Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - Gil Scott-Heron

For more info

Gil Scott-Heron, a godfather of rap, dies in NYC

NEW YORK (AP) — Long before Public Enemy urged the need to "Fight the Power" or N.W.A. offered a crude rebuke of the police, Gil-Scott Heron was articulating the rage and the disillusionment of the black masses through song and spoken word.

Scott-Heron, widely considered one of the godfathers of rap with his piercing social and political prose laid against the backdrop of minimalist percussion, flute and other instrumentation, died on Friday at age 62. His was a life full of groundbreaking, revolutionary music and personal turmoil that included a battle with crack cocaine and stints behind bars in his later years.

Musician and singer Michael Franti, who also is known for work that has examined racial and social injustices, perhaps summed up the dichotomy of Scott-Heron in a statement Saturday that described him as "a genius and a junkie."

"The first time I met him in San Francisco in 1991 while working as a doorman at the Kennel Klub, my heart was broken to see a hero of mine barely able to make it to the stage, but when he got there he was clear as crystal while singing and dropping knowledge bombs in his between song banter," said Franti, who described himself as a longtime friend. "His view of the world was so sad and yet so inspiring."

Scott-Heron was known for work that reflected the fury of black America in the post-civil rights era and spoke to the social and political disparities in the country. His songs often had incendiary titles — "Home is Where the Hatred Is" or "Whitey on the Moon" — and through spoken word and song he tapped the frustration of the masses.

He came to prominence in the 1970s as black America was grappling with the violent losses of some of its most promising leaders and what seemed to many to be the broken promises of the civil rights movement.

"It's winter in America, and all of the healers have been killed or been betrayed," lamented Scott-Heron in the song "Winter in America."

Scott-Heron recorded the song that would make him famous, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," which critiqued mass media, for the album "125th and Lenox" in Harlem in the 1970s. He followed up that recording with more than a dozen albums, collaborating mostly with musician Brian Jackson.

Though he was never a mainstream artist, he was an influential voice — so much so that his music was considered to be a precursor of rap and he influenced generations of hip-hop artists that would follow. When asked, however, he typically downplayed his integral role in the foundation of the genre.

"If there was any individual initiative that I was responsible for it might have been that there was music in certain poems of mine, with complete progression and repeating 'hooks,' which made them more like songs than just recitations with percussion," he wrote in the introduction to his 1990 collection of poems, "Now and Then."

In later years, he would become known more for his battle with drugs such as crack cocaine than his music. His addiction led to stints in jail and a general decline: In a 2008 interview with New York magazine, he said he had been living with HIV for years, but he still continued to perform and put out music; his last album, which came out this year, was a collaboration with artist Jamie xx, "We're Still Here," a reworking of Scott-Heron's acclaimed "I'm New Here," which was released in 2010.

He also was still smoking crack, as detailed in a New Yorker article last year.

"Ten to fifteen minutes of this, I don't have pain," he said. "I could have had an operation a few years ago, but there was an 8 percent chance of paralysis. I tried the painkillers, but after a couple of weeks I felt like a piece of furniture. It makes you feel like you don't want to do anything. This I can quit anytime I'm ready."

He referred to his signature mix of percussion, politics and performed poetry as bluesology or Third World music. But then he said it was simply "black music or black American music."

"Because black Americans are now a tremendously diverse essence of all the places we've come from and the music and rhythms we brought with us," he wrote.

Even those who may have never heard of Scott-Heron's name nevertheless knew his music. His influence on generations of rappers has been demonstrated through sampling of his recordings by artists, from Common to Mos Def to Tupac Shakur. Kanye West closes out the last track of his latest album with a long excerpt of Scott-Heron's "Comment No. 1."

Throughout his musical career, he took on political issues of his time, including apartheid in South Africa and nuclear arms. He had been shaped by the politics of the 1960s and black literature, especially the Harlem Renaissance.

Scott-Heron was born in Chicago on April 1, 1949. He was raised in Jackson, Tenn., and in New York before attending college at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Before turning to music, he was a novelist, at age 19, with the publication of "The Vulture," a murder mystery.

