Bankruptcy, divorce, drugs, foreclosure, mentally questionable, can’t jump or spin, graduate school dropout twice over, multiple business failures, extensive time living in cars, lackluster military career, exhaustive indecision problems, 50 pounds overweight, publisher rejections, crappy credit score, essentially unemployable because of lengthy self-employment history, sub-540 shooting scores, no children yet at 34, etc., etc.
By many measures of modern society, I have been a failure for most of my life. In fact, for the things that are actually of most importance to me personally, such as family, I consider myself a horrible failure.
The interesting thing about that, however, is that the vast majority of successful people throughout history have been dismal failures, too. They have been failures before, after, and during the successes for which they are most known.
Dan Kennedy, the “millionaire maker” marketing guru that has generated billions of dollars in sales for his clients, and a guru that I follow closely, has been divorced three times, bankrupt one, and at one point had a serious drinking problem.
Personal self-help guru Tony Robbins has been divorced, had a child out of wedlock, and other personal problems.
One of my best friends and a person that I look up to in a myriad of ways has been dealing with financial difficulties the past couple years.
A highly successful international ladies singles skater that I know has basically had her skating career fall to pieces in the past year. She’s arguably one of the top couple dozen technically skilled ladies figure skaters in the history of the sport, but has taken a lot of heat from the skating community in the past year for some personal decisions, and is most likely on her last year as a competitive skater (much to the detriment of her country’s chances for a medal in Sochi, in my opinion).
In my tax world, famous examples include legendary singer Willie Nelson, who paid the IRS millions of dollars in back taxes in the early 90′s, and actor Wesley Snipes, who is currently halfway through a 3-year prison term on Federal tax evasion convictions.
I’m sure that if I took the time to do so, I could come up with dozens of examples of famous people that are highly successful in one arena, but dismal and embarrassing failures in other areas of their lives. I don’t watch TV and don’t track celebrity gossip, but what I do occasionally see indicates that the rich and famous are awash in failure.
The reality is that there is no success without taking risks, and taking risks implies a high degree of potential for failure. All of us have finite time and resources, and more often than not there is an opportunity cost to doing one thing instead of another. For example, my recent decision to take up sailing terminates my competitive shooting career (although it was effectively already over).
I have operated a number of businesses in my life — I am the shining definition of a serial entrepreneur. Some of those businesses have temporarily paid the rent, but most of them were failures. My most successful business ever is the one I’m currently in, and my goals for that business are even far greater than where things currently are. Expanding the company means taking on additional risk.
Wherever there are goals and dreams, wherever there is money or love to be made or lost, there is potential for failure. Failure is a very real danger in just about everything we do. Some endeavors, such as a manned mission to Mars or the capture of a violent psychopath, have a multitude of risks that could all lead to death. Failure in other areas can lead to physical problems, financial hardship, or simply mental anguish.
But despite all the failure that we experience, we go into new things knowing that failure is an option, and do so anyway. When the potential rewards are great, the risk of failure is worth it. Asking the pretty girl to dance comes with the risk of rejection, but it can also lead to happiness.
The beautiful thing about failure is that it gives us feedback. As a species, we are capable of learning and improving from our failures, which over time leads to greater successes. When one rocket blows up, we learn from that failure, and make sure the next one is better.
Failure is not optional, it’s inevitable. What we do with our failures is what defines our character. Used strategically, failure breeds success. No matter how many times you fall, you can get back up, and eventually you’ll land that Axel, sail the Pacific, finish writing your epic novel, learn Spanish, own a home free and clear, have a loving marriage, or whatever milestone you’re aiming for.
True failure only occurs when you make the conscious decision to not get up anymore. So, GTF off your ass and get to it.
The recent shootings at Clackamas Mall in Portland, OR (where I shop occasionally), at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, and other events have reignited a national debate in the United States over the issue of gun control.
Without a doubt, the United States is the most heavily armed nation in the world, with an estimated 45% of American homes possessing at least one firearm. An estimated 270 million firearms are privately owned by American citizens. Private firearm ownership as an individual right is unique to the United States, and is guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment to US Constitution.
