Author Archives: Emily Halgrimson

Weight Weight… Don’t Tell Me!

By Lloyd Graff

Today is the beginning of a new year for me. The Chicago Cubs begin spring training in Mesa, Arizona. Since the Cubs lost to the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series last October I’ve been longing for this day – the beginning of the beginning of the season.

I need these days to look forward to. I need an excuse to restart, reboot, begin to begin. I need the psychological energy that a relaunch provides.

The winter slog of Chicago weather is reaching its nadir. We had 20” of snow over the weekend, and I woke up to stalactites hanging 18” long from my roof like iced carrots.

I find my interest in the Cubs has intensified in recent years as they’ve finally gotten good after all these decades of mediocrity punctuated by awfulness. I read the blogs about the Cubbies almost every day, and Swarf has started to comment with pithy insight on the Cubs Den blogs.

I need this baseball jumpstart quite badly this year because I’m facing six weeks of radiation treatments for the remnants of a benign tumor that has started to grow again dangerously close to the optic nerve in my brain. This means schlepping down to University of Chicago Hospital 30 weekdays for five-minute zaps of radiation.

Lloyd’s new waistline

The small but frequent dosing is safer than doing five big wallops, which was what I had expected would be the ticket if the thing grew back.

The treatment also comes with brain MRIs, which are one hour of weird noises in a claustrophobic tube. I’ve had a lot of them, but each one is a delightful new treat. I’ll be mentally taking myself to Cubs games during the sessions in “The Tube.”

As this has turned into a health blog, I would like to share some happier news. I have lost 30 pounds in the last three months—voluntarily!

My internist at the U of C Hospital observed my chubbiness during my last checkup in November and suggested I peruse the book, Always Hungry?: Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, Lose Weight Permanently, by Dr. David Ludwig. He said he had read it recently and learned stuff he had not known. I figured it was just another diet book that I would read for 10 minutes and then forget about, but I bought the book, read the first few chapters in which Ludwig validates his theories with research, and followed his advice for two weeks.

Ludwig’s approach shocked me. It was simple but radical. Forget about counting calories, just eliminate refined sugar, processed foods, and simple carbohydrates like white potatoes and bread. Then, shockingly to me, add fat like cheese, full fat yogurt and meat. Snacks should be mostly nuts and dark chocolate, at least 70% cacao.

I followed this regimen quite religiously for a few weeks and started dropping weight steadily.

The elimination of simple carbs and sugars with the replacement of fat and nuts, and of course, lots of fruits and vegetables, was easy for me because I like eating stuff like that. The sweets and bread weren’t hard to eliminate because I was virtually never hungry. My results were amazing.

My workouts are a lot easier now. My knees don’t hurt as much, and clothes I thought I would never wear again are now loose on me.

Did I know that sweets and carbs were poison for me before reading Ludwig? Sure. But the addition of fat and nuts made the regimen a happy challenge. When I started shedding the weight so easily it reinforced my new eating behavior. I am shocked but thrilled.

It’s mid-February in Chicago. Baseball season is within sight. Radiation—it’s an annoyance.

And I’ve lost my fat gut.

Bring on the Cubbies!

Question: What methods have you used to lose weight?

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Inflation – What, Me Worry?

By Lloyd Graff

Janet Yellen has been dumped into the Brookings Think Tank by Donald Trump. Should we care?


For years, she resisted her traditional banker type peers on the Fed and kept interest rates very low by traditional standards. The old bankers were peeved because higher interest rates usually mean bigger profits for lenders.

Janet Yellen was no silk-stocking blueblood by upbringing. Her father was a doctor whose patients were primarily dockworkers living in the poor Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. Yellen’s bias has always been towards economic growth and she advocated for accommodative low interest rates that probably contributed to the housing boom and then bust prior to 2007. She has admitted that her views may have contributed to that bubble and the “tech bubble” around 2000.

Yellen always wanted economic growth, which would help lower and middle-class people live an easier life. Folks like the dock workers she saw her father treat in his practice.

The irony was that low interest rates also helped grow value for people who owned assets like homes and stocks. It also punished older, risk averse people who relied on interest payments during retirement. It fostered income disparity.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, the first woman to lead the central bank and likely the most qualified nominee ever for the post, exited the Fed on February 3, 2018.

The current gyrations of stock markets are related to Yellen leaving the Fed and the realization that inflation, after being almost dead for a decade, might be waking up. Higher interest rates – think 6-8% mortgages and a 6% prime rate – could slow down asset appreciation and bite into business profits, thus reducing stock prices.

The stock markets have roared since Donald Trump became President with the anticipation of the tax cut legislation, which was recently enacted. The legislation will juice the economy with borrowed money and many pro-business features.

The question that troubles the markets is how inflationary is the current business climate and will the rising tide of business and wages soon bring significantly higher interest rates and a possible bust of stock and real estate prices, bringing on a recession.

I don’t pretend to know the answer, but I do know what I see around me. People with skills are able to get nice bounces in pay. This has been true for years but it now seems to be more pronounced. Folks on the bottom of the scale still cannot get much traction, even with supposed 4% unemployment. The people making $10-$15 an hour who have demonstrated an ability to hold a job are getting significant raises and overtime. Amazon is forcing up wages throughout the economy but it pushes its people hard and has trouble holding onto employees.

Gas and diesel prices have risen significantly and that ripples through the economy. Freight costs are rising fast and big truck sales are booming. Light trucks are also selling. Healthcare costs are rising, but we are reaching the point where the buyers of healthcare are pushing back. Trump’s attack on prescription drug makers, CVS buying Aetna Insurance, and Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and Chase banding together to attack healthcare costs is an important signal of change coming.

The big picture statistics from the government are showing minor signals of inflation at the moment, but my gut and business antennae tell me that inflation has started and it is moving faster than Washington’s numbers tell us.

For a business person like me who deals in hard assets like machine tools, this is a period of major opportunity in the short run. The first half of 2018 and probably the entire year should be a “boom” period. Inflation will work for me – until it doesn’t. Maybe automation will hold down wage surges, but eventually the dike will break. Inflation will spring up with inflationary expectations. Then we may get the bubble and the bust.

Janet Yellen is no longer at the top of the Fed. She and her predecessor Ben Bernanke helped us finally get out of the doldrums, and we’ve had 10 years of no inflation. Now times are great, and scary.

Question: Is this a good time to buy a house?

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Inclining with Age

By Lloyd Graff

Over the course of one week I will have had the opportunity to watch two of the greatest athletes of all time compete at the highest level at an age when they should have been long retired.

Last week Roger Federer won his twentieth Grand Slam tennis title, the Australian Open, at 36 years old. This Sunday Tom Brady of the New England Patriots goes for his sixth Super Bowl win at age 40.

I find interesting parallels between the two men and their careers.

Federer’s success was waning in his early thirties. Novak Djokovic became the dominant player in men’s tennis supplanting Federer and Rafael Nadal. Andy Murray of England also rose to the top of the game.

Roger Federer and Tom Brady

But the physical and mental rigors of the sport eventually pulled down all of those remarkable players, yet Federer continued to play and even started to get better in 2016, 2017 and now 2018. His fitness level seems to have improved over the last couple years, and both his backhands down the line and cross court have sharpened significantly under a new coach he hired. He won Australia last Sunday in a hard fought five-set match against Marin Čilić, the number 3 ranked player in the world. Federer’s wife Mirka, a former Women’s Tour player, was watching in the crowd as she always does. She travels with Roger and their twin boys, and is a big part of Team Federer.

There is a parallel with Tom Brady and his wife Gisele Bündchen, the famous former supermodel from Brazil, who is also a crucial member of the Brady team. Brady’s team is much bigger than just the New England Patriots, he has his own independent trainer and nutritionists. He also has consultants for meditation and emotional counseling.