He also was the author of "The Nigger Factory," a social satire.

His final works continued his biting social commentary. "I'm New Here" included songs with titles such as "Me and the Devil" and "New York Is Killing Me."

In a 2010 interview with Fader magazine, Scott-Heron admitted he "could have been a better person. That's why you keep working on it."

"If we meet somebody who has never made a mistake, let's help them start a religion. Until then, we're just going to meet other humans and help to make each other better."





Associated Press writer Cristian Salazar contributed to this report.


Nekesa Mumbi Moody can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/nekesamumbi

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mickey D's and Peace

Supply chains and peace

  • No two countries that both had McDonald’s had ever fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald’s. In a country with a middle class large enough to support a network of McDonald’s people would rather wait in line for burgers than fight a war.
  • This also implies that no two countries who are part of the same global supply chain are likely to engage in war. They have too much to lose.

For more go to DrDougGreen.com

Friday, January 14, 2011

Character: What women think of your fashion By Matt Christensen

Sure, you know what you like to wear, but do you have any clue what your date thinks of your look? With the help of three women and a fashion stylist, we put seven common men’s fashion statements on trial. Which ones will live to see date night — and which will get locked away for good by the fashion police? All rise…fashion court is in session!

Meet the fashion police:
Caitlin, 30, retail, Kansas City, MO
Lauren, 22, marketing, Columbus, OH
Jane, 23, student, Brooklyn, NY
Maria, 27, fashion stylist, New York, NY

Fashion Statement #1: Baseball caps
“A lot of guys actually look cuter with a hat on. It really suits the younger crowd. But it can look strange on older men: What are they trying to hide under there?”
– Lauren

“These are fine for daytime dates, but a chronic display of baseball caps would send up warning flags about hair loss — and the guy’s embarrassed about it.”
– Caitlin

“Guys look hot in baseball caps. As long as you’re in a casual atmosphere, like a sports event or the park, go for it!”
– Jane

“I love guys in baseball caps. Just be sure to give your head a breather every now and then…”
– Maria

The jury says: NOT GUILTY! This fashion statement gets pardoned, thanks to its classic, casual vibe. But you and your cap should spend some time apart, too. Sure, the hat might be hurt, but it’s healthier for the relationship in the long run.

Fashion Statement #2: Earrings
“I don’t think this trend is so bad. Sure, it may be a little ‘boy band,’ but a lot of girls secretly like that.”
– Lauren

“Earrings are OK, so long as they aren’t dangly. Specifically, the boy-band style hoop earrings are atrocious. I went out with a guy who wore them, and it was like staring across the table at a pirate.”
– Caitlin

“Unless your name is Donnie, Joey, Danny, Jordan, or Jonathan, you shouldn’t be wearing one earring. Two is more acceptable, and only if they’re not bigger than a pencil eraser.”
– Jane

“Keep them a decent size, and you’re golden. But once they get too large, no matter how big the diamonds are, it’s time to rethink things. No girl wants a guy with ears like a beagle!”
– Maria

The jury says: SPLIT DECISION! Remember, guys, you don’t want your jewelry to outshine your date’s. Keep your studs understated, and they’ll look cool. But wear earrings that are big and showy, and she’ll be asking, “Hey, where’s your parrot?”

Fashion Statement #3: Bluetooth ear clip
“Guys who wear these clips should always set their phones to vibrate. It’s obnoxious.”
– Lauren

“These are a paradox. On the one hand, they suggest that you are very busy, forward-thinking, etc. But, on the other hand, the only guys who I ever see wearing them are also sporting ridiculously puffy, pleated khakis. Go figure.”
– Caitlin

“Every time I see these, I imagine the guy facing another corporate drone from the opposite end of a fluorescently lit hallway, not a guy who is ready to take me out for the night.”
– Jane

“This look makes women assume that you have 2.5 kids and a golden retriever waiting behind a picket fence in the ’burbs.”
– Maria

The jury says: GUILTY! Ditch them! Bluetooth clips are the fanny pack of this decade and deserve a home in the trash, not on your body.

Fashion Statement #4: Socks with sandals
“Anyone over the age of 10 should know better. Unless you’re making a concerted effort to remain in your parents’ basement until you’re 40, ditch the socks, or find some shoes.”
– Lauren

“This doesn’t even reflect bad fashion sense — it reflects a lack of fashion sense altogether. One guy actually came to pick me up for a first date in this combo. I’m trying to remember whether or not he was wearing a Hard Rock CafĂ© shirt, of if my brain just filled that in years after the fact. No, it was definitely a Hard Rock shirt.”
– Caitlin

“If your feet are going to be cold in sandals, why wouldn’t you just, I dunno…wear shoes?”
– Jane

“Does any guy still do that?!”
– Maria

The jury says: GUILTY! While the comfort level may be high, the blinding effect of bright white tube socks and Tevas will make sure you enjoy yourself sans female companionship.

Fashion Statement #5: Ripped/distressed jeans
“If it’s a genuine pair of ripped, torn, well-worn jeans, then they’re totally sexy.”
– Lauren

“Ripped jeans fall into two categories. Either they’re legitimately ragged because they’re your favorite, or you’ve been instructed on what’s trendy and have spent $200 on pre-ripped, distressed denim. The former is fine. The latter is a jerk alert.”
– Caitlin

“Depending on the appropriateness of the ripped areas, these are all right. But, if there’s any visible indication of your boxer shorts, forget it.”
– Jane

“These will always be in style. A guy’s favorite pair of jeans is special. You know, as long as they aren’t acid-washed!”
– Maria

The jury says: NOT GUILTY! No real guy would ever throw away his favorite pair of jeans — even if they look like they did battle with a shredder. Thank goodness the ladies agree that they’re not only appropriate, but appealing, as long as those holes and tears were come by honestly.

Fashion Statement #6: Popped (or turned-up) shirt collars
“I’ve actually turned guys’ collars down for them. It’s a guy trying way too hard to be trendy.”
– Lauren

“Truth be told, I like this look. You have to be extremely confident to pull it off.”
– Caitlin

“If your neck is cold, wear a scarf.”
– Jane

“This is a trend that definitely got out of hand. But some guys can pull it off. It’s not going to make a guy incredibly enticing to me, but it wouldn’t turn me off, either.”
– Maria

The jury says: SPLIT DECISION! If you look like an Express Men catalog dude, feel free to pop away. You’re the person that the look was tailor-made for. But if you don’t have the confidence to rock the fashion statement, you’re best letting gravity style your collar.

Fashion Statement #7: Sports jerseys
“Football jerseys are adorable on game day. But the basketball jerseys with white undershirts need to go. They remind me of my high school’s JV team.”
– Lauren

“If I met someone wearing a jersey, I’d immediately assume he’s a guy’s guy. He likes cars, dogs, and sports. That’s attractive. But, if he showed up for a date wearing one, I’d make him wait while I slipped into my sweats and flip-flops.”
– Caitlin

“Basketball jerseys are the worst. Nobody wants to see your armpit hair.”
– Jane

“If there’s a game on, a jersey is not just acceptable but encouraged. Otherwise, there really isn’t a good time to bring it out of retirement.”
– Maria

The jury says: NOT GUILTY! Rest easy, pal. You can hang on to that prized Drew Brees jersey. Just be sure to wear it on game day, and bench it during the off-season. And save the hoops gear for, well, the basketball court.

Matt Christensen has written for Maxim and WWE Magazine. He’s single-handedly trying to bring back pocket protectors. For the other side of this story, read What the guys think of your fashion.

Article courtesy of Happen magazine, www.happenmag.com.

Character: What the men think of your fashion By Matt Christensen

It’s no secret that women spend hours trying to figure out what to wear before they head out on a date (or on the prowl for one). But the real question is, what do men think of their efforts? We enlisted four men to act as our own fashion police and tell us what they really think about various fads women seem to keep kicking around. Which ones get their thumbs up, and which get sentenced to life in the bargain bin? Answers ahead.

