Archive for September, 2012

What The Dollar Bill Trick Can Teach Us About Leadership

September 25, 2012 1 comment

Image courtesy of WikiHow

When I was a kid, I’ve learned a very neat trick about making paper money smile or frown. The trick was very simple that I picked it up real quick and showed it to a few of my friends. I did use the Philippine Peso to try out this trick when I was a kid instead of a US dollar bill. If you are not familiar with this trick, check out this video to see how it is done.

While the video has garnered a large number of views and likes on YouTube for being cool, I think there is a better lesson to be learned from the trick. While on the bus one day, I showed my son this very trick that I have learned more than 30 years ago. After showing the trick to my son, I asked him to make the face on the dollar bill smile or frown. And while he was having fun with what he was doing, I told him this very important lesson.

“It’s the same dollar bill, nothing has changed. What changed was how you handled it.” Tweet this

We are faced with different challenges everyday – bills needing to be paid for, projects that need to be completed on time, or even as worse as dealing with an industry-wide crisis. Situations may or may not change but understand that we hold in our hands the key to whether or not we end up being happy or otherwise. Great leaders know that when facing challenges, they need to do the following:

  1. Face reality. The dollar bill trick reveals two faces – smiling and frowning. That is the reality that they need to face. Leaders understand that in order to deal with challenges, they need to get the facts right and face reality. Otherwise, they would be living in an illusion and may not be able to measure the enormity of the situation. I call this the “reality check.”
  2. Take Responsibility. In order for the dollar trick to work, you need to pick up the dollar bill and tilt it yourself. Otherwise, the visual illusion would not be as effective. Leaders know that they need take personal responsibility for their situation. They literally put their necks on the line especially when the stakes are high.
  3. Make Positive Moves. I bet that you smiled when you tilted the dollar bill to make it smile. And I also bet that you made it smile more that you’ve made it frown. Leaders know that they need to keep a positive environment and promote hope in spite of the realities that they need to face. A pat on the back, a good word of encouragement, even to a point where they remind themselves of the good things that have happened to them in the past. They understood the power of feeding their mind good stuff.

In case you want to try out the dollar bill trick, remember how you can handle a challenging situation while making those creases on George Washington’s eyes.

Question: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from dealing with a challenging situation? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


When You’re Brain Gets Stuck

September 19, 2012 3 comments

No, I’m not talking about autism nor OCD (although most people think I have both.) I’m talking about those times when you’re not in your most creative moments and nothing just seems to get your juice flowing. Some call it a “block,” whether it’s for writers, painters, musicians or sculptors.  It happens to everybody and I call it getting your brain stuck. It happens to me even when I have a pen and paper and I need to create an outline to automate a process.  So, how do I deal with it? I follow Nike’s advice: JUST DO IT.



  • I write when I don’t feel like writing
  • I walk away for a few minutes and come back to continue working
  • I set a deadline to get my job done
  • I find a different place to work
  • I change my posture while working
  • I drink a lot of water (I found out that going to the bathroom often forces me to really get things going so I can finish before my next bathroom break)
  • I stop when it is time to stop

There’s a common theme in my list: they are filled with ACTION words. When my brain gets stuck, I just DO.  And doing something happens with intent, even when it means taking a break. So, when you’re brain gets stuck, just DO something. And be intentional about it.

How Much Did Your Word Cost? Or Earned?

September 12, 2012 2 comments

“We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.”

-Abraham Lincoln-

We live in a society where it’s easy to just forget about what we promised – customer satisfaction guarantee, warranty coverage, and even a simple promise made to an employee or spouse. I was just reading a customer satisfaction guarantee form inside a store where I bought my kids’ iPod charger that said they will do anything and everything to keep customers happy. Yet, the owner of the store even pointed out that I was at fault for the malfunctioning charger. Sometimes, words are skilfully crafted to work around so as not to keep what was promised. But what if we did keep our promise even if the cost is high?

