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Nov 29, 2009

The Need to Lead

The greatest need we have today, in every area, is for men and women to practice the values of integrity, discipline, responsibility, courage, and long time perspective, both as individuals and in their families. These are the key qualities of leadership.

Our society needs leaders at all levels who practice the principles that lead to long-term success. Especially, we need people in positions of authority and political power to support and encourage others, whose lives and work they influence, to develop character and resist the tendency to act expediently in ways that are harmful to themselves and others.

Everyone needs to take "The Values Pledge," to live by it, and then encourage others to live by it. It is only the solid bulwark of character, based on values, virtues, long-term thinking, and the accurate assessment of secondary consequences that can curb and mitigate the destructive influences and behavior of the Expediency Factor (the E-Factor)

Live In Truth
The philosopher Immanuel Kant postulated what he called "The Universal Maxim." He suggested that "you should live your life as though your every act were to become universal law for all people." The very best judge of truth for you is to ask, "Is it true for me?" If everyone was to be encouraged to live their life as though your every act were to become universal principle for all others, most government policies and programs would be abolished overnight. The fact is, that the only way that many "something for nothing" ideas in government and society can be put forward is with the hope that most people will not take advantage of them.

Think about it. What if everyone were to go on welfare? What if everyone were to apply for every government program that was available to them? What if everyone dedicated themselves to doing the very least amount of work that they could get away with? What if everyone began spending all their time trying to get free money from anywhere that it might be available?

Four Questions to Stay on Track
There are four questions that you can ask and answer every day to keep yourself on track in each part of your life. First, ask yourself; "What kind of a world would this be if everyone in it was just like me?"

When you ask and answer this question honestly, you will admit that if everyone in the world was just like you, this would probably not be the best of all possible worlds. Look inside yourself and think about some of the things that you could change or do differently to become a better "citizen of the world."

The second question you can ask is, "What kind of a country would America be, if everyone in it was just like me?"

This is perhaps the most important question that we can ask and answer for ourselves. If everyone in America did the same thing that you did, every single day, would America be better, happier, healthier, and a more prosperous democracy? If not, what are some of the changes that you could make in your behaviors that would make America a better place?

The third question you can ask is, "What kind of a company would my company be if everyone in it was just like me?"

If you are honest with yourself, you will see different things that you could do to become a more valuable and important contributor to your company. Perhaps you should start a little earlier, work a little harder or stay a little later. Perhaps you could volunteer for more assignments, or upgrade your knowledge and skills as they relate to your job. How could you become the very best person you could possibly become at your work?

The final question, and perhaps the more important, is, "What kind of family would my family be if everyone in it was just like me?"

If everyone in your family behaved the way you do, and treated everyone else the way you treat them, would your family be a warmer, happier, and more loving group of people? What could you do, starting today, to be a better family member?

Take the High Road
The true mark of the superior person is that he sets high standards for himself, and refuses to compromise those standards for any reason. He sees himself as a role model for others. He behaves at all times as if everyone was watching, even when no one is watching.

The truly superior person does not give into forces of expediency. He does not seek something for nothing. He refuses to take anything to which he is not entitled. He insists upon earning everything he gets. He practices the Golden Rule and treats everyone the way he would like to be treated himself. He sets high standards for himself and continually strives to meet those standards. If everyone in America were to take the pledge below, this would be a better country in every way.

Rails: 301 Redirects

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect, which tells the search engines to index the redirected to URL rather than the current URL.

You can use this when migrating from legacy content management systems, or to make sure that you only have 1 URL per page.

With the folloing code in your controller, Rails makes it easy:

Nov 25, 2009

Ruby: Check if an URL is available

This little Ruby function will check if an URL is available (response code 200). It will return true if the return code is 200 (success), false if any other code is returned, such as 404 (not found.)

Nov 22, 2009

Where to Put Your Money Conservatively

There are three places (besides savings accounts) where you can park your savings that will give you high degrees of safety and liquidity: money market accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), and government saving bonds.