Fad Fashion #1: Designer sweats/sweats with words on them
“This look always reminds me of self-absorbed teenage girls that hang out at the mall. Did you just come from Claire’s or something?”
– Steve, 31, writer, Missouri

“The words try to make sweats something that they’re not. Sweats should be basic, comfortable, and laid-back. That’s what makes them sexy.”
– Andrew, 25, grad student, Ohio

“With words like ‘juicy’ and ‘pink’ on them, it makes me wonder about what message these girls are really trying to send. Not hot.”
– Joey, 29, analyst, Vermont

“Irony is seeing the word ‘classy’ down a woman’s thigh. Forget trans-fats, these fashion catastrophes need to go.”
– Ed, 29, nightclub manager, Ohio

The jury says: Bargain bin! The sooner you turn these togs into rags, the better. If you want a guy to check out your figure, it’s probably best to not cover it with random adjectives or ad campaigns.

Fad Fashion #2: T-shirts with witty slogans or sayings
“Ninety-five percent of the girls who wear t-shirts that say something like ‘Out Of Your League’ really aren’t, actually. And shirts like these only serve to point that out. As for the other five percent, why rub it in?”
– Steve

“I love a woman in a t-shirt. But I can’t get behind the off-the-shelf sort of generic slogan, message, or design. Now, a legit, vintage concert or band t-shirt, that’s a different story.”
– Andrew

“These could be fun. But, only if the messages read something like ‘LARP is a Battlefield’ or ‘I’ve Seen Bloodsport.’ The traditional messages, like ‘Team Jacob’ and ‘Drama Queen’ make me wonder when your parents are coming to pick you up.”
– Joey

“Trendy does not, nor will it ever, equal sexy. Trading that ‘Your Future Ex-Wife’ top for a basic white t-shirt will get you more flattering looks instead of repulsed grimaces.”
– Ed

The jury says: Bargain bin! T-shirts are sexy staples because they’re basic and simple. Don’t clutter them with meaningless slogans, obnoxious phrases, or any sort of wordplay that you’d see on someone’s Facebook status updates.

Fad Fashion #3: Leggings
“If you’ve got nice legs, this look can be attractive with a short dress and heels. It says, ‘I know it’s cold out, but I still want to give you guys something to look at.’ That’s just being considerate.”
– Steve

“I like being able to check out the shape of her legs while still having to use my imagination to visualize what they’d really look like.”
– Andrew

“Leggings make me feel like she’s trying too hard. Or like she’s been warped through time from the 80s. Once and for all, Pat Benatar was not that sexy.”
– Joey

“Leggings work for me, but I’m a leg man. I’ve seen a lot of wacky, bold colors, and I can see how some guys might find them unattractive, but understated ones have a certain charisma.”
– Ed

The jury says: Keep it! Covering up your legs this way can add to the intrigue and charm of your look and stretch your clothing further between seasons.

Fad Fashion #4: Ugg boots
“Wearing these makes you look like you were stuffed into a time capsule in 2003 and just recently woke up. Don’t do it.”
– Steve

“Unless it’s -10 degrees Fahrenheit out, I can’t understand why any woman would ever put these on. And, if she’s wearing them with a skirt, I probably won’t talk to her. Ever.”
– Andrew

“Short for ‘ugg-ly,’ right? Leave these to the Vikings, ladies. They wore them better.”
– Joey

“Pam Anderson used to wear these on Baywatch, and it made me want to change the channel. Think about that. I wanted to turn off Baywatch.”
– Ed

The jury says: Bargain bin! Somewhere, an Eskimo mourns because you took his boots and wore them all year long... for about a decade. Can you live with that knowledge?

Fad Fashion #5: Giant sunglasses
“This is the female equivalent of a hipster beard — fun to wear, yet obnoxious. But, if you make a joke about how your delicate retinas need 100% UV protection on a daily basis, I’d be cool with them.”
– Steve

“I immediately assume that a woman is not attractive if she covers up half of her face with these things.”
– Andrew

“These are absolutely OK — if you’re 87 and playing shuffleboard. Otherwise, they’re just covering up prime real estate. No one is gonna bid if they can’t see the property.”
– Joey

“These sunglasses make women look like insects! And never once have I looked at a grasshopper and thought, ‘Wow, sexy!’ Leave the bug eyes to the bugs, ladies.”
– Ed

The jury says: Bargain bin. Don’t be fooled — a brief tilt of the sunglasses can make a woman seem undeniably alluring. Just make sure to pick frames that fit your face, not Rachel Zoe’s.

Fad Fashion #6: Miniskirts
“Provided your legs are shapely and not milky white, miniskirts are super-hot. Girls with Casper-colored legs can look just as attractive (if not more so) in a tight pair of jeans, though.”
– Steve

“These are sexy, but I don’t think I’d be interested in dating someone who habitually wears them. Miniskirts will always get women attention, but sometimes it’s better to leave things to the imagination.”
– Andrew

“This is a time-tested, man-approved sure thing. Miniskirts and heels are like the playoffs and ribs — they go together perfectly.”
– Joey

“Ladies, don’t kid yourselves — men will always look at a girl in a miniskirt. If that’s what you’re going for, put one on.”
– Ed

The jury says: Keep it! Miniskirts have been around and in style since the 60s. Embrace the history and keep the tradition alive.

Matt Christensen has written for Maxim and WWE Magazine. He threw his Ugg boots away a long, long time ago. For the other side of this story, read What the ladies think of your fashion.

Article courtesy of Happen magazine, www.happenmag.com.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

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Friday, January 07, 2011

Character: More young people are winding up in nursing homes

AP/Chris O'Meara
Adam Martin, Wes Bower AP – In this photo taken Dec. 13, 2010, quadriplegic Adam Martin, left, works with physical therapist Wes …

SARASOTA, Fla. – Adam Martin doesn't fit in here. No one else in this nursing home wears Air Jordans. No one else has stacks of music videos by 2Pac and Jay-Z. No one else is just 26.

It's no longer unusual to find a nursing home resident who is decades younger than his neighbor: About one in seven people now living in such facilities in the U.S. is under 65. But the growing phenomenon presents a host of challenges for nursing homes, while patients like Martin face staggering isolation.

"It's just a depressing place to live," Martin says. "I'm stuck here. You don't have no privacy at all. People die around you all the time. It starts to really get depressing because all you're seeing is negative, negative, negative."

The number of under-65 nursing home residents has risen about 22 percent in the past eight years to about 203,000, according to an analysis of statistics from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That number has climbed as mental health facilities close and medical advances keep people alive after they've suffered traumatic injuries. Still, the overall percentage of nursing home residents 30 and younger is less than 1 percent.

Martin was left a quadriplegic when he was accidentally shot in the neck last year by his stepbrother. He spent weeks hospitalized before being released to a different nursing home and eventually ended up in his current residence, the Sarasota Health and Rehabilitation Center. There are other residents who are well short of retirement age, but he is the youngest.

The yellow calendar on the wall of Martin's small end-of-the-hall room advertises activities such as arts and crafts. In the small common room down the hall, a worker draws a bingo ball and intones, "I-16. I-one-six." As Martin maneuvers his motorized wheelchair through the hallway, most of those he passes have white hair and wrinkled skin.

"It's lonely here," Martin says, as a single tear drips from his right eye.

Martin exchanges muted hellos with older residents as he travels down the hall to smoke outside. His entire daily routine, from showering to eating to enjoying a cigarette, is dictated by the schedules of those on whom he relies for help.

He usually wakes up late, then waits for an aide to shower him, dress him and return him to his wheelchair. He watches TV, goes to therapy five days a week and waits most days for his friend to bring him meals.

He mostly keeps to himself, engaging in infrequent and superficial conversations with his elders.

