Archive for November, 2008

Eating Turkey On the US East Coast – Travel Time 60 x faster than in 1621

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

I made it back to the lower 48 (Connecticut specifically) for Thanksgiving, actually arriving 15 minutes ahead of schedule by the most optimistic estimate. When things go that well, it is easy to say, “what is meant to be happens easily.” By that measurement, Connecticut for Thanksgiving is meant to be for me.

We were able to do travel plan A – that was leaving our little town in Alaska by air taxi instead of ferry. It was raining, foggy, and windy, yet the little plane still flew. It took us 21 hours – we left Haines, Alaska at 9:30 AM AST and arrived in Connecticut at 9:30 AM EST. According to mapquest, the drive would have been 3874 miles and taken 66 hours 29 minutes. The distance from England to the US East Coast is around 3700 miles. It took the 102 Pilgrims about 60 days to travel here from England in 1620.

The Jaunt Across the Continent to Eat Turkey in Connecticut.  Almost as Far as the Pilgirms Had to Travel, but a Heck of a LOT Faster.

The jaunt across the continent to eat turkey in Connecticut. A little bit further than the Pilgrams had to travel to eat turkey here, but over 60 times faster to get here.

After we got to CT, my oldest daughter called to tell me that more people are killed by moose and small airplane crashes in Alaska every year than by bears. Weird how I never heard that one before, but no matter, we survived that (and many other) small plane rides in Alaska, as have many other people.

While traveling here for the Pilgrims, they were going from a civilization where they understood the cultural traditions, to one that was more bound by the rhythms of nature. I just did the opposite. And found myself having to re-aquaint myself with my east coast “attire” to look like I belong in Connecticut. (I find it far easier if I at least make some attempts to fit in). And I have to wait until I get here to really get into the schwing of things with the clothes. I had put on my east coast travel attire, but sitting in a Starbucks in Connecticut yesterday, I felt like a person out of place in two worlds. I was certainly not dressed for Alaska, and just looked weird for Connecticut. It totally makes sense why the RNC thought that Sarah Palin coming out of Alaska needed a new “look” to the tune of $150k. The rest of the country just does not get the fashion trends of Alaska (or is it that we in Alaska have a lot more other things that are more important to focus on – like not breaking your neck on the ice skating rink outside the Mountain Market).

The Pilgrims faced much more daunting issues about “fitting” in – it was a very matter of their survival to befriend the natives. While Alaska sports a very casual demeanor, an everyone is welcome attitude, and it appears easy to fit in, it does take a little effort. Dan Fine’s book – Not Really an Alaskan Mountain Man shares just how challenging it can be to survive in modern day Alaska. In retrospect, it is probably more important for my overall survival that I “fit in” better there than here. Both places take some adjustment – I call it getting the cultural bends. Only happens when you change cultures really fast.

Exam Day Breakfast

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

In 2001, I created a way for people to pass exams very fast. The first part of the four part process to passing exams fast, is to put your mind in peak performing condition. You do that with various diet, exercise, and lifestyle practices (most are the same that are identified in the Anti-Cancer book referenced in my past couple of posts). To date, approximately 30,000 people have used my accelerated exam prep technique to pass the Project Management Professional (PMP ) exam after one week in the Cheetah Exam Prep program. Cheetah Learning just was awarded the Project Management Institute Global Provider of the Year for a significant contribution to the profession because of this program. I wrote a book on how to accelerate exam prep (and improve performance) for any exam – called The Accelerated Exam Prep Workbook

Here I am working my way home from the PMI meeting in Denver.  Winning the PMI Provider of the Year all started with Eggs in a Bowl.

Here I am working my way home from the PMI meeting in Denver. Winning the PMI Provider of the Year all started with Eggs in a Bowl.

Throughout the course we serve our students foods that are high protein with complex carbohydrates. This helps regulate blood sugar levels that in turn keeps their brain chemistry operating in a low beta state – one that is optimal for staying relaxed and focused which dramatically aids in retention and instant recall.

