Sunday, April 23, 2017

Holocaust Remembrance Day and the Generational Transfer

One of my fears, when I became a parent, was that my children would never have the opportunity to meet or hear from a Holocaust survivor at an age where the memory would become strong.

Knowing that we are in a transition to an era where the living witnesses of the horrors of that terrible time and those who directly experienced it are dwindling to zero, I am acutely aware of the burden that will fall upon the generations of the future.

Given the amount of Holocaust denial that already occurs, it's essential that my kids' generation internalizes the lessons as much as possible. 

As tonight begins the Holocaust Remembrance Day, we attended an event where Felix Nicinski (oral history)  (and another article about his story) spoke of his experiences in ghettoes, slave labor camps, concentration camps, and on the run throughout Germany and Poland during the years of World War II.

It's never easy to hear the stories and we'll never understand the Holocaust in its entirety (tonight I learned a new fact- there were over 42,000 different places that the Germans used to incarcerate Jews in one form or another over the whole of Europe during that time).

Still, it was meaningful that the kids had a chance to remember the 6 million who perished through the words of one who persevered and survived.

Hopefully, this night will stay with them so they can do their part to ensure the lesson of "Never Again!"


Friday, April 21, 2017

College May Be Causing You to Lose Out On Career Readiness

It's graduation season for college seniors.

It's also the time of year when high school seniors (for the most part) decide where they want to go to college.

So, since this blog is often about recognizing and adapting to changing paradigms, it's as good as time as any to bring this one up.

The primary catalyst for this post is Tom Friedman's excellent new book, Thank You For Being Late. (Go buy it now. I'll wait.)

Ok, thanks for coming back. So, let's talk about the "idea" of college and, naturally, we'll connect it to blockchains. Stay tuned for that.

The Original Paradigm

It's not really new to say that, for years (probably since the end of WWII) the basic social contract in America was- "to go college, get a good job."

Implied within that was, "if you finish high school and you graduate college, your formal education is pretty much done and you are in pretty good shape for a solidly middle-class lifestyle."

Essentially, a college degree was a signal to an employer that "yes, this person is responsible enough to show up at 9, leave at 5, and get the job done by following orders/processes."

Broken Paradigm

As we've all seen, however, the last part of that implied contract "solidly middle-class lifestyle" is far from a guarantee these days.  It's under assault by offshoring, robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and more.

Yet, while the second half of the equation isn't holding, it doesn't feel like society (for the most part) has started to question the first part of the equation, the input of "college."

Now, on this blog, I've been on a "Higher Ed" is broken rant for a LONG time, but I'll recap my main points here.
  1. a traditional liberal arts education IS a good thing and should be valued
  2. the Return on Investment on most college degrees is sub-optimal
  3. the debt burden prevents young people from exploring, innovating, and being as creative as they can at the time in their lives when they have the most flexibility
  4. college doesn't really prepare most people for today's working world
  5. there are some exceptions-but they are exceptions
Why The Paradigm Is Broken

At this point, I'll let Friedman take over:

"Another big challenge is the way we educate our population. We go to school for twelve or more years during our childhoods and early adulthoods, and then we're done. But when the pace of change gets this fast, the only way to retain a lifelong working capacity is to engage in lifelong learning. There is a whole group of people -judging from the 2016 election- who did not join the labor market at age twenty thinking they were going to have to do lifelong learning...and they are not happy about it."

Sadly, our colleges (and I've seen this in hiring or not hiring many recent college graduates over the past few years) do not prepare students for today's rapidly changing world.

Friedman calls it "The Age of Accelerations." Accelerating technology (Moore's Law), markets (globalization), and Mother Nature (climate change) that are SO fast, it recalls the Darwinian that only the most adaptable survive.

Accelerating technology (Moore's Law), markets (globalization), and Mother Nature (climate change) that are SO fast, it recalls the Darwinian that only the most adaptable survive.

A powerful anecdote he tells is that when he began his journalism career in the late 1970s, he used a typewriter, which was essentially the same device that had been used for nearly 100 years.

In the 40 years since, the number of technologies he's adapted to, used, and moved beyond is quite long.

And it's getting faster.

Meanwhile, our society is fixated upon traditional college degrees that rely on "broadcast" methods of teaching (lecturer to student) and are centered in a place, instead of recognizing that now, the BEST lecturers from everywhere are available anytime and that learning can be customized and skills can be mastered anywhere.

What's more, tenure creates complacency (under the guise of academic freedom) and no one dares question spending on education, so colleges/universities raise their rates over and over again, knowing that the money will keep coming.

It's like The Big Short...but worse. Or should I say, bigger,

Bottom line: College-as we have it today- in the US is, for the most part, utterly failing the students who are counting on them to prepare them for the world of the future.

The Emergent Paradigm

Here's where blockchain fits in.

If you really want to go deep (and you should) read this excellent article about the Blockchain Revolution in Higher Education.