While many anti-gun lobbyists have attempted to convince the masses that the 2nd amendment applies only to military use of firearms, even a most rudimentary reading of the letters, debate minutes, and other writings created during the drafting of the Constitution and Bill of Rights clearly indicates that the 2nd amendment was intended to permit armed citizens to revolt against any government tyranny.
While today this is an uncomfortable thing for most citizens to consider, the historical record is quite clear that this was the purpose for the inclusion of this particular amendment. The Anti-Federalists insisted on it’s inclusion in the Bill of Rights as a counter to their concession of the inclusion of the provision for a standing Army in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. This individual right to firearm ownership has, for the most part, been interpreted as intended by the Founding Fathers since it was right, with only occasional and glaring exceptions. One of these exceptions, the Washington, D.C. handgun ban, lead to the Supreme Court decision in 2008 in the District of Columbia v. Heller case. The text of the decision is worth reading for a historical review of the crafting of the amendment. In this decision, the Supreme Court upheld that the right to keep and bear arms, including handguns for personal protection, is an individual right.
Almost all gun control arguments in the United States center around the issue of reducing crime. Despite the fact that violent crime rate in the U.S. has been on a steady decline since 1980, according to the Department of Justice, the United States still has a fairly high overall violent crime rate among developed nations.
Some gun control advocates claim that the United States has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, but statistical evidence clearly demonstrates otherwise. Most of Central and South America, Africa, and much of Eastern Europe have homicide rates that are substantial multiples higher than the United States. It should be noted that almost all of these countries with incredibly high murder rates all have very restrictive gun control laws, demonstrating that gun restrictions in and of themselves do not keep crime in check.
Studies conducted to compare pre- and post-gun control crime rates are difficult to do. In every study I’ve ever seen trying to create a correlation between crime reduction and gun control, there is no direct correlation that gun control was responsible for crime reduction. Professor Gary Kleck, from Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, conducted what he referred as an “elaborate before-and-after study” of Baltimore and Washington crime rates following the Washington, D.C. handgun ban that was at issue in the Heller decision. He claims that Baltimore is a good parallel city to examine Washington by, due to their similar makeup and proximity. “The law itself had no effect one way or the other,” Professor Kleck said (info from this New York Times article).
In reality, gun control laws in the United States have no effect on crime. According to the Department of Justice, gun crime in the United States did, in fact, go down overall during the most recent Assault Weapons Ban (1994-2004), which banned many semi-automatic rifles and limited magazines to 10 rounds. However, the DoJ openly admits that the ban itself had no impact on casualty rates in attacks (you just have to reload more frequently), nor was there any significant reduction in crimes in which a banned weapon was used. Violent crime went down during this period simply because crime rates overall were going down.
The above referenced NY Times article also points out another interesting fact: In Europe, countries with fewer guns per capita actually have higher murder rates than countries with lower numbers of firearms per capita. This data table from the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 30, No. 2 shows the relevant figures:
While each country obviously has it’s own unique culture and history, modern Western Europe is much more similar culturally than most similar-sized regions of the world. This data shows no clear correlation between murder rates and gun ownership by the citizenry, but does demonstrate that some countries with lower gun ownership do have higher murder rates.
According to the FBI, the drop in the U.S. crime rate actually accelerated following the expiration of the assault weapons ban in 2004. Following the expiration of the ban, gun sales in America skyrocketed, starting in 2005, according to BATFE statistics (based on NICS background checks, which have increased by double digit percentages year over year since 2006). If more guns in civilian hands actually meant that crime rates go up, we should be in the middle of a massive crime wave. However, FBI data clearly indicates that the rate of decrease in U.S. violent crime has been accelerating since the end of 2006. In 2011 alone, violent crime across America dropped by 4%. The FBI counts all murders, forcible rapes, assaults, and robberies in this total. This data does NOT prove a correlation between more guns = less crime, but it DOES prove that more guns does not equal more crime.
There are very few modern examples to examine in order to try and correlate crime rate with gun control, due to the fact that most nations with tight restrictions on firearm ownership have had such restrictions for 50 to 300 years. What is known, however, is that even in cuontries with very strict gun laws, criminals still possess firearms.
