The 6 Negotiation Traps to Beware Of

In a perfect world, people would negotiate being fully transparent and no written contracts would even be necessary to be signed. As Warren Buffet once did, he never even had to sign a written contract in a deal with the giant Walmart, because they had an established trusting relationship in place and Buffet “knew that they would deliver, and they did”.

Beware of negotiation tactics in order to better position yourself

Beware of negotiation tactics in order to better position yourself

However, in most situations this is not the case. Yes, you should sign a written contract in order to set the ground rules of the relationship, and yes, you should be aware that there are dirty tricks that are often used in negotiations.

Here I will discuss some of the most famous negotiation tricks and how to avoid becoming a hostage at the table.

1. “Let’s meet up at my place”

The physical surroundings of a negotiation are known to play an enormous role in the outcome of a meeting. Often the other side picks the place they want to negotiate and sometimes this might mean they are setting you up for failure.

For example, if they arrange the negotiation to be taken place at a bar or a noisy place, they are probably trying to make you feel uneasy what will lead you to want to conclude the negotiation as fast as possible.

So, whenever you can, be the one to pick the place. This will make sure that you are negotiating in a place that you feel comfortable at, and hopefully the other side feels the same way. Remember, a good negotiator looks for mutual gains, so take into consideration the other side’s needs.

However, there are times that letting the other side pick the spot is advantageous to you. Stepping into their turf will put them at ease and more open to suggestions.

If you ever get caught up negotiating in a “uncomfortable” place express your concerns and postpone the negotiation to another time and a different place.

2. Personal attacks

This is one of the dirtiest tricks in the book, and often used by people who a poor negotiators.

In this situation the other side will make personal attacks to your appearance, ignore you, make you wait for them, refuse to make eye contact, and more.

A perfect example is if the other side makes a comment about how tired you look. All these comments are intended to put you down and make you feel self-conscious. If you do look tired the other side should not be commenting on it, as this is irrelevant to the negotiation.

Whenever you feel that you are being attacked make sure you mention it to the other side and be hard on the problem. No negotiator should have to put up with such behavior.

3. Threats

This one if self explanatory. If the other side starts making threats of taking something away from you, or doing something harmful, remember one thing: the only reason they are doing that is to build up pressure on your side. Good negotiators don’t cave in to pressure.

On the other hand, warnings are a lot more legitimate than threats. These are realistic potential outcomes that could occur in the case of failing to reach an agreement. For example, expressing that if no agreement is reached, you both should be aware that the media will expose both parties’ inability to negotiate a deal, and no one wants that.

Also, expressing your plan of action in case no agreement is reached could be seen as a warning rather than a threat. For example, “if no deal is reached we will have to go with company X instead, as we absolutely need the material Y in order to produce product Z”.

If you ever feel that you are being threatened you can do any of the following: ignore it, make them unauthorized, make them irrelevant.

Businesses often record phone calls (and express that they are doing so) to avoid either side from threatening each other, forcing them to act in their best behavior.

4. Anchoring

In this case the negotiator will try to “anchor” an initial value proposal to a lower one. For example, if you are selling a house worth $200,000 the other side might make an initial offer of $100,000, what is extremely below your expectations, increasing the amount you have to bargain for.

Anchoring the price means throwing a first desirable price

Anchoring the price means throwing a first desirable price

This technique can be advantageous when the price of a product is unknown to both sides. Letting the other side throw the first price will give you an idea of how valuable this product is to them, and from there you can begin bargaining for your price.

However, if you are aware of how much something is worth (such as the home you are selling), go right ahead and throw the first price. This will allow you to start off with some advantage and have the other side bring the value to their desired range.

Beware that throwing an unrealistic price, such as $300,00 for the house, might make you lose credibility, leading the other side to walk away from the table without even bothering.

5. “Take it or leave it!”

I believe we have all been held hostage of this tactic. When we go to a store, for example, a product has its price tag on it and that is how much it will cost you – no room for negotiation. This is a non-interactive deal making method that is very effective in most developed countries.

If you ever travel to Peru, for example, on the way to Machu Picchu you will encounter a bunch of street vendors that will be willing to sell their products to much less than what they are asking for. This happens because they have a lot more to lose if they don’t sell that product than you do if you don’t buy it.

If you ever encounter a “take it or leave it” situation ignore it at first. Carry on with your principled negotiation trying to get to the bottom of the objective criteria as to how much something is valued at. Try to present different solutions, and if you do bring up that you are aware of such tactic explain to the other side what they have to lose if they don’t make a deal.

At Michigan University, professor George Siedel in his negotiation class asks his students to bargain for a lower price in a “take it or leave it” situation, such as buying a hamburger from McDonalds. And, unlike what most of us would have guessed it, generally over 69% of the class is successful in negotiating a lower price, yielding an average discount of 40% overall.

6. Contrast Principle

This tactic is famously used by real estate agents. It is an illusion that makes things look different when presented in sequence.

Presenting houses in sequence can help boost the value of the final house

Presenting houses in sequence can help boost the value of the final house

For example, when someone is looking for a house, the real estate agent often takes the person to a really run-down house that looks horrible. The person says that there is no way that they would live in there. And then he/she takes the client to another bad looking house – once again it is a no-no. But finally, the real estate agent takes the person to a beautiful looking house – very expensive – and the client often agrees to buy it. The agent has just created the illusion that the last house is a perfect place that is extremely hard to find by presenting bad looking houses beforehand.

Most likely, if those two ran-down houses were not presented beforehand the client would not have bought the last house in the first place, and that is why you should beware of this tactic. Make sure that you always use objective criteria when analyzing a deal and avoid becoming affected by external factors.

Finally…

Becoming aware of these 6 tactics can make you a much better negotiator. It will help you become more knowledgeable of what is really going on and help you stay on track.

You can even use some of these tactics – with the exception of 2 and 3, for obvious reasons – as tools to better your position in the negotiation, as long as these don’t conflict with your ethical standards. Remember, don’t do anything that you would regret later if it were to be shown in the front page of the newspaper the next day.

 

PA

Who would you pick to be the face of your franchise?

Let’s pretend you have hundreds of millions of dollars sitting in the bank and you want to start a new NBA franchise today. What player would you pick to build this team around?

Who would be the face of your franchise?

Who would be the face of your franchise?

I am a Lakers fan, and realistically I would not pick Kobe Bryant today to be that guy. Probably 12 years ago I would, but not today. Neither I would pick Lebron, Carmelo, or Durant.

Here I will explain to you who would I pick based on statistics with a little sprinkle of reality in the middle.

