Monday, February 24, 2014

CPCM Exam Preparation

Below is updated information and links for the National Contract Management Association's (NCMA) Certified Professional Contracts Manager (CPCM) exam.  Note that some of the study guides have been revised and updated since my November 2012 post.  Please feel free to email me with any questions:  breese27@gmail.com

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

The test was about the same level of difficulty as the online practice tests available through NCMA's website.  If you score around 80% on those tests, then you are ready to take the real exam.  Give yourself around one month of focused study to prepare for the test.  Spend the first two to three weeks reading and digesting content from the must have resources mentioned below.  Spend the last week taking NCMA's online practice tests for each of the five modules. 

LESSONS LEARNED:

If you have been out of business classes for a while, I highly recommend spending some time brushing up on basic marketing, management information technology, managerial economics, and financial accounting topics.  I had just taken two MBA classes in Managerial Economics and Managerial Accounting, which helped me quite a bit in the business module.  You do not need to be versed in every detail, but I highly suggest reviewing the basics.  The CPCM flashcards were very helpful in this regard.  For example, you need to remember the Assets = Liabilities + Owners Equity equation from Financial Accounting.  In addition, you need to know the basic format of a balance sheet, income statement, etc.

TEST FORMAT:

The CPCM exam is based on the Contract Management Body of Knowledge (CMBOK), 4th Edition, and follows its exact format in each of five modules:  (1) Specialized Knowledge Areas, (2) Acquisition Planning, (3) Pre-Award, (4) Post-Award, and (5) Business.  It's a standard 180-question multiple choice exam, but also includes six to eight scenarios (based on GAO rulings and various court cases) with follow-on multiple choices questions.  You have 240 minutes to complete the exam, but it really only takes about 120 minutes so time is not really a factor.  You have the option to "flag" questions for review before actually submitting the exam.  I recommend doing this, but remember that your first guess is usually the correct answer.  The content of the exam spans numerous concepts to include: Government contracting, commercial contracting, various legal terms, operations management, information technology, marketing, accounting, economics, general management, and leadership.

MUST HAVE RESOURCES:
1.  Contract Management Body of Knowledge (CMBOK), 4th Edition
2.  Certified Professional Contracts Manager Study Guide, 3rd Edition
3.  CPCM online flashcards, 43 sets
4.  CPCM online practice exams

RECOMMENDED STUDY PLAN:

Week One:  Read the CMBOK in its entirety.  Two hours per night for five nights.

Week Two:  Read the Certified Professional Contracts Manager Study Guide in its entirety.  Take the mini-quizzes as the end of each section.  Two hours per night for five to seven nights.

Week Three:  Begin reviewing the CPCM online flashcards for each module (and sub module).  There are 43 sets total.  Two hours per night for five nights.

Week Four:  Take each of the five CPCM online practice exams.  Take one test each night for five nights.  Each test will take you about 30 minutes. After you submit the tests, go back and copy all the questions/answers and paste them into a MS Word document.  After doing this, I printed them out and went back to review weak areas. 

Week Five:  Take the real CPCM exam at an approved test location.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Blog URL

I have a new blog URL after five plus years with The Brian Reese Blogs (www.brianreeseblogs.com).  From now on, please follow me at either www.briantreese.com or www.brianthomasreese.com.  Thanks and happy reading!

Best,
Brian

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New Personal Website and Executive Summary

I have a new personal website and executive summary: http://briantreese.com.  I am interested in connecting with people who want to change the world through entrepreneurship.  Please contact me anytime at breese27(at)gmail.com.

*****
Brian Reese has been building businesses since 1995. From selling gumballs in grade school to reinventing the way Air Force troops study for promotion testing, he constantly looks for ways to improve the world through entrepreneurship. In college, his idea for a secure, private network for Air Force Academy graduates now hosts over 20,000 members worldwide.

He is the Founder and Chief Product Officer at TestSoup, which provides mobile test prep solutions via Apple iOS and Google Android as well as eBooks for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook. The company's assortment of innovative educational apps and eBooks serve more than 100,000 members, 25 partnering K-12s, community colleges, and universities in 23 countries and six deployed locations.

Previously, Brian served as TestSoup's first Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board before deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In his public service life, Brian serves as a Procuring Contracting Officer for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, MA where he leads a portfolio of programs valued at $600M.

Brian is also the Senior Advisor at Socrates Sock Co., an Italy based startup, which aims to reinvent men's and woman's fashion with innovative, sustainable clothing designs.

He also helps incubate properties at Wasabi Ventures LLC., a global venture fund, startup incubator, and consulting firm.

Previously, he was the Director of Marketing at IdeaOffer, a crowd-sourcing startup acquired in 2011.

He has served in a variety of non-profit positions to include Vice President of the Luke AFB Company Grade Officers' Council (CGOC) as well as the Treasurer of the Logistics Officer Association (LOA). He is an advisor to the Wounded Warrior Project, Warriors to Work program, which helps place wounded warriors in entry level positions around the Northeast region of the United States.

He is the author of four books, two of which focus on helping Air Force enlisted members study for promotion testing. He is also a contributing author of The Student Leadership Challenge: Five Practices for Exemplary Leaders.

Brian is a former active duty Air Force officer with extensive experience leading hundreds of individuals and multifunction teams in challenging international environments.

He is also a former Academic All-Conference hockey player for the Division I Air Force Academy Falcons where he led the team to its first Conference Championship and NCAA tournament appearance in school history.

Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Squadron Officer School (Leadership Program), Maxwell Air Force Base, AL as well as a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO. He is actively pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How to Prepare for the Certified Professional Contracts Manager (CPCM) Exam

UPDATE:  This post has been updated as of 31 August 2015.  

I recently took the National Contract Management Association's (NCMA) Certified Professional Contracts Manager (CPCM) exam, so I figured I would pass along some lessons learned for anyone looking to take the test.  Please feel free to email me if you need further advice:  breese27@gmail.com

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

The test was about the same level of difficulty as the online practice tests available through NCMA's website.  If you score around 80% on those tests, then you are ready to take the real exam.  Give yourself around one month of focused study to prepare for the test.  Spend the first two to three weeks reading and digesting content from the must have resources mentioned below.  Spend the last week taking NCMA's online practice tests for each of the five modules. 