In China, for example, there are an estimated 40 million firearms in private ownership, despite the fact that civilian arms ownership is punishable by a minimum of two years in prison, and is actually punishable by death at the choice of the government. It is also estimated that at least 10 million unregistered weapons roam the streets of India, despite a 1958 ban. Mexico is an interesting example, because it’s Constitution provides for the right to keep arms, but other laws make it all but illegal to possess a weapon at all. Due to this, the black market for weapons is rampant in Mexico, and gun ownership is actually quite common amongst regular households (not just drug lords).
In the search for statistical examples of the effect of gun control following massive restriction in private arms ownership, there is really only one modern example: Australia.
As a country with wide open range, a history as a British penal colony, and a fight to quarantine or kill the native people, Australia adopted a gun culture that was probably more similar to America’s than just about any other place on Earth, despite occasional and varying gun restrictions throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. In general, however, firearm ownership was much more common, and legally easier, than in most other world countries except the U.S.
This all changed on April 28, 1996, when Martin Bryant killed 35 people and wounded 23 in Port Arthur, Tasmania. This is still one of the deadliest one-man mass murders in recorded human history. Following the attacks, the Australian government consolidated numerous state laws and created the 1996 National Agreement on Firearms. This effectively ended mass civilian ownership of firearms in Australia, and expressly prohibited somebody from obtaining a firearm license for the stated purpose of self-defense.
Almost overnight, semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and handguns evaporated from civilian homes. The laws were confiscatory in nature, and a nationwide gun buyback program resulted in the meltdown of over 630,000 firearms.
Now let’s look at crime rates before and after this sweeping legislation. If you want to skip straight to the conclusion, there has been no appreciable drop in violent crime in Australia as a result of gun control. Australia has always had fairly low crime levels in comparison to other countries. Overall violent crimes rates have not changed in Australia in many decades, and the rate of firearms use in these crimes started decreasing in the early 1980′s. Between 1991 and 2001, firearms related deaths dropped by 47% in Australia. Note that this time period includes the Port Arthur shootings, and the gun ban took place halfway through this period. In other words, causation cannot be declared because of gun control — the trend did not accelerate after 1996.
Between 1997 and 2003, over 80% of all firearms confiscated by law enforcement officials in Australia were never properly imported and registered into the country. In other words, because of gun control laws, criminals simply smuggled weapons into the country, which is relatively simple given the massive coastline to bring boats in and expansive open areas with no people in which to land aircraft undetected.
Since 51% of all U.S. firearm deaths are actually suicides, it’s worth looking at such statistics following the gun buyback in Australia. In 1997 and 1998, immediately following the gun buyback and gun control implementation, firearm suicides did, in fact, drop by 10%. However, suicide rates by all other methods increased by 20%,resulting in a net 10% increase in suicide rates for those two years. Extensive public suicide prevention efforts in Australia since 1999 have been successful in reducing the suicide rate each year since.
In 2005, the head of the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Don Weatherburn, noted that the level of legal gun ownership in New South Wales increased in recent years, and that the 1996 legislation had had little to no effect on violence within his state. Weatherburn stated, “The fact is that the introduction of those laws did not result in any acceleration of the [already existing] downward trend in gun homicide. They may have reduced the risk of mass shootings but we cannot be sure because no one has done the rigorous statistical work required to verify this possibility. It is always unpleasant to acknowledge facts that are inconsistent with your own point of view. But I thought that was what distinguished science from popular prejudice.”
Numerous studies across the Australian continent attempted to demonstrate that violent crime had gone down because of the gun control laws, but these results were never demonstrated. Because of this, the British Journal of Criminology decided to conduct an exhaustive review of all available statistical data spanning the period from 1996-2006, and published what is currently considered the most scientific analysis of Australian crime statistics to compare pre and post ban. The full paper can be purchased here.
The paper concludes that the only measurable impact on firearms use may have been the suicide numbers cited above, and that the observed drop in homicide rates in the ten years following the ban and gun buyback were identical to the predicted homicide drop calculated by extending the existing decline that started in the early 1980′s. The study postulates that, based on available data, people who choose to legally acquire a firearm are not pre-disposed towards homicide. This data is backed up by studies in the United States, several of which are cited in the BJC paper. The study also concluded that legally acquired firearms are involved in less than 3% of firearms-related crimes in Australia. This 3% includes firearms that are stolen from their rightful owners.
Current Australian crime data is also interesting to consider. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, only 2/3 of Australian murders in 2010 used a weapon (e.g., 1/3 of murders were committed WITHOUT a weapon — chew on that one). In murders where a weapon was used, one third used a knife, and only 17% used a firearm. Interestingly, 98% of sexual assaults, 89% of abductions, and a whopping 61% of robberies did NOT involve a weapon at all in 2010.
What about the general crime trend, not just involving firearms?
According to Australia’s Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Australia’s murder rate declined 31.9% between 1995 and 2007 (America’s declined by 31.7% in the same time frame), a trend which we’ve already discussed. But what about other violent crimes? Unfortunately, not so rosy. Also between 1995 and 2007, rape increased 29.9%, assault increased 49.2%, and robbery increased 6.2%. From 1995 to 2007, Australia’s overall violent crime rate increased 42.2% on a per capita basis. At the same time, U.S. violent crime dropped by 31.8%.
As already mentioned, Australia provides the only real laboratory for evaluating the modern impact of gun control and confiscation on crime rates. Statistical evidence shows that, despite the elimination of 630,000 semi-automatic weapons from Australian homes and extensive gun control laws nationwide, no correlation can be found between the ban and the drop in the murder rate, as the murder rate was already going down, and continues to do so. At the same, other violent crime in Australia has increased substantially since the weapons ban, obviously indicating that the ban had no effect on preventing violent crime. Lastly, over 80% of gun-related crimes involve a weapon that was brought into Australia illegally (smuggled).
1). There is no statistical proof that gun control reduces crime anywhere in the world. In fact, some studies conclude that gun control laws are followed by crime increases (causality not correlated).
2). Criminals, by definition, don’t respect the law, and therefore acquire firearms illegally as they need them for their other illegal activities.
3). Firearms are mechanically simple devices, and no law will prevent somebody from setting up a desktop CNC mill, lathe, and 3-D printer (total equipment cost: about $5,000) in his basement to manufacture semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines.
4). In the United States only, this discussion is completely moot anyway, as our Constitution guarantees the individual the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of armed revolt against a Federal government turned tyrannical, and this individual right has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, to include handguns for self-defence purposes.
5). The data is old, and no recent studies have updated the figures, but even with statistically-adjusted estimates of old FBI data from 1980-1995, civilian firearms stop/prevent approximately 100,000 crimes each year in the U.S., simply by the presence of the weapon. That’s home invaders scared off by a gun-toting resident protecting her family, CCW holders pulling their weapon when confronted, etc.
1. Very well written article (by a leftist, FYI), explaining precisely why the 1994-2004 Assault Weapons Ban was a waste of legislation, and why mass murders such as Columbine, VA Tech, and Sandy Hook, while tragic, aren’t worth reacting to the way that people do: Why Not Renew The Assault Weapons Ban? Well, I’ll Tell You…
2. Wikipedia entry, list of countries by firearm related death rate. Compare this to the per capita gun ownership rate by country, and it’s quite obvious that there is no statistical correlation between rates of private gun ownership and rates of gun deaths.
3. Homicide rate by country, also good for comparison and demonstrating that gun ownership and homicide are globally decoupled.
4. The table by country of gun violence is fascinating, because it shows both the firearm and non-firearm home rates per capita, and indicates whether *any* level of firearm ownership is considered a right in that country. The data clearly indicates no correlation between the right of gun ownership and homicide rates. There are plenty of countries with extensive gun control laws that have extensive gun crime problems, as well as countries with a lot of guns that have low murder rates.
5. The above referenced Wikipedia entry also states that 60% of global homicides come from gunfire. However, if you read the U.N. report that is the source of that statistic, it is readily apparent that the countries and regions of the world where the vast majority of homicides occur (Southern Africa, Central America, South America) would have their massive murder problem regardless of whether or not firearms even existed, due to other cultural and societal issues at play in those regions. Due to poverty, strife, and cultural factors, the vast majority of people murdered in these countries would still be dead even if guns did not exist. Recorded human history going back over 6,000 years clearly demonstrates this behavior, using whatever weapons are most common at the time.
