Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Israel 2016 - Day 2- Jerusalem

You can walk through the Old City of Jerusalem 100 times and each time, see something new.

Such was the case on Sunday as we took a walking tour with a guide (something that is worth doing no matter how many times you've been there).

One of the unique moments for me was going onto the rooftops above the Arab Souk (market) and looking into it from above. From the same vantage point, you could see all 4 quarters...the Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian.

I had always wondered why the Armenians had their own quarter (as the other ones certainly made sense), but our guide explained it as the fact that the Armenians were (apparently) the first country to fully adopt Christianity and thus received a quarter of their own.

Another was discovering small synagogues tucked away into corners and back alleyways, inlaid with fantastic and inspired designs.

The guide had a nice graphical illustration (looked like the South Park characters) that showed who ruled Jerusalem all the way from the time of the First Jewish Temple until the modern day.

Again, one of those things you kind of know, but seeing it all laid out on a timeline helps you internalize just how deep, rich, and complicated this place has always been.

Being there, walking the ancient streets, passing through the walls...you just know that the people in foreign capitals who are trying to impose a solution...well, I think there's a lot of wishful thinking there.

Of course, the highlight of the day was, as usual, the visit to the Kotel-the Western Wall, where we were able to put in notes (as is the custom) expressing the prayers which we hope God will answer, and say additional prayers.  My girls were there with some of their cousins, which made the visit all the more meaningful.

What's so inspiring to me about Jerusalem is how it can be experienced over and over again while being both new and old.

It's almost like pulling a layer back on history and your soul at the same time whenever you go there and explore.

BONUS: Thanks to reader Billy for sending in this video in response to yesterday's post.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Israel 2016- Day 1 Thoughts

The experience of Arabs in Israel and vis a vis Israel is obviously complex and multi-faceted, but sometimes I feel like it is oversimplified.

I was thinking about this as we arrived at Ben Gurion airport and I was struck by the number of Arabs at the baggage claim and passport control, mostly because of how perfectly normal it was for everyone there.

I had the same thought when, on our first full day in country, we took a 2 hour raft trip down the Jordan River at a place called HaGoshrim. It was really fun for kids of all ages, anyone above the age of 5.  In adjacent rafts on the river were a number of Arab teenagers, having fun, splashing us and others (as we were to them).

It was just a moment where I kind of thought..."you know, I think most Israelis and Arabs just want to get along in 2 states side by side and it's only a few percent of haters that keep the animosity going."  It was both sad and uplifting at the same time.

Then, I contemplated the inverse...how would Hassidic-garbed people or people in yarmulkes get treated arriving in Riyadh or Beirut or engaging in a recreational activity in Egypt or Algeria.  That just made me sad.

But I'm burying the lead.

The primary reason for our trip is to celebrate my nephew's Bar Mitzvah next week. In the lead up to that, however, 33 (yes you read that number correctly-- THIRTY THREE) people (all related to each other) spent shabbat together at the Kfar Giladi Hotel on Kibbutz Kfar Giladi.

It is rife with history (in fact, tomorrow is their 100 year anniversary celebration).

It wasn't cheap (full disclosure), but it was SO worth it.

The food spread was...RIDICULOUS, but again, I'm burying the lead. The surroundings were magical.

We were right on the border of Lebanon and had beautiful vistas of the Hula Valley, the Golan, and Mt. Hermon.

The weather was perfect. Balmy, a nice breeze, and secluded.  I took a few long walks around and it was a perfect space for reflection and meditation and family bonding.

I also took advantage of the sauna, workout room, and the kids utilized the pool.

The rooms were great as well.

I can't recommend it highly enough (well, I didn't love the cats, but as any visitor to Israel knows, that's not unique to this one place.)

This is visit #11 or #12 (I think) for me to Israel and it's always fascinating to see how the country stays the same and how it changes from trip to trip.

