I just finished watching the latest version of the Celebrity Apprentice. In this episode Donald Trump is literally forced to fire Gene Simmons of Kiss rather than the disruptive, disingenous, non-celebrity Omarosa.

Apparently Gene did three egregious things: one, he slighted the client, Kodak, by not making a personal appearance and sending two of his minons; two, he provided what he thought that Kodak needed rather than what they claimed that they really wanted; and three, bringing the much-hated Omarosa to the boardroom along with someone Simmons knew should not be fired.

Even as Trump tried to steer Simmons to returning with a candidate that Trump could easily fire, Simmons took the high road and assumed responsibility for his team's loss -- and brought the worst member of the team to be fired.

Is essence, Gene Simmons forced Trump to make a decision: select which employee would have the greatest value to the ongoing enterprise. There is no question in anyone's mind that Gene Simmons is the celebrity and Omarosa is nothing but an amusing diversion. There is no question that Simmons is creative, outgoing and assumes responsibility for his actions; unlike Omarosa who has an excuse for everything.

So what really happened? Did Trump sacrifice good business practice to appear "fair?"  Was there a problem with Gene's personality overriding all participants? Was there an ego clash with "The Donald?" Was there a plan to fire Simmons early on and bring him back for another task. While we do not know what the rest of the season will bring... this episode highlights the vagaries of real business. [To be noted, famed investor Jim Cramer served as a co-advisor (with Ivanka Trump) and was relatively quiet and openly deferrential to Trump -- hardly the guy that eats CEOs for lunch.]

Whatever the reason, who in his right mind would give up Gene Simmons for a nobody? Which brings us to consider today's topic... The "Halo" effect. Giving more credence, power and respect to a particular individual because of some accomplishment.


By virtue of birthright, marriage, good luck, productive friends or a combination of timing and circumstances or even raw talent, someone has made it to the top of the ladder. Perhaps they are a billionaire, multi-millionaire or just somebody that appears to be well-accomplished in some field of endeavor. They are viewed by the less fortunate as being surrounded with an almost visible aura, a "halo" if you will.

And now they apparently are trying to market their secrets: through books, tapes, television programs and other media they are holding out the promise that they will share with you their secrets of success.

Well here are the secrets that remain open secrets...

Secret One:  The benefits of starting rich and connected...

When you have the resources to ignore the challenges of daily living (rent, food, transportation, job, etc.) you have time to concentrate on making or increasing your fortune. You are not forced into performing mind-numbing tasks for an a-hole boss who delights in giving you last minute, pressure-packed assignments with short deadlines with no guidance as to how the task must be accomplished or what the final deliverables must look like. Then takes off for his recreational or social activities with a clear mind. And, often, no matter how hard you work, they will either criticize the project to assume ownership and then take credit for your hard work. Such is the way of the world.

Monkey see -- monkey do: Some people are blessed to have accomplished parents or siblings which allows the individual to osmotically absorb the valuable lessons of life which will stand them in good stead in future years. In many cases, the children will follow their parents into the same business, thus bypassing all of the credentialing and qualifications which are needed by others clawing their way up the ladder.

With money comes well-connected friends. Friends who may travel  in similar social or business circles. Friends and others who can bring you great deals not available to lesser mortals, often on a "first look" basis. Being allowed to participate on the "ground floor" with seed capital that maximizes your return on founder's stock.

Secret two: success may be accidental -- never to be repeated...

Many people, though the sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time find themselves riding the golden chariot to public acclaim. Truth be known, these people rarely exhibit special skills and may actually be ineligible for hire by the enterprises that they have created. One famous billionaire can't seem to duplicate their previous massive success -- even with large sums of money and the best paid professionals. Sometimes it comes down to having a great idea and being in the right place at the right time.

Secret three:  Professional publicity where the triumphs are trumpeted and the mistakes are often buried...

Unless one's accomplishments are truly newsworthy, nobody really cares. How many of these "special people" have their own publicists that spend a considerable amount of time, effort and money to cultivate their principal's image or promote their principal's interests? More than you might imagine. Most media outlets are sold on the story by these professionals.

Secret four: almost all of the self-help or success books present the generic basics needed for performing well in almost any field

These books offer life and business generalities which are true for anyone. It is like saying that in order to rise in a corporation you must fit in and be pleasant to your superiors, peers and subordinates. To accomplish great things you need to know the difference between effectiveness and efficiency.(Effectiveness is knowing what task to perform and efficiency is knowing how to perform that task well.

Nowhere in these books are you going to find the secrets to negotiating with politicians looking to swap their support of your project for mutual support of their candidacy. How to deal with recalcitrant bureaucrats and  officials. How to favorably negotiate with unions whose representatives seem less than savory. Or how to finesse those vendors and subcontractors into cutting you a real deal to enlarge your profits.

These books do not mention lying, cheating and stealing. Although it seems that behind every great fortune is a masterstroke of luck or a grand theft of some kind. One need only look at the products that were developed on an employer's nickel and then exploited after the employee left the company.

Secret five: it's all about motivation...

Since these programs will all refer to the basics, what are they good for?  Motivation. Ideas. Whatever. The sad truth is that most people are information junkies who collect "research" materials and "hot to" books -- but, in the final analysis, fail to take action.

Bottom line... there are no real secrets that anyone would be willing to share with you

No matter your present circumstances, it is all up to you to put your plan together. Not everyone possesses the skills of an entrepreneur and damn few people rise to the executive ranks of large corporations to gain fame and fortune. Especially in today's economic environment.

So when that billionaire, outstanding businessman, celebrity and others offer you the key to success if only you purchase their products... take a pass. You can do your own research free at any library or by using the Internet. And if you want to listen to the tapes of some expensive seminar, try e-Bay where the disenchanted often sell their expensive course at pennies on the dollar.  And if you really require motivation, perhaps you are not ready for life's little lessons.

The bottom line is that nobody that really has a valuable secret would be willing to share it with you -- for any amount of money. Common sense tells you that a person with stock-picking software would simply continue to use it surreptitiously making their fortunes ever larger.

Making YOU value their offering ...

The old encyclopedia salesman's trick of imputing great value to their wares is as useful today as it was in the days of yore. The salesman who confront any and all who challenged the price or the worth of his wares with a single statement. "If you got only ONE idea from this material and went on to make a fortune, would you hesitate to buy it now for pennies?" For those afraid of the unknown and those who truly are information junkies -- this is an almost irresistible pitch: very few of us want to be left behind, not knowing what others know or possibly, just possibly, using our new purchase to strike it rich.

What can YOU do?

Decide to take action. To improve your life. To obtain new skills. As you proceed down the path of learning and accomplishment, ideas will seem to spontaneously leap into your mind. Ask yourself each day, "How can I improve that?" How can I make this better? Make it a habit to observe the practices and wants and needs of others. It will pay off somehow, somewhere. If only to save you from paying the cost of that mogul's magic media. Save your money. Reduce your living expenses. Prepare for a breakthrough -- but live well while waiting. Life is a continuous process to be enjoyed rather than a race to an inauspicious finish in your old age.

-- steve

A reminder from a large improvement can result from a small change…

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. -- Marcus Aurelius

“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell

“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar

“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS