Wednesday 30 June 2010

Ah, a bit of Yiddish to warm us up

It is so cold. And we are in Africa! I love winter, but it is really really cold. And there is no soccer on today. Now, I am not a sportsperson, but you can't not follow the World Cup - what a brilliant time in SA, cold and all.

I got this joke from a friend a bit earlier - this will get you laughing and warm things up a bit:

Shmuel had a bad car accident involving a large truck.

Weeks later, in court, the trucking company's fancy lawyer was questioning Shmuel.

"Didn't you say, at the scene of the accident, 'I'm fine,'?" asked the lawyer.

Shmuel responded, "Vell, I'll tell you vat happened. I just put my dog Moishele, into the ..."

"I didn't ask for any details", the lawyer interrupted.

"Just answer the question."Did you not say, at the scene of the accident, 'I'm fine!'?"

Shmuel said, "Vell, I just got Moishele into the car and vas driving down the road ..."

"The lawyer interrupted again and said, "Judge, I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the Highway Patrolman on the scene that he was just fine. Now several weeks after the accident he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please tell him to simply answer the question."

By this time, the Judge was fairly interested in Shmuel's answer and said to the lawyer, "I'd like to hear what he has to say about his dog Moishele."

Shmuel thanked the Judge and proceeded. "Vell, like I vas saying, I just loaded Moishele, my lovely hundteleh (dog), into the car and vas driving him down the highway when this huge semi-truck and trailer ran the stop sign and smacked my truck right in the side. I vas thrown into one ditch and Moishele vas thrown into the other. I vas hurting, real bad and didn't want to move. However, I heard Moishele moaning and groaning. I knew he vas in terrible shape just by his groans. Den a Highway Patrolman came along. He could hear Moishele moaning and groaning so he vent over to him. After he looked at him, and saw vat terrible condition Moishele was in, he took out his gun and shoots him between the eyes. Den the Patrolman comes across the road, gun still in hand, looks at me and says, "How you feeling?"

"Nu, Judge, vat vould you say?"

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Thursday 24 June 2010

Flying high

A friend of mine sent this to me - it was too good not to share :

United Airlines Agent

It happened at the Denver Airport. This is hilarious. I wish I had the guts of this girl. An award should go to the United Airlines gate agent in Denver for being smart and funny, while making her point, when confronted with a passenger who probably deserved to fly as cargo. or all of you out there who have had to deal with an irate customer, this one is for you.

A crowded United Airlines flight was canceled. A single agent was re-booking a long line of inconvenienced travelers. Suddenly, an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk. He slapped his ticket on the counter and said, "I HAVE to be on this flight and it has to be FIRST CLASS."

The agent replied, "I'm sorry, sir. I'll be happy to try to help you, but I've got to help these folks first; and then I'm sure we'll be able to work something out."

The passenger was unimpressed. He asked loudly, so that the passengers behind him could hear, "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHO I AM?"

Without hesitating, the agent smiled and grabbed her public address microphone. "May I have your attention, please?", she began, her voice heard clearly throughout the terminal. "We have a passenger here at Gate 14 WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHO HE IS. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to Gate 14".

With the folks behind him in line laughing hysterically, the man glared at the United agent, gritted his teeth, and said, "Fuck You!". Without flinching, she smiled and said, "I'm sorry sir, you'll have to get in line for that, too."

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Saturday 19 June 2010

What are the fundamentals?

The other day, I was talking to a writer, and he says to me "What are the fundamentals?" Now, he is a wise man, and he knows, but what he was asking me was important. He went on to say "How do you tell the youth out there what the fundaments are?" We have all heard this many times "Stick to the fundamentals" but how do you explain it to a youngster if he/she asks you "But what are the fundamentals?" Read on.

Everything I do in the world I do from my heart. I don't always succeed and I have made many mistakes. I do things based on the fundamentals; I am trying to create and build things that are worthwhile, not exploit some legal loopholes. Today, so many of our youth aspire to be get-rich-quick moguls, and they embrace "financial engineering".

This is a big problem, in my view, in the world; people think that if they don’t break the law, and exploit some loophole, and make money, then that is all ok. Now, I am not saying that is wrong to want to make money, and I am not judging anyone here, but personally, I don't feel any sense of pride by making money by exploiting people's ignorance. Sure, it is wonderful to make money, but have you ever spoken to a rich guy that made a billion bucks in one year, just like that. Ask them about their customers, and ask them about the products they developed - they won't be able to answer you. In fact, they will look at you with contempt, like you are a fool or something, for wanting to bust your balls with things like customers and products. They will say "I saw a gap and I went for it." Spotting a gap in the market and a gap in the law are two different things.

Seriously, didn't it used to be about doing something inspired, something with purpose, something that makes a difference. Wasn't this what the American Dream was all about. Taking advantage of a loophole or of people's lack of knowledge, and profiting from that, is a pretty sad state of affairs. But, a lot of people make a lot of money like this, and so many people aspire to this kind of shallow and unspiritual work activity. So, perhaps I am a fool, but perhaps also, I like talking about products, and customers, and about my friends at work. And if this bores our get-rich-quick moguls, well, I am sorry.