One thing that has stayed the same, for me, at least is the genuineness of Israelis.  I noticed this in many encounters. I think it comes from a deeper appreciation of how tenuous life is and recognizing that it's not always worth it to sweat the small stuff (though, of course, they have their moments).

I particularly enjoyed a chat I had with 2 ten year old twins (and their dad) who were born in Ukraine and came to Israel 8 years ago in the sauna.  They were so cute, saying "everything we learned about America, we learned on the computer and everything in America is just SO MUCH BIGGER!"

I'm on a bus with 16 kids now so it's a bit hard to concentrate, but we're headed to Jerusalem now and I'm sure that it will be (as always) stimulating.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

One Possible Reason Why Americans Can't Stand Trump and Hillary

I keep promising myself that I am done with this election, but like a bad addiction, I keep coming back to it.

We flew to Israel on Wednesday which gave me the great fortune of missing the 3rd debate.

But it also gave me some perspective.

I am of the opinion that there are very few countries in the world that were founded on a clear set of ideals and values.

Two immediately come to mind.

The United States- life, liberty, pursuit of happiness.

Israel- Jews need a place where they can be safe and not get killed and it should be the place to which they have a historical connection.

Other countries (say France) have incorporated ideals (Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite), but they weren't part of the founding of France (which obviously predates the Revolution).

There may be others (India?), but most European countries pre-date democratic or eternal ideals, and many Asian, African countries are artifacts of colonialism.

Maybe Argentina or some South American countries, I don't know.

But back to the election.

I suspect that what gets 70% (or whatever the number is) of people riled up about both Trump and Clinton is the perception that they don't have true core values.

Or at least core values consistent with America.

The perception is that Trump's core value is himself and Clinton's (actually both Bill and Hillary) have a core value of political expediency in the service of self-enrichment/power.

You may not like Obama, but he is principled. So is Gore. So is Kerry. The Bushes, McCain, Romney.

I suspect that, like Hillary said about previous GOP nominees in Debate 2, "I didn't agree with them, but I respected them," the majority of Americans felt the same way about each party's nominees.

"I don't necessarily agree with them, but I recognize that they do have principles and values outside of themselves."

For example, evangelicals who are pro-life/anti-abortion. I definitely don't agree with them, but I do respect their principles.

My sense from afar is that most Americans simply think that neither Trump nor Clinton really have values bigger than themselves...which is why so many of us are so disappointed with what is going on.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Here I Am (Book Review)

I was talking to my therapist the other day about the new book, Here I Am, by Jonathan Safran Foer and said to him (I like to offer free marketing advice),

"It's really a great book, but if you can get the author as a client, you'll be set for life, because THIS DUDE HAS ISSUES."

Now, I've never read another book by Safran Foer (I did see the movie of Everything Is Illuminated and enjoyed it), so I had never been exposed to his writing style.

It's intense.

It's raw.

It peels back some pretty bare truths about the human condition.

A friend of mine who has read his previous works said, "it's pretty wild the first time, but it gets old after that."

I could see that.

But I will say that I was really riveted by the book.

Maybe because it was so familiar in so many ways. It takes place in the DC area with so many familiar landmarks.  It is VERY Jewish in its thematics and concepts.  It was appropriate for this time of year as it deals with many of the ideas in the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur liturgy.

In fact, the statement of "Here I Am" is a central statement that Abraham makes prior to being asked to sacrifice Isaac.

I am not sure I fully get the market for this book. It feels like it is custom-built for married Jewish men between 35-50, admittedly not a huge group, but I suppose if you can get past or just accept the fact that some of the layers of nuance will be missed by virtue of things being so heavily entrenched in Judaism, you can get pushed to think deeply about relationships, kindness, sensitivity, thoughts that are said and unsaid, feelings, and truths about yourself and it can be very rewarding.

It's definitely not a book for everyone because the rawness is bound to offend some so much, but if you have a strong stomach, I think it could be worth it.

Two quotes from the book really stuck out with me. I took a picture of the pages.

