Thursday, June 30, 2011

Remember the four Cs when making friends - by Judge Jim Gray

Within the first three to five minutes of meeting someone new, that person will have formed a strong feeling about who you are, how much they will like, trust and have confidence in you, and whether they will want to form a relationship with you. And you will reach the same conclusions about them.

This is the message of "Contact: The First Four Minutes: A Practical Approach to Meeting the Right Person" (Ballantine Books, 1994).

The verbal and non-verbal messages we send can be important in both our personal and professional lives, no matter who we are. This is true in interviewing for a job, soliciting business, greeting a new potential customer, meeting people at social functions or in potential dating relationships.

Thus it would not only help each of us to focus upon these critical first four minutes, we should also teach our children, grandchildren, employees, students and anyone else we care about to focus on them as well. My wife has included a summary of "The First Four Minutes" in her training manual at Walker Physical Therapy for years to guide her employees on ways better to greet and serve her patients, and she says it has worked famously well.

The four factors that are most effective in initial verbal contacts are confidence, creativity, caring and consideration — otherwise known as the Four Cs. Any successful initial encounter must convey at least a threshold amount of self-confidence. Being timid, apologetic or self-deprecating does not inspire confidence and, when seen as a first impression, make a meaningful relationship problematic.

Showing creativity not only displays innovation and problem-solving, it also implies sensitivity to the feelings of others. People are attracted to others who show that they can take a large amount of diverse information, make sense of it, and come up with creative ways of getting the job done.

People are seen as being caring if they give complete attention to their new acquaintance.

Dale Carnegie said it best: "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."

Being considerate is shown by the absence of criticism and by not doing things to imply that you are superior and others are inadequate. One way of showing this is by gently helping your new acquaintances to clarify or expound upon their thoughts as they are expressing them.

A good way to display each of these important traits is to ask questions about your new acquaintance's nationality, occupation, marital status and even the derivation of their name, and then listen to and follow up upon their answers.

You can also ask questions about their attitudes about timely subjects, such as sports, movies or current events in the outside world, as well as their opinions about them. Through this approach you can quickly find things you have in common, such as growing up in the same city, rooting for the same ball team, having young children, etc.

Common bonds can create relationships.

Often you can get a response from people who are more shy or reticent to offer information by offering an insight about yourself that is not too personal or embarrassing, such as "I was always shy when I was a child," or "I would really love to learn to play the guitar, (or travel to Hawaii)," and then ask if they had similar experiences or desires.

Another way of bonding is to offer a compliment to someone. By doing that you are really saying to that person, "I like you," or "You seem to be a special person," or even "I would like to get to know you better." But the compliment must always be sincere, or it will (appropriately) have a negative effect.

Using humor or humorous situations in the first four minutes can also be an effective way to bring new acquaintances into your circle of friends, as long as your comments are in good taste, and they really are humorous. It works, but be careful in this area.

Other successful approaches are asking for advice and listening carefully and appreciatively as your new acquaintance offers assistance. Or you can also suggest that this person reminds you of someone you know, and then provide some exotic details that will show how interesting that other person is.

Finally, courtesy to others is always noticed and appreciated.

Non-verbal contacts are equally important in making a good first impression. These include good eye contact, nodding your head in agreement or encouragement, giving your new acquaintances enough space by not physically crowding them, giving a warm and firm handshake, personal cleanliness and dressing in the way that would attract the type of person you want to attract.

By no means do you want to be or come off as being a phony or a hypocrite by adopting any of these approaches. But being aware of these tips and using them to display your natural warmth and friendship can be a win-win for you and everyone else. So give them some thought and put them into practice, and help others do the same. They will help you and other people that are important to you to have a more gratifying and successful life.

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "A Voter's Handbook: Effective Solutions for America's Problems" (The Forum Press, 2010) and can be contacted at

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Time to privatize out government work - by Judge Jim Gray

When former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger first took office he promised to address the out-of-control worker's compensation system, and he did.

Unfortunately, after making progress on about 15% of the difficulties — the ones that were the easiest and least controversial — he basically declared victory, and sailed off to do other good deeds.

Recently I read that Gov. Jerry Brown said he would reduce the size and expense of state government by eliminating 37 state panels, advisory boards and agencies. Some of these are part-time, and pay their members $100 per meeting.

But others are supposed to be full-time and pay their members up to $128,000 per year, even though many of them, on average, meet only once per month. The savings to eliminate just these 37 agencies is estimated to be more than $10 million per year!

Well, how many state agencies do we have? I looked on the Internet and found that there are more than 500! You can see the list at

How many of these agencies are duplicative or even totally unnecessary? Surely many more than 37 can be consolidated or eliminated! Our state has a budget deficit, and all of the people on these agencies get salaries at taxpayers' expense, many get medical coverage and pensions as well, and all of the agencies have overhead expenses.

But even as importantly, it would be far more effective and much less expensive in many cases for many of these agencies to contract out the work they do to private companies.

Why? Because in the business world, much more than in government, incentives matter!

For example, a good friend of mine, Richard Esgate, has a company based in San Diego called Esgil Corporation. Here is his story.

Richard is an engineer, and during the 1970s he worked for San Diego County, supervising its Building Inspection Department. At that time, Richard had serious challenges staffing for all engineering plan checks due to large fluctuations based upon the time of year, government policies and the state of the economy.

The obvious answer was to have a private-sector firm available for overflow during the busy periods and staff absences, so requests for service proposals were sent out. But all of the private firms that submitted proposals were determined by County Counsel to have conflicts of interest, because they would be checking their own plans, potential clients or competitors.

Fortunately, where there is a need, an entrepreneur will fill it. So Richard left the county and set up a firm that works exclusively for governments, which means he does no private design work at all, and thus he avoids all conflicts.

That was 31 years ago, and now Esgil Corp. has 25 employees, including 12 licensed engineers, and does all of the permit work for seven cities and much of the overflow work for many other cities, counties, state and federal agencies, Indian tribes in California and 18 other states. And, literally, everybody is happy.

Why is everyone happy? Because the governments no longer have to hire, pay and supervise so many workers. In fact, all the seven governments have to do is collect the fees, keep about 25% for themselves, and forward the remaining fees to Esgil Corp.

Esgil's employees are deputized to staff the counters at the city building departments and they do all the rest of the work as well, including keeping current on all applicable building codes and regulations, receiving, analyzing, giving recommendations for changes, and approving the plans for construction, and performing all of the on-site building inspections.

For their part, the private contractors are happy because they are dealing with knowledgeable engineers who have an incentive to have the plans submitted as correctly as possible. Why? Because not only do delay, revisions and change orders cost the contractors lots of money, they also require more work from Esgil.

This unity of interest has resulted in Esgil setting up and encouraging preliminary meetings with contractors to plan for large developments like shopping centers and high-rise buildings so that everyone can face the important and complicated requirements that must be met. And this saves time and expense for everyone.

As a practical matter, government agencies simply do not have these same incentives. This is shown by the fact that the average time from the submission of plans to Esgil for complicated building projects until final approval is usually about 90 days, including about two plan re-checks, while the average for government agencies is about a year, with five to six plan re-checks.

Throughout these 31 years, Esgil has only been sued twice, and neither suit was successful. And, although Esgil does not itself handle any money, its reviews of the fee charges assessed by the governments to the developers have found that government employees have mistakenly billed the developers less than they should about 25% of the time.

So that is what is happening with the governmental building departments that contract with Esgil.

Imagine the benefits that would accrue if other state agencies, like Caltrans, for example, were to contract out their work to similar private companies! This issue cries out to be probed, because we shouldn't just manage our budget deficits, we must reverse them!

If you want to help bring California back to fiscal stability, make it a point to contact your legislator on this issue. This time let's not allow anyone to declare victory after just addressing the easy issues and then moving on. The bureaucracy at times seems all powerful and ready to crush us, so how about privatizing the bureaucracy!

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "Wearing the Robe: the Art and Responsibility of Judging in Today's Courts" (Square One Publishers, 2010), Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, A Voter's Handbook, Effective Solutions To America's Problems and can be reached at or Judge Jim Gray is also currently offering his 25 years of experience on the bench to ADR Services in Orange County for Arbitration and Mediation services.

Friday, June 3, 2011

So much fun, history on Balboa Island - by Judge Jim Gray

A few weeks ago at a book signing at Martha's Bookstore on Balboa Island, I met and began talking to Sharon and Bob Lambert, who live on the island.

They told me about the existence of two things I didn't know about, which I now pass along to you. The first is the annual Balboa Island Parade, and the second is the Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society.

Since 1993, on the first Sunday in June, there has been a parade on Balboa Island's Marine Avenue. Participants include drill teams and bands, decorated golf carts and floats, interesting people and "island dogs" in costumes, children on bicycles, vintage cars and lots of other "craziness."

This year, the theme of the parade is "Balboa Island — the Spirit of America," and it will be held at 11 a.m. June 5. The bridge to the island will be closed at 10:30 a.m., so plan accordingly. You can see pictures of past parades at and

The Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society was founded in 2000, and the museum itself opened in 2002 at 502 S. Bay Front, Unit A, which is on the second floor and right next to the ferry dock. In fact, they are still collecting memorabilia reflecting life on the island, including pictures and stories. So if you have any, please consider providing them to the museum.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and you can call them at (949) 675-3952.

From the Historical Society's website, I learned that Balboa Island came into existence in 1906 when W.S. Collins, an early land developer, began dredging up sand to build up the island so that it would not be under water at high tide. Then, beginning in 1907, waterfront lots were sold to the public for $600, while the ones not on the water went for $300. Collins built a concrete "castle" on Collins Island for his wife.

For many years, the houses or cottages on Balboa Island were only used during the summertime and were boarded up the rest of the year. Until natural gas was brought to the island in 1920, all cooking was done on gasoline stoves, and the only lighting came from coal oil lanterns or candles. In addition, for many years, the residents used outhouses because there were no sewers.

The first seawall was built of wood in 1909, but it was replaced in many places by cement in 1914. The first bridge to the main island was a 12-foot wooden structure that was built in 1912, but in the first two years it was not strong enough to handle anything but foot traffic and a few horses. It was replaced with a cement bridge in 1929, and the original wood from the bridge was then used to build the Jolly Roger Restaurant (now Wilma's). This landmark was where our family bought ice cream cones before our nightly walks around the island during my childhood vacations. So it has always been a special place for me. The entire bridge was expanded in 1981 to include the present 9-foot walkways on each side.

The Grand Canal separating the Little Island from the main island was dug in 1913, and the dredging of sand and the build-up of the both islands were completed at the same time. During the 1920s and '30s, many movies were filmed there. James Cagney owned Collins Island for 10 years beginning in 1938, and it was used by the U.S. Coast Guard during most of World War II.

Collins operated the original ferry between Balboa Peninsula and the island from 1909 until 1914, but the service was irregular. Then in 1919, Joseph Allen Beek procured the contract. His original ferry was a large rowboat, "The Ark," and it was powered by a small engine.

Three years later, that boat was replaced by the "Fat Ferry," which carried up to 20 passengers. Not long after that Beek added a one-car barge that was pushed by his ferry and charged 10 cents for each car that he pushed across the bay.

The ferry service contract is still held by the same Beek family, so they are now getting close to their 100th anniversary. The present three 64-foot ferry boats, the "Captain," "Commodore," and "Admiral," began in operation in the 1950s. Their top speed is 4 mph, and it is estimated that these boats have made this 1,000-foot crossing about 22,500 times every year since then. That means that each of these ferry boats has traveled far enough to have gone around the world more than seven times.

So lots of things of interest have occurred on Balboa Island, and many of them are celebrated at the museum. Make plans to be a part of that history, and attend the parade with your children and grandchildren June 5. And while you are at it, also visit the museum, which will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. on the day of the parade.