US$800 a day is not something I usually spend, considering the fact that our monthly grocery budget is only half that. We keep our costs down as much as we can in order to meet our other financial obligations. So, when the cost to travel to New York City to see my son for his birthday was that much, my initial reaction was to bail out and just tell my wife that I can’t afford to make the trip. I was about to make the phone call when I realized that I promised my son to be with him on his birthday – and I told him one too many times to reassure him. That was more than enough for me to pick up my tablet and booked the flight to New York City. After getting my confirmation code, I kept thinking about how much I have spent just to keep my word. Aren’t we all like that sometimes? We look at how much it costs to keep our word and bail out when we measure it against our balance sheets. Believe me when I say that keeping our integrity is not easy.

But what if we counted the benefits of keeping our word instead? Zappos and turned a US$1.6 million blunder into a great marketing and advertising story that earned more customer loyalty and sales. That could have been a red mark in their balance sheet but they chose to keep their word. Michael Hyatt (blog | Twitter) on his podcast talked about how his former manager kept his word which, in turn, earned Michael’s loyalty. Keeping our word has benefits that far outweigh the costs of not keeping it.

Please don’t make promises you can’t keep. But we would definitely love it if you just work hard to keep the ones you already made.

Are You Preparing For Your Success?

Earlier in August, I had the privilege of speaking at a SQLSaturday event in NYC. Like most events that I get invited to speak at, I spend a lot of time preparing for and rehearsing my presentations. But unlike most events, this one was special. Having spent quite a bit of time in the Big Apple, I have considered the Microsoft technical communities there like family. This happens to be the second SQLSaturday event that they ran, having done one in the previous year. They already have the experience of transforming this event into a success – and I wanted to be a part of it. While preparing for my scheduled presentation, I thought about the possibilities of doing an additional one, something that I don’t usually do. I was just thinking that, just in case one of the speakers won’t be available, I can easily volunteer to fill in (I’ve learned how to do this when I was still working in Singapore where my desk was almost a stone’s throw away from Microsoft Singapore’s office and had to fill in for a speaker when they urgently needed one.)  So, I picked a topic that I was really excited about and prepared for it as well. Not only did I prepare for the additional presentation, I created an email template with a response to the event organizers about the topic that I was ready to give  presentation on. The only thing that I didn’t do was to hit the Send button.

The day before the event came and, as I was having my first cup of coffee, I felt the urge to immediately open my email client. I felt as if I needed to send that email template that I have written a few days ago.  A few seconds into my inbox and I saw an email that required a response similar to what I had in the template. Unfortunately, one of the speakers could not make it for the event. In just a matter of seconds after reading the email, I hit the Send button with a response that I had already prepared for. And that was the reason for the Twitter update I posted on the day of the event.

Most of us have always wanted to be successful but don’t even bother preparing for it. It’s as if we expect success to be handed to us on a silver platter. Unfortunately, even food served on a silver platter need to be taken in and chewed to be enjoyed. And that’s what it takes to be successful. Successful people know that they can’t just leave it off to chance. From my experience and from learning from others, here are three key steps to prepare for success:

  1. Envision what success looks like to you. We all have different definitions of success. If you’re embarking on a project or planning for your future, paint a picture of what success would look like when you achieve your goal. Mine was to be able to fill in for an additional speaking slot should one of the speakers bailed out unexpectedly. In a previous blog post, I’ve envisioned receiving the prize award that I’ve won. Make sure that you have a clear picture of what your end goal looks like.
  2. Create a plan that will help you achieve your goal. Envisioning what success looks like is just the first part. We need to create a plan that will help us achieve our goal. Lay out the things that we need to do and schedule the activities. As Michael Hyatt pointed out: “what gets scheduled gets done.” Your plan will also serve as your guideposts in measuring your progress. My plan for the event was to spend an extra half an hour a day preparing for the other presentation.
  3. Pay the price. I didn’t say success was easy. In a previous blog post, I talked about how to become an expert. And that included practicing consistently. Practicing consistently requires paying the price – the time, effort and resources you have to put in. Those extra hours I put in for preparation was one of the price that I have to pay. I bet you wouldn’t find any successful person who said success was cheap.

Success requires preparation. By remembering these three things, you can work your way to becoming successful. Are you preparing for your success or just waiting for it to happen? You can leave your comments by clicking here.