LESSONS LEARNED:

If you have been out of business classes for a while, I highly recommend spending some time brushing up on basic marketing, management information technology, managerial economics, and financial accounting topics.  I had just taken two MBA classes in Managerial Economics and Managerial Accounting, which helped me quite a bit in the business module.  You do not need to be versed in every detail, but I highly suggest reviewing the basics.  The CPCM flashcards were very helpful in this regard.  For example, you need to remember the Assets = Liabilities + Owners Equity equation from Financial Accounting.  In addition, you need to know the basic format of a balance sheet, income statement, etc.

TEST FORMAT:

The CPCM exam is based on the Contract Management Body of Knowledge (CMBOK), 4th Edition, and follows its exact format in each of five modules:  (1) Specialized Knowledge Areas, (2) Acquisition Planning, (3) Pre-Award, (4) Post-Award, and (5) Business.  It's a standard 180-question multiple choice exam, but also includes six to eight scenarios (based on GAO rulings and various court cases) with follow-on multiple choices questions.  You have 240 minutes to complete the exam, but it really only takes about 120 minutes so time is not really a factor.  You have the option to "flag" questions for review before actually submitting the exam.  I recommend doing this, but remember that your first guess is usually the correct answer.  The content of the exam spans numerous concepts to include: Government contracting, commercial contracting, various legal terms, operations management, information technology, marketing, accounting, economics, general management, and leadership.

MUST HAVE RESOURCES:
1.  Contract Management Body of Knowledge (CMBOK), 4th Edition
2.  Certified Professional Contracts Manager Study Guide, 3rd Edition
3.  CPCM online flashcards, 43 sets
4.  CPCM online practice exams

SUPPLEMENTARY RESOURCES:
1.  Desktop Guide to Basic Contracting Terms, 7th Edition

I did not purchase this guide because the CPCM flashcards covered 1,000+ definitions.

RECOMMENDED STUDY PLAN:

Week One:  Read the CMBOK in its entirety.  Two hours per night for five nights.

Week Two:  Read the Certified Professional Contracts Manager Study Guide in its entirety.  Take the mini-quizzes as the end of each section.  Two hours per night for five to seven nights.

Week Three:  Begin reviewing the CPCM online flashcards for each module (and sub module).  There are 43 sets total.  Two hours per night for five nights.

Week Four:  Take each of the five CPCM online practice exams.  Take one test each night for five nights.  Each test will take you about 30 minutes. After you submit the tests, go back and copy all the questions/answers and paste them into a MS Word document.  After doing this, I printed them out and went back to review weak areas. 

Week Five:  Take the real CPCM exam at an approved test location.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Why I Am Leaving The Military

For the past nine years, the United States Air Force has filled the better part of my adult life.  In late October of this year after wearing the uniform for nearly 3,500 days, I will wear it proudly for the final time.  From Basic Cadet Training at the United States Air Force Academy in the summer of 2003 to Arizona, Afghanistan, Boston, and just about everywhere else, the Air Force has become a part of who I am and has helped me grow and mature as a leader, man, and husband.

Upon further reflection, I suppose I owe everything in my life to God and the Air Force.  In a way, I feel like the Air Force has given me much more than I ever gave back to her.  It led me to my wife, my dream of playing college hockey, a world-class education, top-notch training, vast amounts of experience and responsibility, the best friends a guy could ever wish for, and a much greater appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

In the end, however, active duty service has given me everything except the one thing it cannot give me--control of my life and my family.  Through four years of marriage, I have seen my wife less than two years.  My deepest fear is that I will look back on my life and wonder why I put my career ahead of my family.  At the end of my life, I do not think I will ever say, "I wish I would have worked more and seen my family less."  It is finally time for me to act on this conviction.     

Thank you for entrusting me to lead incredible young men and women around the globe. Although I was not perfect, I promise you that it was not for a lack of effort.  My only real goals as an officer were to take care of my troops, work hard, be positive, and have fun.  I think we did it all and more.  Any special recognition I ever received was because of the efforts of my troops and anything that went horribly wrong, I humbly accept all responsibility for coming up short. 

A special thanks to my wife, Danielle, for putting up with the deployment, various TDYs, and my stubbornness at times.  To past and present mentors, supervisors, co-workers, colleagues, and troops, I thank you all for everything.  In all seriousness and from the bottom of my heart, it has been the highest honor of my life to serve this great country as an officer in the United States Air Force. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's amazing to see how far the Internet has come in just 16 years. Take a look at the early versions of Google and Yahoo. Of course, 16 years ago I was 11 years old and had never even heard of the "World Wide Web"

Google in 1997:



Yahoo! in 1995:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Secretary Gates' Speech to the Cadets at West Point (2.25.11)

The Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently addressed the Cadets at West Point. It's always nice to see/hear from our leadership. See the full speech here. (hat tip: Cameron Schaefer)

Here are some of the nuggets I pulled out:

  • But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should “have his head examined,” as General MacArthur so delicately put it.

  • If you chart a different path, there’s no telling the impact you could
    have – on the Army, and on history.

  • Maxwell Taylor, class of ’22, was an Asia foreign area specialist in the 1930s before becoming the famed commander of the 101st airborne, superintendent of West Point, and later Army Chief of Staff and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He once observed of his fellow academy grads that, “the goats of my acquaintance who have leapfrogged their classmates are men who continue their intellectual growth after graduation.”

  • You should look for opportunities that in the past were off the beaten path, if not a career dead end – and the institutional Army should not only tolerate, but encourage you in the effort. Such opportunities might include further study at grad school, teaching at this or another-first rate university, spending time at a think tank, being a congressional fellow, working in a different government agency, or becoming a foreign area specialist.

  • Consider that, in theater, junior leaders are given extraordinary opportunities to be innovative, take risks, and be responsible and recognized for the consequences. The opposite is too often true in the rear-echelon headquarters and stateside bureaucracies
    in which so many of our mid-level officers are warehoused. Men and women in the prime of their professional lives, who may have been responsible for the lives of scores or hundreds of troops, or millions of dollars in assistance, or engaging in reconciling warring tribes, they may find themselves in a cube all day re-formatting power point slides, preparing quarterly training briefs, or assigned an ever expanding array of clerical duties. The consequences of this terrify me.

  • In an article for Military Review following his tenure as a corps commander in Iraq, General Chiarelli suggested that, while the opinions of an officer’s superiors should hold the most sway, it’s time that the Army’s officer evaluations also consider input from peers and, yes, subordinates – in my view the people hardest to fool by posturing, B.S. and flattery.

