Sunday, March 01, 2015

Book: This will make you smarter


Recently, I've been making my way through a compilation book of scientists who were challenged to answer the question of "what 1 scientific idea should people know that would make them better off?"

The book is called:   This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking (Edge Question Series).

The essays are about 2-3 pages long and, for the most part, really good.

Two that stood out for me are:  The Pessimistic Meta-Induction from the History of Science which essentially says that in each era, people think they are at the end of modernity, having figured it all out, and that everyone beforehand were ignorant. Yet, 85% of what we think of as "truth/fact" will be proven to be false at some point. Stay humble

And  Self-Serving Bias  which essentially says that we aren't nearly as open-minded as we though (which we knew), but reminds us that we are always looking for things to confirm what we think is the right thing.

Just wanted to pass these along.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The iPad taking up Cap Space

To understand this post, you need both a technical knowledge and sports knowledge.

Yesterday, I was looking at Paco's iPad (well, it's mine, but I let him use it) and I noticed that he didn't have any of his pictures on it.

"What happened to all your pictures?"

"I deleted them all," he said.

"Why?" I asked.

"I needed the cap space," he replied.

"You mean the 'storage space,'" I asked.

"Yes, that's what I meant."

Gotta love that the 9 year old is talking about 'cap space.' He's ready to be a GM.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Balance of Fatherhood

I know I'm not the only one who feels this challenge.

It's part of the reason why the lyrics to "Cats in the Cradle" resonate so much.

It's definitely tough though. Trying to be a present/involved father, being a decent husband, and being a responsible employee.

I travel a fair amount. Most weeks. While my trips (for the most part) tend to be 2 days and 1 night, it still means I'm not there.

The flip side is that when I'm home, I'm home when the kids leave for school and when they get back. We have dinner together as a family most weeknights.

I tell the kids that there are dads who don't get home until 8pm (or later) most nights, but who don't travel as much, so which would they rather have?

Not that it really matters all that much because we are talking about my kids and my relationship with them.

You feel how quickly the years go and you kick yourself for the fact that you might be doing work or taking a conference call or checking email while they are there.  You justify it by saying you are doing it to be a provider for them.

And you are because, obviously, if you didn't do the work, take the call, or respond to the email at all, you wouldn't be doing your part.

Ah, the balance. Ever elusive isn't it?


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Book Recommendation: Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas, and Predict the Future

One of my great fear motivators is becoming irrelevant in a professional sense. When you can no longer add value, you are replaced. Whether by a machine or a lower cost option, it doesn't matter, you're done. And it's hard to bounce back from that.

To combat that, I spent a lot of time thinking about macro trends and playing around with new technologies.

It's why I bought BitCoin a while ago. It's why my daughters and I play with TinkerCad and print 3D items. It's why I watch documentaries on Netflix (ok, I binge on a lot of other stuff as well). It's why I explored the Dark Web, got solar panels, was one of Vonage's first 20,000 customers, bought a Nest, ordered an Amazon Echo and more.

It's also why I love traveling and why I have a hard and fast business travel philosophy of "always doing something unique to the city" when I visit. Otherwise, it's airport-office-hotel-airport. This way, your eyes are opened in some way.

You get the idea. Sure, some of it is "fun," but a lot of it is…this is how I get my head around what is coming so I can be better prepared.

In fact, in a knowledge/information economy, being able to see things before others do and then prepare for them is a non-negotiable skill and will be the source of competitive advantage.

What I didn't have, however, was a defined PROCESS for doing this.

And that's exactly what my friend, Rohit Bhargava, has done for all of us in his new book (disclosure: I got a free copy) called "Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas, and Predict the Future".

It's only 99 cents on Amazon now, so you can thank me later.

I read the whole book in one sitting while on a plane and like his previous books (all of which I enjoyed), the writing is very consumable, but more importantly, he combines theory with practicality.

You walk away with concrete steps to take so you can be a better, more sophisticated, curated trendspotter.

And that's what you need.

Plus, he made me feel better about my fatherhood strategy (which, I admit, I got from my own dad). One of the key objectives of parenthood is to instill a sense of curiosity in your children. Help them learn how to ask questions and look at the world from a wide perspective.

Rohit confirms this approach and emphasizes that it's important for adults (I would argue that in a world of radical transformation and disruption at lightning speed, that it's more important than ever.

Two thumbs up on this one.

Radical Disruption of the Economy

My friend, Kenichi Hartman, posted an article on Facebook the other day about the most common job in each of America's 50 states. I'm on a plane right now so you'll just have to google it.

It highlighted something I'd been thinking about a lot, since the most common job in most states is: truck driver.

I've told my kids that I think it's possible that they won't need driver's licenses.

Now, my timing may be off, but is there any doubt in your mind that autonomous vehicles will happen?

Then, combine that with ridesharing apps and optimization algorithms from Uber and collaborative technologies like RelayRides and you have a huge opportunity for transport and logistics companies to save a ton of money…which they will pass on to you, the consumer.

Of course, there's a catch.

We're not going to need all of those truck drivers (or cab drivers for that matter).

That's a TON of people who will have to do something else. An absolute ton.

I don't have the answer right now. I'm just seeing what's going to happen.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Trains, Taxis, shutdown highways, a death, an assault, and a bunch of other stuff.

Every now and then, you just have a crazy set of events that require documentation.

Tonight is one of those nights for me.

It began well enough at the beautiful Skytop Lodge in the Pocono Mountains. One of Sprinklr's teams was having an off-site and I was invited to be a guest presenter. While the team was staying there for 3 days, I planned to only stay for one.  I took the bus up with them in the morning from NYC and a car was arranged to take our CFO and me back to the city at 6pm.

We didn't arrive at the front of hotel until 6.30, but since the hotel is close to-well, nothing-we weren't too concerned about the car leaving without us.

However, when we got there, we discovered no car. After 20 minutes of trying to track down the reservation number and phone for the car company, we discovered that, in fact, no reservation had been made.

Immediately, we moved into Plan B category.

Now, my time constraint was that the last train from NYC (well, really Newark) was at 10.22 so that I could be at home Wed. morning in order to attend Nadia's school ceremony at 9am on Wednesday.

In other words, it was a "failure is not an option" night for me.

So, first we looked at "how else can we get to the city?"

First choice was to take a cab to the bus...the first of which we would not get to in time (it left from Mt. Pocono) at 7.20pm and the second of which didn't leave until 9.30pm, which would be too late.

We called some fellow Sprinklrites who had driven up, but none of them were leaving that night.

Then, we called a cab company and, fortunately, since I was travelling with the CFO, I didn't have to worry about paying too much for the cab ;-)
So, we negotiated a fixed price and set off on our way.  The GPS said it would take 2 hours to get to Penn Station, NYC which would be fine.

HOWEVER, as we made our way on I-280E, a notification popped up on my OnePlus phone from Google Now saying "traffic ahead" and suggested a detour. By the time I realized what was happening, we had missed the detour and we found ourselves in an absolute standstill. And, I mean, ABSOLUTE.

I helplessly looked at the estimated time of arrival for Penn Station and then realized that, in fact, we should go to Newark. I negotiated with the cab driver and he agreed, but the ETA in Newark didn't look good either.

It was starting to look like I'd spend the night in NYC and have to take the 3.40am (yes, you read that right) train back to DC.

By this point, we saw that the entire highway was shut down. They made EVERYBODY get off at an exit and now you have highway traffic making their way through suburban roads and, well, obviously, that's not a good mix.

We take a large detour and go down I-280 a few exits and get back on the road. The WAZE and GPS now say that we will make it to Newark at 10:18 (when the train is at 10:22).

Using all of my motivational powers, I do my best to pump up Howard (our cab driver-as my CFO is with me and has graciously agreed to the Newark detour) and we head towards the station, only to see that one of the exits is blocked by an ambulance.

We make our way around and they drop me off. I agree to text them to let them know if I made it or require a ride into the city.

I sprint to the door, which is LOCKED.

The woman behind me says, "it is locked because someone DIED in there."

So, I run down to the next entrance, with only minutes to spare and try to figure out which track to go to.

As I run in to the station, I see a woman lying on the floor 30 feet in front of me and a bunch of people screaming, "SHE WAS ATTACKED!!!"

Then, I see police running towards the scene.

Thinking that this is not something I need right now, I figure out that I'm on Track 3 and make my way up there, getting to the track at 10.21.

I look to the monitor and all seems to be well. I text Chris (the CFO) and tell him that I made it.

Not 1 minute goes by when I look at the screen again and I see that my train is 1 hour and 15 minutes late.

Yes, you read that correctly. Within the span of 1 minute, my train went from on time to 75 minutes late.

I stand there with my jaw drooped open in amazement.  Then, I see that the 7.58 train is running 3 hours late...which means that if I can change my ticket from the 10.22 train to a train that technically has already left, I can get on it.

I run back downstairs to try and find an agent, but all of the Amtrak offices are closed and the ticket desk is behind the gate where, well, someone died.

So, I go to the ticket kiosk, where I have the challenge of modifying my ticket so that I can take a train that, in the mind of the computer at least, doesn't exist anymore (since it should have been through Newark about 2 hours previously).

Of course, that doesn't work.

So, I go back upstairs to the track (oh yeah, it's 12 degrees) and I decide to call Amtrak to modify my ticket from the 10:22 train (now 11:37) to the 7:58 (now 10:58) train.

While I'm on the phone with the reservation agent, an Acela (which wasn't even listed on the monitor) pulls into the station, so I think "screw this, I'm just getting on this train."

Which is what I do...I explain to the conductor that I'm on the phone with Amtrak and will get it resolved.

The conductor says to me "where are you going?" and I say "oh, I'm going to BWI train station."

Needless to say, at that point, he says "oh, this train DOESN'T STOP AT BWI."

I have no choice but to smile...as I"m now en route to Baltimore, from which I will have to take a cab to BWI so that I can get my car and then drive home.

Hopefully.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pretty low in the Dad rankings...

There are some days when you really appreciate your own parents.

Today was one of them.

All three of the kids went to bed near midnight last night and they were, well, exhausted this morning and in the afternoon.

I implemented a Draconian evening program and made them all get in bed by 7.45.

The resistance was strong-willed and determined. I was called names. I was villified. It was less than pleasant.

I took comfort in my newfound paternal strategy of "I'm not here to make you happy" which I borrowed from Louis CK (here's the video)

Still, it's not easy being told that you're "mean," "not fair," and more. My dad ranking were lower than Obama's.

But, hey, it's a part of the ride, I suppose.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Den of Thieves, Unbroken, and Reflections on Human Nature

Plowed through 2 solid books this winter break.

The first was Den of Thieves about Milken, Boesky, and the "greed is good" era of insider trading in the 80s on Wall St. A strong narrative, well written that reinforces the dark view that when there are rules and there is money to be made, there will be smart people who either find a way around the rules or don't care about them and take on the risk.

Almost a treatise on a part of human nature.

Balancing that was Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption which is an incredible and inspiring story that defies imagination. Even though I had lived in Japan, I wasn't aware of the extent of Japanese atrocities against allied POWs. Shame on me (well, bigger shame on them).

How Louie Zamperini was able to survive the war, a plane wreck, a POW camp and more... at the level of abuse that he did...well, it puts all other problems in perspective and helps you realize how strong the will to live and survive is.

My brother told me that he walked out of the movie because it was so slow to develop (I can't comment on that personally). The book was powered by the force of the story. I found the prose to be rather straightforward and written at a lower level. That could have been the author's intention because you don't need to work up a story that is beyond belief to begin with.

But I don't want to focus on the shortcomings. The life of Louie Zamperini is one of an epic for all time and deserves to be studied and lauded.

So there you have it... winter 2014...an investigation into the soul of Man.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Celebrating the innovators of transportation... Kitty Hawk and Virginia Beach

In our winter sojourn to the South, we decided to make Day 2 about the importance of transportation and the innovators who see the future.
We left Norfolk and drove about 80 minutes to Kitty Hawk, NC where the Wright Brothers changed the course of world history (no hyperbole) by inventing mechanized flight.  It was a cold, blustery day, not the best nearly for experiencing the outdoor component, but it was made up for by a great Visitors' Center and an equally exciting presentation by the Ranger there.

Not only was the lesson in physics and engineering informative, but the larger lesson...that failure can be a step on the road to success...was imparted (at least I hope it was).

It really is remarkable to think about the impact on diplomacy, immigration, trade, and, well, everything that the Wright Brothers have had.

And keeping with the theme of transportation, we stopped in Virginia Beach to visit Fun Tours, a bus travel company owned by a friend of ours, Felix Kushnir. Much like the Wright Brothers, Felix had a dream.  

He was a practicing corporate lawyer and decided that, well, that wasn't for him, so he took one of the more impressive mid-life career turns (pun semi-intended) that I have ever witnessed and traded that all in for a bus company.

Now, he's learning the ins and outs of that business and is committed to making it a success. I have no doubt that he will.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Of Maritime, Glass, and Art...A Great Visit to Norfolk

Our ultimate objective this winter break was Kitty Hawk, NC to see the location of the historic initial flight by the Wright Brothers.

En route, we spent a day in Norfolk, VA and we certainly made the most of it.

I had been to Norfolk once about 6 years ago, though I didn't have much of a chance to explore the city.  I have to say, it really is a pleasant town.

As you make your way around, you can't help but notice that the "Chrysler" name is attached to many of the city's philanthropic institutions, the most obvious being the art museum.

I was intrigued by this as I normally associate Chrysler with Detroit, but according to Wikipedia, the wife of the son of the original Chrysler hailed from Norfolk, so it all made sense.

We started off at the Glass Studio where we saw an hour long demonstration of what is admittedly a beautiful art that has an impressive amount of science contained within it. Our presenter, I thought, was excellent--informative and with a sense of humor.

Afterwards, we walked across the street to the actual museum itself. We were excited to see an exhibition celebrating 70 years of Smokey the Bear. The artist's various works (and the evolution of the tag line) were really interesting to watch and we learned that, in 1964, the US Postal Service assigned Smokey his own zip code. Today, you can tweet him...which I did.

The museum was also great for kids as they had a scavenger hunt, which enabled us to walk through most of the museum without the kids complaining...and instead were excited about doing it.

For our last stop, we visited the Nauticus museum which is adjacent to the retired battleship, USS Wisconsin.  It is packed with all kinds of information about why Norfolk is so important from a nautical perspective (it has the deepest water of any eastern US port) and historical (the US Navy's Atlantic Fleet is based here) and it was from here that Teddy Roosevelt launched the "Great White Fleet".

The museum was extremely kid-friendly and ours didn't really want to leave.  They enjoyed the exhibits and had a great time exploring the immense battleship. Even better, I think they walked away with a deep appreciation of what a battleship does (and what life on one might be like) as well as an understanding to some extent of the importance of ship transport.

Perhaps the most fun part of the day was how, prior to each stop, our kids would say "ugh, do we have to go there?" and then, during the visit, they would say "this place is great!"

I asked them afterwards..."so, how many times will we need to tell you that you are going to like a place and you will take our word for it and not complain before we go?"

Of course, I realize the answer...it's never going to happen.  ;-)








Friday, December 26, 2014

More evidence on the coming (and present) disruption of Higher Education

I have a thesis that the current college system is broken and will, soon, no longer be the source of credential that it once was.

The economics are broken in a big way. And, I'm not sure that (on the whole), the education delivered is preparing people for the workforce or citizenry.

Combine that with new models of education delivery (e.g. Khan Academy, MOOCs) and you have an industry that is ripe.

There is still value to the college experience...bringing people of diverse backgrounds together for intense co-existing experiences. However, in my view, there will be far better and more cost-effective ways of doing that.

I'm certainly not the only one who has recognized this. There are many working on this including University of the People.

Today, I just read about another one...heck, I might go do this at some point.



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Newseum and the Freedoms We Cherish (or should)

When I was 14 years old, my dad took me on a 2 week trip to eastern Europe. Easily one of the most transformative experiences of my life for many reasons.

But one moment stands out in particular.

After having been in the Eastern bloc (Soviet Union, Poland, and East Germany), we arrived in West Berlin and went to the Checkpoint Charlie museum. From there, we could see the famous sign "you are now leaving the American Sector" and I remember thinking, for the first time, how lucky I was to have been born in a free society and be an American.

It's something that I never take for granted and it's one of the reasons why I have little patience for people who don't keep that perspective in mind when criticizing America vis a vis the rest of the world. Not saying everything is perfect, of course, but we have to keep the broader picture in mind.

All of this came rushing back today as I took Tikkanen to the Newseum. She had been there before but never had and I was just blown away by the quality and quantity of exhibits...the first of which is a section of the Berlin Wall, where I had the opportunity to frame for her why freedom is important and not to take it for granted.

The six floor are full of history and I found myself thinking "how the heck will I ever teach my kids even a portion of what's in here?" (and there was plenty I didn't know, of course.)

We sat for a long time in the 9/11 retrospective area, which has the antenna from the top of the WTC and I got chills, as I do often when I think of that day (as do many of us) and being in NYC.

We talked about the Scopes Monkey Trial, the Civil Rights Movement, Tiannamen Square, and much more.

The museum is really well done. Very interactive, digital/social savvy and has a ton of great kids activities.

Definitely not my last visit.

But, a museum that allows me to instill a trans-generational value...that's worth the price of admission (which wasn't cheap ;-)


Tuesday, December 02, 2014

40 Acts of Kindness...an Inspirational Story

A few weeks ago, I shared that the kids and I were embarking on a "40 for 40" campaign in honor of the NFO's upcoming birthday.

40 acts of kindness..by each of us.

The four of us have been tracking dilligently and, at times, asking the NFO for approval of whether our act did indeed count towards the goal.

I am proud to say that both Tikkanen and Jokinen have reached the milestone. With 2 days left, I have 5 to go...and Nadia, well..she made a strong effort.

But more impressive than all of that was the inspiring effort put forth by "Aunt" Helene Reisler who, like many others, said she would celebrate the "40 for 40" effort and make her own list.

And she did!

Herewith...her list of accomplishments. Kudos!!


Hi Jeremy and Team,
    It is an honor, blessing, and joy for me to share with all of you my list of the following  40 F0R 40 ACTS OF KINDNESS TOWARDS OTHERS that I did, in honor of Tamar's 40th birthday:

1. Monday, Sept. 29th- made and delivered a dinner meal to Dina's and Eitan's home in honor  of their new baby.
2. Wednesday, Oct. 1st- I helped Sarah Shapiro out and took her daughter, Ella, home from the bus stop because her son, Charlie, was sick.
3.Oct. 8th- I made and delivered a meal to Melissa & Josh Stein's home in honor of their new baby.
4.Oct. 10th- At Ohr Kodesh I stopped  to be kind and listen to a woman, who was coming out of services, and  briefly shared her feelings of sadness with me.
5.Oct. 10th- I was helpful to a young mother by watching and holding and comforting & soothing her 2 year old daughter, who was tired and upset, while the mother put her other kids in the car to go home from Ohr Kodesh Synagogue.
6.Oct. 27th- I took a 102 year old woman, who cannot drive, home from Rabbi Herzfeld's Parsha  class for women.
7. Oct. 27th-   I made and delivered a dinner meal to Tammy and Josh Levine's home in honor of their new baby.
8. Oct.26th- I played the piano for Cantor Hinda Labovitz's cantorial installation ceremony at Ohr Kodesh.
9. Made and delivered a meal for a neighbor who had knee surgery.
10. Nov. 14th- 15th weekend-Helped out with birthday celebrations for my daughters, Emily-36th, and Julie-40th. A joy and blessing.
11. I had first extra rehearsal with Cantor Hinda Labovitz.
12. I had 2nd extra rehearsal with Cantor Hinda Labovitz
13. I had 3rd extra rehearsal with Cantor Hinda Labovitz
14. I had 4th extra rehearsal with Cantor Hinda Labovitz
15. I had 5th extra rehearsal with Cantor Hinda Labovitz
16. I am  volunteering to be music director and accompanist for JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT play at JPDS on Sunday, December 14th, 2014.
#17- 28- I played piano for 12  rehearsals for JOSEPH at JPDS show.
29. I volunteered and did  the music for JFGH  High Holiday party at Ohev Shalom in Seot. 2014.
30. Drum rehearsal for Joseph at JPDS with drummer extraordinaire,Rachel Milner Gillers.
31. Going to shabbat services and being with my grandchildren, also a blessing and Mitzvah and joy.
32.Doing the Walk For Life on 11/9/14, and extra joy of seeing Calanit there as well and giving her a hug.
33. Volunteering and doing music at Ohev Shalom JFGH Thanksgiving Holiday Party in Nov. 2014.
34.Making and delivering a meal for Siona and her husband in honor of their new baby.
35. Volunteered  and helping out with music & dancing at OHEV SHALOM THANKSGIVING DAY FEAST on Thanksgiving day afternoon.
36. Taking my grandkids Ice Skating and having a wonderful time watching them enjoy ice skating.
37. Made a second meal for my neighbor who had knee surgery.
   38. One on one music help session with a cast member from Joseph at JPDS.
   39. Helped out a lady in exercise class by getting her a towel and mat to use.
   40. Volunteering and doing music and dance for JFGH Chanukah party, 12/16/14.

