Create Your Own Job Security Blog

Business Ed at the Movies

Business Ed

Award winning movies and TV shows featuring business themes have unknowingly educated millions who never had the opportunity to take business courses in college.

In most business text books each chapter will focus on one subject and provide case studies of how that subject material was used in real-world applications. This is an effective teaching method because it illustrates that the material being presented in the text has practical applications to every-day business experiences.

Individual entrepreneurship is a prized quality in the United States. So it should not be surprising that the real-life struggles of individual businessmen and women can be used as plots in documentaries about the “Robber Barons” of the 19th and 20th centuries or fictional works where some evildoer seeks to impose his will on an innocent population which is defended by the heroes in the movie. Such a theme was used in the silent films where some attractive actress lashed to the railroad tracks was rescued in the nick of time by a dashingly attractive cowboy, who in the later talkies might also be required to sing. John Wayne started out as a singing cowboy, but Gene Autry was more successful in making music a significant part of his career path.

Examinations of the struggles, successes, failures and comebacks of businesses and their owners combined with sometimes bazaar personal lives involving well-known figures of popular culture provides a ready-made plot that can often be punctuated with real-life events from the person’s past to make an exciting movie. Most commonly, male figures interacted with some of the most attractive women in the world which added to the movie’s general appeal. If not, a love interest could be added to the script.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) staring Jimmy Steward is the most often viewed business-related movie due to its acceptance as a Christmas classic that  is seen in millions of homes each year. In this movie a small-town banker manages to hold out when a lost deposit imperils the bank that he inherited from his father and threatens not only his economic future, but also his life. One would hope to have a banker that was that caring about his bank and customers, but such institutions have become more impersonal and greedy as they became large corporations. Wells Fargo is a historic bank has been cited on numerous occasions for actions that were not in the best interest of its customers. It was a greedy, grabbing institution when it was founded and has not significantly changed its character after more than a century, as indicated by recent court actions against the bank.

Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) starring Jeff Bridges is a biographical piece that traces the life of Preston Tucker who introduced a car after World War II that was so revolutionary that it threatened existing auto makers. Through pressures the established car companies brought on members of congress, a largely invented case was brought against Tucker to force him out of business before his cars had a chance to make an impact on the market. The Tucker cars were pre-sold, and the principle claim against the company was that sought to defraud the public by not fulfilling its lease agreement with the Federal Government. Many of the innovative features introduced with the Tucker were later incorporated in standard model cars make by Detroit automakers. Some 500 Tucker cars were made and are highly prized collectors’ items today. This was an unusual movie, because it depicts a business failure, rather than a success. It is a cautionary tale that warns, “If you are going to produce something new, allow enough time to perfect your design before you have to deliver the product.”

The Aviator (2004) with Leonardo DiCaprio explores some of the many facets of the life of Howard Hughes. Before World War II Hughes was fascinated with airplanes to the extent that he used money from his father’s successful oilfield supply company to build and race experimental aircraft. He was also a movie maker and after an initial flop made a very successful movie Hell’s Angels in 1930 featuring and filming World War I biplanes in battle sequences. This movie was made at the transition between silent and talking films, and after nearly completing a silent version of the movie; he remade it as a talking film. During World War II he was contracted to build a very large transport plane to take large numbers of troops to distant islands in the Pacific war. This enormous float plane, “The Spruce Goose,” used many wooden elements in its construction.  Again, claims were made that the Federal contract was not fulfilled and he, who at that time was suffering from serious psychological problems, had to defend himself at congressional hearings. He took the initiative and made one flight with the “Spruce Goose” and successfully landed the aircraft. It was taken apart, put into storage and never flew again. Few entrepreneurs have the money to self-finance their own projects. If you can, do not let other issues get in the way.  You will need to be watchful of changing markets and be prepared to adapt if necessary to defend your actions.  If you do anything worthwhile, there will be those who will oppose you. Hughes’ life is a cautionary tale for those who now head companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc. Be prepared to face increasingly nasty hearings and court challenges to the core aspects of your businesses in regards to privacy issues concerning information gathering and sharing.

Sea Biscuit (2003), again with Jeff Bridges, has a multi-character plot line centered on Charles S. Howard’s founding a successful automobile business. He faces extreme stress during the depression including losing a child and getting divorced. He becomes the almost accidental owner of a horse, Sea Biscuit. Howard is quoted as describing the situation that the horse “was too small, hired a trainer who was too old, a jockey that was too big and being too stupid to know the difference.” In the movie both the horse and the jockey make a comeback after being injured. Sea Biscuit races and wins against a much larger horse. Although in many ways underdogs, the actors and the horse rise against a series of seemingly impossible obstacles and win. The message here is keep plugging away and you may accomplish your goals.  If you don’t try, you never will succeed.

The Big Short (2015  ) with Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt features four diverse characters  who observed the events leading up to the collapse of Wall Street in 2008      and let their instincts that the real-estate market was unsustainable guide them to short mortgage-backed securities that were being traded by banks all over the world. These supposedly AAA rated securities were filled with loans to people who had little chance of meeting their financial obligations. As loan defaults accumulated to an unsustainable level, the market collapsed. Many people lost their jobs, once powerful Wall Street firms were liquidated, the Government was forced to buy stocks in major companies to keep them afloat and the real-estate market was depressed for a decade. The movie illustrates that markets can turn on a knife-edge. Investigate very carefully the wisdom of your investments, ride trends with disposable money and keep the bulk of your investments in not-so-risky segments of the market.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) features Leonardo DiCaprio as a young executive who arrives at Wall Street just in time for it to collapse. He takes a job with a firm selling penny stocks and makes an enormously successful enlargement of this business by teaching new selling methods to some unlikely employees. Ultimately the firm collapses, and he with many of his employees are tried for issuing false financial documents and other charges. He lives an exciting life fueled largely on illegal drugs and alcohol. A rich drug addict turns out to be about as worthless as a poor drug addict. His life, although successful from a monetary point of view, turns out not to count for very much.

