MetLife Cuts 2,500 Advisers – Businessweek

MetLife has about 5,000 advisers who sell insurance and investment products, down from 7,500 in February of 2012, Eric Steigerwalt, head of MetLife’s U.S. retail business, said at a May 21 investor day presentation. The New York-based firm lowered the number of agencies to about 60, from 85, he said.

“We’re not financing advisers who, frankly, were never going to make it in this business,” Steigerwalt said. “Our productivity is way up and we’re saving a lot of money.”

via MetLife Cuts 2,500 Advisers Seen Lacking Chance of Success – Businessweek.


David Allen – The Strategic Value of Clear Space

I got this email today and thought I’d pass it on.  Enjoy.

(BOLD copy are my highlights and not by the author)

The Strategic Value of Clear Space

How easily you can make a mess is how truly productive you can be. Maximum freedom to generate and play around in creative chaos is the optimal condition for constructive thinking and work.

This is true on a project, in the kitchen, in your office, and at your writing table—anywhere and anytime you want to get real work done.

I don’t usually work in a neat fashion. Whether I’m writing an essay, arranging flowers, or making guacamole, I wind up strewing stuff all over the place. If you were to walk into my office while I was working or thinking about something, you’d likely see notes, books, and files strewn around somewhat randomly; a mind-map on my computer screen; doodles and words scrawled on my whiteboard. When I really get involved in something and my creative juices start flowing, it’s likely to look like something exploded in the middle of it. I have a singular focus, but it doesn’t seem orderly until it’s done. My best work happens that way. Yours will too.

But if you’re already in a mess, you’re not free to make one. If you have a desk piled with unfinished, unclear work; if you’re trying to repair something in your garage with tools and incomplete projects strewn everywhere; if you’ve got a thousand unprocessed e-mails on your computer; or if you’ve just got a lot of issues and situations in your life and work on your mind; you’re going to be laboring under a serious handicap.

That’s why, when I’m not doing anything else, I’m cleaning up. I’m getting my in-boxes to zero, getting my desk in order, clearing off the kitchen counter. I’m also capturing, clarifying, and organizing stuff that’s pulling on my attention. There’s an event, a problem, an opportunity coming toward me I can’t see yet. Something will emerge I will need to focus and work on, coming from the outside or from my own inspiration. When that happens, I want to be ready. Things will get messy, but they will neither start nor end that way.

To tackle something most productively you must begin in clear space. Physically you need all your tools in order and an open space for spreading your raw elements and assembling structures. Psychically you need an empty head, clear of distractions and unfinished business holding your attention hostage. From this starting point you will have your best chances for creative thinking, optimal ability to deal with surprise, maximum flexibility to come up with work-arounds and innovative solutions. You’ll be able to take advantage of serendipitous, potentially valuable ideas.

If you have a problem to solve, limited resources to allocate, or an ambiguous situation to clarify, you’ll want to work from a clear deck. You are most productive when all of your available resources are present and accounted for, unencumbered with irrelevant pressures and dross, with an ability to apply relaxed but concentrated focus.

Zen practices refer to a “beginner’s mind.” The ready state for enlightenment is a consciousness devoid of preconceptions. Much of the training in the esoteric spiritual disciplines is concerned with de-conditioning the psyche, allowing the full experience and awareness of what’s fundamentally true in the present, without the illusory colorings brought on by interpretations from the past or projections into the future.

That’s the best place to come from—mentally, emotionally, and psychologically—if you’re developing the agenda for the staff meeting, formulating the best way to approach your boss about the delay in a major project, restructuring your board of directors, or planning the family vacation.

This is not a state from which most people live and work.

So, how do you get to that clear place? Can you only achieve it by dedicating years of disciplined asceticism on a Tibetan mountaintop? That’s one way, but there’s a nice shortcut.

In your physical space it’s pretty simple—just put stuff where it belongs.