If, for example, our new venture, fails, then I will know in my heart that we worked hard, and took a risk, and just didn't have the luck we needed (but I don't believe it will fail - I am feeling very lucky of late). But if a financial engineer fails, they simply jump onto the next scheme and the bandwagon continues. Because when the fundamentals are not in play there really are no foundations, and jumping around, like a flea in a dog show, is becoming more and more acceptable.

So, in case you were wondering what these fundamentals are, here is a hint:

The 10 commandments :

ONE: 'You shall have no other gods before Me.'

TWO: 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image - any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.'

THREE: 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.'

FOUR: 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.'

FIVE: 'Honor your father and your mother.'

SIX: 'You shall not murder.'

SEVEN: 'You shall not commit adultery.'

EIGHT: 'You shall not steal.'

NINE: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.'

TEN: 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.'

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Saturday 12 June 2010


Leading people is no walk in the park. Leaders ultimately have a responsibility, to the people they are leading. It means one has to be honest and transparent and also, one has to listen and be approachable. And yes, one also has to be firm, and often, tough. As my one partner, Dave Frankel always reminds me, "Be tough minded, but not hard hearted."

When I was a student, many many many years ago, there was this show on TV called LA Law. They always used this cool sounding legal language, like "objection your honour" , "overruled" , "sustained" and my favourite "leading the witness". Now, the other day I observed a leader who was "leading the witness". Let me demonstrate with a quick example.

Imagine if I asked your opinion on this blog piece. Or, better still, imagine if someone else asked you. If they said "What do you think of this piece of text?" you will hopefully give your honest answer. Now there is no right or wrong here, it really is just your view. But if they asked you "Don't you think this is a great piece" or "Don't you think this is the biggest load of crap" then you will more likely go with the direction of the slant.

Leading people means really listening to them, but leading the witness, means manipulate. Asking people what they think versus leading them down a path with a loaded question, are two very different things.

In life, so often, it is not what you say, but rather, how you say it. The message and messenger; totally different things, but often the message is linked to the messenger due to loaded dice.

To all your leaders out there, lead with grace and integrity, because leading the witness is really not what true leadership is about.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Monday 7 June 2010

A California story

A friend of mine sent me this. I lived in California for a while, many years ago, and this made me laugh - it was too good not to share:

The Governor of California is jogging with his dog along a nature trail. A coyote jumps out and attacks the dog.

California :

#1. Governor starts to intervene, reflects upon the movie "Bambi" and then realizes he should stop; the coyote is only doing what is natural.

#2. He calls animal control. Animal control captures coyote and spends $200 testing it for diseases and $500 upon relocating it.

#3. He calls veterinarian. Vet collects dead dog and spends $200 testing it for diseases.

#4. Governor goes to hospital and spends $3,500 getting checked for diseases from the coyote and on getting bite wound bandaged.

#5. Running trail gets shut down for 6 months while wildlife services conduct a $100,000 survey to make sure the area is clear of dangerous animals.

#6. Governor spends $50,000 of state funds implementing a "coyote awareness" program for residents of the area.

#7. State legislature spends $2 million investigating how to better handle rabies and how to possibly eradicate the disease.

#8. Governor's security agent is fired for not stopping the attack and for letting the Governor intervene.

#9. Cost: $75,000 to train new security agent.

#10. PETA protests the coyote relocation and files suit against the state.


#1. Governor shoots coyote and keeps jogging. Governor has spent $0.50 on a .45 ACP hollow point cartridge. Buzzards eat dead coyote.

Any wonder why California is broke?

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Wednesday 2 June 2010

The soul of business

I was having a discussion with a writer the other day, about the difference between an entrepreneur and a businessman. There is a difference, and while I have always walked an entrepreneurial path I am not a strong business person.

I think a businessman understands and grasps “the numbers” well. An entrepreneur may be good at creating, selling and marketing, but often may have someone else to complement him/her when it comes to the numbers.

The most important point is that an entrepreneur is about taking personal risk, and it is about an intensity and a drive that is focused like a laser. A businessman, on the other hand, in my view, is more about the pay-cheque.

Do you remember that scene in Jerry Maguire where Jerry (Tom Cruise) says to Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding) that he was a pay-cheque player – Jerry says to Rod “Play from the heart, and then you will get your big contract.”

I think an entrepreneur is motivated by something way beyond money, and the irony, if they do it right, the money can be quite an extraordinary result. The inspired entrepreneurs of the past 100 years, who went on to build massive companies, and brands that are admired, with fortunes that were accumulated, were a result of a labour of love. I think a businessman, in my view again, is not in it for love, but rather for money, not to say that either is right or wrong, and not to judge either but they are very different motivations. Yes, they both may arrive at a common end result, namely, an accumulation of wealth, but in the case of the obsessed, slightly cursed and tortured, entrepreneur, who kills himself in pursuit of the truth, the money earned is often only realized 20 or 30 or 40 years later, and, in my view, is way sweeter, than winning the lottery, or in getting, I mean, taking, a big cheque, to run a large corporation.

Think of these big fat-cats, who take so much money and retrench hard-working people at the same time. An entrepreneur can’t stand the word retrenchment – they are all about creating: magic, smiles, jobs, customers, and of course, legacy.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker