Focus

We’ve taught ourselves to think of price before anything. By “we” I mean retailers, marketers, advertisers and pretty much anyone with anything to sell. Oh, and consumers, too.

Attempting to sail against this wind (gale?) makes no sense, because there’s nowhere to go to find still air. When everyone is playing the same game, any advantage must be garnered within the prevailing atmosphere.

The problem is so acute that even the idea of value is meaningless. If we think of value as being better utility or style or longevity per unit money, the flattening of opinion about those secondary qualities means that all sales come down to the nominal cash price. Everything – no matter how sophisticated or complex – starts with a comparison to the Family Dollar store. Only the price tag matters.

Now to find a way around that myopic view.

Discernment

Music was controlled by moguls. Moguls were fat-cat music industry people, who may or may not have been either fat or cat-like. The image that comes to mind is that of a gate-keeper. A well-armed gate-keeper.

Because that’s what they were. The David Geffens and Tommy Mottolas of the world knew the combination to the gate. That gate led to production of records and CDs, promotion of them and distribution. No wonder they guarded the entranceway to that business; it was a literal printing press.

Along came the internet. Then exponential network growth. Then Napster. Then R/W CDs and then DVDs. The control of music was now in the hands of everyone. But not just the listener side. That same internet and associated technology allowed producers of music to avoid the companies. Exit the music mogul.

Except. Pushing music publishing into the jeans pockets of every jilted lover and insightful stoner (sic) eliminated any kind of quality filter. Say what you like about Big Music, they were good at keeping the dross out and the good stuff in. For the most part. That’s the beauty of capitalism; it aligns motives.

Discerning quality should be easy. With the avalanche of awful music out there – thank you internet – winnowing the dross should be part of our day. But the fact is that it’s not. We have to work to find the best. Perhaps we need the moguls back.

Feeling Your Oats

More than one percent better
More than one percent better

 

The company I represent continues to surprise me in small but meaningful ways.

With my current night-time job, breakfast is a bit of a conundrum. I’m always hungry by the time I get home at around 8:00 am, but I’m also super-ready for bed. I just know that if I don’t have something to eat, I’ll wake up prematurely. That’s a recipe for disaster, because there’s no telling if I’ll ever get back to sleep. Sure, I can survive for a day or two on three or four hours in a twenty-four hour period, but it can get messy after that.

The evolution of my breakfast (in this job) went something like this:

  • Toast with peanut butter or jam

That became obsolete when I figured that all that sugar wasn’t good. So I moved on to:

  • Ramen noodles with some protein, for instance a little chicken or a chickpea patty, which was satisfying for a while, but quickly paled when I realized just how many calories are in those noodles.
  • Granola with milk was next, until I saw the amount of sugar in that stuff too, so that…
  • Whole Oats with Flax (from my company’s healthy food range) came to my rescue. This is easily the best choice, because it fills me up, without all the calories.

Here’s the important part: You’d think oats with flax would be a standard item. They’re not. Compared with regular, supermarket brands, our product has:

  • 66% more fiber
  • 25% more protein
  • 46% less sodium
  • 33% less sugar
  • more whole grains, and is an excellent source of ALA Omega-3, an important anti-oxidant.

I don’t like using the microwave, so I add a little boiling water from the kettle, a dash of milk after five minutes, and some fresh fruit (pineapple at the moment) for interest.

Okay, you say, it’s a better breakfast cereal, big deal. But let’s think of it this way. If you have breakfast at home five times a week, and you live for another forty years, that’s over 10,000 breakfasts. My point is that even a marginally better, less sugary, more nutritious breakfast will have an immense difference on your health when you add up the numbers.

The one-percent differences don’t look like much day-to-day, but they are unbelievably powerful over time.

Takeoff

 

Ready to begin.
Ready to begin.

 

Takeoff in an airplane is the most stressful time for both machine and pilot, especially when doing so at maximum weight. An empty machine – one with a small amount of fuel and just the pilot aboard – has a greater margin of performance than a fully loaded one.

The best way to think about this is as a performance envelope (some test pilot talk there.) All the stuff that goes into making the plane work can be thought of as defining the edges of the envelope. There are design limitations, regulatory limitations, material limitations, restrictions on engine size and power, environmental limits and not least, pilot limitations. When you’re operating away from the edge of the envelope, there are margins between you and the tested maximum performance. As you add weight, speed, temperature or high trees at the end of the take-off area, you move closer to the edge.

This envelope is the reason it takes time and experience to learn how to fly safely. It’s complicated. Many inputs are outside of the operator’s control, and yet they must be understood in at least a rudimentary fashion. Those inputs that are within the operator’s control are the ones – rightly – on which flight training focuses. How many passengers you take, how much fuel you load, how long the runway you use – these are all variables that the pilot must decide upon. Any one or all of these factors can kill you.

If you have a strong sense of self-preservation, take-off is the time to think about most carefully. Keep your machine as light as possible. Always use the runway or direction facing most into the wind. Choose the longest obstruction-free runway. Maximise the performance of your airplane by climbing quickly to a safe altitude. All of these factors will keep you away from the edge of the envelope, giving you more time, space and thinking ability to get it right if things go wrong.

Starting the right way takes forethought and preparation. Do it right, and the rest of the flight will follow.