Going to the decision maker matters for the IT Pros and Developers too

When I was in sales, one of the tenants of making a close was driving to the decision maker.  Anyone who stands in the way is a "gatekeeper" and is just there to protect the decision maker, like the offensive line in football.  Jeke past the tackle!  Watch out for the tight end!

The reason for focusing on the decision maker is to reduce the number of times that you have to hear the organizational customer say "no".  You have to wait througn 7 nos to get a sale as it is, you don't want to hear "But now you have to talk with Mr. Manager."  You want a check written after you hear yes.  Therefore, get to the decision maker.  There are a bevy of methods to use to get past gatekeepers, and young sales trainees - such as myself years ago - learn them by heart.

What I am learning, as I delve deeper into the Software Architecture role, is that getting to the decision maker is just as important for the professional IT consultant.  There are just as many gatekeepers in the IT department of midsized companies as there are in the purchasing department.  These are even more subtle, too, if that is possible; they might even think (incorrectly) that they are the decision maker, but they are not.  Whe you are consulting for a company, and have the opportunity to garner additional project hours by solving a new problem, you are often the only person in the building who can bring the new sale to a close.

The problem is one of feifdoms.  Someone in IT designs a network, or manages a server, or writes a key piece of software, or configures some middleware, and they think that they own it.  They do all the work, they make all of the key decisions, so they must own it, right?  Well, no.  Especially when a decision impacts something else in the company.  Now, if they do something on company time and get overruled, it's not a big problem.  They grumble, turn it off or whatever, and all is forgotten.

But if you, as a consultant, do it on their OK and it gets overruled, you might not get paid.

Suddenly, getting to the decision maker seems like a really good idea, especially when pitching a new piece of work.  Here are a few tips from my experience to help you get past the IT Manager of the Fiefdom, and to the person who writes the checks.

  1. First, know who writes those checks.  It is tough to find the real decision maker in some firms.  Often, the functional decision maker is the IT manager, but they have a higher power in the CIO or CEO or owner who might know little about technology.  It is essential to get this person's buy in.
  2. Remember that gatekeepers are your friend.  Don't tick off the 'owner' of the target system just because they don't write the check.  Your case is so much better off if both you and the system manager go to the decision maker.
  3. Have an elevator message ready.  Often, you will find yourself at the coffee shop or wherever with the decision maker, and might be able to catch him or her for a minute before or after.  Have a compelling 30 second pitch ready that describes what you are trying to do.
  4. Remember to listen.  Don't just talk.  Sometimes no is no.  Sometimes you have a bad idea, and that is why you are being blown off.  Sometimes you are explaining it poorly, and that's why you can't make the close.  Listen to the feedback.

Finding continuing work as a consultant often requires sales measures.  You can depend on a recruiter to get you into a client, but you often have to keep yourself there.  Having a plan to get tot he decision maker will make that process smoother. 


By far, the easiest way to defeat me in randori is to wear me out. I am 36, 230 pounds, and don't work out enough. Lie on me and make me work - I'll be wiped in no time.

Recently though I have been training with the kuji-in. Funny, that. It seems to work. The Bansenshukai curriculum has one of the nine ninja mudra for each of the nine kyu. The first mudra, for ninth kyu, is Rin or Strength. Every day, during my meditation, I have been focusing on those times when I have found extraordinary inner strength. Once, I stayed up for a very long time when I had a project due and Adam was sick. In a less poignant example, I recently ran a long time on the treadmill, finding some inner endurance. I lasted a long time in one particular randori, and can recall that.

All of this is done while making the Rin mudru, which is hands together, fingers intertwined. The middle finders are raised and touching. what this allows me to do is use the unusual muscle memory to recall all of that hours of meditation in a moment's notice. Say, for instance, right before a long randori match.

It might sound dorky but it works. Just like sitting in Seiza might make you think about class, the mudra recalls the topic of the meditation. I was impressed. I am totally not into mystical stuff (ask anyone about me lack of respect for religion) but when something works it works. The tie between muscle memory and long term memory is well documented.

I like it a lot. This is where the 'magic' of the ninja comes in.

More at Wikipedia.

S. U. R. V. I. V. A. L

I have been reading The Special Forces Guide to Escape and Evasion by Will Fowler to kinda formulate a strategy for Intonjutsu in my mind. We study element driven styles of escape and evasion in the club (like Katonjutsu, using fire to mask scent or make a barrier) but I like the forest view once in a while, so I read overview books on contemporary Ninjutsu topics.

I learned something very cool in the Zanson area in the first chapter, though. I like acronyms in emergency situations - when you can't remember much else, you can often remember cool acronyms. Here is one for situations in which Zanson is important: SURVIVAL.

Size up...
... the situation
... the surroundings
... your physical condition
... your equipment

Use all senses
Remember your location
Vanquish fear
Value living
Act like the natives
Live by your wits

Now, I think that is good anywhere. If you are in the desert being chased by a band of roving Mujahideen or in the mall during a fire, this is a good set of steps to keep yourself on track. The first and most important thing that most people always forget to do in any emergency is to take a second and Size up the situation. Stop. Look around. What is REALLY happening? Where are you specifically AND in general. Can your environment help you? Are you hurt? Are any of your wards hurt? What do you have with you? Would it be better in your hand right now, or stowed?

A better part of Ninjutsu, as I have posted before, is preparedness. While at the time I was talking gear, it is important to be prepared mentally. None of us know how we will respond in an emergency until one happens, so it is a good idea to have a Contingency Plan of Action for most major types of emergencies, and starting with SURVIVAL isn't a bad bet.


I have been reading On Killing by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, and it has me thinking about the reality of the martial arts. War is war, and defeating the enemy is just another word for killing them. Lt. Col. Grossman puts a lot of emphasis on the distance factor (it being a lot easier to kill with bomber than a knife) and it came to me that a lot of Ninjutsu is about killing at VERY close range.

Lets face facts. Ninjutsu is not a movement study. It is about completing an objective, no matter what the odds. If you are training any other way, you might want to ask yourself why you are into Ninjutsu and not Aikido or tai-chi if you like the movement, or judo or karate if you like competition aspect. Nonetheless I have to wonder how many of us could stab an adversary with a knife if the situation warranted. Many of my friends in the club are military and police - they are studying to improve their chances of survival. They might have to complete that thrust we all learn in tantojutsu.

Could you? I don't know if I could.

The psychological aspects of Ninjutsu are shrouded in a combination of the general fear of discussion of Ninjutsu and the "you'll learn that later' part of the art. Fact is, I think a decent psychoanalyst could have a field day with most of us, starting with Hatsumi himself. Studying a combat martial art in this day and age, when you aren't actually planning on any combat is, well, strange.

So why do we? Preparation? Are we getting ready for when martial law is declared? Is it really just self defense? I have no idea. But I have a sneaking suspicion that 1) there is a lot to learn form this art without being consumed with the concept of death and 2) not many of us are gonna find out and that is a good thing.

Read On Killing. It will get you thinking.


Shidoshi posted recently about taking change of one's own training. I don't think I could agree with him more if I tried but only now, after almost a year in, am I starting to get more insight into that principle.

You see, I am not of the warrior caste, as I think I have posted about before. I really have to work at this stuff. None of it comes naturally. I usually get my self up to 80% and them let my natural talent carry me the rest of the 20%. In this, I can't do that. I don't have any natural skill. I have to train all the way to 100%. I have never had to do that before in anything I have done.

So I need a new way to work.

In my particular school, there is a lot of stuff to learn. A LOT. Most than most ninjutsu schools that I have seen the kyu sheets for. Ok, more than all of them. Put together. For my 7th kyu test, I have 29 individual testable points. For the taijutsu parts, I have to know henka and counters, too. Ouch.

Shidoshi says that you have to do each individual movement 100 times with a compliant uke before the muscle memory even starts to think about kicking in. After that, you need to take it to randori and work it there 100 more times. Ok, I think I agree. I am going to formalize it a little bit, and actually plan my training.

For my 7th kyu exam, I am going to actually make a training chart, and track how often I train on each individual item. Everything - from the side roll to the jujutsu kata items. Some I can train alone, most I need an uke for, but that's what open mat is for. AND I will go to class as well.

What I need now is to revise my vision on why I am training. Fact is, I am training like I will use it. Fact is, I probably won't use it. I might once or twice (Aikido has saved my ass twice) but probably not much more than that. I need to now train to get good at it - becasue it is going to be really good for me to get good at something that I have a hard time with.

That might not be enough though. I am a very competition driving individual, though I don't pretend like I am. Takamatsu-sensei said something that matters, though.

The way of the martial artist is the way of enduring, surviving and prevailing over all that would destroy him. More than delivering strikes and slashes, and deeper in significance than the simple outwitting of an enemy, Ninpo is the way of attaining that which we need while making the world a better place. The skill of the Ninja is the art of winning.

Yes. Yes indeed. That's what I am training for - winning. Doesn't matter if it is in the boardroom or a brawl, winning is winning. That's what I am after.