  • And as two Iraq veterans, then-Lieutenant Colonels John Nagl and Paul Yingling, wrote in a professional journal some years ago, “the best way to change the organizational culture of the Army is to change the pathways for professional advancement within the officer corps. The army will become more adaptive only when being adaptive offers the surest path to promotion."

  • But I would like to close by telling you why I believe you made the right choice, and indeed are fortunate, to have chosen this path. Because beyond the hardship, heartbreak, and the sacrifice – and they are very real – there is another side to military service. You have an extraordinary opportunity – not just to protect the lives of your fellow soldiers, but for missions and decisions that may change the course of history. You will be challenged to go outside your comfort zone and take a risk in every sense of the word. To expand what you thought you were capable of doing when it comes to leadership, friendship, responsibility, agility, selflessness, and above all, courage. And you will be doing all of this at an age when many of your peers are reading spreadsheets and making photocopies.

  • One of my favorite quotes from the Revolutionary War era is from a letter Abigail Adams wrote to her son, John Quincy Adams. She wrote him, “these are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life or [in] the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed. …great necessities call out great virtues.”

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Startup CEO Job Description

After 18 months as the CEO at TestSoup, I decided it was time to transition the company in a new direction. I am extremely proud of everything we have accomplished thus far and I couldn't be happier with the team that's in place. You guys/gals rock.

Before stepping down, I was asked to write down everything I did as the CEO and turn the information into a job description. Long story short, a startup CEO is responsible for everything: company vision and mission, operations, sales, marketing, business development, HR/PR, strategic initiatives, customer service, investor relations, etc. Moreover, a startup CEO is involved at all levels: stategic, operational, and tactical.

Here is a pretty good description of what you have to do as the CEO of an early stage startup:

*****
TestSoup CEO Job Description - http://testsoup.com/

TestSoup, a revenue generating test prep startup, is looking for a new CEO to lead its innovative team and online and mobile product lines. We are an early stage startup with lofty goals and big plans for 2011.

This role is ideal for someone who has the right mix of leadership, passion, energy, experience, business savvy, entrepreneurial spirit, innovative nature, and a vast Rolodex with the who’s who in the test prep and educational space.

The CEO will have primary responsibility for leading company operations, the overall growth strategy, organizational leadership, financial and organizational management, external communications, and marketing and sales efforts. He/she will also be responsible for the development and management of advisor and investor relationships.

The CEO will also be responsible for providing the short term and long term company vision as well as the development of the sales and marketing strategy. He/she will also be responsible to achieve fundraising and revenue objectives.

The ideal candidate will have been successful in startup companies (or will have learned from previous failures) focused on the wants and needs of consumers in the tech or test prep industry.

In addition to being the face, voice, and spirit of the company, the candidate must demonstrate a track record for attracting, managing, and closing angel and VC funding rounds.

Focus During the First 12 Months:

• Develop and lead execution of product development, sales, and marketing.

• Develop relationships with angel investors and venture capitalists; obtain financing at reasonable terms when necessary.

• Create an appropriate short/long term vision

Responsibilities:

• Develop short/long term company and product roadmap.

• Oversee operating plan, budget, cash flow, and company finances.

• Build and lead an effective and cohesive executive management team to include all company employees, while establishing a basic personnel policy, initiating and monitoring policies relating to personnel actions and training and professional development programs.

• Build and motivate a world-class sales and marketing team.

• Responsible for all elements of HR, employee compensation plans, and benefits.

• Establish and implement short and long term goals, objectives, policies, and operating procedures.

• Create and revise all content while building a world-class content development team.

• Close deals with schools, sponsors, and industry partners.

• Help build an excellent board of directors and board of advisors.

• Ensure company objectives and standards of performance are not only understood but owned by management and employees.

• Ensure company and its businesses comply with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements and, where appropriate, best practices.

• Establish, achieve, and report on milestones to the company’s owners and founding members.

Qualifications:

• 3-5 years of junior and/or senior level management experience.

• Prior experience in sales and/or leadership efforts at a startup company, test prep company, or other organization.

• Prior CEO/COO experience desired.

• 2+ years of strategic sales and marketing experience, ideally dealing with test prep or education.

• Experienced entrepreneur who has taken at least one startup from seed round all the way to an investor’s exit strategy is desired.

• Excellent leadership, negotiation, management, problem solving, and interpersonal skills.

• Exceptional oral and written communication skills.

• Extensive experience in fund raising through angels, super angels, and venture capitalists.

• Track record of building innovative, creative, and collaborative teams.

• Strong desire to lead from a strategic and tactical perspective in all aspects of day to day company operations.

• Strong undergraduate and/or graduate academic credentials preferred

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What the private sector really thinks about ex-military officers

In response to the plethora of articles recently about how the military fails to retain its best officers, I asked one of my most trusted business colleagues what the private sector really thinks about those with prior military experience. Moreover, I asked what Silicon Valley and the startup community thinks about hiring ex-military officers. Must hire? Maybe hire? Here is the reply from one of my business partners, Chris Yeh. He is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, investor, and Harvard MBA:

"I can tell you that former military officers are generally well-received, though the warmth of that reception can vary radically from organization to organization.

For example, certain companies have historically had a strong preference for hiring ex-military officers. Oracle and many of its offshoots such as Siebel and Salesforce.com are great examples of this. One of my friends, a former Army Ranger and company commander, has spent nearly his entire career working for Tom Siebel, for example, with great success.

Other companies are not particularly military-friendly—places like Facebook and Twitter, for example.

As a general rule of thumb, companies that place a premium on discipline and execution are military-friendly; companies that emphasize creativity and off-the-wall unpredictability are less so.

Ex-military officers are stereotyped as disciplined, hard-working, and aggressive leaders. They are typically not thought of as creative or innovative. As an example, I have a number of friends who are generally thought of as creative wild men—people are always shocked to learn that they are ex-Marines. They certainly don’t look the part, having left behind their buzz cuts for long hair and stubble.

A super early stage startup is unlikely to hire an ex-military person as their first hire unless that person has already proven themselves in the Valley. Startups stink at training, personnel development, etc., so they focus on hiring finished products. But startups that want structure and discipline seek them out."

