Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sudoku IS life

A while back I was in a car accident. It wasn’t a serious accident. I mean, I wasn’t injured or anything, but my car was not drivable and had to be towed away. Because I needed a ride about 25 miles to my house, I ended up waiting in a local restaurant for a ride.

While I was there I read the newspaper. Then I read it again. And finally a third time. Then I turned to the Sudoku puzzle. I had never done Sudoku before, but hey, I’m good with numbers (and a reformed accountant) how hard could this be.

First ,I spent about 15 minutes just looking at the overall puzzle. It was just a jumble of numbers. I tried plugging in a couple of numbers, but quickly realized the futility of that approach.

Next, I decided to look at one row at a time. I checked for the row with the most filled in numbers and started there. I made some semi-intelligent guesses and filled the row in. Then I went to the next most filled in row and started there. Again, I was able to fill in the numbers without too much problem. But by the 4th or 5th row I was running into trouble and having to change some of my prior numbers, which changed other numbers.

So then I went to the columns, but it only took me a few seconds to realize that this was no different than filling in the rows.

Next I tried the larger 9-box squares. Certainly this was the way to approach this puzzle. Luckily I had been using a pencil so I was able to erase my answers, again. 15 minutes later I was stuck again making changes, erasing numbers, and looking for a better solution.

As it turns out, the key to understanding and winning at Sudoku is not looking at rows or columns individually. Nor is the key checking out the larger 9-box squares. And certainly the key is not trying to solve the puzzle all at once.

It seems that the key to Sudoku is in looking at the 9-box squares in conjunction with the same 9-box squares in the same column or row. In other words you look at the top 3 rows together as a single unit. Likewise you look at the 2nd 3 rows together, and the 3rd 3 rows together. For the key to solving Sudoku is in the relationships between the different rows and columns. And it’s about the relationship between the 9-box squares. You don’t solve them individually, but you solve them in terms of how they relate to each other.

And that’s a lot like life. You can try and solve life’s problems by yourself, looking at things and people individually, but you may find yourself constantly reaching for the eraser. Instead, let’s try a different approach. Instead of concentrating on just one person at a time (yourself), concentrate on your relationships. Instead of looking through just a single lens (your own), look through the lens of you and the people that you interact with. Look at how things inter-relate and how your needs and desires join with the needs and desires of those around you. When you begin to look at relationships as the key to a successful life, you have taken the first step toward winning the game of life.

And that’s true in Sudoku as well.

Until next time….

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Welcome to DISC Lesson 7 - Name That Tune!

This is the 7th installment in ECI's ongoing tutorial about the DISC Behavioral Tool. In this session, Dave Meyer takes a lighthearted look at what songs might be used to characterize each of the 4 basic DISC Styles.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Welcome to DISC Lesson 6 - The High C

This is the 6th episode in our series on the DISC Personality Assessement tool. In this session, Dave Meyer takes a look at the High C personality, including both strengths and challenges.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bad Dog!.... I mean “Good Dog!

Much has been written about how our attitudes affect our daily lives. The Law of Attraction basically says that you will attract things to you based on your beliefs and attitudes. Think positive thoughts and positive things will come your way. Think negative thoughts and you will attract negative things to you.

I’m a huge believer that our attitude affects the world around us. I’m not trying to suggest that thinking happy thoughts and whistling a catchy tune will guarantee you happiness in life, but I am suggesting that the way we can control much of what happens around us, is by our attitude.

You’ve heard the old saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” To me, that statement sounds rather Pollyanish but the truth is that your reaction to a situation or problem speaks volumes about how you deal with life’s problems, both big and small.

You can’t always impact what happens to you, but you can impact the way you deal with those things.

For instance, the other morning I was dressed for work when I heard the dog barking to come in. I let her in and she immediately jumped up, placing her paws on my chest, to tell me “hello”. Unfortunately, her paws were wet and dirty. So my shirt was now wet and dirty, as well. At this point, I have several options in terms of how I can mentally react:

1. I can get angry and upset and yell "Bad Dog!" and then let this setback affect more of my day.
2. I can clean off my shirt or change it and move on.
3. I can get momentarily annoyed, and then put it behind me
4. I can laugh and say “Good Dog! You just love your Daddy!”

The truth is #4 has never been me. I love our dogs, but that’s just not going to be my reaction to an incident like this.

Ten years ago, number 1 might have been my reaction. When things happened to me, I tended to carry those thoughts with me most of the day.

Today, 2 or 3 are a much more likely response from me. For the most part I’ve learned not to let one incident affect me for more than a few minutes. So when I get upset with the dog, I don’t take it out on my wife, my business partner, or anyone who happens to be driving in a way I don’t appreciate.

