Free Form Friday: The REAL Keys To Success



(1) To distort: To make something appear different than it is

He distorted the benefits to make them seem better than they really are.

(2) To work out: To have a good result

Unfortunately, the campaign didn’t work out and we had to start again.

(3) To reproduce: To copy, create the same thing again

I love the product, but it just costs too much to reproduce. We need to lower our costs to be successful.



1. For success, what’s more important than passion?

a. A creative idea

b. Good goals

c. A good business plan

2. Why is a system more important than a goal?

a. Goals have no value

b. Systems create good results

c. It’s difficult to succeed at reaching goals

3. For luck, what does it mean to keep your hand raised until its your turn?

a. You need to just wait for luck to come to you

b. Luck doesn’t always happen, so just work hard

c. Keep going and after time you’ll get lucky

7 ________________________

Free Form Friday


dilbert By Jeremy Schaar

Scott Adams has recently written a book and you can read a chapter from that book here. There’s also a video interview.

What does it take to be successful? Often people will say “follow your passion” and “set good goals.” But according Scott Adams–the creator of the popular comic Dilbert–those things are exactly true.

In today’s lesson, you’ll learn about Scott Adam’s ideas on how to be successful. You’ll prepare yourself to read a longer article on the topic. You’ll also learn some important vocabulary. He has three ideas in the article. Here they are:

First Idea: Passion isn’t so important He writes that “it’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion.”

What he means is that when things work well, we get excited. But if things don’t work, then we aren’t excited. So, it seems like passion creates the success, but actually “Success caused passion more than passion caused success.”

He gives the example of a loan officer. He says his old boss told him to give loans to people with good spreadsheets and a desire to work hard.

Second Idea: Have a system instead of a goal

In the video, he says “Goals are OK, but what you need more than goals is a system, a process.” This means you should think about how to be successful more than what success really means for you. Don’t say, “I’m going to make a million dollars.” Instead, say “I’m going to write a new program every month for one year.” You should then hope that one of those programs will make you a million dollars.

The example he gives is losing weight. You don’t want to say “I’m going to lose 10kg.” Instead, you should say “I’m going to eat better and exercise more.”

It’s more important to have a system because then you’ll be doing the things that lead to success. Anyway, you can’t achieve your goals without a way to get to them.

Third Idea: Keep going and you’ll get lucky.

Scott feels that luck is very important for success. However, we don’t get lucky all the time. Instead, we should have a system that makes it more likely that we’ll get lucky. He writes, “The universe has plenty of luck to go around; you just need to keep your hand raised until it’s your turn.”

In his case, he continued trying to create something of value that would be easy to reproduce. After many failures, he “got lucky” with his comic strip Dilbert.

What do you think? As always, if you have any questions, please post them on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

And, by the way, if you have trouble understanding, send me a message. We teach lots of students Business English and I’m sure we could help you too!


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, B, C


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Free Form Friday: Share Class Structure



(1) S-1 Filing: The papers a company sends the government in America in order to start selling stock.

An S-1 filing describes a company in great detail. It helps people decide whether to buy stock.

(2) Dual-Class Share Structure: A system where some shares get more votes and some get less

Our dual-class share structure protects us from public opinion.

(3) Public Company: A company that is owned by shareholders.

Google became a public company in 2004. Before that they were a private company.



1. How many votes does one share of Class B stock get at Google?

a. 0

b. 1

c. 10

2. Why does Google give different votes to different share types?

a. To stay independent from investors

b. To increase the wealth of the owners

c. A and B

3. Why might dual-class shares be a bad idea?

a. Pressure from the public might help the company

b. Owners will be influenced by the public

c. There could be battles when the owners die

7 ________________________

Free Form Friday


By Jeremy Schaar

Google has three classes of shares: A, B, and C. When it comes time to make decisions, you get one vote for every Class A share, ten votes for every Class B share, and no votes for every Class C share. Wait. What? Class A makes sense. 1 vote, 1 share. But Class B and C are weird, right? Class B shareholders get 10 votes and Class C shareholders get zero votes. Why?

It’s because Google’s founders–Sergey Brin and Larry Page–want to maintain control of the company. They don’t want investors to tell them what to do. So they gave themselves lots of Class B shares. Why?

In their S-1 Filing, here’s their explanation:

As a private company, we have concentrated on the long term, and this has served us well. As a public company, we will do the same. In our opinion, outside pressures too often tempt companies to sacrifice long-term opportunities to meet quarterly market expectations. …

If opportunities arise that might cause us to sacrifice short term results but are in the best long term interest of our shareholders, we will take those opportunities. We will have the fortitude to do this. We would request that our shareholders take the long term view.

Many companies are under pressure to keep their earnings in line with analysts’ forecasts. Therefore, they often accept smaller, but predictable, earnings rather than larger and more unpredictable returns. Sergey and I feel this is harmful, and we intend to steer in the opposite direction.

They feel that having a dual-class share structure will let them focus on the long-term instead of short-term profits. They don’t want shareholders to influence them

This isn’t a new kind of company structure. Traditionally, it has been for the media business. A newspaper, for example, wants to stay independent. They don’t want shareholders to influence their reporting of the news. So, the owners keep shares with lots of voting rights.

But these days more companies are using this structure. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yelp all have the same dual-class share structure.

Is it a good idea? It depends on how much you trust Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It does seem like it’s a good idea for shareholders to pressure a company to make money, but maybe not. With the internet and more casual investors, maybe there’s too much noise, so it’s better for companies to stay independent.

On the other hand, do we really think that the average CEO doesn’t have enough power?

What do you think? As always, if you have any questions, please post them on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

And, by the way, if you have trouble understanding the blogs or LinkedIn groups, send me a message. I’ll be happy to help with lessons.


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, A, A


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Phone Call Skills



(1) Pardon: Used to ask someone to repeat something.

Pardon me? I didn’t understand. Could you repeat that?

(2) To check: To learn if something is ok.

I have to go back to the office and check if all the papers are ready for tomorrow’s meeting.

(3) Confirmation: Knowledge

Stop being nice. Tell him directly that she has to improve or find another job.



1. How can you get someone to repeat what they said?

a. Tell them that you’re sorry.

b. Say sorry or pardon with rising intonation.

c. Say sorry or pardon with falling intonation.

2. How can you check if you understood?

a. Repeat the information.

b. Ask them to repeat what they said.

c. A and B.

3. How can you get confirmation?

a. Ask, “Is that right?”.

b. Send an email follow-up.

c. A and B.


Phone Call Skills



By Jeremy Schaar

When English is your second language, talking on the phone can be pretty hard, right? Actually, talking on the phone is always harder than talking when you can see the person. On the phone, you can’t see a person’s face. It’s so much easier to misunderstand someone.

So, what can you do if you don’t understand? Today, let’s look at a few, polite ways to check your understanding.

First off, you might want the person to repeat what they said. You can say:

  • Sorry?
  • Pardon?
  • Sorry, could you repeat that?
  • Sorry, what was that?
  • Pardon? I didn’t understand you.

Note that your voice should go up when you say sorry or pardon. This will tell your listener that you didn’t understand. In fact, just making a sound that goes up can be enough.

Simple, right? Well, unfortunately, saying those things often doesn’t work. The person repeats what they said. Or they say it in a different way. But you still don’t understand. Or, you might understand, but you’re not sure.

Well, you have to check to see if you understand and get confirmation from the other person. How can you do that? First say that you’re going to check if you understood. Then repeat back the information. Then ask if you understood well.

Let’s assume that the information is that the meeting is on Tuesday at 9:00am. Here are some examples:

  • Let me see if I understood. You said that the meeting is on Tuesday at 9:00am, right?
  • Do I have this right? We’ll meet on Tuesday at 9:00am.
  • I think you said we’ll meet on Tuesday at 9:00am. Is that right?

Next week, we’ll look at some example calls. Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.


Answers To Today’s Questions

B, C, C


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Studying English Online–For Free

EDIT: Here’s another great post on how to study for free!

do it yourself

You can learn English yourself. What do you want to do?

Problem: “I want to get better at everything!”

Answer: Read, read, read.