Stats Talk

Let me first define the metrics I am using to analyze each player (based on the 2013-14 season):

  • MPG: minutes per game
  • PPG: points per game
  • APG: assists per game
  • RBP: rebounds per game
  • SPG: steals per game
  • BPG: blocks per game

I have also decided to use three advanced statistics metrics because I believe they will be able to better define how effective each player really is:

  • PER: player efficiency. This is the player’s productivity per minute taking into account positive accomplishments (field goals, assists, blocks, steals, etc.) and negative accomplishments (turnovers, missed shots, fouls, etc.) – the NBA average is of 15.00
  • TS %: True shooting percentage. This is the player’s shooting efficiency taking into account 2-point field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws
  • BPM: Box plus minus (or just +/-). This shows the impact a player has on the team taking into account when he is on and off the floor, per 100 possessions. From the team’s perspective, it represents how many points they are up or down by when the player is playing.

There is some controversy regarding the PER, because this metric is largely an offensive one, since it only takes into account two defensive statistics – blocks and steals. And since it is a “per minute” metric, it might show distorted numbers, because it cannot measure when one is playing against the other team’s second unit. However, since I am analyzing players of similar quality (all starters) and of similar minutes, this should not present a problem.

My Picks

According to a study done by Dave Berri – professor of economics at Southern Utah University – players in the NBA are at their best when they reach 24 years of age and stay that way until 25, then start declining. Of course, this is not the same case to all players, such as Jordan who won all his titles after the age of 28.

However, since I am assuming that there will be no anomaly in this sample, I have picked the top 8 players under the age of 24 in the NBA today that I believe could potentially serve as a good first building block. Assuming that every thing else is perfect – that you have a great coaching staff and you are the GM of this team – picking players this young and already established would attract other key players to play for your team.

All the data below is based on the 2013-14 NBA season:

Player Age MPG PPG APG RPG SPG BPG PER TS% BPM
Anthony Davis 20 35.2 20.8 1.6 10 1.3 2.8 26.5 58.2% 3.7
Kyrie Irving 21 35.2 20.8 6.1 3.6 1.5 0.3 20.1 53.3% 2.9
Kawhi Leonard 22 29.1 12.8 2 6.2 1.7 0.8 19.4 60.2% 5.4
DeMarcus Cousins 23 32.4 22.7 2.9 11.7 1.5 1.3 26.1 55.5% 4.2
Paul George 23 36.2 21.7 3.5 6.8 1.9 0.3 20.1 55.5% 4.5
Damian Lillard 23 35.8 20.7 5.6 3.5 0.8 0.3 18.6 56.8% 2.6
Klay Thompson 23 35.4 18.4 2.2 3.1 0.9 0.5 14.3 55.5% 0.7
John Wall 23 36.3 19.3 8.8 4.1 1.8 0.5 19.5 52.4% 2.6

From looking at the data above we can conclude a few things right off the bat:

  1. all of these players have a positive +/- average contribution
  2. all of these players have an above 50% TS %
  3. there are only 2 players who play the center/power forward position (Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins)
  4. Kawhi Leonard has considerably smaller MPG and PPG metrics
  5. Klay Thompson has considerably smaller PER and +/- average contribution

Analysis

  1. The reason why all of these players have a positive +/- average contribution is because they are all key players on their respective teams. They are all starters and play a considerable amount of minutes, contributing in all aspects of the game.
  2. Having a TS % above 50% is a good sign. The NBA average tends to be always above 50%, so these numbers are not so surprising. But to put things into perspective, last season’s MVP, Kevin Durant, had a TS % of 63.5%. So the players above aren’t doing so bad.
  3.  Unfortunately, today’s game does not have that many dominant centers anymore. The league even eliminated the center position from the All-Star ballot last year (what I think is outrageous). However, these two young players, Davis and Cousins, seem to be right up there with the best in the business, such as Noah, Howard, and Duncan. With that, these two guys have their stock values increased due to the shortage in their position.
  4. The way Greg Popovich runs his team is very different from the rest of the league (what might be a hint to the other coaches as to why they keep winning titles). Pop uses all of his bench in every game, and it is rare to see someone in the Spurs scoring more than 25 points. Consequently, Leonard has lower PPG and MPG averages in comparison to the other guys. However, he has something that no one else in this list has: a ring and a Finals MVP award.
  5. Thompson’s low PER is due to the fact that last season he did not contribute to the team all that much in any other categories besides scoring. This could be alarming, however I decided to pull Klay’s early 2014-15 season PER and we can see an improvement: 22. Aside from his new 4-year $70 million max contract extension, we can all agree that Thompson has improved a lot over the summer, as he was one of the members of the Gold medalist USA team in the FIBA World Cup. His low +/- is not alarming as I am sure this number will increase in the upcoming seasons.

With that, who would be the best pick to build a franchise around today?

Reality Check

Taking into consideration that Davis, Irving and Cousins did not play for playoff teams last year, it is easy to understand why they put up such big numbers. They were the star of their teams and got a lot of the offense going through them.

DeMarcus Cousins was not part of a playoff team in the 2013-14 season

DeMarcus Cousins was not part of a playoff team in the 2013-14 season

Wall, Lillard and Thompson played for teams that were strong playoffs contenders. Although Golden State did not get past the first round, they were still a pretty strong team, finishing 3rd in the highly competitive Western Conference. Lillard proved himself by beating the Rockets with a last second shot taking his team to the second round for the first time in years. Wall, in the other hand, managed to lead his team to the second round of the weak Eastern Conference playoffs by beating the Bulls. All three of these players have proved to be a critical part of their team’s success, but none of them ever got past the second round.

Finally, George and Leonard were part of championship contending teams. Indiana dominated the East but came up to when they lost to the stacked back-to-back NBA champions Miami Heat. Leornard’s Spurs won the title and he had a breakout season by winning the Finals MVP. His performance during that Finals took a lot of people by surprise when he showed the tip of the iceberg of his upside potential.

If I had the chance to take any single one of these guys today I would. But if I had the privilege to pick, I would go with…

My Pick

Anthony Davis.

Anthony Davis has the potential to become one of the best centers to ever play the game

Anthony Davis has the potential to become one of the best centers/power forwards to ever play the game

The hype about this guy is real. His stats are right up there among the best players in the NBA. On the 2014-15 season opener he had 9 blocks – the first player to ever do that in a season opener since the 1974-75 season. He is currently in the top 10 in points, rebounds, blocks, and steals in the league.

Considering that NBA MVPs generally have a PER of above 27.5 (Jordan has a career PER of 27.91), on his second season he recorded a PER of 26.5 – considered to be a “weak” MVP contender.

He finished in the top 5 in double-doubles recorded in the league in the 2013-14 season, with an average of 20.8ppg and 10rpg at the age of 19. Plus, the kid can shoot the ball from 18 feet with consistency.

Taking into account that he has won an Olympic gold medal in 2012 and another gold medal in the 2014 FIBA World Cup with the USA National Teams all before the age of 21 adds even more credibility to his curriculum.

He has an immense wingspan of over 7’7″, what makes it understandable why he blocks so many shots, gets so many steals, and grabs so many rebounds.

And, on top of all of that he has proven to be extremely coachable and professional at such a young age.

The sky is the limit for AD, and if he continues on this pace he will certainly become one of the best centers/power forwards to ever play the game.

With that, he would be my pick to be the face of my newly formed franchise, as he would also easily attract other key players to join the team.

I will leave you with a few of his highlights. Enjoy.

 

 

PA

Should U.S., Canada and Mexico merge into one?

Stephen J. Dubner, in Freakonomics Radio, has recently done a podcast where he explored the possibility of merging the U.S. with Mexico into one gigantic country. It was a 55 minute podcast where an immense flow of ideas came in and left American listeners with this hopeful fantasy of being able to have the best guacamole in the world for cheaper than ever.

NAFTA Logo

NAFTA Logo

In the other hand, one day I was looking for a new book at Chapters and I stumbled upon a book named The Merger of the Century by Diane Francis, where she discusses why Canada and America should become one country.

Now, as we have been hearing on the news lately, with Catalonia pushing for independence from Spain, California trying to split itself into 6 states, Scotland trying to become an independent sovereign state, and more, why not unify and become a super powerhouse? East and West Germany is a perfect example of why this is possible.

Here I will discuss the potential upside and downside for each of the North American countries, politically, economically, and socially, and why this is not a feasible idea.

Political

The American political system is something that not many people understand very well. Basically it is divided into a judiciary branch, which interprets the Constitution, federal laws and regulations; the legislative branch, which is vested in the two chambers of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives; and finally, the executive branch, which is headed by the president and is independent of the legislature.

U.S. Capitol - Legislative Branch

U.S. Capitol – Legislative Branch

Canada, in the other hand, is a constitutional monarchy that has a multi-party system and a legislature that derives from Great Britain’s Westminster Parliament.

Finally, Mexico is organized in a system that is somewhat similar to the U.S., with executive, legislative and judicial branches organized into a federal representative democratic republic.

Bringing Mexico and Canada into the equation would require some large political restructures for everyone. The U.S., being the larger country, would probably impose their system and begin electing Senators for each of the new states incorporated. Canada would need to detach completely from the U.K. and divide itself into democrats or republicans. Mexicans would more easily adapt into the new system.

Passing new bills, restructuring the new legislative system –  Canada and the U.S. derive from Common Law, with the exception of Quebec and Louisiana which, alongside Mexico, derive from Civil Law – would be harder than ever. Can you imagine the confusion this would cause to businesses and people?

Would we then have one single president who would rule the entire continent of North America? How would we determine whether he/she should be from Canadian, American, or Mexican descent? How about the changes in languages that Quebec has so hardly fought for through the implementation of the Bill 101? Would we not require ex-Mexicans to learn french and english in school? What kind of super citizen would we be breeding by mashing together all these different cultures and expecting them to become a single one?

And I will not even touch on how the militaries would unify, because this is a whole different ball game.

The bottom line is, regardless of how different these systems are, and the fact that this new gigantic country would be trilingual, this change would costs trillions of dollars and a restructuring that would take decades to be implemented, slowing down the growth of this country and potentially putting it in a hole impossible to get out of.

Economic

The benefits that businesses would get from this unification would probably be the only positive thing out of this merger.

Mexico has one of the strongest automotive industries in the world. Ford, GM, and Chrysler have been operating there since the 30s and nowadays it produces a lot of the technologies we see in our cars. Alongside the automotive industry, Mexico is the 6th largest producer of oil in the world. Their tourism is arguably the strongest in North America, being the 8th most visited country in the world with over 20,000,000 tourists per year.

Canada is as natural resources rich as Russia and is U.S.’ largest importer of oil. From the oil sands in northern Alberta, to the unexplored oil reserves in the Arctic Sea, to having the largest coast line in the world, the nation is an economic power house with a shortage of workers.

The U.S.’ financial markets account to nearly 45% of the world’s market and has an immensely diversified economy. From the tech hub located in the Silicon Valley, to the off shore oil explorations in Louisiana, to their internal real estate dynamics, the country represents 22% of the nominal global GDP, being the strongest economy in the world.

If these three countries unified, the final result would account to a GDP of over $20.6476 trillion.

But how beneficial would this unification really be? By summing up the numbers everything indicates that it would be a great idea, however we need to take into account the different legislations that govern these economies, which allow them to flourish in the way they do.

The different currencies would present an issue

The different currencies would present an issue

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was created for the strengthening of each country’s economy without interfering with the way the countries are ran. Since the dynamics of an economy are highly tied to the country’s politics, changing the internal legislation of each nation to accommodate this North American merger would affect a lot more than just the economy. What about the currency? The Canadian dollar is lower than the American right now, and the Mexican peso is worth nearly $0.07. How would this new country compensate for the financial shift that would occur?

That is why NAFTA is such an asset to these countries, because it allows them to become a trilateral economy (free trade and exchange of workforce with TN Visas) without compromising their independence and currencies.

And let’s not forget about the darkside of Mexico. The cartels run large drug trafficking operations from South America (where they get a lot of their drugs) all the way to the U.S. (who are their largest consumers). Although the DEA works hard to keep things in order in the Southwest (Braking Bad will show you exactly how), becoming one gigantic country would enable drug lords to move illicit drugs across North America with much more ease than ever before, now that they don’t need to go around borders anymore.

Therefore, the economical upside isn’t as good as we would have thought, since there already is a great agreement in place that allows these three countries to operate in a trilateral economy.

Social

The social changes from a merger would be unimaginable.

Canada U.S. Mexico
Population 35.16 million 320.05 million 122.33 million
Area 9,984,670 km2 9,857,306 km2 1,972,550 km2
Unemployment (%) 6.4% 5.9% 5.2%
GDP per capita $40,588 $50,859 $16,143
Life Expectancy 81 years od 79 years old 78 years old
Water System Excellent Excellent Poor

From looking at the data above we can conclude a few things:

  1. Canada has a lot of uninhabited land
  2. The U.S. has an immense amount of people (who make good money)
  3. The average Mexican makes barely enough money to pay rent

Now, with all the immigration issues that the U.S. has with Mexico, it would be safe to say that once these nations merged, a large chunk of the Mexican population would migrate to the U.S.’ current land to look for jobs. The Mexican work force is a lot younger than the U.S.’ and is used to get paid a lot less. This would bring the minimum wage down across this new gigantic nation, bringing down with it the GDP per capita.

Americans would not be very happy about that, and would start moving up to Canadian lands to work in the oil sands (more than they do now). This increased workforce competitiveness would increase the unemployment rate in the northern part of the territory and Canadians would not be happy about that.

A few Canadians would then move down to warmer regions, such as Arizona and California, and eventually move back after suffering from severe sun burns.

Jokes aside, this new nation would cause an immense amount of inland migration leading to severe impacts on unemployment rates and lowered average income, causing the nation to collapse. Plus, the government would need to find a way to standardize and restructure Mexico’s water treating system.

Another big issue to consider is how would this new nation deal with the elderly. Nowadays, Connecticut pays for a large amount of elderly compensation across the U.S., whereas poorer states, such as Mississippi, need a lot more compensation than other states. Bringing in Mexican retired people, who live under the American poverty line, would require this new nation to compensate the southern territory with larger retirement checks, leading income taxes across the country to sky rocket.