The Men Who Built America (2012) was a History Channel four-part mini-series that ran for six hours. It featured the lives of Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.  In the case of everyone but Vanderbilt, who built his fortune on the fur industry, the ability to recognize, adapt and market changing technologies were keys to their successes. They tried to establish monopolies in their respective fields which sometimes succeeded. New innovations in materials, manufacturing methods and distribution were often used to build and expand their companies. In retrospect is would seem that everything that they did was obvious, but the obvious is not nearly so apparent when you are in the moment. Sam Walton is a modern example of a businessman who adapted a new distribution model combined with store-front marketing to become a dominant player in retail trade with his Walmart stores. Walmart’s dominance is now being threatened by Amazon with its on-line sales model. Materials, technologies and selling methods are continuously evolving. Those companies who can foresee and capitalize on these changing market forces will succeed. Those who will not or cannot will likely see their portions of the market steadily erode to the point where their businesses are no longer profitable.

Due to the desired length for Self-Growth articles these are all I can feature in one piece. There are other business-related movies for you to look for and find and study dealing with writing, the arts and other aspects of inventive thought.  If you want to see more articles on this theme, reply.

Create Your Own Job Security

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Create Your Own Job with Your Present Company, Another Company or on Your Own

PP GM Bldgs Detroit

With today’s rapid advances in IT technology, science, marketing and an ever-evolving art world it is possible to invent marketable jobs to capitalize on in a variety of ways.

Company owners and managers recognize that change is an inescapable part of today’s business world. Forward thinking individuals who can conceive of new products, business methods and new ways to present their companies in an increasingly competitive market are worth bringing into the organization.  Those who can present a compelling case that their particular mix of knowledge and skills can be of value can often design their own positions and make themselves indispensable parts of the business.

A necessary part of this approach is that these individuals will have established their credibility by assembling a body of work that is related to the positions they propose to improve a company’s bottom line. Publishing a book, making a prototype, initiating a patent, inventing a new look in art or fashion or having a particular mix of useful skills are demonstrably useful in making the case that they are uniquely qualified to hold these new jobs.

In my own case, I invented the position of Information Scientist for a multinational corporation after first working as a consultant and then becoming an employee. This position capitalized on my having scientific qualifications, previously published a book on the industry, my ability to translate patents from foreign languages and as a writer had learned to organize materials. This position took advantage of several skills that I possessed and helped me develop others.

Advancing Within Organizational Structures

If you are already working for a company that you like, but feel that you can make more of a contribution that your present position allows, think about what new position would allow you to capitalize on your particular skill set, enhance it through further experience or training and offer more value to the company. In almost every company there is a position of Project Manager or Team Leader.  Perhaps you have successfully participated in several such teams and your contributions have been previously acknowledged in the way of incentive pay or awards. If so, is one of these present or past efforts so compelling to you that you think it should go forward under your leadership to make a more significant impact on the company’s bottom line? If true, this is a good reason that you should be allowed to manage such a project and bring it to its full potential.

The how, the mechanics of managing the project that you propose, must be well in hand before you make your pitch. Exactly what is it that you propose to do? The project objective needs to be crystal clear in your mind, and you must be prepared to defend your proposal. Is the project place specific? Do you or some part of the company need to move to another location? What are your personnel needs? Do you want to incorporate people or services from other departments within the company? What are your budgetary needs?

Such a pre-presentation process needs to be as complete as if you were independently offering this concept as a business plan to a venture capitalists or a bank. In fact, if your concept is rejected at your present company, you might well decide to offer it to another company or start your venture on your own. It is an unfortunate reality that most new ideas are immediately killed, not because of the merit of the project, but because others in the corporation are protecting their own jobs and see your project as a threat.

Use rejections as a proofing tool to perfect your concept. Change your concept to overcome their objections and after reworking the project again, try it a second time. If your concept gets rejected again for reasons that do not relate to the merits of the project, it is time to consider leaving the company and offering your thought-child to another company or starting out on your own. You may have signed a non-disclosure agreement when you were hired. Patents started which might have incorporated portions of your idea would certainly be covered under such an agreement. Lawyers could likely make the case that anything you presented to company structure, whether acted on or not, was your employers’ property – not yours. In short you are screwed, unless there is a time limit on such disclosures. It may be that after two years, or five years, you will be able to approach other companies with your presented, but not-acted-on concept. Otherwise, you can apply for and get disclosure permission for your project concept that your former company thought so little of that they never acted on it.  The smaller the company, the more likely it is that the rights to continue your project with another company would be allowed. Perhaps even a joint-venture arrangement might be arranged between the two companies about your project.

Approaching Another Company

“Why did you leave your old company?” Is likely to be among the first questions asked when you offer your concept to another company. A second would be about the details of how you developed your new idea, and if it is covered by any pre-existing agreements, patents or trade secrets.  Perhaps the only thing that might be salvaged from your previous concept is that the  good idea that you developed was rejected for insufficient reasons. This demonstrates that you are an inventive person who is capable of coming up with new concepts. This is a weak argument so it is best reinforced with an independent concept that is not tainted by relating too closely with your past employer.

Deriving a “Plan B” will require some time because the project will need to be even better thought out. You are presenting it to strangers, rather than to people who already know your work. After having your other concept twice rejected, this new concept needs to be untainted by any previous association with your former company. Nothing about it was done on company computers, put on company letterhead or used company-furnished products. This concept is all yours.  This is similar to a screen-play writer offering his movie concept to different studios. A rejection by one does not restrict him from offering what he hopes to be his Oscar-winning movie to another studio or to TV producers.

Starting Out On Your Own

This is the approach that I take in my most recent business book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” In the book I advocate starting businesses as and when you need them to accomplish your life goals at the moment and develop longer-term businesses for the future. This book goes through the mechanics of selecting appropriate businesses for the moment, making plans for others and ultimately discovering your “Business of Passion” that you love so much that you would work at it even if no one paid you. This business is identified and run at a low level while you are employed by another company. Then should your job be shipped to India, you have your own business already started and developed to fall back on. You can find out more about my book at https//createyourownjobsecurity.com.

In whatever work environment you are in now, thoughtfully look around. Is there an unmet need that your unique training, skills and personality would allow you to fill better than anyone else? If so, with some forethought, perhaps a little extra training and the willingness to act, you can design your own job.

This is part of the introductory material that I will be presenting in Augusta, Georgia, on March 15. Part of the event will be a workshop that will allow people to list and rank what their job possibilities are or might be. Five attendees will receive on-stage consultations on the best way to go forward with their job/business aspirations. The free two-hour presentation will be held in Music Room B at the Salvation Army building on 1833 Broad Street. The event starts at 7:00 PM and concludes at 9:00 PM. Although the event is free, space is limited. If you are coming, please send me an e-mail to hoveysmith@bellsouth.net and put Augusta Presentation in the subject line.  Those who might wish me to give presentations at other locations can contact me using the same address.

