Monday, March 20, 2017

People who love people

There are people out there who just love people. They love connecting and love learning and listening.

Engel Jones is one of them.

To live his beliefs, he set an ambitious goal for himself...Have a 12 minute conversation with 1000 people in a 3 month timeframe.

He recorded them and published them.

I came in #883. There are some really good ones here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Building the Emotional Muscles

For the past 18 months or so, I've been working out my emotional intelligence muscles. Like any regimen, there are periods of soreness, frustration, and plateaus.

And, like any effort, it's always nice to get positive reinforcement.

I saw a tweet from Naval (someone whom I have come to respect a great deal)
and a blog post from Seth Godin, entitled "emotionally attractive."

People who are open, empathetic, optimistic, flexible, generous, warm, connected, creative and interesting seem to have a much easier time. They're more able to accomplish their goals, influence others and most of all, hang out with the people they'd like to be with.

The best part is that this is a skill, something we can work on if we care enough.

I didn't really care enough about this skill until 18 months ago. I didn't think it was really necessary and, even if it was, I didn't think I had the capability to build it.

I was wrong.

I'm not a Jedi master black belt yet by any stretch, but I'm seeing both the inherent and practical value of the effort.

Then, since good things come in 3's, I suppose, I was reading the good ol' Costco Connection and found some great advice about how to put it all into practice when it comes to being supportive.

"Yes, and..." is a classic but I really loved #4, "bring a brick, not a cathedral."

I tend to bring cathedrals too often.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Trump coping mechanism: Take what the scene gives you

Like many people, Michelle isn't thrilled about the results of the US Presidential election.

Of course, that's an understatement.

But what separates Michelle from many is how she chooses to respond to Trump's election.

As a specialist in creativity and improv, Ilene says that the first rule of improv is
"Take what the scene gives you."
Don't resist it.

Don't fight it.

Don't wish it was something else.

Recognize that it is what you have to deal with right now and go with it, in a natural, flowy type of way.

I found this approach so refreshing. It's not that she's complacent about Trump, it's where she chooses to focus her energy and the way she accepts the context around her as a starting point.

Take what the scene gives you.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Korean: One of the best birthday gifts I ever received

Serendipity is a beautiful thing.

A few weeks ago I asked the network for the most high-tech way to buy a suit.

Rasul Sha'ir (here's his TEDx talk) pointed me to

I figured...what the heck. Go for it. So with the help of Nadia (age 9), we took the measurements and went a bit crazy in the customizations.

I was nervous that it wouldn't work, but the suit showed up 3 weeks later and it's pretty solid.

As it turns out, we messed up on a few of the measurements (not so surprising), so I took it to the dry cleaner/tailor near my house.

It's owned by Koreans where the English isn't so great, which is fine, but when I dropped it off, they saw the issue, made the marks and I thought I was set.

But, I wasn't.

They called me about 90 minutes later and began telling me something. The thing is...despite all of my efforts, I couldn't figure out what they were saying.

So, even though I didn't want to go back, I had to.

As today is my birthday, I've been lucky to get a bunch of phone calls from people all over the world.

As luck would have it, at the EXACT moment when I walked in through the door of the dry cleaners, I got a call from a JHU classmate, Nelson Lee.

After we said a quick hello, I had a brainflashs.

"Hey wait, Nelson, you're Korean, right?"


"Do you speak Korean?"


"Can I ask for a birthday gift?"

At which point, I put Nelson on speaker and he did real-time translation of what the tailor (an elderly Korean gentlemen) was saying and what I responded.

Now, thanks to Nelson's birthday call and his on the fly Korean real-time translation, my bespoke suit should look sharp.

The more I think about it, the more I can't get over the fact that, at the precise moment that I needed Korean language skills, someone with Korean language skills called me.

Total proof of God's existence. ;-)

Or, as my brother said, it's "Korean-as-a-service."

Kamsa Hamneeda!!

Compounded Interest of Relationships

He's a venture capitalist, but his analysis of relationships is spot on. Feels very appropriate for today.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Thoughts on Love, Marriage, and Relationships

Over the course of 25 years and approximately 1800 calls per year, you get to learn a lot about people, lives, and relationships.

Sadly, you see a lot of marriages form and then dissolve.

It's part of life, I know, and not every marriage is meant to be.  Sometimes, no matter what, it can't be saved.

I think one thing (there are many) that seems to separate the happier marriages from (some of) the more troubled marriages is the perspective that people take about what "love" is.

In my mind, one of the better definitions is that love isn't really a noun. 

It's a verb.

It's a series of actions based on compassion and understanding of the needs of others.

It's actions that speak louder than words. 

This African proverb sums it up about as well as I've ever seen.

Western civilization has idealized, in my opinion, Love as a feeling that is either present or not. I just wonder if that's a disservice, in some respects.

The feeling of Love is internal to you/each of us, the action of Love is towards another person/external.

Perhaps another explanation comes from the classic Fiddler on the Roof song, "Do you Love me?"

The whole point's the day-in, day-out actions of caring for another person, putting their needs first, and supporting them in what they want to accomplish that makes up Love.

Dedicated to the memory of my grandparents, as today is their wedding anniversary. They were the picture of both kinds of Love.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Battling "Legacy You"

In the technology world, we talk about "legacy" software.  That is, old programs that linger around and impact the way you do things today. Replacing them can be challenging and costly.

I was thinking the other day about "Legacy You" or really "Legacy Me."

Over the past 18 months or so, I've been putting forth a concerted effort to work on my emotional intelligence, empathy, and compassion. Some progress has been made and there's still a lot of work to be done.

That being said, there are many people with whom I interact and whmo I haven't seen or talked to in a long time, so they may not be aware (or see immediate evidence) that I'm working on changing that part of my character.

This came to a head a few weeks ago when someone rebuked me in a pretty harsh way, one that I think I would have been appropriate for me a few years ago, but less so today.

I wasn't upset. I just realized the person was behaving in a way that was appropriate for what I hope/believe is "Legacy Jer."

It made me realized that, no matter how much each of us tries to change, we are all dealing with others' perspectives on our "Legacy" Selves.

It's a good reminder, however, about the future.  How we behave today is going to impact future behaviors towards us.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Why We Love Sports

It's not for the raw physical prowess. It's for what it shows us about how we can be...if we choose to be.

The lesson of Sunday's incredible Super Bowl and Monday's Cavs-Wizards game (Paco, Nadia, and I were all watching live) was the same.

How you choose to respond to adversity is the key.

Obviously, Brady and the Pats could have walked into the locker room at halftime and said "ok, I guess it's not meant to be."  Many, many, many other people would have done the same. We see it all the time. They throw in the towel. But not those guys.

Then, Monday's the thing.  LeBron hits an incredible 3 pointer, off the glass, while falling out of bounds to tie the game.

But the really remarkable thing is that on the previous play, he had missed a WIDE OPEN LAY-UP.  It went from about the easiest shot of his life to one of his most difficult ever.

Here's what I told the kids about it.

After blowing that shot, there are many people who would have pitied themselves, gotten upset, cried, and had their confidence totally shaken.

Not LBJ.

The fact that he shook it off and then came back to make that shot, that's the lesson.

It's why Brady and LBJ are 2 of the all-time greats. They have physical skills (some don't love what Brady has!), but they are mental toughness titans.

What's the most cutting-edge way to buy a new suit?

So...I have to buy a new suit.

To stay consistent with the brand, I am trying to figure out the most cutting-edge way to buy a new suit (without breaking the bank compared to a 'traditional' solution.)

I'm open to ideas, suggestions, or nominations.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Best sports year ever?

Between the Super Bowl, Game 7 of World Series, and Game 7 of NBA finals, have we just experienced the best sports finale combination ever?

Friday, February 03, 2017

Is Make America Great Again a Desire for the 1950s?

This morning, I asked Alexa to play Rock and Roll Part 2 and somehow ended up with 50 greatest rock and roll hits from the 50s. It was still good.

As I listened to it, I turned to Paco and said,

"you know, I wonder if when Trump says 'Make America Great Again,' he was actually trying to evoke an emotional connection to the 1950s?"