But that certainly wasn’t always true. Just a few years ago I wore my emotions on my sleeve. I just wasn’t aware of it.

For more about that, watch for our video on the Johari Window.

Until next time….

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Welcome to DISC Lesson 5 - The High S

This is the 5th in the ongoing series from ECI Learning Systems about the DISC Personaltiy Assessment.

Join Dave Meyer as he focuses on the High S personality, including descriptors, natural strengths and weaknesses.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What will it take?

Raise your hand if you love your job.

And keep your hand raised if you love your boss.

Ok…. Now all of you self-employed people out there, lower your hands……

That’s what I thought….. and that’s what the studies show as well.

Nearly 50% of the American workforce is disengaged at work and are actively looking for a job, any job just to get out of where they are. Meanwhile American businesses continue to cut jobs, cut wages, and cut benefits.

The result? Even more people will hate their jobs and even more people will leave their jobs creating an untrained, uninspired workforce that actually raises the cost of doing business, not lowers it.

Sometimes I wonder if management has forgotten that trained, engaged employees actually produce better results at a lower cost than untrained, disengaged employees. It’s not exactly a secret that companies can actually lower their costs by training their employees to work efficiently and effectively. And even if the wages of a trained employee are higher than the wages of an untrained employee, the company actually saves money because the trained employee does more work and does it more effectively.

Meanwhile our untrained and unmotivated, but very inexpensive staff grows more and more frustrated with their inability to complete the right tasks the right way. This frustration raises the stress level of the employees to where they are missing work and collecting sick days. To further add to the costs, we have the employees learning to not trust management, which disengages the employee further from their company.

This merry-go-round never seems to stop, as employees look for guidance and training from their management, while the management looks to provide as little as possible to the employees, leaving the employees unable to perform the tasks required to do the job, which means disgruntled customers not buying products which leads to……

It makes you wonder what it will take for management to realize the lesson that they learned in their first semester of business school. And that is:

Trained and engaged employees will cost you less money and generate more revenue than untrained and disengaged employees.

Until next time...

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems LLC

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Welcome to DISC Lesson 4 - The High I

This is the 4th in the ongoing series from ECI Learning Systems about the DiSC Personaltiy Assessment.

In this video, ECI Learning Systems co-founder, Dave Meyer, focuses on the High I personality, including descriptors, natural strengths and weaknesses.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Leadership Lessons from the 3 Stooges

Growing up, I watched the 3 stooges….a lot. In fact, I was such a fan that my mother worried about the lessons I was learning. Would I go through life slapping, hitting my friends on the head, or poking people in the eye?

The bad news is that I did learn a lot of strange behaviors from the 3 stooges. The good news is that Larry, Moe and Curley taught a lot of valuable lessons in addition to general mayhem.

What kind of lessons? Well, let’s use our handy “Way Back” machine to explore a typical episode of The Three Stooges...

A 1940 short was called “A Plumbing We Will Go”. As you might guess from the title, our 3 hero’s are plumbers and they have been called out to a large mansion to fix a leaky pipe in the basement. It takes them a few minutes to find the basement, mostly because they were looking for it, upstairs. But after they find the basement, they find the leak and spring into action. In a few short minutes they have not only NOT fixed the leak, but they have:

- Broken the pipes that are used for steam heat
- Created a new leak in the upstairs bathroom, where they also managed to ruin the floor
- Dug a huge tunnel in the front yard, looking for the ever elusive “water shut off valve”.
- Managed to put water through electrical conduits so now when you turn on the lights, the bulb fills up with water
- Not only that but in another part of the house a demonstration of the owner’s new fangled TV set turns a broadcast of Niagara Falls into a very wet, soaking, 3 dimensional experience.
- Lastly, for reasons very much unrelated, the police are after our boys as well

All the while there is a more than sufficient amount of head slapping, eye-gouging, stomach punching, and name calling to make any CEO proud.

So what are the true lessons in this episode?

1. Leadership – Moe is clearly the leader and he assigns tasks based on the relative talents of the individual. Hence Larry is outside digging the ditch while Curley, the only stooge with plumbing experience is trying to fix the leak in the bathroom.
2. Teamwork - Each stooge has their role but they are all working as a team.
3. Creativity – Every time they run into a roadblock they find a solution and keep moving forward.
4. Planning – They have a plan and are working the plan. It may not be a great plan, but hey… this is a comedy!
5. Persistence – Regardless of what problem they run into, our boys never give up. When that water shut off valve is not where they start digging, they just keep digging until they find it.

So there you have it. A birds-eye view of the lessons from the 3 Stooges. And I bet that you can think of your own lessons as well. Feel free to open the discussion and add them here.

Until next time.

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems LLC