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Ask for a Raise or Change Jobs?

NYC Skyline potential cover (2)

Mid-level employees with two years or more of experience have never been in a better position to ask for a raise.

The percentage of the U.S. labor force that is working is at the highest in decades, companies are looking for workers, there is a real shortage of trained personnel and head-hunters are having a field day enticing executives from one company to another. In the meantime, specialized IT technology is advancing so rapidly that those trained in the particular skills that are vital to a company’s operations often have a unique understanding of the details of business operation that are not easily transferred to a new worker.

A cubicle or home-office worker who has been with a company for two years or more, received bonus pay for his work, is accepting responsibility for his own projects or is supervising others is now in an ideal position to ask for more money. This is because of the increasingly high costs in time, money and training needed to hire an equally functional replacement. The mid-level employee is now faced with living on his current salary, which may be just scraping by on, taking a second job, starting up something on the side or going to work for another company.

Today’s economy is hot, but many are warning of an economic slowdown or perhaps even a recession later this year or next. Such a slowdown will have immediate impact on the construction industry, retail sales (already under serious pressure), manufacturing and the hospitality industry. The exact timing of this next negative economic event and its duration are unknown. Such a slowdown will result in large-scale layoffs in most aspects of the economy.

Based on what is known from the present economy and the unknowable future, now is the opportune time for mid-level workers to ask for more money for what they do. They may have to worry about their jobs if everything goes sour, but at least they will have received more money to establish a cushion in the meantime.

Do I Deserve a Raise?

You may want a raise, but do you deserve it?

A. Have you been with the company for two years or more?
B. Have you received favorable job evaluations?
C. Do you get to work on time and meet your appointments at work?
D. Have you been assigned other responsibilities in addition to your job?
E. Have you received any bonuses or awards for your work?
F. Do you supervise other workers?
G. Have you been given independent projects?

If you can answer yes to the majority of these questions, you can make a reasonable case that you should be paid more for what you do. In your letter asking for a raise you should document these events with time and date. The person who will be approving your request may know nothing about you, your history or what you have done. He will likely only have your letter requesting a raise and your supervisor’s recommendations.

Needs and Desires

This category can sound like whining. The salary you are getting might not be meeting, or just meeting the threshold of income you need to support your family in many high-costs living areas. Because of the escalating cost of in-city housing, many have been facing long commutes for years, and this situation is not getting any better. Faced with hours of commuting time, any employees’ productivity is negatively impacted besides adding a daily personal risk of having an accident on the way to work. More pay might allow you to relocate closer to your work. If so, this merits mention in your request.

If more money is needed to help pay for your children’s education, that is understandable as might be the need to defray some of the health care costs for your parents. These are understandable family issues, but as they are not directly work related might be mentioned verbally, but not in your letter requesting a raise. If you bring these up to your human resources department, be prepared to document them.

You might have a personal goal related to more training or education. So far as this is related to your working environment and enhances your value to the company this reason might also be included. Items that would likely not receive much sympathy are things like redecorating your home, buying a third car, getting a boat, etc. You may want these things and feel that you have earned them, but these are not your company’s responsibility.

Work-related needs are generally acceptable, desires are not.

The Ask

Asking your boss for a raise is not easy. First you likely feel that you are somewhat in his debt because he offered you a job in the first place. It might seem ungrateful that you are now asking him for more money. Before you ask, you must convince yourself that you have earned it and have a defensible right to make such a request. If you checked off everything in the “Do I Deserve a Raise” section, you have that right.

Implied in the asking is some action on your part. Are you going to seek other employment if you do not get the money you need? Have you received an offer from another company? If so, be prepared to produce it.

What you might hear from your boss is, “If I knew you were unhappy with your pay, I could have done something about it, but you never asked. ” This might very well be true. Before you automatically convince yourself that asking for a raise will be rejected, really DO IT. More than a few people have left companies only to regret it. Give the company you are with a reasonable chance to meet your request.

How Much to Ask For

If you have checked off items A-G and accomplished them well, a $20,000 annual salary increase would not be out of line if you live in a large metro area. If you did only some of these, a proportionally smaller increase would be appropriate. What Human Resources would likely do is offer half now and progressive increases or some other benefits or perks. So, you might be faced with the option of taking half of what your wanted or leaving the company.

Job Change Costs and Risks

Say you have a job offer and it pays more money, but how does it rank up with where you are now and the added costs of relocating, a longer commute, etc.

A. Relocation costs
B. Benefit gains and losses
C. Vacation time
D. Perks
E. Health Insurance
F. Professional Training (Marketable skill enhancement.)
G. Sociology of the Work Environment

Each of these considerations need to be evaluated to determine if it is better to take the other job at higher pay or keep the one you have at salary that does not immediately come up to your request, but still has growth potential.

The unknowable risk is that after leaving your old job, the economy could change and as a last hire, you would be among the first to be fired from your new job. It would not benefit you very much if your higher-paying job only lasted a few weeks or months. It is also not likely that the company you left would take you back as an employee, as they would have by that time already have someone else in that position and hold something of a grudge after footing the costs of finding your replacement.

As for a raise NOW, or forever wish you had. If you do not get your request, it is on record and something may come of it later. Do not leave your job until you have another one in hand.

Starting Your Own Thing

In my new book, Create Your Own Job Security, I advocate that you start your own company while you are still working for someone else. This company can be from among an almost unlimited number of options to accomplish whatever financial goals that you might have, be done exactly where you are and utilize the resources that you likely already own. It might be a better option for you to stay in the situation that you are in and develop an independent, additional source of income to meet your needs than take the risks of leaving your present job and taking or searching for another with an unknown future. If most of the aspects of your job are favorable and you can independently develop something on the side that you also like to do this is a plus-plus situation for you psychologically as well as in the cash flow department.

Ask for your raise. Then carefully consider ALL of your options. You may order my book using the order form below. I also offer personal telephone consulting that you may inquire about using the contact form. Explain what you wish to discuss, and if I feel that I can help you we can set up an appointment.

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Overcoming Shyness in Life and Business

 

Gorilla Marketing

 Shortcomings I may have but being shy is not  among them. Here I am doing a video in front of a large trade exhibit in Central China. 

Perhaps the best example of a person who has overcome shyness is the performing artist who stands naked on stage and presents his art before an audience of half-drunk New Yorkers in the wee hours of the morning.

 Whatever the artistic merit of the performance might be, the scores of people who perform in such a manner on any given night in New York have overcome shyness. They have gained such confidence in their art that they can perform under any circumstances and bring it off. Gaining such confidence is not an easy thing to accomplish, and to many shy people such an event is unimaginable.

Yet, young actors might well be cast in a roll where the almost obligatory nude sequence will appear in the script. Often this is a one-on-one appearance, but might be nudity in mass on stage such as in the screen play Old Calcutta or in the movie Pearl Harbor where inductees are naked as they undergo their physicals. Nudity is a part of life, a part of modern performing art and body shyness is only one type of shyness that can impact a person in the modern business world.

Performance art, like it or not, is part of business. Sooner or later everyone will be called on to present their project, concept, invention or idea to others. Even the most solitary writer who produced his work in the safe bubble of his bedroom, now has to come forward and describe is creation to a skeptical audience in order to have his work turned from script to movie or from concept to the reality of an ad campaign on national TV. If you have a business turn-around-concept, you must be able to voice that concept with a degree of conviction, passion and clarity to a dispassionate audience.

Mechanical presentation methods like Power Point, product videos, hand-out materials and financial projections can be assembled. Such things may be distributed, but with the flood of slick media presentations and ads coming across nearly everyone’s desk, it is the personal approach that really sells. A shy person may be sufficiently disabled by their shyness to make such appearances almost impossible, whatever the merits of his project might be.

Types of Shyness

  1. Body shyness is a major problem with some individuals. A person needs to ask himself, “Is my shyness related to how I think I look?” Grooming, clothing, posture and physical conditioning can help improve this image. It would be a strange company indeed, that a person would be required to present his project naked. In fact one method to overcome shyness is to imagine that the audience is naked, or a bunch of monkeys.

If body shyness is indeed a problem, this is something that can be worked on. Honor the audience by being dressed one step above what is their common dress. If presenting to a Silicon Valley crowd dressed in “business casual,” wear a sports coat and open shirt. If the board members are in suite and tie, do the same.

Issues involving body shape are more difficult, but learn to live with the unique person that is represented by the body that you inhabit. All of us are differently gifted and afflicted. This difference is part of what makes your message unique and valuable. It is part of your personal branding. Whatever body you have, make it an asset for your business identification and an aid to help people remember you as an individual.

2.  Knowledge shyness is where the message about to be delivered is not well developed, and the person doing the presentation is so uncertain of the outcome that he is hesitant in delivery, draws ambiguous conclusions and generally muddles the message. Preparation is the key element of making such a presentation. Check and run through all of the slides and handouts. Have your presentation largely on a screen and use this as a prompter during your presentation. This will insure that you get all of your points, or your bosses’ points across, whether you believe them or not. Rehearsals will help. Taping or videoing them will reveal problem areas that need to be overcome. Be well prepared and things will go well.

3. Feelings of personal inadequacy can become obvious to an audience during a presentation. Often these arise from a fear of failure. “Who am I to be delivering this message to this audience?” is a typical mental question. This answer is briefly to “Know your stuff.” After all, you are the one who developed it, your know more about this topic than anyone else in the room so develop the confidence to present your material briefly and well.

4. Body functions such as waste elimination and sex are another source of shyness. It has been often said, “You know when the honeymoon is over when your spouse no longer bothers to close the door when they go to the bathroom.” While issues of filming sex scenes are significant to actors they are not a part of customary corporate cultures, although bathroom encounters could be. This may be the only time and place where a junior executive may have a chance to make his “elevator pitch” to a senior individual.

Using Videos to Overcome Shyness

One reason why events like debate and plays are part of Grammar and High School is that these events help students get accustomed to the concept of appearing on stage and presenting before their peers and families.  If you did not get this training during your early education or in College, filming yourself on video is a way that you can perfect your message. When you have a version of your presentation ready you can publish it on line and see if your get any feedback about it.  No one has to see these videos but you. If you have a friend, trusted co-worker or life coach, you can get feedback from them.  Audio tapes might also be used, but the videos allow you to dispassionately critique your own work before passing it along to others, or to the world in general. Such videos might be used as a part of your training for Toastmasters or a TED talk, and the ability to produce them should be in every modern businessperson’s toolbox.

A simple video camera can make an acceptable video or you can even record on your smart phone.  You can prop the pone up on something or rig a cardboard holder to mount it on a tripod. I will do a video on how to make one. In the meantime, I have a video posted that covers the basics of making a YouTube video. You may view “Basic YouTube Videoing for Writers, Artists and Creative Content Producers” at: https://youtu.be/3UqY9pTUKII.

This video is among the over 725 that I have on line at the moment on outdoor and business-related topics.  If I at 77 can do videos, you younger folks who have never known a non-screen society certainly can do even better. If you need some help you can contact me using the contact form below. We can arrange a 30- minute telephone consultation that will be followed up by a written report.

Create Your Own Job Security

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Ads for Your Business or Services that Pay You Money

Stacy Harris family

You can have ads for your business or service that circulate worldwide, contain exactly the content that you want, stay up forever and pay you money. In the photo outdoor personality Stacy Harris and I am being filmed by her son while we do a video at a trade show. 

Money- generating advertising can have graphic, written, video and audio sections along with still photographs. The ads may use actors, drawn figures, animals, automation or even you to voice or sing your message. They may be shot in color, black and white or false color or even in 3-D. The mix of original content is unlimited, and preexisting content that is your property may be incorporated in updated versions.

The reach of your ad is anywhere the internet is available. It may be produced in any language, although English is a popularly understood increasingly universal language among those who have disposable income. The platform is replacing Google as the preferred search engine for finding information on not only how-to projects, but for services that include lifestyle change, work, life skills, personal relations, religious topics and entertainment of all sorts. The ads may be serious or comic. Even though broaching serious subjects like death, disease, war, poverty, malnutrition, mental illness or depression, an ad employing comedy can highlight a problem and promote solutions about serious subjects.

