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

Writing Great Emails: Polite vs. Direct



(1) Assertive: Strongly presenting your opinion

Be very assertive when you ask for a raise. Tell her exactly why she should give it to you. Don’t be afraid.

(2) Rude: Impolite

I can’t believe how rude he is! He asked how old I was and if I was on a diet!

(3) Grateful: Thankful

I was really grateful you were there. I would have done terrible without you.



1. What is a big advantage of being direct?

a. You know no one will be angry

b. You know you will be understood

c. You know they’ll like you

2. What is a big advantage of being polite?

a. You know no one will be angry

b. You know you will be understood

c. You know they’ll like you

3. What is one way to be polite?

a. Tell a joke

b. Say that something is possible

c. Ask if something is possible


Writing Great Emails


En-velop_bleu By Jeremy Schaar

Do you want to be more polite or more direct when you’re writing emails? There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Of course, it’s not quite so simple. In a perfect world, your writing will be both polite and direct.

In today’s lesson, you’ll learn about the differences. Then you’ll study some examples.


Advantages: Direct writing is confident and assertive. You’re acting like you know what you’re writing about very well. It’s also very clear.

Disadvantages: Direct writing can be rude and uncaring if you’re not careful.


Advantages: You’ll be friendly, likeable, and caring.

Disadvantages: By focusing on being polite, it might not seem like something is very important to you.

Let’s look at a situation. The first sentence will be direct. The second will be polite. The third will be a combination.

Situation: You need to request 500 extra units of something at the last minute. You’re writing to your supplier.

Direct: Please send 500 extra units. We will need them by Friday.

Polite: Do you think it would be possible to send us 500 extra units by Friday? We’d be most grateful.

Notice that the direct version is very short and clear. No one would misunderstand you. However, you’re giving an order here. Do you want to order your supplier? What if they can’t do it? What if they’ll feel bad if you don’t ask nicely? Maybe you’ll offend them.

The polite version could be misunderstood. It doesn’t seem important. However, by saying “do you think it would be possible,” you’re being very kind. “We’d be most grateful” means that you’re thanking them in advance. They haven’t even done anything, and you’ve already thanked them!

Best: We really need 500 extra units by Friday. Can you help us out with this order?

This is best. You’re being direct, but polite. You still ask a question, but only after you’ve been direct. (Questions make English more polite.) Also, you don’t thank them in advance. Instead, you ask a short question and imply that you’ll thank them for the help.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.


Answers To Today’s Questions

B, A, 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

Writing Great Emails: Useful Phrases #3



(1) Contact: Someone you know

I have a contact at that firm. Let me see if she can help.

(2) Independent clause: This is a grammar term. It basically means a sentence.

“Wondering about books” is a dependent clause. “I wonder about books” is an independent clause.

(3) To commit yourself: To agree to do something

I committed myself to working here for at least five years. After that, I might go back to school.



1. Is “I’ll put you in touch with” casual or formal?

a. Casual

b. Formal

c. It can be used in both situations

2. Why does “It seems as if” let you change your mind

a. You’re talking about the evidence for something, not the thing itself

b. You’re making it seem like you’re not sure about the truth

c. You’re being very direct

3. Which sentence is a stronger belief?

a. He’ll get the contract.

b. It seems as if he’ll get the contract.


Writing Great Emails


En-velop_bleu By Jeremy Schaar

This week on the blog I’ll introduce two more useful phrases. You’ll learn what they mean and read a few examples of how you might use them.

1. I’ll put you in touch with

We use I’ll put you in touch with to introduce a contact. It’s polite and can be used in formal or casual situations. The contact might be someone who can help you or who will work with you. Here are two examples:

I’ll put you in touch with Julie in HR. She’ll help you with your orientation around here.

I’ll put you in touch with Mike at the law firm. The two of you should work together to complete this project.

I’ll put you in touch with is used when you are connecting two people. It can also be used to describe anyone being connected. Here are some examples:

She got me in touch with HR. They’ve been very helpful.

I need to get in touch with someone who knows the details better.

We’ve been in touch for a long time, but this is the first time we’re working closely together.

2. It seems as if…

It seems as if is a nice way to soften your sentence and take away personal responsibility. It lets you easily change your mind. It means “I think this is true because of the evidence.” It’s followed by an independent clause. For example:

It seems as if he doesn’t care.

It seems as if we’ll get the contract.

By itself, He doesn’t care, is very direct. You’re very sure. By adding “It seems as if” to the beginning, you’re leaving some doubt. You don’t want to be rude. You’re saying that the evidence shows that he doesn’t care. But he might.

Same for the second example. Something makes you think that you’ll get the contract. But your comment is on the evidence, not the contract.

It is therefore a nice way to give an opinion without committing yourself. If the evidence changes, you can easily change your mind and not look stupid.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, A, A


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Business Strategy Monday–Creating Your Value Curve


On YouTube




(1) To devalue: To make something less important

We devalued advertising and instead focused on product quality.

(2) Untouchable: Something that can’t be hurt

After last year’s sales numbers, he’s untouchable. They would never fire him.

(3) Dependable: Trustworthy, something that won’t become bad

He’s the most dependable person in the office. We can trust him to do a good job.



1. What’s one way to create a blue ocean value curve?

a. Lower your prices

b. Value the things customers care about the most

c. Value things differently than the competition

2. What’s a second way to create a blue ocean value curve?

a. Add a new value to the curve

b. Add style to your curve

c. Value everything highly

3. What value did Apple add to the computer industry curve?

a. Style

b. Ease of use

c. Price

7 ________________________



By Jeremy Schaar

In the past three weeks, you’ve learned what blue ocean strategy is, how one company has used the strategy well, and how to draw a value curve for your industry. This week, you’ll review those three concepts and then think about how you might redraw the value curve and find a blue ocean strategy for your company. You’ll learn more good strategy vocabulary and gain ideas that can strengthen your company’s strategy.

First, what is blue ocean strategy? Blue ocean strategy is when your company creates a value curve that other companies in your industry don’t use. That way you don’t have competition.

What is a value curve? A value curve is a group of things that are important to your industry. For example, restaurants will have taste, price, and location on their value curve. Your curve depends on how important each thing is to you.

To create a value curve, you should think about which things are important in your industry and how important each thing is for your company.

How To Redraw Your Value Curve And Find A Blue Ocean

There are two ways to redraw your value curve and find a blue ocean. First, you can change how you value the things on your curve. For example, if all the restaurants care about taste, you might devalue taste and just have a restaurant in a good location with a good price.

But there’s another way. You can add things to the value curve. Let’s say all the restaurants care about price, taste, and location. You could find a blue ocean by adding entertainment to the curve. If your restaurant is the only one with a jazz band playing, then you will succeed.

A great example of this strategy is from Apple.

Here’s a typical value curve for the computer industry in the 1990s.

Computer Value Curve

And here’s the value curve that Apple drew in order to find a blue ocean and become untouchable for ten years.

Screen shot 2013-08-25 at 7.44.02 PM

Apply reduced the importance of features and price. They focused on making a computer that was easy to use and dependable. And they added style. No one else was doing all those things. Apple didn’t capture the whole market with their strategy. For many people a feature or the price was the most important thing. But by adding style and refocusing on dependability and ease of use, they were hugely successful.

To redraw your own value curve, that’s what you need to do: Change how you value things and find things to value that other companies aren’t even thinking about yet.

Want to study Business English? Check out the main site for our lessons.

Want to learn more about blue ocean strategy? Click here.

Got questions or comments? How about practicing some new vocabulary and posting your thoughts on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter?


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, A, A


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

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