Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How important are friends in influencing you?

Extremely important.

The environment we live in feeds our souls - friends, school, neighborhood, family, country, etc. Our DNA only helps us define how we manage what the environment throws at us. A great skill to have is to recognize this influence and control its effect on your soul.

If we think of our environment as a series of concentric circles around us, our friends and family represent the inner most ring and therefore the most influential. Their input gets transmitted to us the most directly and powerfully through heightened emotions, intellectual pursuits, and physical experiences. Have you ever noticed how a small circle of friends tends to like the same things? They dress alike, listen to similar music, like and dislike the same things? Imagine the power of this influence for the wrong things.

Beyond this inner circle we have the other circles in our lives - our neighborhood, our school, our city, the organizations we belong to, our country and its media, and the world and its current values.

So. take a moment and look at your inner circle of friends. Do you like what your see? Are these friends likely to have a positive influence in your life? If not, you know what to do : )

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What is the best way to get somebody that you like to notice you?

Flirting.

Flirting only means that you think somebody is "interesting" and not that you are hopelessly in love and/or desperate. Flirting is harmless ... but useful. It is just a game to let the other person know that you may be willing to explore getting to know him/her better and see if there is really something there.

Flirting is especially useful with men. Men are a bit more clueless and they usually need more help to realize that somebody likes them. Once they know, they tend to focus and to start thinking about the possibilities. If all the necessary ingredients are there (chemistry, etc.) then the relationship is likely to move forward.

However, a skill that is very important to develop with all this flirting is to be able to quickly realize whether the subject of your flirting is interested in you or not. If not, just move on.

So, go drop some hints to that special person you like ... You never know how clueless they are : )

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What is one of the most important traits of a leader?

To lead by example.

In addition to being intelligent, driven, courageous, competent and so many other important personal traits, leading by example is at the top of the list for me.

Leading by example has an incredibly disarming effect when faced with a tough situation, a challenging task, or simply fear or doubt. Showing the way when things get tough and letting others see that you are willing to do anything you ask of them is the true test of a leader.

And once you get things moving? Then you need to Inspire - where are you taking everybody?


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Why do we take so many medications now?

Marketing and the media.

Have you noticed how many pharmaceutical ads there are in magazines, billboards, radio and TV? They are everywhere. As a category, it certainly seems the most prevalent. If you were to really pay attention to all of this, you would think the human race is going down the drain fast. That all of us are sick somehow. That there is something out there to help us and that we should never put up with any sort of discomfort whatsoever.

Overtime, we have developed the notion that we need to attack anything that our body or mind is trying to tell us naturally with some sort of immediate remedy. We are not supposed to feel anything out of the ordinary - no pain, no anxiety, no fever, no diarrhea, etc. Have we forgotten that our body, with proper care and maintenance, is built to last a long time with no medicines at all? What about the notion that our body is able to tell us what is wrong with it and in many instances repair itself.

Our bodies do need help sometimes. For this, we need to step back, take control and learn to discern when medicine is a good thing. Who does not love a nice antibiotic when needed? The closest thing to a miracle drug in my book. You take it, you fix the problem, and you are done.

Where did we learn that we are supposed to take pain killers for every little pain, or stuff to sleep better, or to not be sad, or for diarrhea, or when we are hyper, or, my favorite, because we have a leg that loves to dance under the table?

So, how about listening to your body a bit more, altering your behavior as your body indicates, and giving it a chance to heal itself?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Can you tell what a person is like by just looking at them?

I think so.

One of the most intriguing observations I have heard goes something like this: "... the jaw-line of a person reveals inheritance, the lips tell you what life has done to somebody, and the eyes reveal the emotions of the moment ...".

And, the more you observe a person the more you can match their physical characteristics, movements, and reactions to the patterns and experiences that you have developed and accumulated over your lifetime of interactions with people. This somewhat subconscious ability is what we call intuition, gut feel, ... or simply, je ne sais qua.

So, observe a little and see what you think.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How do you best overcome shyness?

Stop thinking about yourself so much.

Being shy or embarrassed is really about thinking too much about ourselves. It is paralyzing when all we do is think about what everybody around us is thinking of us instead of just doing things (e.g., how we dress, how we eat, our voice, our looks, our accent, the way we walk, the way we run, the way we laugh, etc.).

It is very liberating when you realize that most people are more worried about themselves than about you or what you do.

What about when you have to give a speech in front of a group of people. Relax, remember the audience is not there to pick on you or to criticize how you dress or how you speak. They are there to listen to what you have to say. Thinking about a time when you felt confident and relaxed may also help get your mind off of yourself.

What about when you want to meet that special person that you really like. Focus on them and not on you, be interested in them and what they do. Forget about how they are perceiving you ... they are probably more worried about how YOU are perceiving them anyway.

The point is to try to redirect the energy you spend worrying about yourself and focus it on the other person, the situation, the goal, the activity, etc. Trying to figure out how others are perceiving you is a futile exercise ... and it generates stress for something that you are making up in your head.

What about when things really go wrong? The easiest is to just make fun of yourself and of the situation instead of panicking. More importantly, don't dwell on it. People around you will forget about the whole thing way faster than you think. Remember, they have better things to worry about ... like themselves.

So now, go wild and have fun : )

Friday, November 27, 2009

What is the simplest thing we can do to help the environment?

Reduce consumption.

Understanding the impact on the world of our everyday "buying" decisions is a very good first step. When these seemingly disconnected decisions are aggregated for entire populations and/or markets, the impact becomes very significant.

Whenever you buy something ...
  • Think about having to manufacture millions of that one item (that is usually the effect a market as large as the US has on most mass related products), ...
  • then, think about the amount of raw materials that will be required and where they are coming from, ...
  • the fuel/energy required to manufacture them, ...
  • the fuel/energy required to transport them to millions of consumers like you all around, ...
  • the space required to dispose of them when they are no longer useful
Worst of all, think about all those raw materials and all that energy gone forever ... and, the fact that the cycle has to start again for the next batch.

How many of these cycles do you think the earth can support from raw materials to land fill? Not many at the scales we are able to produce these days ... in the meantime, all trees in the Amazon, Russia, and Indonesia will disappear, all coal and oil will pollute everything we see with CO2, plastics, chemicals, etc.

So what is there to do? Easy. Reduce consumption.

And whenever you do buy something:
  1. Be aware of where it comes from and its likely impact on the environment if you follow the cycle described above, or
  2. Buy things that are locally produced, or
  3. Buy something used instead.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What is the main source of stress?

Lack of control.

Stress is primarily created when you find yourself in a situation where you do not have enough control to drive a desired outcome.

Have you ever been asked at work to do something for which you do not have the necessary authority to make happen? How about when you are supposed to get something done for which you do not have enough time or simply you do not know how?

How about when you are made accountable for the success of a project but you are not given, or do not have, the authority to manage the assigned resources? Does this bring memories?

How about when you are studying for a test and you do not understand the subject matter? How about taking a test when you did not have time to study? Here is a good one. How about when you get to the room where your final test is supposed to be and you find out that the room is the wrong one? Now you are not only late for the test but you have no clue where the test really is. Are you sweating yet?

The best strategy to reduce stress is to recognize and avoid situations where:
  • you do not have enough control to effect the desired outcome, or
  • the situation is simply uncontrollable.
And, if you ever find yourself in a stressful situation - focus on gaining control as soon as possible.

More control .... less stress. Absolute control ..... no stress : )

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What explains weight gain or loss best?

Food Quantity.

People say that controlling your weight is somewhat out of one's control. People are very good at finding excuses and uncontrollable factors to blame for their weight problems - metabolic rate, heredity, family habits, the weather, or that my dog makes me eat.

The reality is that mass cannot be created out of nothing. If you do not eat, you will lose weight. It does not matter how many uncontrollable factors are against you. You cannot gain 10 pounds from 1 pound of cup cakes. Just plain physics.

You may want to spend hours trying to analyze what you eat and eliminate fats, or carbohydrates, or sweets, or whatever so you can keep eating a lot ..... but if you eat a lot of anything, however filtered it is, you will still gain weight.

So, how about reducing quantities first? Then make sure that what you eat is well-balanced.

Too simple? : )

Monday, November 9, 2009

How do you know when someone you like is special?

Comfort.

Have you ever met somebody that you are physically attracted to that, at the same time, makes you feel like you have known them forever? Have you felt that instant comfort and trust that allows you to spend hours talking about all kinds of stuff effortlessly?

If so, this "comfort" is a great clue that you have met someone special.

Physically attracted and comfortable - nice combination, no?

What is the best way to learn something?

Trial and error.

Our brain is designed to be a learning machine. A machine that requires inputs from the outside world. The more and more frequent the inputs the better. The ultimate goal is to drive our machine to build the required circuitry to deem new knowledge as "learned" and "stored".

So, what is the easiest way to build these permanent circuits?

Have you noticed that sometimes you learn something and 5 minutes later is gone? How about something that you learned when you were young, like riding a bicycle, that is always there? What is the difference? Simply put, you built permanent circuits for one and not the other.

Repetition and making mistakes is key to building permanent knowledge ... but also understanding that our senses are the inputs that feed our brains to build these permanent circuits - seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, hurting, feeling, etc.

The more we try something and the more mistakes we make and the more senses we use, the faster the building of permanent circuits becomes.

So, if you want to truly learn something, persist and not be afraid to fail ... and if failing is part of learning ... might as well fail big ... it is more fun that way : )

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What should our next step be in Afghanistan?

Downsize and restructure.

Staying in Afghanistan without a well defined, attainable, and tangible goal does not make sense. And, given our current economic situation, can we really afford it? If the overall justification for being there is to contain terrorism at its source, why are we also trying to rebuild a nation?

Is it because we think that once the nation is up and running, terrorism will disappear? Really? Do we think that the police and the army are going to be able to contain anything when corruption is so pervasive?

Besides, how do we know when we are "done" rebuilding and it is time to go? With the current approach, we could be there for the next 10 years or more.

How about if we replace what we are doing with a very focused capability instead? Reduce our forces from tens of thousands to a few hundred.

How could these be more effective? How about structuring this new capability to only be target-driven based on a strengthen intelligence gathering infrastructure. Their focus would be on a series of discrete, clearly defined, attainable, and finite missions. Let's get everybody else back home.

Just my opinion : )

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What is the key to a long lasting relationship?

Expectations.

Love is an interesting thing. Today, it seems like everybody and everything tells us that finding ever lasting and passionate love is the ultimate goal. And, that what we feel from the beginning should remain constant throughout the relationship.

There is nothing wrong with the idea of ever lasting and passionate love, the problem is the notion that these "feelings" should remain constant from day one.

The reality is that love evolves and changes like anything else. A typical life cycle goes through attraction, passion, infatuation, warmth, admiration, respect, stability, companionship, friendship, caring, etc. The challenge is to be prepared and to understand these different stages as you go through them -- and not fall in the "it is just not the same as at the beginning" trap. It is not suppossed to be. Love develops, if given a chance, into something deeper, more stable, and more meaningful -- ultimately, into some sort of "subliminal" and "transcendental" well-being by just being next to the person you love.

So, manage your own expectations. Expect love to change and enjoy the ride. The end game is worth the journey.

Friday, October 30, 2009

What defines the "culture" of a place?

The sum of its parts.

Have you ever noticed that certain countries seem to have different "personalities"? Have you noticed how different the personalities of people in France and Germany seem to be? What about Iceland and Mexico? How about with companies? Is the corporate "culture" at Goldman Sachs different than the one at Walmart? How about with schools? Is the collective personality of the University of Texas at Austin different than the one at Stanford?

So, what accounts for these personality/culture differences if each of the groups in the categories mentioned (countries, schools, companies) seem to have similar demographics - people, gender, age, educational backgrounds, etc. ?

Personality or "culture" is actually defined by the sum of its component parts (its individuals) - from the personality of a single individual, to that of a Club with 10 members, to that of a Company with 100 employees, to that of a University with 10,000 students, to that of a country with 10 million people.

When people talk about joining a group and seeking some sort of culture fit, they are actually onto something. Belonging to a group that matches your own personality and aspirations is a very positive experience. Belonging to a group that does not, is not very fun. The problem is that it takes time to get to know a group's culture. You cannot define what it is from a one day visit, or a day of interviews, or a 2 day vacation.

So, look around you. How do the cultures/personalities of the groups and subgroups that you are part of match your own? Are they a good fit? Are the groups influencing your own personality/culture in a positive or negative way? Do you need to fix or change something? If so, start today.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is kissing an automatic invitation for more?

Absolutely not.

Have you noticed how the media (movies, TV, etc.) always shows a bedroom scene immediately after two people decide to kiss?

It is understandable how, for the sake of ratings and an interesting plot, you would follow that approach in a movie. However, this relentless portrayal of a simple act of kissing as an immediate, and implied, invitation to go all the way is spilling into real life. Why?

If going all the way is the utmost expression of love, then it is logical to think that in order to get there, you need to dedicate a lot of time to get to know the other person (including a lot of long and innocuous kissing sessions) before taking the next step. Right?

Monday, October 26, 2009

What is the best way to learn another language?

Full immersion.

Have you ever wondered why all those years of foreign language instruction seem to evaporate every time you want to use them? Languages are a remarkably complex undertaking (just like music) that require constant and prolonged practice.

Our brains are designed to learn based on trial and error and repetition/practice. The only way to eventually hard wire something as complex as a new language into our brains is to live it and experience it with everything we have. This means, we need to speak, think, write, dream, and hear it every minute of the day for a few months. Learning languages in a classroom only create temporary connections in our brain that tend to dissolve quickly if not constantly "experienced".

I personally can attest that I learned more in the first 2 months of full immersion that in 9 years of classroom instruction. I suspect that some of the theory and knowledge acquired during those 9 years, helped make the immersion process more efficient, but not until immersion was I able to understand and speak a foreign language fluently.

So, stop struggling. Make immersion (6 months minimum) part of your plan for truly learning a new language.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What is the best way to make difficult decisions?

With a cool head.

Have you heard the expression that "whoever gets angry first, loses"? Have you ever made a decision in the heat of the moment that seems crazy the next day once you have calmed down?

Anger and decision-making are an explosive combination.

So, when you feel that you are in a situation where you can feel yourself getting angry (e.g., somebody is saying something about you that is not true, somebody is criticizing your work, your intelligence, your body, your habits, your family, or your friends), immediately think about something else - disconnect yourself - do not let yourself be dragged into the trap. Do not be forced into making a decision or reacting when you are angry.

So how do you deal with it?

Once you have successfully detached yourself from being a participant and successfully become more of an observer, then you could try some of these examples that I have used in the past to buy myself some time:
1. "Let me think about what you just said and I will get back to you"
2. "Interesting perspective, how can I help"
3. "Let me find out what happened and I will let you know"

And, my favorite one ...
4. "So now that we are all in agreement that I screwed up, can we move on?"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How do you not let the news bring you down?

Ignore it.

Have you ever wondered why most of the things we hear or read in the news are about bad things? More importantly, why do people want to get a regular dose of that stuff? What happens to all the good things that are also happening in the world every day?

All this negativity can easily induce a sort of paralyzing paranoia.

The reality is that if you were to pay attention to these things and try to protect yourself to prevent any of this stuff from happening to you, you might as well stay home, close the door, and never leave.

So what is there to do?

First of all, stop the flow of bad things into your head - nobody needs that. The world out there is an amazing place waiting to be experienced and discovered first hand - not through the news. You will realize that people are good by nature and this realization alone will open up the possibilities ... just think about all the people you interacted with this week. Any murderers?

If I would have paid attention to the people that have told me not to go here or not to do that because of the news, I would have never ridden my motorcycle to places like Colombia, Vietnam, Morocco, or Nicaragua. I would have never had the opportunity to have dinner with the Zapatistas in Chiapas and discuss Indian rights with them, or be in a political demonstration with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, or meet Fidel Castro in Cuba, or meet with the paramilitares in Colombia, or discuss recent events between China and Vietnam at their border.

If I would have listened to the news, I would have missed meeting some of the most interesting people in the world, seeing some of the most amazing places, and confirm that people all over the world are basically the same - we all want to live in peace, to love, to take care of our children and feed our families, to live with dignity, and to help others. It is just human nature.

So what if the news tell you that there is murder, rape, and violence? Are you going to spend your life worrying about how these things are going to eventually get you ..... or, are you going to step out, experience the world head on, and enjoy every minute of it?

I know what I prefer : )

Monday, October 5, 2009

How do you avoid developing a food obsession?

Limit the time you spend thinking about food.

The goal should be to only think about food 3 times a day - i.e., whenever you are sitting at a table having a well balanced/varied, regularly scheduled, and well proportioned meal.

Any other time, you should be busy doing other things: playing, studying, working, helping others, writing a book, enjoying friends, kissing somebody, or whatever.

Times in between meals should not be for thinking about food, or for snacking, or for worrying about diets, or for thinking about what is in what you already ate or what you will be eating next.

So, what about if you get hungry in between meals?......Just wait! Nobody dies from being hungry for an hour or so. Just finish what you are doing and eat a well balanced meal at its proper time. And, when you are finally eating a meal, try to stop thinking about what is in what you are eating or whether it is "good or bad for you". How about just enjoying it?

So, chill, live life, and forget about food a little.....it is way overrated.

How can countries best achieve sustained development?

Focus on assets and capabilities.

When countries align their efforts to take advantage of their strengths and capabilities (what they know how to do and what they do well) and their assets (what they already have), fast and sustained progress is possible.

Germany has applied their best-in-class engineering capabilities to become the manufacturer of choice for the most complex machines out there. Japan has applied their cultural affinity with quality to everything they do. The US takes advantage of its diversity and its ability to organize to create highly efficient and complex systems (e.g., capital markets, energy, etc.). China applies its great national pride and sense of history. India is applying its education system to create a workable knowledge economy. Mexico exploits its natural beauty to be one of the top 10 players in tourism in the world. Switzerland exploits its stability and neutrality in areas that favor those attributes like banking. The United Arab Emirates have exploited their oil revenues to create a true oasis in the dessert. Costa Rica recognized that their rain forests with their great biological diversity could be a source for development.

You would think that it should be simple for countries to go through a simple strategic planning process like this one and identify what they should focus on. The problem is that all this requires one key component that is often hard to find: Leadership.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What is in it for me when I help other people?

Don't worry about it.

Have you heard the expression "what goes around comes around"? Doing good things for people just because it is a nice thing to do is one of the most fulfilling actions a human being can take.

Don't worry about how, when, or whether all of your efforts for others will ever be rewarded. Just go with the flow. Trust that they will be. Maybe not today, tomorrow or the day after. But they will be eventually.

When you are nice to people, when you selflessly offer you help to people, when you make yourself available to people in need; you create an environment of goodwill and trust around you -- amazing things happen when these things are present.

Just try it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What criteria is best to decide what to study in college?

Interest, ability, and marketability.

First, lets be clear that whatever you chose to study in college will definitely NOT define what you can and cannot do for the rest of your life.

Studying something that interests you is fun. Studying something that you have a natural ability for is also fun because it is easier. And, studying something that is marketable is great because with money you can really have a lot of fun!

So, does it all boil down to having fun. Sort of : )

Lets start by asking ourselves why we go to college in the first place. It is a reasonable assumption that this huge investment in time, money, and effort is, first and foremost, made to acquire some sort of marketable skills so we can make a living later on.

So what is all this advice about: pursue what makes you happy, do not commit too early, make sure you know exactly what you want, be a generalist, leave your options open, follow your dreams, etc. They are all nice aspirations but the reality is that the real world will hit you hard if you leave the “marketability” part out. Mainly because, unless you are somehow set for life economically, things cost money.

So, what should you do if you cannot make up your mind? Should you commit to studying something interesting and marketable even if you are not sure that is what you were put on this earth to do? Absolutely.

As your interests change and opportunities present themselves, you can adjust things as needed.
Here are a few things that people forget to tell us about:
  • You do not have to do what you studied in college for the rest of your life
  • If you do not like what you are doing, you can change it
  • Life is long and you can relearn anything you want
  • Enjoying your job/career is mostly about attitude
  • And......if it all fails, you can always start your own business and design your dream job/career
So, don't sweat it. Commit to a marketable major. A useful one. One that you have an interest in and some ability for. Even if you are not sure.

Once you are out in the real world, you should be able to find the fun in everything you do. If you cannot, then change it. Life is too short to not do something you enjoy.

What is the best way to negotiate for something?

Develop a strong alternative and Set the stage.

Have you ever tried to figure out why some people are better at negotiating/bargaining than others? What is their secret? What gives them the confidence to get what they want?

It does not matter whether you are negotiating a raise, buying a car, or getting a job -- the better your alternative to a failed negotiation the better.

Think about these alternatives - which one makes you feel more confident:
  • Trying to negotiate a raise when you do not have any other options or when you already have another job lined up that pays twice what you make?
  • Buying a car when you already have a great price from another dealer or when you have no alternatives?
In fact, when negotiating, you should put as much effort in developing your alternatives as you do in developing your plan of action. The better your alternatives the more confident you will be in the negotiation!

----------------

Also, sometimes it makes sense to set the stage for the negotiation because whoever is first in defining the desired outcome of the negotiation will force the discussion to start from that point.

For example, lets say you want a 30% discount on your new car and the dealer is probably only willing to give you 5%. If you are first in stating that your desired outcome is 30%, then the discussion will start at that point and the dealer will try to get you down from there. However, if the dealer is first, then the discussion will start at 5% and the burden will be on you to try to get him up to your desired 30%.

So, plant the stake first.......but be careful when you do not know what the other side is willing to give. Maybe this dealer was willing to give you a 50% discount and you just said 30% instead. Ooops : )

Friday, August 14, 2009

What would help move health care reform in the US forward?

I believe there are two key points that could significantly help the debate:
  • Focusing more on benefits for people that already have insurance today (250 million) and not only on benefits for people that do not (50 million)
  • Focusing on identifying and redirecting the funds that pay for the current, very-expensive, system (e.g., employer subsidies)
The current debate is polarizing the discussion largely due to its emphasis on the uninsured and how these changes will be paid with "new" money from a yet to be identified source (i.e., you and me).

The reality is that the US badly needs a wholesale change in its approach to health care. The problem is not only with the uninsured but also with the insured. Many insured people do not realize that they could lose everything at any moment with the current system:
  • If they lose lose their job and their insurance and get sick
  • If they develop a very expensive illness that hits the maximum out-of-pocket provisions in their current policies
  • If they develop a pre-existing condition after becoming uninsured because of a job loss or financial hardship and are never able to get insured again
  • If they are denied coverage for whatever reason the insurance company decides
  • If they are forced to come up with too much out-of-pocket money for something they thought was covered but did not realize that 20% of a lot of money is still a lot of money.
In addition, under some sort of single payer system, what would happen with all the money employers currently spend in subsidizing medical insurance for their employees? Will they just save it.... and report higher profits? How about redirecting it somehow to help pay for the new system?

These days it seems that I am running into more and more people that are not able or do not want to get medical care because of lack of insurance or just because it is plain too expensive. How can this be happening in the richest country in the world? Shouldn't health care be more of a basic right and not some kind of luxury?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What is a simple way to understand US foreign policy?

Follow the money.

With some exceptions, US foreign policy is usually about protecting and furthering US commercial interests. US foreign policy becomes inconsistent when looked at from a humanitarian perspective - e.g., no intervention in genocides in Rwanda, Sudan, and Cambodia - or when looked at from a threat perspective - e.g., no intervention when nuclear capabilities were acquired by India, Pakistan, and Israel but strong interventions under the communist "domino effect" theory in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Korea, Chile, Cuba, etc.

Although, one could also argue that these humanitarian and threat responses are perfectly in line with the "follow the money" rule.

Some classic and recent examples of "follow the money" interventions include Guatemala to protect the United Fruit Company (1954), China to protect Taiwan (1958), Serbia/Kosovo to prevent larger impact in Europe (1999), Kuwait (1991) and Iraq (2003) to protect oil supplies, Panama to protect the canal (1989), etc.

Is this an oversimplification? Absolutely, but the point is that protecting economic interests explains US foreign policy best.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What else can be done to get out of the current recession?

Quadruple the price of gasoline.

What would happen if all of a sudden we taxed gasoline to the point of having to pay $10 or more per gallon? Would we just sit in dispair lamenting the good old days? Or, would we raise to the challenge, as we always do, and figure things out?

Our capitalist system loves a good opportunity when it smells one? The speed at which we are able to reallocate resources, innovate, and lead as a country is unmatched in the world. Our entrepreneurial spirit and our incredible reserves of private investment capital are incredible assets that enable this nimbleness.

So, what would happen if suddenly gasoline quadrupled in price? Everything would become more efficient, fast. More carpooling, bicycling, walking. More investments in clean technology - wind, ocean wave, geothermal, solar. More efficienct use of resources - LED technology, local food production with less transportation needs, use less-recycle more.

Would it really be that bad?....we could also use the extra taxes collected to pay for the bailout : )

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What makes some people seem consistently luckier than others?

Attitude.

It is all about how you see things. When you boil it down to basics, you really only have two possible ways to process events in your life:
  • Wonder why even in the worst of circumstances, somehow things seem to work out all right at the end?
  • Wonder why all the bad things always happen to you?
So, if the airline loses your luggage, or you wreck your car, or you lose your wallet, or you flunk that test, or you do not get the promotion or raise -- the key is to approach all these as opportunities, not problems.

Lost luggage is an opportunity to buy new clothes; test flunked is an opportunity to really learn a subject you always wanted to learn well; no promotion or raise is an opportunity to find a better job or start your own business.

You can find the good on seemingly "unlucky" events or just dwell on the bad. What do you think will generate more "good luck" for you?

Ummm, this sounds a lot like the "power of positive thinking". Could it be? : )

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Do guys feel funny about their girlfriend's old boyfriends?

Absolutely.

It seems like these days everybody is telling everybody to have as many boyfriends and girlfriends as possible and that nobody really cares. We tell ourselves that we are so mature about these things that all that matters is the now when it comes to a relationship. This is probably one of the great myths of today.

Have you ever noticed how many sitcom's make fun of how guys feel when their grilfriends start talking about their old boyfriends? It is usually not the other way around. Men are still very weird when it comes to these things - they still would love to be the only guy......especially when that one person starts to become special.

I still have not figure out where this comes from - biological or societal....but it is there.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How can you evaluate if your current love is good for the long run?

Look beyond the person.

Understand the environment they grew up in - their childhood, their family, their relationship with parents, friends, extended family - and try to figure out the "core principles" they could have developed because of these experiences.

Understand the good (e.g., a happy, stable childhood) and the bad (e.g., poverty, abuse). And remember that, our DNA defines who we really are and how we are inclined to process these experiences.

Looking at a person's extended world is an incredible predictor of who they are and/or who they will become. If you like what you see -- that is a good thing. Are there exceptions? Sometimes : )

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What is the easiest way to become a millionaire?

Start your own business.

Have you ever wondered who owns all those big houses when you drive around town? How can there be so many people making that much money? What could all they possibly do for a living? Interestingly, the two most common answers are that they either are senior executives for large corporations or that they somehow inherited the money. The reality is that these two sub-groups actually comprise a very small fraction of the total.

Actually, most of these people are entrepreneurs. These are people that start, operate, grow, and/or sell their own businesses. Their businesses range from having a few dry cleaning stores or franchised restaurants, all the way to having software and/or multi-national manufacturing companyies. A lot of them make good regular income, others make their money when they sell their businesses.

It will take you 20-30 years to become a millionaire as an employee of a large corporation - assuming you are lucky enough and know how to play the corporate politics game. Most successful entrepreneurs become millionaires in around 5-10 years - with higher chances of getting there. Especially in the US, where hard work strongly correlates to success.

Unfortunately, not everybody has the right personality to become an entrepreneur. It requires risk taking, perseverance, hard work and a little bit of luck. You probably have heard that 80% of all new usinesses fail in the first 5 years. However, of the 20% that make it, 80% are businesses in industries that the entrepreneur has a lot of experience in.

So, a good approach is to learn an industry as an employee and then start a company that does things better, cheaper, and/or faster in the same field.

Everybody should try to be an entrepreneur at least once.....the experience is priceless.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What is the best way to avoid getting your feelings hurt?

Put things in perspective.


You probably have heard the saying that nobody can hurt you unless you let them. This is actually a very real and powerful idea. Hard to implement sometimes -- but when you do, you can really start taking control of these negative emotions.


So, how do you take control? Learn to "distance" yourself from the situation and always remember yourself - what is important to "you". Distancing refers to putting things in perspective (e.g., the health of a child vs. the situation in question). Remembering yourself refers to not letting others decide what is important to you. What other people think of you is really none of your business.


Distancing and remembering yourself have the effect of all of a sudden freeing you from the grip of negative emotions. You can then objectively observe what is happening and how you are being dragged into something against your will.


By the way, taking things less seriously also helps : )

Friday, June 5, 2009

What is the best way to figure out what to let children watch?

Start with enforcing MPAA ratings.

If we believe that our experiences have a strong influence in who we become and, if we believe that experience is required to properly process complex information (e.g., realistic and strong violence, sex, horror) then parents should make protecting their children's minds a top priority in today's media environment (TV, movies, CDs, DVDs, games, magazines).

Experienced minds are better equipped to clearly differentiate fantasy from reality and can more easily dismiss things that are not aligned with who they are or who they want to be. And, unfortunately, experience takes time to acquire - - our children more than anybody need time to develop it.

So, what is so wrong about not letting children/teenagers see PG-13 movies until they are 13? Or, not letting them see R-rated movies until they are 17? Is their development going to suffer or are they just going to be better prepared to process the information?

And, even as they cross these thresholds, we should instill in them the sense that they still need to constantly protect their minds by being very selective about what they choose to get exposed to.

Maturity/experience = better processing. Why rush it?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Is the eventual acceptance of same-sex relationships inevitable?

I think so.

It is interesting to see how, over the centuries, humankind has consistently moved towards accepting self-evident human principles. These principles often get clouded by the specific beliefs, politics, and economic interests of the people at the time -- however, in general, we are able to arrive at the right answer (sometimes taking hundreds of years) more often than not. We now often wonder how things that now seem unthinkable were perfectly normal at the time - slavery, gender inequality, inquisition, etc.

Sexual orientation is just one of these self-evident human principles. Sexual orientation is what it is, it is part of who we are, and nothing we do will make it go away...so why not just accept it.

Interestingly, I actually have had the opportunity to see how these "transitory" states are even possible. While growing up in Mexico, and before I had the opportunity to expand my own perspective of the world, I could not understand why the issue of indigenous rights (poverty, discrimination, marginalization) was even an issue. In my narrow view of the world, it was clear to me that they were indians and I was not, and therefore it was normal for them to be treated differently. Only until I was able to get out of that environment was I able to see what was happening. Realizing that we are all equal and deserving of the same opportunities was extremely liberating. These days, it is hard to beat the feeling of a hug from an indigenous person from Guatemala or Mexico.

So, how long will it take for sexual orientation to be accepted as a normal part of the human condition? Well, sometimes it takes hundreds of years for enlightened people to solve these type of issues.....I think this one will be cleared a lot faster.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What prevents our government from making obvious key strategic decisions for the greater good?

The power of special interests.

Key strategic initiatives that are broadly accepted as good have been impossible to implement because of powerful interests with too much access and influence over our decision makers at all levels of government.  Some of these key strategic initiavives that come to mind are:
- Implemention of a flat income tax
- Access to universal health care
- Definition of an energy policy that reduces our oil dependency
- Implementation of the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine
- Elimination of budget deficits

At the detail level, one could define a long list of pros and cons for each of these, but at the end of the day, it is probably hard to argue against their strategic importance and overall benefits.

Is there hope?  

Well, I always thought that the nationalization of banks and car companies in financial trouble could never happen in the US....but it did.  And, I always thought that our separation of powers and its inherent "checks and balances" would prevent a single person from taking the country to war without proof (Iraq).....but it didn't.   So, I guess anything can happen when the stars align in Washington.  

So, yes, there is always hope.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

What are some of the key elements to succeed in life?

When my children were young, I set out to come up with something that was not only simple but also something that could encompass timeless principles to help them through life as they grew up.  

The challenge was to figure out how to best combine principles that would drive them to get things done while keeping things in perspective.  Achieving an overall sense of hapineess and fulfillment being the ultimate goal.  I also wanted these principles to be able to help them in the toughest of times - financial crises, famine, war, etc.  And, they needed to be stated simply so they could understand and remember them from an early age.  

Not a simple task but here is what became known as the "5 rules of the Larrave Family":
1.  Never give up.
Perseverance to get things done when things get tough.

2.  Positive attitude.
Always think of the best outcome to focus on making it a reality.  No negative thoughts. 

3.  Always do the right thing.
For you and for others.  Always.

4.  Education
It is the key to opportunity and nobody can take it away from you once you have it.

5.  Love.
This is the meaning of life - always remember to be surrounded by people you love and people that love you.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Is globalization good or bad?

Probably more bad than good -- mostly because of our inability to control such a complex undertaking.

One of the key consequences of globalization is the easier movement, and subsequent concentration, of resources to wherever in the world they can be most efficiently used.  In the immediate term, this may seem like a good idea as it maximizes the use of the our planet's limited resources (i.e., we get more stuff from what we put in).  

The problem is that this approach tends to obliterate anything and anybody that is not best-in-class at what they do......and it tends to create massive operations wherever the best-in-class operation is.   With this, we get massive moves of raw materials and finished goods back and forth across the world to and from these centers.....often, destroying the environment at both ends.   So, we get massive scale farms in industrialized areas that end up shutting down small farmers everywhere else.  The same with factories.  

In such an interconnected world, the risks are also higher when one or several of the components in this global machine fail.  What happens with those places that ceased to grow or produce certain things because somebody else was doing them cheaper?  And now the goods are not coming?

The "Slow Food" movement that started in Europe in 1989 is a good example of a movement to get back to independent, more local, self-sustaining economies that are more resilient to global crises.....and easier on the planet. 

Let's get more connected to our commuities and to the people around us.....and let's understand where things come from.  Do we really need those cookies from Finland, in a metal canister made in India with steel from Botswana or should we just bake some?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How do we maximize our every day potential?

Know yourself first.

Understanding who we really are, and who we are not, is a key step towards increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of everything we do.   

The ultimate goal is to be able to quickly filter every situation in our lives through a model of ourselves that allows us to efficiently decide what the best and most aligned response/decision is.  

Unfortunately, many people spend a lot of time translating back and forth between who they really are and who they think they should be based on external expectations -- many times completely unaware that this is going on.  Needless to say, this translation process is very taxing and inefficient.  Wanting to be something we are not -- physically, emotionally, or intellectually -- is a losing game from the start.

Knowing yourself is a life-long pursuit - self-observation and self-awareness are a good starting point.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What is the best cure for depression?

People.

People often ask me which of the countries I have visited on my motorcycle is my favorite.  I always find this question hard to answer.  Every place on earth is unique, beautiful, and amazing. 

However, while trying to answer this question, I realized that I kept thinking about the great people that I have met around the world and of the many "happy" places where they live.  These 'happy" places seem to be places that, regardless of material wealth or natural beauty, people seem to be doing better than others.  

In these "happy" places, people interact with people constantly.  At the market, in the street, in cafes, at the plaza, at the pub.  They are old, young, healthy, crippled, rich, poor.  They play, talk, catch up, help each other, work.  I found out that it did not matter whether I was in Vietnam, China, Morocco, Colombia, Patagonia, New Zealand, Guatemala or Austria - this was true around the world.   Also, cars, freeways, TV, electronic gadgets.....all generally in short supply at these places.

So, let's get out more, walk more, spend more time with people and family, slow down, and enjoy the world around us.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why is it that people from cultures/countries at war often get along in the US?

Opportunity.

When you have a reasonable chance to work on the attainment of a future state that allows you to meet your own and your family's basic needs - food, shelter, education, health care - then suddenly everything else loses importance.  You then realize that there are options beyond hate and war as a way to live.

When people are able to be rewarded commensurately to their hard work and when these rewards allow them to also build a future, then other things become priority -- and listening and understanding have time to develop. 

Have you asked yourself whether you would be more susceptible to hate, misinformation, and prejudice if you had no opportunities and no viable options for you or your family?

I probably would.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What is the best form of dating?

Serially and Seriously.

These days, we seem to over complicate the dating process.  We have defined all these terms to try to explain where a relationship is - e.g., dating, seen each other, going out, exclusively, not exclusively, boyfriend/girlfirend, etc.  And, everybody seems to be confused about what each of these terms really means.  

So, for starters, wouldn't it be easier if we only dated one person at a time? And, what about if we also gave it all from the get go? This approach would not only make us be more selective about who we date but it would also make the whole experience much more rewarding.....and simpler.

Investing the time and emotional capital required to chose and to really get to know somebody is a great way to develop lasting life experiences.  So what about if it does not work out, you still get to keep great memories of a truly meaningful person in your life.

Getting to know somebody also means ignoring all the crazy rules we have developed around relationships - e.g., when to meet each other's parents, when to say "I love you", when to call or not to call, etc.   How about if we just do and say all these things whenever we feel them, without any baggage or thought about where you are in the relationship.

Live your relationships fully from the beginning, with all your heart, and only one at a time!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What is the best way to build character in a child?

Delayed gratification.

For children not to get everything they want, the moment they think of it, is critical for building character.   When this happens, children suddenly need to start thinking about three key questions:  
- Do they really want it?
- How much effort will it take?
- How to explain the delay to friends and to themselves?

If the child really wants what he wants, then he will need to carefully plan how to go about getting it.  Then, he will have to execute the plan, do the work, save the money, and meet his stated goals. All of this, while constantly questioning whether it is still worth pursuing given the required effort and time.....and constantly having to explain to people around him why he is not there yet.  

How do you think he will feel when he finally gets what he wanted after all the effort and time? Imagine the sense of accomplishment. The feeling of empowerment.  Do you think he is better off after this experience than the child that got everything just by asking?

Delayed gratification helps children better understand how the real world works and to believe in themselves....it also teaches them a little humility.

Is this character building?

Monday, May 11, 2009

How important is physical attraction for love to develop?

Very.

Chemistry between two people is a weird biological thing but very real.  How do you know if it is there?  If you have to ask, keep looking.  When it is there, it hits you like a brick.

Can it develop over time if not there initially?  Unlikely for men.  Possible for women.

The challenge after the "brick" hits you is to understand how this attraction morphs into different flavors of love over time. Understanding, accepting, and enjoying these changes is key to developing a long lasting relationship.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

How do we make sense of all the information about vitamins and supplements?

Just ignore it.

You should be able to get everything you need from your normal daily activities.
So, here is some true and tried advice:
1.  Only eat when you are hungry
2.  Only eat well balanced meals (varied, natural)
3.  Only drink water
4.  Spend time outdoors - get some sun and fresh air
5.  Make exercise part of your routine - walk, use the stairs, play
6.  Take naps
7.  Have some fun
8.  Learn something new all the time

Pay attention to your body and let your body tell you what it needs.  You will be amazed what the design of this great machine is able to do.  Thousands of years of evolution in the making.  

Finally, understand the power your mind has over your body and well being.  Why is it that happy people tend to be healthier?  Are they happy because they are healthy or healthy because they are happy?

I believe it is the latter.

What is the easiest way to understand men?

Keep things simple.

Men and women are different, really different.  Men are more instinctual, women are more....complex.  Men process things simply and things need to be simple to be processed adequately.  Men process things serially - one thing at a time.  Men either like/want something or they do not. Men rarely get into the why.  

Women on the other hand are much better at complexity and parallel processing.  Women have a much better ability to analyze, extrapolate, visualize, and define expectations for a given set of situations, all in parallel. Men are usually 10 steps behind.

Can you see why these two approaches may clash sometimes? So, what to do? 
 
Here are 3 simple things that may be useful when dealing with men:
1.  Keep things simple, very simple
2.  Lower your expectations
3.  Let things flow (like you would with a puppy : )

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Should we legalize drugs?

This one is hard.  I would say probably yes.

Have you ever wondered what the definition of a "drug" is?  Or how drugs get to be classified on the legal-illegal divide? Should any addictive substance be considered a drug? Or, should it also have the ability to alter your mind and/or body? 

Why are caffeine, nicotine (a substance widely recognized as one of the most addictive in the world) and alcohol accepted as legal, but cocaine, marihuana and anabolic steroids are not?  Why is English tea OK but tea made from coca leaves is not (which by the way is very good)?

As long as there is demand for anything, there will always be a willing supplier.  All that the "illegality" of these drugs accomplishes is to be a catalyst for the creation of well organized and well funded illegal organizations that breed corruption, death, exploitation and destruction everywhere they operate.  

Why do we accept this as normal? Why are we afraid of legalization? Are people going to rush and become drug addicts all of a sudden? Have we learned anything from managing tobacco and alcohol (both highly addictive and mind altering but legal substances)? What about prohibition? Did it work?

I think I just convinced myself.

How do we solve illegal immigration from Latin America?

Development.

As long as there is a significant difference in the standards of living of neighboring countries, people will continue to migrate.  Incredible poverty and little opportunity are very powerful drivers.  It becomes about survival.

First, we need to ask ourselves what is it that we really want out of solving this problem.  A larger and more equitable economic block with a better standard of living for all .... or just to continue to have access to cheap labor.  

If the answer is the former, then the only real solution is the long-term and sustainable development of this region through a Strategic Plan, a la Marshal Plan after WWII, with clear and measurable goals.  And, because corruption would likely be the key obstacle for any direct help, the plan should focus on encouraging sizable direct private investments instead. 

So, if Development is the long-term solution, what can be done now?  If you ask illegal immigrants, what the one thing is that they wish the most - the answer is always to be able to go back to their homes and families on a regular basis.   So, what about letting people go back and forth on temporary Work Permits in the meantime?  Not easy to implement, but worth trying if a long-term Development plan is underway. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

When is the right time to decide what to study at University?

Sooner rather than later.

Our universities are becoming high school extensions.   Advisors, parents, and society in general seem to be focused on encouraging students to delay specialization and to continue exploring fields of study until they find something that resonates.  As a concept, there is nothing wrong with this idea.

Students also seem hesitant to specialize because of the notion that once they decide they will have to spend the rest of their lives doing just that - when reality is that most people change what they do a few times during their lifetimes.  Nothing wrong with that either.

However, what happened to the notion that college was the key step in the process of learning a profession from which to make a living? For many students, college is just becoming 4 more years of general studies because of this hesitancy to choose a major early on.

Wouldn't you put a lot more effort in understanding yourself,  and your abilities and interests if you had to decide early on (say around the time you are 16-17) ?  Then you would be able to focus on maximizing what you can get out of college from the get go.  

You would probably also enjoy the whole college experience more instead of constantly questioning what you should do.

Monday, April 27, 2009

How do we solve the health care problem in the US?

Extend Medicare to include everybody.  

Nationalizing health care is probably a better long-term solution following best practices from other developed countries.  However, this is probably unworkable given our entrenched special interests infrastructure - insurance companies, hospitals, phramaceutical companies, third-party administrators, equipment manufacturers, doctors, etc. 

So, why not take a small step first.  Medicare provides a workable foundation and it is already in place. Why not take advantage of it.  Prices and rates with suppliers would then be negotiated on a national basis.  Can you imagine the negotiating power we would have?

How do we fund this? The same way it is funded today but helped by a taxable income increase resulting from employers and individuals who don't have to pay for medical insurance anymore and savings from a properly, and freely, administed plan that can negotiate better pricing from suppliers.   

We could also continue the practice of offering optional private insurance to enhance the basic offering for those who can afford it.  

Would the quality of care go down?  Probably not.  But even if it does, wouldn't you feel better now that everybody can get the basic medical care they deserve.  I know, I would.

Friday, April 24, 2009

How much of who we are is DNA-based?

This is a good example for the 80/20 rule.

My opinion is that 80% of who we are is a direct result of our biology. Our personality, how we interpret things, how we learn, how we feel, our abilites, etc. - all passed on to us through our DNA.  The 20% relates to how the environment and our personal experiences add or flavor who we ultimately become. However, this 20% is directly dependent on the 80% for processing.    

That is why some people process things one way and others another way. Things like how we deal with a happy or a traumatic event,  how we learn another language,  or simply how we learn to ride a bicycle.  These experiences become more or less part of us based on our unique processing mechanisms - i.e., our bilogy.  

Learning who we are and how we best do things helps us be more efficient. We stop fighting against the current.  Life becomes simpler, easier, more productive, and more enjoyable this way.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What is the best way out of poverty?

Education.  

Once basic needs are met (i.e., food), the real way out of poverty starts with education. Education opens up possibilities.  Education creates resourcefulness.  Education creates ambition, then jobs, and, eventually, it attracts capital.  This ignites a virtuous cycle out of poverty.

Imagine a member of the Ixil people in the mountains of Quiche in Guatemala.  Imagine him looking down from one of those mountains to his empoverished village.  Imagine him looking at the valleys, the waterfalls, and those mountains that he loves so much.
 
Now imagine him returning home with a university education.  What do you think he would be thinking about?  Would he be better off returning home with money or food but with no education? 

What do you think would really effect lasting change?



Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why does time seem to last longer when we are young?

Presence.

Have you ever been somewhere where time seems to significantly slow down?  Perhaps when you were on vacation or visiting friends in some remote place .... suddenly time slows to a crawl, each minute takes forever, everything seems to unfold in front of you at a pace that allows you to take it all in.  At the end of a day like this, you somehow feel happier.... and seem to remember more of it.  Why?

Our modern obsession with trying to pack as much as possible in our limited schedules - work, family, careers, friends, children, TV, magazines, newspapers, radio, school, hobbies, sports, meetings, clubs, books, etc. - is actually having the oppossite effect.  Our to do list is always long and we are always thinking about it. We do not have time to just be, or to just think about life, or to observe the world around us, or to really be with the person we are with.  When we want to think about these things, we often realize that a day, a week, or a month have gone by without us noticing.   Children are experts at just being in the moment and enjoying every aspect of it.  

Be in the moment - time will slow down.

What is the most important thing for a new business to succeed?

People.   

A business is not usually a one-person show.  Identifying, recruiting and retaining the best talent is absoultely critical.  When you find the right people, when you treat them like owners, when you empower and trust them to take risks and make decisions, when they clearly understand what is expected of them, when you treat them fairly, and when you allow them to share in the rewards of success .... then the sky is the limit.

Most successful new businesses are not those that are first with a new bright idea or product but rather those where the founders already have experience in.  Not having to spend as much time learning a new business, gives you time to focus on more important things..... like People.


 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What are the key benefits of traveling?

Travel has had a profound effect throughout my life.  After visiting  more than 60 countries around the world, perspective and acceptance are travel's greatest rewards.

Perspective:
It is absolutely true that travel broadens your horizons.  Traveling gives you the ability to look at things from a higher, more detached, perspective.  This higher perspective helps you see things more clearly to make better decisions.  Exposure to different ways of doing and seeing things helps you better understand how you do and see things. 

Acceptance:
Travel makes you realize that when it is all said and done, we are all really the same.  It does not matter if you grew up in a remote jungle or in a big city, there is a core set of values and behaviors that binds us all regardless of geographical location- things like family, helping others, etc.   

There are also things that people have developed independently in different geographies to better cope with specific needs and realities - things like culture, language, and religion. Travel makes you realize that none of these religions, cultures or languages are right or wrong - they just are.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What are the most important things you can do for your children?

Three things.  Love, Boundaries and Information.

Love:
It goes without saying, love trumps everything. Love fixes everything.  Love is the meaning of life.  For your children, love must be absolutely unconditional over all things....they need to feel it, they need to know is there.  This will give them strength.

And, on the more mundane side of things:

Boundaries:  
Clearly defining boundaries and consequences is critical.  Boundaries should be defined based on the values you would like to instill in your children.  Clearly defining the consequences for crossing these boundaries, is critical.  But the most important thing of all is to ALWAYS follow through with the consequences you define.  One word of caution here, be careful when you define consequences, in case you have to follow through.

Information: 
Restrict the information that reaches your children at ALL times.  It should always be age appropriate and in limited quantities.  Tightly control access to TV, Internet, magazines, radio, etc.  You will be surprised how what is in your head eventually becomes an integral part of who you are.  Protect your children's minds. 


Monday, April 13, 2009

Why are there so many divorces?

Easy.  
Control and Respect.   Getting married to somebody that you think needs to be changed and/or controlled is crazy.  People are who they are.  

In the long run, you must be able to answer YES to the following 2 questions to stay married:

1) Do you love them JUST the way they are? 
With all their flaws and/or crazy ideas, fobias, habits?  
Without ever needing to change them?

2) Are you willing to ALWAYS treat them with respect, regardless of the situation and/or how angry you are?   Are you willing to say that you will never call each other names and/or be disrespectful to each other in any way? Ever.

If you cannot say YES to both questions - find somebody else.