For many people, I explained, that image represents an era of unbridled economic prosperity and opportunity. Job growth, taking on big challenges in infrastructure like the Interstate Highway system, and upward mobility. Plus, as I hearkened back to the "Enchantment Under the Sea" scene from Back to the Future (before Marty goes all Chuck Berry, of course), for many there's a perceived nostalgia around wholesomeness, safety, and security.

Of course, I also explained to him, for many people the 1950s represent an era when women couldn't get abortions, homosexuals couldn't safely self-identify in public, segregation/Jim Crow was rampant, and miscegenation was illegal, just to name a few.  Having just visited Atlanta and the Civil Rights Museum, that resonated.

I'm probably not the first person to make this observation of MAGA=1950s and for you, it's probably obvious, but for some reason it dawned on me this morning as a possibility.

Given Trump's age (he was 4-14) during the 50s, I wonder if there's a psychological angle for him as well. Innocence before it was lost (Rosebud) or something like that...

Undoubtedly, others will have opinions on this one.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Genius of Trump's Strategy

This isn't an endorsement.

Since the election, though, I've said that "whatever you think of Trump, he has his own wing in the Marketing Hall of Fame."

This article from HBR does a fantastic job of explaining it in great detail (PDF here)

HT: Asher for sending to me.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Why sports are great

In the past week alone, we had the Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary, the fantastic Clemson-Alabama finish, and then another Rodgers miracle in Dallas. 

Movies are wonderful, but sports are t scripted. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Honoring the Greatest Generation

If you have a relative who served in the Pacific in WWII, you may want to see about having him/her recognized through the National Museum of the Pacific War.

My brother, Barak, made sure that our grandfather had a page up.  It's a nice piece of history and a tribute to his legacy.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

How much Google knows about you...

People worry about "big brother" and they think Government.

If you have an Android (and I think Apple does the same), if you go to your Google Maps history, it's pretty eerie.

I changed some of these, but they can pretty much pinpoint exactly where you went.

Think a doctor, a hotel, a therapist, a bar....

Monday, January 02, 2017

Stone Mountain visit...Atlanta 2016, Day 3

The claim to fame of Stone Mountain, Georgia is that it is apparently the largest high-relief sculpture in the world. And it is impressive.
Well, that and, apparently, in 1915 following the release of the movie "Birth of a Nation" and the lynching of Leo Frank, the Ku Klux Klan was reborn.Surprisingly enough, there aren't a lot of monuments or markers about that.

Leaving aside the modern-day sensibilities about Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee, the carving is really impressive. It was started by Gutzon Borglum (but not finished by him), who later went on to carve Mount Rushmore.

The mountain is one HUGE, gigantic piece of rock and it is enormous. The largest of its kind in the world.  We took the cable car up and took the walk down (well, some of us did, at least) and for those reasons (the natural beauty and the immensity of the human achievement of the sculpture), it's worth a visit.

Unfortunately, the attraction of the sculpture has now been surrounded by an amusement that I would describe as kitschy. It's got "fake snow," which I guess is fun if you've never seen snow as was the case for some people we met there from Florida.

It had the standard shops and shows and crafts, but to met, it felt like a sad effort to commercialize something that should stand on its own.

Of course, it could be a commentary on the state of our society and what we value.
This was the end of our trip so our team was pretty much tired and we took it pretty slow.  
Worth a visit and glad we did it. Still, worth managing expectations if you do go.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

What Your Worthwhile Journey Will Look Like This Year

Early on in my Sprinklr career, I hit a really rough patch. I wanted to quit.

As fate would have it, I found myself watching a documentary about the Navy Seal training program where I learned that their motto is "Embrace the Suck."

You need to go through really trying times to get to greatness.

It inspired me and led to the creation of the "Sprinklr Trough of Disillusionment" which gave perspective to many in the early days of the company.

Today, I saw a tweet which brought me back and summarizes what I consider to be an accurate reflection of life's most worthwhile journeys.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The UN's Death Warrant for Jews

I've held off on commenting on the US abstention from the recent UN Security Council resolution.

Mostly, because I think what Obama just did is tantamount to the signing of a death warrant for a few thousand Israelis who will become victims of renewed Palestinian terror attacks. And that's the best case scenario, I fear.

With this resolution, Palestinian hardliners are emboldened to accept no compromise and since everything is "illegal," then any action is therefore justifiable. And, now, they can never "accept" anything less than full withdrawal to 1967 lines.

So, Obama's legacy in foreign policy, in my opinion, is going to be renewed bloodshed, death, and instability.  I won't even touch on Iran, Syria, Russia, China in this post.

And, in a sad twist, it's going to embolden the hard-right in Israel who now feel abandoned and will make any compromise even more difficult.

I'm so disappointed in Obama and Kerry, I can't even really articulate it.

Fortunately, Michael Eisenberg did a phenomenal job of enunciating how I think/feel about the situation. Go read it. I'll wait.

Sorry it's unpleasant heading into the New Year when we are supposed to feel hopeful and optimistic, but, for me, this is a Neville Chamberlain level of appeasement that will go down in history as an epic betrayal that ultimately leads to innocent deaths.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Meeting a Trump Voter from Alabama

While sitting by the pool at our hotel in Atlanta, I struck up a conversation with another guest.

He is a Filipino-American living in Birmingham who works as a nurse. Wife and 2 kids.

The talk turned to politics and I asked him if he was comfortable sharing for whom he voted.

"Yes, sure. Trump," he answered.

He has been in the country for 11 years and a citizen for 7 of them.

Why did he vote for Trump?

  1. He felt like Obama's economic policies hurt working class Americans in favor of people who get government handouts.
  2. He didn't trust Hillary.
  3. He believes that a big change is needed in the way that government works.

His sister also voted for Trump.

I asked if, as an immigrant, he had any qualms about voting for Trump.

"No. I'm an American. I work and pay my taxes and Trump speaks to real Americans."

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

CNN & Civil Rights: Atlanta Impacts the World (Day 2)

Continuing on the theme of what Atlanta brings to the world, we visited CNN center and the (relatively) new National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
At CNN, we were simultaneously blown away by the technological power of how you put on a modern newscast while having to come to terms with the immense power that the 4,000 employees of the company have to basically shape public opinion of over 1 billion people worldwide.

That's some disproportionate strength.

But then, as I looked out over the 200 people working in the newsroom doing the "research" and "fact-checking," I became keenly aware of the vulnerability of this system.

You see, those people are looking at the same web, same Twitter, same Facebook that we all have...and they are subject to the same biases.
So, it's like the movie "Enemy of the State," where you have to ask, "who is watching the watchers?"

The tour was certainly more informative and more fulfilling than the Coca Cola one yesterday and I'm glad we made it.

CNN was maniacal about not allowing pictures or videos at any point within the tour, so nothing to show here. 

After CNN, we took a ride up the big SkyView Atlanta ferris wheel (which seems to be a standard thing in cities worldwide now), but it did afford a great view of the city and enable the kids to get a pretty good bearing on how things are laid out.

Not only did we get to see Centennial Park from above, but we got to see a really cool parking lot implementation of solar panels that doubled as a shade for the cars below. Very neat.

Afterwards, we headed over to the Civil Rights Museum and, even more exciting, a chance to see one of my oldest friends (from 7th grade), Tjada D'Oyen, her husband, Joe, and their 2 boys, whom I hadn't seen in 12 years.

Together, we toured the Museum. On the one hand, it was somewhat redundant with the MLK historic site we had visited on Monday.  On the other hand, it was far more interactive for the kids in terms of the exhibits.

BY FAR...the most powerful part of the entire museum was a lunch counter where you are asked to sit, put on some headphones, close your eyes and then for 100 seconds (or as long as you can stand it).  While there, you are subjected to a non-stop harangue of verbal abuse designed to simulate the experience of doing a lunch counter sit-in.

It is intense and makes the entire price of admission worth it.
The one observation that the kids made about the museum-which was very fair-was that as a museum that focuses entirely on civil rights, it would have been nice to have more than one story represented aside from African-Americans.  
The battle for civil rights impacts many groups...Native Americans, gays, Jews, Muslims, etc.  It would have been nice to have some of them represented as well.

