Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Thinking outside of the box and seizing the opportunities in front of you.

Food For Thought 3-16-07

Hi friends, this is Harry Blalock; General Manager for radio stations KZMI & KCNM. It’s that time once again to take a look at the issues of the week, and to offer some Food For Thought.

As many of you know, I’m a bit of a stickler for accountability of our elected officials. After all, I believe if they are supposed to be representing us and we are paying them to do it, then they need to tell us what they are doing with the money we give them and how they spend their time. Let’s strip away all the pretense and the titles here and take a sensible look at the situation. They are our employees, plain and simple. We have elected them, and hired them to represent us. Therefore they are answerable to each and every one of us. If you have a question as to how they spend their time, or what they did on their last trip they took on official business, then they owe you an explanation. After all, it’s your money that’s paying their salary, and it was your votes that put them in office. If they now think they don’t have to answer to anyone because they are a mighty congressman or senator, they are sadly mistaken, and will most likely lose their job in the upcoming election as a result. Yet if you’ve ever tried contacting one of them or finding them in their office, you might realize they’re not very easy to get in touch with at all.

I understand that a certain congressman was speaking to Sam McPhetres current issues class recently, and told them that he was disappointed in many of his colleagues and that the students should actually follow some of the congressmen around all day to see just what they really did. Well, I guess some of the students took him up on his challenge and tried putting in phone calls to some of the various congressmen, and went to the legislature parking lot to see just what time the congressmen actually showed up for work, and how much time they put in on the job. I understand that their findings are very interesting, and I’d love to have them come on Island Issues and tell us what they discovered about some of the politicians. And if you’re a congressman who didn’t bother returning some phone calls that were placed to your office, you might want to start worrying whether you were the target of these investigations or not.

I’ve always said that an informed educated vote is the best vote, and I am making my microphone available to these students to come in and share the results of their little experiment. Something tells me that there are going to be a bunch of politicians out of work after this coming election. So any rate, be listening for those interviews, hopefully coming soon to Island Issues.

The next thing I want to talk about today is thinking outside the box and looking at things differently. I had the opportunity to be one of the judges for the Saipan Community School Science Fair earlier this week. Some of the projects were the typical ones you think of when you think of a school science fair, moldy bread, homemade fire extinguishers and volcanos. But then there were some that you could tell put some real thought into their projects, and the projects were the result of an inquisitive and curious mind. For example one girl noticed that she couldn’t taste food when she was sick and her nose was plugged. So she started wondering how much of our ability to taste is connected to sight and smell. And she decided to take away sight and smell and see if people could tell the difference between different flavors of Skittles. Do you think you could? You might be surprised at the results. But the thing that impressed me the most about this student was that this project was the result of her own inquisitiveness and creativity. She didn’t just go looking for a science experiment online or in some science book. She took her own experiences and used them as the basis for her project.

Another project that impressed me was a steam-powered boat. The student wanted to find out how much energy can be produced by something like a simple candle. So he built the boat and he built a heating chamber which when heated by the candle produced steam which traveled down and out the tubes that protruded out the end of the boat, providing the power to push the boat around in a basin full of water. There were a couple things that really impressed me about this student. The first time he tried the experiment it wasn’t successful, the glue melted, the boat sank and a few other problems surfaced. But rather than call the experiment a failure, he was determined to figure out what he did wrong and improve on his design so it would work the next time. And with a few modifications, the experiment worked and the steam engine did indeed power the boat. In his conclusion about his report, he talked about the importance of investigating alternative energy sources and how important things like this would be for the future. This boy got it. He understood that science really does connect to real life, and that there is a real importance in understanding science and how it can improve our lives. And by the way, did I mention that these were 5th grade students?

It’s that kind of thinking we need more of. We need people who see opportunities instead of obstacles, and who are willing to take the road less traveled. There are unique opportunities all around us, but do you have your eyes open? Are you paying attention, or are you too focused on your own misery and circumstances? I was speaking to some students at Kagman High School Thursday morning about the Chamber of Commerce scholarships and one of the students asked me what Food For Thought was going to be about this week. I told him I really had no clue that I was still looking for a topic. Then later that evening I was judging the Saipan Community School Science Fair and there was my topic right in front of me. Again, the topic wasn’t all written out for me and wasn’t blatantly obvious, but it was there just the same, it just took some time to think about it and pull it together. Many of the opportunities around us are the same way, they don’t have flashing neon signs on them saying “Opportunity Knocking”. You need to take some time to study them, to think them over, and to realize the potential that is there. Many people don’t exercise their brains enough, and have dulled their senses to the point that they wouldn’t recognize an opportunity if it came up and bit them in the butt.

Another shining example of recognizing opportunities that are all around us is Mike Tripp. Mike was out here working as a pharmacist to support his diving habit. I have a radio gig to support mine. Mike had his camera in tow on nearly all of his dives, and was taking some pretty amazing video footage. He finally got the idea to put it all together, and make a DVD of the dives available on Saipan. His concept was great, and to my knowledge hadn’t been done yet. Why not? Was Mike the first person who ever went diving here with a video camera? Hardly, but Mike was the one who took the initiative to do something with his video footage and then package it and market it. You can now find The Underwater World of Saipan for sale in many stores around the island. It’s good for Mike, since he has found a way to make some money off his passion and hobby, instead of just having to earn money to fund his passion and his hobby. And it’s good for Saipan, because now we have a very valuable marketing tool for Saipan as a dive destination. Who knows where these DVD’s will wind up and how many new divers they may wind up attracting to dive here. Mike saw an opportunity and seized on it. He might not wind up getting rich off his idea, but then again he might, you just never know. The one thing for sure is he would never know if he didn’t try. And since he is diving and taking video anyway, why not use it for something productive and see if you can’t make some money from it. It’s called an untapped opportunity that was sitting right in front of Mike, and all the rest of us that dive as well.

I had gotten a digital camera and underwater housing shortly before I met Mike and saw his DVD, and had started playing with it underwater myself. I started showing some people some of the pictures I had been taking, and they commented that they looked like professional shots. I take my share of bad pictures too, but I do have some that have turned out pretty well. So was this an opportunity for me as well? Well, I’m diving every weekend anyway, and I always have my camera with me now, and it doesn’t cost me anything to develop the digital pictures, so why not give it a shot? For the fairly reasonable cost of $150 a year I signed up for a website that gives you unlimited storage for all your pictures and video and it even let’s you set your own pricing for them and market them. So for a very minimal investment, I am using something I already had anyway, and seeing if I can make any money with it or not. If I never tried, I would guarantee that I wouldn’t be wasting that $150, but then again I wouldn’t have the opportunity to market my own pictures and turn it into a business of my own. If you’d like to see some of my pictures and what I’m talking about, you’re welcome to take a look at my website, it’s www.saipandiver.smugmug.com.

Most opportunities are going to have a certain amount of time and money required to take advantage of them. But like the old saying goes, nothing ventured – nothing gained! Are there opportunities right in front of your face? Do you have an idea for something in the back of your mind? Are you ready to take a chance and see what happens? You might want to start off small, but be ready, because small ideas have this habit of turning into big opportunities.

Yes, things are very tough here economically right now, and many people are having a very difficult time making ends meet. But that may be just what you need to push you to try something you never would have tried before. If you’re afraid to take the plunge yourself, then talk to someone else who has already done it, they will probably be more than happy to share their experiences with you and steer you in the right direction. Good luck, keep your eyes open, and don’t be afraid of opportunity when it comes knocking.

I’m Harry Blalock, thanking you once again for giving me a generous slice of your valuable time, and allowing me to share my Food For Thought.

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My commentary that airs on radio stations KZMI - 103.9 FM & KCNM - 101.1 FM