On closeness...

and the drama of living...

Friday, October 14, 2016

Please Don't Automate Your Way to Apathy

Jonathan writes an article about how we should avoid the temptation to automate relationships, entitling it "Don't Automate Your Way to Apathy."

He gives me a shout out, which I appreciate.

I don't call people on their birthdays for the kudos. It's obviously nice to be recognized.

Even better when it is used as an example to help people build more meaningful connections with each other.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Diminishing Value of College Alert

Been on this kick for a while...that college (as it's currently organized and with very few exceptions) doesn't really prepare people for the actual world of work.

Granted this is from the UK, but the situation is analogous.

Again, don't get me wrong...I think there's value to a classical liberal arts education, but it's been so watered down and de-valued by most places (and inflated by cheap US gov't loans) that it's no longer recognizable.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Investing in Cryptocurrencies: How I do it

One of the questions I get a lot is: "How do you decide which cryptocurrencies to invest in and how much?"

Also, "where do I get started?"

Disclaimer: Before I begin, let me state unequivocally (or else our lawyers will kill me), I should say that this is in no way a solicitation, advice, or anything that could be construed in any way as investment advice.  You're on your own. Caveat emptor.

Ok, now on with it.

There are two ways to get into cryptocurrencies.
  1. Mining
  2. Outright purchasing

Without going into all the specifics of mining, suffice it to say that "mining" is the way that coins are minted. Just like digging for gold.  It's an investment in companies that verify the transactions on the blockchains of different currencies.

I bought a contract with Genesis Mining (you can use my affiliate code [xcUN4Q] for a discount. Full disclosure: I get a small commission]  which I found to be the easiest and my research suggests to be the most trustworthy.

Essentially, you put in however much money you want (i.e. you can afford to lose) and then you point your dividends to your cryptocurrency wallet(s) in whatever allocation you want.

Note: you will need to set up a wallet for this. BitGo, Xapo, Coinbase.

This is how I got started.  Then, you let the miners start sending you  cryptocurrencies. Keep in mind, your returns won't be huge on day 1.

Outright Purchasing

Being the motherlode of all altcoins, Bitcoin is kind of like the reserve currency of the crypto world. So, if you want to buy pretty much any other type of coin (and there are hundreds), getting some Bitcoin is the best way to go.

The most user friendly site is Coinbase. You'll figure it out. Connect your bank account and just click "Buy." It's backed by very reputable investors so I'm personally comfortable.

Oh...and remember to turn on 2-factor authentication!

Another site that allows you to transfer USD to Bitcoin is Kraken.  Nowhere near as user-friendly, but it works and the primary advantage of it and Bittrex, another site where I hold digital currencies is that wide variety of coins they support.  Kraken can also send you encrypted email directly, which is a nice touch.

Coinbase only supports Bitcoin and Ether which are the 2 biggest and (relatively) safest in which to invest, but if you are looking for broad support, they are more like gateway drugs to the cryptocurrency world.

Anyway, once you have Bitcoin, you can send it from one wallet to a wallet at another exchange and then use that to buy other currencies, which I have done.

Probably the best (and cheapest) way to do this is ShapeShift.io  You'll still need a wallet address for EACH different currency you want to buy though.

Currencies I hold

Here's what I currently own.
  • Bitcoin
  • Ether
  • AMP
  • Steem
  • Dash
  • Lisk
  • Storjcoin X
  • Ripple XRP
  • Stellar XLM
  • Bitcoin Dark
  • Ethereum Classic
How I decide

I suppose there are 3 stages.
  1. I read the blog feed of CoinDesk which is sort of the industry rag. There's a lot of noise and you have to be careful because they allow sponsored posts which are not always inherently obvious that they are sponsored, but it's a good way to stay "in the know."  I would never make a decision off of CoinDesk alone.
  2. Read the blog posts and whitepapers of the site. See if it even makes sense. I don't know enough technically, but I ask myself "is this a problem that could be solved through decentralization?" Synereo is a good example of this one where I said (again, no endorsement) to myself "yes, I think it could be." Storj is another one as is Ripple.
  3. Look to see if they have any reputable investors, VCs, board members. That's kind of a gut thing, but it helps.
  4. Never invest more than I am prepared to lose.
  5. Make a small bet and follow what happens. Like any investment.
Now, this can obviously be time consuming and it's not my full-time gig, but it's critical for me to understand how things might evolve.

