Friday, July 29, 2016

Voting for Gary Johnson for President. Here's Why

If you're like me and frustrated with both Clinton and Trump, this may resonate with you.

If the election were today, I'd be voting for the Johnson/Weld Libertarian Party ticket.

I fall into the "socially liberal, fiscally conservative" camp.

In general, I believe in free markets, not government as the driver of economic growth.  Government is enabler. (Perhaps this is why Estonia is so fascinating to me, but I digress.)

I also believe that government should stay out of our personal lives.

As for my logic, I'll try and break it down as follows:
  • Qualification
  • Policy Alignment
  • Trust
Head to head to my mind, there's no doubt that the two ex-Governors are well-qualified.

This video does the job enough for me.

I'm biased towards executives with experience. Particularly those who have worked in a bi-partisan environment and been successful.

Policy Issues
Do I agree w/Johnson on everything? Not 100%, but pretty much. Certainly a greater percentage than those of either Clinton or Trump.

On social issues, Johnson and I see eye to eye.

On economic issues, definitely.

It's true that he doesn't support any foreign aid, but at least he's consistent in that and, to be honest, I am open to discussing that as something that might be a good idea (talking about Israel mostly here). I'm not 100% clear on his definition of "defense," but so far, I haven't found anything horrifically objectionable.

Let's get the easy one out of the way. Trump is not trustworthy at all. 100% horrific.

The thing is...for me, neither is Hillary Clinton.
It's a different type of mistrust.  There are just too many scandals and too many questions for me.

Johnson on the other hand...after I watched some of his interviews, I viewed him as trustworthy.

Final thoughts (for now)
As the father of two daughters, I love the idea of a woman President of the US. Yet, I'm not willing to overlook my perception of Clinton's character flaws of this particular person in order to have a symbol or make a point.

And...if you put a gun to my head and said "Trump or Clinton," I would say "Clinton."

However, I don't have to make that choice.

I prefer to vote for someone I think can do the job well...not for someone who is just less worse than the other guy.

Hence, Johnson-Weld.

But There's More....
In a "normal" election, that would be enough, but we're not in a "normal" election.

I expect to get (and have already gotten) statements like:
  • "a vote for Johnson is a vote for Trump"
  •  "you're throwing your vote away"
  •  "you're naive for thinking you can make a difference," 
  • and more....
I'll deal with those in a future post.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How to be a Great People Manager

One of my professional goals this year is to improve my skills as a people manager.

One of my friends, Halelly Azulay, has been extremely supportive--and with good reason. She's a leading professional coach for talent development.

She's the founder of Talent Grow and the author of Employee Development on a Shoestring.

Recently, she interviewed me on my own efforts (scary, I know) on her popular podcast, the TalentGrow Show.

So, if you are curious (and I'd love your feedback), please listen to “How to be a Great People Manager – Learn from One Manager’s Leadership Development Quest with Jeremy Epstein.”

You can also get it ot iTunesStitcher, and Google Play Music.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Thoughts on Germany, Immigration, Radical Islam, and 70 Years of Impact

These are by no means fully formed thoughts. I'm just throwing some ideas out there based on this past weekend's events in Germany.  Please treat this as an effort at discussion, not doctrine. If you can't, don't bother reading.

The Munich massacre seems to not be ISIS/radical Islam related, so in some respects, you can discount the whole post to follow.

That being said, the suicide bomber and the machete attack w/in 3-4 days is a disturbing trend. Maybe it stops there. Let's hope it does.

Anyway, as some of you know, I lived in Germany for a year. Speak German. Studied the Holocaust with a specific focus on the contemporary views of the Holocaust (this was in the 90s).

My general conclusion (and why I am more pro-German than most American Jews) is that Germany has done a remarkable job of owning up to its unique historical responsibility.  [Note: I also lived in Japan for 2 years and the differences between accountability could not be more stark].

What Merkel did in the past year or so in terms of welcoming refugees was, in some respects, a massive gesture to continue to own up to this responsibility. There's a deep-seated recognition and awareness of the power of evil.

So, it made total sense (to me, at least) that Germany would be the country that would (probably along with Sweden-albeit for different reasons) open its doors the most.

I recently saw this video which epitomized how Germans wish to see themselves and, in some respects, actually are.

At the same time, it's tough on any culture to absorb a massive wave of people who don't necessarily have the same cultural background as the host country.  With 1 million out of 80 million being only 1.25%, it's still sizable. After all, 1 million new people is still 1 million new people.

Training people about what it means to "be German" in the positive sense (both the new German and the older German-cleanliness, efficiency) takes a LONG time.

And while Germany certainly tries harder than, say, France, it still takes a while.  The Turkish minority in Germany would be one example.

Still, you have to wonder if such a relatively large number creates a dynamic that the Germans, even if they are masters of efficiency, can't handle.

And all the while, some of those waiting to be fully acclimated are potentially at risk for radicalization.

Now, it need not be said, but I'll say it anyway...not all Muslims, Syrian immigrants, or foreigners are terrorists.

However, it also can't be denied that in the past few months, we have seen an increase of terror attacks in Europe and some of them, at least, are by Muslims who have been radicalized.

Why the radicalization happens can be debated, but one of the reasons may be a failure to acclimate into the host country (whether through lack of desire on the host or the immigrant).

Given the size of the immigration, I wonder if the scale will become prohibitively challenging for Germany to handle and thus the risk of "people falling through the cracks" and thus susceptible to radicalization may increase.

I hope not.

However, if these attacks continue (and again, the Munich shooting may be making them bigger in perception than otherwise would be the case), there's a really strange irony (not really the right word) in Germany suffering 70+ years after the end of WW2 because of the destruction that it wrought.

By going to one extreme, they have now gone to an opposite extreme and potentially made the very country vulnerable.

I'm sure there are some who would say, "Germany deserves this."

I am not one of those people.

Germany plays a critical (and, in my estimation, positive) role in geopolitics and economics.

I suppose the point of this observation (which, again, I admit is not fully formed) is to think about how events 70 years ago continue to impact things today.

Germany's uber-totalitarianism and subsequent defeat has led to uber-openness which, if they can't acclimate the refugees and prevent radicalization, could lead to an internal collapse of what it means to be German today, and maybe in its entirety.

Yes, I may be making a mountain out of a molehill here and getting overly dramatic.

And yes...we only have a few handful of data points, but for a long time, we suspected that Germany was immune to the terror ills of France/Belgium specifically because they have worked the hardest to be so tolerant and open.

Yet, now, we see that's not the case.

The question is whether these are isolated or the beginning of the trend.

Let's hope and pray for the former.

Visiting the Future...and Coming Back: A Trip to Estonia

If I told you that I was going to the future and then coming back to tell you about it, I would imagine (assuming you believed me) that you'd be somewhat interested in what I saw.

Well, it's been about 18 months since I first heard about e-Residency in Estonia and next week, I'll be going with a few friends to Tallinn to explore this phenomenon in person, to see the world's most digitally advanced country.

What's so enamoring?

Well, everything....It's a society where 99% of people pay taxes online, people vote online, can start a business in 24 hours, and monitor their children's school progress online. They've reduced government expenditures by the equivalent of 2% of GDP.

If you can't come with me, you can still see the future in this video (about 1 hour).

To really understand how this digital transformation has touched every aspect of society (healthcare being one of the examples), check out this "components" page. [There are shorter 2 minute videos there)

The result is a more efficient, less costly, less bureaucratic country where people have more time to do what they want and more control over their information.

It's impacted

  • taxes
  • health records
  • land records
  • population register
  • energy management
  • social welfare
  • government meetings (down from 5 hours to 30 minutes)
  • legal services and notary services
and all done securely thanks to something called Keyless Signature Infrastructure, a blockchain based solution.

All of these advancements are probably why NATO has its cyber defense center in Estonia.

Needless to say, I'll be blogging and reporting on this as I'm there and when I get back. Here's the itinerary.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I get this a lot ;-)

From a recent fortune cookie...