Federer and Brady have been shrewd in developing a pleasant demeanor with the outside world, but they are fanatical in their devotion to their sports careers. They have both survived knee surgeries that could have ended their careers. Brady has endured numerous concussions without ever complaining about them, which Gisele Bündchen alluded to in a 60 Minutes interview.

I have lost a lot of my passion for NFL football in recent years because of the sad toll of brain injuries on the players. I was appalled when Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots was obviously targeted by the Jacksonville Jaguars’ safety in the AFC Title game and knocked out of the game with a concussion. He may miss the Super Bowl, and the Jaguars’ player was not even ejected from the game!

But I am up for this Sunday’s Super Bowl with the Eagles because I want to watch Brady at 40 go up against a great defense.

If Roger Federer can win the Australian Open at 36, Brady can win a championship again, too. I will be rooting for him to beat back the inevitable decline one more time.

Question: Do you feel like you’re getting better with age?

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The Best?

By Lloyd Graff

The use of advertising slogans must be as old as advertising itself. But if you are like me, most slogans are immediately forgotten if they were ever remembered in the first place.

But what if you take note of a slogan because it offends you. I thought of this a couple of days ago watching the new Gillette ad, which emphasizes the prowess of American manufacturing and even showed a man working at what appeared to be a Bridgeport mill.

And then the slick TV ad ended with the hackneyed old Gillette slogan “the best a man can get.” It struck me that it was not only an anachronism but it can be offensive to both women and men.

A little context. Gillette which is now a division of Procter and Gamble, was asleep at the switch as Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s attacked them on price and coolness. The beard trend in men also hurt them. For many years Gillette was a cash cow that barely had to advertise. It owned the shelves at drug stores and supermarkets, but the upstarts saw sticker shock on $5 razor cartridges and $25 packages of blades.

Social media and internet sales punctured Gillette’s sense of invulnerability. The company woke up and started buying slots on the declining NFL games, just what an old sluggish brand with a big ad budget might do. But every ad still ends with “The best a man can get.”

Business has really started to deteriorate for Gillette and they finally decided to address it, by taking out ads saying customers were leaving Harry’s in droves after trying it. That approach ended up as a PR disaster for Gillette because it was both false and also gave Harry’s tremendous visibility. Gillette came off as a slobbering bully.

Courtesy of April 10, 2017

Now Gillette is discounting its blades and has begun a subscription plan, imitating its competitors.

What bugs me about the Gillette slogan is that it strikes me as so yesterday and obviously sexist. And clearly stupid. The implication is that Gillette isn’t the best product, it’s just “the best a man can get.” Presumably a woman would buy a better razor.

Other interpretations of the slogan can also be made, which some will find offensive. What shocks me is that a company like Proctor and Gamble that makes billions of dollars on Tide, can be so utterly tone deaf in an age of sensitized gender identity.

I can only surmise that owning Playtex and selling cosmetics and tampons has not made the corporate types in Cincinnati more astute, or even politically correct.

For the guys who make the ad decisions at Gillette, the results must seem like, well, “the best a man can get.”

Question: Have you abandoned “big brands” for niche products?

The Gillette ad that backfired

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Manufacturing Value

By Lloyd Graff

I’ve been interested in K&K Screw Products since I sold the founder of the company his first three Davenport screw machines a million years ago. There have been several ownership changes since then. The company now has more than 200 multi-spindles and changed owners once again in December.

One private equity company sold the business to a bigger private equity firm this time around. CapitalWorks out of Cleveland had owned the firm (now KKSP) for five years, paid down the debt used to buy it, utilized the depreciation rules, improved the company by upgrading its data management, and facilitated two plant relocations. It plumped up KKSP’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization), and racked up juicy gains for the equity partners, which included management.

It was a textbook private equity deal and I was keen to find out the ins and outs of the game from an insider. Fortunately, Todd Martin of CapitalWorks was happy to discuss the deal with me.

Todd Martin of CapitalWorks Private Equity Firm

His private equity firm has partners who came out of the manufacturing world, some have sold family businesses, others have come out of corporate America like him (an Alum of GE). He has a wide network of folks who pitch deals to his group and numerous contacts to quickly find key managers who might be crucial in making acquisitions successful.