After a visit to the park and getting wet in the the fountains on the Olympic rings, we headed out to our last activity of the cream with a friend of more than 20 years-- Jen Pearlman.

For me, travel is always about the people you meet, the perspectives they have, and the stories they share. That's why seeing Jen and Tjada made Day 2 so special.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

MLK and Coca Coca...Atlanta impacts the world (Day 1)

For this year's winter vacation, we decided to head south and visit Atlanta.

Day 1 took us to two places of worldwide significance.

The birthplace and now National Historic Site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the "World of Coca Cola" experience.

I am going to leave aside the observation that the number of people at Coke dwarfed the number of people at the MLK site and try to avoid reflecting on what that means for humanity.

The MLK site was powerful. It's not just one building, rather a complex of buildings that houses a museum that you would expect and then a walking tour of the Auburn Ave. area of Atlanta which, at one time, was the center of African-American life in the city.

It was on that street that MLK was born and lived until age 12 (the house is there though, we couldn't enter it as it's undergoing renovation), the Ebenezer Baptist Church where MLK Sr. was the minister, and the reflecting pool/eternal flame area where MLK and Coretta Scott King are buried.

The museum portion has a compelling exhibit that traces the history of segregation and the civil rights movement and presents the cold, hard truth in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable and inspired.

Uncomfortable because you have to come face to face with the legacy and implication of the institutions of slavery and segregation and you can't help but acknowledge the impact. The pictures of lynchings, cross-burnings, etc. are nothing short of horrific.

Inspired because you yearn for the calm, determined leadership and commitment to non-violence based on the righteousness of a position and the passion for justice that MLK represented and, which at least for me, feels sadly lacking these days.

 We went into the nearly empty church where a recording of a Christmas service was playing and we heard Mahalia Jackson signing hymns.  The music reverberated through the structure and you could feel the sense of history in this place.  For me, the combination was powerful.

Finally, having the two Kings buried on an island within a pool of water across from an eternal flame (which has special significance in Judaism so it hit doubly home) seemed appropriate.  Together, creating a sea of tranquility, looking out towards an eternal idea.

I've been to Atlanta maybe 25 times but had never been to this site and I'm sad that it took so long, but thrilled that we made it.

The kids liked it as well. For them, there probably could have been a bit more on the interactive side, but as they have read a ton about MLK and civil rights (and we are planning on going to the new Civil Rights museum on Day 2), they got a lot out of it.

The film about MLK was great because it took a unique focused on his childhood and what he was like growing up (apparently he wasn't so organized in keeping his room neat-which made some of my kids thrilled since it proved that even though your father keeps telling you that you need to clean your room, you can still be destined for greatness!)

As for the World of Coca Cola, I have to say that I didn't really like it.

I may be in the minority overall and within my family and perhaps the juxtaposition of going from something that is so profound as MLK to something that is so commercial was too jarring, but I felt there was something missing.

I know that I am passionate about marketing. I really enjoy the art and science of it and I admire great marketing. There was some of that. The introductory movie was all about "Coca Cola moments" and it was very emotional, saying how people create emotional connections and Coke is part of it.  The "4D" movie was a fun sensory experience and the tour of pop culture influenced by Coke was also a tour through history.

Obviously, the tasting room with 100 flavors from around the world was a big winner and considering that Tonka (13) had never had a Coke until this trip and the other 2 had only had it once before, the NFO and I had rare feeling of being world-class parents, for once ;-)

But, here's the thing...

It was too much. For me, it was SO focused on making everyone think "Coke is a part of life" and "Coke makes moments special," that it lost its authenticity.

I walked away feeling sad that we had paid to get so overtly marketed to.

I prefer to hear the story of how and why Coke came into being. How did they make the decisions they made? How did Coke, for example, impact civil rights by being the first company to use African-Americans as spokesmen or whatever?

Instead, I felt a story of a company that said, "ok, let's just always figure out how to make the most amount of money and go from there."

Now, we all KNOW that's what is happening, but I didn't get that feeling.

Now, it's possible all of that could have been averted if the mere process of getting into and around the exhibit had any sort of real professionalism associated with it.

Truth be told, that's probably what did it in for me.