Friday, July 22, 2016

Book Recommendation: Sway-- stop being so irrational. Yes, you.

Did you know that saying to your friend or colleague that "Jeremy is a smart and warm guy" that I am much more likely to be liked than simply by saying "Jeremy is a smart guy?"

Even if the experience of meeting me is exactly the same in every other regard...

That's just one of 100+ examples that the Brafman brothers bring out in their fantastic book "Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior."

My brother, Asher, loves to say, "you need to think about how you think."

For people who agree with that sentiment, this book is for you.

They are great stories and they raise your awareness to the pitfalls of how we are susceptible to irrational things.

For example, in a room full of 20 people (the majority of whom are paid actors) looking at a small circle and a big square where the size differential is not in doubt at all, if you ask them "which is bigger?" and the paid actors DELIBERATELY say "the circle is," the people who aren't paid and who clearly know that the the square is bigger will actually (more often than not) say, "the circle," because of their fear of looking stupid or of missing something. [Note: this isn't the exact story from the book, but you get the gist.]

What the book reminds us of is that humans are wildly unpredictable, irrational and immensely fallible.

We suffer from diagnostic bias (once we have concluded that someone is "bad" or "good," we're extremely unlikely to change our minds, even despite a ton of evidence to the contrary.)

There's all kind of good stuff in here about loss aversion, commitment, incentives, fairness.

All of these things that many of us think we understand, but we really don't.

It's a fun, relatively quick read and while you'll probably forget the names of all of the different "sways" a few days later, the lesson is clear.

In any situation...try to assess what is going on in how people might be swayed based on irrationality.

You may not be able to change anything, but at least you'll see it...and maybe it will help you the next time you have to make a decision.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Process of Re-inventing Yourself

I'm not sure why, but I've had a large (20+) number of men in their 40s reach out to me recently for career advice.

As one said, "it's kind of like halftime of your working life, so it's natural to think about what you did in the first half and what you want to do in the second half."

All of them are upstanding members of society. No deadbeats or anything like that. Valuable workers and contributors.

They are just reassessing and re-evaluating.

I've been listening to them intently, trying to understand their needs and do my best to offer something of value.

For each of them, I think they are looking for a purpose, a mission. Not in the "I'm going to cure cancer" type of way, but in the "I want something that is going to be challenging and fulfilling" type of way.

Yes, they have the luxury of doing that and not everyone does, but let's leave that aside.

After a long walk with one person today, I was able to narrow the process of discovering the mission/the process to 3 components.

  1. Read.
    But don't read the things you feel like you have to read. Read the things that you want to read. Follow your curiosity. Almost like when you discovered the Internet for the first time.  Find some subjects which pique your curiosity and start to explore them.
  2. Talk...well, really, listen.
    Call up your friends (like me), but don't say "hey, I'm looking for a job." Say "hey, I'm exploring some ideas and wanted to share them with you and see what you think."  Keep those chats to 15 minutes (because not everyone is in the exploration phase with you). Offer to do it while they are driving in the car and have some downtime.  And don't make the conversation all about you. Help them understand how the things you are discovering and exploring can be of real, immediate, practical value to them.
  3. Write...or Work.
    I was listening to a fantastic podcast yesterday with one of my favorite people, Venkat, the founder of . He talked about the "daemon" that possesses us. But it's not in the negative sense. It's in the Greek sense.  It's that feeling you get when you are just immersed and passionate about your work. We've all been there. But we've all felt its absence.  The key, Venkat says, is to just "show up."

    Just do your work (whether it's writing, painting, coding, exercising, or whatever) and do it religiously.  Then, when the daemon appears, you're ready.

    This was emphasized recently by 2 people who recommended the book, The Originals to me (I haven't read it yet).

    The point was...sometimes quantity beats quality...and only through quantity can you get to your newfound quality.
It can be extremely frustrating not knowing what the next phase is. And this process doesn't guarantee results. But I think it will help you uncover what that next mission is.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

No Good Jobs?

In a very concise form, here is why I am maniacal about re-inventing education in America, coding, and innovation.

Monday, July 11, 2016

My Ego Is the Enemy...Is Yours?

It's not easy to admit you have a big ego.

And while I don't think it's as big as it once was, mine is still there and it's holding me back.

But I've been on a mission to conquer it.

Now, there's a difference between ego and self-confidence.

But, ego...which allows for pride, false confidence, illegitimate feelings of being disrespected or disregarded and a dangerous unwillingness to fully take the input of others as seriously as you should...that's insidious and needs to be destroyed.

At least in my opinion.

Once you do that, you are open to experiencing the world more fully and recognizing how you can truly learn and be inspired by every person and every situation.

The most recent and one of the most powerful aids in my journey is a book by Ryan Holiday called Ego is the Enemy.

For a dude who is under 30, he certainly spouts mega-wisdom (which I guess shouldn't be so surprising, right?)

What he effectively points out over and over again throughout the book is that to accomplish true, meaningful goals on a personal or a professional level each of us is, more often than not, our own worst enemy.

Our sense of entitlement or having been wronged or being stuck in the past not willing to change or being fixated on something....these are all manifestations of ego.

Instead, he advocated relentlessly for pushing ahead, aka "doing the work" as it is through that process that we discover our true selves and achieve greater fulfillment.

Our time is precious. We shouldn't spend it feeling sorry for ourselves or expect others to feel sorry for us.

I found Ego is the Enemy to be very motivational, but not in a cheesy pop psychology way, more in a philosophical thoughtful way, which compelled me (and may compel you) to look deeply into your own inner workings and challenge how you look at the world for the better.

If you are feeling stuck or concerned that you aren't achieving all you can, Ego is the Enemy may be of value.

I found it to be.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

"One kid isn't speaking to it"

We could easily call this post:

"How Greg and Jer realized that a key performance indicator of being a good dad is when your kids are angry at you...and why they should call their parents to apologize for their own behavior."

Last week, I shared a post about kids being on Instagram/Snapchat too much and a new device called Circle with Disney that can help you monitor and control it.

While we don't all want to have a Chinese-like police state controlling our lives, as the parents of teenagers with unlimited access to devices and the Internet, sometimes we may feel it's a good thin.

Greg Teitel, a friend of mine since 1st grade, texted me to say that he bought one based upon my recommendation.

Within minutes, his teenager daughter was furious with him, for the "government clampdown."

Greg, of course, was thrilled. In his estimation, she was spending way too much time on Snapchat, so this was a saviour.

I called Greg, shared my favorite Louis C.K. quote "I'm not here to make you happy," and it dawned on dads, if you're doing something that gets your teenager to the point where they aren't talking you, it could be an indication of epic failure...or of epic success.

At which point, we said, "well maybe we should call our own parents and apologize for all the times we were ticked off at our parents when we were teenagers and they were right?"

"We could," I said, "but I'll put it on my blog and we can send it to them!"

Anyway...enjoy bringing the police state to your own teenagers and enjoying the silence ;-)

(That was a joke, Tonka!)

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Yes, I need a root canal...

But that's not what matters here. 

They can take a 3d image of your teeth and rotate around it. Now THAT is mega cool.  Here's a 2 minute video. Enjoy

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Playground codenaming

Driving home with Paco today, we passed one of the favorite playgrounds from when he was much younger.

We said, "hey, it's the doggy playground."

One of the best ideas from when my kids were younger was giving each of their favorite playgrounds a codename.

Instead of saying "that one with the swings or the slides."  It was "the peanut butter playground" or the "kitty cat playground."

That way...we all knew which one was which.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Policing via the Automobile Network

Driving down the highway the other day, I saw one of those signs that said "Amber Alert, White Dodge License Plate MD xxx-xxx."

I wondered..."how often does that work?

I mean...3 seconds after I pass it, I've forgotten the license plate number.

Should I write it down and check each license plate? If so, for how long?

Then, it dawned on me.

What if we had our cars equipped with visual recognition devices (like those that detected objects and make the car brake on its own) that were also able to scan the license plates of the cars in front of us and then, if they are wanted by the police, notify the cops of the location of the sought-for vehicle?

Then, the police could use that info to start tracking it (via other cars in the network) and they could send a cruiser (or whatever) to do the dirty work.

You'd have a privacy switch so you can opt out of the network at any time.

Alternatively, by participating in it, you'd essentially be extending the police network (with no risk to  yourself), making society safer by enabling the apprehension of criminals faster, and saving costs for the muncipal government.

Perhaps you'd get a tax break/credit for participating.

Think of it as an evolution of the collaborative loan the fact that your car is on the road, connected to the network, and visual recognition to the police in exchange for less taxes and (hopefully) a safer society.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ivy League Brand Challenges

I don't have anything against the Ivy League. That's not the point of this post.

The point of this post is to highlight the ongoing threat that I see to the traditional way we think of credentialing young people for their ability to succeed in the modern work world.

You may not see that in this article (pdf) about how Goldman Sachs is expanding recruiting beyond the traditional Ivy League schools (and maybe this is all a PR stunt?), but that's what I see.

What I see is a technology-enabled leveling of the playing field when it comes to demonstrating competence.

I know I have been on this kick for a while now and I may be a few years ahead of the curve.

But Goldman's decision to say 'hey, the best and the brightest may not only be at a few brand name schools" is notable.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Are your kids on Instagram/Snapchat too much?

Are your kids spending too much time on iPads, phones, or social media sites?

I may have an answer that helps.

My daughter has been asking for Snapchat and a phone recently.

Not withstanding Louis CK's view on cell phones and parenting, I was thinking about a conversation I had a few months ago with my good friend Chuck in Atlanta.

"Snapchat is evil," he said.

He has two teenagers.

It was with this in mind that I was intrigued when I heard about Circle with Disney from Rohit.

It's a $99 device that you put in your house and allows you to customize the amount of time that EACH person can use the Internet (based on which phones, etc. s/he uses) and which sites are permissible.

You can set bedtimes, wake-up times, and filters.

So there's a teen filter, a kid filter and...a "pause" button...which can shut down the connection for any device when you keep calling your kid and she doesn't respond.

I've had it for a week now....and though my kids hate it....I FREAKING LOVE IT.

Now, I don't have to monitor them and ask what they are doing...I know that if they have hit their time limit for the day (or it's after a certain time), they simply can't go online.

George Orwell would be proud.

If you find yourself saying "I'm worried that the kids are spending too much time on _____," I think this device is for you.

And yes, you can now control it when they are out of the house....
Oh...and the CircleGo subscription service so you can make sure the rules apply to the device when they aren't connected to the home wi-fi.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Estonia leads the digital world...another story

Best line in the article:

"The way Americans cave and accept that government services have to be shitty shows they've given up."

The Unexpected Story of How This Tiny Country Became the Most Tech-Savvy on Earth

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Thinking About The People Who Got You Here....

Paul Haskell is one of the best Success Managers at Sprinklr.

He lives in Omaha, Nebraska and on my recent trip there, he insisted on taking me out to lunch.

He was most gracious...saying that "without you, I wouldn't be at Sprinklr and my life would be entirely different."

Obviously, it is very nice to be appreciated.

His comment sparked a conversation about the debts of gratitude we owe to all of the people in our lives who helped us get to where we are at the moment.

I may not be accepting an Oscar or a Tony (and that's unlikely to ever happen) and it's not like I have anything to brag about, but I did want to take a moment to thank some of the people who helped get me where I am professionally.

(I'm talking about the less obvious ones than parents and teachers.)

Call it part of my effort to practice gratitude and recognize how it's the people in each of our lives who make a difference.

So, a big thank you to...

Todd first boss. He gave me a chance to start my career in "Internet Marketing" in Tokyo in 1997. Ignited my passion for marketing by giving me Peppers and Rogers "the 1:1 Future."

Paul Cimino....introduced me to the world of E-Commerce in NYC during the hey-day of Internet 1.0 and taught me how to sell.

Marty Cassidy...a former client (while working for Paul) who got me into an interview loop at Microsoft.

Tom Begley...who plucked me out of the interview loop and gave me my first job at Microsoft and taught me the ropes of selling to large enterprises.

Christine Zmuda...who put me into a channel marketing role and showed me what an operationally disciplined marketer looks like.

Dan Pink...who had the confidence to become my first consulting client at Never Stop Marketing.

Adam Schorr (whom I met via Jacob Licht) and became my first client at a major brand (JNJ), thus catapulting the fledgling consulting business to a new level.

Sonja Maxwell  and Steve Measelle who became flagship Microsoft clients and advocates, opening up doors all over the place.

Sean O'Rourke who took one of my Microsoft courses and said, "hey, there's a guy who says a lot of the stuff you said and whom you should meet."

And Ragy Thomas who took Sean's word for it and went against the grain, hiring a non-traditional marketer for his 30 person company, Sprinklr.

And most importantly, the NFO (my wife), who has put up with, tirelessly supported, and sacrificed so much.

And thanks to Paul for inspiring me to be thankful.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Obama and the Redefining of the American Presidency

I may not be his biggest fan nor agree with him on a fair number of issues, but I do need to give credit where credit is due.

I think Obama has done a fantastic job of making the Presidency a more "human" role.

A few months ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who was high up in the Cruz campaign.  I said, "you know what one of Cruz's issues is for me?  He just doesn't seem like a guy that I would want to watch a game with."

I think a lot of that has come from Obama. I feel like we can disagree and still be friends.  I'd watch a game with him and I feel like he might listen to me, even if we disagree with each other.

There are plenty of Dem and GOP politicians about whom I do not feel that way.

All of this was prompted by the fact that I  saw Obama on Jimmy Fallon last night.

Here is a good clip (that was basically free advertising for his record, but as a marketer, I appreciate that!)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tax Dollars to Avoid Getting Hit By A Car?

I'm all for public safety and avoiding accidental death, but as a taxpayer in Montgomery County, MD, I had to wonder about the real value of paying for a public notice telling people to

  1. not get run over by cars
  2. not run over other people with cars

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Video: Muslim Uber driver explaining why he supports Donald Trump

Simply because I didn't believe it all myself, I recorded this video of my Uber driver, an Iraqi Muslim, explaining why he supports Donald Trump.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Challenging Assumptions and Listening

A few weeks ago, I went to a fantastic meditation session led by Tara Brach.

The point of the session was learning to Listen without an Agenda. Listening with no purpose other than being open to the possibility that what you hear can change you.

A powerful moment came when she said (I think quoting someone else) that "not listening causes suffering."

Not in the 3rd World sense, of course, but you know how it feels when you can tell someone isn't paying attention to you. It hurts.

I had a few causes over the past few days to think about this in a larger context.

On a simple level, here's a blog post about what happens when we don't listen in a business sense, don't challenge our assumptions (as is one of my brother's favorite mantras), and not serve customers well.

But that's nothing compared to the 2 documentaries I saw recently.

One was an ESPN documentary about the Duke lacrosse team case of about 10 years ago and how they were framed because of an agenda. (If you can, set aside the numerous other issues that touched this case.)

The other was a powerful story about Allen Iverson, who's most famous line "We're talking about practice!" labeled him as a guy who didn't care...but that wasn't the full story.

All of these remind us of the importance of trying to remember to Listen as fully as we can and not rush to judgment.

Of course, that's much easier said than done.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

More on the Higher Education Conundrum in America

I've been on the "there's diminishing ROI" on traditional college education kick for a while now. 

Again, I don't think the objective (in terms of exposure to new ideas and new people is bad--it's good), I just question the way in which it is delivered.

