March 2012

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People are predictably irrational.   We make decisions based on many factors.  Sometimes that leads us to the right place for the right reasons; other times we are lead to the wrong place for the wrong reasons; other times we are lead to the the right place for the wrong reason.

Lately, I’ve been examining the choices that I make.  Why did I buy that PS3?  I can’t play games.  I need that time to write in my blog, or perhaps mow my lawn, or perhaps read chapter two of Predictably Irrational.

Chapter one in this book is awesome.  You should buy the book just for that chapter.   Dan does a great job of explaining how, when we compare things, we can end up getting something that we didn’t really want.  It is better to understand what we actually need instead of being lead by comparisons.

There are few books where the message is so clear and applicable.  Here is the meaning of that chapter in my own words:

Life is a competition; it is you against you.

We all thought we were the fastest until we lost a race, but does that mean we shouldn’t run?  Should we dwell on the fact that we are not the fastest people on the planet?  Of course, this is not the case.  We should do what ever we can with what we have.

I will never be the best software developer on the planet.  Does that mean that I will never write code that helps millions of people?  Of course not!

The only reason to dwell on the accomplishments of others is to gain inspiration.  Never sell yourself short.  Never quit just because there are people who could probably do it better.  Just keep living life to the fullest.

It seems odd that I got all of that from one chapter in a book.  I’m excited to finally write this so I can get to the other chapters.

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Canned Chicken

Lunch time has always been a great time for experimentation. Lately, my goals are leading me down the path of a very high protein diet. After browsing for the best way to get protein during, I decided on eating canned chicken breast for a while. Here are some pros and cons in case you ever want to do the same.

The Good:

  • It has an amazingly high amount of protein. The type I went with has 60g of protein per can. That helps immensely to reach my goal of 160 grams per day.
  • Along the same lines, the portion of the calories that are protein make up a very high percentage of the total calories.  There is very little fat.
  • Surprisingly, the texture is good.
  • It can be bought in bulk for a reasonable price per can.
  • They keep good for quite some time.  It works to “stock up” on them and then not have to worry about buying more lunches for a while.
  • I am having a blast trying a bunch of different things to find the best combination.

The Ok:

  • The taste can only be described as ok.

The Bad:

  • It is only 300 calories. A 300 calorie lunch is just not enough.
  • The smell.  How on earth did they make chicken smell like tuna fish?  I would highly recommend chasing it with some sort of breath freshening.
  • Most of the weight of the can is water.  Make sure you understand that when measuring how much protein is contained in the can.  Multiply the grams of protein by the amount of servings to get the correct amount.
  • It gets stuck on my teeth.

The Ugly:

  • Reddish colors have been found in the cans of chicken that I have eaten so far.   It’s not a lot, but it doesn’t add to the appeal.

Conclusion:

Canned chicken isn’t the amazing super-food I was hoping for.  Feel free to leave me a comment about some other food that I should check out.

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There are very few television shows that I watch.  When “The Apprentice” is on I try to catch it.  Why?  Because Donald Trump is like the Dr. Phil of business.  It’s amazing to me how he gets people to say things that they may or may not want to say. People typically focus on a symptom and not the actual problem.  He is a master at cutting through to the problem.

This book is about 25 years old.   Even though it is an oldie, I still wanted to read this book in order to learn about his background, and also see if that gives some insights on what makes him so perceivably successful.

The book begins with a week in the life of Donald Trump.  It was an impressive week.  There were deals that he was working on that have far exceeded my lifetime earnings.  How exciting (and depressing (if you believe in comparisons))!  There was one important thing that I picked up from this.  Few things where actually driven by him.  He had a lot of people who where presenting him with ideas or providing recommendations to him.  He has an exciting life, but without these other people, what would he be?  During this part of the book, I was thinking about the importance of keeping trustworthy and influential friends.

Donald comes from a family of privilege.  His father was an influential real-estate developer.  He came from influence, but his father didn’t baby his son.  There was a trust fund, that was, admittedly, huge, but for someone who could’ve given his son enough money so he would never have to work, it’s a step in the right direction.  He had to open the doors for himself to some extent.  Given the amount of success Donald and his siblings had, this approach must’ve done something right.  They provided the door, but it was up to their children to open it.

A good portion of the book is dedicated towards projects he had completed or was working on.  Quick observations:

  • If Donald likes you, he really talks well about you.  If Donald doesn’t like you, he really talks poorly about you.  Partially reminds me of a Carnegie quote, “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise”.
  • Deals of a large magnitude have many moving parts.  Your project is only as strong as the weakest part.
  • Luck happens sometimes, but it happens more often when you look around.
  • There are a ton of regulations around real-estate.  Those regulations give ultimate power for the project to government officials.
  • He has an obsession for the best.
  • Whenever the risk can be passed onto others, he does it.
  • Trump is a symbol.  The business equivalent of Batman.
  • Speaking of symbols, advertising something as the “world’s biggest” will sell.
  • It is great to read a book about someone who has had the experiences as Donald Trump.  The contrast between the beginning of the book and the end of the book is my favorite part.  In the beginning there is excitement and grand visions.  The last chapter talks about the results from those grand visions.  It was interesting to see how reality sets in, even for someone as famous as Donald Trump.  Not everything he touches turns to gold.  He is under the same rules as the rest of us.He dreams big.

The project that resonates the most after reading the book is the Wollman rink.  Trump totally embarrasses Ed Koch, the mayor of New York at the time.  He really rips on the incompetence of the people who worked on the original rink plans.  I really think this hurt him in the long run.  The mayor has a lot of influence.  Make him mad; and your projects suddenly fail.  Perhaps the moral lesson is “Don’t burn bridges” or “Don’t publicly say anything negative about anyone”.  The obvious lesson is that the right leadership can make a huge difference.

It has an incomplete feel to it as a lot of the things he was working on are still in progress. It is good be able to to see the outcomes of these projects. The flip side of the successful Wollman project was the failure to build the world’s tallest building.  Perhaps, if he had not ruffled so many feathers, that vision would’ve been better received and, possibly, realized.  Perhaps not.

Few of his failures were mentioned in the book.  The only failures that were mentioned lead to something positive.  Although I like this type of lifestyle, when more projects fail then succeed, and this book is 95% success stores; it comes across as unbelievable.  He comes across as more than human (a symbol :)?).

I didn’t get many insights into what makes him so good at cutting to the core of a problem.  Perhaps he has learned it though just the sheer number of times he has worked with different people or the number of experiences he has had.

It is great to read a book about someone who has had the experiences as Donald Trump.  The contrast between the beginning of the book and the end of the book is my favorite part.  In the beginning there is excitement and grand visions.  The last chapter talks about the results from those grand visions.  It was interesting to see how reality sets in, even for someone as famous as Donald Trump.  Not everything he touches turns to gold.  He is under the same rules as the rest of us.

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