Book Review: Narconomics – How to Run a Drug Cartel

Narconomics: How to Run a Drug CartelNarconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel by Tom Wainwright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Works on Many Levels

This book worked on many levels for me. First, as a primer on international economics by comparing the strategy and tactics of drug cartels with those of corporations. Secondly as a study in critical thinking by describing and analyzing the current state of national and international counter-narcotics effort, assessing its effectiveness, and providing alternative policies where those efforts have failed. Thirdly I appreciated the research methods, and was inspired by them in my writing. So thanks Tom! Great read.

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Work Life Balance is a Myth

I don’t think this is news: trying to balance work and life in some sort of fair, even, or “balanced” way. It’s like trying to divide the Solomon’s baby. So if you’re still trying to divide your time between home, life, children, self, etc. etc. then stop it.

Here’s what I suggest doing instead: figure out what you really want from your life. What are you good at, or where the opportunities are, or who you want to work with, or how to make a butt-load of money so you can retire early if that’s what you want. Then start working towards that.

This is easier and harder than it sounds, but the important part is to give yourself time to think, evaluate, and adjust. On a regular basis. It doesn’t matter if your no technology / no interruption time is 10 minutes every morning with a cup of tea, or once a year over a glass of Scotch.

When I was a kid on my first ten-speed, I was so fascinated by how the gear changes worked that I ran into the back of a car. I ran into it so hard the trunk popped open and I landed inside it. So pull your head up every once in a while to make sure you’re still headed where you want to go. Or at least there aren’t any parked cars in the way.

Then peddle like hell, if that’s what gonna get you to where you’re going.

Antelope or Mouse?



Technology, Millennials, and Empathy

Things you need to know if you manage “the Millennials” (second half of the 30′ video). Also some good strategy about long-term thinking (first half).

Fail Fast is not “Bail Fast”

It’s an interesting balance to hold: being focused enough on our goals to put the time and work in to make them happen, and yet being “heads up” enough to scan the horizon for opportunities to exploit and move us forward. When do you give up on something that once was a good idea. When does persistence become psychotic?

There are behaviours at either end of the bell curve. Take the Dyson vacuum. It was ten years from start to success. And it wasn’t until the marketing campaign emphasized not having to replace the bag, not the loss of suction as the container filled up – the original inspiration for its invention –  that it began to sell. Ten years is a long time not to make money.

Then there was the local successful entrepreneur whom I met for lunch at a local motorcycle-themed restaurant. He scoffed at the current venture capital penchant for all giving the same advice to new entrepreneurs, including and especially the advice to “fail fast”. He scoffs and calls it “bail fast”.

He firmly believes two things: that you should be able to re-purpose a technology or invention to many different domains. His medical imaging technology started in the oil and gas exploration and exploration domain, and he can list another half-dozen applications off the top of his head.

He also believes that taking money from investors is a commitment. That if you shrug your shoulders and walk away from a project, especially when it means losing other’s money, you have failed as an ethical person. Not to say that there won’t be failures. What he sees is too many people walking away without having done everything they can.

And this is where “fail fast” really shows up. In this context it means: “figure out as quickly as possible what’s not going to work, and move to the next variation, opportunity, pivot, or experiment. Abandon what doesn’t work while moving forward. If you can’t do that, who knows, we might never have gotten bag-less vacuum cleaners.

The Hard Work:

What is something, big or small, that you should stop doing tomorrow?

Who Are You? Brand Values as Drivers of Business Success

Patti (my partner and sweetie) and I are speaking at PARK Fashion’s Emerging Artist and Designer Forum at Olds College Calgary campus this weekend. If you’re there, come say hello!

Have you always wanted to learn about the art and fashion industry but didn’t know who to talk to? The Emerging Artist & Designer Forum is bringing together those wanting to grow in the industry, and the professionals who have made it happen.

You won’t want to miss the presentation, “Who Are You? Brand Values as Drivers of Business Success ” by Patti Derbyshire & Bernie May of Torch Motorcycles.

In less than 18 months, Torch Motorcycles built out an aggressive operation and monster brand, entering the fashion and apparel world globally. Learn how values-driven practices lead to growth and profile. Draw a tangible line between who you are as a person, the company and people you work with, and who you attract to work with you (and more importantly who you don’t!) What story do you tell, who gets excited and eager to work with you, and what makes your creativity and passion want to burst out of your chest?

Vogue Italia, Fashion Magazine, Harpers Bazaar/Beijing, Summit and front page feature in MAKE Magazine (July 2015).

Patti Derbyshire – Patti is a catalyst, community organizer, and business leader in Calgary’s creative economy. As Chair of Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation, and marketing professor at Mount Royal University’s Bissett School of Business, she draws upon her eclectic professional career in broadcasting, design, cultural marketing, start-up ventures, and music industry management. Patti’s first bike was provided by her older brother, who didn’t want to drive her around all the time. She didn’t mind. She always gets a big grin on her face whenever she rides.

Bernie May – Bernie has been riding for 15 years, after he figured out that promises made to your mother when you’re twelve don’t count when you’re an adult. He has been a signals officer, programmer, and project manager. He built robotic landmine detectors, frequency-hopping encrypted radios, and command and control software delivered into active war zones. Today he shows business owners how to be better leaders. He loves building things (starting with plastic models as a kid), beautiful design, good food and music, and seeing the world in ways that let him breathe fresh air.

Was That Your Goal?

Questions that make you think?
Questions that make you think?

I learned the best coaching question this morning.

A client wanted to a fellow leadership mentor to make the changes in her organization to help grow the company. He’s not a change manager (and bless them, people who can drive change in any organization deserve the money they earn and more), it’s just not his jam. He would rather mentor her and her leaders to make the changes herself.

She didn’t want to. I guessed her reason was because she didn’t have the time to do it herself. I asked him what happened next. He asked her:

“Was that your goal?”

By which he meant, was it your goal to be so busy that you wouldn’t have the latitude to make changes in your business when you needed to? I thought it was a great question. I’ll just leave it here for you to use if you like.

Leadership, true leadership, isn’t just about driving change, or growing capacity, or executing goals. It’s also about growing capability, in others as well as yourself.


p.s. He got the work of mentoring the entire team, which I think will be best for the company in the long run (even if he isn’t making as much money). And it’s his jam.

Who Owns the Strategy of Your Company?

Omar Bradley studying the current situation

I believe that there are two responsibilities a CEO cannot give away or delegate: deciding who works for them, and the strategy / vision / direction of the company. Which is interesting, because I make my living helping companies build and execute strategic priorities.

Really, if I think about it, my role is to create the habit of strategic thinking and execution inside their companies. Not just an event that happens once a year. I consider myself successful when I’ve worked myself out of a job. My clients “graduate” when they exercise disciplined strategic review and energetic execution  for themselves.

How do I know when their ready? First, they have priorities. Second, the way they spend all their individual and company resources (time, money, materials, people) lines up with what they say their priorities are. Third, they are successful doing so (for whatever their definition of success is), and can vigorously confront or adjust for any obstacles to that execution.

If you need a little more strategic thinking in your organization / team / company / life, this article talks about the role of the strategist / strategy in a company:

Rethinking the Role of the Strategist


How to Get Locked Out of the Abundance Economy

Power has always been about relationships, trust, influence, and control. Until now. Control is gone. Information, data, and learning is fluid, instantly accessible, and high quality to anybody who has an internet connection and half a brain. If you try to put yourself in a position of control, people will just work around you.

Getting locked out of the abundance economy

I was at a community motorcycle show ‘n’ shine last weekend. I approached a local, respected builder to see if he was interesting in being in an upcoming “hand built” show. Our Motorcycle company is sponsoring one this fall. He’s the kind of guy that gets invited to Sturgis. He sells his parts internationally. He’s good at what he does. But his response made me think he is an self-important ass.

He wasn’t interested, he said, in competing “against crap assembled out of catalog parts. I hand forge parts. I’d fabricate my own bearings if I could. Any custom shop that doesn’t own a lathe shouldn’t call themselves custom.” He pooh-pooh’d the local motorcycle building community.  He wasn’t interested in sharing what he does, his passion for his craft, or what “hand-built” means to him. Apparently he’s better than that, and the rest of us aren’t worth his time. Presumably because we don’t work to his standard.

He was more interested in sitting on his sofa and holding court. Literally, he had a purple velvet sofa under his booth’s awning.

This is the problem with making your craft (business, cause) your religion. Of having only “one true way”. People that want to learn, to build their skills, to give and create, be included – they get turned off. The tribe loses when these eager novices wander away after being scolded. These novices (who may very well have their own experience, perspective, and unique skills) go apply those talents elsewhere.

We all lose, and we’re all diminished by association. We lose the opportunity to make a lasting contribution beyond our own existence by being true leaders. By influencing and teaching others. By sharing our vision, and seeing others’.

The solution? Easy. And this is why I love my sweetie and partner: we’ll just bring in somebody bigger from out of town. There’s always somebody better somewhere else. And in today’s connected world they’re easy to find. She’d already been talking to a guy on the coast who teaches others how to weld their own frames. He’s more than happy to come out and share. And that was just the first guy we’ve reached out to.

So if you’re feeling like you’ve got things locked up, if you feel as if nobody can take your market away from you because it’s yours, that you’re entitled to something, then I’d like to back your competitors. Especially the young, upcoming ones that are creative, original, and inclusive.

You are never entitled to your market or your reputation. You have to earn it every day. Get off your velvet throne.

Bernie works with small, medium (and sometimes) large companies, start-ups, and volunteer organizations to help them set a vision that is executable, to be effective, and to surround themselves with people who will help them succeed. I believe the workplace is a place to thrive, not just survive. Call me if you want help transforming your business. 

How You Know When You Need to Change Your Business Model

This article, “How to Cope When You’re in a Dying Industry“, made me laugh out loud.  I love how she was trying to help her mugger figure out how to make money when it turns out she wasn’t carrying any cash. Some people just don’t want to be helped.

When to Change Your Business Model

Hope, or doing more of the same faster and harder with no change in the result, is not a strategy. When you’re not making money anymore, and people are trying to help, maybe it’s time to listen.