The major takeaway here is that the combination of micro-customizable learning and blockchain-based certifications that can prove competencies or skills in an immutable and personally portable way offers the possibility of a full-blown "enlightenment" type explosion coming to the industry.

It not only levels the playing the field, giving access to many, it actually raises the playing field for everyone.

You aren't bound by an institution. Your credentials can be determined and verified by an employer.

And the value of those credentials can be measured in real-time in the market.

This is early days (which is really, really unfortunate), but at least I now feel like there's an answer to "what comes next?

My Advice to Students Today

Sadly, most of society hasn't recognized this yet so you're in a transition period. A few things then.

One, don't overspend on college, particularly for a liberal arts degree. (Engineering and CompSci are an exception where name brands like MIT, Carnegie Mellon really deliver value).

Yes, there's some 'brand lift' from attending a top tier school, but I skeptical that the ROI will be there. If you get a scholarship, go for it, but be intentional.  Your parents graduated college before the Internet was a "thing."  Don't accept their paradigm blindly.

Most likely, getting a college degree makes sense, so think cost-benefit and then CRUSH IT.

On top of that, OWN your education. Think about how to become a lifelong learner. That's critical.



Thursday, April 06, 2017

How a 6th Grader Understands Blockchains

Last week I shared how Paco was doing a project to design a Utopia. He and his teammates decided to run it off a blockchain.

With his permission, I am sharing their presentation.  Pay attention to slides 2 and 7.




Thursday, March 30, 2017

Gratitude and Perspective on a trip to Seattle

I have met some of the most inspirational people this week.

The Shooting Victim
On Sunday, I took a Lyft from the airport and was chatting with my driver, Pedro.

A younger man, I noticed that he had 2 "RIP" tattoos on his hand, so I asked him about them.

"When I was in high school, I was playing basketball with some of my friends and one of them had an aneurysm and died.

The other one, well, we were at a night club and my friend walked outside. Two guys jumped him, mugged him, and ended up shooting and killing him."

Whoa.

I let that sink in.  I noticed, unlike almost every other driver, when he got cut off he was exceedingly friendly, understanding, and compassionate to the other drivers, giving them the benefit of the doubt.

I asked about it.

"You know," he said, "I was shot also. 2 bullets at one time. One in my leg and one in my arm.  Once that happens to you, you can't help but thinking about things differently."

Double whoa.

The Two Former Homeless Men
When I landed in Seattle, I was waiting for my bag at the carousel and started chatting with 2 guys.

One of them, from Juneau, Alaska, had been kicked out of his house by his mom at age 14.  He worked at canneries in the summer to make money and lived under a bridge while he was going to school.

For 7 years.

And, yet....he persevered.

He moved to Nevada, got married, and shed an entirely new perspective on what it means to be homeless and how, because you don't have an address, it's near impossible to get a job...on that account alone.

The other guy was arrested a few days after his 18th birthday for selling meth. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail and served 2.

I asked him about the experience.

"It fixed me. I never want to go back.  You fight for everything. It's hell."

Twenty years later (after a period of homelessness for him as well), he is married and works in construction.

"People don't get homeless people," they both said.

And yet, though they felt invisible at times, they both had a Zen-like calm about them and a sense of gratitude that they were there, breathing, and continuing on.

They exuded perspective and appreciation, hardships notwithstanding.

The Asylum Seeker
My driver in Seattle was from Ethiopia.

But not any immigrant story.

This guy, over 25 years ago, was on the Ethiopian national soccer team, during the Communist era.

One night, the team was in Cairo for a match and the Communist party official came down hard on him and a few of his teammates for wearing jeans. "Too western."

That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

Late that night, a few of them meet at the elevator, go down to the basement of the hotel and literally, under cover of darkness, make a run for the US Embassy.

They make it to the gate, ask for, and get political asylum.

They hadn't planned it beforehand or told anyone, but they decided that freedom was worth the risk.

They got it.

Sadly, his family back in Ethiopia was harassed for 2 years by the police and government, but they were supportive of his decision.

What it meant to me...
I know I am guilty of losing perspective at time. I am guilty of getting caught up in the small stuff. I am going to try and remember what they guys went through so I can keep my head where it belongs...on what is really important.

Sometimes the universe just tells you something about life. It's up to us to listen.



Monday, March 27, 2017

Blockchain Utopia...My Work Here is Done

So Paco gets a group assignment at school to create a Utopia. I think he was reading "The Giver."

They decide that they are going to create a "benevolent dictatorship."

I ask some questions about how they will protect people's interests, expressing some skepticism.

A few days later, I am on a plane to California. When I land, I get a message from Paco that says "We think it makes more sense to have our Utopia use a blockchain. Can you call me and explain it?"

So, I call him.

"Don't worry," he says. "I didn't hear from you so I looked it up myself."

At which point he proceeds to basically explain what a blockchain is and why and how it would be a better way to run his Utopia.

It was a great parenting moment. :-)



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 itailor.com

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?"

"Yes."

"Do you speak Korean?"

"Yes."

"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 is...it'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 night...here'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.