Again, the big question I always ask myself: is this a real-world problem that could be solved efficiently with crypto-currency?

The resurgent PotCoin is one such example (I don't own any)...with legalizing marijuana at the state level and people concerned about their privacy, you could see how this might get some traction.

Advisory Sites

I haven't really watched the evolution of the altfolio advisory market though I know it's here and growing or the complementary altfolio advisory sites.  Recently, I was introduced to the CEO of Metastable Capital, author of the Trustedcoin.com  who covers a lot of this stuff. He had a great write-up (link coming), much more in-depth than I ever could so that's another area to watch.

Bottom Line

Remember-- I am not giving any advice of an investment nature. I do foresee the day where crypto-currencies are a part of a diversified portfolio for the average investor. Today isn't that day, but it's coming.

To me, the way to understand them is to play around with a bit of money and "pay to learn."

To be clear, for the most part, it's speculation at this time, but hopefully this gives you a bit of insight into how I do it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Cold Brew Coffee Experiments

Over the summer, I got kind of excited about cold brew coffee.

Then, I started getting adventurous (more or less) with my own spice-infused homemade cold brews.

Recognizing that coffee and the associated spices are a subjective experience, I wanted to share the tracking sheet to-date for your own use (if you so desire) and to solicit any suggestions for spices/flavors that I haven't tried yet.

One limitation: I only use what the NFO already has in the house. I'm not going to buy anything custom for this hobby.

So far, the only downside to the experiments have been all the space I've taken up in our refrigerator as I try these out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Update on Gary Johnson Endorsement

 Ok, ok…proving that confirmation bias can be defeated, I am going to (partially) recant my endorsement of Johnson.

Bottom line:  If you are in a battleground/swing state, please vote for Hillary Clinton.

If you are not in a battleground/swing state, then you can (and should) vote for Johnson.

Last night was a trainwreck for Trump. It’s clear that he’s too dangerous and we may as well swallow the bitter Hillary pill.

My friends who have been all over me for this switch on my Vote for Gary post. Congratulations, you were right.

However, I hope you will understand that most people (at least those with whom I talk) don’t (and probably will never) see Hillary the way you do.

Yes, she is experienced, but she is the epitome of the career politician who has become so much a part of the system that she willfully corrupts and ignores it for her family’s own benefit.  They see her as corrupt and representative of everything that is wrong with politics (and they are right).

As my friend Gloria said today, “we need term limits.” And I think she’s right. It’s at the core of the career politician/absolute power corrupts list (granted, doesn't apply to Clinton, but you can see the connection, I am sure.)

Hillary is going to win because most people realize that she is a smaller risk, but that’s not a compliment.

The reason I think people should vote for Johnson in non-battleground states is because people need hope.

You used to not be able to talk about politics with anyone. Now you can talk about it with anyone. “Well, we can all agree that we hate them both.’

Johnson may or may not be the right person for Presidency. Some of his policies are questionable, but that’s not the point.

What we need is someone who hasn’t totally abused the system, has proven s/he can lead across partisan differences, is actually committed to serving, not just to himself (Trump) or her family’s enrichment (Clinton).

It's kind of why I want him in the debates. He's like someone who makes the Olympics but the announcers say "we're looking at him/her to dominate in 4 years, but today she's just happy to be here."

If enough people in those non-battleground states make that choice, many people will feel like they can endure 4 years of cronyism, scandal, and corruption.

Johnson represents the fact that many people don’t feel connected to either party because they have swung so far away from their core base.

In my opinion, Hillary should and will win, but the change that many of us want from the Government (which Trump and Sanders voice) can’t be delivered by the ultimate insider.

So, in summary: if you live in a battleground/swing state, you should vote for Hillary.

If you live anywhere else and you feel the anger that a lot of people seem to feel about these two candidates, vote for Johnson.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Parental Halftime?

I was talking to Myra Norton yesterday who has 2 kids under 4.

She asked about how my kids are doing and I said, "you know, they are in that stage where they are old enough that you don't have to watch them all the time and they generally can take care of themselves, but they still think I know what I am talking about.

I suppose, it's the halftime between the physical exhaustion of the early years and the mental/emotional exhaustion of the teenage years."


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

25 Years of Email

It was right around this time, 25 years ago that my friend, Josh Milner called me from MIT during our Freshman year of college.

He said, "Jer, you've got to try this email thing out."

He was the first person I ever emailed.

And it introduced me, at the perfect time, to a world that I knew would be exciting but had NO idea how it would radically change everything.

I remember, sophomore year, I took a Computer Science class (1 credit) called "Exploring the Internet" and most of my friends said, "WHY is a History major taking a CS class?"

I replied..."I just feel like there's something big with this Internet thing."

No joke, I actually said that.

Apparently, back in 1991 there were fewer than 1,000,000 people in the whole world who had email.

Thanks, Josh.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Gradual and Seismic Shifts

Japan is an earthquake zone. Every now and then, you feel a tremor. Sometimes, obviously, they are huge.

Most of the time though (just in total minutes, for example), you don't feel anything. Yet, the earth is always moving.

It seems that our lives are like that. While we don't control the earth (and there are certainly elements to our lives that we don't control), there are areas we can, if we choose, control.

When you are pursuing a goal (diet, exercise, career, whatever), you are consciously pushing yourself to get better, do more, do different, etc.

Many days, most days, in fact, it's a tough slog. It feels never-ending.

Then, one day, when you don't necessarily expect it or plan for it, you have a personal earthquake moment.

The "ground" on which you stand as an individual is completely different from what it was before and you realize you will never be the person you were. Now you are the person you wanted to become.

It's a great feeling.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Team Finland sees Team Finland and learns Finnish

My kids' nicknames (one set at least) are Tikkanen, Jokinen, and Lakkanen. Collectively, they are known as "Team Finland" (how that happened).

We've had a field trip to the Finnish Embassy   and Lakkanen did her "country report" for school on Finland, complete with a picture of her with the President of Finland.

So, when we found out that Team Finland was
going to play Team USA at the Verizon Center as part of the warm-up for the World Cup of Hockey. We naturally had to go, provided they would wear their Team Finland hockey jerseys.

Which they did.

We figured we'd be happy no matter who won ;-)

As we walked around the arena, however, one thing happened that I didn't anticipate.

The crowd was 99% USA, of course, so whenever we saw someone else with a Finland jersey, that person would wave or nod at us. And, in some cases, they would say something to my kids...in Finnish.

Which they don't really speak.

They do know, however, that the way Finns refer to Finland is "Suomi," so when Jokinen heard someone say "_____ Suomi!" he turned to me and said, "I think that probably means "Go Finland!", I was particularly proud of him.

Unfortunately, Team Finland lost 3-2, but my Team Finland won.

Monday, September 12, 2016

What happens when there are no more gas stations?

I picked up carpool from soccer practice the other day and told the boys that I had to stop to get gas.

After I was finished, I got in the car with them and said, "you guys will probably never do this with  your kids."

"Why?" one of them asked.

"Well, cars will all be electric or autonomous. In fact, you may not even own a car and you'll just summon one when you need transportation."

Then I said. "I wonder what will happen to all of the real estate tied up in gas stations?"