I believe that I was being kind to myself and I derived much much joy and blessing by doing the above 40 acts of kindness towards others, and towards myself as well, in honor of the 40th birthday of dear Tamar, who I love very much and who is a blessing & joy in my life.
Once again thank you for giving me the blessing and joy of being included in this very appropriate Campaign for Kindness in celebration of Tamar, as I think Tamar is a living blessing.
Please let me know if there is anything else that I can do to be a part of this wonderful and appropriate celebration for Tamar in honor of her 40th birthday.

Much love and blessings to all of you, Helene/Aunt Helene :_)



Sunday, November 16, 2014

The nicest email I've ever received...

I sent my first email in 1991. Been many along the way, but today I received the most beautiful one ever.

I had a bit of a stomach bug overnight and spent a bit of time throwing up. It wasn't pretty.

This morning, I checked my email and found a note from my 6 year old.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nadia
Sent: Sunday, November 16, 2014 7:32 AM
To: Jeremy Epstein
Subject: I love you

I really ( not kidding) started crying when I found out you throw up.(wa
wa) hope you feel better!
Love,

Nadia


Beautiful because of the content...and because my 6 year old emailed me ;-)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A regular, not so regular evening

Maybe it was because I had been away for a few days.

Or perhaps it was because the NFO needed to be out for most of the day and into the early part of the evening.

Still, tonight, I was on point and solo for making sure the kids were fed and completed their homework before bedtime.

Lesson 1 was a deep appreciation for how much the NFO does either by herself (due to my travel schedule) or as the lead parent for this part of the day.

But there was a moment, when I was sitting at the dining room table helping both Tikkanen and Lakkanen with their respective homework assignments that time stood still.

We call it a "mental snapshot" and I realized that this was just "one of those school nights" when the kids would think many years hence that they had eaten dinner and done homework. Just a part of the routine of life.

And as I thought that, I recognize, like the old John Lennon adage, that this WAS LIFE.  I realized that, never again, would they be that age, at that time, doing that exact thing.  It was both mundane and profound all at the same time.

I cherished it. As my friend Josh would say, I "sucked out the marrow of Life" in that moment and just savored it for what it was. A dad, helping his daughters with their homework.

It was both fleeting and eternal.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Embattled Colleges

My friend, Michael Einbinder-Schatz of Jobecca sent me the following link.


A father who is not convinced he is getting his money’s worth for his $110k/year education bill.

He was shouted down in the comments, but I think it was unfair.

The college model is way broken.

And I think the educational industry knows it…which is why I saw a piece on CNN titled “Why College Is Worth It”.

Clearly, something that their trade association put in place and the PR folks pitched. Can you imagine that discussion 25 years ago?

Of course not. It was a given..and it was true.

Now, the cost-benefit model is way out of whack and the cracks are starting to show.

Let’s be clear…I’m not against higher education. It’s more critical than ever. What I am against is a system that is based on a previous paradigm.  

It’s going to get disrupted (and it already is a bit).  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Protect Your Phone: Get Lookout NOW

Oh man, this was just great.

I am in Switzerland now and I got a temporary SIM card.  Once I logged on, I received this (which would go to any account).  Just a great way to protect yourself from phone theft.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Join Us: 40 for 40 Campaign for Kindness

As many know, the NFO doesn't like to be called out on the blog. Nameless, Faceless One is my spouse.

That notwithstanding, her 40th birthday is coming up in a few months and the kids and I have embarked on an appropriate activity to celebrate it.

We're calling in the "40 for 40 Campaign for Kindness."

Each of us are committing to 40 separate, unique acts of kindness towards others.

Each day, we will document our initiative to make the world a slightly better place.

Those of you who know the NFO understand why this makes sense.

Let us know if you'd like to join us.

You can report back or not report back. Up to you.

We'll have a counting/celebration around the time of her birthday (December).

A Tea Experience, A Ceremonie In Fact

Full disclosure: I received a free sample for review purposes.

I'll admit that I'm much more of a coffee drinker than a tea drinker. Though I do like tea and I find it much more calming than coffee, I just don't tend that way too often.

Still, when my friend Efrat asked me to sample some of her new tea line, Ceremonie Tea, I took a look at the website and jumped at the chance.

My reputation is important to me so I didn't promise a false, ringing endorsement, but the website hinted at a level of class that I hadn't seen too often in tea, with a few exceptions.

I believe the essence of great marketing is great storytelling and I think Ceremonie Tea has taken that to heart.  They are clear about the extremely high quality origins of their product and they extend that to every element of the experience. The packaging is truly inspired. The colors representing different flavors and moods as well as different regions.

