Hello, you've reached my Business Bliki (blog meets wiki kinda). In 2004 I co-founded a multi million dollar company (it has since sold!), and then went on to start my very own. Bixly is where my time is spent right now. It's multi-locale software shop based Fresno California. I has reached multi-million dollar status despite a down economy. I hope some of the writings you find will help your organization do the same.

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Losing, Autonomy and Grit

This could be multiple posts, but tonight I feel like combining. 

I have learned a lesson or two since my last entry, and would like to share them with you. First up is loosing!

Losing

It was about 2008 when my brother asked me to come with him. He was going to a M.M.A. class. Think UFC type "interactions". That sounded like a blast because I used to wrestle and box a little as a kid, and hadn't done it for years. Funny how I got caught up with college and kids and career, and put simple things like fitness on the backburner. Thinking back I could have been a bit better with this. Any ways, we went, and I got hooked. I ended up focusing on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ. It's the ground game. Grappling, wrestling, submissions. 

In 2014 I was wrestling a big dude, and his technique wasn't great, so he resorted to strength. My neck got cranked and I had to hit the doctors a bit and heal for a couple months. I was able to go back to the gym and wrestle, but I was weaker. I couldn't use my upper back or neck with full strength yet, but I was so desperate to get back on the mats I didn't care. Something funny happened: I learned to lose. I would let beginners or smaller less experience opponents tap me. Funny thing was, I just didn't really mind. I was coming from a position of weakness. The practice of the sport became enjoyable. Winning was just decoration. Means over ends. 

Being forced to recognize that I was not the best, and that I loved to 'work the mats' helped me gain some kind of purity.  My neck is strong now, and just the other day I got tapped twice by a white belt gal that was lighter than me. Sure, I was going easy on her, but that's the point. I don't have to win every time, like I used to! It's more important to be there, hang out, wrestle, and enjoy the process of improving. So I learned to loose. Now that I am a better BJJ grappler, I loose much more, and it's so fun!

Autonomy

Stinking double edged sword here. To give it or not to give it, that's the question. My latest story comes from a fellow who worked his way to being autonomous in the company. See, we have had quite a few people filter through the company with entrepreneurial aspirations. Certainly I want to entertain them, or I used to. I would give them a budget, coach them, staff them, take them out for drinks, and give them ten times the opportunity I had. Every single time it has failed. 

But, back to my latest experiment. This fellow was a leader of leaders. People in the company enjoyed working with him, and he was well rounded. I am using the past tense because he left us. His department made money and he left us. See, he earned his way to autonomy. It took over a year for us to give him a position of authority, since we learned from our past mistakes to be more discerning. Prior to him, our standards were much lower. If they wanted to start a business with us, we let them. So why is it that this fellow, given the ultimate opportunity, trained for over a year, experienced success and then left the company? He had a major bump in sales for a few months. After that, they slumped.  A few more months after we put the pressure on him, he gave up. It was frustrating him. But he was doing so well beforehand. How come he's frustrated after doing so well?

Don't know for sure, but here's what I got. First of all, he wasn't prepared. The success that he achieved was earned, but he wasn't equipped to reproduce it. He wasn't equipped to handle the staff he had hired during the down times. He wasn't ready to tell everyone how it has to be. He wasn't ready for me to give him the keys, and I blame myself. 

Second, he had an easy out. He could walk away. It's just not an option for me. There are dozens of people counting on those paychecks and I spearhead all of it.

The more I give, the more it seems to hurt. When folks are constrained and well managed, they stay for years and are happy. They get the taste for autonomy, learn they can't handle it, they bolt or I have to fire them. Looking back on this situation, I should have closely managed the company he was building for us. He would have preformed better, and still been around and growing rather than frustrated and searching. 

Grit

There's a great book called The Martian which I recently read. The main character has the most amazing grit in the face of extinction. He's trapped on Mars, alone. Everything is meant for temporary life support and he must hack his way back to earth "one problem at a time".

 I learned from it. See, at the moment of typing this multiple people want to take legal action against me. One person wants a $10k break in his bill after being with us 3 years. I had three employees leave over three months - which is unprecedented AND I just received two exciting tax bills that are hopefully inaccurate. My accountant is very strict with the rules! Also, people want to take legal action against you when you make money. Point is, things like this happen when your business is growing. There is a huge amount of sucky.. 

Like the main character in The Martian, I am learning to take one problem at a time. By thinking of the upsides - I am alive, healthy, earning a comfortable living, loving family - I can sit back and take one problem at a time, and move forward. That's my definition of grit. 

Think about any high position. Any leader able to make a great difference faces a great amount of crap. 

 

We Released a new project: NebriOS

We Released a new project: NebriOS

 This project has been a long time in the making. It's a Python rule engine to help create process driven apps quickly. 

That is a lot to wrap your head around. Think about areas where Business Process Management is needed, or home automation, or the like, and that's where Nebri can fit it. 

Check it out at http://nebrios.com. 

Sep 2014 Update

I hadn't updated this website for a while and was having a good time looking over old articles. I found this one a year after first writing it. We have been "releasing" Nebri since then, in our own way. We are still working on finding customers. The main way towards this is to build loads of examples and get our organic searches up, along with engaging various social or professional networks. It's so much work! But we have to give this thing an honest shot since know how well it can meet needs. 

I hope I don't find this article in another year from to tell you about some terribly expensive lesson I learned. Right now I think it's a risky project, but a calculated risk. We are trying to just make it work, just get customers to tell us what they think, just use it for ourselves, just.... But this is a VERY complex project. 

Crossing fingers here.

 

SlightFight

Slight fight is the feeling of being slightly in a fight. It's a killer. Let me explain why it makes you more stressed, less effective, and generally hurtful. 

There is a beauty about being in a fight. Our bodies gain strength from a good fight. I personally love Brazilian jiu jitsu. When you are getting chocked out by a smaller opponent that shouldn't be beating you, your body goes into freak out mode. You fight and loose, and go home. Your body heals for a few days. Muscles grow, bones get dense, lungs expand, fat gets burned for energy. 

I love not fighting also. Watching a funny movie, chilling with friends, teaching my children about carving wood. Most of my life is in this mode, not fighting. BUTTTT.....

The worst mode, one which I find myself in way too much, is the SlightFight. I am typing this now thinking about making my blog better than all the others. I might watch a movie and think how it could appeal to wider audience only if... I sit in church and think about how unprofessional the transition is. My body tenses up because I am sending it signals to fight. 

Let me put a few quotes/notes together for you from Control Theory by William Glasser. By the way, "Old Brain" is very much like Kahneman's System 1. 

Alan, the heart attack victim, fantasized about strangling his boss for years. His old brain pumped his heart faster and introduced blood clotting tools so he could withstand a fight.  This happened for years. His old brain pumped his heart faster and introduced blood clotting tools so he could withstand a fight.  this happened for years.

 Labeling something as bad if its just something we don't want is harmful.

True conflict - you have a choice to make that will let you or someone else down.

False conflict - self imposed standards or being under someones screen of conflict.

Your pictures are created by you.  Just like rooting for a certain team, and being disjointed when they loose, you only have pictures you put in.  Only the breathing picture is necessary, all the others are optional.  choose ones that are attainable, and do things that are satisfying.

Okay, that wasn't as clear as I was hoping. Man that was a good book though. But back to my point!

If you make everything into a fight, your body gets tired of fighting. You can only exist in a slightfight state. Think about the real fights you have gone through and you know that your body can't handle that for long. 

This topic brings me to contrast. Be a great fighter, and be a great non-fighter, but please don't live in the land of slightfight. It's harsh and lonely and kills the body and soul early. 

 

Biota and hierarchy

From WHFoods:

One research study tracked a population of 162 very elderly people for five years. The incidence of death for those subjects who ate yogurt and milk more than three times per week was 38% lower than the incidence of death those subjects who ate yogurt and other dairy foods less than once a week. 

Consider that we have have around 50:1 to 100:1 ratio of bacteria to living cells in our body. Meaning, our biota is better represented by "bacteria" than living cells. Granted they are smaller than our cells, and our cell mass is more weighty overall than theirs. 

Since we can't even prevent the common cold, or understand why yogurt can fend off death, I suspect these bacteria, and the complicated interactions therein, will continue to baffle us for many many decades if not centuries to come. I think humans will always think in hierarchical models, while everything dominating us (like worms in our grave) will follow much simpler rules.

Rather than being baffled by them, I am embarking on an experiment to embrace them. It's starting with heirloom yogurt cultures. More of the good stuff, less of the bad.  This blog just got weird, sorry.

This brings up the topic of Complex Adaptive Systems.  Some people approach it wanting to fully understand them so they can be easily predicted and controlled.  There is another party though! One that embraces this statement:

"You think because you understand one you must understand two, because one and one makes two. But you must also understand "and". - Sufi Teaching

 These people know that CAS can never be fully understood because there are millions or trillions of individual agents acting for their own gain. Wheatley, in her most excellent book Leadership And The New Science falls into this camp. She describes her personal process seeing the flow of a complex system and swimming along the currents. Of course we can only see and work with the surface to start with. Once those are understood it's then possible to tweak a bit here or there to change the outcome. 

She goes on to describe how Quantum Imagery relates more to larger structures than we previously though, which throws prediction and replication out the door. Well, I guess I should stop for now and tell you to pick up the book