For a brand that is world-class and cares about "moments," the mere act of buying a ticket, getting in line, getting into the exhibit was just poor.
I said at one point, "if Disney were running this, there would be signs in 20 languages and clear instructions."

None of that was present.

We would wait in line and then, for reasons no one understood, another line of people would go ahead of us.

There would be muffled loudspeaker announcements telling us what to do, but no one really could hear them.

It wasn't total chaos, but it wasn't organized and it wasn't about "feelings" or "moments" and I think that was the dissonance.  It was inconsistent.

You can throw up a ton of advertising and super slick videos about how you care about feelings but the feelings of the people who are paying to watch the ad are somehow irrelevant.

Add to all this that the vast distribution network that Coca Cola touts as an accomplishment made me feel like "wow, there are probably plastic Coke bottles and bottle caps all over the world" (and there are).

I have infinite admiration for Coke's marketing power. I got choked up during parts of the video and loved how they evoked that in me.  They really, really think about being more than just sugar + water.  I just was disappointed that the World of Coke experience was less about the things they supposedly care about as eternal human values (connection, memory, feelings, etc.) and more about "Coke is good for your life. You should buy more Coke stuff."

You can reach the same outcome with a different path.

I suppose there was a positive outcome as it solidified my mind-frame that I don't intend to drink any soda again ever.

On Day 2, we hope to hit CNN and the Civil Rights Museum.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Secure Your Phone Number Please

As phones become the central feature of our lives, they also become targets.

Recently, a number of high profile people in the world of Bitcoin have had their phone numbers stolen right out from under them.

Thieves call AT&T or whomever and pretend to be the owner of the phone number, but have forgotten their security codes, etc.

Through clever manipulation, they manage to get the information, port the phone number and then, with that, use the SMS codes to log in to people's accounts...and steal their Bitcoin.

You can read about the full story here in Forbes.

The fix may be intense but it's worth exploring how you can lock things down. Kraken wrote it and it's pretty deep. Not sure you need to do all of it.

The point is...the phone is your central point of action/security and if you lose the number, you become vulnerable.

You may not own Bitcoin, but your phone number is pretty central to almost everything.

And, for the love of God, please use a 2 factor authentication code instead of SMS whenever possible. I prefer Authy.

It may seem like a lot of effort, but an ounce of prevention...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Reinventing myself, little bets, and being ok with a 6.5

Monday night, I gave my first blockchain presentation. On a scale of 0-10, the average rating was about 6.5.

Not horrific, but not great.

But  you know what? I was expecting a 6.5 or 7.  Here's why.

Reinventing yourself is difficult. It's also scary.  I find that the best way to get comfortable with big risks (like changing jobs) is getting comfortable with small risks.

I read a book a while back called "Little Bets," which greatly influenced my thinking.

I remember a story about how when Seinfeld would have new jokes, he would go to smaller clubs that would normally never get his level, but he would go there and just work out new routines. See how they felt, see how the audience reacted. He always gave it his all, but he knew that he was deliberately testing-taking little bets- to see what would pay off and, if it didn't, it was a little bet.

I'm thinking about my presentations on the impact of blockchains in the same way (which is where the comparison to Seinfeld pretty much ends).

I'm looking to develop a book of business speaking about blockchains to corporate audiences and large groups for a fee.

However, I know that to get to that caliber, I have to take a lot of batting practice swings.

So, I'm deliberately going out to speak to smaller groups (mostly for free or nominal amounts), giving it my all, and seeing what works.

It never feels good to get a 6.5, that's for sure.  But if you know that a 6.5 is about right for were you are in the development cycle, you are being honest with yourself and therefore much more likely to take feedback.

In fact, I was honest with the audience and they (I think) respected that and were very candid in their feedback and (the best part), their desire to help me improve.

So, the lesson is...if you tell people you are taking batting practice, then will understand. You still have to show them that you belong on the field and aren't a joke (below a 5 would have been embarrassing for my host and me and I was pretty confident that it wouldn't hit that), but if you are, great things will happen.

It's almost impossible to give a presentation the first time and get a 9 or a 10. And it's almost impossible to do it without a lot of practice.

That's where I am now in the reinvention.