It will be a slice of Americana at its best.

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "Wearing the Robe: the Art and Responsibility of Judging in Today's Courts" (Square One Publishers, 2010), Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, A Voter's Handbook, Effective Solutions To America's Problems and can be reached at or Judge Jim Gray is also currently offering his 25 years of experience on the bench to ADR Services in Orange County for Arbitration and Mediation services.

Take in a bit of history with your theater - by Judge Jim Gray

Do you want to treat yourself to great theater for a truly modest price? Get tickets for the upcoming production of "The Hiding Place," based upon Tim Gregory's original adaptation of the autobiography by Corrie ten Boom.
The show will be performed at Vanguard University's Lyceum Theatre in Costa Mesa at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays June 10 through 25, by the American Coast Theater Company, a resident professional theater group that performs at Vanguard during the summer season.
The play is set in Holland, and tells the story of ten Boom and her family of Christian watchmakers. The story begins in 1937 with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the family's watch shop, and goes on to describe what happened in their small town after the Nazi invasion of Holland. Several of the family members joined the Dutch Resistance movement, and all of them helped build a secret room onto their small family house where Jews and political prisoners hide from the Nazis.
So yes, this is a "Diary of Anne Frank"-type of story with the central figure naturally being ten Boom, while she and her family quietly shelter Jewish refugees in their small house during World War II. And we follow the story after a Dutch Nazi collaborator betrayed them, and also follow how their subsequent experiences affected them and so many other people after the war ended.
But there is more because the play also shows us much of ten Boom's human side as this heroic lady shares her doubts and frustrations about her faith, and how as the story progresses she increasingly turns to her religion for strength and comfort — and is richly rewarded for that decision. So, in essence, this becomes a beautiful story about how ten Boom's faith ripens and grows.
Finally, this story is even more meaningful because ten Boom died in 1983 on her 91st birthday here in Orange County, where she had been living with friends.
The second presentation of the summer season is the classic "Godspell," and it will run at the same time Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays July 15 to Aug. 21.
As you probably know, this is a refreshing yet powerful musical that is fun for the entire family. Taking elements from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, this contemporary adaptation tells the story of Jesus while also spreading a message of kindness, tolerance and love through engaging characters, wacky story reenactments and truly memorable songs. In short, if you are looking for really good and uplifting theater, the Lyceum Theater at Vanguard University is the place to be.
But to me that is not a surprise, because they have also shown great insight and wisdom by including my musical revue "Americans All" as their first show of their regular season for the three weekends beginning Sept. 16.
Thereafter their season will include "To Kill a Mockingbird," based upon Harper Lee's great novel about racial tensions and civil rights; "A Child's Christmas in Wales," a musical tale from the traditional old-fashioned Christmas classic by Dylan Thomas; "The Servant of Two Masters," a farcical comedy from 18th century classic Italian art comedy; and Harry Connick Jr.'s classic musical comedy "The Pajama Game."
Ed Arnold of KOCE's "Real Orange" told me that he believes the performing arts students at Vanguard are as accomplished as any other college students he has ever seen, whether they are from UCLA, Berkeley, UC Irvine, or anywhere else. I have been a season ticketholder for several years now, and I completely agree with him. Come and find out for yourself, because I know you will be truly pleased with what you see.
Tickets for the summer productions can be bought at or (714) 610-6424, and for the regular season, including "Americans All," at or (714) 668-6145. The Lyceum is on the Vanguard University campus, 55 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.
And don't forget to come to the Heritage Museum's Music Festival from noon to 7 p.m. to hear some great bluegrass music and provide great experiences for your children and grandchildren! The museum is at 3101 W. Harvard St., Santa Ana.
You will have a great time. And when you do, track me down and say hi!

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "Wearing the Robe: the Art and Responsibility of Judging in Today's Courts" (Square One Publishers, 2010), Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, A Voter's Handbook, Effective Solutions To America's Problems and can be reached at or Judge Jim Gray is also currently offering his 25 years of experience on the bench to ADR Services in Orange County for Arbitration and Mediation services.