And one of the boys said, "and what about all the mechanics and people who work at gas stations? That's a lot of jobs that will be lost."

We all let that sink in for a moment.

"Yes, it will be," I said.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Simple Recommendations for Staying Safe and Secure Online...

Yes, I know it's late 2016, but since a friend of mine recently got hacked and someone else got scammed by one of those "Microsoft" calls, I may as well share two pieces of advice.

First, use a Password Manager. I love LastPass. If you have multiple devices (and you do), the $12 per year option may be worth it.

This way, you can have crazy passwords that no one else can guess for every account AND not have to remember them.

Second...and absolutely critical is enable 2-factor authentication on every account where you can.

You can do this on Google, Dropbox, Evernote, and many more (including LastPass!).

I have it  on 16 accounts.

The benefit?

EVEN if someone does get your crazy password...they would also need your phone.

The BEST app for this is Authy.

You can have that on multiple devices and it's really reliable.

There are a ton of bad people out there who want to steal your info.  These 2 steps can't guarantee anything, but they are really easy and make a HUGE impact in increasing your security.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Recommended Read: The Originals

One of the things that we as a society (and the human race) really treasures and admires is innovation.

Many of us have ideas that could change the world, but few of us act on it.

The Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World by Adam Grant is about exactly this.

As opposed to other books on entrepreneurs and inventors, Grant doesn't focus on the usual suspects of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and the like.

Instead, he talks about the guy who helped bring down Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, the real force behind the women's suffrage movement (Lucy Stone), Carmen Medina (who helped move the CIA into the digital/sharing age), and more.

Then, he shares HOW they did it.

What were the tactics they used?


  • being a "tempered radical" in order to build alliances.
  • recognizing that you need both "power" and "status" to make change.
  • the requirement to create a "burning platform" for a sense of urgency
  • using a "trojan horse," where you don't tell people exactly what you are working on in the larger sense, you just tell them "hey, I need you to build widget x," so they will focus on getting it done.
  • renaming a movement from something threatening to something familiar, such as using the term "home protection ballot" instead of "women's suffrage" when trying to build an alliance of supporters
There's a lot more in here, but if you are looking for inspiration to make change (big or small) in your organization or your life, this is a good one.

Friday, September 02, 2016

The Immigration Debate..Justice for All?

In the wake of this week's debate on immigration, I am starting to wonder if there's a bit of a marketing job going on.

It feels like one side is saying that the other side is "anti-immigration."

But I wonder if the other side is really "anti-immigrant" overall OR are they "anti-ILLEGAL immigration?"

I read a Facebook post from someone earlier this week who wrote:

"My family and I came to America on tourist visas and overstayed. Like the vast majority of undocumented immigrants, we came because we loved the idea of America, we loved America's promise, we loved what America stood for: opportunity, fairness, justice. I did not recognize the America I know and love in what I heard tonight."

The comment struck me as very odd and potentially contradictory.

He wrote that he loves that America stands for fairness.  Yet it sounds like his family took advantage of the system and got things that others ,who couldn't do what they did, were not able to obtain. 

I didn't understand how that is fair.

It didn't seem like equal justice.

My sense (and I could be wrong) is that the notion of fairness described in the post is what is at the root of the immigration issue.

If America is a country of laws, justice, and fairness (in theory), why should people where one of the first activities was a violation of the law, somehow get an advantage over people who are following the rules, laws, and procedures and 'waiting in line' outside of the country?

Doesn't that seem unfair?

I'm all for immigration. I'm the grandchild of immigrants. It's what America was built on and it's what keeps the country fresh in many way.s

I'd like to do what we can to bring in a balance of people who can help make us better because of their skills and those who really need to be helped from bad situations. 

I'd like to do what we can to keep people who want to harm us out of the country.

And we have to be reasonable about the simple fact that there are people who are already here. Mass deportation isn't the answer.

Still, I'd like it to be consistent with our ideals of "justice for all."

Maybe I'm just naive and idealistic.