Money Market Accounts
Money market accounts are available at your bank and pay a higher rate of interest than savings accounts. They are also quite competitive, so you should shop around and look at what different banks offer. As soon as your savings account balance exceeds $1,000, move that money into a money market account at a higher rate of interest.

Certificates of Deposit
Another savings instrument that you may consider is a certificate of deposit (CD). These are issued by banks, savings and loans, and other financial institutions for periods of time ranging from 30 days up to 10 years. The longer you lock up your money in a CD, the higher the interest rate you will receive.

The weakness with CDs is that if you need your money back before the date of maturity there are often severe penalties. You should find out what they are before you purchase a CD in the first place. CDs pay higher interest rates than money market accounts, and are safe places to put your savings. Nonetheless, they are not as flexible as the third option, which is a government savings bond.

Government Savings Bond
Government savings bonds are the most conservative of investments. They are safe and secure, and they pay reasonable rates of interest. They are easily negotiable into cash if you need the money back at any time. They're backed by the full credit of the issuing government. In other words, you cannot lose money on a government savings bond unless the entire country goes broke.

Invest your Savings
These three types of investments are perfect places for you to invest your three to six months of savings. You will get the highest return possible with absolute security and safety principle.

Nov 18, 2009

Ruby: Mask all Credit Card Digits but Last Four

Mask all the credit card number digits with asterisks except the last 4, for security purposes. The function works for all types of cards (Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Discovery, etc.)

Nov 15, 2009

The Power of Leverage

Studying and practicing the principles of effective delegation have given you the foundation necessary to exploit the power of leverage. We will now examine other forms of this key tool of professional and business success. Each of the seven forms of leverage can help you expand the reach of your own talents and strengths. Each involves building on the work, talents, experiences, and contacts of other people.

Leveraging Other People's Energy
The most productive people make sure they have time for the few things that give them the highest payoff by routinely seeking to delegate or outsource their lower-value activities.

Leveraging Other People's Knowledge
Applying one simple piece of key knowledge to your situation can make a world of difference in the result you achieve. Finding and applying knowledge from another source can spare you tremendous amounts of money and labor. Follow the lead of successful people and scan books, magazines, tapes, articles, and conferences for ideas and insights you can use to help you achieve your goals faster.

Leveraging Other People's Money
Knowing how and when to take advantage of other people's money—by borrowing or otherwise tapping into other people's financial resources—empowers you to achieve things that would be beyond your reach if you relied solely on your own resources. Seek out opportunities to borrow and invest, achieving returns in excess of the cost of the borrowed funds. Among the many sources for funds, consider, for example, chartered banks, savings and loan associations, venture capitalists, and public and private offerings of securities.

Leveraging Other People's Successes
Study the successes that other people and companies have achieved to gain insights into their challenges and solutions. Most successful people have paid their dues in terms of money, energy, commitment, and even failure to arrive at the top of their fields. Learn from their experiences.

Leveraging Other People's Failures
As Benjamin Franklin said, "Man can either buy his wisdom or borrow it. By buying it, he pays full price in personal time and treasure. By borrowing it, he capitalizes on the lessons learned from the failures of others." Listen carefully to the stories of truly successful people. Those who genuinely wish to support you will share with you their failures as well as their successes.

Leveraging Other People's Ideas
A single good idea, developed with passion and commitment, can give birth to a fortune. The greater your exposure to a range of ideas—gained through reading, studying, interaction, and experimentation—the greater the chance you will come across one that will lead you to enduring success.

Leveraging Other People's Contacts of Other People's Credibility
Everyone you know has friends, acquaintances, and professional contacts. Many of these people can make a positive impact on your career or business. Among all the people you know or are connected to in some way, who might open doors for you?

