved your cheese, you ate your cheese. It’s time to become cheesemakers and not just cheese eaters. When you use up all the skill you have, it’s often too late to develop new skills. Cheesemakers develop skills continually. Certifications are a great way to do this, but simply learning new skills that you can apply for your current employer or customers can be a great way to evolve over time so that you never get into a situation where you’ve eaten your cheese.

So, the next time someone tells you that someone else moved their cheese, just look them in the eye and kindly say, no, you ate your cheese.

NOTICE: This post is not intended to cover all scenarios in life and is likely to have missed many situations where cheese is indeed moved by a third party. In such situations, advice from books like Who Moved My Cheese? may indeed be helpful. Individuals should consider this post to be advice only and not a medical, physical, emotional or psychological solution to the trauma induced by the moving of said cheese.

Three Steps to Becoming an Expert

NOTE: This is an article I wrote several years ago. I hope you enjoy!

Have you ever noticed that experts make more money than generalists? That’s because they specialize and generalists generalize. Or, as Zig Ziglar says, they are a wandering generality.

How did I become an expert in certain areas? How have others always done it? It’s really simpler than you may think and I’m going to reveal it to you in this brief article.

There are three easy steps to becoming an expert:

  1. Choose the Expertise
  2. Make Your Knowledge 90/99
  3. Tell Them What You Know

Let’s look at these three steps individually.

Choose the Expertise

The first step is really the hardest. You wouldn’t think so, would you?

The reason this step is the hardest is because it is the step that the other two are built on. If you ever decide to change your mind about your expertise, it means learning all over again. Therefore, you should put lots of energy into this step.

So, how do you decide on your expertise? Look at what you love and enjoy.

Do you like fishing? Become an expert at bass fishing in the lakes of northern Ohio.

Do you like gardening? Become an expert in growing African flowers in American soil.

Do you like politics? Become an expert in inaugural addresses and their impact on the presidential term.

Notice that I took a generality and made it a specific. You should do this too. I am not just an expert in the field of computers, I also specialize in technical communication skills. I am a general expert in computers/networking and a specialized expert in technical communication skills.

Make Your Knowledge 90/99

I state this when teaching classes on personal growth and I am often asked what I mean. Well, that’s the intention of the statement – to get you to ask.

Here is the answer: You should know more than 90% of the people about your general area of expertise and more than 99% of the people about your specific area of expertise.

Remember that I am a computer expert specializing in technical communication skills. I know more than 90% of the people when it comes to computers, but I know more than 99% of the people when it comes to technical communication skills.

How do you accomplish this level of knowledge? Read, read and then read some more. Go to training classes. Read at least 5 books on the topic. Subscribe to and read 2 or 3 magazines on the topic. Attend 2 training classes per year on the topic. Get experience with the topic.

If you do these things, you will definitely be a 90/99!

Tell Them What You Know

You have to tell people what you know or they won’t know you know.. ya know?

The easiest way to tell your peers and managers (or anyone else) what you know is to put it in writing. Write tips and articles for the company employees (like the one you’re reading and enjoying now).

Depending on your desired goal, you may consider writing magazine articles and offering them for free to various publications. Start a blog on the area you’ve chosen. These days, it’s one of the most powerful ways to become known as an authoritative expert. You may even decide to go for the gold and write that book!

Summary

If people look at you as an expert, they will respect your opinion much more. As a matter of fact, if they don’t look at you as an expert, they probably won’t even listen to what you have to say.

In order to become an expert you must first determine the area of expertise you desire. Then come up with a specific area of that expertise to become even more knowledgeable in.

Focus on the 90/99 rule. Make sure you know more than 90% of the people in your general expertise and more than 99% of the people in your specialized area of expertise.

Tell people what you know through articles and tips. Go for the big one and write a book. Do what it takes to get your name out as an expert.

Yes! You can be an expert!

-Tom Carpenter

The Arab and the Camel – Weekly Inspiration

This mostly forgotten fable comes from the Aesop collection. The moral is so important: When we let things slip into our lives (bad habits, negative thinking, etc.), they often take over and leave us only the worse.

"It’s so cold out here," said a Camel to an Arab sitting in his tent one cold night in the desert. "May I not put my head inside?" The Arab assented and the Camel put his head in.

"Perhaps you will kindly allow me to put my neck in for it is shivering with cold." "Certainly," said the Arab, and the animal advanced until his long neck was in the warm tent.

"I’d be more comfortable if I could put my fore feet in," said the Camel, and the Arab moved to one side, for the tent was small.

"I might just as well come in entirely," said the Camel and he moved in. But the tent was too small for both, so the Arab had to go outside.

-Aesop

Weekly Inspirational Poem

This week’s inspiration comes in the form of poetic writing rather than a literal poem. Taken as an excerpt from Orisen Swett Marden’s book, "Selling Things," this quote says much in just a few words:

Everything depends upon the attitude of mind with which you approach a difficulty. If you are cowed before you begin, if you start out with an admission of weakness, a tacit acknowledgement of your inability to meet the emergency that confronts you, you are foredoomed to failure. Your whole attitude lacks the magnetism that attracts success.

-Orisen Swett Marden, Selling Things, 1916

Weekly Inspirational Poem

This week’s poem, by Helen Steiner Rice, reminds us that there is always the chance to start anew as long as we keep on breathing.

How often we wish for another chance
 to make a fresh beginning.
A chance to blot out our mistakes
 and change failure into winning.
 

It does not take a new day
 to make a brand new start,
It only takes a deep desire
 to try with all our heart.
 

To live a little better
 and to always be forgiving
And to add a little sunshine
 to the world in which we’re living.
 

So never give up in despair
 and think that you are through,
For there’s always a tomorrow
 and the hope of starting new.

Weekly Inspirational Poem

This weeks’ poem speaks to the reality that it is better to focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t.

Don’t hunt after trouble, but look for success
You’ll find what you look for, don’t look for distress;
If you see your shadow, remember, I pray,
That the sun is still shining, but You’re in the way;

Don’t grumble, don’t bluster, don’t dream and don’t shirk,
Don’t think of your worries, but think of your work.
The worries will vanish, the work will be done,
No man sees his shadow who faces the sun.

-Source Unknown

Weekly Inspirational Poem

This week’s poem comes from the book, "The Secret of Achievement" written by Orison Swett Marden and published in 1898. The poem reminded me of a Sunday School lesson I once taught. While teaching a group of teens how to look on the brighter side of life, one young man asked, "If there’s a way to fund something good in every situation, try this. What if I fall and slip on the ice outside of the church building today?" I thought for a moment and then replied, "Then the elder church members will know that the spot is slippery." This answer may not have been the answer he desired, but it is so very true of life.

If nothing else, maybe someone else can learn from our mistakes.

Fail – yet rejoice; because no less
The failure which makes thy distress
May teach another full success.

It may be that, in some great need,
Thy life’s poor fragments are decreed
To help build up a lofty deed.

-A. A. Procter