Archives April, 2010

21 April
Chris Arends

I am reading a book called Switch How to change things when change is hard. One thing it talks about is focusing on the bright spots or successes that you already have and replicating them.   This is a great More Than Half Full concept.

Focus on whats working

With out giving you all the examples in the book the point is that instead of trying to fix things that are broken, focus on what you can control and what has shown success.  This encourages prototyping and taking small risks to  see if it an idea can be replicated or expanded.  If it fails you lose a little and have learned something.  If it works you have the foundation to make a bigger change.  That change could be walking down the stairs in your office which will help you be healthier or it could be a new service for your customers.

The power of this is that it focuses on what is working and how to create more of that. Whether it is a business process or losing weight,  if you find and build on the little successes you can improve almost any situation.  Another point the authors make is that in some cases the most critical success is the one in our head.

Win little battles to win the war

Whether the challenge is global warming or getting your kids to eat their vegetables, big challenges never get solved over night or by using one silver bullet.  They are solved by a lot of little changes.  A great example would be CFL’s.  Everyone wants to use less energy.  Changing one bulb to a CFL was the intial goal.  As people got used to the funny shape and the higher up front cost, there are now more CFL’s on store shelves than incandescent bulbs. People started saving money and it just snow balled.  We can do the same thing with a lot of other problems. We just need to find the simple little things to make a big difference.


20 April
Chris Arends

Well it is that time again. Time to sign up for a new electricity plan. It used to be you could just go with the local provider and you were charged what the rate was.  Now you have to search through all the rate plans. Fixed vs variable, standard vs green, 3, 6 or 12 month term variable early termination fees and on and on.

Use Less – Pay more?

With my last plan it took me about one bill to realize that I had made a bad choice.  In my house I am religious about turning off lights, keeping the thermostat low/high depending on the year all to use less energy.  It is not just because I am trying to be thrifty it is because we as a country are using too much energy. Burning too much coal global warming and all that.   On my first bill I noticed that we used less than 1000Kwh of power.  Great we are using one third less power than the average household.  The bad new is my rate plan says that if I  use less than 1000kWh of power in a billing cycle I owe them $9.99 for not using enough power.  To me this is like paying to use an ATM instead of a live teller.  I lower the cost for the utility and they charge me more.

Use Less Save More

As someone who is on renewable energy plan this is completely counter intuitive.  The first rule in reducing our need for foreign energy, not having to build more power plants, wind farms or solar panels is to use less.  So why is it I pay more when I use less.  First by using green energy I won’t make the generating companies add more coal or gas power plants, reducing their over head.  If I use less energy that means they have to build fewer wind turbines, lowering their overhead.

Make more money

I understand this is all part of a marketing plan that wants a predictable revenue stream for the energy provider and that they are in the business of making money.  People who use more should bear more costs.  This means a higher rate per kWh not a lower one.  That will drive efficiency both for the providers and the consumers.  Look at the cell phone market. Buy a certain number of minutes  pay a set rate.  Go over and that the power company can double their rate and  make real money and penalize the people who use the most not those who use the least.  That makes the grid more predictable.  It would make people think about when and how they use power, upgrade to more efficient appliance and run the A/C a little less.

As for me its back to the comparing rates and see which one of these guys might have a clue about how to set up a rate plan.


7 April
Chris Arends

Spring in Texas

Spring is a great time for cyclist.  The days get longer and the weather gets warmer so we can ride more.  The one down side about spring is that it often brings strong winds.  Most cyclists would rather ride up a mountain pass than spend any significant time riding into the wind. I don’t know if it is the relentlessness of the wind or the inability to brag to someone about the hill you climbed, or the fact that you can’t ride around it, there is something we hate about riding into the wind.

Makes you stronger

A job search is a lot like riding into the wind.  It is hard work.  You often have nothing to show for it beyond just getting through the day and nobody likes doing it.  When riding into the wind there is no short cut to your destination.  You have to put in the effort if you are going to reach your turn around point.   The harder you work, the sooner you get there.  There is no substitute.

The thing is that there is always wind.  Some days it is stronger than others or maybe from a better direction depending on your route. In a job search there will be days when you think that every one is working against you, the economy, people who won’t call you back or rejection from those who do.  These all feel like you are riding into the wind.

Heading for Home

The funny thing about the wind is when you get to the half way point of your ride you get to turn around and guess where the wind is?  It’s at your back.  You feel the road moving past you, faster and faster. Your legs feel stronger with each turn of the pedals. Suddenly the wind is your friend and you are speeding to your destination and its not just because the wind is at your back.  It is because all of the hard work that you did into the wind made you stronger, more confident that you could ride well no matter how hard the wind is blowing.

Remember, the next time you feel like you are riding into the wind, when you have worked hard eventually the wind will be at your back and you can cruise home.