Self-produced ads may be done by anyone, anywhere and at nearly any time at very little costs. Except for a few pieces of hardware and some mostly free on-line programs, the ads may be entirely designed, shot, produced and distributed by the originator with or without the help of a few friends or passers-by. Your spouse, child or even the kid next door might become your co-producer.

YouTube Videos as Ads

There are few populations in the world today who do not have access to smart-phones and the internet. The great majority of people have been exposed to YouTube videos, and billions of people view some YouTube content every day. YouTube has in many ways supplemented TV as the most frequently used information and entertainment media. Although used by many in conjunction with Facebook and Twitter to provide connections with friends and family, these simple videos can, and increasingly do, have commercial uses.

In order to earn money for the free use of the platform, Google runs ads on YouTube videos. These may be short or long and in some cases the ads may be longer than the videos themselves. Those who generate a sufficient number of videos and followers will receive a small amount of compensation which will be sufficient to upgrade the low costs equipment needed to produce more YouTubes. Additional income may be derived from sponsors by placing display ads on your channel or videos.

An all-ad video very quickly gets flipped through. Individuals cannot often compete with ads produced by large multinational companies who may spend tens of thousands of dollars on a single ad and pay $100,000 for a 30-second TV spot. But interesting and useful content can be provided much less expensively and an ad and/or link to your products or services will be accepted and viewed if it is reasonably connected to the video’s content.

An Example

I am a creative 77-year-old guy who has published 18 books through a combination of self and commercial publishers. Most of my content is related to outdoor and business topics, which may cover everything from wild-game cooking to home repair or even how to start your own business. These topics are also covered in over 725 YouTube videos that have been produced over the past six years. Each of the videos contains ads for my books and consulting services besides providing interesting and useful content for my nearly 6,000 subscribers and over 3,000,000 viewers. I do not have sponsors on my Hovey Smith Channel, but do receive $2,000 a year from Google as income from the videos.  I also have another channel, Hovey’s Knives of China, where I feature culinary knives based on 3,000-year-old bronze knives made in China’s Waring States Period, but I now make of modern steels in my shop in Central Georgia.

Six Keys to Being a Successful YouTuber

  1. Stay on topic. My personal creative drive disperses my YouTube topics in too many directions. Stay focused on one topic one type of presentation in your Channel and you will attract more followers at a faster rate. Put your personal YouTubes on another Channel and keep your commercial channel focused on your art, product or service .
  2. Your channel should not be so much about you, but how what you do can help others improve their lives. Can your YouTube help them repair their car, build something they need, overcome depression, provide entertainment or help them train their dog?
  3. The videos in your channel should have a unique feel to them in content and presentation to differentiate between your products and those made by others. It is easy to be carried away by special effects, but these often detract from your message, rather than enhance it, unless they are really over the top. The music you produce, the types of services that you offer or your products need to have your own stamp. Your channel needs to reflect your creative impulses, rather than being copied from someone else.
  4. Regularly produce content. Although it is possible for one video to have millions of hits, the better plan is to make them consistently and make hundreds of them. You may have one that hits the jackpot, but producing a consistent body of work over a sustained period of time will get the job done, attract attention to your product and become noticed by your viewing public.
  5. When your fans and detractors comment, reply in a measured, helpful manner. Let your fans go to battle for you. Nothing worthwhile produced by anyone will please everyone.  Accept help graciously. Repel attacks with a measured dignified response.
  6. Start now. It is very easy to put off any self-improvement program. You may not have exactly the right equipment, you may not feel like you have the talent to speak on camera or you may think, “Who am I to tell anyone anything?” lf you have a heartfelt message about anything, YouTube will give you a way to deliver it and tell the world about you and your products. There is a population that needs to hear what you have to say, and they will reward you for saying it.

The sooner you start posting your distinctive YouTube videos the sooner they can start advertising you and your products to the world. I have some resources than can help including a YouTube video, “Basic YouTube Videoing for Writers, Artists and Creative Content Producers” that you may view at: https://youtu.be/3UqY9pTUKII.

I also have a three-day video coaching program that I conduct in Georgia where I teach you how to make and post your video content. To inquire you can use the reply box below.

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Entrepreneurship As a Means of Combating Loneliness

L Old hom in Louis

Homes that once held several generations of a family are now occupied by surviving older family members who feel increasingly cut off from society. This particular house is in Louisiana, but could represent tens of thousands of such houses in North America.

Useful work to fill the hours of our days is what your body would tell you it wants if it could speak.

In 2018 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the CDC, declared that loneliness was the second most significant lifestyle contributor to premature death in older segments of the population. The CDC said that loneliness was surpassed only by obesity as a contributor to early deaths by heart disease, stroke and suicide.  Loneliness, which is often expressed by a progressive withdrawal from society, can occur because of mental or physical disabilities, economic stress, post-traumatic syndrome or an increasing feeling that you are no longer doing anything that matters to anyone.

Loneliness, coupled with inactivity, contributes to smoking, over eating, excess alcohol consumption and reliance on prescription pain killers that can result in alcoholism and addiction.  “I am not hurting anyone, so leave me alone,” is a statement that is commonly heard uttered by those who might be questioned about what others view as self-destructive activities or a significant change in lifestyle.

Useful work to fill the hours of our days is what your body, the human animal, would tell you it wants if it could speak. We humans, as a species, were designed to do physical stuff. This was evading predators that were more physically powerful than we, running to pursue game and climbing trees to gather food and seek safety.  Later in human development it became necessary to work to gather wood for cooking, build shelters to protect us from harsh physical environments and fashion tools and clothing. As man became a farmer who had to plant, grow and harvest his own food, there was much physical labor involved, although now assisted by animals and machines. Such has been the nature of human development.

By the end of the 20th Century, mental, rather than physical activities, tended to dominate more of man’s existence. Water no longer had to be drawn for a well and hauled into the house. More efficient means of heating were developed that did not require wood to be harvested, split and hauled. Many became more sedentary in their everyday activities. Those who were prudent sought sports, gyms and outdoor activities to not only stay connected with their fellow men, but keep their bodies in physical condition. To be frank, keeping the body in a sexually attractive condition was the main driver for many, but whatever the motivation, significant benefits to general health and longevity resulted.

Now that You Are Older

Just by living a half-century or more, you have been exposed to accidents, injuries and illnesses. Some of these impacts on your physical and mental states can be mitigated at the time, but reappear at later stages in your life. As you age life takes another toll as those you knew, worked with and loved pass away. Your circle of relatives and friends decreases which is augmented by an increasingly mobile population where your kids and grandkids move away to start their own lives by participating in an increasingly mobile and global work life. Wherever you are, you are left more and more alone with each passing year. Where once three or more generations lived in the same house, those houses now stand abandoned not only in North America, but all over the world. If you are the last family member living in such a place, no wonder you are lonely.

Using the skills that you already have, learning others and starting your own late-life business can have significant impacts on the pleasure you derive from life and improve your sense of self-worth, regardless of the physical state that you find yourself in at the moment. If you are, or can become, computer savvy, the entire globe can be your marketplace as you promote your ideas, concepts and inventions to help others improve their lives and you yours.

Ask if you need someone to teach you how to work a computer, do a video or sell things on line. There are those who can and will help. Once on line, a universe of goods and services are available to you, but a degree of skepticism and caution needs to be exercised, because some are scams that promise much, but deliver very little. It is better to enlist the services of a young relative or even the kid next door, to help you out.

Working on establishing your own business, seeking and accepting help from others, testing ideas on strangers, buying and selling are all active interchanges between you and the rest of the world that help combat the feelings of loneliness. These positive interactions with others can help you can break free of the feelings of isolation. This is a far better alternative that vegetating in front of a TV set watching news of gloom and doom.  In fact, I would suggest that you use TV as sparingly as possible as a reward for accomplishing your work goal/s for the day.

Mental activity is one half of a potential anti-loneliness program. Physical activity is equally significant, even if it might be confined to house and yard-keeping chores. If you are in an urban setting, an exercise machine that you actually use would be a good option. Set aside a time each day to do your exercises and keep a log on what you do. Recording your progress will provide an incentive to keep up with your program, and return to it when you may relapse, as when you have a temporary injury or illness.

Deciding on what businesses to try and when to try it is one of the topics that I cover in my most recent book, Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife. Another is starting a business with limited or almost no resources. If you have lived, you likely have in TED-Talk language, “An idea worth sharing.” If you can share that idea in a manner that is meaningful to others, that can be the basis of a successful business that might not physically get you out of your house, but will enormously expand your human-contact base to help you overcome your feelings of isolation and despair, which are the principal manifestations of loneliness.

Create Your Own Job Security may be ordered by using the Pay Pal button below, from Amazon or your local bookstore. I also offer individual consulting which may be arranged by contacting me through the reply box and telling me the topic that you wish to discuss. These telephone consults are $100 for a half-hour conversation on whatever topic you need, followed by a written report. If I don’t feel I can help you, I will say so and will often refer you to another source.

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Stay or Move with Your Job: Increasing Your Options

Hovey as news anchor

When you work for a Fortune 500 company and they decide to close their production lines and move elsewhere, do you move with your job, or stay put and hope you can find work elsewhere? When you went to work you had the hope that the company’s size would help insure stability, but this turned out not to be so. If you are a young, single person the opportunity to move might be seen as an exciting adventure and a natural part of the modern workplace. If you have a family, maybe aging parents that need to be taken care of  or other obligations, relocating may not be an attractive option.

Historically, wholesale relocations of the younger portion of the working population has been a defining characteristic of the American worker. “Go West young man,” a phrase attributed to newspaper man Horace Greeley, was commonly repeated in the 1800s and only reinforced the migrations to new lands in the western parts of the new Republic that existed in the previous century. Even earlier migrations were from the New England states South as new lands opened in Georgia and in the Louisiana Purchase. In more modern times there was the migration of largely black labor North seeking a better life than that afforded by sharecropping in the Jim Crow South.

Historical precedents aside, this is your life, your family , your home town and your dislocation.   For years, maybe decades, you have put down roots in this community. Your kids are attending good schools, you have an active church life, perhaps you are involved in social or civic organizations and have risen to a leadership position or become an elected official. The deeper your community roots, the harder it is to leave. The strongest ties of all may be to aging family members or perhaps to help support the family business – like the farm or ranch you grew up on. It’s struggling too. Without your help, both financially and with your labor, this property will pass out of family hands and your children and grandchildren will lose their inheritance.

Increasing Your Options

Perhaps you have had fleeting thoughts about starting your own business and being your own boss. Faced with an immediate decision to move with your job or stay and risks being unemployed for an unknown period, being forced into a hasty start-up operation is not a desirable situation. Perhaps you don’t really like what you see as your most obvious  business option, but you do not have time to find a more appealing choice or get the training and/or certifications to make that job a success. You wish that you had thought about developing some business options years before and were not being pushed into directions you do not want to go.

In my most recent book, Create your Own Job Security, I advocate that a person start businesses as and when they are needed as early as possible in life and become use to the concept of being an entrepreneur. Like clothing that might be changed each season, these businesses might be only to overcome a temporary difficulty, but will ultimately result in your discovery of your “business of passion.”  That is, a business that you love to do so much that you would work at it even if no one paid you.

This business could be in any field or take you in any direction. It will help you take your innate skills and talents and expand them. This business may involve linking with others. Together you may deriving a business concept that can not only get you through the immediate crisis, but also provide a longer term solution to permit you to stay where you are and not go through a disruptive move.

It is difficult to come up with potentially viable business opportunities when under the pressure of having to pay next month’s rent, your kid’s college or medical expenses. Perhaps e-Bay sales, house cleaning or delivering pizzas can help – anything to get some money in the house. While taking on these temporary business opportunities, think about what you really always wanted to do and discover what you need to do to make that a reality.

This need not be a store-front activity. Most likely it will start at your kitchen table, in your shed or maybe in an unused bedroom. The interconnectivity of e-commerce can permit you to reach a worldwide audience with your message, skills or products. What are they? Perhaps you have more than one concept, and you should think of developing many concepts so that you can systematically rank them and act to implement them at opportune times.

If you have musical talents, express them. Learn to write, perform and record your own music. You can practice and perform by making your own YouTube videos. Don’t think so? At 77 I have over 725 videos on line right now and posted a new one just yesterday. Someone wants and needs to have the product that you made, the service you provide or the comfort that you can give.  Find that audience, and you have found a business that you can start anytime, anywhere and run from where you are right now or anywhere else in the world. My new book helps you find and explore these opportunities, and I also offer individual consulting which may be arranged by using the contact block below. This service includes a 30-minute phone call where you discuss your choice of topic and a follow-up written report.

