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August 25, 2010

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"4. Consider cost of time/quality when deciding what to do. I could get almost all of the programming I want and save a good amount of money if I went with my antenna/web/friend plan noted above. But is all that time and hassle worth saving a few hundred dollars a year? Not for me. Time/convenience is worth something after all"

Is spending hours on the phone on a near monthly basis to try to get the cheapest deal possible and then keep it as they keep "screwing up" or doing things to try to sneak you back into their regular pricing worth it to save a few hundred dollars a year? Not for me. Time/convenience is worth something after all

Many things that financially well off people do at the margins don't make sense to me. If I make well into 6 figures and save and invest well, why am I wasting my time cutting coupons, sitting on the phone with companies trying to get or keep a few dollars of savings, running around from one store to the next trying to find a slightly cheaper deal, etc. None of this will have any impact on my networth, my retirement, or anything that matters financially. But it will take a lot of my time, of which I have a very finite and depleting amount which cannot be replaced or increased.

If you live on the margins, it matters, if you don't, it's simply noise. While you might have the time to spend on it, do you want to? If someone told you in advance they would pay you 200 dollars to spend 1 hour per month over the next year trying to talk cable company reps into giving someone a good deal would you do that for someone else for money? Then why would you do it for yourself for the same money?

Once you have a decent amount of money, time is your most precious asset and spending it to get modest savings in money doesn't seem like a wise investment to me.

I finally cut the cable...tired of dealing with the high price and poor service. For years I was able to get a deal and then it was a no go after moving. It think in part it was because I have no other provider for Internet so for high speed it's Comcast or nothing.

Funny thing though I blogged this and received a comment from Comcast (thinking it is a script) and when I replied to inquire about what they can/will do I got nothing in reply from them.

Apex --

I'm not "spending hours on the phone on a near monthly basis".

now comes the screwed up bill, haggling, etc., just as "not as you agreed", just wait....get an antenna and watch, uncompressed, hi-def TV for FREE, other than one-time installation! Hook your laptop via an HDMI cable to your TV to also stream DVD's, HULU, etc., etc., web based shows, THAT's: "priceless"...!

Comcast screws the consumer. FMF--Notice how you mention that Comcast is better than an ugly dish on your roof? Notice how they are giving you a number of premium channels to get you and the family hooked? Now when they eventually get you with their regular rate, you will somehow justify the $135/mo. to maintain it.

You just have been given these price breaks because of who you are (a blogger)!

@Holly

Not necessarily. For years I was able to haggle with Comcast each year to reduce my bill simply by calling and talking with them. It took about 30 minutes once a year so not a bad use of my time.

Jeff --

Can you tell me how you can watch the English Premier League games via antenna and/or video for free? I'd love to hear about that.

Holly --

1. Almost anything is better than an ugly dish on my roof.

2. Where did you get $135/mo? I'm paying $35 per month. Big difference.

Not being a soccer "fan" I DO know that America One Network broadcast a LOT of soccer, rugby, ultimate fights, BMX, etc., every week....but, it IS free! I love baseball but, OTA TV doesn't do much, however, for $20 a YEAR I subscribe to ALL MLB radio feeds. Thus, my computer (hooked thru my tv) has 12 speakers of MLB sound thru the house :) Nice compromise for 2400+ games for $20.aybe your soccer league has something similiar via the web?? Virtually every sport does!

Jeff --

I'm interested in this sports angle. How do you watch NFL games? And what about the college football games shown on ESPN?

I feel strangled by Comcast. My comcast email ID is tied to so many things, and I subscribe to the triple play, so it is phone, tv, and internet. But my bill is ridiculous. I am going to try the online chat and see if that works.

Thanks for the info!!!

Good luck with all this, FMF. I cut the cable about 2 years ago, and purchased an antenna and a home theater PC to use as a DVR. I can record any DVD or VHS I get from the library. I can record two shows at once while watching a third. This occasionally comes up when I'm watching Hulu while recording an over-the-air program and a DVD at the same time. My recordings live on my hard drive, for as long as I want to keep them, and my hard drive(s) have much more capacity than the DVR you'll be renting from Comcast.