Chris Yeh – Chris has been building Internet businesses since 1995. He has been a founder, founding employee, or seed investor in almost a dozen startups, and advises a wide array of startups ranging from network equipment makers to vertical search engines. He is the VP Enterprise Marketing for PBworks, the world’s leading provider of on-demand wikis and collaboration software. He was on the founding team of pioneering Internet companies such as United Online Services (Nasdaq: UNTD) and Merrill Lynch's Intelligent Technologies Group. Chris is a much-quoted thought leader in the field of interactive marketing; his research and publications have been incorporated into the Harvard Business School curriculum, while his projects have received press coverage in Fortune, SmartMoney, TechCrunch, and the Financial Times. He writes a monthly column on entrepreneurship for SitePoint, and has written over 25 other articles on entrepreneurship, marketing, and sales for publications such as ClickZ. Chris earned two degrees from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Startup Thoughts and Predictions for 2011

An idea is simply that. An idea.

Ask my business partners—I usually have 2-3 of them every day. Just because we fire around an idea doesn’t mean we’ll try to make it a business. By now I’m sure you’ve seen or heard that Mark Zuckerberg “stole” the idea for Facebook from a couple other students at Harvard. I simply laugh in disgust at the accusation. Bottom line for the other guys: they had to do absolutely nothing to cash in for millions in a lawsuit. What a joke. Ideas are cheap. Having an idea is very very different than successfully implementing that idea.

*****

Six things every startup entrepreneur should keep in his/her back pocket:

1. Attack a real problem in a big market

Every single startup that launches should try to be a painkiller (not a vitamin) (very few are painkillers) to a real problem in a big market.

2. Maintain a technical or proprietary advantage over competitors

What is it that makes your company, product, and service better than the rest? Better, faster, cheaper is not necessarily an advantage.

3. A rockin’ team.

The preference here is a bunch of geeks who love solving big problems. Heavy engineering backgrounds seem to be better. The team should innovate and break stuff often.

My ideal startup CEO job post: Passion. Passion. Passion. Preference given to the person who has failed before. Numerous failures even better.

4. Measurable traction in the market

How many users? How fast is the company growing? Where will the company be in 3-5 years?

5. Revenue model

Hoping for Google to buy you out is not a revenue model. You must show a real revenue model and why it will work (and/or continue to work).

6. Luck

I’m convinced that the startup game is at least 10% luck – maybe more. At the end of the day you can master everything in your can control and still be unlucky. *Note: Passion helps you be lucky.

*****

My dream job:

Let me caveat this with the fact that I love my job and everything it’s given me. In fact, I may stay involved in it for a long long time. However, nobody wears the uniform forever, so here is my dream job (besides being a rock star). Maybe I’ll start doing this when I’m 40?

I want to be an early stage startup investor managing a $5M-$25M fund. Ideally, I’ll have a 3-5 person team that invests $100K-$250K / month in early stage startups. I don’t want to be a VC. It’s too much noise. Too many partners and too much cash to waste time in seed rounds. We’ll be a hybrid angel / super angel. We’ll help mentor and advise startups. After all, angels do better.

Ultimately, this drives from an inner passion to help really smart people solve really big problems at the cutting edge of innovation (and help them pay for milk and bread after thousands and thousands of hours in sweat equity).

*****

Groupon will be bigger than Twitter (and on par with Facebook's growth) and have 150M+ users by the end of 2011.

Here is why I love Groupon (and why it will be bigger than Twitter and on par with Facebook):

In my own words: Groupon is enhancing the backbone of our economy by providing small businesses with new (and repeat) customers while making consumers happy, businesses happy, and stakeholders happy. Let’s face it, small businesses are the backbone of our economy and yet before Groupon, most of them had no idea how to leverage social media to drive more customers through their doors. Groupon is changing all that.

Groupon takes advantage of the competitive nature within all of us by sending a daily deal at a 50% - 90% discount off the regular price. It gets us off the couch and into the game, tour, helicopter lesson, or skydiving adventure that we’ve all wanted to do. The huge discount makes consumers feel like they’ve won and the competition to tip the deal makes everyone want to buy fast and often. It’s the sexiest way to try new things. The bottom line is that Groupon drives new customers to new markets faster than any other way possible.

2011 Predictions:

Groupon will announce an IPO by 2012. Groupon will have revenue of $150M - $200M / month by the end of 2011. Groupon will have 150M+ users by the end of 2011.

Facebook growth: Sure, there are 6.7B+ people on the planet but the actual number online is much much lower. Facebook peaks at 1B registered users. Smaller niche focused social media sites in other countries see more growth. Facebook announces an IPO by 2012.

Twitter is still trying to justify its revenue model. Is it a real business or just a free real-time information stream? I think it's both.

Startup valuations are still high. Get over it. $150K-$250K in $1M-$1.5M pre-money is still the norm. Forget the VC collusion argument. It's dead. Cartels, collusion, and price fixing? Who cares? It's not reality. Startup valuations are determined by the market. Angels and super angels continue their dominance.

Apple and Google continue their takeover of the mobile market. Blackberry begins its slow death because of a failure to innovate. Exceptional email is not a painkiller.

Entrepreneurship is About Happiness, Not Wealth:

A truly awesome post by one of my business partners

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What it's like to lead a startup

Steve Newcomb writes:

What happens when founders try to sleep at night is this: their mind spins uncontrollably between scenarios that result in a glorious success and scenarios that result in a burning death crash. Most founders I know ride a fine line between seeming to be in total control and going nut balls.

All I can say is welcome to the club - you're normal!

Whenever people ask me how I make it through, I always say the same thing. Sit down and write down the storms that you are worrying about and divide them into two list. Those that are under your control and those that aren’t. Then focus on the list that you can control. If you stare at that list long enough you’ll realize a commonality. That the solution to every single one of them begins with having a team that is rock solid, one that isn't afraid of challenges and one that believes in you as a founder. If you do this one thing right, it will steady you and calm your mind enough to face and conquer any challenge.