I tried many of them and while, try as I might, I can't seem to ever like Earl Grey, the Moroccan Mint and the various Green Teas were sublime. Mellow.

There have been studies about how packaging or price can actually enhance people's perception of the taste of wine and I would be willing to bet that if you gave your guests/friends some of this tea with its unique, pyramid-shaped bags, they would enjoy it even more.  I know I did.

If I had two critiques, it would be that I wish that all of the bags had a string on them instead of requiring a spoon to remove the bag (but that could be a personal preference) and that they would use a bit less plastic on some of the boxes.

Still, the tea is definitely not your normal Lipton/Bigelo and better than the Celestial Seasonings variety. It moves into gourmet land and, even for a non-tea lover/drinker, was a notable experience.

It's also a great lesson in marketing, so for me, it was a double win.

Book Recommendations for Leaders

Two books I just finished that I wanted to recommend.

Particularly relevant for anyone who has to lead a group or an organization.

The first is written by the CEO/Founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman. It’s called The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age and highlights how managing people has changed since the era of lifetime employment has come to an end.

They reframe a job as a “tour of duty” in which the company makes clear to the employee what s/he will get out of the next assignment while at the same time, the employee promises s/he will stick with the job until the end of the tour. They stay because reputational risk is too great to leave it.

It’s a quick read and a solid framework for thinking about developing talent in today’s networked age.

Meanwhile, you can always look to the military for inspiring stories of courage, bravery, and leadership. In Pegasus Bridge, the acclaimed historian Stephen E. Ambrose details the first invasion effort of D-Day and the strategic imperative of a group of British airborne troops of taking a canal bridge deep behind enemy lines.

This is a book about planning, preparation, team building, leadership, strategy, execution, and more.

You’ll appreciate the “Greatest Generation” more and hopefully you’ll never be in a life/death situation like this with the fate of the free world hanging in the balance.

However you will be in a position where you need to lead a group of people on a mission. Learn from the best.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Watch "The Pacific" to appreciate the sacrifice

If you have HBO (or access via Amazon Prime), I'd highly recommend you watch the 10 part mini-series produced by Spielberg and Hanks called "The Pacific."

It's like Saving Private Ryan, but more people.

I walked away with an understanding of "The Greatest Generation" and how they built America post-war, given what happened during the war in the Pacific.

My background in Japan added some color, but this series was just so informative and told the story so well that, literally, I was crying at the end of it.

It made me think of my own Poppy who served in the Army Air Corps in China. Not quite the same, but so appreciative of his and others' sacrifice..and of the immense numbers who didn't make it.

Next time you are in DC, go to the WWII Memorial as well. The names of remote Pacific islands will have newfound meaning for you.


Monday, September 01, 2014

Predictions for NFL 2014 season...from one of my gurus

My friend, Ira, is one of the most intense sports fans I know. He is intelligent, insightful, and articulate on the subject.  With the only blemish on his credentials being that he has never been to any of the top 4 Halls of Fame, he has achieved somewhat legendary status in our household for his prediction of the Stanley Cup champion this year, right when the playoffs begins.

In addition, he correctly predicted SEA over DEN in the Super Bowl at the beginning of last season. 
  
So, he got the Super Bowl and Stanley cup right this year (though he is currently bombing on baseball  predictions.) I guess the only issue is that he doesn't put his money where his mouth is. If it he did, he could give up his medical practice.

So, here are his predictions for the NFL 2014 season.

 Phl- 12-4
 Dal- 9-7
 NYG- 8-8
 Wash- 6-10

 Green Bay- 10-6
 Det- 9-7
 Chi-8-8
 Minn- 5-11

 Car- 11-5
 N.O- 11-5
 TB- 8-8
 Atl- 5-11

 Sea- 12-4
 Ariz- 10-6
 San Fran- 7-9
 STL- 3-13


 AFC

 N.E.- 11-5
 Miami- 9-7
 NYJ- 7-9
 Buff- 2-14


 Cincy- 11-5
 Balt- 9-7
 Clev- 8-8
 Pitt- 5-11

 Indy- 12-4
 Tenn- 7-9
 Houston- 7-9
 Jack- 5-11


 Den- 13-3
 KC- 10-6
 S.D- 8-8
 Oak- 6-10


 NFC champs - CAR over PHL
 AFC Champs- Den over Indy

 SB- Den over CAR

 Biggest Surprise- PHL
 Biggest disappointment- San Fran
 MVP- LeShawn Mccoy. Runner up- Cam Newton
 Team to fire coach mid season -Pitt or San Fran

Labor Day- A Quaint Holiday of a Bygone Era

These ideas of national holidays where you take off work are starting to seem anachronistic to me.

