Monthly Archives: May 2020

Origin Story

I'm participating in a ClickFunnels One Funnel Away 30 day Challenge and one of the tasks is to write and publish my origin story. The whole story would fill a book or two so what comes next is a heavily condensed version, with a particular eye on what's most relevant to what's involved in the challenge and why.

35 years ago I entered the worlds of finance and computing and I've been involved with both ever since. While I became a finance professional and have spent the last 30 years working at a senior level in a wide variety of businesses in several very different sectors, the common thread all along has been problem solving. In computing, I chose the super user road rather than programming and took great delight in mastering the various applications I used on a daily basis. In 2003 I set up my own consulting company and have done that part-time ever since, except for a 4 year period when I worked at it full time.

My career has brought me to work in Pakistan for 2 years, Saudi Arabia for a little over a year and now in Qatar for the past 7 years.

I trained as an accountant with KPMG and qualified in 1991. I added a Master's degree in Operations Management in 2006 and am presently finishing a PhD in Quality and Performance Improvement, with a particular focus on Lean Six Sigma.

I have worked with and for businesses of every kind and size imaginable, from tiny one person operations to multi-billion dollar a year corporations employing thousands of people. And I believe the one thing that most clearly differentiates successful from unsuccessful businesses is the ability to systemize operations.

When I worked as an auditor, one of the first tasks was to evaluate and decide whether the audit would be a systems audit where we would test the reliability of the systems of internal control on which the business relied or a substantive audit where we test the transactions recorded in the books and records of the business. Small business audits were usually substantive audits because even where there were good systems of internal control, these relied on the director and wouldn't pass segregation of duties tests. Nevertheless, I noticed that the most successful small businesses did indeed have good systems.

In my many years working with clients to help grow their businesses, I observed that most of them struggled with and couldn't implement the necessary systems in their businesses. They were what Michael E Gerber describes as "technicians". While they knew the nuts and bolts of the actual products & services they were selling, they knew very little about the business side of running a business. To make it worse, most of them didn't really want to learn. In reality, while they believed they had a business, what they actually had was a J-O-B from which they got no time off, were paid last and couldn't sell.

When I got involved in internet marketing, I noticed these same issues coming up over and over again. The more I interacted with people online, the more I realised they lacked an understanding of the business side of running a business. This meant they were very unlikely to develop the systems needed to run their internet marketing like a business and make a profit. Worse, if by chance they some did make money, it would be highly likely they couldn’t replicate it.

That's why I decided to create a simple, step-by-step system that anyone, even a total beginner, can follow to design and implement the essential systems every business owner needs to start, build, grow and manage a profitable online business.

I'm putting the finishing touches to it right now. The next stage is pre-launch testing. If you'd like the opportunity to be one of my testers, please comment below and I'll contact you.

Burning Desire

Burning Desire - I’ve always had great affection for cruel humor. I think it allows us to vent and to be ‘bold’ (as in naughty, not as in brave) and under the guise of comic relief to consciously address the mores and taboos in our society.

One of my favorites is:

Making toast at the fireside,
Nurse fell in the grate and died;
And, what makes it ten times worse,
All the toast was burned with nurse.

Photo by Buenosia Carol from Pexels

This and the other short poems below are in an anthology of comic verse I picked up in a secondhand bookshop many years ago. Thanks to Jadetheobscure.com, I now know it (and Billy’s poem hereunder) were written by Harry Graham under the pen name Col. D Streamer in a book called Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, published by Edward Arnold (Publisher) Ltd., London in 1898.

Billy, in one of his nice new sashes,
Fell in the fire and was burnt to ashes;
Now, although the room grows chilly,
I haven’t the heart to poke poor Billy.

What is my burning desire? Do I have one? I suppose the answer has to be NO, I don’t. What prompts us to attack something with zeal, to dedicate our efforts and even our lives to the pursuit of some goal or cause? Is it a natural drive, or is it learned?

