Archive for April, 2008

22
Apr
08

Things are getting worse.

So, today I read a couple of interesting articles. The first one was stating that some student loan cheques in the US are bouncing. Student loans, issued by banks, are bouncing. Okay, so it is some smaller student loan specific lenders at this point, but apparently many banks are raising rates on student loans, increasing acceptance criteria, basically making a student loan the same thing as a regular loan. So, that makes the US that much less competitive in a few years.

The next one was about food shortages, not in the third world, but in the US, happening today. Rice being rationed at branches of Costco, wheat at others. There was a run on Costco by restaurants and similar businesses because it is getting too expensive to get the supplies from wholesalers.

Lets face it, we are pretty screwed if the rich countries are starting to run out of food.

17
Apr
08

Personal branding meets politics

I watched the democratic nomination debate last night and in between bouts of nausea at the questions the moderators thought were important I reached some conclusions about the candidate. First, Barack Obama gets branding on a deep level. He knows that his brand is the statesman, the deep thinker and the man who is above all of this petty squabbling. He stuck to that message the entire time, maintaining the combination of intellect and integrity that his brand requires. Hillary on the other hand doesn’t know what her brand is. She seems to be of the “Well, at least I’m not a republican” school of branding.

I think that Hillary’s lack of focus will cost her the US democratic nomination, but if it doesn’t, it will cost her the presidency. John McCain is pretty good at branding too. He is the Red Blooded American, a war hero, a common man (never mind that he is wealthy to the point of obnoxiousness, he still plays the man of the people thing really well). He can trot out the whole whitewater thing, the fact that she stayed with a man who cheated on her, her lack of warmth, her frequent “misstatements”, and she isn’t focused enough on who she is to fight him.

15
Apr
08

Food shortages

As a Canadian I don’t really see the effects of worldwide food shortages (although as a non wealthy person I do feel the effect of rising food prices). However I have lived in the third world, I have been homeless, I do know what it feels like not to have enough food.

I was watching CNN the other morning (actually I was listening to CNN as I got together my breakfast… hemp seed granola with Liberty Mediterranean youghurt, a glass of water and a glass of unsweetened grapefruit juice) and the talking head was discussing world food shortages, food riots, etc. He was blaming ethanol production (with a fair bit of justification although it is only one of many causes) and then started joking about his own weight and tendency to overeat. The thought that was going through my head was that if I had a child who was starving to death somewhere in South America, or maybe Mexico, I would probably have hit the point where I would take up a weapon and gather as many as I could to burn the fucking gringos out and take their goddamned food at that moment.

Please note: I am not advocating killing wealthy white westerners (I’m of Scottish, Welsh and Irish descent, and I earn a pretty good living…), just understanding the anger that must be going on in the third world right now.

There is enough food to feed everyone, but here in the west obesity is our number one health problem, while in Egypt they are rioting because the one subsidized loaf of bread that is often their only source of food keeps running out before many people can get to it, in Haiti the food is so scarce that many are dying.

07
Apr
08

Driven

So what is driving all of this stuff? First is some theories on how business works. I guess the key one for this blog is radical transparency. The others include: you can succeed by treating employees well, a company can grow to a certain point, and then just stay at that point without self destructing, the best managers are the ones who care about the company and the people more than the money, and above all else… it is possible to for ethics and success to co-exist.

I believe all of this, but I don’t see it practiced much, and then usually in fringe areas. I want to make it real, I want to create the kind of place that I would like to work at.

07
Apr
08

Personal brand

So what is a personal brand? I could get all technical on the subject, go on about the amount of time it takes for someone to form their first (and strongest) impression of you, how many times in the first five seconds they re-evaluate that impression, blah, blah, blah. I choose not to. I choose to talk about how to create the impression I want to create. How to help that impression to reflect if not the values I hold most dear, at least the ones I hold most public.

In my case, I am going for a brash, rebel, against authority and against the world image (because that really is who I tend to be, at least in my heart of hearts). Part of that is my jacket. I tend to wear an old leather jacket that I picked up in a used clothing store in Montreal. It has band logos and names painted on it (all bands I genuinely like and listen to, in fact the Dead Kennedys logo is the reason I bought it). My hair changes regularly, although it tends to be unkempt and chaotic (and not always its real colour). Then there are the shoes. For years I wore military surplus parade boots as my main footwear, but since I found Parkour I wear Nike Free’s. The Nike Free’s tend to be very beat up unless you meet me just after I buy a new pair (climbing walls will do that to a pair of shoes). Cargo pants and either a t-shirt or an old sweater complete the ensemble. At least in 3 seasons, since this is Canada I wear a much warmer coat in winter.

That image isn’t fake. People know when it’s fake, so it really isn’t worth doing. If I came out all in soccer hooligan gear, looking like a jock thug it would fail. If I came out in khaki pants and a dress shirt, well it would fail miserably. I may be a computer geek, but my teenage years were as much about drugs and crime as they were about anything else, hell I dropped most of my RPG time (yes, I used to play dungeons and dragons, and as an adult I started to play it again) in favour of just getting stoned. My clothes reflect that truth. On the other hand, I got tired of that image for a bit as a teenager and started wearing suits. I can do the suit thing, I can pull that image off, but it has to be a real suit, something with a bit of distinction and class. That brand is not one I pull off day to day, but when I pull it off I rely on a middle class education and grand parents with a bit more money than average.

Why am I telling you this? Not just out of narcissism. The first reason is that I can’t give you another impression of me, I can’t stand in front of you and show you who I am. You have to get it from these words and my photo. The other reason is to show you how much goes into a personal brand. The way I walk (I am light on my feet from Parkour, confident stride, shoulders square, head up), the way I look (straight at you when I talk, my eyes tend to wander when you do), my glasses (understated, top frames, no bottom frames, dark but thin), the colours I wear (black, grey, understated), all of that makes up most of the first impression. When I meet you, the same things play into it. Do you look me in the eye? If so, is it confrontational or confident? Do you wear brash, garish colours? If so, are they well thought out or crude? All of this decides right away how I will perceive you, even if it isn’t intentional.

My Fiance thinks that clothes are the deciding factor in how much respect you receive… she is half right (also, one hell of a dresser…). Clothes are one of the factors that decide how you are perceived, but if the clothes don’t work with your personality it will be subconsciously perceived as false. The most important thing is to match who you are with how you look, not matching how you are supposed to look with how you look. Remember, if your clothes don’t fit those around you, then you will tend to stand out in peoples mind.

Charisma is also important. Personally, I can be kind of abrasive sometimes. People tend to either like me or dislike me on first meeting. That is largely because of my general arrogance. I accept that and use it to craft a (very much based on the real me) eccentric genius persona (okay, eccentric and kind of bright?). If you are the kind of person who is well liked right off, go with that. If you are disliked right away, that is still better than not being noticed…

In the end, a personal brand is just getting noticed, and making sure it is for what you want to be noticed for, however you achieve that.

07
Apr
08

Why the delay?

Okay, so I decided to get a real job. Went back to my former employer (Keance Canada) and started working as a programmer again. I do love the work, but my head is sometimes a bit in the future and exploring the whole sedition thing.

I did a bit of budgeting and realized that my lifestyle had lead to horrendous debt… so the job may be as long as another five years. In the meantime, I am cutting spending to the bone and trying to get some additional contracts. At my current rate it will take two years for me to get above water, plus another couple of years to save up some cash to run my own thing full time. Oh well, I still plan to do it, and by the time I begin I intend to have the whole sedition brand completely on the go.

In the meantime, I plan to update this blog regularly (although it may be once a week for bit) with both my progress on starting my own business, and the paths I am taking to pursue branding.