Here is a recipe that for “eggs in a bowl” that is a fantastic exam day breakfast. The team at Cheetah Learning uses the exam prep diet practices with their own families when they have big exams.

Eggs In A Bowl

Two eggs (best if you use organic with chickens who were fed a diet that boosts the omega 3 of the eggs).

1/2 cup black beans (if you used canned beans- rinse well)

1/4 green pepper

1/4 small onion or shallot

2 tbs of shredded cheese.

1/4 cup milk

Mix it all together in the bowl and pop in the microwave for two minutes. Stir, and let sit for a minute. If it still looks a bit runny – pop back in the microwave for 30 seconds.

T-6 and counting – Thanksgiving Final Preparations

Friday, November 21st, 2008
Thanksgiving in Connecticut - turkeys are in hiding.

Thanksgiving in Connecticut - turkeys are in hiding.

Project Turkey started in September. Apart from the usual fare, advanced preparations have involved boats, jets, bows and arrows, veterinarians, appliances, and niki’s.

Yes, I live in Alaska most of the year as my daughter finishes up her last year of high school. Yet my children are still very rooted in our family traditions in Connecticut – the biggest one being Mom’s huge thanksgiving throw down. Since I will probably be living in CT part of the year after the kids leave the nest, I have kept my Connecticut residence. And as a way to give them a sense of roots, and a nest from which to soar, I maintain our family thanksgiving tradition.

I thank my lucky stars for how cheetah project management has saved my hide on this grand day year after year, especially now as I have to coordinate preparations from afar. We will be arriving in Connecticut (with the puppy), after a 36 hour journey from Alaska, late Monday night. This means I have two days to get ready for the Thanksgiving day bash at our house there for 20 people. In those two days I have to:

1. Open up the house after being gone since last July. Luckily my folks live in the area and keep an eye on the place for me. My house cleaner in the area blocks aside time to help me when I come into town. Still the house has been devoid of human life for four months and needs the basics. Luckily my parents keep my car so that is usually working. Sometimes I do have to get a rental car – note to self – make a reservation for a rental car as a back up plan.

2. Get all the ingredients as the fridge is totally empty. I have already ordered the long lead items I wanted from Kane’s Market. My youngest had been practicing with the bow and arrow as we have a dozen or so wild turkeys that run around our yard. I’m not really up for that experience this thanksgiving, so I ordered an organic bird from my friend Bob Kane who runs Kane’s Specialty Market.

3. Make sure the appliances are in fact still working. I had a new fridge delivered in September as it croaked after my July 4th party and have the double ovens scheduled for repair on Tuesday. If the double ovens get repaired, then I can also make a turducken – which is a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey. Bob Kane makes these as well.

4. Take the high schooler to visit the eye doctor, orthodontist, and dentist as she essentially sees herself as an “exchange student” in Alaska and just prefers these folks in Connecticut.

5. Welcome my three out of town visitors who are coming to check out Connecticut to see if they want to move there. And yes, they are being enrolled in the thanksgiving day preparations.

6. Get a new pair of walking/running shoes that are pretty much already broken in so i can safely do the 10k turkey day run/walk with my mom on Thanksgiving morning.

The rest is rather academic. This will be my 25th Thanksgiving day bash +or – 3 or 4. For the most part over the past 25 years, I have hosted Thanksgiving. After you do something 25 times, it gets pretty routine. Maybe that is why I like the complexity of the way it has been for the past couple of years – of flying in from afar and whipping it all together in two or three days. Just makes life a little more exciting.

Anti-Cancer Caesar Salad Dressing and Optional Croutons

Thursday, November 20th, 2008
Cancer Cell Being Destroyed - YES WE CAN

Cancer Cell Being Destroyed - YES WE CAN

In David Servan-Schreiber’s book Anti-Cancer, a New Way of Life – he shows how various foods help inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Every ingredient in the Anti Cancer Caeser Salad dressing is on the anti-cancer shopping list in his book.