I was surprised when he told me that his group usually puts up 50% equity and 50% borrowed money into its acquisitions. I had thought that it would push 80% in borrowed money, but his belief is that less leverage makes for a safer investment, particularly in the early stage of ownership. If things are going well, they might recapitalize as they did with KKSP, two years into the deal.

Martin says that the key to a private equity deal is rapid payback of debt, increasing EBITDA, and use of of the tax code to limit taxes. CapitalWorks usually likes to have top management members take a stake in the company, whether they are inherited from the previous regime or recruited from the outside. Skin in the game definitely focuses the mind on the endgame, which is usually a sale of the company. In KKSP’s case it was sold to Mill Point partners, a New York firm with deeper pockets but a similar focus on manufacturing.

I asked him if larger companies sell for a bigger multiple of EBITDA. He confirmed that is often the case. The management requirement effort for a company with less than $10 million in sales may reduce the multiple to two to four times EBITDA, while a $100 million-dollar company might bring 7-10 times. Martin emphasized that firms that merge to get to the higher sales number often shoot themselves in the foot because they overshoot their managerial competence. A safer strategy may be to pick up smaller companies just to acquire customers and skilled employees. This is something KKSP did under the CapitalWorks ownership.

Todd Martin ended the interview by relating a story about a private equity hotshot from Wall Street with a Harvard MBA who came to a potential buyout meeting with a briefcase and credentials, but no socks. The nuts and bolts owner of the business in play was unimpressed. “Next time find somebody who wears socks,” he told Mr. Martin.

Private equity is the name of the acquisition game today in manufacturing, but you still have to know what you are doing—and wear socks.

Question: Would you prefer to work for a private equity firm or an individual owner.

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Machining 2025?

By Lloyd Graff

If mighty General Electric is in such bad shape that its Board is considering breaking the company apart, it makes one consider how our best assumptions about the future may be wrong.

A few years ago, the consensus in the marketplace was that we would be running out of electricity generating capacity in less than a decade. With the slow approval process for utility plants, the overriding opinion was that a shortage would drive up the cost of electricity.

It has not played out that way. Natural gas has taken an increasing share of generating capacity. It is now up to 33%. Coal, even the cheap good stuff from Montana, is losing out. Nuclear is dying because of the expense of guarding the plants. Wind and solar, with the help of government subsidies, are growing. Shale drilling has defied the skeptics by expanding American fossil fuel production.

The consensus 10 years ago was wrong about just about everything electrical.

It gives one pause no matter what business you are in.

What about automotive? The internal combustion engine has been the mainstay for 100 years, but do you want to bet on it for 2025? Tesla can’t get out of its own way trying to build its mid-priced car, but the Japanese, Germans and Americans all know how to build cars in volume. They will master the electric car. They might have to buy batteries from Elon Musk for a few years, but electric vehicles seem to be coming in the millions. What will that do to all the machining firms who are so good at building combustion engines and linkages?

Then there is the question of how many cars will be bought if autonomous cars take over the market. Presumably a lot fewer after the big changeover takes place.

As a used machine tool dealer, my bread and butter is the 10- or 15-year-old machine. Companies can now depreciate equipment quickly and can expect a significant residual value 10 to 15 years down the road. But that assumption could be wrong if the demand for machined parts in the marketplace deteriorates significantly in five years with a decreasing auto market. Additive manufacturing could also take a piece.

For example, just look at the challenge faced by Coca Cola, Gillette and Target. Did they see the decline of soft drink popularity, the Dollar Shave Club competition or Amazon’s domination of retail?

The medical implant business has thrived for 20 years, but it has been dependent on third party payment. Can we be confident insurance firms and Medicare will be as generous in 10 years?

I know I have been painting an ugly picture, but I just gave away 40,000 pounds of screw machine bones of the machines that were our mainstays just 10 years ago.

