Wednesday, 28 January 2009

For these economic times

I just read this on the Net - was too good not to share:

A trader: "This is worse than a divorce. I've lost half my net worth and I still have a wife."

President Bush said that he is saddened to hear about the demise of Lehman brothers and his thoughts go out to their mother as losing one son is hard, but losing two is a tragedy.

The problem with investment bank balance sheets is that on the left side nothing is right and on the right side nothing is left.

In math there are 30 billion prime numbers below 700 billion. The rest are all sub prime.

How do you define optimism? A banker who irons 5 shirts on a Sunday.

What do you call 12 investment bankers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start.

Why are all MBA going back to school? To ask for their money back.

If you want to gamble, go to Las Vegas. If you want to trade in derivatives, God bless you.

Whets the difference between a guy who just lost everything in Vegas and an investment banker? A necktie.

Whets the difference between a bond and a bond trader? A bond matures.

Forty years ago I sold fifty shares of my company stock and had enough money to purchase a brand-new 1967 Ford pickup. Last week, I checked it out, and if I sold another fifty shares, I'd have enough money to buy a 1967 Ford pickup. So, the market has stabilized.

What have an Icelandic bank and an Icelandic streaker got in common? They both have frozen assets.

A director decided to award a prize of $500 for the best idea of saving the company money during the credit crunch. It was won by a young executive who suggested reducing the prize money to $10.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Friday, 23 January 2009

Music to our ears

I read this story on the Web - it really got me thinking:

A Violinist in the Metro

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tugged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theatre in Boston and the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday, 18 January 2009

No purpose, no peace... Know purpose, know peace

I adapted this above heading from my Rabbi. Thank you Yossi - I was looking for some inspiration and there you were!

I have been so excited to start this new year. But not because of any particular project or venture, actually, the opposite!

I have always written about quality VS quantity, and this is what I am excited about - about saying NO more - about cutting down on a bunch of stuff and focusing on a few things. Last year I took on more than ever and I landed up having a very tough time because of it.

And with a re-focus comes the opportunity to make a further investment (ie, take some more risk) in a couple of things (rather than being spread thinly over too many things). As my mate Mannie said to me the other day "You never see a hearse towing a Venter trailer!" Yes, you can't take it with you.

This holiday period I was far away, in the snow, on my own, thinking about what the new year would bring. And I saw the light. Less is more! Fewer projects, better quality, and more focused risks.

I was reading in the paper now, about the perversion of capitalism. There was an article about speculators and get-rich-quick schemers who, the journalist wrote, have caused our capitalistic path to have become twisted.

I am a capitalist, and I am an entrepreneur. But I am not greedy or twisted and I have never been that money oriented. Sure, it is the end goal of any commercial venture to make money. And losing money is no fun. And what is even worse is when you invest and risk money and are drained at the same time. Not this new year though! This year we are going to have a lot more fun! And that will make all the diference!

Bring on 2009, bring on purpose, and bring on passion, and of course, people, but not as many as last year - this year we are going to focus, and it is going to be intense!

Ah, some peace - it is very welcome!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Talent = luck = talent

Last year sometime I wrote an article about the connection, or lack of it, between being smart and making money. In case you missed it here is a link to that piece of text :

The short conclusion, from my perspective, is that there is no connection between being smart and making money. I know many really clever people that are seriously broke, and I am know many dumb clowns that have made fortunes. Of course, I also know many smart people too that have made a lot of money.

I was very far away over this Christmas period, up North, in some cold parts of the world. I met a lot of different people there and they challenged my ways of thinking and gave me a lot of food for thought. This one person I met, for example, looked so full of life and so intelligent. And I said to her "You could do anything in this world." And she looked at me and said "But I have no real talents. So what if I am intelligent."

And then it hit me! It is like I was saying in that article I mention above. Yes, there is no connection between being clever and making money. Having something unique for the world, a talent, a gift, an inspired business proposition, a special offering, now that can make money. But being clever means babkas; many stupid people make money and many clever people are dirt poor!

Maybe that is what luck is; maybe luck is about talent. Yes, being born with a talent is indeed lucky! But as I also have written before, we can change our luck. Perhaps recognizing your own unique gifts and talents is the first step in becoming luckier. And then, focusing on where you are strong and getting other people to help you where you are weak will also change your luck for the better.

Everyone, in my view, is born with some kind of gift or talent. Use your talents to your advantage; that will indeed make you luckier!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Monday, 5 January 2009

Vitamins for the mind

I was reading this on the Net:

Something will master and something will serve. Either you run the day or the day runs you; either you run the business or the business runs you.

Learn how to separate the majors and the minors. A lot of people don't do well simply because they major in minor things.

Don't mistake movement for achievement. It's easy to get faked out by being busy. The question is: Busy doing what?

Days are expensive. When you spend a day you have one less day to spend. So make sure you spend each one wisely.

Sometimes you need to stay in touch but be out of reach.

Time is our most valuable asset, yet we tend to waste it, kill it, and spend it rather than invest it.

We can no more afford to spend major time on minor things than we can to spend minor time on major things.

Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.

Never begin the day until it is finished on paper.

Learn how to say no. Don't let your mouth overload your back.

Time is the best-kept secret of the rich.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Let's make it count!

Happy new year to all our Vottle users - let's make this year count!

Here are the highlights from Vottleland :

We have spent quite a bit of time enhancing our natural SEO by improving many of our URL formats, page titles and some other HTML optimizations. This has already resulted in some solid improvement in Vottle's search rankings. This should hopefully help us to further reduce our monthly Adwords' spend and close the gap between our income and expenses.

We have also started to change the layout of several pages. This is to make content more relevant and user-friendly, and this has also allowed us to add Google Adsense content to much of the site. This will provide us with a good benchmark for future banner advertising opportunities as it will guide us with pricing structures based on real income (ie, we are hoping the Google Adsense move will bring in a consistent revenue stream in this year ahead).

We have also added a new 'landing page' which many users will reach from Google searches; the aim of this page is to provide a more trustworthy and enticing 'first impression' of Vottle to users who are unfamiliar with the site, and encourage them to post ads and register. The results here have been encouraging so far, although December is traditionally a quite month and we hope to see the number of postings and registrations rise even further in January now.

Much of our focus will change in this coming year with respect to our online developments. We will keep you all posted on all our new initiatives and explorations.

All the best for 2009 !!!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker