Stop Credit Card Thieves in the Act

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Setting Up Account Alerts Can Help Protect You From Fraud.

Did you realize that you can have your credit card company and bank notify you anytime there is activity on your account? This tool makes it very easy to catch fraud before it stings your wallet.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Finland, Vodka & the Allure of Introversion

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Finland, I had read, is a land of introverts.

Before landing in Helsinki, home to 600,000 of it’s 5.4 million Finns, I expected the lack of extroverts to mean I’d be delivering my keynote speech to a roomful of grumpy, anti-social Scandinavians. In the speaking business, we call it Death by Silence. By departure, I realized that not only is Finland not a part of Scandinavia1, but that introversion has little to do with reclusiveness, lack of expression or sociability.

Kristian, my taxi driver from the airport, confirmed in impeccable English that Finns, including him, would happily stare at their boots rather than look a stranger in the eye. We have not much time for small talk and if you smile at us before we know you, we might trust you less. And we like Formula One racing,” he added, with rumbling laughter. Racing is a solitary sport, I noted; laughter is not.

It’s difficult to explain how relieved I felt to be unequivocally off stage; we had absolutely no expectation of interaction, no requirement to talk. And so, in a cab where the December sun rises and sets in the frozen course of six hours, Kristian and I proceeded to have a warm, hour-long conversation comparing the average snowfall, rates of depression and political similarities of our two cultures. The lack of awkwardness I’d associated with introverts never showed itself. Despite being Meyers-Briggs certified in extroversion (and the related tendency to “blindly step over dead bodies as I make my way to the fridge” – as my family puts it), the irony of our social interaction didn’t elude me.

Zator Pub

It was purely coincidental, by the way, that I read Susan Cain’s calmly arresting book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking while in Helsinki. Content to be alone with my book, I flipped the electronic pages as I sipped a local drink – reindeer tears – made by dropping arctic ligonberries in a vodka-like, Finn-brewed shot of liquid flame called Koskenkorva. Sitting next to a tractor in a pub called Zetor, surrounded by folks who speak English as well as Finnish, Swedish as easily as German2, I was overcome by how darn social everyone was. Quiet, to borrow from Ms. Cain, but unquestionably social. Was the incongruity between expectation and reality caused by Finns consuming trays full of small icy shots called schnapps3, or was it my preconception of introversion that was slightly intoxicated upon arriving in the country?

The answer (more like drunk) came from two people whose names I can’t pronounce, a fiftyish couple who’d not yet had a drink when they sat next to me at the bar and promptly… struck up a conversation. I hadn’t had someone sober start a conversation with me in a bar since, well, ever4 . So enjoyable was our chat that only now, flying to Frankfurt, did I take the time to finish and read through my Kindled highlights of Quiet. Clear as vodka, my definition of introversion was cloudy at best. Here is my incomplete and oversimplified interpretation of Quiet5:

  1. Introversion, as distinguished from shyness6, is a “preference for environments that are not overstimulating” (e.g., overly noisy, crowded, busy or rushed).
  2. Introverts like quiet more than extroverts do. Extroverts like stimulation more than introverts do.
  3. Introverts and extroverts are both social, but in different ways. Neither way is superior or more normal than the other.
  4. Introverts tend to be energized by deeper conversations and smaller groups while extroverts tend to be fueled by broader relationships and larger gatherings.
  5. Introverts retreat into quiet (including intimate social conversations) to recharge, extroverts gather in crowds (sometimes small) to talk.
  6. Privacy and quiet are more highly correlated with innovation and mastery than are collaboration, group “officing” or creative brainstorming. In other words, privacy can be profitable in more ways that one. Check back in the next few days, when I’ll make the connection from introversion to privacy.
  7. You’re neither all introvert nor all extrovert, so expect to experience both ends of the spectrum and everything in between. Your test score is just a tendency, not your prison cell.

IMG_6609There I was, an extrovert taken in by one of the world’s “quietest” cities, staring down at my shoes until Finn after introverted Finn insisted on getting to know me, and then trust me. None of it, by the way, felt like small talk, even though, by definition, it was. Katri, the event planner, who after graciously explaining that my pronunciation of a certain Finnish word might get me fired, and/or killed8, dropped everything to book a dinner reservation for me at a special restaurant. Mikko, the young man who set up my audio-visuals and, as it turns out, sponsored the event! Klaus, from StoneSoft (McAfee), who made me part of the group during cocktail hour. The lovely couple who walked out of their way to lead my lost soul to Restaurant Lappi while conversing knowledgeably about Colorado ski areas. And Piotr, my final cabbie, who gave me a departing tour of Helsinki7, complete with running commentary on Finland’s long history with Russia, Sweden and the bottle.

Finland, I’d read, is a land of introverts – many of whom I now call friends.


1 Scandinavia is the peninsula geographically containing Norway and Sweden and culturally including Denmark.

2 Yes, most of the Nordic people I met spoke four languages. Finland is considered a Nordic country, which also includes Norway, Sweden, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

3 Literally, a mouthful of vodka, often flavored with fresh fruit.

4 Including bars, pubs and ale houses visited in extroversion-obsessed America.

Do yourself and your introverted friends a favor and don’t take my word for her research – read it yourself. You can buy it here.

Shyness, according to Cain, is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation. I’d venture to say that includes pretty much everyone who is not a sociopath (literally, sociopaths don’t care. But I digress).

7 No extra charge.

Not really.

John Sileo travels the world as part of his life’s work to make data privacy fun and relevant (so that it works). His latest trip took him to Helsinki, Finland, where he delivered the keynote speech at their nation’s annual Information Security Summit (after which he sampled reindeer and vodka). If you’d like John to infuse some life into your next event (technical or otherwise), call us on 800.258.8076.

Are You Over-Committed?

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Yes, you are an over-committed over-achiever.

How do I know with such certainty?

  1. The chances are very high that you are reading this on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s weekend instead of spending time doing all of the life-balance things you constantly promise yourself you will do (maybe in last year’s New Year’s resolution).
  2. You wouldn’t have continued past the title of this article if you weren’t at least a little bit over-committed, trending toward an over-achiever.
  3. Pretty much all of us are over-committed in this 24/7, hype-connected, information-addicted country we inhabit (having lived in other countries, I know that to a large degree, this is an American phenomenon).

We over-commit based on false assumptions: we think that saying “no” shows weakness or inability to pull our weight, or because we are flattered to be asked and honored to be validated. But the strongest, most successful people I know are masters of saying NO to the wrong projects/requests/responsibilities/people so that they can say YES AND DELIVER POSITIVE RESULTS in situations that move them in the right direction (as defined by them).

The problem with over-commitment is two-fold: 1. It works in the short term to make you more successful, therein reinforcing the bad habit and 2. It ultimately drains your life spirit, leading to long-term burnout. Even Rafael Nadal, the world’s greatest male tennis player takes time to recover. He works hard and then rests; he pushes himself hard and then recovers without guilt. This cycle isn’t only part of the organic ebb and flow of a healthy existence, it’s a necessity to maximize your performance.

Here’s the good news – unlike a serious illness, you can stop your addiction to over-commitment right now. Make this your last article of the day. Finish the one or two things on your to-do list that absolutely have to be done before you leave, and LET IT GO. And for the rest of the weekend, when it comes to surfing, emailing, texting, Tweeting, Facebooking and reading the news, just say no. TURN YOUR OVER-COMMITMENT ENABLER OFF (laptop, iPhone, BlackBerry). Promise yourself you will get back to it on Monday so that for now you can relax an be present enough to under-commit.

To a new year with great clarity and deep calm. Cheers.

In the interest of spending an under-committed holiday focusing on friends and family, business lifestyle coach John Sileo wrote and pre-scheduled this article well before he needed it.

Detained at Security for Having a *Bomb*

It’s snowing, non-stop a week ago Tuesday in Denver as I’m trying to catch a standby flight from Denver International Airport to a speech in Sacramento before the afternoon flights get canceled due to weather. I have an hour to spare. I put my bags on the belt and walk through the metal detector without a problem.