If you hang out at forums like Martial Talk, you will discover that there is a fair amount of discussion regarding the history of Ninjutsu. Generally speaking, there is no real record of ninja before about 1956, and Takamatsu more or less defined the genre. The common belief is that he just created it, and Hatsumi, with his marketing brilliance, has expanded it. The 900 year history is an urban legend.
I say this: So what?

What I, you, my training partners and the Marines are looking for is a fighting system that works. If Takamatsu invented one and it works, who cares? Ueshiba invented Aikido and it works for what it is designed for. Kano invented Judo and it works very nicely too.

I think the problem lies in the same as the one of religion. If something that God or Jesus said is proved to be irrevocably false (like absolute proof that Mary wasn't a virgin, for instance) then large pillars of Christianity fall. If the premise that Hatsumi isn't teaching the art of 33 people before him falls, then again, the Bujinkan will lose a fair amount of identity.

And no one likes to see that.

Don't worry about identity. the implication of that is that you have to be willing to waste a little time studying with someone that turns out to be not what you want then leave. But if that means you find the teacher that you do want, then it was well worth the effort.

That's what it all comes down to - learning what you want to learn. The only kicker is this - be realistic. If you are studying ninjutsu and learning to break bones, don't think you can take your skills to MMA - they don't like broken bones there. If you are studying Aikido and think you are going to go fight on the streets of New York you might want ot reconsider. The art depends heavily on a trained uke.

So - conclusion. 1) Don't worry about history, worry about now. 2) Find an art that works for you, taught by a teacher that works for you. 3) be realistic. Words to train by. Have a nice night.

Why I build systems using Microsoft

I have a few very high profile (read: TV ads and NYSE listings) clients who are on me about solving their problems using Microsoft.  "LAMP ( Linux Apache MySql PHP ) is cheaper!", they say.

Well, they are wrong.  You have to consider cost of ownership, and that includes a lot of inputs.  This, which I have been following for years now, is just the latest.

PHP Security Team Member Resigns

Fact is, this story at Microsoft would have been reported by Brian Williams, probably from Seattle.  As it is, most everyone says 'What is PHP?' even if they do hear about the story.  They don't realize that many many high profile sites use this toy for an enterprise language.

You know, this is a big deal.  I'll get the rest of the information that makes this blog interesting and add it later.

One thing - this is not a condemnation of open source.  I love it, I participate, and I use it a lot.  Don't use it for enterprise applications unless you know exactly what you are doing.


I blogged earlier about an injury I received that has sidelined me. I am not pleased, but the fault is my own. I was practicing without focus.

Focus in the martial arts is particularly important. First, you must practice as you wish to perform. If you wish to be successful in saving your ass in a combat situation, you must absolutely be focused on winning. In order to know what that means, you must be focused in practice. Just like the kata must be felt to be understood, just like ukemei must be felt to be understood, just like torimei must be felt to be understood, focus must be felt to be understood.

Not surprisingly, focus is somewhat hard to describe - it is corollary to being felt to be understood, right? Focus is a matter of clearing your mind so that nothing exists except you and your uke. The samurai called it mushin - no mind. You are acting out of muscle memory.

Aah, but there is more than that. Even before you have the muscle memory, you must concentrate on a lot of other factors in order to learn the technique. That is not trivial. In order to accomplish it, you absolutely must not be thinking about being hungry, or your job, or your homework, or your wife, or your sore leg, or your gi, or the cute chick that joined class today, or the fact that your buddy missed class. Just the technique. Nothing else.

That in itself takes practice - which makes it even more of an important part of practice. (I mentioned that this is complicated.) I wasn't focused on my own ukemei, so I let me legs flop around, and one of them ended up under my tori's knee - which was exactly where it was supposed to be. Uke have responsibility for focus too.

So lesson learned. If you aren't able to focus, don't go to class. Or meditate before class and get that focus back. But don't ever, EVER practice without focus.


Unshinjutsu is the art of being invisible. It is usually studies in the literal sense: use of hensojustu to disguise oneself, or metsubushi to remove eyesight, or shinobi iri to not be noticed or whatever.

Today’s ninja has a lot more to worry about than someone seeing him where he shouldn’t be. Invisibility is now as much a matter of privacy as anything else. If someone searches for me name on line, they will get (hmm, let’s see…) 19,400 hits. My privacy is shot to hell because of what I do for a living. Invisibility matters even more for me than most because of this, so it has always been an interest of mine. Ninjutsu has renewed that interest.

We have been doing hensojutsu exercises in class, and they largely end with a bunch of guys sitting around giggling like high school girls. It’s hard to practice situational acting – it takes both knowledge and practice. In order to improve on this, I got Meisner On Acting from Amazon, and did a keyword search for Hensojutsu in Amazon.

On of the books I came across is turning out to be very interesting. It is How to be Invisible, by J.J. Luna, and it is very well – if somewhat spectacularly – written. He overstates some examples, but his ideas are just really well thought out and extremely well presented.
His first drive for invisibility is to erase your home address. Now, I am not going to tell you how he says to do it (go buy the book – sheesh!) but I can say this: it makes a lot of sense. Identity is a much more straightforward thing than we think. We are defined by our home address and phone number to a tremendous number of entities.

In the professional world, I am a computer professional with a specialty in the internet. I can say from personal experience that companies – both .com and brick and mortar – give privacy a lot of lip service while doing everything within the law to get as much information as possible. If an FBI agent walked into Target with a warrant, they could know practically everything important about you in a few minutes if you have ever shopped there at all. Trust me.

When you disconnect your address from your name your privacy – electronically and physically – increases dramatically. However, it means a dramatic change in personal habits. Like physical invisibility, which requires a large amount of observation of your environment, privacy will require you to think twice when just ordering a pizza. More take out, less delivery, folks.

Get Mr. Luna’s book and read it if you want to learn about today’s unshinjutsu. Privacy matters.


Well I finally got hurt - took a falling knee to the side of my shin and have a hell of a welt there now. Leg injuries like this suck because they impact your walking and then your hips hurt, and then your back, and then your shoulders ... just terrible.

To treat initially, I just wrapped the contusion in gauze and soaked with Witch Hazel. This is quite effective - much more so than ice. Remember, ice is for dead people. The next day, I went to the health food store and got an Arnica compound over the counter, and some homeopathic trauma pills. So far it is pretty successful - I probably will only miss one class, and I am about 90% mobile.

I own a copy of A Tooth from the Tiger's Mouth: an excellent book about traditional Chinese medicine as it applies to sports injuries. That got me started on trauma liniment or Dit Da Jow (spelled a hundred ways) which is basically witch hazel with a bunch of herbs, steeped in alcohol. It is designed to prevent the pooling of blood in a contusion and it really works quite well.

I decided to make my own for the next time I am hurt, and did a little online research to find some recipes. Basically, there are three categories of herbs that are needed: pain reduction, blood flow stimulation, and blood clot reduction. They are soaked in vodka (not everclear, you need some water too) for a few months, then you are good to go. Here are a few of the recipes that I found:

American Die Du Jow

  • Alcohol (Vodka, Gin, Brandy - even Rubbing Alcohol) 1 or 2 quarts
  • Breadstraw
  • Calendula (Marigold)
  • Camomile
  • Comfrey (if you can still get it - you may have to grow your own if you want to add this)
  • Common Club Moss
  • Cow slip
  • Dandelion
  • Shepherd's Purse
  • Stinging Nettle
  • St. John's Wort
  • Wintergreen oil

Traditional Jow

  • 1 bottle of strong vodka, gin or Chinese rice wine
  • Artemesia (Liu ji nu) - 5g
  • Borneol (Bingpian) - 1g
  • Carthamus (Honghua) - 5g
  • Catechu (Ercha) - 8g
  • Cinnabar (Zhusha) - 5g
  • Cirsium (DaJi) - 1g
  • Dragon's Blood (Xuejie) - 30g
  • Mastic (Ruxiang) - 5g
  • Musk (Shexiang) - 1g
  • Myrrh (Moyao) - 5g
  • Pinellia (ShengBanXia) - 5g

Another simple one


  • Arnica blossoms (anti-inflamatory, pain relief)
  • Comfrey (anti-inflamatory, pain relief)
  • Blessed Thistle (blood purifier)
  • Goldenseal root (antibiotic, wound healing)
  • Ginger root (circulation, wound healing, pain relief)
  • Myrrh (antiseptic, circulation, wound healing)
  • Sasparilla root (blood purifier)
  • Witch Hazel (anti-inflamatory, pain relief)

Chinese formula


  • ru xiang, 12 grams
  • mo yao, 12 grams
  • chi shao, 12 grams
  • mu xiang, 12 grams
  • hong hua, 9 grams
  • tao ren, 9 grams
  • dang gui wei, 12 grams
  • pu huang, 12 grams
  • da huang tan, 9 grams
  • tian qi, 12 grams
  • xue ji, 9 grams
  • ding xiang, 9 grams

Remember, this formula is VERY TOXIC and should NEVER be taken internally or used on an open wound. You will end up in the emergency room if you screw up. If the skin is broken, and the bruise is deep, go to the doctor. It's just not worth being hurt for a long time.

Husband. Father. Pentester. Secure software composer. Brewer. Lockpicker. Ninja. Insurrectionist. Lumberjack. All words that have been used to describe me recently. I help people write more secure software.



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