Will The End Of The World Hurt Your Business?

I love bizarre headlines as you can see.  So many people are predicting the end of the world now, I thought I’d take a look at the impact to your business of reading these things, believing these things, and what this information means to you.  It is entertaining to consider the end of the world, so see if the information below makes sense:

Can The World Really End?

The answer is yes.  The world can really end.  The world really will end.  But when?  That is the real question.  The most likely possibility is that the world will not end any time soon.  Now I believe in the Bible and many people interpret the Bible as saying the world will end within the lifetimes of those who see Israel reformed, and it has reformed in our lifetime.  So could we see the rapture and torment on the Earth?  Sure, it’s possible.  If you need to get your house in order then do so, but you cannot depend on these events to happen this year, next, or next decade.  If you do, you will lose out, I guarantee it.

Things usually happen in God’s way and in God’s time.  I mean, who could have believed that the Middle East would become civil war with their people seeking Democracy?  This could really be a game changer for the world, for the positive.  This could seriously delay all of the bad things predicted…

Information On The Internet Is Crap

Being an internet junky myself, I have read about Planet X, the Mayan Prophesies, Pole Reversal, and many other doom and gloom scenarios.  It’s all crap people.  Bad information that people sell to you to make a buck, further their own interests, or simply because they are friggin nuts.  Anybody can write anything on the internet and people will read it, and some will believe it.  There is no proof of anything, proof is not required.  So this information is bad information and should not be trusted.

What Can You Do About It?

If the worst case scenario happened, whatever it is, what can you do about it?  If there is nothing productive that can be done, you have an obligation to go to work, build your business, volunteer, or whatever you do on a daily basis to be productive.  I am certainly not going to stock pile shotguns and canned goods when I can spend that money more productively in other ways.  If the worst case scenario happens, it won’t matter anyway, nothing will help.

Now for those things you can do that will help, I think that’s fine.  For instance, if a fire could destroy your computer you owe it to yourself to have off-site backups.  If you’re worried about water getting into your basement, have a good sump pump.  If you’re worried about bad storms, make sure to have insurance.  These kinds of things are only common sense.

People Have Set Dates For The Past Two Millenium

There have been many, many people who predicted the end of the world or Christ’s return for the past two thousand years, and guess what?  They’ve all been wrong.  Although still possible, the most likely scenario is that the people who are setting dates today are also wrong.  Regardless of what happens, it is still in your benefit to have a 5 year plan and work to make it a reality.  Many bad things have derailed people with 5 year plans, not just the end of the world, but people pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and try again.

I still do dangerous things.  I drive to work.  I fly from place to place.  I cross the street.  My world could end any moment from an accident or illness, but you have to live your life like it couldn’t happen.  That’s the only way to win.

How To Write An Original Blog Article

This article is about how to write for a blog without stepping on other people’s toes.  I generally use these guidelines when writing for this blog, and they are the guidelines I use when selecting from posts other people submit.  If you want to submit a post for consideration, please make sure you:

1. Write an original article – and it must remain exclusive to our blog
2. Provide a title for the article
3. Write at least 500 words
4. As the last paragraph, include a little about yourself and a link to your web site
5. If you provide a picture, you must provide a link to where you got the picture

Writing an original article

To be an original article, the article as a whole must not exist anywhere else.  That means you cannot submit to me an article that you used elsewhere.  It also means that you cannot submit an article that was written by somebody else, even if you change some of the wording or rearrange the text.  That is plagiarism and typically a copyright infringement.  If you write an original article off the top of your head, you will be copying nobody.  Usually articles you write are like fingerprints, your original writing will be different, so you will have nothing to worry about.  To plagiarize is to go out of your way to use somebody else’s original work.

Using facts, quotes, or pictures from other online articles

Any media, whether writing, videos, or pictures, is subject to implicit or explicit copyright protection.  It is implicit when there is no notice shown.  Implicit copyrights are still subject to copyright law because it is evident that the material existed on their site before yours.  So if you see no notice, you still have to be concerned with copyrights.  More importantly though, explicit copyrights sometimes contain instructions for proper use of the material.  For instance, it may say that material can be used with permission.  Or that it cannot be used.  I generally stay away from material with explicit copyrights with instructions.

If you are going to use material from another website, you must properly cite and reference the site where you retrieved your material from.  I generally put the website where I retrieved a picture under the picture, and the picture links to the actual location on the site.  For facts and quotes taken from another article, I tend to reference the article below mine.  If I use a quote, I may quote and cite the article within my blog post, but if common language is used, I just use the quote without quoting it.  For instance, if I said “The share price of United Airlines is $21.75”, I would only reference the article I took that quote from at the bottom of my article since I would have said the same words as if I had written them from out of my head.  I think either way would be ok with the original article writer.  I know it would be ok with me.