Until the TSA screener manning the X-Ray tells me not to move. Literally, he says, “don’t move”. I’ve been standing there for about two minutes when three or four other screeners come over and take a look at whatever is on his screen. I can’t see anything, and he won’t talk to me. When I ask him what the problem is, he won’t even make eye contact with me. But everyone else is looking at me.

Two police officers, or security guards, come and shut the entire line down and send everyone but me into another line. Now about 40 people are looking at me like I’m guilty. And then I stand there for 35 minutes, not allowed to move, not given a single answer of what is happening.

There are 11 people standing around the screen, one of them is taking photos with a special camera and sending them off to someone who keeps calling back on his cell phone. The whole time, I’m getting the sense that they are actually just observing me to see if I get nervous. I don’t look like a terrorist, but suddenly I feel like a terrorist.

Of course I’m nervous, because I now have about 20 minutes until my only chance out of the state leaves the ground and I still have to catch a train to my terminal. But I yawn and look straight at them to prove my innocence. Meantime, I’m thinking, “what did my kids slip into my briefcase that I didn’t know about?”

Eventually, they take me to one of their metal “examining” tables and take 6 swabs of my briefcase without touching anything on the inside. No explosives, so they gently take everything out of the case. 15 minutes and counting.

Finally, they pull out the last item – the power adapter for my new 11” Mac Air computer and a USB to Ethernet converter. Apparently, on an X-Ray machine, the aluminum magnetic power thingy (see the photo) looks strikingly similar to the fuse on a bomb. Pair it next to the USB Ethernet adapter (which they’d never seen before), and you have a recipe for delay.

I wasn’t sure whether to be mad at Apple for designing their plug like a bomb fuse, or angry with TSA for taking 45 minutes to figure out I wasn’t a terrorist. So I decided to be happy that TSA takes this stuff seriously and really is concerned about protecting our planes. They were doing their job, quite thoroughly, I might add. And I still made the flight with 3 minutes to spare. No worries.

Memphis Blues Can Give Your Life Purpose (If You'll Listen)

Why am I stuck in Memphis? I’ve been in four airports in the past 24 hours, which is how long I’ve been trying to get home to Colorado. I started in Fayetteville, North Carolina yesterday at lunch after an amazing day at Ft. Bragg speaking to soldiers (I got to try on the parachute uniforms of the mighty Golden Knights – don’t I look dorky?). But my flight left three hours late, so I missed my connection in Atlanta. I went to Atlanta anyway, because there aren’t many flights out of Fayetteville and I couldn’t picture myself staying in the 100 degree heat and 42,000% humidity for an entire weekend.

In Atlanta, I unsuccessfully stood by for three flights, all of which were closed to those of us with no mileage status on Delta. (Insight: I’ve gained a deep and bitter empathy with all of those travelers who don’t get the status perks we spoiled business travelers normally enjoy – flying as part of the herd humbles you like a lame dog left behind by the pack.) So Delta finally agreed to put me up in the Best Western. But the Best Western van (last of the night at 12 midnight) didn’t have any seats left, so I had to ride with the luggage in the back of the van.

At the Best Western, the elevators weren’t working, so I lugged my luggage up 11 flights of stairs to room 1111. I would have slept, but the couple in 1112 decided to share their honeymoon with me like a pair of rutting moose (meeses?). I’d forgotten all of the advantages youth bestowes on the lungs and sheer stamina. Since I never went to sleep, it was easy to make it back to the Atlanta airport for a 5:00 a.m. flight to Memphis that never left. Never even existed, because, get this, the plane had lost its peanut cart. Yes, they delayed us two hours and 300 angry connections because they were short on legumes. We all nearly went nuts, but couldn’t, cuz we had no cart.

A quick aside about why frustrating things happen to good people.

I’m not a person who thinks that everything happens for a reason, that there is a higher puppet putting me through experiences to teach me or reward me or punish me. I am, however a person who thinks that we can forge a reason out of everything that happens. As an example, if an anonymous visitor leaves a bushel of lemons on your porch, you can give their actions purpose (and therefore make your life better) regardless of their intentions. Use the lemons as batteries to power your daughter’s science fair project (alternative energy is in), grate the peels into your bitter-sweet British marmalade, or use the acidic pulp to bleach your whites naturally. Just don’t assume you were meant to make lemonade because that’s just accepting somebody else’s reality without adapting it to your life.

So if fate didn’t strand me in Memphis what purpose did I assign to being there? It took me almost six hours of B.B. King’s blues, two pulled-pork sandwiches, and three bottles of water (I had Delta vouchers for free food that I was bound and determined to use) to create my own purpose. And then it came to me – a symmetrical, logical, meaningful reason that would make it all worthwhile.

Ten years ago this month I traveled to Memphis with my new business partner to sign the papers that would lead to the complete destruction of my family’s 40-year-old business. By taking on this partner without doing my homework, I’d taken on a thief and a fraud who would steal hundreds of thousands from our customers and pin it all on me. Five years ago this month, at the suggestion of my wife, I decided to turn my experiences into a book and later, a professional speaking career that gives me joy every day. I was in that Memphis airport with so much time to spare so that I could spend a few minutes seeing how far I’ve come in a decade, to circle back to my roots, just like BB Kings music. I was there to find some closure, but only because that’s what I decided to make of the experience. Otherwise, it would have just been 30 hours without sleep, enlightenment or satisfaction.

Why are you in Memphis?

Wounded Warrior Gives Life Context

Walter Reed Medical CenterI had an amazing experience last week. I was lucky enough to share the stage with the very energetic Suze Orman (thus the self-promoting image to the left) at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. But Suze Orman wasn’t the amazing part, despite being a very dynamic woman. And I wasn’t the amazing part.

Our Warriors in Transition were the amazing part. They are in transition because they’ve sacrificed their limbs and eyesight and hearing and sanity and dignity defending our country in Afghanistan or Iraq. And it was the honor of a lifetime to meet some of them.

Talking with these wounded soldiers changed the way I look at the daily problems I have. To summarize Nando Parrado, one of the “Alive” survivors, comparing his life now to 30 years ago when his rugby team crashed in the Andes, I don’t have problems, I have issues. Surviving 72 winter days at 14,000 feet with no food while those around you are dying from a plane crash, frostbite and starvation? That’s a problem. Returning from a tour of duty with no legs, no job and night terrors? Problems. Facing everyday issues like looming project deadlines, stock declines and even unemployment? Issues, and nothing more.

I don’t mean to devalue the difficulty of getting through tough times; I mean to keep them in proper context compared to actual troubles. It’s awkward using someone else’s difficulties to make ourselves feel better about the issues we face in our own lives. But I think that it is okay if we genuinely feel their pain and use it to give us perspective and inspire positive adjustments in how we live. And that is what I experienced at Walter Reed that I never fully understood just seeing it through the media — I felt our soldier’s pain, all the way to my bones.

That’s what makes Walter Reed such a special place — they patiently and expertly transition each and every wounded warrior back into an entirely new life. They provide framework and support to turn troubles back into issues. And they do it well.

For me, Walter Reed will forever symbolize the depth and strength of the human spirit. It will give me context on how much hardship a person can take without breaking. And it will encourage me to share the burden of another person’s problems. Like a wheel-chaired wounded warrior told me shortly after my speech, “Enjoy those legs of yours for the both of us, brother.”

Brother, I will.

Professional speaker John Sileo shares his painful experiences of identity theft and data breach with audiences around the world that want to keep the issue of data theft from becoming bottom-line trouble. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. Contact John directly on 800.258.8076.

Our Obsession with Strengths

mona-lisaWe are obsessed with finding and leveraging our strengths, and it makes us boring.

For example, Marcus Buckingham, an intelligent, dynamic and well-spoken best selling author (with a lot of strengths), tells us to Go Put our Strengths to Work. One of his premises, as discussed in his article What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differntly, is Imbalance. In discussing why more women are less happy than ever, he says it’s because they are too focused on balance:

… when you are balanced, you are stationary, holding your breath, trying not to let any sudden twitch or jerk pull you too far one way of the other. You are at a standstill. Balance is the wrong life goal. Instead, do as these women [the self-proclaimed “happiest” ones in his survey) did, and strive for imbalance. Pinpoint the strong-moments in each aspect of your life and then gradually tilt your life toward them.

In other words, do the things that make you feel good and get rid of the things that don’t. It strikes me that things like growth, risk, failure, mistakes, and heartache add a richness to life that can’t be had by staying permanently transfixed in your comfort zone. I think Marcus needs to get out of his intellectual zip code. Not everyone’s definition of success includes the word MORE or BETTER.

Here are just a few of the side-effects of imbalance:

  • Kids who get tracked into a single year-round sport before age 10 because that is the only way to make the team year after year (forget fun, we’re talking scholarships here). In the meantime, they miss experiences in music, art, academics and even the somewhat extinct “playing in the front yard.”
  • Parents whose imbalance consists of spending every waking non-working minute running their kids to the next activity
  • Women who think that in order to be worthy, they have to have a career, have kids, have the perfect house and have sex at least at the “national average” of four times a week. Come on folks, we all know that ain’t happening much past college.
  • A workforce that feels pressure to follow their passion and maximize their strengths when most people are happy, yes, happy, to get the job done well and bring home a check.
  • Adam Smith-inspired corporations that want you to be the very best pin-head assembler you can be (your strength) because it makes them more profitable

To the Strength-Obsessed: Chill Out! Give yourself a break, and give us a break. Success in life is measured by more than getting ahead, by being more efficient, by constantly shining. Competition is wonderful, but so is well-roundedness. It’s narcissistic to focus only on those things we do well (our strengths) and to ignore the affect this has on everyone around us. Add some variety to your life, because people who spend their life only doing what they are good at ARE BORING.

Clutter and disorganization is one of my well honed strengths – and not just at home. But to follow this strength shows no respect for anyone else living with me. Playing to my strength would make my wife’s life miserable, and in business, it would cost me a great deal of time and money.

If Leonardo da Vinci had focused on his strengths, we wouldn’t have The Mona Lisa (painting wasn’t considered his strength). We wouldn’t have had W as our President. And we certainly wouldn’t be here, at the end of this post, wondering how we can improve our… weaknesses to make us kinder, healthier people.

It seems like I’m not the only one thinking along these lines. Read this comment from a friend of mine:

Happiness.  I’ve been searching everywhere for it. I’ve over-worked, over-exercised, over-eaten, over-organized…over-everything…trying to find that ever elusive feeling of peace of mind. I have spent a good chunk of my life trying to be more than because I have felt less than.

So when I read Marcus Buckingham’s blog post on “What The Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently,” I was not only frustrated but saddened, mostly because all of those old feelings of inadequacy came rushing back in. I have been out of balance my whole life. I have lived with “Imbalance.” And where has it gotten me? I have been wrapped up in a big ball of anxiety, afraid of anything that I can’t do to the extreme.

While I think Mr. Buckingham has some very valid points, his theory of living a life of “imbalance” and focusing only on one’s strengths makes me feel like a failure. Part of my recovery has been learning to accept my limits and embrace those darker places of myself that I don’t necessarily like. I am human. I am soft. I am hard. I am strong. I am weak. I am a complete and multi-dimensional person.

If I live in the way Mr. Buckingham suggests, how am I supposed to feel when those less than perfect feelings or personality traits creep in? According to the Buddhist tradition, Life is Joy and Life is Pain. You would never catch a Buddhist monk saying “Only live your life from your strengths.” It’s just not realistic, nor does it foster a sense of true self esteem. Sometimes feeling good about yourself comes from accepting your weaknesses and moving beyond them. If we are always strong, what makes us turn to others for help or compassion?

It just sounds too exhausting to me to have to always be living from strength. Some days I relish my weakness, for it connects me to the frailty of human life. My heart is more tender because I am vulnerable and human. I won’t lie, I love it when my life is moving forward, I am capitalizing on my strengths and I feel like I can conquer the world.

But the truth is, I feel the most connected to the world when my heart is broken and someone I love helps me pick up the pieces.

John Sileo teaches his audiences to not to immediately accept everything you hear or read, even if it tastes sweet to begin with. Sometimes it’s just full of saccharine. Interested in teaching your next audience to think for themselves? Contact John Directly on 800.258.8076 or visit www.ThinkLikeAspy.com.

The Fear of Honesty

We’ve gone soft; we fear honesty. I think we even fear being honest with people more than we fear people being honest with us. Honesty has become synonymous with ugly confrontation, rather than just being, well, honesty.

Yesterday, a good friend emailed me a two sentence note reminding me that I hadn’t done something that I’d promised I would do. What I had promised is immaterial to this post, but that I had promised to do it, and then failed, is very important. I gave my word to a good friend, and then ignored my promise. And he had the guts to remind me. In fact, he’s laughing at me right now that I even consider his reminder to be a big deal, because to him it would be phony not to remind me. That’s who he is. And he’s a better friend for it. And in no way could what he did be called confrontational. Direct, yes. Honest, yes.

Here’s the striking part that makes me uncomfortable — I only have THREE friends (in addition to my wife, who is my honesty compass) who have the backbone to call me on something like this. And that makes me sad, because I have many friends, and it means that most of the time I’m probably not hearing the whole truth, maybe just a watered down version of what they think I want to hear. And who knows, maybe that is what I want to hear. Worse yet, I’m not sure I would have confronted me like my friend did (even though it was something minor), which means that I’m no better that those I’m condemning as soft.

But I’m condemning you (us) anyway. I spend my entire workday in the world of fraud; how people are conning each other out of money, mostly. I am surrounded by stories of the wickedly, cleverly dishonest. And I have to say, by shutting up and putting up with them, we enable them. Let me share an example.

As you’ll see from previous posts, I’m constantly being asked for my opinion on the negative impact of social networking (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) in the workplace, especially by the CEOs of companies. When people ask me about this, they are usually asking because they want an answer from a privacy perspective: how information is leaking out of their company through social media. Which it is, and I share that with them. But they ask with such urgency – like they are trying to find a reason to crack down on its use.

But the more honest answer that I rarely mention, an answer they themselves sense and are unwilling to confront, at least person to person, is that the real damage of social networking on the workplace comes from the fact that we are spending our work day in personal conversations (enabled by social media) that seriously and negatively impact our productivity. We say that we tweet for business reasons, but a lion’s share of our surfing is personal. How often are we reminded that we’re not getting paid to get back in touch with high-school buddies. Now, I might write it in an article, but to actually say it to someone’s face (the offender) is an entirely different gravity of backbone.

Do we fear offending people, or not being liked? Are we afraid we might get fired, or lose a friendship? I don’t think so.

I think we have unknowingly created a culture that punishes people for honesty:

  • We become social outcasts because we let a neighbor know that their kid was mis-behaving in our home (which he was) and we don’t ask them to stop negatively spinning the story to the rest of our neighbors. And we defend our kid, even when we know that they were mis-behaving.
  • We don’t listen to the news unless it is slathered and tainted with our own self-centered political perspective (do you really think you are getting the most honest version of the story from Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann?). We don’t want the actual news, we want yummy confirmation about our vision of how the world should be. In the media, honesty is just too boring. If you don’t have an outrageously provocative opinion (by definition, dishonest), it just won’t sell. How many of us watch The Lehrer Report on PBS? How many of us just dismissed that reference to impartiality based on our political views?
  • We ask for 360 Feedback at work and once it is given, go home and complain about how “off” our boss was. But we never tell our boss, we never have the conversation.

The net result of Fearing Honesty is that we become dishonest with ourselves. We drink the Cool-aid, so to speak. We know that no investment returns 15% year, even in bad years, but we continue to give our money to the Bernie Madoffs of the world, hoping. We tell our spouses that the relationship is strong because we can’t bare to tell them the truth. Instead of being direct, we step out on them. We know we need to change, but not as much as the next guy.

Even if you’ve made it this far in the article, you probably won’t see the world differently when you look up from the screen. I’m wondering if I will. If so, it will be thanks to my friend.