Finally, these are only a few of my social predictions from this unification, and I am sure that there are a million other scenarios that we could think of that would lead to a million more, and so on. The bottom line is, merging these three countries into a single one with a population of almost half a billion people would require a lot of governmental changes to compensate for the inequality that would result from this.

Plausible Solution?

Mexicans are very proud of their culture and are not willing to melt into a single nation identity. Canadians are on the same boat, they are proud of the maple leaf and would never want to unify their hockey team with the Americans’ (I cannot imagine Mexicans playing hockey, I’m sorry). So the Americans are standing in the middle with their hands in the air thinking: what do we have to gain from this?

The North American Union would be extremely large

The North American Union would be extremely large

One possible dream that Mexico’s ex-president Vicente Fox proposed on Freakonomics Radio was to create a union, such as the European Union, where countries are independent but people do not need a passport to move around the continent or live somewhere else.

This would be called the North American Union and would potentially bring a lot of benefits to the continent. However, Europe has shown us that it is not all sunshine and rainbows; when one country struggles, the others suffer from it too, leading to inland migration to the countries that are doing well, increasing unemployment rates, and so on. The repercussions from such a Union would be somewhat similar to a merger.

Dreaming is fun, but maybe things should just remain the way they are.

 

PA

Band of the Month: Run River North

I came across these guys when was listening to some playlists on 8Tracks, and I comboed: Chill + Mountains

I know weird combo of key words (my inner hipster was talking louder than my brain) but an awesome playlist came up and there were about 2 songs by Run River North in there.

I YouTube’d these guys and now they are one of my favorite bands.

They formed in 2011 and were formerly known as Monsters Calling Home. They’re from California and are a Korean-American indie rock band.

Not your average hipster band. These guys are original.

Here are some of my top picks from their last album:

“Growing Up”

“Somewhere”

“Excuses”

 

PA

Headspace: The Meditation App That Will Change Your Life

This is my first post under the tech tab. And what better way to start it off with one of my favorite apps: Headspace.

Headspace App Logo

Headspace App Logo

Let me first explain who is behind this app. Andy Puddicombe is a British born man who midway through his Sport Science degree decided to drop out to become a monk. I could end his bio here and we would all agree that this guy is the coolest dude on earth.

So he travelled to the Himalayans to study meditation and embarked in a 10 year journey that took him around the world learning and teaching Tibetan Buddhism.

When he returned to London he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama and started the company Headspace. He is also author of 2 books, featured on Men’s Health mag, gave a speech at TED Talks, and more.

The bottom line is, this guy is legit.

The App

The app will give you 10 free introductory guided sessions of ten minutes each teaching you the basics of meditation. This is part of the Fundamentals Package where Andy will guide you through some of the techniques of meditation in an easy and interactive way for the Western world fast paced people.

After you finish the ten sessions you will love it so much that you will subscribe and purchase the yearly (or lifetime) subscription so you can practice meditation every day.

This is the website in case you are wondering about the prices: https://www.headspace.com/

As you finish your 30 sessions, which are part of the fundamentals course, you will unlock the rest of the app which provides you with meditation to cure stress, anxiety, provide happiness, increase focus and imagination, and more.

If you want to take your game to the next level this app is for you. Think of this as a gym membership for your brain.

Download the app here.

 

PA

My Trip to the Tropical Paradise of Foz do Iguaçu (Iguaçu Falls)

Over the summer of 2014 I got the opportunity to visit Foz do Iguaçu in the state of Parana, Brazil.

There are plenty of stuff to do there but I would not recommend staying there for longer than 4 days (unless you intend to adventure into Argentina or Paraguay for a few extra days).

Day 1

When we arrived in the airport of the city of Foz do Iguaçu and picked up our rental standard vehicle, we drove down the Avenida das Cataratas and saw multiple hotels and resorts along the highway. Most people prefer to stay in those rather than finding a place in the city, since the national park is just 10 to 20 minutes away from any hotel along the road.

Av. das Cataratas

Av. das Cataratas

We stayed at the Harbor Hotel Colonial, on kilometer 20 of the Av. das Cataratas. It is a nice hotel with a pool and a restaurant. The rooms provide you with just enough of what you need. Since we were planning on spending most of our days outside, we did not care much about the fanciness of the hotel.

The national park of the Iguacu Falls opens daily at 9am and closes at 5pm. By the time we arrived at the hotel, it had already been closed so we decided to go into the city to have dinner. We had heard a lot of good things about a place named La Mafia, an italian restaurant based on the film The Godfather.

And wow, what a unique place.

The restaurant is situated in a house that had been turned into an eatery, located in a skinny dark street – perfect scenario for the italian mafia themed place. All the waiters were dressed like in the movie and the rooms were decorated differently from each other, portraying a different scene of the movie. The food was great, and so was the wine. 10/10.

Day 2

The following day we we went to the National Park. They charge you a daily fee of R$52,20 for foreigners and R$31,20 for Brazilians. After you pay, you hop into a air conditioned bus (trust me you will be glad it is air conditioned) which takes you into the park. There is only one two-way road that reaches a final destination at a restaurant, but along the way you can choose to get off at multiple locations to start your trail throughout the falls.

We chose to go on an adventure with Macuco Safari, which takes your through the forest and explains to you in english and portuguese a little bit of the history of the place and the different types of trees and animals that live in that ecosystem. When you reach the end of the ride you hop in a boat that takes you under the gigantic falls. Yes, they take you right under one of the largest water falls in the world.

It is scary as hell and people had told us that a boat had flipped upside down before during one of those tours. I was holding on for my dear life during the ride, but I could not understand how one of those boats had flipped. They are massive and the pilots do that on a regular basis. There is no need to be afraid about that sort of thing.

Macuco Safari boat

Macuco Safari boat

We also spend the day walking through the trails and taking photos. The scenery is absolutely jaw-dropping. Make sure your camera is charged, and that you bring extra batteries and a plastic bag.

The waterfalls are so massive that water sprays all over you and you will get wet, and so will your camera if you don’t cover it.

I got to walk on a catwalk over the Devil’s Throat. Yes, they named a place the goddamn Devil’s Throat. This is a massive water fall that kind of makes the shape of a half moon and millions of tons of water go through it every second. It is loud, it is wet, it is nature telling you who’s the boss.

At the end of the day, after we finished walking through all the trails in the Brazilian side, dodging hungry Quatis and slapping mosquitos off of our arms, we visited the Parque das Aves (Birds’ Park), where you get to see Rio 1 and 2 in real life. There are so many different birds and walk in cages that at one point a toucan was trying to pick a fight with me. At the end of the tour you get to put a macaw on your arm and take a picture with it.

Day 3

This was our last full day at the tropical paradise so we decided to go visit the Argentinian side. Most of the falls are located on that side, so instead of observing them from a far, now we were walking through them.