Now...coming on all of the economic arguments, here's an NYT article by Nick Kristof that challenges the assumptions about how many new ideas our kids are really encountering.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Meeting Estonia's Ambassador to Discuss a Bastion of Democracy and Innovation

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have become an e-citizen of Estonia, have been celebrating Estonia and digital transformation and am organizing a trip Estonia this summer.

Thanks to my friend, Shai Franklin, I was introduced to Estonia's Ambassador to the US, the Honorable Eerik Marmei (@eerikmarmei).

While we talked a great deal about Estonia's remarkable achievements as a digital innovator (more on that in a moment), what struck me was the story of Estonia as a democracy.

Before 1940 (and the invasion of the Soviets), Estonia had been a democracy. In fact, on the wall in the room where we sat, was a framed document where a previous Estonian ambassador had presented his credentials to President Calvin Coolidge.

The reason why this is important is that, as the Ambassador's generation grew up, it was their grandparents who essentially said to them: "once upon a time, we were a free people...we will be free again." (Having just finished Passover, this resonated for me).

So, by the time the Soviet Union fell in 1991, it was his generation (those under 30) that were the ones who carried the torch of the hope of a free Estonia.

His parents generation (those born during Stalinist era) grew up in a culture of fear and repression.

That had a fascinating consequence...when the time for elections came, it was the senior citizen generation that essentially said "You can't trust anyone over 30."

They knew they were too old and their children didn't have the courage to get it done. It was only their grandchildren who should lead, which is why (if my memory serves me correct), 4 of the first ministers (defense, foreign, economy, and one other) were all under the age of 30 when first elected.

This group (which had protested by singing in the streets in the late 80s and early 90s) literally threw out the Soviet law book, rebuilt the legal system and, as the Ambassador said, "brought in Milton Friedman" to guide the economy.

They passed a Constitution that forbade the government from ever running a deficit or borrowing money.

(Interestingly enough, this had a unique implication in 2007 during the global recession. The gov't had to reduce spending by 15% including laying off a number of people....and they were re-elected! You can't see that happening in Greece).

By 1995, the government ensured that every school in the entire country was wired for Internet and computer access.

They began building out the digital infrastructure that eventually allowed them to cut 2% of GDP worth of bureaucratic waste and invest in start-ups, defense, and things that really add value.

So, by now, as Estonia has become a hotbed of entrepreneurship, one of the reasons is that an entire generation has grown up with technology (they teach programming in the classroom).

Libraries went digital in the 90s and senior citizens got classes on using the Web.

Today, over 99% of votes and taxes are cast online (among many, many other things).

As the Ambassador says, "in Estonia, no one waits in line, because everything is online."

And the privacy angle is Estonia, everyone knows when any government agency requests any piece of uniquely identifiable information and is entitled to inquire as to why.

By the way, if the answer isn't satisfactory to the citizen (or the review board), people are fired.

In the US, we have NO idea which gov't agency looks at our records. In Estonia, you know exactly who is looking at what and when.'s fair to ask if all of this is only possible because it's a small (1.1 million), relatively homogenous, Protestant-work ethic culture.

But there may be something deeper. Something that sent chills down my spine.

Something that I wish every American had.

What he has is a profound, deep, and total appreciation for Freedom.

They have seen socialism and totalitarianism. They have seen demagoguery. They want nothing to do with that ever again.

"We'd rather have 1 million dead Estonians than live that way."

That appreciation for freedom fuels a desire to make life better and easier; to facilitate trade and commerce; to empower people to pursue their passions.

Given their location (on the border between Europe and Russia and the Nordics) and their history, I think Estonia could be a player that punches well above their weight-class when it comes to shaping the next wave of geo-politics and globalization.

In an era where some in America would put up walls or roll things back and others either want to give up on or take freedoms for granted, Estonia serve as a reminder and, in some cases, an inspiration.

It's both an outpost of Democracy and an Epcot of the e-future on a national scale.

That's what I am going to investigate.

For more on the history of Estonia (wikipedia)

I've been asked about Estonia's role in the Holocaust.  My initial answer was "better than Lithuania, but not quite Denmark."

Wikipedia has a summary.