Today most people are optimistic. Private equity firms love machining companies because they are often great five-year investments. Lenders are happy financing machinery for 3 to 5 years today. Manufacturing in America is a good gig today. Hallelujah.

But remember GE’s electricity generation, a business that seemed like it would always be a dynamo.

Change comes fast.

Question: Will the machining business in North America be a good place to be in 2025?

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By Lloyd Graff

The sound that a 20 ton traveling crane makes as it stolidly rolls north to south, south to north, on its electrified path, is very much like that of a lumbering freight train.  I heard it all yesterday, backing and forthing, carrying its 700 pound containers of old dinosaur bones closer to their new home, 400 miles to the east.

Of course, they aren’t complete tyrannosaurus skeletons being transported.  They are a pile of Acmesaurus bones, the steel innards of 40-year-old multi-spindle screw machines unearthed from cabinets and shelves after being virtually buried for decades.

I made my peace with selling the remains of machines that had been our meat and potatoes for so long.  Back in the last century of the last millennium, National Acme screw machines were king.  They were frothing giants like Tyrannosaurus Rex, and they ruled the turning industry, but today we are just shipping some heavy numbered bones, being sold for parts to repair or complete somebody’s fractured Acmesaurus.

Containers of old ACME-GRIDLEY  parts at Graff-Pinkert

I was shocked we had so many unmatched bones left.  They had occupied the shelves so long I no longer really took note of them, sort of like books you forget you own, squatting on cheap space on your shelves.

Eighteen months ago I made a promise to my wife Risa and to myself that I would get out of the dinosaur business one way or another. I was in the midst of suffering through a second straight miserable year in the used screw machine business and knew I had to make major changes or my bank would make them for me.

For 40 years, the business was generally a fun game that I played, but after 2008, it wasn’t nearly as much fun. Multi-spindle automatics were being seen by more and more of my traditional customers as unproductive, clumsy dust catchers—not core equipment to invest in.

In retrospect, one reason I kept investing in Acmes so long was because I was trying to prove to myself that my choices were correct and my brother Jim was wrong in wanting to change the business focus of Graff-Pinkert away from Acmesaureses.  But Jim was shrewder than I was in recognizing the long-term trends in the machinery business.  Acmes were dinosaurs; rebuilding multis was a really hard business to make a living in; and expensive real estate, high wages and big health care costs were eating the profits in the dinosaur resale game.

Overhead crane at Graff-Pinkert carrying old ACME-GRIDLEY parts

The people who bought our Acmesaurus parts knew what they were buying and they paid accordingly. Forty thousand pounds of National Acme parts and pieces went for $13,000, plus $4,000 for a skeleton of a 1-¼  RB8 Acme. The buyers have cheap real estate, productive and not overly expensive employees, low utility costs and a good reputation in the business.  They also acknowledge it’s a hard game.  A lot of stuff they bought from us will never be used, but for 13 grand, they don’t have to worry about it.

I feel lighter getting out of 40,000 pounds of idle iron but I’m a little nostalgic as I hear the rumble of the crane shifting the tonnage to a new owner.  We are still in the multi-spindle refurbishing business, selling primarily Wickmans.  But refurbishing machines is now less than half of Graff-Pinkert’s volume. In a good month, refurbishing pays three quarters of the bills of the total business, which is okay because it builds our brand, augments our spare parts operation and provides a base of talent and knowledge that nourishes the rest of our business.

I know a lot of folks in the machine tool business who love the iron.  I don’t.  Those bones rumbling down the craneways are just dead iron to me.  What I love is the creative challenge of matching buyers and sellers, of turning dross to gold—occasionally hitting the jackpot, of connecting the dots that nobody else even saw, and feeling the combustion of ideas with Noah and Rex Magagnotti.

Question: Does it make sense to invest a lot of money to upgrade an old Acme?

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Making the Nut

By Lloyd Graff

We all absorb things from our childhood that literally wire our cerebral cortex and remain with us as we mature. There are images, sayings, emblems of fear and instigators of smiles. We soak up stories and develop a narrative that frames our lives.

