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Press Release: Businessman Seeks to Unite Obama and Romney Through Game
By A.J. Smith, AJSmith365.com Founder
Wednesday, October 23, 2012

October 24, 2012 – With the presidential debates completed and all of the statistics, polls, and strategic analysis inundating the minds of voters, two things are certain about this year’s presidential election – this election may come down to as few as 4 electoral votes, and President Obama and Governor Romney are not particularly fond of one another.

In an effort to expurgate the divisiveness and hostility between the two candidates – and calm both men’s nerves on election night – Washington, DC-based entrepreneur A. J. Smith of ajsmith365.com and Allen & Allyn, LLC has offered both candidates an opportunity to get together on election night and follow the election results together…all while playing the company’s debut board game, Corporate CEO.

The board game, Corporate CEO, is a business strategy game where all players start out as an entry-level professional within an unspecified organization.  The objective of the game is to continually progress through the ranks of the organization and become the first player to obtain the vacant position of Chief Executive Officer, or CEO.  The first player to do so wins the game.  However, the task is not as straightforward as it may seem.  Players of the game must earn the position of CEO by developing their professional skills, successfully achieving certain accomplishments within the game, networking with executives, and avoiding corporate setbacks and deceitful tactics by other players.

“I think that it would be a great opportunity for President Obama and Governor Romney to show Americans, who have been economically, spiritually, and morally abused by both parties’ divisiveness and reluctance to collaborate, a little civility before the next Commander-in-Chief is selected,” said founder A. J. Smith.  “Additionally, it would be great for our company to get some feedback on our board game, Corporate CEO, from two men with outstanding business and professional accomplishments.

Corporate CEO is scheduled for release in December of 2012.

end

For more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with A.J. Smith, please contact AJ Smith at www.ajsmith365.com/contact_us.html.

 
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In My Humble Opinion: Brokers, Realtors, and the Traditional Real Estate Transaction Process
By A.J. Smith, AJSmith365.com Founder
Friday, May 20, 2011
  
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Kmart...Competitive...Seriously?
By A.J. Smith, AJSmith365.com Founder
Friday, April 8, 2011

Walmart and Target, the kings of the discount stores, are not looking over their shoulders and fearing the wrath of Kmart - the former goliath of the discount industry now reduced to nothing more than a sleeping, hapless and hopeless giant.

I had the unfortunate pleasure of visiting Kmart, yesterday.  I was in the store in the Oxon Hill, MD area; I continually vow to never step foot in a Kmart - especially the Oxon Hill, MD store - but on this occasion it was the closest store to me that could fulfill my "urgent" request.

My son has just taken up an interest in becoming the next Michael Jordan.  And, to my surprise, he has abandoned playing NBA 2K11 on his video game system to go outside and actually play basketball.  I was ecstatic.  I ran outside to raise the court up for my, now, nine-year-old son to the proper, ten-foot regulation height.  But, with the court raised up, I couldn't have him shooting on a basketball court with run-down basketball nets.  Not to mention the spring bug was hitting me as it was 70 degrees, sunny, and perfect weather for a little outdoor entertainment.  So, I set off to the nearest store, which would be Kmart, to pick up some good old basketball necessities - a basketball net, a leather indoor/outdoor basketball, a basketball pump and needle.  

My five-year-old daughter insisted on making the trip with she - she had other motives for making the trip, and it did not include basketballs.  We get to Kmart and grab the "necessary" items, when my daughter convinces me with her big, brown eyes that she needs a pink soccer ball, a hoola-hoop, and a lollipop in order to effectively participate in the day's fun.  So, we take our inventory of items, totaling near $100 dollars to the cash register.  As the cash register starts ringing up my items, she comes across one - a basketball return device - that does not have a bar code on it.  She asks me about the device and I explain to her what it is, how much it costs ($15.99) and where it is located in the store.  I even offer to go and get another one, but she says that she will have someone go and get it.  She tells a young gentlemen, looking to be in his early 30s, that she needs a price check on the device; he looks dumbfounded.  Again, I offer to go and get another item that has a bar code on it and they tell me that the store representative will do it.  She finishes ringing up the rest of my items; now, all we have to do is wait for the Kmart Associate to return with the Basketball Return item.  

We waited five minutes and no Associate is visible.  Now, the customer behind me with a green trash can worth $20 dollars is calmly inquiring about the holdup.  I give her a summary of the events.  Another three minutes pass; now, the customer inquires to the cashier if they could just ring her up while we wait on the Associate to return.  At that moment, the Associate is on his way back.  Mind you, he is moving with the speed and urgency of a nineteen-year-old college freshman heading to a mortuary to reserve themselves a cemetary plot.  "Oh, there he is", the customer exclaims, "you can finish ringing him up, then."

"Oh, I already started ringing you up," the cashier replied.

"So, I have to wait even though he is right here," I inquired.  Since God had opted to give me extra good looks as opposed to an ounce of patience, so this purchase experience just took a turn from bad to really messed up.

"Well, yeah" the Cashier responded, "I've already started ringing her up."

"So, we have to start the entire transaction all over, again?" I asked.

"Yeah."

Kmart cannot be serious.  Unfortunately, for me, they were.  I dropped every piece of item that I had, except the lollipop, and walked right out of the front door.  I figured I couldn't give the lollipop back as my daughter had already started slobbering all over it since the cashier rung it up the first time.  Consider it a gift from the discount store who made me wait 15 minutes to NOT purchase the items to get my children the items they needed to get their backyard nostalgia jump-started.

The next day, I made a bee-line to Target, and spent over $100 dolllars on the aforesaid items, plus a few more necessities.  Kmart passed up a $100 dollar sale for a $20 dollar one, when they could have had both.  Kmart has validated my opinions - some biased - about its brand.  Kmart has proved to me that it would have been better off dying a martyr, a victim of the economic crisis, as opposed to dying from continual, self-inflicted blunders.  It would have been a more graceful exit than the one they are going to experience.