The ant has made himself illustrious
Through constant industry industrious.
So what?
Would you be calm and placid
If you were full of formic acid?
Ogden Nash (1902–1971)

George Bernard Shaw in “Man and Superman” said “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Photo by Negative Space from Pexels

Our consumer society is fast approaching the point where 80% of economic activity and consequent wealth transfer will be attributable to the production and supply of superfluous goods and services (or goods and services necessary for the production of said luxuries). In such a world, what is the unreasonable (wo)man to do?

Times of crisis are said to bring out the best in us. They also bring out the worst. Think Auschwitz, Kosovo, Rwanda. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, a small percentage are plotting for advantage while the vast majority are hoping to muddle through without serious long term damage to their health and wealth. And a small minority are coming into contact with that spark inside that, fed and fanned, will soon rage like a furnace within, driving them deeper into themselves and out into the environment to make this world a better place.

Freemasons, Illuminati & The New World Order — Crackpot Conspiracy Theory or Cunning Plan?

Freemasons, illuminati & the new world order. I love conspiracy theories, the more outlandish the better and part of that is because deep down I want to believe there is mystery, and that hidden forces are quietly at work while we all sleep (or sleepwalk towards a rude awakening?). I must confess, my favorite rag of all time was The Weekly World News and I genuinely feel we are the poorer for its loss.

Photo by Miriam Espacio from Pexels
GPS not working?

I was wandering around Facebook the other day and received a message asking me if I’d like to join the Illuminati. I was intrigued. So I asked why and how? To be rich and famous, was the answer to why and as for how, all I had to do was say yes — oh, and make a small ‘ contribution’. Aren’t the Illuminati supposed to be a secret society, said I. Oh we are, he replied. But I know you’re one now, I told him. No answer.

So, are the Illuminati part of the Freemasons? Or is it the other way around? Oh, no, not at all. “Ordinary” Freemasons have no idea that their order is secretly controlled by and run for the benefit of the Illuminati. Hmmm, interesting I said. But wasn’t George Washington a Freemason? A 33rd Degree Mason if I’m not mistaken. He wasn’t taking that bait.

How would you like to pay? asked he. I was tempted to say through the nose but I didn’t think he’d appreciate the humor. I politely declined and said I’d have to think about it, maybe we could chat again in a few days….I didn’t feel it would be fair to burst his bubble and tell him that I’m actually a Freemason myself.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Cogito Ergo Sum

There is a wonderful poem by Roald Dahl in his Dirty Beasts book, called The Pig. It starts out

“In England once there lived a big

And wonderfully clever pig…”

And goes on to the praise the porcine’s learning and knowledge before arriving at the poor pig’s dilemma — he couldn’t figure out what life in general (and his in particular) was all about. Of course, eventually he did and then he was unhappy because, as the poet put it,

“Such thoughts as these are not designed

To give a pig great peace of mind”

Photo by Alexandra Novitskaya from Pexels
Of course I’m adorable!

Now my disillusioned recruiter had vanished into the ether and I was left alone, perturbed, and feeling a deep empathy with the pig’s dilemma. It wasn’t that I thought Secret Societies were so hard up for new recruits that they were resorting to fishing for the flotsam and jestsam bobbing around on the social media surf. No, I was instead filled with a sense of unease. You know how “they” say that if you don’t know who the patsy is, it’s you? And I don’t know who the patsy is.

Let’s indulge ourselves for a few minutes — CNN’s Anderson Cooper is the closest I’ve ever seen to a White Walker and I swear, Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC is definitely a Lizard Person. Two weeks ago, the US Department of Defense released footage of ‘UFOs’. And despite the economic collapse caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Wall St. is booming and the bull market is back with a vengeance.

To paraphrase The X Files’ Mulder & Scully, is the Truth really out there, or do we just want to believe?

Karakorum Highway Blues

Karakorum Highway Blues - way, way back in the mists of time, September 2005 I was working in Pakistan and took a trip with a colleague, Mihai Diac. Mihai was finishing up after 6 years in Pakistan and wanted to visit Fairy Meadows on Nanga Parbat in Baltistan in the North Western Frontier Province.