As we move towards an economy of anytime/anywhere access and accountability/outcome versus time/input, it just seems like something that doesn't make sense.

I don't get paid by the hour. Many of you don't either.

If I have a deadline, I have to hit it. It is my responsibility to get it done on time. Whether I choose to work on Labor Day or not is up to me.

In a factory where you stand there and get paid for an hour's worth of work and you can't get it done unless the factory is open, something like Labor Day might make sense.

But in an information economy where your laptop/tablet and wi-fi are all you need, a "day off" is up to you, not to some mandated time period.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Canada, We Stand on God For Thee….

We didn’t have a huge window for a long summer vacation this year, so we decided we would do a 3 day jaunt up/back to Niagara Falls. IMG_20140811_142706

Our objectives were simple and two-fold.

  1. Ride the Maid of the Mist
  2. Go to Canada

It’s what you learn along the way that makes the family trips so much fun.

And it’s the little moments (both good and bad) that you create the memories that stick with all of us for the rest of our lives.

What’s going on in Canada?
As part of our ‘get in the Canada frame of mind” effort, we pulled up the Canadian anthem on YouTube and played it over the car speakers.

It was around that time that we learned that Paco thought the lyrics were:

“we stand on God for thee” instead of “we stand on guard for thee.”

Needless to say, we had some fun with this. Canadians being so dedicated to their country that they will trample God for it.

Also, he thought that it was “Bob keep our land, glorious and free” instead of “God keep our land.”

This led to a lot of speculation as to who exactly Bob is. Perhaps Canada’s gardener?

The Unexpected Twists

Nadia has had a bit of a string of bad luck recently. She had strep, then a viral infection of her chest. We had taken her to a few places IMG_20140811_145733(Right Time Clinic being one of them where we had a horrific experience) and it seemed like we were doing all the right things.

Still, she was obviously sick and wheezing a bit.

We had a nebulizer and were using it.

However, the first night in the hotel was just brutal. Nadia was coughing violently, having a hard time breathing, and it was keeping the NFO and me up.

I was up from 2-5.30, but that’s nothing compared to the NFO who decided at 5am to take Nadia to the Williamsville hospital ER.

All’s well that ends well, but it was one of those nights where you think “great, I’m on vacation with the family, I’ll get to bed at a reasonable time, and be somewhat well rested” and instead turns into an all-nighter.

Ah, parenthood.

The kids ended up having a great attitude, making lemonade out of lemons (and that’s a life skill, isn’t it?) and we went to the pool in the morning.

We didn’t get to Niagara Falls until about 12.30pm, but it all worked.

Simple Expectations and Bonusville

My philosophy of travel with the family is very simple. Have ONE objective per day. Everything after that is bonus.

Monday was “Maid of the Mist” and then whatever.

Once we did that (and we all had a blast, getting soaked), we were in bonus land.

I had brought passports, so we walked across the Rainbow Bridge (kids enjoyed straddling the border) to Canada.

It gave us a chance to talk about different currencies, why Queen Elizabeth is on the money, kilometers vs. miles and immigration policy.

The approach is a major stress reliever for me. You don’t need to rush. You just do your thing and then can allow the rest of the day to unfold.  I find it helps with keeping other people from whining too much as well.

And The Icing on the Cake

When we’re at home, we’re all not staying in the same room or same car for the same length of time.  The intensity comes from the proximity and you see how we all work together to solve disagreements or partner.

You see how the kids take care of each other as they get to explore the hotel or go downstairs for the breakfast buffet.

You get to see that, for some reason, they think the show “Full House” is one of the funniest things they’ve ever seen. They laugh at the show and the NFO and I just laugh at their reactions.

You get to inhale the innocence of childhood through them, knowing that you don’t have it forever, but that it’s glorious while it’s here.

And you get to talk about “that time we went to Niagara Falls and Canada.”

Even if we had 14 hours of driving and a trip to the ER while we were there.

It’s all worth it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Coming Education Disruption

This one says it about as well as I have seen.

It may be 3, 5, 10 years, but it's coming.