Support National Social Network Unfriender Day (SNUD)
By A.J. Smith, AJSmith365.com Founder
Saturday, May 22, 2010

Whether you have, or have not, seen our video "I Unfriended You (On Facebook)", the IDEA is gaining momentum and I have received a ton of positive responses in regards to unfriending people on the uber-popular website.  And, that was EXACTLY my intent.

I love Facebook.  I love almost everything about it, as you can tell if you have watched all of my videos.  However, I think that people are deviating my the intent of the social networking giant.  The purpose of social networking is to reconnect with others, and meet new individuals, and develop relationships with these individuals.  Unfortunately, I think that the users are rapidly getting away from that.  We reconnect with others just for the sake of building up our friend count or because we - at one point in time - had an acquaintance with this individual.  We extend a "Friend" offer, but we do very little to build that relationship.  Even worse, we are reaching out to indiviuals that we barely know, or do not know at all, and are not being responsible even to develop our relationships.

Our virtual, social networks should be held to the same standards as real social networks that physically meet one another.  Sororities, Fraternities, Veterans, and individuals who participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities have tight bonds because they have shared experiences together.  These individuals have shared personal highs and lows, together.  They have fought a common cause and have either failed or succeeded...together.

People on social networks are becoming too disconnected with personal experiences.  They text one another because it is a way of controlling communication.  Texting offers social networkers a common theme - the ability to interact with others without actually interacting.  And, ultimately, the personal development, communication, team-building, conflict resolution, and overall etiquette skills of the individual will suffer.  They are never forced to deal with their fears, and deficiencies, that hinder their personal and professional development, that they fall back on their safety net, which has become further embedding themselves in a virtual world where they can assume the characters and personalities that they are too scared to develop in the real world.

So, that is why I have started this campaign - the National Social Network Unfriender Day (SNUD).  I am advocating to you, the people, our politicians, and I am in communication with social network executives to declare January 2nd as National Social Network Unfriender Day.  It will be a day in which we look at our friends list, and expurgate those individuals who are not adding any value to your lives.  It is a day that will also have others assess my role in impacting their lives.  As we usher in the New Year, January 1, the day after (January 2nd) will be a day in which individuals actually begin living up to their New Year's resolutions by surrounding themselves with relationships that will help them move towards becoming the human beings that they strive to become.

As I end this, I would like to emphasize that this movement should not be considered anything negative.  This National Social Network Unfriender movement should be seen as an opportunity to create dialogue between individuals and answer the question of "what does friendship mean to you", "how can I become a become friend to you", "what can I do to strengthen our relationship", "is this relationship reciprocal", "what is it that you need from me", or "is this relationship worth salvaging".  Let's ensure that we are holding our friends to the standard of the definition of the word "friend".  If you are unsure of what a friend is, just listen to Whodini's song, "Friends".  Let's ensure that our relationships - both physical and virtual - provide us with constructive criticism and positive support to help us attain our goal and movement mankind forward, not backwards.

I hope that you help support this movement.  Please join me in helping mankind to develop the skills, virtues and wisdom to treat a friend as a friend should be treated.  Please support me in helping to make January 2nd as National Social Network Unfriender Day.

Tax Moves You Should be Making, Right Now!
By A.J. Smith, AJSmith365.com Founder
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Believe it or not, we are moving through 2009 with a vengeance.  Before you know it, the end of the year festivities will be upon us and we will be staring at a brand, new year.  And, with the new year comes a financial accountability that we all must confront – and, that is reporting our 2009 earnings to the Federal government.

Now, in case you are unaware, getting on the bad side of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is probably the worst thing you could ever do in your life – besides playing with dynamite in a locked, four-foot by four-foot room.  Next to Satan, the IRS is the last entity you want knocking on your door as they can make your life financially miserable for years to come.  So, now is the time to revisit the following financial situations to ensure that you not only appease these Government oversight hounds, but that you come out on top and, possibly, put some extra change into your pocket when you file your taxes in 2010.

1. Check Your Withholdings

Checking your Federal, and State, tax withholding is probably the most important thing you can do for tax purposes.  The biggest reason why people owe the Government money is because they did not pay Uncle Sam his “just do” throughout the year.  Withholdings are monies paid to the Federal and State government in relation to one’s earnings throughout the year.

An important way to ensure that you pay Uncle Sam exactly what he is “owed” is to go to the IRS website (http://www.irs.gov) and use the Withholdings Calculator on their website.  Currently, this can be found by going to the IRS website, click on the Individual tab and select the IRS Withholding Calculator link.  Or, on the main page, use the search field to find Withholding Calculator.

This tool will be able to tell you, as close as possible, just how much you should be withholding from your earnings and paying to Uncle Sam.

In regards to withholdings, some people get in trouble because they have more than one income stream (such as two jobs, or a job and an investment property – which, in essence is two jobs) and do not have the proper deductions coming out of each check.  Employer #1 does not know about employer #2; therefore, each company looks at only their job and says “my employee only makes $10,000 dollars and is claiming this many dependents, therefore should only take this amount of money from them.”  However, you may be earning $10,000 dollars from each employer; thus, making $20,000 dollars with 2 dependents and each employer assumes you are making only ten grand.  Then, at the end of the year, you wind up owing the Government thousands of dollars because your taxes were being underpaid throughout the year.

If you have additional income streams, use the IRS calculator to figure out what your tax obligations should be for your total earnings.  Then, look at your last pay stub and see what the year-to-date tax payments have been.  Estimate how many more payments you will have for the end of the year and what you anticipate you will pay in taxes.  If you are on track with the IRS calculator – fine.  If not, re-submit a new W-4 (Employee Withholding Allowance Certificate) with the proper withholdings.  Use Line 6 to have extra dollars come out of your check to pay into your Federal taxes so that you can catch up by year’s end.  You can do this for your State withholdings as well.

2. Assess Your Retirement and College Plan Contributions

Another way to decrease your financial obligations to Uncle Sam is to increase your retirement allowance.  If you are not on schedule to max out your 401(k), Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), or Individual Retirement Account (IRA), then re-assess this amount for the remainder of the year.  By contributing more to these accounts, you bring your total earnings down for the year; consequently, keeping you out of a particular tax bracket and lowering your financial obligations to Uncle Sam.  Then, when the new year comes, reset your contribution levels to your liking.

This works with the 529 College plans as well; however, this only affects your State earnings and not your Federal earnings.

3.  Get Credit for Being Socially Responsible

Do not wait until December to start cleaning out your unwanted goods for donation to the Purple Heart organization or Good Will.  If you wait, you will rush and miss taking everything you meant to take, or should have taken.  Secondly, you will just get frustrated by the lengthy wait as you will definitely encounter a stockpile of other “givers” gathering at the local donation center with the same intentions that you have.

Donating goods serves three purposes: first, it helps someone in need.  And, I am just certain that that is your main concern, right.  Second, it allows you to dispose of unwanted items and clear out the clutter from your home.  Finally, donating goods to a tax-deductible organization allows you to minimize your tax obligation to the IRS by lowering your earnings for 2009 which will keep you out of that higher tax bracket.

4. Think of Your Dividends

If you have sold any stocks, bonds or mutual funds then plan on claiming this as a profit, or loss, on your 2009 taxes.  If you have not done so, but are thinking of selling off some stocks, bonds or mutual funds, strategically decide if this is a short-term or long-term move that you want to make.  Do you want to sell some dividends for a loss just to lower your earnings for 2009, or do you want to retain it and profit off of it in the long term?  Check with your Broker, Accountant or Financial Adviser and determine which move is best.

5. Optimize Potential Tax Credits

If you have a project that you are thinking about tackling around your house, then now may be the time that you want to do so and take advantage of some of the tax credits that may benefit you.  Check the tax credit legislation and see what energy efficiency projects you can write off for 2009.  If you are undertaking any projects that involve energy efficiency, make certain that you maintain all receipts so that you can accurately claim this credit.

If you are thinking about becoming a homeowner, now may be the time to do so.  President Obama is giving first-time home buyers an $8,000 dollar tax incentive to do so.

If you are thinking of getting a car in the near future, the new car credit will allow you to write off a certain amount for purchasing a new vehicle in 2009.

If you have children in day care or after care, you may be eligible for child care credit.

And, there are other tax credits that may be specific to you.  Visit the IRS website, check with your accountant and stay informed with government legislation.

6. Injured Spouse Considerations

If you are married (or were married) to someone who owes a Federal or State debt and that debt does not belong to you, but you and your spouse file your income taxes jointly, then this topic applies to you.  If you are expecting a tax return of $1,000 dollars, but the Government only gives you $200 dollars because your spouse owed the Government $800 dollars, then you can file an Injured Spouse claim to get some tax relief and get additional monies back from the Government as you were affected by the refund offset that was taken because of a debt owed to the Government by your spouse.

To file this claim, or to find out who may be considered for injured spouse (or, innocent spouse) reimbursement, go to the IRS website and search for Injured Spouse or Innocent Spouse.  Or visit the Financial Management Service (FMS) agency at http://www.fms.treas.gov.

7. Get Organized

Put together folders for 2009 and categorize your receipts.  If you have access to a computer, develop a spreadsheet and log these expenses into it.  Capture the expense type (day care, energy, etc.), date, the amount, and, maybe, even a brief description about the purchase.  By using a spreadsheet tool, you will be able to quickly sort the items by expense type and add up totals so that you are not pulling out a thousand receipts during tax time.  Once you have logged each receipt into the spreadsheet, file it away in the proper folder.

Being organized saves you time and headache.  It may also save you money if someone else is doing your taxes and charges by the hour or charges you extra because they had to filter through the many receipts you had dumped on their desk.

Follow these steps and you will not only be prepared to file your taxes, but you may even look forward to doing so.

Note: The writer of this column is not a financial expert on taxes, but provides guidance from their own experience with the IRS and the tax filing process.  To seek in-depth, financial guidance on taxes, stocks or any other topic presented in this article, please contact the Internal Revenue Service, a licensed Stock Broker, a Financial Adviser, or an Accountant.

Real Estate Designs You Should Avoid
By A.J. Smith, AJSmith365.com Founder
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

You can call me crazy about the following views I have on residential real estate designs, but you cannot call me wrong.  During the past few years, the residential market ballooned into a magical cash cow.  And, the Real Estate developers, in an effort to cash in on the real estate boom, began experimenting with new design configurations to draw in the droves of people who wanted a brand, new home – you know, something no one else had lived in, sat on, or walked through. 

The developers delivered, and the consumers delighted, but very few paid attention to the practicality or physical affects the new designs would have on their lives.  The developers did not care; their main driver was the money.  And, the consumer did not notice because they were too busy marveling over the marble-laden McMansion that was delivered to them in a matter of 4 months.  But, the real estate market has been hit with house designs that are not only ridiculous, unnecessary and gluttonous, but these designs also work against you, financially, and are even detrimental to your health.

1. Too Much House

I think the real estate bubble has taken care of this issue.  But, for a while, developers were incessantly building five thousand to eight thousand square foot homes.  It was like the minimum square feet requirements for homebuilding had been elevated to nothing less than five thousand square feet.  And, most of it was dead space, such as overly huge foyers, ridiculously large kitchens with an eat-in area and a bar area with additional sitting space (we’ll talk more about this later), lounge areas in the hallways, and basements with entertainment stages, theater rooms, and a billiards area in addition to the regular basement.  Who are they building these homes for, Bill Gates?

To some degree, I can understand why a celebrity needs a ten thousand square foot house on five hundred acres of land.  Their celebrity has deprived them of a “normal” life, with paparazzi, tabloid magazines and crazy fans stalking their every move.  Therefore, they need to build a private world so that they can regain some anonymity and entertain friends in their own little “bubble”.  But, the average human being does not need all of this space; especially, if you do not have a Jon and Kate type of family.  I know of couples who own eight and nine thousand square feet homes, and it is only two or three people living in the house.  This is waste, especially of energy, at its best (or, should I say worst).

2. Excessively Tall Ceilings

I do not know what it is, but I think the American public is suffering from some sort of Napoleon complex.  Eight feet ceilings make them feel “closed in”; therefore, they need twenty- and thirty-feet ceilings to make them feel like Shaquille O’Neal or Kobe Bryant.  The developers sell this feature as if super-tall ceilings will change your life, forever.  And, unfortunately, it will; but, not in the way you would like.

Excessively tall ceilings – especially when mixed with five to eight thousand square feet – equals the worst form of energy consumption, ever.  And, this, my friend, equals unconscionably high energy bills.

You see, air takes up more than just square feet (length time’s width); it takes up cubic feet (length time’s width time’s height).  So, in your five thousand square foot home (let’s just say length is 70 and width is 72), you have ceilings that average twenty square feet.  That means, you are heating an area with a total measurements of 70 x 72 x 20, for a grand total of 100,800 cubic feet!

Currently, my home totals 2,700 square feet with eight-and-a-half feet ceilings on all three levels.  That is 21,600 cubic feet of space that I heat and cool every year.  My cooling bill is around $250 per month during the summers in Washington, DC, and $280 in the winter months.  I have queried a few friends, and associates, who own these gigantic homes and asked them how much it costs them to heat and cool.  None of them have given me a response lower than $800 dollars to heat and cool.  And, to be honest with you, most of them say they have to suffer through some of the hot and cold Washington, DC seasons because they cannot afford to run their heating and cooling units the way that they would like.

For the record, I run mines as I see fit.  I have to be comfortable.

3.  Upper-Level Cat Walks and Overlooks

What joy does one get from standing on the second level of a house and looking down on people sitting in the living room, dining room or family room?  What, do you wave at them and say, “Hey, I see you?”  Or, do you put on your best outfit, pretend it is a runway, and walk back and forth as if you were on America’s Next Top Model.  What gives with this?   

I see it as nothing but waste. 

First off, heat rises, and without enclosed walls to trap your heat in designated areas, it just moves throughout the house, and lower-level rooms lose heat.  Therefore, the homeowner will burn more energy trying to maintain a level of comfort when they are down on the first level than they would have if they did not have the open catwalk above them.

Second, it is a waste of square footage.  As a former Realtor®, I have walked through, and shown, so many new homes that have outstanding, spacious, first levels, but the client totally lost interest upstairs because the bedrooms were small, or the configuration was messed up because of the catwalk.  And, if the builder, or homeowner who opted for the catwalk, had just eliminated the second floor overlook and added square footage upstairs, they could have did wonderful design things, such as evenly distribute square footage to all of the bedrooms and bathrooms or add an additional bathroom upstairs (a Jack and Jill, maybe).

4. Kitchens as Focal Points

The new trend is to make the kitchen the focal point, or the heart, of the house.  Everyone on home improvement shows talks about how everyone wants to gather in the kitchen and hang out; therefore, they want to make their kitchen more extravagant.  So, kitchens have doubled, and tripled, in size.  Now, the kitchen not only has an island to sit at and an off kitchen nook with a table, but it has a bar area where you can sit at – along with a day room area where you can stare out of a wall of glass and eat your jelly donut as you hang out in the most favorite room in the house.

This trend of making kitchens the hangout part of the house is helping to contribute to the obesity issue in America.  Kitchens are not hangout spots; it is not Mel’s Diner from Alice, nor is it The Peach Pit from 90210.  At home, you are supposed to cook your food, eat it, and then off you go.  But, with the new trend, you hang out in the room where all of the temptations reside – the ding dongs, the ho-ho’s, the 2 liter soda bottles, the bread, the ice cream, and yesterday’s leftovers.  And, as you hang out in the kitchen, you will be more likely to graze as you congregate.  Thus, you pack on the calories and the pounds.

Even if you were to graze on healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables; calories are calories.  And, overconsumption of any food leads to obesity.

5. Living Rooms

I must admit, the living room is not a design flaw of new home builders.  The living room design has been around since homebuilding began, and it was people, not builders, who have messed this one up.  However, the new home designs have accentuated the living room design flaw.

The flaw, and the irony, with the living room is that most people do not live in their living rooms.  It is the one room in the house that you are not even allowed to go in.  The room is strictly for show, designed to display your “good” furniture, and it is the room that you pass through on your way to the office (the new building trend), the great room, the family room, the bonus room, and the ever-so-popular kitchen area – where everyone hangs out, now.

So, why do homebuilders still build living rooms?  If you have a great room for entertaining, a bonus room for doing “extra” stuff, a theater room to watch movies, a family room to gather as a family, and a kitchen where everyone goes to hang out as if they were at The Peach Pit, then what do you do in the living room? 

Maybe you die in the living room.  Maybe that is where you put Aunt Sarah when she’s old and her final hours are upon her.  That’s it; you die in the living room – the room where no one can enter or sit.  They can only look and say, “What a beautiful furniture collection.  It’s so white and so suede.  And, I see Aunt Sarah is ready to make that final train ride to the afterlife.”

The death room…formerly known as the living room.  It is, also, the room that should have died years ago.

6. Bad Location, Location, Location

Again, developers are profit driven.  Their goal is to deliver products and sell them as quickly as possible.  And, with the recent real estate boom and the demand for newer homes, land was being sought by developers in any location they could find.

One of the biggest mistakes a homebuyer can make is to forego the age-old real estate mantra of location, location, location.  The location of your property is more important than the property, itself, because buildings can always be modified and improved, but the location of the property is permanent.  There are so many homes that are less than five years old that cannot sell right now because of the location of the property relative to its price.  Meanwhile, there are other communities, both young and old, that are defying the real estate slump and selling like hotcakes due to its location and the stability of the neighborhood.

Be mindful of where the developer is building.  Inspect the area and make certain that the area is going to be developed in a manner that will benefit the neighborhood.  This can be done by visiting your local county’s planning and development website or office, by paying attention to the local news, and by scoping the area out and seeing the current state of what is developed or being developed.

If the houses being built are not in alignment with the current and future vision and planning, or the zoning ordinances, then you may want to steer clear of purchasing that new house and find another developer with a better location.  Or, get a resale property in an already established neighborhood.

25 Songs that will Sum Up Your Professional Career
By A.J. Smith, AJSmith365.com Founder
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Face it, more than likely, you are going to be employed at some organization or running your own business for quite a long time.  If you are lucky, you will be employed at some fantastic organization that actually gets it – you know, they have abandoned the old philosophy of management and organizational cultures and have stepped into the twenty-first century and embraced innovative, quality of life techniques to retain their talent and grow their organization.

Unfortunately, most people reading this will be stuck with a plantation-style manager; an analog leader trying to operate in a digital world.  For those of you who are running a VCR-type of organization that is devoutly resisting the DVR-type of corporate culture, or if you are working in the type of environment that thinks ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) is an employee in accounting, I have put together my top 25 songs that will, probably, sum up the next thirty-plus years of your career.  So, read this list, go to your computer, and download these tunes.  And, the next time you go to work, put these songs in heavy rotation.

25. Slave to the Grind (Skid Row)

Get ready to roll up your sleeves and get knee-deep in the trenches.  The work will be long and hard, but, hopefully, rewarding.  And, there is going to be plenty of it for the next thirty-something years.  But, if the work is not rewarding and you are stuck in one of those analog management environments, good luck.

24. Criticize (Alexander O’Neal)

For those days when your boss feels super-critical of your work, your investors or stakeholders continually complain about their return on investment, or when it is you who feels the need to gripe and moan at your subordinates.

23. Outta Here (Esmee Denters)

It’s so amazing how you have so many faces/ and you are not that person I thought that I had fell so deep in love with/ you changed up your makeup, your DNA/ I can’t recognize/ you’re a stranger to me/ I feel so betrayed/ what a waste of my heart and me.  The words say it all.  This is for all of those employees who were deceived in their interview and the job announcement about what they were going to be doing, only to find out that the actual work is totally different than what they were told they were going to be doing.  Get outta there!

22. Virtual Insanity (Jamiroquai)

Virtualization, XML, DHTML, automation, scalability, spoofing, BFF, LOL, OMG, DNS…

OMFG!!!

21. Big Mouth (Whodini)

Everyone, at some point in time, falls victim to the gossip line.  There is always that one employee that spreads the word of your divorce, IRS audit, or major crush on the new person in the office.  But, chances are, you are the big mouth who gave the information to the other big mouth in the organization.

20. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) (Michael Jackson)

There goes the newly-hired employee or intern strolling down the hall and you have just got to meet them.  You spend half of your work day trying to find out where they sit or what shift they are on.  Or, you foolishly passed up hiring the Wharton School of Business graduate with ten years of proven business success for the young, Community College graduate armed with an Associate’s degree, a nice smile, and great bone structure.  Way to go!

19. Poison (Bell Biv DeVoe)

Like the song says, never trust a big…err…derriere and a smile.  Keep your place of business as business, and find pleasure on your own time.  Indeed, Jane Doe’s figure may be severely accentuated in that tight-fitting skirt and low-cut blouse while propped up on some four-and-a-half inch, red stiletto shoes.  But, you, your friendly Labor and Employee Relations (LER) representative, and her lawyer will become the best of friends if you ask her if you can “smack it up, flip it, and rub it down.”  Oh, no.

18. Me Against the World (2Pac)

You have been turned down by every bank for a loan to jump-start that perfect business venture of yours.  No one, not even your family, believes in your business idea and they are betting the farm that you will fail – miserably.  Your co-workers are conspiring against you, and your boss has given you the worst performance appraisal of your career.

17. Computer Love (Zapp featuring Roger Troutman)

The Crackberry fiends stay glued to their company-issued mobile devices.  You can recognize them, easily; they are in every meeting glaring at their smart phones instead of focusing on the meeting.  When their mobile devices go down, or their computers crash, they suffer massive withdrawals.

16. 21 Questions (50 Cent)

For those moments when your boss, or your subordinates, ask you a million-and-one questions that even a simpleton could answer.  How many times must you repeat yourself?  (That’s question number twenty-two.)

15. Holiday (Madonna)

This is for the precious, and few, times that we get paid for not coming in and being a Slave to the Grind.   Even if you do not get paid for holidays, you still relish in the fact that the day is yours to command.

14. All Apologies (Nirvana)

You arrived at work, late.  You just spilled coffee on your clothes, your work computer, and the company mainframe.  You chewed out your co-worker, subordinate, or boss, erroneously, and realized that you were, in fact, completely wrong.  Now, it is time for you to make a grand mea culpa.

13. Let’s Go Crazy (Prince)

You better look for the purple banana because they are about to put you in the truck.  What is the tipping point when all of your customers pick the same day to complain, your subordinates cannot seem to function without you intervening, and your peers drop the ball and leave you to clean up their mess? 

12. Creep (TLC)

For the co-workers who take collaboration to the next level, but cannot let the rest of the organization know just how close they have really gotten.

11. Back Stabbers (O’Jays)

“They’re smiling in your face, but all the while they wanna take your place.”  The back stabbers are always planning your downfall.  They are in the boss’, or Board of Directors’, ear as to why you should be eighty-sixed.  And, if you are not on your guard, they just might succeed. 

10. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)

What ever happened to employees doing their job the way that it should be done?  Or, the boss acknowledging that you did something right.  Why can’t you get off on the day that you requested, or your customers understand that you are just the messenger and cannot perform miracles upon their request?

9. Stan (Eminem)

You have a secret admirer in the organization who obsesses over you.  They take your mentoring or leadership and extrapolate it to a realm of admiration.  The next thing you know, you have got a shrine outside of your workspace – complete with picture, candles, flowers and rosemary incense.

8. Thank God It’s Friday (Love and Kisses)

Friday means party time, freedom, and free drinks until 7pm.  Even more, you do not have to be a Slave to the Grind for another sixty hours.

7. Saturday Love (Cherrelle)

Let’s face it, Saturday is really the only true day you can enjoy.  Friday, you have worked all day and can only enjoy the evening.  It is because you are off on Saturday that you can party Friday afternoon without any repercussions.  And, Sunday, you are too busy moping around the house because you have to go to work on Monday; therefore, you have to go to bed, early.  Saturday is your only, true love.

6.  After the Love Has Gone (Earth, Wind & Fire)

Unfortunately, all love affairs soon come to an end.  Something will happen along the way and what used to be happy will be sad.  That love affair with your organization will soon fade away and you will be diligently working your networks and the job vacancies for a new love.

5. For the Love of Money (O’Jays)

Most people do not take the O’Jays’ advice: “don’t let money change you…almighty dollar”.  Sometimes, money makes you do things that you say you will never do, like neglect your family, undercut your peers to gain favor with the boss, abuse your employees, or manipulate financial records.

4. What Have You Done for Me Lately (Janet Jackson)

Well?  What?  Have you finished the reports on time?  Have your sales numbers increased?  Have you signed off on my promotion?  Yeah, I know you used to do nice things for me.  But, what…have…you…done...for…me…late-ly?

3. Don’t Worry, Be Happy (Bobby McFerrin)

When all is going wrong in the world of business, and you cannot seem to catch a break, a little happiness may be the very thing to bring you some Satisfaction.

2. U Can’t Touch This (MC Hammer)

The business animals want to tear you down and the back stabbers and haters are constantly working on your downfall.  But, after you launch your latest business venture, complete that big project, or get that promotion you worked so hard for, just brush your shoulders off and tell them, you can’t touch this.

1. End of the Road (Boys II Men)

After everything is said and done, you will reach that beautiful moment when you can clean off your desk and shut off that computer for the last time.  Or, you can hand over the helm of your empire to your sons and daughters and watch the next generation of you take the company into a new era.  Your career will come full circle.  And, hopefully, as you look back on your professional accomplishments, you can laugh at the trivial oddities and bask in the glory of the mark that you left on someone’s organization, career, or life.

In conclusion, your career will be defined by the music you put to it.  Make it melodic, poetic, and in tune with the beat of your dreams.


Reasons Why We Should be Like Diddy
By A.J. Smith, AJSmith365.com Founder
Saturday, August 31, 2009

Although I am a business professional who has developed multi-million dollar IT systems for the private industry and the Government sectors, I have grown up on hip-hop and consider myself to be a part of the hip-hop culture.  And, growing up on hip-hop means that you are, definitely, familiar with Sean “Diddy” Combs and his success in the hip-hop and fashion world.

And, as I evaluate my own career and successes in business, it has made me sit back and reflect on the success of Sean “Diddy” Combs and admire the qualities in him that has helped him attain the success that he has, today.  As I sit back and reflect on how Diddy managed to become a globally-recognized brand, it becomes that much clearer to me why I have liked Diddy for all of these years.  And, if you are looking to become a success in the business world, here are some reasons why you should like Diddy, too.

1. He Throws the Illest Parties

Nobody parties like Sean “Diddy” Combs.  Every celebrity and “it” person wants to be at a Sean Combs party.  Whether he is partying in the Hamptons or throwing an awards party in L.A., anyone who is, or wants to be, someone is breaking their necks to get on the invite list.  His perennial white party in the Hamptons is the ultimate summer event.  And, when Diddy tells you to where white, you wear white or you do not get in the door (except if your name is Russell Simmons).

2. He is a Great Promoter/Self-Promoter

If you want your product to be successful, people have to know about it.  And, although there is a thin line between promotion and shameless self-promotion, Diddy incessantly promotes his brand with such swagger and charisma that we seem to dismiss the fact that it is a shameless plug at an inopportune moment.

Diddy’s ability to promote a brand is almost as equivalent to the late Billy Mays’ ubiquitous television infomercials for many upstart inventions trying to make it into the mainstream.  His charismatic approach to branding and promoting his artists made Bad Boy Records the prototype for hip-hop labels in the 1990s.  Likewise, it was his promotional ingenuity that has given Sean John clothing, Sean John cologne, and Ciroc vodka an industry competitive advantage in the 21st century.

3. He Makes Everything Look Cool

Sean “Diddy” Combs made the simple act of putting on cologne a sexy process.  His racy Sean John cologne advertisements for his Unforgivable fragrance has caused an uproar with the uptight and un-cool people in society, but has stimulated the hip, flashy and affluent – and those that strive to be in this socio-economic group – to immediately embrace the brand as the fragrance of choice.  Even the name he chooses for his brands are cool.  Unforgivable.  Sounds fly, doesn’t it?

The decision to wear, or not wear, Diddy’s cologne could be a life-altering choice.  Wearing the Sean John fragrance is showing your sexy.  Not wearing the Sean John fragrance is, simply, unforgivable.   

How many, other, people can make a glass bottle of clear vodka look like a Princess Canary diamond or a Rolls-Royce Phantom?  Well, Diddy took the Ciroc vodka brand and made it into the must-have drink in every social setting.  He made drinking Ciroc vodka the cool thing to do in any social setting.  Better yet, he made it the proper thing to do in any social setting.  If you did not order a glass – better yet, a bottle – of Ciroc in a club or at a social event, you would be immediately expurgated from the premises, cast out of any elite circles, and considered a social pariah.

4. He Has Style

Diddy can diversify his look and transition from jeans, a virgin-white t-shirt, and some nice “kicks”, to a well-coordinated suite-and-tie ensemble with the ease that Dr. Ben Carson performs surgery on the central nervous system.

Diddy makes cool look “cool.”  The shades, the suites, the swagger, and the way he dances all conveys self-confidence, style, an elitist attitude, and a sense of direction.  His attitude says to the world “There is a drought over, here, in this area.  If you follow me, I will lead you to the best water you will ever taste in your life.  And it’s sexy water, too.  You can skinny dip in it.”

5. He Thinks Big and Executes with Precision

From the time Diddy hit Howard University’s campus he was promoting parties and fine-tuning his marketing skills.  As an intern with Uptown Records, Diddy had a vision of modernizing the look and sound of R&B music to better align it with the youth and the culture that truly supported it – the inner-city youths that controlled the direction of fashion and style and were the ones the suburban kids idolized and patterned their lifestyles after.

From his vision, Diddy introduced the world to the likes of Mary J. Blige and Jodeci.  And, to launch his Bad Boy record label, Diddy continued to redefine R&B and hip-hop music by discovering and sculpting the careers of Craig Mack, Faith Evans, and the Notorious B.I.G.

Diddy’s always looked towards the future of any industry.  He did not wait for the future to be defined; he chose to define it.  He demands perfection from his staff, and himself, so that his products are perfectly aligned with his vision.  He is always in forward-thinking mode and expects anyone associated with him to be just as meticulous, and proficient, as he is.

6. He is the Ultimate Networker

Diddy is a natural extrovert; it is a part of his DNA.  I do not think he can go a day without interacting with at least 20 people.  Some people are born with it, and some people are not. 

Diddy’s swagger attracts a lot of the elite people in business, fashion and entertainment.  He is the premiere Lifestyle Specialist that all others aspire to be.  People want to associate with Diddy not only because of who he is, but also because of who he knows.  Imagine if you were a business owner and wanted to align yourself with some beautiful, or handsome, A-list celebrities, the best place for you to network would be at a Diddy function. 

Just by being at a Diddy white party in the Hamptons or any other affair is going to get you instant credibility and contacts in the business and entertainment world.  What other person do you know has a party with a diverse group of attendees?  By attending just one Diddy function you can network with Ellen DeGeneres, Ashton Kutcher, Lil’ Kim, Nas, Tommy Lee, Star Jones and the Olsen twins.  Now, how diverse of a crowd is that?

Even more important than who Diddy knows is who Diddy does not know.  Diddy makes certain that his network works for him and not against him.  That is why he surrounds himself with people whose attitude, energy and output closely aligns with his own.  He keeps the naysayers out of his network and puts the fly, flashy and productive people into his network.

Also, if you are an older person with a business directed towards a more mature audience, aligning yourself with Diddy is the best way to tap into the younger, cooler consumer market.  And, whatever the young and cool buy, everyone buys.

7. His Name Says It All

The “D”, to the “I”, to the D-D-Y.  The name Diddy is unique and synonymous with one person, only – Sean Combs.  If you say Bill, you could be referring to Bill Gates, former President Bill Clinton, or comedian Bill Cosby.  If you say Mike, you could be referring to Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, or Mike Tyson.  But, when you say “Diddy”, make no mistake about it; people know that you are referring to Sean “Diddy” Combs.

Your name is the foundation of your brand.  When people hear the name General Electric, they think of quality products.  When people hear or see the name Sony, they think of electronic innovation.

But, when people see or hear the name Diddy, they think style, cool, sexy, and excellent quality.  They think of something that is cutting-edge and en vogue. 

They think of Sean Combs.


Michael Jackson: Effective Career Moves We Should Learn from the King of Pop
By A.J. Smith, AJSmith365.com Founder
Monday, August 10, 2009

Michael Jackson, without equivocation, was the greatest entertainer of the new millennium.  Some may want to argue this point, but the career statistics do not lie.  Michael Jackson is a double-inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (with The Jackson Five and as a solo artist), he has over thirteen Grammy awards, thirteen #1 hit singles, around eighteen Guinness Book of World Records entries, and the greatest selling album of all time – Thriller (over 50 million copies worldwide).

As Michael Jackson makes his Thriller transformation from an iconic pop star to an Invincible supernova, he can add one, other, accomplishment to his Off the Wall resume: that of a career consultant.

Yes, career consultant.

Michael Jackson, the greatest entertainer to ever slip on a pair of penny loafers, was generous enough to display his signature career moves, on stage, to help us improve our Human Nature in our respective professions.  You can "Say, Say, Say what you want" about the King of Pop, but these, classic, MJ moves may help save your professional career.

1. The Moonwalk

This gravity-defying move that he displayed at Motown's 25th Anniversary show launched Michael Jackson into a different stratosphere.  By gliding backwards, MJ was able to propel his music career light-years ahead of everyone else in the game.

Sometimes, in our personal and professional lives, you have to go backwards in order to move forward.  There are times when we become deep in debt and can no longer pay our bills or are living paycheck-to-paycheck and are one accident away from financial ruins.  Then, there are those moments when we find ourselves in a career field, or organization, that does not nurture us or is so antagonistic that it begins to affect our physical and mental health.  It is during these times that you must find that perfect moment when you can make your backward slide in order to advance yourself to the place that you want to be.  This may require you to move back in with your parents or relatives in order to get your finances straight, or it may involve starting at the bottom of a career field that is more fulfilling to you.  Whatever the situation may be, do not look at going backward as a bad thing.  And, for goodness sake, do not miss the window of opportunity to fall back because, as MJ has shown us, the timing of your moonwalk and where you choose to display it, can greatly determine your successes in life.

2. The Lean

Now, I know that I am not the only person who has nearly injured themselves trying to see if I, too, could pull off the lean that Michael Jackson so effortlessly does in the Smooth Criminal video. 

Not only is he an entertainer, but Michael Jackson can, also, add "inventor" to his name, as he helped create the patent for the anti-gravity shoe (US Patent No. 5255452, filed June 29, 1992). 

According to the patent, the purpose of this design was for a "…system for allowing a shoe wearer to lean forwardly beyond his center of gravity by virtue of wearing a specially designed pair of shoes…"  This design allowed Michael and his dancers to lean at angles up to 45 degrees.

So, what, or who, do you lean on as you go through your professional career?  Do you align yourself with the right individuals within the organization that can help you attain your professional goals?  Can you lean on your peers during critical times to meet business deadlines and objectives, or to fend off those corporate sharks, snakes and other predatory animals in the workforce whose objective is to destroy your career or take your position within the organization (you need to read "The Business World is Full of Animals")?

Life is too complex to go at it alone.  Lean on your academic credentials, professional achievements, tools and skill sets that you have attained, and your network to help you navigate your professional career.  Donald Trump leans on his daughter, Ivanka, his son, Donald, Jr., his right hand man, George Ross, and his many Apprentices to maintain his business operations. 

Not only does it take a village to raise a child, but it takes a village to acquire and maintain a successful career, to establish and uphold a successful business, and to have an enjoyable life.

3.  The Spin

You could get dizzy watching Michael Jackson spin around like a top.  It was an effective stage move that Michael Jackson "borrowed" from Jackie Wilson and James Brown that complemented his electrifying persona.  The spin added to MJ's showmanship, and is a move that is – to this day – incorporated into the performances of many up-and-coming entertainers.

Put a different spin on what it is that you do and can offer an organization.  Differentiate yourself from your colleagues and show your subordinates why they should worship you; show your peers why they should admire you; and show your superiors why they should promote you.  Professionals are a dime a dozen.  So, what value do you possess over your counterparts?

Find the edge that you have over others in your line of work and make yourself a distinct, but valuable, asset to your company.  Make people recognize your "spin" and admire you for it.

4. The Signature MJ Kick

Everyone knows about the MJ kick.  Chris Tucker tried so hard in Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2 to imitate the move, but Michael Jackson once told him that he was using the wrong leg.  Wrong leg or not, I thought Chris Tucker did an excellent job performing the signature move.

Sometimes, we have to kick certain things out of our lives in order for us to maximize our potentials.  Although Michael Jackson loves his family, he had to "kick" The Jackson 5 (later, known as The Jacksons) out of his professional life so that he could become the legendary entertainer that he is, today.  Adam Jones (formerly known as Adam "Pac Man" Jones) had to "kick" alcoholism in order to regain his marketability to National Football League (NFL) teams and rebuild his brand image with the public.  And, Wall Street had to kick some of its bad, financial habits in order to keep stocks from plummeting into oblivion and further crippling the economy.

Kick the bad habits out of your life.  Lose the friends and co-workers that are more of a liability than an asset to you.  Kick the bad, social and professional habits (continuous, negative commentary; challenging behavior; non-team spirit; arriving to work late; applying minimal effort; unorganized; etc.) so that you can thrive in your environment.  Recognize your negative characteristics and perform your best MJ kick.

5. The Finger Point

Every lead singer and famous group has a strong finger pointing move that they use during a performance.  You know, the outstretched arm with four fingers balled tightly together and the index finger rigidly extending outwards.  Michael Jackson had one.  New Edition, the New Kids on the Block and Prince all had that finger that they would project at the audience that would pierce your soul like a laser.  They must teach this move in Entertainment 101 class or something.

Don't be afraid to point the finger at those who drop the ball because they will definitely point the finger at you if the roles were reversed.  Mind your approach, as the manner in which you point your finger is going to be situational.  If the person is antagonistic and needs to be put in their place, then make sure you point the finger with conviction and reproach.  If the environment is non-confrontational, then point the finger in a roundabout way.  But, whatever the situation may be, make sure that you provide resolutions for correcting the issue and, also, let the person know that the professional, or personal, relationship is not irreparably damaged.

6. Tip-Toes

Michael Jackson showed us he had a lot of balance when he would bend his knees and jump on the tip of his toes while bellowing out "HeeeeWhoooo!" during his Billie Jean performances.

As we go about our personal and professional lives, we have to continually stay on the tips of our toes, as well.

Watch out for vindictive and malicious co-workers who – so it seems – come to work with nothing better to do than to make others miserable (again, read "The Business World is Full of Animals").  Watch out for signs that the organization you work for is in turmoil so that you can dust off your resume and proactively navigate your professional career.

7. The Crotch Grab

In the '80s, Michael Jackson sure did love to grab his crotch.  In the music video for Black or White, MJ grabbed his crotched so much, while smashing out car windows, that the video got edited from its 8-minute format to a 6-minute one that excluded his crotch-grabbing, gyrating, window smashing exploits.

But, sometimes, you have to check your "goods" and make sure that they are, still, in place.  In other words, do not let anyone denigrate you in the workforce.  No matter what age, race, gender, cultural or religious differences that may exist, you are a human being just like they are (and, this is questionable with some people).  Just because someone is older than you, does not mean that they do not have to respect you in the workforce.  When it is your turn to lead, they should be following.  When you are talking, they should be listening and not being dismissive.  If they are being disrespectful, then you have the right to confront them on the issue and demand your respect.

Do not let someone professionally castrate you; thus, rendering you incapable of effectively executing your job and showcasing your skills and abilities to your superiors or stakeholders.  Someone's animosity, prejudices, and professional (or personal) insecurities towards you does not give them the right to disrespect you.  You should not have to feel professionally, or personally, inferior to someone because you are younger than they are, because you are in the minority demographic within your organization or community, or because you are just, plain, different.

Self-respect is worth more than any job or financial benefits.  Respect is unbiased and reciprocal.  You give it and you expect it.  When someone's respect for you goes out of the door, it is time for you to grab your crotch, check your "goods", and put that person in their place.

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