The paperless office truly is a reality: I live in it every day. One of the strange realities of our modern age, however, is that many forms, documents, and letters require a real signature — a “digital signature” isn’t good enough. This is particularly a challenge if you work in an industry where you sign a lot of things, like I do.
So, how do I pull this off? There are probably dozens of effective ways of doing this, ranging from signing things with a stylus input device to just drawing your signature carefully with your mouse. Here’s what I do. Your mileage may vary.
First, you need a scanned copy of your signature. My signature is pretty distinct (and some would say weird). So, I simply did one that was really big, in thick, blue ink, with my full flair. Then I scanned it. You can do this at Kinko’s if you don’t have a scanner.
Then, I routinely use three very important tools. Yes, there is probably ONE tool that does all this (on a Mac, I’d be doing it all in Graphic Converter, but alas, there is no such program for Windows).
Since I work with a lot of PDF files, I need to be able to extract pages for signature, then reinsert them. For this, I use Foxit Phantom, which is the single best PDF editor I have yet to find out of half a dozen I’ve tested (I’m kinda cheap when it comes to software — I refuse to spend the money on Adobe Acrobat Professional).
After extracting a page to sign, I have to convert it to an image. For this, I use Office Convert PDF to JPEG Free, which is also the best of several I tested.
Then, I open the converted image into MS Paint, which comes with Windows. I’ve tested other graphics programs, including IrfanView, GIMP, and other big names in the shareware Windows world, and I’ve found Paint to be sufficient. I shrink my signature to fit, then copy and paste it into the document. Since Paint can’t handle transparencies, I fit the signature into a block, then literally use the line tool to re-draw the lines in the form that my signature block may have overwritten.
Then, save the image, and use Phantom’s “Insert Page” command to insert the JPEG image back into the PDF it came out of.
Yep, it’s kind of a pain in the rear, but it’s a cheap and simple process that’s there when I need it. If I had to sign things anymore than I already do, I’d look for a better all-in-one solution, but for me, this system works just fine!
Over 70% of the world’s population currently owns a mobile phone. I’ve had one for most of my adult life, since I was 19 and cell phones were the size of a brick and before digital service existed anywhere.
Cell phones have permeated every possible fabric of our society. From mobile banking and workout tracking, today’s smart phones in particular come with everything but the kitchen sink (but you can look up where to buy a sink, of course). The most advanced smart phones are more computer than anything else, with a phone chip and antenna just along for the ride, it seems. With mobile Internet, email, navigation systems, high definition video, today’s smart phones can do almost anything.
Which, honestly, is why I switched from a fairly basic, phone-only device to an iPhone 3. My thought process behind the iPhone was to be able to do all the things I do with a computer, but from a mobile device. In this way, I could always keep in touch with my clients and their IRS agents. I would never be far away from anything I need for business. On top of that, I wouldn’t have to plan ahead and print maps, I could listen to whatever music I wanted, wherever I wanted. It seemed like a perfect, magical little box.
So, what happened?
It didn’t take me long to figure out that a smartphone is actually a leash. After just a few months, I didn’t WANT to be constantly available. I was able to work 24/7, even when I was on vacation, even when I was at the rink. Although I could suddenly work from almost anywhere, that was the problem: I was working from everywhere. And quite frankly, it sucked.
So, I basically just quit using the stupid thing.
After moving to Utah, the iPhone became something I basically used for just two things:
1). Playing music at the rink
2). Texting with ONE local friend, mainly to arrange where to meet up for lunch.
When I was at the office, I would, of course, use the phone to contact clients, but months ago I adopted a policy of time blocking my phone time, as a time management tool. In other words, I *never* actually answer my phone live when it rings. 99% of the time, the ringer is OFF, and vibrate mode hasn’t been turned on for six months.
Like many people that experience smartphone addiction (they’re not jokingly called “CrackBerries” for nothing), I dealt with the problem by simply stopping the usage. This is actually a subset of a growing problem in industrialized countries. While the world of Facebook, Twitter, and mobile devices are supposed to be bringing us all closer together, they in fact further isolate us from one another. This is now a mainstream topic for research in psychology.
Technology should enhance our lives, not enslave us. What’s even worse is that we get to pay through the nose for this. I was paying $120 per month to AT&T for the privilege of carrying a leash around, basically.
So, what’s the solution?
Ditch the damn thing.
Most smart phone users are under contract, so there is an Early Termination Fee in most cases. I was fortunate to be one of the last iPhone 3 purchasers, and was under an ETF scheme that decreased with every month, so I only had to pay $100 to get out from the last year of my contract. Even if your ETF is $350, which many are these days, you’ll make that back within 3 to 6 months, depending on your average monthly cell phone bill. I’ll be saving $1,440 per year.
My service with AT&T is officially over on August 8th, but I’ve already disabled the data service manually, and have quit carrying it around. And you know what? I don’t miss it. Period.
Considering the fact that I’m in the professional services industry, the question immediately comes up: What am I going to do about telephone service?
Well, I’ve been using Google Voice for all inbound communications for over two years, and it works great. Now, Google Voice offers outbound calling, as well, and the call quality is fairly comparable to most commercial VOIP services. There is also Skype, which tons of people use as their primary phone service around the world, even though the call quality isn’t always the greatest. In the tests I’ve conduced, Google Voice is more than adequate for business level service, particularly when done over a hardwired connection.
What was that? Yes, I’m using a laptop with the wi-fi disabled and a physical CAT-5 cable plugged into the LAN jack.
What am I going to do about “emergency” cell phone service?
There are numerous options out there for simple, pre-paid cell service. You can go to Wal-Mart and walk out with a cell phone for $10, that doesn’t require a monthly bill. Problem solved. Just keep it in the car and it’s there when you need it.
Is doing this a bit drastic? Yes, of course it is. But often times, it requires drastic change to get where you want in life. For me, being tied to a U.S.-based mobile device, particularly for voice communication, was one thing preventing me from making the switch to VOIP based communication, which was ultimately going to be necessary for me to live overseas but keep my business here operating.
Interestingly, I can use Skype over on my iPhone (now just a glorified iPod touch with a camera) when I’ve got wi-fi around, and the call quality isn’t that bad, and I can use it overseas with nothing more than the few bucks a month for a Skype plan.
I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll be taking a computer with me overseas. It’s part of what I was trying to avoid with getting the iPhone, but I just have to do too much data work, too much programming, too much with PDF’s, etc., in order for that to be realistic. But when I’m away from that computer, hanging out on Bondi Beach, I’ll be playing, not working. Booyah.
New Corporate Cost-Cutting Policy
Due to the current financial situation, changes will be made to the
Business Travel standards and Procedures Manual. Effective Monday the
following revised procedures apply:
All employees are encouraged to stay with relatives and friends while on
business travel. If weather permits, public areas such as parks should be
used as temporary lodging sites. Bus terminals, train stations, and office
lobbies may provide shelter in periods of inclement weather.
Hitchhiking is the preferred mode of travel in lieu of commercial
transport. Luminescent safety vests will be issued to all employees prior
to their departure on business trips. Bus transportation will be used only
when work schedules require such travel. Airline tickets will be authorized
in extreme circumstances and the lowest fares will be used. For example, if
a meeting is scheduled in Seattle, but the lower fare can be obtained by
traveling to Detroit, then travel to Detroit will be substituted for travel
Expenditures for meals will be limited to an absolute minimum. It should be
noted that certain grocery and specialty chains, such as Hickory Farms,
General Nutrition centers, and, Costco, Sams stores etc. often provide free
samples of promotional items. Entire meals can be obtained in this manner.
Travelers should also be familiar with indigenous roots, berries, and other
protein sources available at their destinations. If restaurants must be
utilized, travelers should use “all you can eat” salad bars. This is
especially effective for employees traveling together as one plate can be
used to feed the entire group. Employees are also encouraged to bring their
own food on business travel. Cans of tuna fish, Spam, and Beefaroni can be
consumed at your leisure without the necessary bother of heating or costly
All employees are encouraged to devise innovative techniques in effort to
save company dollars. One enterprising individual has already suggested
that money could be raised during airport layover periods which could be
used to defray travel expenses. In support of this idea, red caps will be
issued to all employees prior to their departure so that they may earn tips
by helping others with their luggage. Small plastic roses and ball point
pens will also be available to employees so that sales may be made as time