As I thought about writing this piece the line I remembered most vividly from my father while growing up, of a thousand things I heard from him, was, “You’ve always got to make the nut.” To him that meant you had to cover your costs every month. Losing money in business was FAILURE. It was just about the worst thing you could endure short of death.

I was reminded of this after hearing a captivating interview with Sara Blakely, inventor and owner of Spanx, a fabulously successful young company that germinated when Sara cut off the feet of a pair of pantyhose and envisioned a new undergarment that nobody else had imagined. She was interviewed by James Altucher whose podcast I highly recommend.

One of the first things she talked about was her nightly dinner table conversations with her dad. He used to ask her, “How did you fail today?” This was not to tear her down, but to get her comfortable with the idea of failure. She got comfortable with failure when most kids were trying to ace every test or hit a home run every time up at bat.

She also became comfortable with embarrassing herself. Later, she even tried to be a stand up comedian, even though she wasn’t great at it.

Her father was trying to help her understand that failure wasn’t like death. It was a setback, something to learn from. Something even to laugh about – not the end of the world.

This was very different from the narrative I grew up with. I felt like I was the “designated winner,” and I was always expected to be the best. Failure was for other people.

Not that I was always successful, but success was always expected. Just like my father always had to “make the nut,” I felt like I always had to be successful to be valued, though that may not have really been the case.

Sara Blakely’s experience of having a parent normalize failure, though not extol it, was much healthier. Being able to experience disappointment without withering or blowing up seems like an ideal way to grow up healthy and be comfortable taking risks.

Through the years, I’ve had plenty of failure. I’ve lived through excruciating periods when I didn’t “make the nut,” and my life did not end in disaster.

In retrospect, I wish I had not gone through childhood and high school always being “successful” even when I knew in my heart of hearts that I failed often, like almost everybody else.

I also feel sad for my father who was so terrified of losing money in business, of not “making the nut” even for one month. He was always desperate about economic security, though by most standards, he had nothing to worry about financially.

“Failure” is such a subjective word. Sara Blakely’s father attempted to frame it for her in a positive way. If he truly succeeded at it, I think he was one of the very few.

Question: What was one failure you had this week?

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5 Spindles of Fury

By Lloyd Graff

New Year, new opportunities. I foresee a flurry of activity in 2018 in acquisitions in the machining world. Recently one of the largest screw machine operations in the country changed hands. KKSP Precision Machining based in the Chicago suburbs was sold by its owner, CapitalWorks of Cleveland, to Mill Point Capital of New York.

CapitalWorks bought KKSP in 2012 with management participation. They successfully integrated the Monterrey, Mexico, plant which has around 25 Davenport screw machines with the Chicago and Wisconsin plants. The Wisconsin plant is in Pheasant Prairie, just across the border from Illinois. KKSP also has a plant in East China, Michigan.

Graff-Pinkert sold K&K Screw Products, KKSP’s predecessor business, some of its first Davenports in the late 1960s. Today, the company has over 200 of the little dynamos producing 280 million parts a year.

Davenport Screw Machine

The Davenport machine is close to my heart. My father had a Davenport shop during and after World War II. Earl Brinkman, who had apprenticed to Mr. Davenport, the inventor of the original 5-spindle automatic, took a liking to my dad and helped him acquire the machines and get them running in 1942. Brinkman made a personal appearance at the inauguration of our new Oak Forest machinery warehouse in 1984.

Some people believe that the 3500-pound 5-spindle Davenport automatic won World War II for the Allies. The rigid Germans, despite their renowned engineering prowess, only ran 4-spindle multis during the War. Americans, running shells on the little Davenports with an index time of one second, slaughtered the Nazis in efficiency.

The basic brilliant design of Mr. Davenport and the improvements of Earl Brinkman are still very much alive, just ask the folks at KKSP.


I did not vote for Donald Trump because his impulsiveness scared the heck out of me, but after 14 months in office he has been remarkably successful. Yes, his behavior is unconventional, even erratic and scary, but the results are certainly positive in many ways.

From a business standpoint, many people in the machining arena changed their view of the world almost immediately after the election. It was a signal that the extremely corrosive attitude of the Obama administration toward business, especially represented in its oppressive regulation, was over for now. This has proved to be true. The EPA bureaucracy has really eased up. There is still enforcement, but the attitude has shifted from “gottcha” to “you need to improve this.” Citations are much less frequent.

Equally important is the phenomenal rise of the stock market in 2017. Virtually all asset classes gained in value last year. Unemployment dropped to 4%. Oil production grew to a rate of 10 million barrels a day, the highest in 47 years. The tax bill of 2017 is a major positive for American manufacturing just with its depreciation rules. The pass-throughs for LLC firms are an improvement, though more of a break would have been nice.

I still think Trump is scary, but what a remarkably successful or lucky first year he has had.


Today’s Machining World is moving into an exciting new arena, Podcasts. Noah and I will soon be interviewing some really fascinating people in the machining realm and disseminating the audio on Podcast smartphone apps. In recent months I have really gotten hooked on this radio show format. I think it will work well for us, and I am really stoked about trying something new. There is a flavor and feel that comes through on an audio interview that you just cannot capture in print.

Don’t worry, the blog will continue; but I think the Podcast will be a terrific addition.

Question: Has President Trump been successful in 2018?

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Good Morning!

By Noah Graff

For the last 10 years my general sleep pattern usually consisted of going to bed sometime between 12:00 A.M. and 1:00 A.M (sometimes later) and waking sometime between 7:45 and 8:00 A.M. When I awoke usually the first thing I’d do was grab my cellphone to check emails and text messages in bed. I get a lot of emails from international customers and I was interested to see what opportunities were percolating worldwide. Then I would roll out of bed and do my bathroom stuff (often skipping the shower to save time). I’d throw on some clothes, skip breakfast (I would usually eat some oatmeal when I got to the office) and head to work at about 8:20 A.M.

In the last two months I’ve changed my morning and evening patterns during the work week because I’m trying to get more productivity out of each day and hopefully lead a more fulfilling life. I make myself turn the lights out sometime between 11:00 and 11:30 P.M. I keep my cellphone in the bathroom with the door open, as opposed to keeping it on my nightstand. That way I can hear it if someone is calling with an emergency late at night, but I won’t be tempted to check it if a foreign customer sends me a text message at 3:00 A.M.

Noah’s cellphone in bathroom

In my new morning ritual I wake up at 7:00 A.M. sharp everyday. The snooze alarm and checking email in bed is prevented by the phone being in the bathroom. I jump out of bed immediately to turn off the alarm on my phone and amble into the shower which revives me. I also find that a shower often triggers my brain activity. I start coming up with new ideas and plotting what I need to accomplish the coming day.

After showering I eat some eggs while the phone still remains in the bathroom off limits. I spend five to ten minutes listing in a notebook all of the tasks I want to accomplish that day. Then I spend approximately 15 minutes writing down 10 new ideas. The ideas can range from new inventions to new types of businesses. Perhaps I’ll make a list of ways I can get out of my comfort zone or 10 things I feel gratitude for. Not until after I’m done writing down my ideas do I get to check emails or texts. If I don’t get to lay out my day’s plan and write down my 10 ideas the day feels out of balance.

My new goal is to go to bed even earlier so I can wake up earlier and get more sleep. Scientific studies show that peak brain performance occurs in the first few hours of the day. Scientists also say that if a person receives eight hours of sleep he has the potential to be three times as creative as he would with less sleep. Also, when I read about famous high achievers it seems like most of them average eight to ten hours of sleep. My problem is that time feels so scarce. I feel like I already don’t have the time to do all the things I want to do after work such as working out, cooking dinner, spending time with my girlfriend or working on creative projects. How will I have enough time with one less hour in my night. My hope is that when I start getting more sleep and waking up earlier my new found efficiency will give me a net gain for my day’s productivity.

Question 1: What is your morning ritual?

Question 2: Are you an early riser or night owl?

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