Here is the recipe:

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and run the blender for a minute at medium speed. Use a tablespoon as dressing – coat the lettuce leaves and let sit for 2 – 5 minutes before eating. This gives the leaves a little bit of time to absorb the dressing. Most Caesar salad’s have shaved Parmesan cheese and croutons. You don’t need those for the salad, but if you want croutons, an anti-cancer recipe for croutons is below.

2 Cloves Garlic. (the number one anti-cancer vegetable for every type of cancer listed).

Juice from one lemon (remove the seeds). Non-organic ciitrus fruits are not the threat as some other non-organic produce according to Servan – Schreiber.

2 whole anchovies packed in olive oil. Anchoives are a very high source of Omega 3 oil. Omega 3 oil reduces inflammation, regulates cell growth, and increases the fluidity of blood.

1/4 cup olive oil. This oil is a staple of a diet that is low in saturated fats and helps reduce inflammation. Inflammation weakens your immune system and makes it harder for your body to destroy cancer cells.

Anti-Cancer Croutons

  1. Whole grain or sour dough bread (ok if stale, but not okay if moldy). Cut into 1 inch cubes. According to Servan-Schreiber, whole grains and sour dough reduce insulin spikes. Insulin spikes increase inflammation, and increase rather than inhibit cancerous cell growth.
  2. Olive Oil
  3. 2 cloves crushed garlic
  4. 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  5. 1/4 tsp salt (the amount of salt you put in this is far less than what are in store bought croutons – the body needs a small amount of salt to maintain a healthy balance).
  6. fresh herbs (depends on the ones you prefer – sometimes I use rosemary, oregano, fennel, thyme). A number of fresh herbs inhibit cancerous cell growth.

Lightly sprinkle olive oil on bread cubes. Mix the garlic, salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Mix in with bread cubes and olive oil.

Spread bread cubes with olive oil and herbs on cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven until crisp (time will depend on bread used).

So, just what does this have to do with Project Management? My everyday project is to keep myself healthy and to provide those in my care healthy meals. Eating right and doing what I Iove (preparing great food) is something I have to do on a recurring basis to meet my project objective of staying healthy.

ALSO – think about it. If you take care of your body, you take care of your brain. When you feel good, it is far easier to stay focused on the other projects you have in life. So to do well on all your other life projects, you have to start with Project Health.

Are You Poisoning Yourself?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

We all need to eat to stay alive. But what are our objectives with eating? This is where Project Management can change your life forever. As how you eat, is directly impacted by your objectives with eating. If you are simply eating to stave off hunger, and you just grab whatever is most convenient you may be unknowingly poisoning yourself. This is where paying attention to your objectives and creating a plan to meet those objectives can create a much better life.

Lets look at my friend Jean’s objectives with eating: convenience, getting healthy, and creating easy to follow life long habits that will keep her healthy. She also has four children and a husband at home so she needs to include them in any eating lifestyle plans. Jean is a very busy professional so she didn’t always take the time to eat right. She would go without eating all day and then just snack on crackers before some type of convenience food dinner. She found her blood pressure going up, her energy level low, and her stress too magnified on life’s little annoyances. She decided to try a diet program where they sent all her food for 28 days – prepackaged meals that were convenient and apparently healthy. She did start feeling a lot better. She was afterall getting proper nutrients. (Jean does know what it takes to maintain a healthy weight – she created and teaches the Cheetah Project Management of Weight Loss course).

But lets look at her initial objectives. Yes, she was getting convenience. But was this the right way for creating life long habits for health? She came out to visit me for a week. She brought some of this pre-packaged food to make for us to share. I appreciated the sentiment.

Sources of Salt in a Standard Diet

Sources of Salt in a Standard Diet

I looked at the label on this split pea soup – one serving had 470 mg of sodium. WOW – your daily limit should be around 1500 mg to 2400 mg per day. Look at the figure to the left. Most salt in the average diet comes from processed food. I looked further at the label. The pre-packaged split pea soup had 33g of carbohydrates. Even though legumes are known for their low glycemic content, thereby making them a fairly healthy choice, split peas have the highest amount of carbohydrates of any legume. Lentils have half the carbohydrate load and the soup is fairly similar. Then you look at the list of ingredients in Jean’s pre-packaged soup, 3/4 were chemicals we could not identify.