Martin's parents are unable to care for him at home. His father is a truck driver who is constantly on the road, and his stepmother is sick with lupus. Medicaid pays his bills; it could take a lawsuit for him to get care outside a nursing home.

Advocates who help young patients find alternatives to nursing homes say people are often surprised to learn there are so many in the facilities. About 15 percent of nursing home residents are under 65.

"When I tell people I try to get kids out of nursing homes, they have no idea," says Katie Chandler, a social worker for the nonprofit Georgia Advocacy Office.

Federal law requires states to provide alternatives to institutional care when possible, though its implementation varies from place to place. Navigating the system can require a knowledgeable advocate and, sometimes, litigation.

Not all younger nursing home residents are there for good. Some nursing homes are seeing an increase in patients who come to recover there instead of in a hospital, because it is cheaper for their insurance company.

Like Martin, many younger residents have suffered a traumatic injury. Others have neuromuscular diseases such as multiple sclerosis, or have suffered a stroke.

Brent Kaderli, 26, of Baytown, Texas, became a quadriplegic after a car accident in 2006. He hopes rehabilitation will help him gain enough strength to move into an assisted living facility and eventually, to an apartment with his girlfriend.

He shares his nursing home room with an older man who suffers from dementia. It is not ideal, but because his parents' home is not modified to accommodate his wheelchair, he thinks it's the only option right now.

"Just knowing that one day I will be better, I'm still hoping and praying for that. In the meantime, I think about my family and my friends, what I used to be able to do, and I stay sad a lot," he says. "This is probably the best that I could have at this point."

The same generational tensions that exist outside nursing homes are inside them as well, and are sometimes exacerbated by the often close confines.

Older residents complain about loud music and visitors, younger residents complain about living with someone with dementia or being served creamed spinach. Many nursing homes try to house younger residents together, though in many cases their small numbers make that difficult.

For young people who find themselves newly disabled, the psychological and social needs are often even more challenging than their physical demands. That presents a challenge for nursing homes that are used to serving people near the ends of their lives.

At Bayshore Health Center in Duluth, Minn., 34 of the 160 residents are younger people, all living in private rooms in their own wing. The staff has found that subtle changes can improve their lives.

Instead of bingo night, there are poker games and outings to nightclubs. For someone who stays up late watching a movie, breakfast can be served at 10 a.m., rather than 7 a.m. Pizza is offered in place of lasagna; Mountain Dew and Coke are poured instead of coffee and tea.

Still, many younger residents sink into depression because of their physical limitations, their loneliness and their nursing home surroundings.

"For them it's a life sentence. When you're 40 years old you know you're never getting out. This is the way your life will be forever and ever. Amen," says Diane Persson, a gerontologist who has written about the boom in younger nursing home residents.

Martin fears that may be true for him. He used to look forward to joining the Army and earning a college degree in science or engineering. Now he simply looks forward to visits from his friend Paul Tuttle, who on this day brings him nachos he feeds him along with sips of water.

"If I'm not here, he's got no one his age to talk to about football or anything," Tuttle says, wiping Martin's face.

Propped in his wheelchair, Martin says: "It makes you feel old. If that's all you're around, that's what you become."

(This version corrects Katie Chandler's affiliation to Georgia Advocacy Office, not state of Georgia.)


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Character: Top 10 Reasons Small Businesses Fail by Jay Goltz

The New York Times, Wednesday January 5, 2011

One of the least understood aspects of entrepreneurship is why small businesses fail, and there's a simple reason for the confusion: Most of the evidence comes from the entrepreneurs themselves.

I have had a close-up view of numerous business failures -- including a few start-ups of my own. And from my observation, the reasons for failure cited by the owners are frequently off-point, which kind of makes sense when you think about it. If the owners really knew what they were doing wrong, they might have been able to fix the problem. Often, it's simply a matter of denial or of not knowing what you don't know.

In many cases, the customers -- or, I should say, ex-customers -- have a better understanding than the owners of what wasn't working. The usual suspects that the owners tend to blame are the bank, the government, or the idiot partner. Rarely does the owner's finger point at the owner.

Of course, there are cases where something out of the owner's control has gone terribly wrong, but I have found those instances to be in the minority.

What follows -- based on my own experiences and observations -- are my top 10 reasons small businesses fail. The list is not pretty, it is not simple, and it does not contain any of those usual suspects (although they might come in at Nos. 11, 12 and 13).

1. The math just doesn't work. There is not enough demand for the product or service at a price that will produce a profit for the company. This, for example, would include a start-up trying to compete against Best Buy and its economies of scale.

2. Owners who cannot get out of their own way. [This is personal attitude.] They may be stubborn, risk adverse, conflict adverse -- meaning they need to be liked by everyone (even employees and vendors who can't do their jobs). They may be perfectionist, greedy, self-righteous, paranoid, indignant, or insecure. You get the idea. Sometimes, you can even tell these owners the problem, and they will recognize that you are right -- but continue to make the same mistakes over and over.

3. Out-of-control growth. This one might be the saddest of all reasons for failure -- a successful business that is ruined by over-expansion. This would include moving into markets that are not as profitable, experiencing growing pains that damage the business, or borrowing too much money in an attempt to keep growth at a particular rate. Sometimes less is more.

4. Poor accounting. You cannot be in control of a business if you don't know what is going on. With bad numbers, or no numbers, a company is flying blind, and it happens all of the time. Why? For one thing, it is a common -- and disastrous -- misconception that an outside accounting firm hired primarily to do the taxes will keep watch over the business. In reality, that is the job of the chief financial officer, one of the many hats an entrepreneur has to wear until a real one is hired.

5. Lack of a cash cushion. If we have learned anything from this recession (I know it's "over" but my customers don't seem to have gotten the memo), it's that business is cyclical and that bad things can and will happen over time -- the loss of an important customer or critical employee, the arrival of a new competitor, the filing of a lawsuit. These things can all stress the finances of a company. If that company is already out of cash (and borrowing potential), it may not be able to recover.

6. Operational mediocrity. I have never met a business owner who described his or her operation as mediocre. But we can't all be above average. Repeat and referral business is critical for most businesses, as is some degree of marketing (depending on the business).

7. Operational inefficiencies. Paying too much for rent, labor, and materials. Now more than ever, the lean companies are at an advantage. Not having the tenacity or stomach to negotiate terms that are reflective of today's economy may leave a company uncompetitive.

8. Dysfunctional management. Lack of focus, vision, planning, standards and everything else that goes into good management. Throw fighting partners or unhappy relatives into the mix, and you have a disaster.

9. The lack of a succession plan. We're talking nepotism, power struggles, significant players being replaced by people who are in over their heads -- all reasons many family businesses do not make it to the next generation.

10. A declining market. Book stores, music stores, printing businesses and many others are dealing with changes in technology, consumer demand, and competition from huge companies with more buying power and advertising dollars.

In life, you may have forgiving friends and relatives, but entrepreneurship is rarely forgiving. Eventually, everything shows up in the soup. If people don't like the soup, employees stop working for you, and customers stop doing business with you. And that is why businesses fail.

Jay Goltz owns five small businesses in Chicago.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Writing Character: Happy Marriage_Sustainable Love

Sustainable Love

The Happy Marriage Is the ‘Me’ Marriage

A lasting marriage does not always signal a happy marriage. Plenty of miserable couples have stayed together for children, religion or other practical reasons.
Heads of State

But for many couples, it’s just not enough to stay together. They want a relationship that is meaningful and satisfying. In short, they want a sustainable marriage.

“The things that make a marriage last have more to do with communication skills, mental health, social support, stress — those are the things that allow it to last or not,” says Arthur Aron, a psychology professor who directs the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. “But those things don’t necessarily make it meaningful or enjoyable or sustaining to the individual.”

The notion that the best marriages are those that bring satisfaction to the individual may seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t marriage supposed to be about putting the relationship first?