Massive waterfall on the Argentinean side

Massive waterfall on the Argentinean side

It was quite the experience as you get a lot wetter. Oh, and make sure that when you cross the boarder you exchange your Brazilian reais for Argentinian pesos, because otherwise you will starve.

Our South American neighbors were very receptive and understanding of the fact that I could not speak spanish to save my life. They also have great meat at a ridiculously low price. It is a great place to eat and drink.

Day 4

We used the morning to relax by the pool and read. The previous days had been very hard on our legs, so taking this time off is essential to give yourself a break. Our flight back to Sao Paulo was in the early afternoon and that was the end of our amazing trip to one of the seven wonders of the world.

I highly recommend this place to anyone looking for some adventure as you can go skydiving and do white water rafting if you have the guts. The scenery is beautiful, the people are great, the food is impeccable, and it is really easy to get around.

 

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How to become a great negotiator

Getting to YES is a best-seller that first came out in 1981 written by Roger Fisher and William Ury. It has been used in numerous university negotiation courses and is recognized as one of the ground breaking negotiation books of all time. Since the business world is not the same from 1981, the title has been revised multiple times over the years and still holds strong relevance nowadays.

Getting to YES still is one of the most important negotiation books in modern age

The book is useful for all people, since negotiation takes place every day in our lives. When we are teenagers we negotiate with our parents the parameters of our nights out (curfew, where is it, who is going, how we are getting there, etc.), when we are recent grads we negotiate our salaries and vacation time with our employers, when we are husband and wife we negotiate who is going to take up which section of the closet and our private spaces in the new home, when we purchase a meal at a restaurant we engage in a negotiation of what to order and how much to pay for it, when we are senior executives at major corporations we negotiate high scale international deals with the Chinese, etc…


Shift in Paradigm

Fisher and Ury discuss a method that they have developed over the years that consists of approaching the negotiation table with different lens.

We all have gotten caught up in other people’s attitudes during a discussion, which consequently affected our ability to get what we wanted. We all have dealt with some kind of conflict that has left us with a bitter taste in our mouths. So what have we been doing wrong?

Here are the 4 pillars that every successful negotiator bases his/her attitudes around when faced with conflict:

  • Separate the people from the problem
  • Focus on interests, not positions
  • Generate third alternatives (win-win outcomes)
  • Utilize objective criteria

Separate the People from the Problem

In business, especially, negotiators often forget that they are dealing with humans first. Every person has its own internal conflicts, psychological issues, and desired outcomes. Naturally we have different construals for every situation because our past life events all play a role in how we see things.

For example, a person who grew up in a family of artists will naturally approach problems with a more creative way (most of the times), whereas a person who grew up in a family of business executives will approach problems in a more systematic and organized manner. This happens because our environment and life experiences shape up our way of thinking, and as a consequence no human will ever be the same.

And that is where conflicts are born.

Negotiating with anger will most likely obstruct you from generating positive results for both sides. With that, Fisher and Ury discussed 4 important things to keep in mind that will help you separate the people from the problem:

  • Perception: their thinking is the problem. The reason why people argue is because of the difference in perceptions. With that, is is important to avoid thinking that, whatever your fears are, that is what the other side is trying to accomplish. They have their own interests too and putting yourself in their shoes will take you a long way.
  • Emotions: people often feel threatened in negotiations, and fear generates anger, and vice versa. It is crucial for you to understand your own emotions before coming into a negotiation. Once you have that, it is easier to understand the other side’s feelings. Pay close attention to their core concerns and openly talk about it. And most importantly, do not react to emotional outbursts, these often have nothing to do with you nor the negotiation, so just continue to act nice and the other side will eventually calm down.
  • Communication: without communication there is no negotiation. Most of the time people (including ourselves) listen with the intention to respond. Instead, actively listening to understand will most often lead both parties to the higher road. Acknowledge what is being said and put things into perspective by asking questions about it. And finally, speak to be understood and never speak about the other party. Express your feelings and let the other side express theirs.
  • Prevention: building long lasting relationships will most often cut a lot of the work in a future negotiation. Trust is a huge factor for humans, so investing in the relationship will only do good. People who know each other generally take anything the other negotiator says personal and directed to them. Build your “face” value by facing the problem from the same side of the table as them, both looking at the issue, not at each other.

Finally, by separating the people from the problem negotiators can deal with the interpersonal relationships first and prevent feelings from getting involved with the actual issue in hand. Always keep in mind to be hard on the problem, but soft on the people.

Focus on Interests, not Positions

Prior to any negotiation both parties will have their own interests. In a perfect world both interests would be fulfilled and the parties would walk away from the table with a big grin on their faces. However, that is not how things normally go…

This section is strongly tied to the previous one (separate the people from the problem). When we let our feelings get involved with the negotiation deal we often tend to park our minds on a strong position and fight for our pride. No one gives in, no one wins. Matter of fact, both parties lose.

We are so focused on our positions that we often forget what was our interests in the first place. For example, a couple fighting over who is going to get which side of the bed; on one side there is a lamp and a window that lets cool air in, and on the other side there is just a bedside table. One party wants to be close to the window because it complains of feeling hot during the night, while the other wants to have a lamp by their side in order to read before falling asleep. But they are both so set in stone on which side of the bed they want (the one closest to the window) that they forget that they can actually move the lamp to the other side. They don’t disclose their interests and end up negotiating over which side of the bed they want instead of negotiating over who gets the lamp.

That is a simple example of how tend we bargain over positions instead of interests.

Fisher and Ury recommend identifying the other party’s interests first. Ask yourself “Why have they not made the decision I want, yet?“.

The first mistake we make is assuming that the other party has the same interests as us. As a consequence we end up battling over who gets the last piece of pizza when in reality one just wants the crust and the other just wants the cheese.

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One of the most basic human needs is the one of economic well-being

Another way to identify the other party’s interests is by understanding humans most basic needs; these are often the bottom line of the negotiation:

  • security
  • economic well-being
  • a sense of belonging
  • recognition
  • control over one’s life

Most of the time we overlook these interests and think that the only interest involved is money. Is the mother not lending her son $20 dollars because she needs that money or because she is trying to have some control over her son’s life? She certainly could use that money for groceries but maybe she just does not want her son to use that money to secretly buy booze with his friends.

Finally, once you have identified the interests of each party comes the time to discuss those interests and find a solution to the problem.

It is your job to describe your interests to the highest level of detail so that the other party can see where you are coming from. And it is also your job to acknowledge the other party’s interests.

Often we are so focused on what we want and on our problems that we give little attention to the other person’s problems. People respond better when they feel that they have been understood. This is a win-win situation.

And as human beings, when we feel threatened we focus the problem on what other people have done to us in the past. Forget that behavior. You will not get what you want and on top of that you will lose face with the other person. Only look forward, never backwards.

Generate Third Alternatives

Often we believe that our solution is the only right solution. We tend think that we will either go with our way or the other party’s way, and as natural human behavior we truly consider our position the better one. But what if there was another alternative? This is what we like to call it the Third Alternative.

The Third Alternative is something that neither of the parties has thought of it yet. It doesn’t require anyone to compromise or give in. It is a middle ground that meets both interests in such way that both parties contributed to pave the land.

Fisher and Ury describe four obstacles that inhibit people from generating options:

  • Premature judgment
  • Searching for a single answer
  • Assumption of a fixed pie
  • Thinking that solving their problem is their problem
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Generating new ideas requires a lot of effort and cooperation

It is not natural to invent options. It requires hard and practical thinking. But generally we come into the negotiation table with premature judgments that impedes us from generating Third Alternatives.

For example, as a recent graduate you might be afraid of negotiating your salary with your new employer. You naturally assume that disclosing your desire for more money will jeopardize the image your future boss has of you. However, disclosing why you would need that money would encourage your boss to discuss potential alternatives with you. You might want to say that you want to use the extra money to pay the mortgage on your new house; this will imply that you want to stay with that employer for the long run. With that, your boss might decide the give you small increments of salary over the course of five years, which in the end will account to the amount you had in mind in the first place.

Another obstacle is when we see a negotiation as narrowing the gap between two positions, instead of broadening the options available. It is easy to think that by having a hard time to find an agreement is already a big enough task, so thinking of creative ways to make things work will only cause more trouble. Premature closure will only make the process harder.

Thirdly, we see a negotiation as a fixed pie, from which we will try to divide it evenly. What if you could expand that pie? The slices would end up bigger, would they? That is what Third Alternatives do.

Finally, we tend to feel disloyal when we think of ways to solve the other party’s problems. This psychological attachment to our own interests often impedes the wheels from turning during a negotiation. Detaching from our emotional involvement will make your mind freer to think of new ways to untangle the strings.

In order to generate options it is crucial that we separate inventing from deciding.

An employer, when is looking for candidates to fill a position in the company, puts out a job ad for a number of weeks. This allows enough time for multiple people to apply to that job. The point of doing this is to broaden the employer’s options. If he/she can chose the best from a pool of one hundred candidates why would he/she want to quickly look around his/her network and potentially get a mediocre hire?

It is crucial that we generate as many realistic options as possible before deciding on which one to take. Fisher and Ury recommend going through the following process in order to generate Third Alternatives:

  1. Figure out what the problem is
  2. Analyze the problem through the diagnose of potential causes
  3. Develop theoretical cures to what is causing the problem
  4. Take action by choosing the best option from your pool of cures

Finally, there is no point in negotiating an agreement if there isn’t mutual gain. A successful negotiator measures his/her effectiveness by the quality of the solution to the problem, not by how much he/she individually gained. This not only contributes to a good reputation, but also encourages other people to do business with you. Make sure you put yourself in the other party’s shoes and make their decision as easy as possible. This is what generating Third Alternatives is all about.

Utilize Objective Criteria

Building upon the previous three pillars for successful negotiation, this is the last piece of the puzzle, and arguably the most important one.

When we settle an agreement with someone else often we just agree to something the other party says (which might sound good or bad) without really knowing what thoughts went behind the proposal. For example, when a contractor building the foundations of your home comes and tells you that it has to be done a certain way and this is how much it will cost you, most of the times we assume that this is how things are done and there is no contesting the offer. However, when the price seems a little too high we blindly try to convince the other party to lower it. But unless you are dealing with someone who is going through financial struggles and really just needs the money, this attempt will generally fail.

In order to critically come to a fair deal we must understand the criteria that the opposite party used to make the offer. This is the process of utilizing objective criteria.

Principled negotiation comes from the same grounds of principle-centered behavior, which I discussed in: “Your Personal Constitution: what holds true to you“. It is about acting based upon a well-thought out set of values/principles and, in the case of negotiations, criteria.

During a negotiation both parties need to decide on what are fair standards to base their offers upon. One party wants to sell it at a high price while the other wants to purchase it at a low one, how can they reach a fair price?

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Never yield to pressure, instead insist on using objective criteria

Therefore, before beginning the negotiation both parties need to agree upon fair principles so that no one feels taken advantage of. Once these are clear it will be easier to separate the people from the problem and focus on the interests. It is inevitable that eventually you will run into someone who will try to pressure you or make threats. Never yield to that. Insist on the criteria agreed upon in the beginning and keep looking for that Third Alternative.

For example, you go into a car dealership with the intent of selling your current used vehicle. The other party offers you $15,000. So you ask him why $15,000 (looking for the criteria). He says that they are currently selling the same vehicle in the dealership for that price. So you ask him if that same vehicle is as old as yours and if it has leather seats. The man working at the dealership says it does not, so you inquire about how much leather seats cost and what is the adjusted value for your vehicle with its year taken in consideration. And so on.

By doing this you will be utilizing concrete values (add the price of leather seats and adjust the year value) to determine the value of your vehicle. You might get $14,000 or you might get $16,000 instead, but the important thing here is that you are reaching a fair agreement for both parties, and this is what great negotiators do.

But, what if…

By practicing the four pillars of negotiation you will be able to generate better results and build a strong reputation for yourself. These are the most fundamental shifts in paradigm that will help you become a great negotiator.

However, in real life things don’t always do the way we learn on paper. The other party might be more powerful, have more authority, or simple have more options than you do. In the book Getting to YES, Fisher and Ury address all of those issues and introduce new tools, such as your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement), to leverage your position at the table.

There is always a solution to any problem. Negotiating help parties see the problem more clearly and push people to work together to reach win-win outcomes. The only way to get better at it is by constant self-development and real world practice.

But I must admit it, paying someone’s dinner or just buying them a coffee will also take you a long way.

 

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Your Personal Constitution: what holds true to you

Stephen R. Covey says that we should always begin with the end in mind.

For most things in our lives we do begin with the end. We are just not fully aware of it.

For example, artists, before painting a portrait, have a picture of what they want it to look like before grabbing the brush. Professional athletes visualize what they want to do in a game before the game has even started. An entrepreneur, before launching his/her business, will write down a business plan of what he/she would like the business to be.

So, with everything in life there will always be 2 creations. Our visualization and the concrete product.

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We always create things twice: once in our minds and then in the physical world

The Funeral

As an exercise, Covey asks his readers to close their eyes and picture themselves driving to a loved one’s funeral.

As you get there you see family, coworkers, community friends, and others getting ready to speak in honor of the fallen. There will be four speakers: one from his/her immediate family, a coworker, a friend, and someone from a community organization (a church or volunteer program) whom which has been involved with him/her.

However, as you get close and look inside the casket you see yourself! This is your funeral in 3 years from now.

Now, what would you like these speakers to say about you?

Write down 10 to 15 things you would like to be remembered for.

Leadership comes before Management

The 10 to 15 points you wrote down are your principles. These are the things you value the most in life and would define your terms of success.

Living through a well thought out set of values is going to direct you towards the path you want the most. These principles will guide you towards your personal definition of success, and ultimately will be what you will be remembered for.