Please note that fair use of material that is copyrighted may not include using images from another web site regardless of how it is referenced. Please get permission from the web site owner prior to using an image.

Writing style

On my blog I single space and start a new paragraph at the first character on a line.  As far as I’m concerned, any writing style is ok for a blog.  Blogs are your personal journal where you can format as you like and say what you want, as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others.  So go nuts.

Submitting to my blog

I would love to use your original blog article about small business here.  To have your article considered, submit a plain text or Microsoft Word document of your article to info@splashplan.com.  I will let you know if there are any problems to fix and or when your article will be posted to the blog.

References:

The Root Of All Evil

The love of money is the root of all evil.  I hope that doesn’t mean my coin collection.  I kinda like it.  As far as the saying goes, it feels like we are supposed to be poor.  Like we aren’t supposed to want things in our life.  Like going into business is the worst evil we can do.  I am here to tell you that wanting to be in business and make money is not evil.  Wanting to have things is not evil.  But to want at all costs probably is.  If you’re hurting people, your community, or the world to make money, then you are probably not doing the right things.

We go into business to make a profit.  If you’re not making a profit you are what we call a not-for-profit, as in a charity.  Businesses must make a profit otherwise they are losing money, which is not a good thing.  You can keep your profit low if you like, but then you’re not serving your shareholders’ best interests.  If you’re a one owner company and that owner is you, you can keep your profit to a minimum and not hurt anyone, sure.  But if you are creating value for your customers and are not scalping them, having a profit is just fine.

Going into business is a noble thing.  You are generally serving your customers, paying your employees a paycheck, and giving your shareholders dividends.  So you are helping many people, including yourself.  Having an abundance is ok.  It is also nice to turn around and help others with your abundance.  If your only aim in life, though, is money and the things it can buy then you may find yourself in bad situations.  And I think that is what the saying is referring to: That money is not evil, but some of the things that people do for money is evil.

Is greed really a good thing?  How would we define greed?  I would say that somebody is greedy if they are never thankful for what they have and they want more and more all the time.  Being an unhappy person no matter what you have is not a good thing.  Sometimes you have to stop and consider how fortunate you are.  There also has to be a point where enough is enough.  Nobody needs more than one or two places to live, more than one or two cars, a closet full of shoes, or multitudes of adult toys.  There has to be a point where what you have is enough.

Personally I am happy with what I have and I’m sure I’ll be just fine, but I like the independence that my own business gives me.  I want it to grow so I can take care of a few debts and leave something to my children.  But if I lived at the same lifestyle for the rest of my life I would be just fine with that.

Theoretical Implications Of The U.S. National Debt

As we begin flying missions with the UN in Libya this week, I am reminded of our national debt and how it isn’t getting any smaller with each bomb we drop.  And while this could be a very positive development for our security, I don’t see why our country has to bear the burden of policing Libya when we can’t afford it.  We are the spendthrift with the maxed out credit cards with one more emergency so we break open the new credit card.  And I can imagine that we are also going to provide financial help to Japan, and we should.  Yes I said it… we should help out Japan after this massive disaster that continues to unfold to historic proportions.  Well, I guess it was already historic, but this is truly unprecedented.  So we help out Japan and protect the people of Libya, then how about Iran and North Korea?  Where do we draw the line?

What is our national debt?

Let’s start with money.  The country prints a dollar bill, how does it get into circulation?  It either replaces a dollar bill or it is spent.

So let’s say we have a government of 10 people and we print $1000 each to pay them for gold that they dug out of the ground.  Now there are $10000 in IOU’s from the government and the government has $10,000 worth of gold.  The only reason the gold is worth $10,000 is because that is what we paid for it.  Because the government is holding gold to back the currency, we could be said to be on the gold standard or that the currency is backed with gold.  What if we took our printed money and bought food to give away to starving children in Africa (instead of gold)?  We then have currency outstanding with a face value of $10,000 and what is it backed with?  It’s backed with the holder’s confidence in the government.  You could probably understand what happens if the currency holders lose faith in the currency…

The other portion of our national debt is loans to the government, typically bonds and notes.  These are sold in return for currency and the government pays out interest payments to the holders of treasury bonds and notes.  Why does the government sell this debt really?  To take currency out of circulation so that it is worth more.  Government debt has an inherent value because of it’s interest payments, but is also somewhat backed by the holder’s faith in the U.S. government.  Government debt becomes worth much less if people become concerned that the government will default on its debt: when it is unable to pay its interest payments or unable to pay the face value of the debt when it becomes due.