I just wonder if I'm in the majority or minority on this issue.

The 4 am Wake up Experiment

Inspired by my friend, Peter Shankman, who was quoted in this WSJ article about starting day at 4am, I decided to do a 1 week experiment.

Every day this week, I've gotten out of bed somwhere between 3.45am and 4.40am.

Around 6.45am, we have to wake up our kids and get the morning routine (the craziness doesn't seem to be isolated to our family, per this WSJ article), which gives me about 2 hours of total alone time.

What have I found?


I'm a believer.

I'm not saying this is my go-forward approach for life, but that first hour or so (when I sit down to write/work) is like a power hour of clairvoyance.

There are no distractions. No (or few) emails coming in. No texts, skypes, etc.  Instead, I have the mental energy and mental space to do creative work (like writing this blog post).  It's fresh and it's silent.

Around 5.50 or so, I'll begin the morning workout.

Once the kids leave at 7.40, I'll sit down for another 80 minutes or so (keep in mind, I don't have to commute anywhere regularly which is its own blessing) for another batch of activities, some work, some personal, including prayer and meditation.

By 9am, when things start to heat up, I'm rarin' to go AND I've already accomplished a lot of important (vs. urgent) things.

The flip side?

By 9pm, I'm pretty wiped out and I'm in bed by 9.45 or so, asleep by 10, roughly.  I can't go much earlier than that because we have to make sure that the kids are actually in bed and winding down.

So, I'm a bit under the 7 hours that I would like to get.

As a traditional night owl, this has been a big change, but eliminating the 10pm-12am (or later) slot where I would usually end up watching TV (junk food for the brain, mostly) or eating (junk food for the body) has been great.

Definitely some edges to work out, but a worthwhile experiment that has made a positive impact.

(Written at 4.40am, published at 5:08am) ;-)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Out of date Mental Models

One of the things that scares me is being wedded to outdated mental models.

You see this in sports a lot.

A player is great in one environment. We immediately think "this player is a great player." Say, Scottie Pippen on the Bulls. Or Kevin Garnett on the Celtics.

But then, the game changes. The player changes.  But our mental models don't.

So, Scottie Pippen goes to the Blazers. Garnett goes to the Nets. People think "this player is  great player, he'll help us."

But he doesn't.

You see this in business a lot as well. People will say, "Oh, I have a guy or a company who can really help us. She was great in a past job."

But today's business environment isn't the same as that of 5 years ago.

You could drop a member of the 1960s Celtics into an NBA game now and that player would know that it's basketball, but he wouldn't be able to compete.

The employee or firm who was "a rockstar" 10 years ago...may not be today.

There are new facts on the ground and the mental models of that person, company, player, or, heck, political candidate, need to be updated.

Nothing is static.

Now, I've realized that it's near impossible for me to change the mental model of other people.

If you support Obama, it doesn't matter if his response to Louisiana flooding was worse than Bush for Katrina.

And if you support Trump, you can easily ignore his racist/hate-filled supporters. Or if you support Clinton, no amount of evidence about emails or potential conflicts of interest are going to change your mind.

That's not my issue. My issue is:

What do I do to make sure that my mental models don't go stale?

How do I not fall into the trap of believing something once and then never going back to challenge those assumptions?

I've gotten a few good answers recently. One of them from Rebecca who said,

"I just look at an article about Hillary or Obama-whom I support- and then I do a mental 'find/replace' with the words Dick Cheney.

If reading that article about him with the same facts would get me riled up, I start asking myself if my image of Clinton and Obama is as clear as it could be."

Nothing is static.

It's when we think it is that we are blindsided by all of the changes out there.

The skill I am looking to develop is one where, like software getting updated, my mental models are being refreshed constantly.

The question is: what's the best way to do that?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Blockchains, Cryptocurrencies, and the end of Nation States?