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Taking Control Of Your Own Life: Making the Transition from Punching Bag to Fighter

A fighter who quits can never win. A fighter who stays in the ring may win and will learn from the experience.  Wm. Hovey Smith, Author of Create Your Own Job Security.

If you ever played high school sports, you heard something like this statement from your coach, as he told you no matter how bad the score was during the first half, if you continue to play and play well, you can still win. Distilled down to its essence, this is the principal life lesson that participation in any competitive sport and every game teaches. There are other significant benefits that may be derived from athletic activities such as physical conditioning, learning teamwork, striving for a common goal, supporting a cause and gaining personal satisfaction from your efforts. These are all important, but the most important lesson is to never quit.  Adapt, keep trying, look for opportunities and capitalize on your opponent’s mistakes are all words that your coach told you again and again.

Making the transition from sports to life coaching, finds those professionals using exactly the same language. The goal has changed. Now you are doing something more important than trying to win a football game. You are trying to turn your life in a more positive direction. Everyone is going to take some lumps in life. Many times these are from outside sources that are completely out of your control. Bad things do happen to good people. These can come from any direction and sometimes from different directions at once.

When hit by a cascade of simultaneous adverse events the obvious mental questions are, “What do I do now?” which is best answered by another question. “What is the next step that I can take to improve my situation?”   All forms of training in competitive sports, in the military  or in business distills down to teaching the player, recruit or executive trainee to automatically consider and answer these two questions. In combat there is no time for protracted deliberations. The reaction must be immediate or lives may be lost.  The same is true when families are faced with natural or man-made disasters.

Perhaps you have never been involved in a natural disaster where your life was at risk. It is likely that someday you will experience a flood, fire, earth quake, volcanic eruption, epidemic, conflict, tornado or the like.  These things will occur and it is best to prepare for them by having an escape plan, stockpiling needed supplies, medications and pre-thinking where you can go to take your family to safety. Physical survival is the most important activity. The next most significant activity is economic survival.

Help from your neighbors, public and private charities and governmental organizations may provide immediate aid in the case of physical disasters, but resources are often scarce to non-existent when faced with economic disasters. Unemployment insurance and severance packages, and perhaps even back pay for workers, can help, but these benefits are time-limited. Take advantage of whatever is offered, but also use this time to plan your own economic survival program by starting your own business/es as and when you need them to raise immediate money and provide for your family’s long term financial security.

Starting Your Own Businesses

If you are in life you are in business, whether you realize it or not.  Every day you are buying and selling something. That something may be your services as an employee, but you are indeed selling a product. Even if you are digging a ditch as a contract employee and being paid under the table, you are selling your muscle power for a given period for a given amount of money. This is a business transaction. So to say, “I am not in business,” is incorrect. Yes, you are in business and have been nearly all of your life, but just in different ways.

Discovering and starting successful businesses might be just a one-off event, a series of related events or an exploration into many short-term and long-term activities. Some have started nearly continuous yard sales. Others have sold their collectables on e-Bay. Yet more are providing services such as yard work and shopping for their neighbors. Maybe you can engage in house cleaning or car detailing. Any of these can generate short-term revenue.

Perhaps you can write. Maybe you have some interesting or useful life experiences to tell to others.  You can become a producer of magazine and news stories either for sale to print media or as materials for your own on-line blogs or e-publications. This is obviously among the things that I do. Your skills may be in other areas such as practical inventions, small engine repair, home design, decorating, the arts, or some other field. Perhaps you do not even know what your skills

We are all differently afflicted and gifted. One of the objectives of elementary and high school education is to expose students to a variety of potential life activities and identify the areas where the students are most likely to succeed. Unfortunately the position of “Guidance Consular” has now been eliminated in many high schools. This duty is now shared among all the teachers with the result that it is largely not being done at all, except where a teacher may take time to interact with a student during a decreasing number of extra-curricular activities.

If you ever received such guidance, what did that teacher have to say? If you did not it is up to you to attempt to discover what your talents and abilities really are.  A place to start is what do you really like to do? A popular county song describes that a person has described his talent as drinking beer. That concept led to writing a successful, and fun, country song. I do not know if the beer-drinking fellow actually profited from the experience or not, but someone did. One of the concepts that I have developed in my business books is, “There is nothing in human experience than cannot be turned into profit by an inventive mind.”

Tragedy and triumph, addiction and recovery, pain and pleasure, damnation and redemption, trials and success are all part of life. If you wish to get into religious topics you can also add death and resurrection. The fight to convert tragedy, addiction, pain, damnation and other personal trials into a successful outcome is a tale worth telling. A story that is relatable to many others, and a way to provide income while helping others. You may wish to participate with a non-profit organization to assist others in a rehab program. Perhaps you might even start such a program on your own if your community has unmet needs. Such programs have many levels of participation.

Selecting a business from an unlimited number of possibilities

My most recent book, Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife, has chapters which explains exactly how to select potentially successful business opportunities from a list of alternatives that you have developed. From this list you sort into short, medium and long-term opportunities; and devise a plan to work towards their successful implementation. The ultimate objective is to find a business that you love to do so much that you would do it even if no one paid you and discover how to make it a profitable enterprise.

Like the fighter I started out with, you stay in the fight, keep slugging and give these adverse aspects of life a few good punches in the nose. If I can help you get started I offer a convenient consulting service that you can use by using the contact form below.  Tell me what you want to discuss and if I feel I can help I will set up a half-hour telephone consulting call for $100 which will be followed up by a written report.

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Property Rights: Codifying the Laws Our Dogs Live By

ursusassportsdog

What’s mine is mine, what’s yours is mine and what’s theirs is mine if I can get it. 

Our canines’ views of property rights are quite different from the usual Western legal constructions where property is transferred by sale, exchange, gift, inheritance or abandonment.  Their concept of property rights are more akin to discovery, forceful acquisition, and, if need be, protection. These rights extend to their owners, their homes, vehicles, home ground, toys and an unusually large number of chew-food-smell items which they may claim as their own.