The downside is that I had to buy a PC. (But it's not completely dedicated to HTPC duties, I can pull up the recliner and do word processing, play games, organize pictures, or any other standard tasks on my 42" flatscreen) The upside of all this is that my total time with 'customer service' was my visit to Dell's website where they told me how much my computer purchase would be and I bought it. No bills at all anymore. I don't miss talking to Comcast, and I definitely don't miss mailing them a check every month.

Given the fact that you spent all this time researching to figure out how to get the best deal, then you had multiple episodes of haggling to get the best deal, and add in the fact that according to you, there has been a mistake (I assume not in your favor) on every bill they've ever sent you that you must contact them in order to correct, I think that Apex's question about the value of your time is not so easily dismissed as you have tried to do.

You must really like those soccer matches.

Matt --

I do like them. ;-)

Not int in college football so not important to me, though the networks seem to show plenty!, I get PLENTY of OTA NFL football (in 1080 wide screen high def non compressed on 47" screen)via FOX, NBC, CBS, ABC so that's not too bad. For ESPN (I'm in the great Northwest with a brewpub EVERYWHERE), I'll head to a local pub for "payTV". But, I do have FREE (currently) 24 DIGITAL channels including: all movie, shopping, religious, childrens, 3 public access, ALL the networks (RTV will soon come here but, already is in most metro areas this fall). Throw in a few analog channels (mostly spanish and Russian) and I've got more FREE TV I don't EVER care to watch (like cable). So having no cable bill but, FREE internet access for radio stations across the US, a $4.99 month netflix (2 movies by mail, stream 3 per month), plan and all MLB (and most minor league feeds too) for $20 a year is a great compromise. (Hulu can stream shows along with network websites via the laptop too my TV too). Plus, I NEVER feel bad cuz I'm not watching a FREE network that is costing me a cable or satellite fee. (MY antenna is in my attic too so will never wear out!) $80~ a year plus I paid maybe $30 for the antenna, had the house built w/ the RG6 cable and outlets for $100! Almost: "PRICELESS" (since I grew up in Maine where we had 2 or 4 channels in the 70's/80's to watch (only) this seems like TV junkie to mee!

PSS, my internet is "wireless" via Cricket (the phone company) for $40.59 a month "all in inc fees/taxes", that's portable to take most everywhere w/ my laptop in the US so there are "no wires" (no landline telephone either) in my home...But, I RETIRED at 47 as the "Millionaire next Door". Saving the bucks for 35~ years like this helped. (I had cable TV when in the 80's and even early 2002 I could get it for $4.99 - 9.99 a month, over $10 is too much!)

I have the same setup as MattJ except I use a mac-mini and it has been fantastic. The best part is over the air broadcast looks better than anything you'll get from Comcast and it's free! I did have the upfront investment of about $600 for the equipment but it will pay itself off in a year's time or less. One reason I went with a mac is because you can use applications like Plex (similar to Boxee and XMBC for the PC) and it integrates all of your media options - Netflix, HULU, DVR recordings, DVD/Blu-Ray rips, etc. It also has an app for ESPN3 that lets you watch full games from every sporting event.

My only worry is when the internet service providers start charging for service based on usage and then i'll end up with a higher internet bill.

I am a very satisfied Comcast customer even though my monthly bill is $85 including a DVR rental and some premium channels. About a week ago I bought a new TV and after looking at the connections and the setup guide I realized it needed HDMI connections to get the best quality sound and video. I also have a DVD player in my setup and since we are NETFLIX junkies we didn't want to be without it even for one day. The DVR/Set Top Box was an earlier model that didn't have HDMI connections so I decided to let Comcast take care of the complete installation. Their first step was to UPS me a new DVR, it arrived two days later. I called them on the Saturday that it arrived and they said the installer would come the very next day, Sunday, between 12 and 2. Sure enough he arrived on time, set everything up so that it all worked perfectly, showed me how to adjust the parameters controlling the audio and video to my liking and left a few hours later. He also showed me how many of the stations we watch now have additional channel numbers that broadcast in HD, something else I was unaware of. There was no charge at all for this superb service.

I only heard about DVRs about two years ago in a chance conversation with one of my hiking pals. Now I don't know how I ever lived without one. It's so convenient being able to "Pause" a program when the phone rings or when one of us needs to leave the room briefly, or to be able to record a program for future use. My old TV was a flat panel but this new one has new energy efficient LED backlighting and is so much thinner and lighter and uses less power than a 40w light bulb. The Comcast guy was telling me that he often goes to homes where people still have the old 500 lb cathode ray tube consoles like the first one we ever owned in 1957.

@FMF,

I don't know how much time you spent, there have been many posts here about your troubles, perhaps its less than my impression of it.

It seems to me there is really only 1 question to answer. If a stranger asked you to do this for him and you knew going in you would have the exact same experience and spend the exact same time doing it, how much would he have to pay you before you considered it worth it? I suspect more than you saved.

Apex --

Personally, I don't think that's a good question. I charge more to do things for others than I do for myself.

A better question IMO is "is it worth it?" So far, it is worth it (cost + time < my enjoyment). If it ever gets past that point, then I'll go for another option.

I love your Comcast posts, because. . . it gives me another opportunity to mention(whine) that their customer service is Terrible and the service itself is Overpriced. ;) Really, I love to hear about everyone else's solutions and alternatives to cable. Keep 'em coming!

Keep in mind also, Apex, that FMF's time dealing with all of this translates into content for his blog, which has value to him. (and us!)

His blog is his business, and experiencing / writing about all of these problems is good for business.

I also have a suggestion to modify your question, Apex:

You or I don't trade the time involved in researching and phoning the cable company for the savings FMF achieved. We trade the time involved in doing all of that and possibly more for the savings that we might achieve. Both the time and the monitary gain may or may not equal FMF's. Remember, the first time he had a problem with Comcast he whipped out the 'I have 14,000 subscribers who are going to hear about it if you give me any problems' card, and that cut through a lot of BS for him. That is a card that precious few people hold, and note how many problems FMF has had despite holding it.

1) We are not going to get the sweet deal that he got.

2) We are going to have to work harder to get a better deal in any case.

3) We are going to have more trouble fixing all the 'billing errors'.

In my opinion, every Comcast-related post from FMF should come with a disclaimer that reads roughly: "This is how Comcast treats me despite the fact that I told them I would discuss their customer service with my audience of thousands. Your mileage may vary"

MattJ --

That's funny. ;-)

Yeah, you think I'd have some sort of "pull" with them. Apparently not.

FMF--

$135 is the (supposedly DISCOUNTED) rate that we pay for the Comcast "Triple Play": high def digital cable w/DVR rental (we do not have premium channels like Starz or HBO), digital voice (in place of a landline), and WIFI (also w/equipment rental fee).

In our area we have a choice between Dish Network, DirecTV, Comcast, and Verizon FIOS. That's it. I wish I could talk my family into skipping the tv altoghether, but they are hooked on the sports programs, Disney, Nick, etc.

Anyway, you are getting a great rate for your cable, esp. since it is HD and w/a DVR, IMO.

I also love the Comcast threads. What a hoot. I have had my share of bad stories but have had good ones. It seems to all depend on the individual employee you get.

FMF, and I say this with kindness, Comcast seems to be a mission with you. Complaining about 40 or 35 dollars?! Really. >
But don't get me wrong, it is telling that even you get a runaround (14,000 readers and an inside contact) and service quality is so random.

BTW, it bugs me too that to add or connect you have to be there for their convenience, BUT terminating or deleting channels/service, no problem.


PS I congratulate you on not trying to get the 2 days back. I can't even a imagine the pain.

PPS Keep us posted--pun intended.

@ Travis@PlainMoneyTalk:

$135 IS the discounted rate after I received a $200+!!! bill and called customer service. Maybe I am just getting ripped off? How many other people out there pay over $135 for the Comcast Triple Play? I have been a Comcast subsciber for over 20 years...

Holly- go get an antenna and rescan all the channels you'd get free (+ netflix, Hulu, networks via the I Net etc.) OTA TV HAS sports, childrens, religious, shopping, reruns type channels (PLUS ALL the networks), just like cable 'cept for FREE. Granted they other than networks and a few others) may be differnt channels but, the content is same and FREE! Pic better too. Find a low cost internet option and get a Majic JAck to dump the landline. Go to Clarkhoward.com and search for teh many cell phone cos that are MUCH cheaper than the big 3-4. SAVE a LOT of $$ a onth hen combined. Lower the tstat 2'F in winter, raise it 2'F in summer, drop hot water temp 5'F too and you've got $$$ per month EVERY month!

@Holly, that is the Comcast regular rate that we left ($135-$140) for AT&T Uverse. We now get 12mbps high speed internet, U200 package, DVR, and high def for $110 a month including tax. For us, it was simply the lesser of two evils and Uverse has way better customer service.

We won't be switching to HULU only or anything like that because we enjoy a variety of shows on a variety of channels feeding into our DVR box easily and without having to do much after the initial 2 minute addition to our scheduled shows. We value our cable and internet setup enough to justify $110 a month, although I will be calling to see if they have any current promotions since I liked our $90 bill a lot more...

@Holly

I have no landline (only cell), and was paying $69/mo for cable (channels 1-100) & internet before taxes. Once that was no longer an option I dropped the cable. I now spend $60/mo because internet went up w/o the cable bundle. I would gladly pay $10 more for cable but not $20-$30 which is what they wanted to charge.

If you can't go cell only for phone service look at something like Skype or magic jack. Dropping the phone should help you...if at all possible.

@Holly
I was paying $139.99 for triple play in Houston. After all the equiptment fees and stuff it was over $160/mo. without the DVR! What a rip! Since have dumped the phone for Ooma which has an equiptment cost, then it is free. Whittled the cable down to digital basic until I can figure out something else. We are under $100/mo now but there is no other internet provider in my neighborhood and only other TV service is dish.

Houston has lots of OTA FREE tv, go to antennaweb.org ortvfool.com to see. Get an antenna, why pay for "basic" alone? Just go ota w/ an antenna and it's free after antenna cost. Throw in magicjack phone. Get a low cost internet provider. etc., etc.,

@FMF,

I do understand your point. And to be clear I am not suggesting a simple time cost of money evalutation. The only reason I bring it up is that my brother and I belabor this point often. He is a penny pincher. It's amazing how quickly he can know if something is the best possible deal or not. Certainly he has gotten really good at it. A recent example is that we were on a trip up to a cabin and we stopped at a gas station and he (and perhaps his kids) wanted a bag of licorice but it was 2.99 and he said that was a rip off, no way he was paying that. Obviously most everything at a gas station is over-priced. It's the convenience that makes it worth it. Ice cream at the Dairy Queen is a rip off compared to store bought bulk ice cream but thats not really the point. The thing is he wanted the licorice, but was trapped by his need to get the best deal.

He shops for one item at one store, milk at another, other things at another. All these places are on his normal driving route so its no extra gas but it is a hassle and lots of extra time. He is good at it, but it still is time and hassle.

And the point I always make to him is that these small savings will not make any difference in his long term net worth, or his retirement, or his ability to take a vacation or anything like that. He doesn't live on the margins so the minor savings are lost in the small dollar column of his bank balance. So my point to him repeatedly is why do it if it doesn't impact your life in a meaningful way.

Maybe its actually the "art of the deal" and its enjoyable for him, perhaps for you too. I don't know. I just know for myself I really hate dealing with hassles, wasted time, and things not being done the way they are supposed to or promised. I will pay extra to avoid those problems. It's very worth it to me.

That's my only caution on the saving money thing. Sometimes it's worth it to pay more, maybe even an amount you feel is unjustly more. If its making your life better and eliminating a hassle or time waster, but yet not adding any meaningful amount of cost in percentage terms to your budget, I think it can be worth it to avoid the deal and just pay more.

In response to Apex's first reply ...

I've done the Comcast "cancel my service ... wait ... you'll offer me a discount ... nah, cancel my service ... wait ... you'll offer me an even deeper discount ... okay, thanks, talk to you in a year" routine several times now. On my TV, phone, and internet bundle, it saves me about $20 per month, or $240 per year to do it. And it takes me about 30 minutes once per year. That's close to $500 per hour. That's a pretty good return on investment.

And it's not just this. It's a collection of little things like this that add up to a lot of savings. Clipping coupons. Finding the things that I buy most often for 5% less by comparing prices across retailers. Getting 2% cash back on my credit card purchases instead of 1%. Buying gas at the station that is consistently 10 cents per gallon cheaper.

It's all of these things taken together, and done consistently over a long period of time, that allow me to stretch my savings (and my lifestyle) without having to increase my earnings.

@ All-

Thanks for the tips...as for canceling the digital voice ('landline'), I looked into it and, of course, this is the rub: my triple play deal charges me $5.88 total for the digital voice. So of course I can't save anything by canceling that.

I will look into all of the suggestions mentioned. It's nice to know that there are alternatives to the Big Bad Broadcasting Bandwagon.

This post is timely. We just had a Comcast person come to our door give us a quote and it looks to be unbeleivealbe. I do not like the high presure sales tactics that they do so I needed space to think. What bothered me was to get the equipment the would need to do a credit check. So they would need SS nuber. Fine but asking the person he said he was contract with a company. So I called comcast to verify that thie person was legit and comcast could not confirm. They are not equiped to do that. So he came back today and I said we are ready to switch but I have a big problem in that I can not confirm you or your company with comcast.If I can not confirm you are a contractor with comcast no SS# so no deal. So he called his supervisor and he tried to sell me and I explained my concern and funny the call was dropped. So the guy handed me the workup and said if you can call around and feel comfortable then give us a call.

I might call the BBB to see if there have been any complaints in our area about these guys and I will check into this a little more but I am happy with WOW cable and to be quite frank I have had NO PROBLEMS in the 10 years I have had them.

No problems is worth way more than saving $10 a month or having a billion channels of nothing.

Apex --

Fair enough.

Now I'm off to spend eight hours looking for a 30 cent coupon. ;-)

@Apex -- you commented "Many things that financially well off people do at the margins don't make sense to me. If I make well into 6 figures and save and invest well, ... None of this will have any impact on my networth, my retirement, ..."

I think you may have it backward. Many financially well-off (i.e. high net worth, not 6-figure income) people have become that way because they are senstive to price, seek value, etc.

I happen to it both definitions of well-off, but I read this blog (which often only helps at the margins), I shop for deals, and so forth. I do it for several reasons:
1. It feels good. I feel better when I know that I either got a "deal" or at least that I did not get ripped off. Spending time to feel good is not a waste of a finite, depleting resource.
2. I need to practice. If I am consistently frugal and value-conscious on the small things, it helps me maintain my state of mind/thought process/skills for the big things. I would rather practice a few times with AT&T or Comcast or whoever so that when I buy an air-ticket I am capable of hunting for the deal that saves me a thousand dolalrs, and being money-conscious enough to haggle over my car purchase, etc.

I have been through phases in my life when I have stopped hassling over the small stuff, and I soon found those habits creeping up the chain. If I don't need to haggle to save $10, then what about $100, or $1000, or $10,000?

I used to be addicted to English Premier League as well via cable. Then I canceled and remembered how much more fun it is to be playing soccer instead of just watching it. Problem solved!

Jon --

I bet you're much younger than I am. ;-)

I do enjoy refereeing soccer, but that's only four months of the year here in Michigan. And you can't play soccer in November through March (or April) here unless you play indoor, and I dislike that game.

@FMF,

I'm sure I am. But I've seen 60+ out there on the fields as well. Age is not an excuse. :)

As far as indoor, make sure you ask around. I only found out about 3 years ago that the city I live in has a full sized indoor field.

@Mark

I think you are right that many well off people have developed these habits. I am also well off and while I will still try to get the deals or bargains on sizable items, I just don't have the stomach for the hassle on smaller items.

I think it's likely that I just hate (and I do mean HATE) hassle a lot more than many other people. I have been slowly realizing this over the years as I see people doing things that don't make sense to me. It is likely because to me the cost (hassle) is much higher than it is for them and that's why it doesn't make sense to me.

Interestingly enough I have a set of life philosophy rules that I have developed over the years (about 10 of them so far with dozens more as potentials). But my number 1 rule and one I find myself constantly referring to personally and in my dealings and responses with others is this:

Rule #1: NO HASSLES.

I think that probably explains my entire response to this whole episode. For those who don't feel as strongly about hassles as I do, my position probably seems as weird to everyone else as people's hassle behavior seems to me.

So no offense to anyone who doesn't mind the hassle. We all see the world through our lens and my lens just goes dark whenever there is a hassle in the room. :)

@Apex
I have to agree with your ealier poosting that for many it is the "art of the deal". It is a game for many folks and they simply enjoy it. And good for them. I too, do not need the hassle. That doesn't mean I simply take the list price, just that it depends on the time and cost. Sometimes I'll even pay more because I see value. Eg, I prefer to buy high end electronics at smaller stores even though it might cost more than a big box store because I want the service and post purchase attention.

While I find some of the penny pinching stories odd here, I admit that I liked Mark's view of practicing with Comcast/ATT so it doesn't feel strange when he tries it on bigger items--thanks Mark.

@Apex: You sem reasonably sensible, so will you share the other 9 rules?

@Mark,

That could get me in trouble. :) I will try but it will get verbose. Not sure if anyone is still reading this thread but perhaps you are the only one who will care anyway.

The rules have come out of my experiences and observations as well as my personality. They also probably have more hidden reasons behind them that are not easily summed up in a rule but I will try to give some minor flesh to them.

These are not in order of importance except for rule #1.

1. No Hassles - This is the most important rule and many things can quickly be assessed by referring to this rule. Its kind of like when in doubt refer to rule #1. This doesn't actually mean no hassles ever or obviously I would never get out of bed. In simplified concrete terms it mostly means that in order to do something the benefit has to greatly outweigh the hassle.

2. Keep it simple - This is the old KISS rule and is probably self explanatory. The simpler anything can be the better. In the complex world we live in simple is almost always over looked.

3. Filter (but clarity is rare) - This revolves around not making decisions without giving appropriate time for information to be gathered and to be properly assessed as well as giving time for the sub-conscious mind to give some "gut feel" insight to the issue. If a decision is not obvious from the start, for me, if I give it enough time I start to get a sense for the type of decision to make as I let my sub-conscious work on it given the information I have gathered and the past experience I have. Sometimes that filter leads to a moment of clarity but that is rare. Often it leads to a sense that a particular choice or set of choices is best or at least sufficiently good to make it. Waiting for absolute clarity can be paralizing and I simply need to ensure I have given it enough time to not be making a reactionary and unconsidered decision.

4. Minimize Change - This is an extremely important rule, second only to Rule #1. Everything in society is continuing to move towards rapid change. Progress! New Technology. Innovation. But when you stop and look at it most things that are new, or revolutionary, or game changing, are just the flavor of the day and its best to move forward with small incremental change after giving it considerable time (Rule #3) rather than to be seeking and following regular change. Often I seem to hear the message that the only thing that is constant is change. Change or die. If you don't change your competition will destroy you, etc. There are times you have to change and you cannot be purely rigid, but change has become a near "belief" in the last couple decades that if it's change then by definition it's good, it's better, it's progress. I find the exact opposite. My corollary to this rule is that all bad change is bad and not all good change is good. Choose your change very carefully. And while this might sound like its a play on the President Obama's catch phrase it has nothing to do with him. This rule far pre-dates his Presidency.

5. Stand your Ground - Don't be talked into things you don't want to do and do not go against your values or your character to get along. You will regret it and it will chip away at your self respect. This doesn't mean you can't change your mind or determine you were wrong and admit to a new direction. But the change must be authentic and not opportunistic.

6. The 90% rule (People will disappoint you regularily) - This is my oldest rule and one that I find myself referring to as often or more often than rule #1. It's not as important but it is very instructive in both explaining things and in preparing for events. In my early days this rule was bluntly termed 90% of people suck. In reality what the rule means is that people cause problems. People have different goals, values, expectations, motivations, commitments, intelligence, skills, abilities, selfish traits (greed, corruption, nastiness, etc). I find that 90% of the people are going to disappoint you. It explains a lot and helps me prepare for what I consider the inevitable. It's amazing the reactions I get when I share this rule with people. It's usually one of two things. Some people immediately identify. Others are horrified. However it's amazing how many from the horrified group tell me later (often it takes years) that they have started to see the truth of it now that they are looking for it.

7. Expect less - This rule, like Rule #4 is the opposite of what society tells you. You will never succeed if you don't expect big things, if you think you can't you are right, etc. This leads to people saying things like follow your passion and the money will come (it might but probably not), You can be anything you want (no you can't, you can try but there is zero chance of you being many of those things that might be on your list), etc. Expect the minimum, prepare to be disappointed and from that base then determine what might be possible and strive far beyond what you expect, but never expect what you are striving for. Only expect what is reasonable. Expecting more is a recipe for disappointment in addition to being irrational. (If you have to expect to win the SuperBowl to actually win it then every team needs to expect to win it, which is clearly irrational).

8. Too big to manage - When things get too big they are unmanageable, keep things smaller. Many of us see this in our careers if we work for big companies. The reason beaurocracy exists is not because big companies think it's good, it's because they don't know any other way to do it. They are far to big to run in any sensibly efficient manner. They are simply too big to manage. Any large entity that takes on a task is going to do it poorly. They may have advantages like economy of scale, monopoly power, etc, but they are going to be ripe with all sorts of incompetence, corruption, inefficiency etc, because frankly no over-riding power is able to direct and police the entire organization. We see this throughout history in the rise and fall of nations and this can be found in much smaller orgs as well when no one is in charge with enough visibility to direct the entire team. The top team of management in an org must have visibility and control (not micro management but direct direction setting not indirect directives) to the bottom of the org or it's too big to manage. The reason for this rule is to be prepared for the possibility of incompetent, inefficent, sub-par results whenever dealing with any entity that is too big to manage. Eventually their size will cause problems, sometimes very serious problems. Being involved with them or linked with them too directly could end up violating Rule #1.

9. Purity is a myth - Too many people are dedicated to a position with a purity litmus test. Holding to idealogically pure positions or positions as purely black and white is almost always a false representation of reality. There are usually multiple ways to look at something and all of them usually have some validity to them. Taking a my way or the highway approach will alienate many people and is usually not the best path forward.

Turns out I only have 9 that I have given RULE status. I have 150 on a list of potential sub-rules. Many of those overlap or are only partial thoughts that I have jotted down as I observed them and I haven't seen enough validation to promote them to a RULE. There are many things on there like experience trumps knowledge, actions trump intentions, always bargain from a position of strength, avoid partnerships as well as many things that even approach cliche status like find balance, everything passes in time, don't over-promise or over-commit, etc. The list just goes on and on but many of those things need to be kind of solidified into a large overall concept that I observe as being both important and impactful on a regular basis.

Again I would caution that these are my rules from my observation and experience as well as how my personality works. I think there is general applicability here for many people, but I am sure for some personalities and some people's experiences this list will not seem applicable to them and that is certainly fine. This is my rules for me.

So there it is. I warned you it would get verbose but I can't just put the 90% rule out there without some explanation. :)

Still with you Apex. Can't say I agree with number 6, I think you are too kind.
No arguement the others.

I suspect that among your other rules (Number 10 perhaps) is the 80- 20 rule.
80% of whatever(business, profit, problems) comes from 20%. and 20% gives you 80%.

@BillV,

Very funny on Rule #6. Like I said I get both sides of the spectrum on that and I have heard 95%, 96%, 98%. So I guess it all just depends on your perspective.

The 80/20 rule (aka the Pareto principle) is a fairly well established rule of thumb. It seems more like a law of business rather than a rule of behavior which is what my rules are attempting to understand, namely how others behave and how I want to behave in response.

Apex,

I just spent a while reading through this thread. I agree with a lot of what you said. Your rules seem pretty accurate to me. I especially agree with 5, 6 and 7. An additional rule I would add is "Your word is your bond". I try to never promise anything if there's any reasonable possibility that I won't follow through. Although people all around me will say something with no intention of honoring it (an example of #6), I still refuse to stoop to their level.

Eric,

Thats a very good additional rule and I even have some sub-rules (not yet rules) that go a step further. In addition to not promising something you can't follow through on I also am learning not to even speak confidently of things that you have not had enough time to fully understand (I should be applying Rule #3 here about filtering more than I have been in the past). I find this is a weakness I have had and I guess still do have, where I heard some information form an opinion and then offer it when the topic comes up.

The problem with this is that once you have offered your opinion, if you learn more that might cause you to change your opinion you have already put yourself and your ego and sometimes your reputation out there as having gone on record with a certain position on the issue. Perhaps sometimes forcefully. This will make it very hard to not try to find ways to justify your stated position even in the face of contrary information. It's not lying at first but it can cause you to eventually continue to defend a position you may not fully or even hardly believe and basically lead you into a situation that turns into something very similar to lying.

Apex,

I agree that it's a good idea to know a lot about an issue before commenting. However, I don't see anything wrong with changing your position if the facts warrant it. Why would you continue trying to prove something that you now know to be untrue? There's no shame (or at least shouldn't be) in admitting that you are wrong once in a while.

Eric,

You are absolutely correct that there is nothing wrong with admitting you spoke too quickly and that you have since changed your mind.

However the human brain is wired to defend any position already taken. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are less likely to change your mind once you stated an opinion.

This is validated via strong evidence and is known as the commitment and consistency biases. See "Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion" by Robert Cialdini (c) 2007. He states that once you have decided something in your mind new evidence can be successful at channging your positions however once you have stated it publicly (and especially if you wrote it down) you are far less likely to change your opinion. He cites particular examples such as Jurors who have publicly stated their opinion early in deliberations are far less likely to be swayed by future deliberations and results in far more hung juries. The evidence shows that positions and early votes on juries should be by secret ballot to prevent this mechanism from causing people to try to remain consistent with their initial positions and thus refusing to be swayed by better arguments or even facts and evidence.

It's amazing how powerful this affect can be. Sales people use this tactic on people all the time. Cialdini cites studies that show a simple canvasser asking for donations for the poor are far more successful if they simply ask how are you doing before asking you for money. Once you have publicly stated that you are doing fine or well or good, it seems inconsistent to you to then not at least do something to help out those who are not doing as well as you. You already knew you were doing well but admitting it to the canvasser increased donations dramatically. And this is not even a position you decided to take, you were tricked into admitting you were doing well for the explicit purpose of contrasting that with the people who are not doing well and it works on your brain like magic.

So I entirely agree that admitting you were wrong is honorable. I am trying to be more aware of it and force myself to correct quicker if need be now that I know about this tendency and that I have personally caught myself falling trap to it. But it's still hard to do and the best way to prevent it is to refuse to get put in the psychological trap by being careful not to take a position too quickly.

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