I used to not be so particular about the ingredient label. Until I got high blood pressure from a tumor discovered on my adrenal gland the size of an egg. It isn’t cancerous, yet. But I certainly don’t want it to get cancerous so I figured I’d get smart on how to prevent that from happening. I learned this tumor grows from uncontrolled stress in my life and the larger the tumor gets, the more chance it has for becoming cancerous. I actually consider myself lucky about this discovery since it is tremendous inspiration to adopt a much healthier lifestyle.

I found this great book called “Anti-Cancer, A New Way of Life, by David Servan-Schreiber.” It is written by a clinical psychiatrist who has kept his brain cancer in remission by following some very basic, and very easy to follow dietary & lifestyle guidelines. From his extensive research, he has found that our diets of highly processed foods, combined with our high stress lifestyles, AND the toxins in our environment are leading to almost an epidemic in cancer. So YES, we are poisoning ourself.

So this lead to a very interesting discussion with Jean. She really liked this pre-planned meal program because it helped her eat more healthy. But it wasn’t going to help her develop life long healthy habits. My tumor was the wake up call I needed to adopt healthier lifestyle habits and I have similar objectives as Jean – I want convenience and healthy foods, but I also have the added objective – keep my tumor benign. So, instead of doing the pre-packaged foods – I learned how to make my own healthy, fast meals. That split pea soup – takes less than 15 minutes to put together. And I can save it in small single serving containers and freeze so I don’t have to spend a lot of time making lunches. But I won’t even waste the carbohydrates in the split pea soup. Lentil soup is actually healthier – and takes the same amount of time. I know the ingredients that go into my soup too – there is no need to use excessive chemicals to preserve my food that may end up poisoning me and my family.

According to Servan-Schreiber’s research while some cancers have gone up due to our current practices, stomach cancers have gone way down because of refrigeration’s impact on reducing food poisoning – NOT because of the excessive chemicals put in pre-packaged foods that give them a long shelf life. The closer you can eat foods in their natural state, the better off you will be. This goes for products from animals eating natural diets (grasses and grains they would normally eat – not corn), from fields that haven’t been polluted with pesticides and herbicides. If you want an in depth look at the source of most of our modern day foods, and why Servan-Schreiber’s research is so relevant, check out Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

I found when I take the time to eat the foods that keep me healthy, everything else just falls into place in my life. My brain works better, I am less stressed, I take the time to exercise, and it seems I am more organized so I can take a little more time creating healthy meals. If I fall prey to highly processed convenience foods, my stress levels go up, I don’t feel like I have the time to create healthy meals, I don’t have the energy to exercise, and it becomes a negative reinforcing feedback loop. But I’m lucky – when I fall back to unhealthy habits, my blood pressure goes up, and I am reminded just why it’s so important to pay attention to what I’m eating.

What are your objectives with eating? Are you unknowingly poisoning yourself? Eating is an every day project. And like any successful project, there are steps you have to follow to reach your objectives. The more you know about what is required to meet your objectives, the more success you will have.

What We Focus on is What We Tend to See

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

In Paul Scheen’s Book – Photo Reading, he points out that our subconscious brain takes in 2000 times more information than our conscious brain is aware of. If you don’t believe this, start photographing your day to day life. Then study those pictures a couple hours after you take them. When I first noticed this phenomena, I was at the Houston Rodeo. It the first show we went to with our Belgium Blue Cattle. I was taking pictures of the cattle and wasn’t even aware there were three cattleman in the row behind our stall – not until I looked at the pictures later. I was literally only focusing on our cows.

Only Noticed the Other Guys When I Looked at the Pictures.

Only noticed the three cattlemen when I looked at the pictures much later. I had no recollection of people being in the background.

Lets fast forward to today. Look at what the mass media chooses to focus on – the mismanagement of companies that need to be bailed out, disasters, the basic depravity of the human condition. But lets look at some different facts. According to The Wealth Report, the amount of millionaire households has doubled in the past ten years.

Number of Millionaire Households

Number of Millionaire Households

Let’s look at this chart. This was created in 2004 – so from 1994 to 2004, the number of millionaires doubled. Six of those years we had a democratic as the president of the US. For some reason the folks I know in the finance sector always seem to feel they will be better off when there is a republican president. Is this really true or is it just what they are choosing to focus on?

If you start to find yourself getting excessively down about life, check out Rob Brezsny’s *PRONOIA IS THE ANTIDOTE FOR PARANOIA: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings* – for sale at (I am not getting any royalty compensation from this endorsement – I just think he presents a much different way of viewing the world).

So now if I want to see things differently, I change what it is I am choosing to focus on. It truly is all just a matter of perspective.

Contracting Risks on Projects

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

A twitter follower – Doug Barger prefers to work on ventures where he can get a percentage of the royalties. There are a variety of risks with various contracting approaches when supporting a project. Lets look at two types of contracting approaches – percentage on royalties and work for hire. Lets start with the risks associated with Doug’s preferred contracting approach – percentage on royalties. Here are the associated risks:

1. You are depending on your counterparts to carry through on their end of the work. If they don’t, the time and effort you put in expecting a good return on your efforts won’t materialize.

2. You become tied to them for the life of your royalty relationship. This gets very cumbersome as new ventures often go through numerous evolutions of their accounting system. You need to either be a very good auditor or have very good auditors working for you so that you can “trust but verify” that their accounting system is providing adequate records of revenue for royalty calculations.

3. If you’re a start up and you are offering people preferred stock (a form of % royalties) in exchange for their cheap labor, you make it incredibly difficult for an exit strategy that involves outside investors. The more hands you have in the pot, the more complex it makes to cut an exit strategy deal (share holder liquidation, capital acquisition, IPO). Setting up stock ownership incentive plans for early contributors is very complex and requires the work of legal experts. Be wary of people who offer you this without the requisite legal support.

Percent royalty arrangements transfer risk from the company for whom you are working to the person doing the work. They require tremendous due diligence in supporting.

The next arrangement – work for hire. Work for hire means the company for whom you are providing the work owns the rights to the work you are doing. You do not get the legal rights to own that work once it is complete. The risks associated with this contract type are:

1. If you use even part of the work you do in a work for hire for another client, especially a competitor, you open yourself up to costly litigation. Read the fine print in these contracts very carefully and know what it is you’re agreeing to – especially if you are a programmer.

Cheetah Negotiation - How to Get What You Want, FAST

Cheetah Negotiation - How to Get What You Want, FAST

2. The majority of risk for performance in these contracts is placed on the company hiring the work for hire contractors, if the contract is done on a time and material basis. To reduce the risk to the company, they may require the contractor gets paid only after specific milestones are achieved. The contractor then assumes the risk for achieving the milestones. If the milestones are not clearly defined, and the scope of the project is rather vague, this presents tremendous risk to the contractor.

I have just had too many problems on both sides of the fence (company owner, and contractor) with the percentage royalty arrangements and will very reluctantly enter them. Prior to engaging anyone who wants a percent royalty arrangement, I make sure that my accounting system can adequately track the performance of their efforts, and that we make sure that the time frame is of a reasonable nature so they can’t exit stage right and still continue to collect royalties. On the flip side, I just won’t take on royalty arrangements any longer as a contractor. First, I found that some company’s actually have governance requirements that forbid this (especially defense contractors). Second, I just don’t like to enter into that type of relationship with clients where I have to depend on their financial management to insure I get my fair share of the gains made from my efforts.

When I negotiate with contractors, I want all parties to feel like they leave the table spoiled. But sometimes what contractors want really isn’t in either parties long term interests. A little bit of preparation by all sides goes a long way in creating a much more harmonious working relationship. To develop negotiation practices that generate great outcomes and develop good long term relationships, check out

Project Dinner – Lessons Learned – Battery Charger Required

Monday, November 17th, 2008
Don't try this at home, it looked a LOT better than it tasted.