For example, when I am long gone I would like to be remembered as a person who always loved to help others before myself, had a progressive vision with what I wanted to do, carried myself with great leadership, integrity and confidence, was easy to talk to, and worked extremely hard towards goals bigger than myself in an ethical and value-driven way.

With these set of values I have done my first creation of what I would like my life to be like.

So, now comes the question: what is the difference between leadership and management?

  • A manager focuses on how he/she can accomplish certain things
  • A leader focuses on what he/she wants to accomplish

With this distinction it is easy to understand why leadership has always to come before management. For example, group of explorers are traveling in a jungle with producers cutting through trees looking for a treasure. The managers are the ones behind the producers sharpening the machetes, writing procedure manuals, and organizing the schedule.

The leader, however, is the one who climbs up the tallest tree and says: “We are in the wrong jungle!”.

The leader has a set of well thought out principles which serves as his/her compass. This compass will guide his group in the right direction. With that being said, no management success can compensate for failure in leadership.

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Your principles become an internal compass that guide you in your journey

Your Personal Constitution

Think about the Constitution of a country. That is the tool used to evaluate any law that is passed or not passed. The Constitution will last and endure over years because it is based on a set of correct principles which are the truths obtained upon the declaration of the independence of this country.

By beginning with the end in mind you will be able to develop your own Personal Constitution by utilizing your imagination and conscience (discussed in the previous post).

As an example, I will share my own Personal Constitution:

I am at my best when I inspire others.
I will try to prevent times when I let my negative feelings dictate my responses.
I will enjoy my work by finding employment where I can lead a group of people towards a common goal.
I will find enjoyment in my personal life through making the ones around me laugh.
I will find opportunities to use my natural talents and gifts such as learning quickly, including people into activities, solving problems, motivating myself and others towards achievements, and communicating with others.
I can do anything I set my mind to. I will start a company in the sports industry and utilize the profits to help the poor in Third World countries.
My life’s journey is to continually develop myself as a leader in my community in order to attain the resources and trust of others to help the poor and my own family. I am doing this because I was raised in Brazil being exposed to poverty and also lived in Canada, getting to see the benefits of living in a developed country. I intend to end my journey by inspiring many others to take on the challenge of being a proactive member in society with the desire to help the ones in need.
I will be a person who will always carry myself with integrity, self-belief, and respect (for myself and for others). I will always be a leader with a progressive vision and trail blaze a path to many others behind me. I will always be easy to talk to.
My most important future contribution to others will be to provide my family with options to choose from. I want to return everything my parents have done for me and become a good supporting parent like they were for me. I also want to help the poor communities in my country to develop and thrive as individuals.
I will stop procrastinating and start working on:

  • Going to bed earlier and waking up earlier
  • Getting off my cellphone/laptop and doing more activities outside
  • Taking more chances on the things I believe are right for me

I will strive to incorporate the following attributes into my life:

  • Being humble and generous
  • Carrying myself with great integrity and respect
  • Leading others with a pioneer’s mindset

I will constantly renew myself by focusing on the four dimensions of my life:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Meditating regularly
  • Reading regularly
  • Interacting with others regularly

You can also develop your own mission statement by clicking here (read the entire post first).

The 4 Balancing Factors

Before writing our personal mission statement we must first understand what fuels the center of our lives.

Stephen R. Covey describes the four interdependent vital factors that dictate our balance in life:

  • Security: your sense of self-worth, identity and self-esteem
  • Guidance: your source of direction in life, your internal frame that interprets what is happening outside
  • Wisdom: your perspective on life, how your principles apply and relate to each other, a sense of oneness
  • Power: your capacity to act, your vital energy to make decisions, your capacity to overcome bad habits

Depending on what is in our center, each of these factors will be found somewhere in between strong (security, guidance, wisdom, and power) and weak (security, guidance, wisdom, and power). For example, your sense of security will be found either on one end of the spectrum as extreme insecurity, or on the opposite end as a deep sense of self-worth.

Types of Centers

You could center your life in a variety of different aspects of your life, and with that your four balancing factors will consequently be affected by that.

For example:

  • If you are  money-centered your sense of personal worth is based on your net worth, becoming vulnerable to anything that threatens your economic situation; profit is your only decision making criterion; making money is the lens through which you see life; and your power is restricted to what you can accomplish with your money.
  • If you are friend-centered your security is a function of the social mirror; you base your decisions on others’ judgements; you see the world through a social lens; and you are limited to your social comfort zone.
  • If you are enemy-centered you are always wondering what your enemy is up to; you guide your actions based on what your enemy does; you are defensive and overreactive; and the little power you have comes from anger, resentment, and vengeance.
  • If you are family-centered your security if founded on family acceptance; your family dictates your source of correct attitudes and behaviors; you interpret all your life in terms of your family; and your actions are limited by family models and traditions.

According to Stephen R. Covey you can also be spouse-centeredwork-centeredpossession-centeredpleasure-centeredchurch-centered, and self-centered. All of the above provide a volatile way to center your life around, putting your sense of securityguidancewisdom, and power at the mercy of external factors.

Principle-Centeredness

By centering your life around a well-thought out set of values and a personal constitution your four factors will be dependent on internal factors. This will provide you with a more consistent balance throughout life:

  • Security: based on principles that do not change regardless of external factors and you understand your own development
  • Guidance: you are guided by a compass and you stand apart from life’s situations, emotions, and circumstances enabling you to look at a more balanced whole.
  • Wisdom: you adopt a proactive lifestyle basing your actions on long-term consequences.
  • Power: you are only limited by your basic understanding of your correct principles and your decisions are not based on your current financial or circumstantial limitations.

Applying your Principles

Our brains are divided into a left and a right hemisphere. The left hemisphere is more logical and verbal, whereas the right hemisphere is more intuitive and creative. Although people use both sides of the brain, one tends to be more dominant than the  other depending on the person.

Since we live in a primarily left brain dominant world, where words and logic are enthroned, our creative and intuitive side tends to be overlooked. Even in the public educational institutions we are teaching all of our kids to become mathematicians, engineers, or analysts. We hardly see schools encouraging music and art – it is more of an option for the students.

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Once we understand our values we have a better idea of where we want to go

However, we do need to exercise our right side of the brain in order to be able to visualize our first creations. It is extremely important that we begin to value more our intuition and integrate that with our left side of the brain to put it into practice.

Once we figure out what is important to us, what are our values, we make a promise to ourselves not to react to the external environment. We become more aware of ourselves and once we find a fork on the road we are sure of which road to take.

 

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Responsibility: the ability to choose your reponse

Have you ever thought about what the word Responsibility means?

When you were a kid and your parents told you to be responsible, most of us just took it in as “don’t be stupid”.

But when we dissect the word we can see that being responsible is having the ability to choose your response when receiving stimuli.

For example, we all have dealt with people that really got in our nerves. Someone who is trying to make us mad, get in our heads, or simply just angry at us. Their attitude and words are stimuli that our brain receives. Someone highly responsible is able to respond to that stimuli based on his/her values, and not based on the other person’s weaknesses.