Nanga Parbat is the 9th highest mountain in the world at 8,126 metres and is known as The Killer Mountain due to the high number of climbers lost in accidents, avalanches and falling into the glacier. I had little interest in mountain climbing but I did want to visit China, travel through the Khunjerab Pass, the highest road land pass in the world and down the Karakorum Highway.

So we did a deal — we flew from Islamabad to Kashgar in Western China and then travelled by road through Tajikistan and Tashkurgan, across the border at the Pass and onto Hunza valley where we stayed a few days before going on to Fairy Meadows.

Kashgar

Kashgar was amazing and we spent a few days sightseeing, including going to a nightclub which was open 24 hours at weekends so you got a time stamp on your hand (not that I could read it anyway). The city is home to a large university for trainee teachers so there was a lot of life around. The club was packed and when we went in, although there was music playing, no one was dancing. After about half an hour, a live group of traditional musicians took the stage and when they played the dance floor was packed. Once they finished and the recorded music came on again, the dancing stopped. And it went on like that through the night — live music alternating with Western music. We were dragged onto the floor and taught some basic steps so we could take part and eventually left about 5 am with everything still going strong.

Next day, we went to the markets and didn’t buy any of these:

We spent 2 days driving from Kashgar to Sost in Pakistan, travelling through Tashkurgan where we stayed overnight.

We went out for a walk in the evening and I was wondering what the great light beyond the horizon was — I didn’t remember there being any mention of another city nearby (this was about 10,000 ft above sea level) and then the moon rose and all was revealed — it was the moon.

Me playing pool in Tashkurgan

Next day we went though border control and then drove for several hours to reach the actual border. We had a Chinese soldier in our land cruiser with us as far as the actual border. There were several cars making the journey and as we drove we wondered how some of them would ever get to Pakistan. While the roads from Kashgar to Tashkurgan were good, this road was the opposite and some of the potholes and craters were so deep and long that our vehicle’s roof was level with the road as we drove through them.

There’s a long tail to this story, but it’s going to have to wait for another day. Suffice to say for the moment that this trip was 2 weeks before the earthquake in Pakistan that killed almost 100,000 people and made 4 million homeless. The Karakorum Highway was destroyed in several places and didn’t reopen for several years. Another colleague of ours took his leave, with his wife and 2 sons, when we returned from our trip. They travelled to Swat Valley in the NWFP and were there when the earthquake hit. Thankfully, none of them were hurt but they had to hike out of the valley on foot over several days.

On our way down the Highway, we stopped at a ranger station where one of the rangers introduced us to a snow leopard cub

Leo

The cub’s mother had been killed by poachers and the ranger had ‘adopted’ him — as you can see, he was happy and healthy. He later went on to play a large part in the international fundraising efforts for earthquake relief when he was brought to the Bronx Zoo in New York. You can read his story in “Leo, the Snow Leopard: The True Story of an Amazing Rescue” by Craig Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Juliana Hatkoff.

Next time…. how I made a lifelong friend on this trip and what she and her companion did to raise funds for the relief effort as a result of their wonderful experience in Pakistan

1

Time to Dive in

Time to Dive in. Ever since I discovered, many, many years ago, the profound joy in writing something that not only expresses what I think and feel but also evokes the same in others, I have wanted to write.

But I listened to the other voices, you know — the ones that say you’ll never make a living, you’ll starve in a garret, etc. and then later on when I stopped listening to those voices, there was a whole headful of new ones — it’s too hard to get published, who’d read your stuff anyway, stop wasting your time — do a real job.

Photo by Andy Vu from Pexels

Eventually, on New Year’s Eve 31 December 2015 I published my first and so far only) book on Kindle and CreateSpace. It’s a book of poems I wrote between 1977 and 2015. I hesitated before choosing publish, feeling all the old insecurities and fears come roaring up from my memory and flooding me with adrenaline as if I was about to be attacked and needed to flee.

Thankfully, I didn’t quit and did publish. The response was significantly different than what I expected. Within 6 weeks, my book was No 1 on Kindle for the category Irish poetry, dislodging (for a few days at least) our most distinguished poets and Nobel Laureates such as Seamus Heaney and William Butler Yeats.

What pushed me to finally publish and put my ‘stuff’ out there wasn’t a desire to publish per se, more of a determination to not step back from the brink.

My fear of being ridiculed has been a lifelong companion — my earliest memory is from senior infants class in junior school at the age of 3, going on 4, when I made a mistake and got an answer wrong. The teacher made fun of me, put me outside the door and told me to go back to junior infants, the ‘babies’ class, and everybody laughed at me. Strange how things like that stay with you throughout your life. That was the summer of ’65, a mere 55 years ago but with the slightest prompt, I’m back there.

In most areas of my life I’ve overcome that fear. I’m comfortable getting up on a stage and talking, or teaching, chairing meetings, giving presentations etc. But those things don’t usually touch my soul or shine a light directly on my innermost thoughts. And when it comes to those, I’m still afraid to invite people in, never mind put myself out there.

This year I will be 59 and I’ve started on a new journey to create a business and life for myself and my family. It involves learning lots of new things, taking new risks, finding and developing new ways of expressing myself and reaching the people I’m most meant to serve. So I’m into Facebook and Twitter and even started Instagram and Snapchat accounts. I’ve been active on LinkedIn for years but this social media is a whole new ball game to me. My natural inclination is to keep pretty much to myself. Instead, I’m being encouraged to widen my circles and expand my horizons.

I started a blog about 12 years ago but let it go when I came out to work in the Middle East in 2012. So I’ve started that up again. Work in progress.

I’m doing a 30 day challenge at the moment and the task for the day I’m on (I’m a week behind, but hey, I’m not giving up) is to write and post here. The challenge given for today is to write here for 365 consecutive days. It’ll help me find my voice. And that I look forward to.

Introducing statistical sampling and quantitative analysis to the audit of clinical coding

In October 2019, I presented a research paper on the introduction of statistical sampling and quantitative analysis to the audit of clinical coding to a group of 200 Health Information Managers at the 2019 HIMAA/NCCH National Conference held in Paramatta, NSW, Australia. HIMAA is the Health Information Management Association of Australia while NCCH is the National Centre for Classification in Health, The University of Sydney. Click here to download a copy of the Research Paper Summary: Introduction: As part of the preparations for the introduction of a Social Health Insurance Scheme (SHIS) and a move to Activity Based Funding (ABF), we conducted an audit of clinical coding accuracy and compliance with mandatory Patient Minimum Data Set (Patient MDS) requirements. Method: The audit tested a sample of 1,829 discharges selected at random from an un-stratified population of 171,827 cases. The sample was calculated at a 99% confidence level with a margin of error of 3%. Results: The overall accuracy of clinical coding was 66%, i.e. coding errors were detected in 623 of the 1,829 encounters audited. A total of 1,301 coding errors were detected in these 623 encounters audited, giving an average of 2.088 coding errors per encounter with errors. The rate of incorrect AR-DRG assignment was 7.5% including a 1% rate of invalid admissions. 28% of the sample had major coding errors and these accounted for 71% of all errors found. 12% of the sample had incorrect principal diagnosis and 44% of all major errors were found in this group. Of the eight Patient MDS items tested, significant non-compliance was detected in three. Discussion: This was the first audit of clinical coding accuracy and Patient MDS compliance to use statistical methods for sample selection and results analysis. Accordingly, there are no comparative data available. However, the results indicate clearly areas that need improvement and provide a benchmark against which future audits can be measured.        Conclusion: The study introduced statistical sampling and auditing of clinical coding to a major healthcare provider. The results show clearly the areas where improvement is most needed to support the preparations for the introduction of insurance and/or Activity Based Funding. Proceedings of the HIMAA/NCCH 36th National Conference, Health Information Management: Engaging the Next Generation. 23 - 25 October 2019, Western Sydney Stadium, Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia Copyright 2019 Health Information Management Association of Australia Ltd/National Centre for Classification in Health, The University of Sydney Click here to download a copy of the Research Paper directly from the Conference Proceedings Comments are welcome below. If you would like to know more about the application of statistical sampling and quantitative analysis to large populations of data, please let me know in the comments.