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How To Create Non-Lasting Change

The quickest way to kill motivation is to reward it.

Oh sure, that’s just a provacative statement to hook you and then I’m going to later tell you how it was actually false.

Nope.

I honestly believe it. And I think I can prove it. Let’s start with books. I love to read. At times I have to prevent myself from starting a book simply because I know that my love for reading will consume all of my time. I read plenty of non-fiction; business books mostly. But, I also love fiction. Louis L’Amore, the western writer is one of my favorites. Clive Cussler and his tales of adventures at sea is another. I loved Lord of The Rings as a kid, and I read most of the Harry Potter books.

My greatest joy was in seeing my kids develop a love of reading. The first time I caught them hiding a flashlight in their room to read late into the night, I had to act stern, but inside I was doing a happy dance. My granddaughter is almost 2 years old and in the few short months she’s been staying at our house, she’s developed a love of books. Goodnight Moon is a big hit at our house.

You know what would kill my kids love of reading?

If I started paying them for every book they read. And the bigger the incentive, the quicker they’d lose interest. It makes no sense. If they already love doing it and get satisfaction from it and I add an additional incentive, wouldn’t they love it twice as much?

No.

If I started paying them to read, they would start to depend on it. Soon, they would be calculating how much money they could earn over the summer by reading. And then, when I eventually withdrew the incentive? They would be resentful.

My father was a professional card player when I was growing up. He supported a family of six on what he was making playing poker. Yes, he was that good. But, he hated it. It wasn’t fun. It was a job and a stressful job, with terrible hours and a lousy work environment. But, it paid the bills.

It also killed his love of playing games.

My entire growing up life, my father never once played a card game, or any game with me or any of my siblings. He explained to me one time why.

Rodney, it’s just too frustrating to play for free and get a good hand and know how much that hand would be worth in a poker game.

Basically, he wasn’t going to play if he couldn’t get paid for it.

My friend Howard Tayler is a cartoonist. When he was working as a software manager, he drew for fun. After he became a cartoonist fulltime, he had to develop another hobby. Drawing, while still enjoyable, no longer provided the intrinsic pleasure that it had when he was doing it for fun.

I work with a boy scout troop. For a while I incented them to wear their uniform by providing treats. And if any scout wore a more complete uniform than I did at a meeting, they got a large chocolate bar. I “allowed” them each to eventually “catch” me without my scout hat or scarf. Each boy who wanted to, including my two sons, eventually won the candy bar and promptly quit wearing their uniform.

Lasting change comes about because of intrernal not external motivation. If I want to change someone’s behavior for a day or a week, I can provide an incentive. But, when the incentive is gone, so is the behavior. And if someone is personally motivated to behave a certain way, the quickest way to kill that motivation is to tie it to a reward.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Company Profile: Agile Studios

I never wanted to be in management.

I know it sounds odd. And those who have worked for me might find it surprising, but I actively avoided management roles. I worked for the first 15 years of my career in an individual contributor role. When I started at Agile Studios, it was as a Customer Relationships specialist. My role was to work directly with the customers for our small developer shop. I didn’t have to sell, but I needed to meet with clients and provide them our finished results. I also met with them to gather requirements.

It was a great job. I was pretty good at it. And then the company president decided to shake up his management team. We had a really big project that would eventually spin off as RESMARK. In the mean time, Brent wanted to make other changes and he wanted me to take on a management role. . .he just wasn’t sure what to call it.

Well, Brent, you have two choices. You can call yourself CEO and make me the president. That’s actually the model that WordPerfect used early on. Or, you can remain the president and make me the Executive Vice President.

We both agreed that CEO was a bit too large a title for a little ten person development shop. So, I became the Executive Vice President. I was now responsible for meeting with customers, but also for hiring, firing, coaching, spending, accounts receivable, purchasing. . .you name it and if it wasn’t programming or selling, it was my responsibility.

I now found myself in the very position that I had actively avoided for years. And a strange thing happened; two strange things, actually. The first was that I liked it. Lots of people like being in charge. So, that wasn’t surprising. I could make decisions and then see them through. Sometimes I made the right decision. Sometimes I didn’t and had to correct. But, the second thing was that I found I was good at it. I made far fewer errors than good decisions. We continued to grow as a company and when it was time to spin-off RESMARK, Brent tapped me to become the president of the new company.

I’ve had management roles throughout the rest of my career. I continue to enjoy them, and I continue to have success. If it hadn’t been for a small start up in Orem, UT that needed a “designated grownup” I might have never pursued some of the most rewarding positions of my career.

Company: Agile Studies
Titles: Customer Replationship Manager, Executive Vice President
Years: 2004-2005
Best thing: Figuring out how to be an effective manager
Worst thing: That time our client didn’t pay and I had to tell 10 people they weren’t getting paid

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Company Profile: RESMARK

Which name do you think is more effective: Backroads Software or RESMARK?

Backroads Software. I like that one a lot!

We’re naming the company RESMARK.

That pretty much encapsalated my relationship with the company owner. RESMARK was a software company. Our owner owned a rafting company. He hired us and formed the company so that we could make reservation software for the rafting industry. You might think this is too narrow a niche and maybe even kind of pointless. But, most rafting companies in the US have about a 100 day season. It unofficially starts on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day. During that time a large rafting company might handle 25,000 guests. That’s a lot of people to keep track of on a spreadsheet.

I was the company president at RESMARK. I was also the HR department. And Project Management. And pretty much anything else that didn’t involve writing code. I had a team of 10 developers working at RESMARK. We spent years in a previous company and in the newly spun off RESMARK company, building our software. We released on September 1, 2006. My relationship with the owner never really recovered. He knew more than I will ever know about marketing and the rafting industry. I knew more about making software than he will ever care to.

We attempted to educate each other, but ultimately parted ways. The company still exists today and the software is still in use.

Oh, and he was absolutely correct about the name. RESMARK, a blend of reservation and marketing described the product perfectly.

Company: RESMARK
Position: President
Years: 2006-2007
Best thing? Getting to hire and develop great programmers
Worst thing? . . .Well, you can guess from my description above

The end

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

George Washington Missed His Own Birthday Party

If you live in the United States, you know that Monday February 20th was Presidents Day. (There’s actually debate over whether the apostrophe should be included: President’s, Presidents’ or Presidents. This post isn’t about that controversy.) We celebrate Presidents Day to remember Presidents Washington and Lincoln. There’s no question that Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809. He would have turned 208 last Sunday. It’s probably a good thing they did that statue of him in Washington based on when he was younger.

It’s less clear when George Washington’s birthday was. If you look at your calendar, it will clearly tell you that he was born on February 22, 1732. So, feel free to have a party today celebrating George’s 285 birthday. Just don’t expect George to show up for it. And not just because he’s been dead for 217 years.

See, George already celebrated the big 285 back on February 11. In fact, throughout his life George Washington consistently celebrated his birthday on February 11. . .even after the government switched it to February 22.

When Washington was born, the American colonies, as part of the British empire followed the Julian calendar. It was called Julian because it was conceived by Julius Ceasar. The process of days and months were put together by the famous general. He named a summer month after himself: July. August was named after another Roman emperor, Augustus Ceaser. October was named for Octavious. If you look at the calendar, you will notice that those three months, all named after famous Roman leaders, all have 31 days. It’s not a coincidence that they made sure that their month had at least as many days as anyone else’s. Alas, poor February took the brunt of abuse. (Probably because there was no Emperor February to protect it. February is based on the latin word februare which means “to purify.”)

But what does Julius Ceasar’s calendar devised in 45 BC have to do with George Washington? Very, very little, it turns out. But, very, very little is not nothing. See, Ceasar (actually his calendar guy) figured out that we needed a leap year. He switched the calendar from a lunar cycle to a cycle based on the sun. And he understood that the earth rotation around the sun wasn’t exactly 365 days. So, every four years we got a leap year. And that’s how it continued. . .for a long time. . .like really long. . .hundreds of years. But, we don’t just add an extra day every four years. Because even with the leap year we still are just slightly off of matching the time it takes the earth to revolve around the sun. To compensate, we actually add “leap centuries.”

About 1500 years after Ceasar fixed the calendar, it was broken again.

Every year that is exactly divisible by four is a leap year, except for years that are exactly divisible by 100, but these centurial years are leap years if they are exactly divisible by 400. For example, the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 are not leap years, but the years 1600 and 2000 were.
– Wikipedia

In 1582, Pope Gregory fixed the calendar. The world hadn’t been counting those leap centuries and the days were off by about 10. When the rest of Europe adopted the Gregorian calendar, the British stayed on the Julian calendar. Why didn’t they get on board with the latest technology? Henry VIII. The guy who had all those wives. He wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon after she failed to produce a male heir. But, being Catholic, you had to get the Pope’s permission to get your marriage annulled. (And the fact that they had a daughter makes the whole question of annulment an interesting one anyway.) Catherine was the sister of the King of Spain, at the time that Henry was trying to get his annullment, the Pope was a prisoner of Catherine’s nephew Emperor Charles V.

Catherine didn’t want a divorce, and made sure her nephew understood her wishes. He in turn let his prisoner, the Holy See, know that it would be a very bad idea to annoy his aunt. Pope Clement VII was clearly not a stupid man and refused to grant the annullment. Not getting the result he wanted from the Catholic church, Henry decided he’d form his own Church. Which he did in 1530 and promptly granted himself an annulment.

