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IFX Group 2008 Web Log

2008 Blog Entries
  1. Consumable Customers. (January)
  2. Necking. (February)
  3. Reciprocal Needs. (March)
  4. Vaporware! The Most Amazing Thing You May Never See! (April)
  5. Free as in ... (May)
  6. A Degree of Perspective. (June)
  7. Doubling Life. (July)
  8. Life Lecture. (August)
  9. Play Time. (September)
  10. Hungry for More? (October)
  11. Peek Behind the Curtain. (November)
  12. Needs Outside and Inside. (December)

January, 2008 - Consumable Customers.

Consumers in general are dumb. If they were smart they would be customers. Thus I feel vaguely insulted every time someone calls me a consumer.

Almost an hundred years ago consumption was a fatal disease. If you had money to buy goods or services from a company you naturally were considered to be their customer, not a consumer.

The important difference between customers and consumers is the relationship they have with providers. Customers have a relationship that is recognized and validated through the value placed on their patronage and feedback to the business.

Consumers have no value other than their ability to consume more. Demographics are used rather than feedback to find more efficient ways to increase consumption and raise profits. A consumer's value actually goes up if they regularly consume past their ability to pay because pointless debt is yet another way consumers are different than customers.

Are you actively seeking to build customer relationships?


February, 2008 - Necking.

Why is the act of getting physically close or intimate called necking? Who thought this term was appropriate when the neck is possibly the least involved part of the activity? What if the person that coined the term really understood something deeply important?

For a moment set aside all of the inter-personal political correctness, social stereotypes and stigmas and imagine that the neck represents everything we need and really desire in a relationship. Relax, this is just an analogy.

What does your neck do for you? It keeps your head and body connected together, but more importantly it is a bi-directional communication pathway that allows thoughts, perceptions and feelings to be communicated and turned into joint actions.

Ask anyone with severe neck damage about the value of a neck. The inability for a head and body to freely communicate can be a big hardship to the point that outside help may be required to survive.

Are you working to chop off your relationship at the neck or are you necking with the one you love?


March, 2008 - Reciprocal Needs.

Helping another person can be a very gratifying experience. It doesn't matter what form of help is needed, the reward is still there. The greater the need and the more grateful the recipient, the sweeter the reward. The good news is that everybody needs different kinds of help. Some people need money, but more people than you may expect need non-monetary help in the form of simple things like your time, your compassion or your shared knowledge.

On the other side of this equation is the person that desperately needs help even though they may not yet realize it. Trying to get someone to see their need is amazingly unsatisfying for those offering help. In the past it was common for someone to very vocally refuse charity because of pride or a false perception that accepting help from another is somehow personally demeaning. That same sentiment still exists today, but does not seem to be voiced as openly as it once was.

What if the need for help and the ability to help others are both core parts of being human? The interesting part in all of this is that everyone needs help with something. The terms rich and poor are often connected only to money, but money is only a tiny part of the scope of wealth and poverty. The rich may have an excess of money and yet be poor in other areas, like the time to get out of the workday routine to spend with family and see a different perspective of life. The poor with little or no money are often wealthy in areas that the rich lack, like time with loved ones and the ability to see a perspective on life that is invisible to the rich.

So even if you have a profound lack of something (money, time, knowledge, etc.) you can still give what you do have to help others and receive a reward. The trick is to recognize both what you have in abundance to give and what you need.

Are you able to both give help and receive the help offered by others?


April, 2008 - Vaporware! The Most Amazing Thing You May Never See!

The world has a lot of dreamers. At some point in life, everyone has an idea or two about how to make something better, right a wrong or create something totally new. Sadly, too many people are content with sitting on those ideas and letting them fade away into the shadows of our forgotten past.

In the software and hardware world, there is a term called Vaporware that describes these dreams just because they don't yet exist. This term, combined with the negative attitudes and sharp remarks that often go with it, only serves to hold back those that would otherwise improve our world.

So the IFX Group is doing something to help. This month we are opening a new section in our web site to record all of the ideas that would otherwise be hidden or even lost in all the noise. We openly accept submissions from anyone willing to donate their ideas to someone else for the specific goals of making life easier, more comfortable, more enjoyable and more fulfilling.

All of the ideas we accept and post are only limited with the simple restriction that allows them to be distributed and prevents them from being patented anywhere by anyone. You get the ideas offered here for free and you must afford others the same access.

If you make a lot of money from any of these ideas, please consider sending some back to the visionary that first had the dream.

Happy 20th Birthday!

The IFX Group is 20 years old this month and we are in celebration mode!

The birthday cake is delicious and we are out traveling around the country sharing the party with our friends and family. Look for fun little surprises hidden all over our web site this month.


May, 2008 - Free as in ...

The English language has some common words that are forced to carry so many meanings that they are often misunderstood. For example, the single word hot is used to communicate temperature, spice, theft, anger and attractiveness, and the single word love is used to communicate feelings towards an impossibly wide range of beings, objects and actions.

The single word free has well over 40 unique definitions in most dictionaries and is used to communicate such opposite meanings describing something you get (i.e. free beer) and something you don't get (i.e. sugar-free). But when it comes to rights and liberty, the word free is likely to be misunderstood even more often. This is easy to see when considering free software that comes with a lengthy and restrictive license.

Most people assume the word free only applies to the lack of a need to exchange money, but that is far from a lack of cost. In fact sometimes things you get for no money cost much more than things you must buy. This cost can be measured in loss of time, loss of liberty or loss of some personal value like your information. Money is only a small part of the word free.

Do your rights and liberty outweigh the monetary cost?


June, 2008 - A Degree of Perspective.

How many degrees of temperature are possible? Scientists believe that absolute zero is the point where atoms stop all motion. This means it is impossible to get colder than absolute zero in any measurable way. On the other end of the spectrum is extreme heat. Scientists recently found the surface of our sun is not so hot compared to other stars. This means our definition of extremely hot is still a moving target.

Imagine how many degrees difference there are between absolute zero and the hottest temperature possible. No matter what scale you use, the number of degrees are astronomically high and we are still counting.

What if temperature and education shared a similar degree scale? Consider for a moment anyone with a graduate degree or two under their belt that feels they have reached the pinnacle of knowledge. Is this a sign of closed-mindedness that actually blinds them from knowledge? How many degrees are needed to reach total knowledge? The scale may be more like temperature in that no matter how high we count, the scale keeps extending off beyond our ability to measure and each degree gets very tiny in view of the whole scale.

The truly educated never graduate. Instead they are humble enough to continually seek out and collect more degrees of knowledge from everywhere. Sometimes the best knowledge is found in the most unlikely places that is just beyond our view until we start looking.

Are you still learning?


July, 2008 - Doubling Life.

The average human life span is growing longer all the time and yet the same life span seems nearly infinite to the very young from their limited perspective and incredibly short to the old from their expanded perspective. Virtually every person on this planet can only hope to double their age in years about six times before they run out of years. The perceived length and value of each additional year may depend entirely on the number of years you have personally witnessed.

  1. Year 1
    Imagine a year from the perspective of a one year old baby. With no other basis of comparison, a year is a very, very long time - literally a whole life up until now. In fact all units of time seem to last nearly forever. Waiting a whole hour for something is almost impossible to imagine and the concept of a day wasted does not exist.
  2. Year 2
    By the second birthday the number of years on this planet have doubled and we are well on the way to establishing some annual patterns like holidays and birthdays. A day wasted is not noticed.
  3. Year 4
    By the fourth birthday the number of years on this planet have again doubled and we have a fair grasp on what to expect with each new year. The years still feel like a long time, but looking forward to the coming year is getting easier to do. A wasted day has no value even when someone else brings it to your attention.
  4. Year 8
    The number of years on this planet have again doubled and the years are starting to feel a little less like infinity, but not so short that the next holiday or birthday feels close. A wasted day only has value if it prevented you from doing something you wanted.
  5. Year 16
    Doubled again. From this perspective a year is getting short enough to look ahead and plan, but a whole life of years still feels very long. Looking more than five years into the future is a long term thing. A wasted day is noticed but has little value because there are plenty of days remaining.
  6. Year 32
    Birthdays are starting to feel a little more frequent. The years move along at a slightly faster pace, but retirement age still feels very far away. Looking more than ten years into the future feels strange, but it is possible with some effort. A wasted day is easily noticeable and yet has little impact.
  7. Year 64
    By the sixty-fourth birthday the number of years on this planet have most likely doubled for the last time and life is feeling much too short. The years feel like they zoom by very fast. Birthdays and holidays happen so frequently that they can sometimes be a surprise. A wasted day has real value and yet unfortunately some people do little to prevent them.
  8. Year 128
    Very few make it to their one-hundred-and-twenty-eighth birthday. No matter at what age they died, the year leading up to the end always feels the shortest of all. This feeling is exaggerated if the person has some warning the end is near such as happens with a terminal illness diagnoses. A single wasted day has an unimaginably high value and yet it may be a great challenge to prevent them.

How can the same year long span of time feel like eternity to a child and so painfully short for the same person at the end of life? It all comes down to perspective. The more years you have seen, the more you are able to frame the current year in that context. This gives a whole different way to look at the value of time and a single wasted day.

What if this year is your last? How many days are you willing to waste and how many are you going to spend doing something that lasts beyond your years?


August, 2008 - Life Lecture.

The brick walls are there for a reason, he said during his now famous lecture. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.
- from The Last Lecture
by Randy Pausch (1960-2008)

Randy Pausch lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last week. He fought that ultimate brick wall and lost. In the process he demonstrated his philosophy of life through his actions and created a wonderful legacy message for his three children. That message has spread world wide changing lives wherever it goes.

What is strange is that this is unique. Every parent faces brick walls and fights to overcome them while they pass their message on to the next generation both in words and deeds. Every child has the responsibility to weigh that message and choose if it gets passed on to the next generation.

What Mr. Pausch's children do with his message is yet to be seen. But what about you and your parents? What do you do with the message they gave to you?


September, 2008 - Play Time.

Why are some people creative and innovative while others seem to be stuck following the crowd? Many studies on the subject show the capacity to play and the ability to wait for inspiration to solve problems are the main traits for the creative person even above knowledge and intelligence.

The famous poet John Keats is quoted saying I am not uncomfortable with not knowing. If you immediately turn to the answer key to solve a puzzle, there is no room for your brain to work out the solution for you. If you are under time pressure, it is hard to really let go and play. Research shows we use the highest levels of intelligence when our imaginations are fully engaged and creative play is the easiest way into our imagination. Even Einstein said that he valued imagination more than knowledge.

There are two sides to every brain; the creative right side and the analytical left side. Are you allowing enough time in the day to get into your right mind?


October, 2008 - Hungry for More?

Everyone enters this world full of curiosity and wonder. The world and everything in it is just waiting to be discovered and explored. Some people loose the hunger to satisfy their curiosity and reach a place where they are no longer interested in seeing or hearing anything more. Even though they may live on for many more years, the point of lost curiosity most often marks the place in life where they stop growing and start dying.

The good news is that this is a preventable disease. Many studies on longevity are showing that continually learning something new that is just at the edge of your ability can make a huge improvement in brain function, even for the very old.

Are you hungry?


November, 2008 - Peek Behind the Curtain.

As the economy gets tight it gets even more important to buy wisely. If you need to buy something big like a car, spend a day in the service department of your local dealership. Pay close attention to the way the customers are treated. How do customers look when they get the bill? If it is possible, look at the age of the cars in the shop area. A high percentage of new cars needing repair is never a good sign even if they are covered by a good warranty because no warranty lasts forever.

In a perfect world, the service department would be totally empty and customers would never need to get support for their products. But the world is not perfect and things break. So take a peek at this side of the picture before you buy and you can save yourself a lot of suffering.

This idea works on almost any level. When you think about buying computer hardware or software, always ask for the technical support number first. If you find the person on the other end of the phone can't speak your language in an understandable way or can't talk about the good and bad points of the product, avoiding that company's products will save you a lot of suffering.

Everyone needs support sometime. At least now you can go in to a purchase with an informed understanding of what to expect.


December, 2008 - Needs Outside and Inside.

In questionable economic times it can help to look behind the advertising blitz of the holiday season at the needs we all share.

Outside Needs

What do you really need? Start with water, food, clothing and shelter. These are the basic needs every body must have in roughly the order of importance.

  • Water is obvious because we are mostly water contained in a vessel designed to leak that water out in different useful ways from cooling to waste management.
  • Food is the fuel required to do everything from repair the tiniest damage to accomplishing the greatest feats. Most bodies have plenty of stored energy in the form of fat that can be used in an emergency, but that can only go so far before the body runs out of key nutrients and is forced to start cannibalizing itself from the inside out to make up the difference.
  • Clothing is not just a social convention. This is proven by the noticeable lack of clothing optional beaches in places where the weather is too cold or too hot.
  • Shelter may sound like an optional thing until extreme weather arrives.

At first glance some of these may appear to overlap, but they are clearly distinct when closely examined. If you have plenty of one or more of these, consider sharing with someone in need this holiday season.

Inside Needs

What do you really need? Love, joy and peace. These are the basic needs every heart must have in roughly the order of importance.

  • Love is much like water because we are designed to leak it out in different useful ways and that it must be continually refilled or we risk running dry. On the other hand if we do not share the love we have, we grow cold and unable to accept the love of others.
  • Joy may seem to be frivolous on the surface, but consider the heart and life without joy compared to the heart full of joy. This is the nourishment of the heart in that a heart with joy can summon vast stores of energy able to accomplish great things way beyond what would otherwise be possible. Wherever you find your joy is where you will also find your energy.
  • Peace is not just the lack of strife and frustration, but it is the place where you know who you are and can relax to be just you without restriction or requirement. Some view this as acceptance which is only part of the much larger need. Peace is the shelter from the storm rather than the lack of storm.

At first glance some of these may appear to overlap, but they are clearly distinct when closely examined. If you have plenty of one or more of these, consider sharing with someone in need this holiday season.