In your psychic space it’s also pretty simple (though often quite subtle): you merely have to find out why things are on your mind, and eliminate the cause. Why are you distracted? What causes your mind to be unclear and inappropriately filled with unproductive thinking that makes no progress on what you’re focused on but which creates stress and disturbance that undermines your energy and focus? The basic cause is some decision you haven’t yet made and/or you haven’t parked the resulting contents into a trusted system.

“Mom” will only be on your mind if there’s something current going on in your relationship with her (her birthday? her health issue?) about which you haven’t clarified what outcome, exactly, you’re committed to achieve or what you’re specifically going to do about it as a next step to making that happen. And even if you’ve already clarified those points precisely, if you haven’t put the reminders of that outcome and that action step in places you know you will review at the right time, you’ll still have it impinging on your consciousness.

That’s going to be equally true about your son’s college choice, the status of your retirement account, your choice about hiring a new executive assistant, and your company’s strategic direction.

Decide the outcomes you’re committed to. Decide the next physical, visible actions required to move toward them. Place reminders of all of that where you know you’ll look at the right time. Keep everything in your life and work that way—clear, current, and complete. Discover the strategic value of clear space. Get ready to make a mess.

Deaths Associated with Hurricane Sandy — October–November 2012

A total of 117 deaths were reported on Red Cross mortality forms. The source of information for the mortality forms was a medical examiner/coroner for 94 (80.3%) cases and the family of the decedent for 10 (8.5%) cases (Table). Most deaths occurred in New York (53 [45.3%]) and New Jersey (34 [29.1%]); the other deaths occurred in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Connecticut, and Maryland. The deaths occurred during October 28–November 29, 2012 (Figure 1). Approximately half of the deaths (60 [51.3%]) occurred on the first 2 days of the storm’s landfall, with a peak of 37 deaths on October 30, 2012.


Decedents ranged in age from 1 to 94 years (mean: 60 years, median: 65 years); 60.7% were male, and 53.8% were white. Of the 117 deaths, 67 (57.3%) were classified as directly related deaths, and 38 (32.5%) were indirectly related to the storm. Of the directly related deaths, the most common mechanism was drowning (40 [59.7%]), followed by trauma from being crushed, cut, or struck (19 [28.4%]). Poisoning was the most common indirectly related cause of death; of the 10 poisonings, nine were caused by carbon monoxide. Most directly related deaths occurred during the first few days of the storm, whereas indirectly related deaths continued from the day before the storm into the middle of November.


Comparing the 40 drowning deaths to all Sandy-related deaths, the age, sex, and race distributions of decedents were similar (Table). The majority of drowning deaths (29 [72.5%]) also occurred in the initial phase of the storm, during October 29–31. Twenty-one (52.5%) drowning deaths occurred in the decedent’s home, and 11 (27.5%) occurred outside; one person drowned in a flooded commercial building lobby, and another person drowned while intentionally swimming off a storm-affected beach. For six deaths, circumstances of the drowning were not available. The location of drowning deaths by state was significantly different (p<0.05) compared with all Sandy-related deaths. The majority of drowning deaths (32 [80.0%]) occurred in New York, whereas deaths in New York accounted for only 27.3% of nondrowning deaths. Twenty decedents drowned in flooded homes in New York, and home addresses for 18 (90.0%) of them were located in Evacuation Zone A (Figure 2); the other two decedents’ homes were in or near areas of flooding and near Evacuation Zone A. Notes written by Red Cross volunteers on these 20 deaths captured decedents’ reasons for not evacuating, such as “afraid of looters,” “thought Hurricane Irene was mild,” and “unable to leave because did not have transportation.”

via Deaths Associated with Hurricane Sandy — October–November 2012.

And while we’re on the topic of nasty weather…

E-books Now Make Up 1/5 of U.S. Book Sales

E-books Now Make Up 1/5 of U.S. Book Sales.

A reader questioned why I did not read E-books several years ago.  I grew up in a dead tree book world and preferred paper books.  This despite a growing dependence upon computers and the internet for work where most of my reading was done.

I am now equipped with a smart phone and an E-book reader.  When reading a book I now have my choice of four different devices.  I like this a lot.  So while I continue my love for paper books, E-books have found a place on my digital shelf.