In our example we have $10,000 worth of currency outstanding.  How can the government spend $10,000 more without increasing the amount of currency outstanding?  They issue $10,000 worth of treasury bonds, collecting the $10,000 outstanding, then spend $10,000 more.  They must now fork up $400 per year to their bond holders but there is still only $10,000 worth of currency outstanding.  They can collect taxes to pay the $400 per year to avoid adding currency into circulation.  What if there is a business person looking to borrow $10,000 to start a business?  Well, unless he can guarantee $400 in dividends, he is likely to lose out to the government that is guaranteeing $400 in interest.  That is one potential implication of national debt: that it takes away the incentive to invest in new businesses or in other more risky investments.

The effect on the individual

There are three ways for the government to fund it’s spending: Taxes, currency, and debt.  There may be more than this but for this discussion let’s just assume that these are the only ways.  So what happens when the government does not want to increase the amount of currency in circulation and nobody wants to buy its debt?  That’s right, taxes go up.  And as we know here in Illinois, taxes don’t go up just a bit when things are bad, they go up a lot.  Our state taxes went up by two thirds to cover the shortfall in the state’s budget as the state is trying to avoid new debt.  It hurts but not as much as it would hurt at the federal level.

Let’s say that your federal taxes went up by half.  That would be pretty big.  It would have a significant effect on your lifestyle.  Now extend that to the country.  People would spend much less than they do today, creating severe economic hardship within the economy.  I’m also thinking that would reduce income taxes the government takes in.  A vicious cycle begins.  But what does the government do instead of raising taxes this time?  Printing more money to improve the economy before it sinks into a depression.  This sounds familiar right?  The Federal Reserve buys government debt to put more cash into the system.  Then buys more and more to prevent the double-dip recession.  So life goes back to normal then what?  You have to take cash out of the system before it becomes inflation.

The China factor

China is a little wildcard that makes things interesting.  China holds a ton of our currency and debt.  Many Chinese businesses also hold our currency because the value is greater than their own currency.  That is on purpose.  The Chinese government depresses their own currency against the dollar by stockpiling dollars and U.S. debt.  As more dollars flow to China for the products they produce, the usual thing that should happen is that they should buy U.S. products.  Makes sense right?  You have U.S. dollars, you buy U.S. goods with them.  Or you trade them with other companies.  Or you sell them on the forex market for your own currency.  That would mean that somebody else wants to trade Chinese currency for U.S. currency.  That would be either the Chinese government or a foreign entity with Chinese currency because of something they sold to China.

What if you’re China and you want to grow your domestic businesses but want to keep foreign businesses out?  I know you’re thinking cheap labor, but eventually with enough wealth, local labor prices go up.  Another way to keep the goods flowing out and not flowing in is to keep your currency value low against foreign currencies.  You sell your currency for dollars, propping up the dollar because you are taking dollars out of circulation.  You can also use your dollars to buy U.S. government debt, transferring even more dollars overseas.  Eventually, though, China is going to want to do something with their dollars.  Buy the Euro?  Buy gold?  Spend money on social programs or military?  Regardless of the scenario, dollars come back into circulation.  Or U.S. government debt is sold, decreasing the value of the debt on the open market.  This would increase the interest rates of outstanding debt and of any new debt issued.  It would also rob from business investment because people could get a pretty good interest rate from U.S. Government debt.

I am not sure how much cash and how much debt China holds, but it’s a bunch.  It could easily depreciate our dollar creating inflation or increase interest rates dramatically.  The U.S. might be forced into cutting important programs and dramatically increasing taxes.

Hyperinflation

Hyperinflation is a situation where people lose confidence in the currency so they stop using it.  People with products to sell won’t trade for paper money, they require gold or another good to trade for.  Could hyperinflation happen in the United States?  While certainly possible, it is somewhat unlikely.  It is more likely to see double-digit inflation, but people will continue to have faith in the currency.  We have never experienced the fear and panic of hyperinflation, I am not sure people would really know what to do.  What do you do when money has no value?

What can be done?

With so much debt outstanding, the U.S. government is limiting it’s options.  It’s important for our national security to pay down our debts.  Just as important to our national security as a stable Libya.

Understanding The Laws Of Supply And Demand

Before I went to college, I thought there was one law of supply and demand.  There are actually two laws: One law of supply, and one law of demand.  Supply and demand may be interrelated, but when you look at the laws you are looking from two different viewpoints.  One as the consumer and one as the supplier.

If you sell a product that is in high demand, you can sell it for a higher price and will not see a decline in sales.  The higher you go in price, the more demand will drop off, until it drops off a cliff (i.e. no sales).  You will want to price where you make the most overall profit, which will be some mathematical formula where profit per item times units sold will be the greatest amount.  For some items, a small change in price will eliminate sales; for others it takes a large change in price for sales to drop off.  This difference is called the elacticity of demand.

If you are the purchaser or consumer of an item, supply will tend to drive your price.  The more different vendors you can buy from, the greater the supply of an item, or your ability to substitute another item will give you leverage to get a better price.

As a reseller of an item, your best bet is to buy an item in plentiful supply to you that is in great demand in the marketplace; so much so it outpaces the retail supply.  If it is difficult for other businesses to enter this market and sell to the consumer, it is better for businesses already servicing the market.  If you can be in a market where all of these things happen, you’ll have a perfect storm that will create a whirlwind of profit.  However, this is pretty rare so don’t hold your breath… you just want to look for the best possible situations that work in your favor.

Please review the following resources for more information:

The Socratic Method – Critical Thinking Part 6

I think this is going to be it for Critical Thinking, for now at least. The Socratic Method, in the most basic sense, is about learning by asking questions. It is also about challenging facts, viewpoints, observations, and courses of action by asking many questions, often leading to better information, knowledge, and solutions. Here is an example of the Socratic Method:

“What color is this shirt?” “Black.”

“Does the tag say the shirt is black?” “No. The tag does not give a color.”

“How do you know the shirt is black?” “It looks black.”

“Have you compared it to an object that is factually black?” “No.”

“Could the shirt be Navy Blue instead of black?” “It could be. I have a navy blue tie I’ll compare it to.”

After comparing the shirt to the tie, the shirt was black… However, it really could have been navy blue because your brain will often simplify colors. The questioning above is irritating, and probably pointless in this case, but it leads to more factual information. The person being questioned settled on his or her answer because they really had a preconceived notion by looking at the shirt, and could have been wrong.

The Socratic Method is often used at the university level to teach rather than just throwing around information because people really learn the material when they are engaged by questioning. We always had written questions we had to answer and we would read through and evaluate our answers before turning them in, because they often caused lively debate among the students. People disagreed, had their own opinions, and debate would ensue. Debate is good because it takes into account many points of view.

Learning about the Socratic Method is a good idea, because challenging information and conclusions will lead to better business decisions. And we all know what good decisions lead to… more money. What do you think?

Please review the following resources:

Is Your Information Good? Critical Thinking Part 5

If you are a conspiracy theory buff, you may not want to read this. Because… the internet is host to some very bad information. You can definitely find the answer to any question, in fact several very different answers, but many answers are just crap. The internet is a repository of very, very good information and absolute crap. So how do you know the difference? Well, Bob’s Web Site says that President Obama is from Venus and was brought here with other aliens. True? That fails the simple crap-o-meter. I’ve read recently that it’s a sin to be poor. True? You be the judge.

On this blog, I try to be practical and publish nuts and bolts information about business but other folks publish psychological mumbo jumbo about attracting wealth and other crap. Now, I admit that there are certain psychological traits you need to be successful, but it’s not all you need. So I tend to preach good solid skills instead since there is so much of the other stuff around. A good solid skill like determining the reliability of information. And one rule is, if it generally smells like crap, it probably is.

On the other hand, there are people who disagree about the source for global warming. Some say people have a pronounced effect and others say that it is a natural occurrence. The two sides thus probably disagree on a course of action. One side says go green, the other side says do nothing. Much of what I have read says there are some scientists that disagree that people cause most global warming, but the vast majority believe it does. Therefor, what we cause we can correct. Am I buying in to what the liberal media is selling? Or is this factually true? Let me know what you think. When you encounter information that disagrees but both sides seem viable, it really becomes a judgment call. And I can tell you that the media is not always right, believe it or not.

Your best source of information will always be the information you produce yourself, or primary data. Secondary information often publishes the results of primary data and attempts to interpret it. Many times there are multiple interpretations of data, so you have to be careful. Many times there will be so many interpretations of what the facts represent that you must really do a lot of research to come to your own conclusion.