Not anymore. For centuries, marriage was viewed as an economic and social institution, and the emotional and intellectual needs of the spouses were secondary to the survival of the marriage itself. But in modern relationships, people are looking for a partnership, and they want partners who make their lives more interesting.

Caryl Rusbult, a researcher at Vrije University in Amsterdam who died last January, called it the “Michelangelo effect,” referring to the manner in which close partners “sculpt” each other in ways that help each of them attain valued goals.

Dr. Aron and Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., a professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey, have studied how individuals use a relationship to accumulate knowledge and experiences, a process called “self-expansion.” Research shows that the more self-expansion people experience from their partner, the more committed and satisfied they are in the relationship.

To measure this, Dr. Lewandowski developed a series of questions for couples: How much has being with your partner resulted in your learning new things? How much has knowing your partner made you a better person? (Take the full quiz measuring self-expansion.)

While the notion of self-expansion may sound inherently self-serving, it can lead to stronger, more sustainable relationships, Dr. Lewandowski says.

“If you’re seeking self-growth and obtain it from your partner, then that puts your partner in a pretty important position,” he explains. “And being able to help your partner’s self-expansion would be pretty pleasing to yourself.”

The concept explains why people are delighted when dates treat them to new experiences, like a weekend away. But self-expansion isn’t just about exotic experiences. Individuals experience personal growth through their partners in big and small ways. It happens when they introduce new friends, or casually talk about a new restaurant or a fascinating story in the news.

The effect of self-expansion is particularly pronounced when people first fall in love.

In research at the University of California at Santa Cruz, 325 undergraduate students were given questionnaires five times over 10 weeks. They were asked, “Who are you today?” and given three minutes to describe themselves. They were also asked about recent experiences, including whether they had fallen in love.

After students reported falling in love, they used more varied words in their self-descriptions. The new relationships had literally broadened the way they looked at themselves.

“You go from being a stranger to including this person in the self, so you suddenly have all of these social roles and identities you didn’t have before,” explains Dr. Aron, who co-authored the research. “When people fall in love that happens rapidly, and it’s very exhilarating.”

Over time, the personal gains from lasting relationships are often subtle. Having a partner who is funny or creative adds something new to someone who isn’t. A partner who is an active community volunteer creates new social opportunities for a spouse who spends long hours at work.

Additional research suggests that spouses eventually adopt the traits of the other — and become slower to distinguish differences between them, or slower to remember which skills belong to which spouse.

In experiments by Dr. Aron, participants rated themselves and their partners on a variety of traits, like “ambitious” or “artistic.” A week later, the subjects returned to the lab and were shown the list of traits and asked to indicate which ones described them.

People responded the quickest to traits that were true of both them and their partner. When the trait described only one person, the answer came more slowly. The delay was measured in milliseconds, but nonetheless suggested that when individuals were particularly close to someone, their brains were slower to distinguish between their traits and those of their spouses.

“It’s easy to answer those questions if you’re both the same,” Dr. Lewandowski explains. “But if it’s just true of you and not of me, then I have to sort it out. It happens very quickly, but I have to ask myself, ‘Is that me or is that you?’ ”

It’s not that these couples lost themselves in the marriage; instead, they grew in it. Activities, traits and behaviors that had not been part of their identity before the relationship were now an essential part of how they experienced life.

All of this can be highly predictive for a couple’s long-term happiness. One scale designed by Dr. Aron and colleagues depicts seven pairs of circles. The first set is side by side. With each new set, the circles begin to overlap until they are nearly on top of one another. Couples choose the set of circles that best represents their relationship.

In a 2009 report in the journal Psychological Science, people bored in their marriages were more likely to choose the more separate circles. Partners involved in novel and interesting experiences together were more likely to pick one of the overlapping circles and less likely to report boredom.

Overlap = Happy?

“People have a fundamental motivation to improve the self and add to who they are as a person,” Dr. Lewandowski says. “If your partner is helping you become a better person, you become happier and more satisfied in the relationship.”