I recently had a conversation with someone who thinks that Blockchains have the power to eliminate the need for the Federal Reserve. She acknowledged that she is of the "Ron Paul" mentality when it comes to economics, so she has a philosophical angle behind her position.

However, the rise of such powerful disruptors/disintermediators does beg the question:

In an age of increasing decentralization, what is the need and/or what will happen to such august centralized institutions as the Federal Reserve and other central banks?

A recent WSJ op-ed argued somewhat persuasively that the Fed needs new thinking.

Tangentially related, a great article in New Scientist asked "End of nations: is there an alternative to countries?"

Even asking these questions brought me back to the dawn of the social media age where I started to think about Marketing in a world where you went from a few channels to a billion.

You see, we all came of age in a world of large organizations that were built for scale.  Global brands that were coordinated across teams, functions, divisions, and silos.  It was this structural challenge that gave rise to the need for Sprinklr, a solution for adapting the new world of billions of channels to the "old world" of large brands.

While governments may not have been disrupted as much by social media, (as a Canadian, it's not like you can so easily choose a competing government and still live in Toronto, yet--see Government as a Service), communicating with citizens while important isn't necessarily core to governmental functions (though we may wish otherwise).

Money, however, is.

For a GREAT history of money and its role, I recommended Niall Ferguson's book.

So while Facebook/social media definitely challenges government on things like transparency and communication and elections, it doesn't rip at the fabric of government the way an alternative, practical (as opposed to gold, for example), digital, transportable, secure, and possibly anonymous store of value such as a cryptocurreny does.

Just because we were born into an era of big brands that control advertising doesn't mean it's always been that way or that it always will be that way.

And just because we were born into an era of big nation-states doesn't mean that it has always been that way or that it always will be that way.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I've been on the anti-college kick for a while.

Not in the "you don't need college" sense, but in the "you don't need college in its current incarnation" sense.

I just don't think that college (or frankly most of K-12 education for that matter) is really preparing people for the jobs world we're going to see shortly.

And I've been on the technology-driven disruption kick and fascinated with the blockchain (mostly on my other blog) recently as well.

I was talking recently with someone about how the pace of technological change seems to be accelerating. We felt it, but couldn't necessarily prove it.

Then, I came upon this passage in the Blockchain Revolution:

"Moore’s law indicates that the rate of change is accelerating exponentially. We’re moving to the proverbial “second half of the chessboard” where exponential growth upon exponential growth creates the incomprehensible."

Then, of course, there's the personal re-invention theme that comes willingly or unwillingly.

Now, maybe it's confirmation bias, but this TED talk by Anthony Goldbloom "The jobs we'll lose to machines--and the ones we won't"  brings a lot of these together for me.

The paradigms of what worked in the past..."good grades, good college, good career" are just out-moded. It may be a slow trickle now, but at some point, it's going to be totally evident.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Future Proofing Yourself

How do you get your current self ready for the future self?

I've been thinking about this mostly in the context of businesses facing an upcoming disruption from blockchain technologies.

But that's kind of secondary to this point.

I think we can all agree that the future is going to be quite different from the past.  So, as my friend JDO used to say, "what got us here isn't going to get us there."

That's why I spend a lot of time challenging the concepts of higher education as we know it.

It's why I think programming is so critical. 

But that's just my opinion.

None of us know what the future holds, but we can all think about HOW we might begin to think about the trends we see so we can prepare for them.

How do I future-proof?

We all spend so much time thinking about today and tomorrow...but how about preparing for 20 years for now?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Hot or Cold?

We recently had a spate of near 100 and 100+ days.

As Nadia and I headed to the pool, the DJ on the radio was having a monologue about how he preferred the blizzard of this past winter to the pure heat.

Not I.

In the blizzard, we were homebound and it was cold.

In the heat (assuming the AC is working), I get to wear shorts, go to the pool, and am still mobile.

But maybe I'm alone in this.

How about you?

Prefer intense heat or severe cold/snow?

Obviously neither is best, but if you had to choose.