I personally like consulting psychics for information… how about you? Ok, before you take me too seriously I have to say that some information, as true as it may be, cannot be trusted. You got Planet X out there that’s going to collide with the Earth in 2012… How do I know? I’ve got a psychic guide that has shown it to me when I enter a trance…. First of all, I have to say that there is no way to plan for the most worst case scenarios, so you might as well throw them out. You could buy a 4×4 pickup, stockup on canned goods and shotguns, and have a fallout shelter; but really nobody knows for sure what tomorrow will bring. If somebody would have told me that this year we, personally, would feel a 3.8 earthquake I would have told them they’re full of shit. Yes, I said it. But we did feel a 3.8 earthquake in our house in Northern Illinois just last month. I’ve even heard some scientists say that the hurricanes were going to get worse and worse as the earth warms. Well, where are the friggin hurricanes? These kinds of things are not worth worrying about, believe me.

So be very careful with the information you choose to include in your research. Good and bad info exists both on the internet and off, make sure you check the sources that back them up and sniff them real good. If it smells like crap, it probably is.

Please review the following resources:

Fallacy – Critical Thinking Part 4

A fallacy is simply an error in logic. There are several kinds of logic errors that can result when people try to argue a point when the facts don’t exactly support the point. So a fallacy is not bad data but a bad conclusion.

The following types of fallacies come from the Wikipedia article referenced below:

  1. Fallacy of Accident – A generalization that disregards exceptions
  2. Converse Fallacy of Accident – Argues that a special case is the general rule
  3. Irrelevant Conclusion – Diverts attention from a fact
  4. Affirming the consequent – Saying that if A = B, B = A which may not always be true in logic.  For instance: A duck is a mammal, I am a mammal, therefor I am a duck.
  5. Denying the antecedent – It is like #4, only the inverse.  For instance, it is raining, therefor it is cloudy; it is not raining, therefor it is not cloudy.
  6. Begging the question – A conclusion on premises that assume the conclusion.
  7. Fallacy of False Cause or Non Sequitur – Incorrectly assuming one thing is the cause of another.
  8. Fallacy of Many Questions or Loaded Question – Groups more than one question in the form of a single question.
  9. Straw Man – Incorrect logic based on a misrepresentation of an opponent’s position

Please review the following resources for more information:

Popular books on fallacies by Amazon.com:

Self Deception – Critical Thinking Part 3

Self Deception is about believing that something is accurate when it is not.  I think it is a little more than that actually… being presented with valid evidence that your position is wrong and still refusing to give up that position. It is not unusual to deceive one’s self, we all do it.  It is important to recognize when we are doing it and be willing to face the facts.

Often you do hear all kinds of noise about this being right or that being right, and sometimes we just don’t know whether something is right or wrong, so we hold our position.  Instead of doing that, it is important to evaluate whether your position is right or wrong (if it can be proven) through independent research using good information.  Good information comes from credible sources, academic research, scientific inquiry, or primary research.  Only once we have stacked up enough evidence do we change our position, but we have to be willing to change in order to become better… whether it be a better business leader, a better spouse, or a better person in general.

Are you deceiving yourself in some way?  Make sure to review the information in the following links and decide for yourself:

The Value Of Critical Thinking – Part 2

We talked about critical thinking a couple of days ago and I have been pondering: how in the world can I communicate why critical thinking is valuable? I am sure you agree that thinking about stuff is important.  But what are you thinking?  Are you letting your upbringing, religious ideas, set attitudes, and incorrect facts cloud your judgment and affect your perception of reality?

Critical thinking is a set of skills, very specific skills, that help us figure out facts from beliefs and attitudes so that we can think clearer and come up with a better problem definition and solution to our problem.  Not that all of the solutions to problems will be ethical ones, and that is a separate consideration, but they will be more precise.

I was first exposed to critical thinking back in 2002 as I was attending college for my Bachelor’s Degree.  I noticed right away that it helped me cut through all the noise and pick up the important data as I was solving computer problems.  You think there are gremlins in your computer system?  I don’t… computers are logical and solving computer problems is much more straight forward than solving other kinds of problems.  The issue is finding enough good information to get to the root cause.

Working in a group setting, you often get information that is less than factual but if you ask good questions, you can often decide when you need to check facts and when you can believe them.  When you have enough real facts, often the answer is illuminated.

I have heard the argument that critical thinking is anti-religion and I did have my concerns.  However, critical thinking is about facts, data, and logic and religion is about belief and morals.  There is nothing wrong with taking factual data and brainstorming several solutions, then evaluating them for ethical issues.  So religion does have a place just not in the initial study.  Often people do have misconceptions about what their religion is and should probably do a study of their own… unfortunately most people are very passionate and refuse to believe that things are different than what they’re being told.  So don’t be that way!

So critical thinking is valuable for problem solving.  It is probably the most valuable thing I learned in college, because it was the basis for learning.  It helps add meaningful information to your information vocabulary that you can use in the future.  Make sure to review the following articles for more information:

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