Humans generally have only a partial grasp of the different manifestations of these rights that are generally gained from observing of their pets. This is the case here where my insights are derived through the observation of a number of dogs owned over the past 70 years. Anyone who has tried to take a bone from a dog quickly realizes that to them possession is truly nine-tenths of the law. They may become quite possessive, and perhaps even hostile, if you attempt to take their bone away. These expressions of hostility are often loudly vocalized to other dogs along with a show of teeth – the canine equivalent of drawing a knife.

It is perhaps beyond our understanding to appreciate a dog’s attachment to a piece of rotten smelling animal hide that may be crawling with maggots which they will fight to protect and enthusiastically chew, while the very thought of eating something like that is almost guaranteed to make us lose our lunch.  We also do not have the physical equipment to appreciate the rich world of smells available to our canines.  Many things they find delightful we consider rank at best,  and often foul and putrid are not too strong a term to describe them.

We humans also fail to appreciate the value of a good chew, even though the object being chewed may have no food value. Old shoes, plastic, cloth, metal and even glass bottles are appealing to our canine companions. Why? Apparently these items feel good between the teeth and give our dogs a feeling of accomplishment such as a woodsman might feel when splitting a piece of wood. These found and splintered trophies will often be accumulated in particular parts of their yards just as human possessions are displayed in one’s home. Because they have no hands and their feet are not suited to do delicate manipulations of objects, their mouths must serve them as hands do us. They feel with their mouths. They may take your hand and gently mouth it as a sign of affection and sometimes to draw your attention to something that they feel that you must see.

When your dogs steal

While we might consider taking property from others stealing, dogs consider such activities a proper exercise of their property rights. They may conduce such activities singularly or together. Once I arrived home to find three colorful western shirts in my yard that my three Labs had drug down the red-mud road to my house. They had obviously pulled them from someone’s line and brought them home. The shirts’ pearl buttons and colorful stitching were things that might be worn to a square dance or by members of a country band. I washed them with the intention to find their owner and return them, but to no avail. The red mud permanently impregnated the fabric.

My sister and her husband who live next door had some solar powered lights that were largely made of plastic that they used to illuminate the walkways around their house. One by one the chewed remains of these lights turned up in my yard. At first I was puzzled as to exactly what they were and where they came from. I am not at all surprised when they might bring a piece of shed antler that they find into the yard, but these strange pieces of plastic and metal and wires puzzled me. Ultimately I found one that was complete enough to identify. Anything plastic in the ground is apparently to be brought home and chewed on. For some reason plastic is apparently more appealing that sticks and limbs, but these also serve the same purposes.

When our canines go on raiding expeditions and return with our neighbors property, our only recourse is to attempt to make restitution, however difficult that might be. While we might view such activities as a fault, they consider them only an exercise of their natural rights.

Plan for the Next 30 Days of the Government Shutdown

Hovey as news anchor

“When outcomes are out of your control, it is better to plan for a certain result, rather than be carried along by the tide of events.”  Wm. Hovey Smith, Author of “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.”

No one can predict the full outcomes of the next 30 days of the 2018-19 U.S. Government shutdown or the ultimate impact of an off-again-on-again shutdown on the U.S. economy. This uncertainty combined with indecision about Brexit in the United Kingdom, the Yellow Vest movement in France, disappointing growth figures from China and the Tariff Wars imposed by our President has impacted some 800,000 Government Workers, caused massive layoffs in retail trade, disrupted the supply chain of just-in-time delivery programs, broken international trade relations and resulted in confusion in world financial markets.

Individuals can potentially spur the U.S. Government into action by forcing members of the U.S. Congress to take action to open the government. One way is under the Hashtag “Fine Government,” which I have proposed that will demand that our congressional delegations in the House and Senate along with the President forfeit all pay for as long as Federal Workers are unpaid and/or being compelled to work without salary. To further initiate action on their part I also proposed that members of the U.S. Congress be fined $20,000 a day for each day the government is defraying payment for Government Employees and that the President, a self-professed billionaire, be fined $100,000 a day.

The proposed fines are not assessed because of fault or blame, but because of the failure of Congress and the President to solve the vital governmental function of paying its workers and forcing some to work without pay. If anyone in the U.S. Government is being forced to work without pay, then those in power should share the economic pain that they are inflicting on others.

What can a person do?

While indecision reigns in Washington, London, Paris and Beijing, what can the average person do to help control his or her own future?  I believe that when outcomes are out of your control it is better to plan for a certain result, rather than be carried along by the tide of events. Since no one can know the ultimate outcomes of these world-impacting happenings, it is prudent to assume that the duration of this period of uncertainty will extend for at least another 30 days and initiate something to improve your economic condition and life outcomes.

One thing that I advocate in my book, Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife, is to start businesses when and as needed to raise money and/or accomplish whatever your financial and life objectives  are at the moment. Starting something, even if it should turn out to be only marginally beneficial or have an uncertain result, is better than perpetual indecision where no advances are made in any direction while expenses and debts are continuing to mount.

Now is the time to think seriously about your business/job/work possibilities, and start ranking them out, something discussed in detail in my book. Some things you will be able to initiate immediately, other actions will take longer because they may require education, a family move or perhaps a permit of some sort. The objective is do what you must at the moment to satisfy immediate needs, but start planning and actions toward starting your own business at an optimum location that can be run in an efficient manner.

The foregoing sounds as if I am talking about opening a store. This could be, but for most people this is not the best option in today’s e-commerce driven world. This new business might be something in the arts, this might be selling knowledge, formatting and teaching on-line courses, founding a charity organization to help others, doing service work for those who can no longer perform their daily tasks, getting into politics, inventing something or any of an unlimited number of possibilities. The ultimate objective is to find and develop a business that you enjoy doing so much that you would do it for nothing.  Such a business can be done on-line, run from anywhere in the world, have a world-wide audience and produce sufficient income to allow you and your family to prosper.

Do what you need to do to survive the moment, but for the next 30 days systematically research  what your next self-generated business opportunity might be, and see if some aspect of it might become your “business of passion” that can sustain you and your family for the rest of your life.

Create Your Own Job Security is available as a softcover and e-book from Amazon and all other book outlets and may be ordered from your local bookstore.  I am available for private consulting at a cost of $200 an hour. If you wish to consult with me contact me using the contact form below and describe your problem. If I feel that I can help I will set up a 30-minute telephone conversation and follow up with a written report for $100 that will be based on our recorded conversation. This can be a conference call and any number may participate.  Such calls work best if limited to one or two specific topics.

 

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