Stephen R. Covey tells us a story about Victor Frankl, who was a Jew that survived the death camps in Nazi Germany. There, Frankl experienced the most unimaginable atrocities a human being could potentially go through. He saw his parents, wife, and brothers die. Him and his sister were the only ones from his family who survived.

One day, when Victor was left naked and alone in a small room he began to become aware of what he calls “the last of the human freedoms”. The Nazi captors could take away his physical freedom, but they could not take away his freedom of identity. Frankl was the only one capable to decide how all of those atrocities were going to affect him. He walked into the land found in between the stimuli and the response.

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The “Last of Human Freedoms” is attained through the ability to choose your responses.

And so, through mental, emotional and moral discipline Victor was able to grow his interior freedom larger and larger, until it was larger than his Nazi captors. In other words, his captors had more options to chose from their physical environment, but Victor had more freedom to exercise his options.

Therefore, within our freedom to pick our options we have:

  • self-awareness: seeing ourselves from an outside perspective
  • imagination: ability to create things in our minds
  • conscience: know what is right or wrong
  • independent will: ability to act based on our self-awareness

Being Proactive

When Stephen R. Covey talks about the first habit of being Proactive he is talking about staying away from being a Reactive person. In other words, choosing our response based on our self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will; and not on external factors.

Covey talks about the essence of proactive people: the ability to subordinate an impulse to a value. While reactive people are highly affected by their social environment (when someone treats them bad or good, on their circumstances, and feelings), proactive people act based on their well-thought out set of values.

When most married couples go into couple’s therapy and talk about how they are not feeling “love” anymore, they end up learning that love isn’t a feeling, but an action. You can choose to love someone – making sacrifices, doing things without expecting anything in return, truly caring about someone else. Reactive people approach love as something that just happens based on the stimuli they receive.

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For proactive people, love is a choice not a feeling.

Owning up to your circumstances and accepting that you are the only one responsible for where you are today is a tough pill to swallow. Most of us will blame our bosses for not being promoted, our teachers for getting a bad grade, or our weather for not going out and getting stuff done. But in reality, we are the only ones able to control our Circle of Influence.

Stephen R. Covey describes the Circle of Influence as the things we can do something about. The rest of the things we have no control over are found in the bigger Circle of Concern.

In a Proactive Approach, people focus their energy in their Circle of Influence. They exhale positive energy, work on being instead of having, and act upon. This makes their Circle of Influence bigger with time.

In a Reactive Approach, people focus their energy in their Circle of Concern. They victimize themselves, focus on other people’s weakness, and use reactive language (such as I can’tI mustIf only). They get acted upon, what makes their Circle of Influence smaller.


Consequences and Mistakes

However, we also have the other side of the stick when we pick one up. We call that side the consequences. We cannot control the consequences of our actions, only our actions themselves.

For example, as a college student one will present many projects in front of a class. The student can put in all his effort into his assignment and still get a B. The grade is a mere consequence of his presentation. It is something that is out of his/her control. It is in the Circle of Concern.

With that, if the student spends most of his/her time worrying about the potential grade of the project, he/she will most likely do a poor job on the project. However, if the student focuses most of his/her energy on the project itself, the consequence will most likely be a successful one.

There are times that we make wrong decisions, we pick up the wrong stick. If we could go back in time and pick another stick that would be our choice. We call these “wrong sticks” our mistakes. Those are also in our Circle of Concern and there is nothing we can do about them but learn from them.

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Reactive people spend too much time wishing they could go back on their mistakes. Proactive people learn from them and move on.

Finally, one can work on being a proactive individual by making promises or commitments. These hold us accountable and will remind us of what we stand for. When we feel like reacting we will remember of our promises of not to react based on feelings, for example, and be more proactive as a consequence.

 

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Spurs vs. Thunder Game 6: OKC never had a chance

Throughout all these years, the Tim Duncan Era Spurs have shown to be one of the greatest teams that was ever put together.

Since the 1997-98 season, with the hiring of Greg Popovich as the head coach, the San Antonio Spurs have never had a season with less than 50 wins (with the exception of the 1998-99 season, which was short due to a lockout – Spurs were 37-13). In other words, they have not finished outside of the Top 2 spot in their conference for over 17 seasons. And have won 4 championships so far.

Wow.

They have had great players such as David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili to name a few. But in my opinion, the greatest star on that team is Greg Popovich. The stats don’t lie. It is clear that with his arrival he brought with him an amazing culture of greatness and discipline.

Most people don’t enjoy watching the Spurs play. But, again, most people do not understand basketball that well. San Antonio has played the perfect team basketball for over a decade. Their plays are perfectly ran and their defense is other teams’ biggest fear. It is hard to find a flaw in how they play the game. They don’t take the shots that other teams give them; they take the shots that they want to take.

This is a championship basketball approach. How can you beat a team where they have a 12 man rotation, and their level of play never declines even when the bench is on?

Also, the Spurs don’t buy teams, they build teams. They have kept the same players foundation for years, and still manage to compete with the Big 3’s and “Super-Teams” all over the league.

Here’s a clip of how polished they look when they step on the court.


Now, let’s talk about the Thunder.

Since Scott Brooks took over the head coach position in Oklahoma in the 2009-2010 season, the Thunder have had 4 seasons with 50 or more wins.

The Thunder have 2 superstars that, in my opinion, have both been in the Top 5 MVP list for a few years already. Westbrook is arguably the second most athletic player in the league (only behind Lebron James), and Kevin Durant is the best scorer in the league hands down.

Serge Ibaka is a tremendous athlete, as well, but lacks basketball IQ. Kendrick Perkins is one heavy block of muscle that sits in the paint. And Tabo Sefalosha is a great on ball defender.

Their bench, however, is not very deep. Maybe 2 or 3 players are able to come in and legitimately cause an impact in the game (Reggie Jackson, Dereck Fisher, and Nick Collison).

Their offense is freelance for most of the time. Players taking turns trying to make something happen.

Drive and kick, drive and kick, drive and kick…

Eventually, Westbrook takes it to the hoop and slams it down, or KD knocks down a deep three over 3 defenders. But this is not a very reliable way to win in the playoffs.

With a small bench, KD and Westbrook end up playing over 40 minutes a game (KD played 52 minutes on game 6 of the WCF!!).

In my opinion, the Thunder will keep getting shut down deep into the playoffs every year, until they get more quality bench players to give KD and Westbrook a break.

With all of that being said, after watching this series and looking at the stats, I don’t believe there was ever a chance that the Thunder would have beaten the Spurs.

Here’s a great video that Coach Nick did about the Spurs vs. Thunder Game 6, breaking down how San Antonio absolutely handled OKC.

To be totally honest, I believe that the Spurs will beat the Heat this year. They are just too good right now to be stopped. Besides, they still have that bitter taste in their mouths after letting the championship slip through their fingers on game 6 last year. But this is a whole other story saved for another post…

 

PA