The best thing you can do is read. Reading improves your writing. Reading improves your listening, your speaking, your grammar, and your vocabulary. Everything gets better. Seriously. You can read anything you want, but LearnEnglish.BritishCouncil.Org has great stuff for students. Newspapers and books are hard, but really great.

british council


Problem: “I can’t understand people when they talk!”

Answer: Do you know about Oh. My. God. This site is amazing for you. is an amazingly wonderful fantastic website for getting better at listening. Here’s what to do.

1. Find a video you like.

2. Watch it.

3. Watch it with English subtitles.

4. Read the English transcript.

5. Watch it again.

6. Watch it with subtitles IN YOUR LANGUAGE.

7. Read the transcript IN YOUR LANGUAGE.

8. Watch it once a week until it’s easy.

Other great sites: YouTube.comLearnEnglish.BritishCouncil.Org

video sites


Problem: “Even though I studied hard, no one understands me when I talk. It’s terrible.”

Answer: Don’t feel sad! Rachel will show you how to speak and EnglishCentral lets you practice online.

First, visit Rachel’s English. She makes these really friendly and easy to understand videos. They’ll show you how to speak better. For practice, go to The problem with friends and teachers is they understand you better than strangers. At EnglishCentral, you listen to a video. Then you record yourself trying to say it the same. If you do well, you get points! If you do bad? Try again.



Problem: “I neeeeeed more grammar. I wish someone could explain it all to me.”

Answer: Never fear. Here’s a great site and a great book to help you.

Online: (Seonaid has great explanations and online exercises.)

Offline: Betty Azar grammar books (They’re the best. The red one is easy, black is intermediate, blue is advanced.)


Problem: “My emails and papers and presentations and just everything is terrible. I’m embarrassed.”

Answer: You’ve been studying wrong. Here’s the right way.

Stop studying vocabulary and grammar. Start reading more and memorizing good sentences.

Every day read something and write down 3-5 good sentences. Memorize them and use them when you write. Copy, copy, copy.

If you need a place to practice your writing, you can comment on newspaper articles, blog posts, or start a blog of your own.

Good Websites: LearnEnglish.BritishCouncil.Org (comment on easier stuff) (comment on articles). (comment on books). (comment on videos). (comment on business stuff).

Business English

Problem: “But what about BUSINESS ENGLISH???”

Answer: Business English and any other specialized English is harder. We have a solution.

First things first. Sign up for the daily Business English lessons from Stuart Mill English.

Next, you need to find a website about your industry. Start reading articles and commenting on them. Also, search YouTube for videos about your industry.

Here’s an example site and video for Supply Chain Management.

Dictionary and Social Media

“OK! I got it! Anything else?”

Get on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And use this Dictionary.

Social media is great. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have English communities you can join. Do it.

And if you need a dictionary, use this one. Stop translating stuff into your language.

Good luck! You CAN do it!

Corporate Titles and Organization Charts

Hello! This is easily the most popular post on this site and I can’t figure out why. Could you let me know what you were looking for? Thanks!

Your Message

Corporate Titles and Organization Charts

Many Business English students ask about titles. For example: What’s the difference between a Senior Manager and a Vice-President? What do General Mangers do exactly? How do companies use titles differently? Trying to translate titles between English and another language can be quite tricky.

But a lesson on the topic can easily solve the problems. Here are several resources you can use and then some follow-up questions.

For starters… Wikipedia’s article on corporate titles is a good place to start. You’ll find a list of over 70 titles and descriptions of what the people do.

Check out some org charts… You can find links to thousands of org charts on the internet. Just do a search for “org charts” or “organization charts”. Here are a few links, anyway. Look at them with your students and discuss how they are similar or different to each other. Also, which titles do you see?

Here’s one.

And another.

And one more.

How about a joke? Follow this link for a funny cartoon. Ask your students why it’s funny?

And an article to read… Finally, has a nice article about org charts. It briefly talks about charts, titles, and the purposes behind them. You can use it as a starting point for a discussion.

Here are some discussion questions you might ask your students:

  • What’s the purpose of an organization chart?
  • Do small companies need organization charts too?
  • At what size does a company probably need a chart?
  • How might a manager use a chart to increase productivity?
  • How might an unclear chart hurt productivity?
  • Which titles do all org charts need? Which titles are specific to certain companies?
  • What’s your dream title? Why?

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