Wednesday 31 August 2011

The little golf story

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

A father put his 3-year old daughter to bed, told her a story and listened to her prayers which ended by saying:"God bless Mommy, God bless Daddy, God bless Grandma and goodbye Grandpa." The father asked, "Why did you say goodbye Grandpa?"

The little girl said, "I don't know, Daddy, it just seemed like the thing to do."

The next day grandpa died. The father thought it was a strange coincidence. A few months later the father put the girl to bed and listened to her prayers which went like this: "God bless Mommy, God Bless Daddy and goodbye Grandma."

The next day the grandmother died.

"Holy Moley, thought the father, "this kid is in contact with the other-side."

Several weeks later when the girl was going to bed the dad heard her say:"God bless Mommy and goodbye Daddy."

He practically went into shock. He couldn't sleep all night and got up at the crack of dawn to go to his office. He was nervous as a cat all day, had lunch and watched the clock. He figured if he could get by until midnight he would be okay. He felt safe in the office, so instead of going home at the end of the day he stayed there, drinking coffee, looking at his watch and jumping at every sound. Finally, midnight arrived, he breathed a sigh of relief and went home.

When he got home his wife said, "I've never seen you work so late, what's the matter?" He said, "I don't want to talk about it, I've just spent the worst day of my life." She said, "You think you had a bad day, you'll never believe what happened to me this morning. My golf pro dropped dead in the middle of my lesson."

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Thursday 25 August 2011

Grace under pressure

Being under pressure, and being busy, are two different things. You can be busy and not be under pressure, and you can be under pressure and not that busy. And of course, you can have no pressure and not be busy (which sounds pretty boring).

The challenge with being under pressure is that it occupies so much of your time and energy. I battle to sleep when I am under pressure. It is hard to switch off from tough situations.

Being busy is a different story though. I often have days where I run around, and take care of so many details, and juggle so many balls, but there is no real pressure. Sure, there is the mission of getting everything done that day, but, if some stuff is pushed out to another day, it is not the end of the world.

Having to conclude an important deal point, or delivery a strategic objective, or close an important contract, well, that kind of pressure we often have to deal with, and it is never easy on the nerves. The key thing about being under pressure is to try and remain as graceful as possible. As the years go by, I feel I am getting better, but it is never easy to keep your cool when things are pressurized.

The Material movie is putting me under more and more pressure. I am not that busy on the film journey, but I am juggling a bunch of high-level balls, and the pressure is intense. So far, though, so good - I have remained as cool as can be, but my stomach is in knots. Good things always require a battle - we have to fight for what believe in. Please God it will all be worth it in the end.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Friday 19 August 2011

Show me the money

In our Funny Business book (, we wrote about money and advice. The story where this one wise man we know, who is a very successful venture capitalist, tells us, that he often gets calls from young, enthused wannabe entrepreneurs, who ask for money. "Do you give them money when they call you?" "Never!" "Well, what do you give them then?" "Advice." "And when do you give them money?" "When they call for advice."

With Material ( getting more and more media attention, so my telephone and email inbox are getting more action. Calls from young, excited, film makers, who want someone to invest in their movie. "Please can I come see you about my film." "You want me to gamble?"

A movie is a business venture, so, these adventurous guys should be able to answer some fundamental business questions, like, how are we going to make a return on the investment? But, as it turns out, our movie guys know nothing about the workings of the film business. They just want to shoot.

One day I sit down with one of these excited film guys, and he still appears to know almost knowing about the movie business; so we start discussing distribution, and he tells me that it is going be a big DVD seller, even though the DVD market is slowing dying. So I ask him about the PPD etc. and he has no clue what I am on about. So I explain to him how the revenue splits work on a typical DVD distribution deal, and, then I ask him why he doesn't write any of it down; you know, make some notes. I look at him and go "Maybe you should be jotting this down". And he looks at me, and goes "Nah, I can remember".

Listening builds trust. You want to make money, you want to make movies, perhaps spend some time becoming better listeners.

Personality and character are two very different things. Sure, personality opens doors, but character keeps them open. Listening is a sign of character. People who listen generally make money, and perhaps, even movies.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Friday 12 August 2011

More laws of golf

My one friend sent this to me. I am not a golfer, but most of my mates are, and this made me laugh. Here are "Murphy's Laws Of Golf".

There is no such thing as a friendly wager.

The stages of golf are Sudden Collapse, Radical Change, Complete Frustration, Slow Improvement, Brief Mastery, and Sudden Collapse.

The only sure way to get a par is to leave a four-foot birdie putt two inches short of the hole.

Don't play with anyone who would question a 7.

It's as easy to lower your handicap as it is to reduce your hat size.

If your driver is hot, your putter will be ice cold; if you can hit your irons, you will top your woods; if you are keeping your right elbow tucked in, your head will come up.

Progress in golf consists of two steps forward and ten miles backward.

One good shank deserves another.

It takes 17 holes to really get warmed up.

No golfer ever swung too slowly.

No golfer ever played too fast.

One birdie is a hot streak.

No matter how badly you are playing, it's always possible to play worse.

Whatever you think you're doing wrong is the one thing you're doing right.

Any change works for three holes.

The odds of hitting a duffed shot increase by the square of the number of people watching.

Never teach golf to your wife.

Never play your son for money.

Never try to keep more than 300 separate thoughts in your mind during your swing.

The less skilled the player, the more likely he is to share his ideas about the golf swing.

It's surprisingly easy to hole a 50-foot putt when you lie 10.

The statute of limitation on forgotten strokes is two holes.

Bets lengthen putts and shorten drives.

Confidence evaporates in the presence of fairway water.

It takes considerable pressure to make a penalty stroke adhere to a scorecard.

It's not a gimme if you're still away.

The more your opponent quotes the rules, the greater the certainty that he cheats.

Always limp with the same leg for the whole round.

The rake is always in the other trap.

The wind is in your face on 16 of the 18 holes.

Nothing straightens out a nasty slice quicker than a sharp dogleg to the right.

The rough will be mowed tomorrow.

The ball always lands where the pin was yesterday.

It always takes at least five holes to notice that a club is missing.

The nearest sprinkler head will be blank.

Every time a golfer makes a birdie, he must subsequently make two triple bogeys to restore the fundamental equilibrium of the universe.

Out of bounds is always on the right, for right-handed golfers.

The practice green is either half as fast or twice as fast as all the other greens.

No one with funny head covers ever broke par (except for Tiger Woods).

The lowest numbered iron in your bag will always be impossible to hit.

Your straightest iron shot of the day will be exactly one club short.

If you seem to be hitting your shots straight on the driving range, it's probably because you're not aiming at anything.

The only thing you can learn from golf books is that you can't learn anything from golf books, but you have to read an awful lot of golf books to learn it.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Saturday 6 August 2011

Insider shading

I am all for capitalism. I believe it is a good thing. It allows us to take risks, and to create. It gives us an opportunity to make a return on effort. And it allows every person in the free world to make a difference. Capitalism ultimately gives us all the chance to wake up early, work hard, take a risk, and hopefully make magic. Create something of value in the world, and people will conspire to reward you. But capitalism only works if we all follow some basic set of rules. A code of conduct that is predicated on right and wrong. The 10 commandments will do just fine to this end. When we start bending these rules, and perverting capitalism, then things start to get ugly. Inside Job (the award winning documentary film), as the name captures, describes a system whereby the American government we all trust, as the leader of the free world, played a role in corrupting the rules that keep everyone in check. And now, there is a big economic mess. If you think that we have been through a crises then you are wrong - it is still coming! I would not be surprised if the Great Depression was renamed the Great Depression I. Because part II is not far off.

I have never met anyone who works hard who has not made money. Hard work always gets results. And if you are lucky and you work hard then you could make a lot of money. But making money and taking money are very different things. Too many of these Wall Street fat cats took money, and didn't give any of it back when the wheels came off. As it was stated in Inside Job "Why should a financial engineer get paid up to 100 times more than a real engineer; a real engineer builds bridges, a financial engineer builds dreams, and when those dreams turn out to be nightmares, other people pay for it."

Money made by hard work and risk taking is always celebrated, but when money is made, by exploiting legal loopholes then this is a tragedy. There is nothing inspired by someone who makes their money be taking advantage of our ignorance and lack of knowledge. When a hedge fund manager makes a billion bucks, it ultimately means someone else has lost a billion bucks. Nothing was created here. No magic was the result of some hard work. It is simply about the manipulation of numbers, and about the exploitation of loopholes. If all these hedge fund managers disappeared tomorrow would any of us care? Sure, I understand the value of a financial consultant and of a money manager, but, when that money manager suddenly has hundreds of millions of dollars in their personal account and everyone they were meant to be looking after is crying, then what is to celebrate there?

The problem we have is that nothing has changed since the sub-prime crises. No one was punished, and the fat cat culture of taking and taking has not stopped. You can't keep taking without leaving something on the table for the next guy. Eventually there will be an explosion. And the kicker is, that these fat cats who have all accumulated so much money have taken no risk! They have perverted capitalism and destroyed trust - they just all helped themselves and their mates, and no one does a thing about it. But the masses are getting angry and the average American now has to work 3 jobs to keep up with monthly payments. The middle class of America, which used to be the backbone of the American dream, are now in debt. And America has an artificially propped up economy with all these bailouts. We are cheating nature ladies and gentleman, and it is going to come back to haunt us. Very very soon.

What so many of these companies did, is what we saw in the dot com meltdown. Revenues were booked now, and services were delivered later. Anyone can make a big profit in the short term with twisted accounting practices. And then, when you start to help yourself to massive bonuses based on these phantom profits, well, them it all goes to shit. Enron is the ultimate example. And these big, perverted banks, like Lehman Brothers and the rest, are all Enrons.

Regulations were there to protect us. Hell, they did back here in South Africa. But in America, the deregulated market failed as greed got the better of everyone. And what is worse, is that the academics of America, the people we really look up to, the teachers and professors, were all in on this "inside job". So many Ivy League professors were getting huge consulting fees, to provide credibility to what was a perverse system. On the America Dollar it says "In God we trust" but, we can we trust America anymore?

Posted by Ronnie Apteker