As you have no doubt noticed, 1530, the date of the split between the Anglican Church in England and the Catholic church, is before Gregory fixed the calendar in 1582. So, by the time the Catholic church got around to fixing the calendar by adding 10 days, England had decided it wanted nothing to do with the Church in Rome, including their new fangled calendar. So, England stuck to the Julian calendar and the rest of Europe updated their dates to reflect the new Gregorian Calendar. And that’s how it stayed for a lot more years, until 1752. It was in that year that the British Empire finally got on board with the new calendar. By now the two systems were 11 days out of sync.

To sync the calendars, it was decided that Wednesday September 2, 1752 would be followed by Thursday September 14. And that was officially the shortest two weeks in the history of the world. Now that the calendars were in sync, they still had to fix the dates. It was decided that things like birthdays would also be moved forward 11 days so that the celbrations were still happening about the same time of the year. Washington, as has been said, was born in 1731. He was obviously born before the big calendar switch. So, his birthday, like everyone elses jumped forward 11 days. They also shaved nearly a year off his age, by moving the year of his birth from 1731 to 1732. This was done by changing the start of the year (from March 25 to January 1) and pushing all dates ahead one year. It was designed to keep people’s physical age closer to their calendar age

The problem was that Washington decided he didn’t like February 22. He continued to celebrate his birthday on the same day that he had for the first twenty years of his life: February 11. (Well, the first 19 years of his life after the calendar change.) 

So, as you raise a glass to Old George today, realize that he’s already had his party 11 days and a year ago.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Company Profile: WordPerfect

We don’t like to hire MBAs here. We will teach you everything you need to know about the software industry.

Three years later, it all came crashing down and might have been saved by a few more MBAs.

WordPerfect was the first “real” company I ever worked for. I had a salary. I had health insurance. And I had paid days off! How cool was that? And like most first loves, I overlooked a lot of flaws. Mostly, it was because I was young. We were all young once, and it is the perogative of the young to be niave. In hindsight, WordPerfect was a flawed company from nearly the very beginning.

WordPerfect got its start be radically redesigning the word processor. The introduced a nearly empty screen. As the user typed, they saw a rough approximation of what the printed page would look like. They quickly became the #1 word processor in the world.

It’s said that the worst thing that can happen to a first time gambler is for him to win. WordPerfect was that first time gambler and they won big. But, like the new gambler, they didn’t understand enough about the game to prepare for their eventually losses. They assumed that they were successful because they had it all figured out. They didn’t realize that the market they came of age in would change.

Now, you might say that no one, Microsoft, Google, MySpace, IBM, or WordPerfect knows what the market will be like in the future. And you would be right. But, one difference between successful companies and unsuccessful ones are that successful companies assume the market will change. They may not know how, but they plan on it being different at some point.

WordPerfect’s biggest draw was their biggest downfall. They offered unlimited tollfree support forever. The largest group, by far in the company was the support department. It worked well when WordPerfect was selling for $500 per copy. And this was in the 1990s. Eventually, other competitors entered the market. Most notably Microsort Word. MSCORP started offering more features and a lower price. And, of course, Word worked well with Windows.

The fall of WordPerfect was swift and dramatic. A company that had cashflowed its expansion suddenly found itself runing out of money. It was $100,000,000 in debt when Novell purchased them in 1994. By the end, they couldn’t change their business model enough to stay profitable in a changing marketplace.

Today, the buildings that they constructed in Orem, Ut are still there. A dozen small software companies use them. Each hoping to be the next WordPerfect. The houses that the executives built literally next door are still there, but many of them have changed hands.

The company itself no longer exists. Correl still sells a version of WordPerfect, mostly to law firms who have years of files they don’t want to convert to a new format.

In the end, WordPerfect fell because of a combination of hubris and organizational structure. At the end, or slightly before the end, I bet they wished they had a few MBAs who understood the industry.

Years employed: 1988-1994
Job Titles: Telephone technician, Support Operator, SWAT Team member
Best things: Great people and free soda
Worst thing: A lack of vision

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Company Profile: Microsoft

IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE SOMEONE YELLING IN YOUR FACE, YOU SHOULDN’T WORK HERE!!

A friend of mine was interviewing for a program manager position in the Microsoft Exchange development team. She was a brilliant course developer, but our training group had been disbanded. The result of our management team not properly explaining why it took 40 hours to develop a single hour of training. Teams were often created and disbanded as projects morphed or got cancelled. Janet, had been hired into the training group from outside Microsoft. This was her first experience moving to another team. It didn’t go well, but it was an example of the extremes at the company in Redmond.

In my nine year Microsoft career, I had about 20 different managers and worked in a half dozen different departments. My experience was pretty typical. Microsoft intentionally moved people around. The management goal was to keep people from becoming too comfortable in a particular role. Microsoft wanted its employees to constantly be going through that process of learning new things.

For the most part, the process worked well. During my years with the company, they were the biggest and the badest software company in the world. This was before Google and Facebook. It wasn’t before Apple, of course, but it was before the iPod and that was important.

Microsofties (yeah, not the greatest nickname) believed we were the best in the world. And often we were right. We also wanted to not just beat the competition, but crush them. So, it was surprising at one company meeting to see a simulcast from California. Microsoft was announcing a $100,000,000 “partnership” with Apple. The most popular application on the Mac at the time was Microsoft Office. We didn’t see Apple as much of a threat, but we also didn’t feel any love for Steve Jobs company. And now we were partners?

It wasn’t until much later, after I left Microsoft that the real story came out. Steve Jobs had recently taken over leadership of his company and it was broke. He had some great ideas (iPod, iPad, iTunes) but he needed a bridge loan to meet payroll until he could get those products to market. He called Bill Gates and asked for help. Gates announced it as an “investment.” Really, it was a $100M gift. And it saved Apple. Considering I’m typing this on an iPad, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like if Bill Gates had truly wanted to crush his business rivals.

The interview with the screaming program manager actually went pretty well. That PM was a jerk. (There were more than usual at Microsoft.) He decided that “testing” people during the interview process was important. I never interviewed with him, so I can’t say if it was effective or not.

Microsoft was one of the best companies I ever worked for.

Years employed: 1994-2003
Position: Program Manager
Best thing: Able to pay for kids’ adoption (They paid pretty well)
Worst thing: Lots of arrogant people
My Company Rating: 4.5 Stars

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Talisman #5: The Ring

It’s a cliche. I know that. The only way it could be more of a cliche is if I posted this update on Tuesday when it was Valentine’s day. But, just because it’s a cliche doesn’t mean it’s not true.


It’s far from a simple band of gold, although it is made of gold. The edges have intricate dentile indentions. It holds five diamonds across the top, inset so that they don’t catch on anything. It has a simple message and date inscribed inside the band.

Everyone has one, right? At least everyone who’s married. It goes on the ring finger of the left hand supposedly because there is a vein that runs from that finger straight to the heart. The ring itself is symbolic. I’ve heard the description that just as a ring has no beginning and no end, a couple’s love should go on forever.

Mine, of course, was chosen for me by my lovely wife. We were young by the world’s standards when we got married. I was 23 and she was still a teenager at a few months past her 19th birthday. In Mormon culture, that’s actually pretty typical. Mormons marry young and have big families. We certainly accomplished the first part and then over achieved on the second part.

I have an aversion to blood. No, really, I’ve been known to pass out just from someone talking about an operation or medical condition. When it was time for my first child to be born, I had to go to therapy so that I was fit to be in the room. It was. . .awful.

Oh sure, the miracle of birth and all that, but I watched the woman I loved in excruiating pain. I knew right there in that delivery room, that if the roles were reversed, and men had to physically bear the children, we would have one kid and then adopt.

God blessed us with three birth children, but made it abundantly clear that the third child was the last child. My lovely wife comes from a family of 15 children. I come from a family with . . .a lot of children. . .that are hard to count. The decision to adopt was an easy one.

Where childbirth was physically demanding, adoption was financially so. Our adoptions were agency adoptions, both domestic and international. The costs are staggering. Fortunately, I was working for Microsoft and money was not really an object during most of them.

We have thirteen children who span the age gap from 14 years old to 28. We’ve been blessed with four grandchildren with two on the way. It’s not an insignificant choice to decide to become mother to a baker’s dozen. I was talking to my brother-in-law,

I admire you. I don’t know if I could do it.

Do what?

Love someone, like those adopted kids, who wasn’t my own flesh and blood.

Were you related to your wife when you got married?

He laughed at my last line. But, he was serious. He had a large family but the idea of loving someone so completely that wasn’t your blood kin was hard for him to imagine. His kids have grown up now, and watching him around his sons and daughters-in-law, I have no doubt he could do it.

Mae West said,

I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.

And while I don’t think she’s 100% right, it does make life easier in some ways if you have money. Over the 30 years we’ve been together, we’ve been wealthy and we’ve been so poor we lived in my brother-in-laws horse barn. We’ve had new cars and we’ve had cars with 200,000 miles on them. We’ve travelled the world and we’ve pinched pennies for gas money. But, through it all, even when I didn’t have money, I was rich. I was wealthy beyond the dreams of Solomon. Because, no matter how tough things got, no matter how bleak the future might look, I had someone beside me that loved me, supported me and trusted me without question.

I am wealthy indeed. And I’m reminded of that every time I look at the gold and the diamonds on my left hand.

This is the fifth in a five part series describing the five talismans in my life and what they mean to me. 
#1 The Coin
#2 The Lapel Pin
#3 The Masonic ring
#4:  The Tie Bar
#5: The Ring

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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