Don't Try This One - Looks a LOT better than it tasted.

Living in a small rural Alaskan town in the winter limits dining out options. You improve your culinary skills or become satisfied with canned chili and spam. Sometimes, the choices of what you can make for dinner are severely limited, depending on when the last shipment of food arrived on the barge. When you find an unusual meat (that is different than beef, chicken or fish) in the store, it’s a good bet that most folks in town will be experimenting.

Last week I found lamb chops. I made a Taziki sauce for the lamb. Found a recipe for this potato dish (looked similar to one I had had at a greek restaurant a few years back in Boston). Didn’t remember the feta cheese and there are no greek olives in town so we skipped the Greek salad. I could’ve made baklava since I did have filo dough – but we all figured we ate enough with what we had. It was a fair attempt for Alaska in winter.

I gave the final output of the dinner a B grade. Jean, gave it an A, teenager, an A. But the prep of the dinner got an A+ – it smelled great cooking, we had a great time preparing it all, and it all came together very nice. The lamb was a bit fatty and the potatoes just lacked that Greek pizazz that I remembered from the Greek restaurant. The taziki sauce was awesome.

It got me thinking, how often have I executed a project with precision perfection, only to be only so so satisfied with the final outcome?  Do we need some challenges, some twists and turns, to make a project more fun so that we savor the outcome when we miraculously pull it off? What happens in life when you get everything you want and everything always goes your way? Isn’t the whole game one of relative experiences – kind of like a battery – with negative and positive things adding up overall to far more of a charge?

I like complexity and challenge. Yes living in rural Alaska in the winter provides that. So, the very fact that I could even find ingredients to conjur up a Greek dinner should be reason enough to give the dinner an A+.

From Wearing the Baby to Wearing the Business

Sunday, November 16th, 2008
From Wearing the Baby to Wearing the Business - No Helmet Required for the Business

From Wearing the Baby to Wearing the Business - No Helmet Required for the Business

Yes, that is the ENTIRE contents of the backpack that carries the tools I need to run my global operation.

Yes, that is the ENTIRE contents of the backpack that carries the tools I need to run my global operation.

I’ve been lugging 25+ pounds on my back for close to 20 years now. I started “wearing” my babies, and then just migrated to “wearing” my business. So I just don’t get what all the hula ballo is about with motrin ad dissing on mom’s wearing their babies being twittered about #motrinmoms.

I wore my babies for quite a while – the youngest one until she was about 5. It was just far easier and when I went for walks, there was no need to carry weights to get a more intense workout. Their Dad, an avid hiker, would wear the older one and trot up Mt. Si – a very steep climb just outside of Seattle. And he did this up until she was about 50 pounds. Neither one of us ever suffered any pain or damage from doing this – it just made us more fit and stronger.

It just seemed natural to “wear” my business in a backpack as well. For a very short period of time, I carried my laptop in a sophisticated looking shoulder bag. I tried a case on wheels, but it was just too much of an appendage. I always go back to just fitting everything I need to run my company into my backpack. A year or so ago, thought it was an interesting enough idea to feature me in their magazine –

For the most part, I still use the backpack. I had to take a break from it for several months earlier this year because of a shoulder injury. I did NOT get this carrying the back pack – I got it using one of those Chuckit things with the dogs and then aggravated it by carrying a six gallon gas container to my boat. But after much physical therapy in the pool, I am VERY happy to be able to go back to “wearing” my business in my backpack.

One of my books currently in the publishing process (done writing it) – Business in a Backpack – how I run my 100 person multi-national company (Cheetah Learning) completely out of this backpack, is coming out spring 2009.

Focusing on What Gets the Desired Results

Saturday, November 15th, 2008
What a fascinating picture of the 2008 US Presidential Election.

What a fascinating picture of the 2008 US Presidential Election.

Looks like if you live in a less populated part of the US, you have less sway on national executive politics. Congress and the Senate is where rural folks have more sway.

Looks like if you live in a less populated part of the US, you have less sway on national executive politics. Congress and the Senate are where rural folks have more sway.