Nov 8, 2009

Keeping Your Sales Funnel Full

Professional selling has three stages, which have been the same throughout history. They are prospect, present, and follow up. These three phases constitute the three parts of the "sales funnel." If your sales and income are down, it is because you are not prospecting enough, presenting enough, or following up and closing enough. The way to increase your sales is usually for you to increase the quality or quantity of your activities in one or more of these areas.

Imagine Your Funnel
Imagine the basic sales model as a funnel. At the top of the funnel, you put in prospects. You have to call on a certain number of people, or suspects, to get a certain number of prospects. This number varies depending on the market, your product or service, your individual skills in prospecting, advertising, and many other factors.

The second part of the sales funnel is presenting. There is a direct ratio between the number of people you call on initially and the number of people who will agree to meet with you. Let us say, for example, that you have to call on twenty prospects to get five presentations. This would give you a ratio of 20 to 5 for your prospecting activities. Selling is very much a numbers game.

Follow Up and Close
In the third part of the sales funnel you have following up and closing. Let us say that you have to follow up with two prospects to get one sale. What this means is that you have to put twenty prospects in the top of the funnel to get one sale out of the bottom of the funnel, a ratio of 20 to 1. The rule therefore is this "keep your funnel full."

Prospecting Power
The definition of a good prospect is "Someone who can and will buy and pay within a reasonable period of time." Do not waste your precious selling time with nice people who do not have the authority, money, or ability to buy from you. Think continually about your personal income, and always be sure that the person you are talking to can contribute to that income soon enough to justify the time you are investing in him or her.

Qualities of a Good Prospect
  • The prospect has a genuine need that your product/service can fill.
  • The prospect is friendly toward you and have a favorable impression of your company and industry.
  • The prospect is willing and able to make a buying decision in the near future.
  • The prospect is a good potential source of further sales and referrals.

Qualities of Poor Prospects
  • The prospect has no money or need for your product or service.
  • The prospect is critical of you, your company, or your product.
  • The prospect immediately haggles and complains about your price.
  • The prospect is indecisive about purchasing from you or anyone.

Nov 1, 2009

The Law of Planning

Every minute spent in planning saves ten minutes in execution. The purpose of strategic planning in a corporation is to reorganize and restructure the activities and resources of the company so as to increase the “return on equity,” or return on the money invested and working in the company. The purpose of “personal strategic planning” is for you to increase your “return on energy,” the return on the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual capital you have invested in your life and career.

Every Minute
Every minute that you spend planning your goals, your activities, and your time in advance saves ten minutes of work in the execution of those plans. Therefore, careful advance planning gives you a return of ten times, or 1,000 percent, on your investment of mental, emotional, and physical energy.

10-12 Minutes
It takes only about 10-12 minutes for you to make up a plan for your day. This investment of 10-12 minutes will save you time of approximately two hours per day, or a 25 percent increase in productivity and performance, in ROE, from the first day that you begin planning your day in advance.

Time Planner
The key to personal efficiency is for you to use a good time planner. Virtually any planner will work if you will discipline yourself to use it as the core of your time management system. Today, Palm Pilots and personal digital assistants (PDA), in combination with personal computers, can enable you to plan your time with greater efficiency than has ever been possible.

Master List
Begin with a master list as the foundation of your time planning system. Write down everything that you can think of that you will need to do for the indefinite future. As new ideas, goals, tasks, and responsibilities arise; write them down on your master list. Don't trust them to memory. Plan each month in advance by transferring the appropriate items from your master list to your monthly list. This is best done the last week of each month. Plan each week in advance by transferring items from your monthly list to your weekly list. This is best done the weekend before.

Plan Everything in Detail
Plan every project, meeting, and goal in detail, before you begin. The very act of planning forces you to think better and more accurately about everything you do. The more you think about and plan something on paper, the faster and more efficiently you will accomplish it when you start work.

Regular Planning
Regular planning assures that you spend more time on activities of higher value. This increases effectiveness and your efficiency in everything you do. Perhaps, the most important rule of all if for you to "think on paper!"