All I can say is that it took me about 1 year to realize I was normal. Many sleepless nights, late nights, and early mornings. If you are a founding member of a startup, it should keep you up at night. If it doesn't, chances are you'll never make it. Hat tip: Ben Casnocha

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Things I'm Thinking About (2.24.10)

Cultivating weak relationships and the rise of social networking:
You have 2,000 friends on Facebook, 3,000 followers on Twitter, hundreds of connections on LinkedIn, etc, etc, etc. What are you really? I surmise you are either incredibly good at marketing your own brand or you spend way too much time cultivating weak relationships that have virtually no importance. The rise of social networking has certainly allowed people to connect and stay connected with people all over the world—but have we then marginalized ourselves into a steady stream of thousands of weak connections? In the past, relationships were formed and cultivated through very personal forms of communication (e.g., telephone, handwritten letters) on a much less frequent basis for a variety of reasons. Now, however, less personal forms of communication are shot gunned worldwide, 24/7, with the press of a button (e.g., email, text messages, Twitter, Facebook). Is it better to write three handwritten letters and talk on the phone to your best friend for two hours each week or send them 10 text messages per day? My point is that we spend less and less time communicating with our strong relationships (family, best friends) and in many instances, have relegated these relationships to one line of text i.e., “Haha! That was crazy. Lol.” I have made my decision, which is why one of my New Year’s resolutions is to send one handwritten letter to my 10 strongest relationships.

*****

Can You Teach Entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is a passion of mine and most things I am passionate about I can readily explain to you in Lehman’s terms. Entrepreneurship is different. The bottom line is that it is incredibly difficult to teach entrepreneurship in schools. In fact, most undergraduate and graduate level business programs really struggle to develop curriculum. Fake projects and fake start-ups only go so far. One of my friends and mentors at Loyola College in Maryland is doing the only thing that works (in my opinion): Real students working/advising real start-ups. It is very difficult to capture the essence of entrepreneurship with a textbook. Why? Because there is no magic formula to ensure entrepreneurial success—something that drives highly technical people crazy.

*****

A Great Way to Begin a Speech:
Most people would agree that the best way to begin a speech is to either make fun of yourself, or tell some kind of light humored joke tailored to the audience. I would agree. However, another good way is to tell the audience you plan to release them 5-10 minutes early depending on their level of participation. You create instant buy-in because the audience believes that you value their time as much as your own.

*****

Theoretically speaking, if news media companies were not-for-profit, what kind of news would they report? This dives into philosophy a bit, but I suppose the news would be much more idealistic in nature. Probably less negative too.

*****

Why don’t airlines sell advertising inside the airplane rather than charge for bags?
Millions of people travel on airplanes every single day. Why don’t airlines sell advertising space inside the plane? I.e., bathrooms, on top of the fuselage. In fact, the flight attendants could promote a specific product or service for one to two minutes before giving the in-flight safety brief.

*****

One of the secrets of world-class public speakers:
You have just heard a speech by one of the most dynamic, fluid, and persuasive public speakers in the world. You sat, entranced for nearly an hour by this persons extraordinary ability to captivate an audience. Never, you think, could I do that. Maybe not, but what you don’t know was that behind this flawless delivery was the complete memorization of every single word in the speech. That’s right—the world’s most talented public speakers have every single word of their speech memorized. If a professional has every single word of their speech memorized, maybe we all need to spend a lot more time preparing…

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Billions of people claim they believe in God? Why, then, do so few people act like it? I'm guilty of this as well. I suppose because it's human nature to sin and ask for forgiveness later. Back to the instant gratification society. Hat tip: Cameron Schaefer.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Lincoln: An Exceptional Leader

Although Abraham Lincoln possessed a laundry list of personality traits that enabled him to transcend the many troubles of the Nineteenth Century, perhaps his greatest trait (in my opinion)—aside from his unwavering character—was his ability to see the “big picture,” neither surrendering to opposing viewpoints nor soap boxing himself above Constitutional and moral law. Good leaders have the ability to deal with critics; exceptional leaders surround themselves with critics. How did Lincoln do it? He assembled his cabinet with what author Doris Kearns Goodwin dubbed a “Team of Rivals.”

Following his death in 1865, “none felt his absence more than the members of his own cabinet, the remarkable group of rivals whom Lincoln had brought into his official family. They had fiercely opposed one another and often contested their chief on important questions, but as [William] Seward later remarked, a Cabinet which should agree at once on every such question would be no better or safer than one counselor.” In my opinion, this was Lincoln’s greatest achievement—to skillfully harness the talents of his “team of rivals” while leading this Nation during its darkest hours and standing firm in “His conviction that we are one nation, indivisible, conceived in Liberty; and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

“Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition,” Lincoln declared at twenty-three to the people of Sangamon County during his first bid for public office in the Illinois state legislature. “Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other [ambition] so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed.”

Quotes in this post are from the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Interesting Suggestions from the Google Search Box

One of the more unique blog posts from Ben Casnocha flew into my inbox this morning: Contrasts in How Google Suggests Searches. Something I've thought about before, but never really compared various word(s)/number(s)/grammatical combinations in the Google search box. He suggests that there "is nowhere we are more honest than the search box. We don't lie to Google. Period."

From blogger Michael Agger, "the graphic compares "less intelligent" queries with "more intelligent" queries such as "how 2" with "how might one:"

versus:


Comparing "what is up with" and "how is it that:"


versus:

The sad part about the "what is up with" query is that 8/10 of the suggestions involve either gossip or Facebook/email. It seems our fascination with the "more popular, less intelligent" mantra stares us right in the face when performing a simple search query--courtesy of Google, of course.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Funny Website Update

I must say there have been some really funny websites launched in the past 6 months. I’m going to give my rundown of some of the best funny sites I’ve found. Please email me if you find more:

People of Wal-Mart: www.peopleofwalmart.com Instant sensation and one of those “why didn’t I think of that” websites. Reports say the traffic jumped 700% in one day alone and crashed the web-server. Anyone can submit pictures of the ridiculous people they see while shopping at Wal-Mart.

VexBoard: www.vexboard.com Traffic has risen steadily following the launch last month, and the user submitted stories of things that just piss you off throughout the day just keep getting better. The site allows you to remain completely anonymous (please do so if you plan to bash your boss).

Texts From Last Night: www.textsfromlastnight.com Rapidly catching on all over the world. People submit texts messages from their drunken escapades. Quite entertaining indeed.

PerpFail: www.perpfail.com Awesome site that highlights the stories of stupid criminals as told by law enforcement officials. Kind of like a Cops T.V. show mashed with the drama stories of FMyLife.

My Life is Average: www.mylifeisaverage.com Hilarious opposite approach of FMyLife. Essentially users submit stories of their “average” lives. Yup, I find a lot of myself on this site.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The 7 Most Overrated Businesses

Yahoo has a pretty good article out today called “The 7 Most Overrated Businesses

I agree with the article in a sense, but question the author’s motives with respect to the intent of the article. After all, small business is the backbone of our nation. If every start-up entrepreneur running a successful company today followed this advice, where would we be now?

Regardless, the article is worth the read for those of you thinking it will be easy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Where Have I Been?

I’m sure many of you are wondering: Where is Brian? Well, I’m still here, working, studying, learning, loving married life, traveling, and working on a variety of business ideas. This blog has certainly had its ups and downs and I appreciate you bearing with me through the light postings. Some thoughts and random musings since my last post in February:

1. A friend of mine at work let me borrow the best book on leadership that I have ever read. It should be a mandatory read for every Officer in the Armed Forces and every manager in every company. The book, called It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Michael Abrashoff takes you through the most common fallacies about leadership, and the reasons behind why many organizations (especially bureaucracies) fail to reach their true potential. In addition, Abrashoff gives clear examples of not only the art of leadership and the importance of being yourself, but also the how and why various techniques are effective. After all, leadership is all about getting people to believe in themselves and to internalize shared beliefs in the pursuit of a common goal. A must read.

2. Cameron Schaefer wrote a great post today titled: The Unpursuit of Happiness? The concept is a good one, and a reminder that happiness is often achieved without the help of money and material things. Happiness comes most freely and naturally when you don't pursue it. Although you may have fleeting moments of happiness with money and material things, sustained happiness is often a result of the most simplistic of things. “It is an oft-repeated, but accurate axiom that “things” are not the key to attaining happiness. For those who have traveled the third world, the smiles of men and women who live on less per year than we make in a few days deal a mighty blow to our notions of the good life and what is necessary to attain it.”

3. I’m working on two separate business ideas at the moment that both have promise. Entrepreneurship is a passion of mine and I enjoy working on various things even if they will never amount to anything. I think it is the idea of creating something of value that many people can use that intrigues me the most. Also, I think it is important in any organization to have people that constantly seek to improve the people, systems, and processes that form the foundation of that organization. “It’s the way we’ve always done it” is the worst answer and yet the easiest answer to give. Rules and inefficient processes that don’t make sense and don’t help people are meant to be broken or changed—break and change them carefully, and do so with an entrepreneurial mindset.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Forget the Future and the Past: Learn to Live in the Present

All too often, we tend to overemphasize the unimportant—meaning: Why can’t we just let things go? What is so important about today, tomorrow, work, children, etc, that hinders us from living in the present? Why do Type A personalities tend to live in the future while Type B personalities tend to live in the past? Who, then, really lives in the present? I have a few thoughts on this topic because I lean towards the former. Some advice on how to live in the present:

“What Ever You Are, Be a Good One” – Abraham Lincoln: It is no surprise to me that Lincoln ranks atop most polls as the greatest President of all time. He was a man of conviction and high morals. However, don’t think for a second that he wasn’t constantly tested during his days in office. Nonetheless, he brings up a great point here: Regardless of who you are and what you are doing, you have a choice every day to be the best person you can be. There is an element of contentment that comes along with this statement. Part of living in the present means you may (at least mentally) forego the potential gains of the future or inevitable losses of the past. What has happened before is over—forget it and move on. Why are you letting things in your past prevent you from being the person you want to be today? The same is true of the future: Why are you so focused on the future that you fail to be the person you want to be today? Again, the funny part about this statement is that we typically hope for some crazy transformation in the future, but the reality is that our tomorrow looks surprisingly like our today. Because of this, you need to learn how to find contentment in your life and be the best you can be regardless of what you do—Whatever You Are, Be a Good One.

Success: Although each of us has a different definition of success, I argue that everyone wants to succeed—nobody like to lose—we just have different ways of defining success. In order to better understand how to juggle your busy work schedules along with your family life, I think you must first ask yourself how you define success. Do you work long hours because you are afraid of failure? Or do you work long hours because you need success? These two are vastly different. Are you a better husband or wife depending on the various successes/failures in your life? I think type A people tend to need tangible successes, while type B people tend to prefer implied successes. If you are a high achiever type A’er, try and set short term, mid-term, and long term goals. Within these goals, you must have them for different areas of your life: Spiritually, family life, work, friends, community, etc. You tend to live in the future, so setting goals will help you “feel” the necessary tangible gains. The problem here is when type A’ers reach beyond the attained goal. You must stop, and re-evaluate. You have achieved your goal. Don’t compromise one of your other goals in a different area because you are constantly reaching for more. This will help you define why you are doing the things you are currently doing. Humans have a certain balance among mind, body, and spirit that must be constantly adjusted so we don’t get out of our natural pattern.

Ask Yourself: Why? This is one of the toughest questions to answer and one that I am still working on defining. Why? Why do you do the things you do? Why do you live where you live? Why do you work where you work? Why is work bogging down your life? I have attempted to define this one in my own life and have come to the realization that there is something deep down inside of me that just won’t quit. Also, I am a nerd for new and useful information. I enjoy working with great people and love seeing others succeed just as much as I like it myself. It has nothing to do with awards, slaps in the face, or accepting average. It has everything to do with how I define success and why I do the things I do. I have come to realize that failure and adversity help to breed success and optimism—especially for high achievers. Because of this, something inside me won’t quit. Failure is not an option and success is demanded. Success is no longer a choice, it becomes a way of life.

To recap: How do we focus on living in the present? Be the best you can be every day. Find out what makes you tick and how you define success. Set reasonable goals and constantly re-evaluate them. Ask yourself: Why? If you focus on these areas, you will find a better balance in your life and probably be a better husband/wife/co-worker, etc. More to come on this topic…

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Things I'm Thinking About: 2.17.09

Some things I have been thinking about:

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It seems as if the “historical” truths of the stock market have become obsolete. What if we have entered a period where history won’t repeat itself? Would we even know it if we are throwing our money away? Is it possible that the market won’t recover? Will traditional “buy and hold forever” strategies fail to deliver the way they have in the past?

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There is way too much garbage on the internet. Moreover, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the information you actually want/need. My latest business start-up seeks to address this issue and provide meaningful customized content delivered directly to users.

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Hines Ward played in the Super Bowl with an injury that would have left most people on the sidelines indefinitely. How did he do it? It seems the answer lies in an advanced platelet delivery system where a physician injects healthy cells into an injured area in order to speed recovery. I am considering this in lieu of shoulder surgery. What are the risks? How much does it cost?

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Some fantastic websites you may not know about:

AllMyFaves--Delivers hyperlinks to the most popular content on the Internet

StumbleUpon--Helps bloggers and other junkies looking to increase traffic and find cool websites

Hulu--Internet television. A fantastic site to find any channel or show you can think of.

AirFareWatchdog--Set a departure city and receive updates with the lowest airfares.

Diddit--Check off cool things you have done and find out what others have conquered.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Are You A Leader or A Manager?

1. If you constantly focus on organizational and process driven improvements you are probably a manager.

2. If you would rather focus on improving people who will improve the processes to make your organization better, you are probably a leader.

3. If you succumb easily to higher authority rather than providing thoughtful and intelligent counter arguments you are probably a manager.

4. If you respectfully challenge the status quo and seek to improve not only business productivity but also the wants and needs of people you are probably a leader.

5. If you are a different person depending on the people you are with, you are probably a manager.

6. If people try to emulate your personality, and act differently than they normally would around you, then you are probably a leader.

7. If you would rather make a decision that may make you look good at the cost of potentially hurting someone else in your organization, you are probably a manager.

8. If you would rather take risks and accept personal responsibility if things go badly rather than see a colleague take the fall, you are probably a leader.

9. If you are stuck in the “way we’ve always done it” mentality, you are probably a manager.

10. If you seek continuous organizational improvement and disregard the potential risk of your own career if things fail, you are probably a leader.

11. If you find yourself asking others how they would act in certain situations more often than charging with your own ideas, you are probably a manager.

12. If you find people come to you for advice, ideas, and personal help, and seek these things hoping for an “unbiased” opinion regarding things outside of the workplace, you are probably a
leader.

13. If you would rather tell your boss that someone below you must have screwed up, you are probably a manager.

14. If you would rather tell your boss that you have personally failed and plan to “rethink” the way you have done things in order to help those below you, then you are probably a leader.

15. If you seek sustainment and reactionary type activities rather than development and proactive type activities, you are probably a manager.

16. If you view work as much more than just a “job,” you are probably a leader.

17. If you let undue emotion and stress encapsulate and interfere with your job, you are probably a manager.

18. If you shake things off fairly easily and manage stress and uncertainty behind closed doors, you are probably a leader.

19. If you think you know how to lead people and believe you have a “system” to do so, you are probably a manager.

20. If you continue to develop the way you manage and to develop the way you lead and you realize that different things make different people tick, you are probably a leader.

21. If you view change as a hindrance to getting work done, you are probably a manager.

22. If you view change as a natural organizational process and embrace uncertainty, you are probably a leader.

23. If you punch the clock everyday and constantly check your watch, you are probably a manager.

24. If you would rather send your people home for the night and have to personally stay and finish leftover work, you are probably a leader.

25. If you are very worried about your job, you are probably a manager.

26. If you view your current job as the exact job you are supposed to be doing and seek to learn from your mistakes, you are probably a leader.

I’m sure there are many others that should be added to this list. Let me know if you have other ideas for this list!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Personal Executive Summary

In an attempt to reflect on this past year and then some, I decided to write a personal executive summary after reading a great one by entrepreneur/blogger extraordinaire Ben Casnocha. Here goes in no particular order:

Married the love of my life in Plano, TX. Honeymooned through the Western Caribbean visiting Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Cozumel. Wrote 125 blog posts and received hundreds of comments from readers. Read 25 books. Worked on two business start-ups. Witnessed a friend and mentor realize his business dream after waiting for 20+ years. Kept a promise and read the eulogy at my favorite uncle’s funeral. Played hundreds of hours on the guitar. Wrote bits and pieces of 15 songs. Finished 6 songs. Studied for the GMAT. Got pissed off studying for the GMAT. Spent 6 hours assembling a grill. Subscribed to 3 magazines. Connected with God in ways I never had before. Spent countless hours studying Christianity—specifically Protestantism and Catholicism. Watched 4 full seasons of NBC’s Lost. Went white tail deer hunting for the first time in 7 years and shot my first deer. Broke down and bought a Blackberry Bold—amazing machine. Determined Cheer is by far the best laundry detergent on the market. Played in a hockey league in Arizona—I really miss the thrill of competing at the Division I level. Took a 9 day vacation and went fishing, skiing, jet skiing, and relaxing on Sylvan Lake in Minnesota. Wrote thousands of emails. Earned various awards in Contracting—thanks to all of my mentors. Went to Las Vegas 4 times—3 vacations and 1 business trip (with a little vacation built in). Got published by a major publishing firm in a book about student leadership. Spent 11 weeks at various locations for military training. Went home for Christmas for the first time in 2 years. Volunteered for various events throughout the Phoenix area. Realized how much I enjoy both entrepreneurship and teaching. Watched my investment portfolio fall more than 35%. Bought when things were high. Sold when things were low. Didn’t sell when I should have. Didn’t buy when I should have. Continued to invest and realized that it doesn’t really matter because things will come back. Set-up 4 friends with Roth IRA accounts and gave investment advice. Did thousands of push-ups, sit-ups, and crunches. Spent hundreds of hours in the gym. Religiously read 4 blogs of various mentors, friends, and colleagues. Witnessed the best speech on leadership that I’ve ever heard. Discovered the difference between leaders and managers and witnessed both in action. Lived a lot. Laughed a lot. Loved a lot.

I’m sure there are some things I missed. But hopefully 2009 will be just as great!

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Little Secret--Keep Buying!

As a self-certified finance geek, I’ve had the pleasure of receiving various comments, concerns, and frustrations about your portfolios (stocks, bonds, real-estate, etc). No offense to anyone out there, but it amazes me how little faith we have in our decisions. Most of my portfolio is down 35% or more and guess what I’m doing: BUYING! The S&P 500 Index Fund is as low as it’s been since 2003. Most individual stocks are at 52-week lows at least—some are trading at 5-year lows. Current headlines from around the world say it’s true: WE ARE IN RECESSION!!! Guess what: Big deal.

When stocks go down—I buy more. When stocks go up—I smile and continue buying.

The reasons to continue buying are simple: (1) The markets will rebound and those who kept buying will be handsomely rewarded, or (2) The world will end. P.S. God doesn’t care about money and neither will we.

I receive Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine every month and really enjoy the content. Editor and Chief Knight Kiplinger made a few comments about our current situation that I definitely agree with:

“A few years from now, we’ll look back on this grim period as one of the greatest buying opportunities of our lifetimes.”

“The hardest thing for an investor to do is to go against the crowd, to keep a cool head when other investors are losing theirs. Perhaps a few years from now, I’ll regret acting on the confidence that I still have in the resilience and ingenuity of the U.S. economy—indeed, the global economy. But in the last 40 years of patient investing, I haven’t been disappointed yet.”

“The minimum horizon for anyone investing in stocks is five years. If your horizon is closer, you should tilt more heavily towards bonds and cash.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Credit Default Swaps: Weapons of Financial Destruction

In an effort to better understand the financial meltdown that continues to batter both the markets and our economy, I have read a few articles seeking to answer the questions: How and Why? How did we get ourselves into this mess, and why are there no checks and balances to prevent banks and mortgage lenders from making bad decisions.

Fortune Magazine has a great article in its October 13th issue called The $55 Trillion Question. The main point of the article is to educate people on a little known and unregulated market of exotic securities called Credit Default Swaps. Credit Default Swaps have “played a critical role in the unfolding financial crisis by ostensibly providing “insurance” on risky mortgage bonds, they encouraged and enabled reckless behavior during the housing bubble. “If CDS had been taken out of play, companies would’ve said, ‘I can’t get this (risk) off my books,’” says Michael Greenberger, a University of Maryland law professor and former director of trading and markets at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. “If they couldn’t keep passing the risk down the line, those guys would’ve been stopped in their tracks. The ultimate assurance for issuing all this stuff was, ‘It’s insured.’”

The bottom line is that Credit Default Swaps are simply insurance against bad bets. Banks and mortgage lenders realized the only way it possibly made sense to give money to someone with a large amount of financial risk was to take out an insurance policy against their default. “It’s sort of like I think you’re a bad driver and you’re going to crash your car,” says Greenberger, formerly of the CFTC. “So I go to an insurance company and get collision insurance on your car because I think it’ll crash and I’ll collect on it.” Warren Buffett calls this financial derivative “financial weapons of mass destruction.”

Another part of the problem is that the market for Credit Default Swaps is completely unregulated—anyone can place a bet on whether a bond will fail. The difference between trading CDS and a casino is that when you put $10 on black 22, you’re pretty sure the casino will pay off if you win. A CDS offers no such guarantee. So when all these banks and mortgage lenders move to collect their “winnings” at the same time, the actual money dries up fairly quickly and eventually they are forced to either write off the bad debt or close their doors—or hope for a $700 billion bailout.

Wall-Street continues to show its inability to manage risk and protect legitimate investments—not to mention the ridiculous pay packages for CEOs—even if their companies fail. As a consumer and self-identified “small fish in the big investment game,” I could practically vomit at what’s happened to most American’s investments—including mine. The big players and self-loathing greed infesting Wall-Street continues raking in millions while we suffer in this bloodbath. One of the biggest problems: unregulated financial derivatives called Credit Default Swaps. I have a feeling big changes are on the horizon. Keep buying and don’t sell your investments!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Random Musings (8.30.08)

Politics: Although most of you know I tend to stay away from politics, I have to chime in about the recent Vice President selections. I think both candidates made excellent choices. Obama made a fine choice in Joe Biden, a man with considerable experience in the Senate and extensive dealings with foreign policy and national security. On the Republican side, McCain stepped outside the box in selecting little known & self proclaimed “hockey mom” Sarah Palin. I feel it’s a gutsy move that both solidifies McCain’s move towards conservative Republican beliefs—pro life & gun ownership, while taking Obama’s “Change” campaign head on. No matter which candidate wins in November, this will be a historic election.

Reading:
-Rigged: The True Story of an Ivy League Kid Who Changed the World of Oil, from Wall Street to Dubai
-My Men are My Heroes: The Brad Kasal Story

Studying:
The infamous GMAT is still occupying a significant amount of my time. However, I continue finding better ways to study, as well as some do’s and don’ts I’ve picked up along the way, so I’ll pass them along:

Do:
1. Take a free online test here—this will help you get a feel for where you’re at
2. Order the Manhattan GMAT Review Trifecta: Quant, Verbal, & 800 Real Questions
3. Make flash cards with various ideas/concepts (formulas, tricks, etc)
4. Find others that have taken the test and pick their brains: The Second Lap
5. Identify your weak areas from the full practice test and dig in!

Don’t:
1. Buy the Kaplan books unless you plan to take the “in residence” course—they don’t help
2. Think you are really smart and take the test unprepared—you need to learn the format!
3. Waste your time trying to memorize questions—you must learn concepts
4. Think a low GMAT score is a killer—It will just make your interview and letters of recommendation that much more important

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Getting Published: My Experience Contributing a Story

According to statistics, 80% of people believe they “have a book in them.” Meaning—they believe their unique life experiences are interesting enough to write a book. Obviously, the follow-through on that statistic is nowhere near that high, but shows a remarkable trend of how people view themselves nonetheless.

The question I would ask is: How many people have an opportunity to share their unique life experiences? What makes a publisher want to tell your story? I think it’s somewhere between what you’ve done and who you know—which is arguably how everything works. However, if you do get the opportunity, you don’t necessarily have to write the entire story. My advice is: Contribute first and take it from there.

Through a contact last October, I was contacted by publisher Jossey-Bass and asked if I would contribute a story about leadership. I jumped at the opportunity and began formulating what I believe is a common problem for most young leaders: Simply getting started. Moreover, there is a common misconception that a person must be in a position of rank or formal authority in order to be a leader. This is entirely not true.

I decided to use an experience at the Air Force Academy involving a core engineering class since the book would focus on “student leadership.”

Two excerpts:

“The requirements were vague, and all the work had to be completed by the group members alone, with no outside assistance. I decided to step up and make some suggestions, even though I didn’t understand the technical scope of the project.”

“When I first thought about leadership, I imagined a truly dynamic individual who gains respect through actions over time. But in this situation, the professor had not assigned a group leader, and the students didn’t have enough time in their daily schedules to meet on a regular basis and allow a leader to emerge. The group was waiting for someone to lead, so I decided to take the challenge.”

The book, called The Student Leadership Challenge: Five Practices for Exemplary Leaders is available in stores or online.