Friday, May 30, 2008

Book: Sandbox Wisdom

It's easy to discount Sandbox Wisdom as "cheesy" or "juvenile."

Well, Tom Hopkins taught me to look for the value in everything and so I did my best to approach this book with an open-mind.

As I read, I was reminded of an experience a few weeks ago playing with Tonka (my daughter) that gave me some additional perspective on how children not only keep us young, but can also be a competitive advantage in business.

It's not a "serious" or "complex" business/leadership/guru-esque, but it's not meant to be...deliberately.

Is it the greatest book I've ever read?


Does it give you a breath of fresh air and a chance to take yourself out of the daily grind and perhaps alter the way that you look at things?


3 out of 4 stars.

And a hat tip to my great financial advisor, Josh, for getting me a signed copy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Limbaugh went over the line....

Was listening to Rush Limbaugh for a bit of the drive up to NJ yesterday.

He's a bit of a blowhard, but I don't disagree with everything he says. I should say, listening to him doesn't just get me riled up.

But, yesterday, he did.

I don't remember the exact context, but at one point, he basically called "liberals" and "democrats" as "our enemies."

I found this infuriating. It's divisive.

We're all in this together, even if we disagree.

why i love working at jnj

unlimited listerine in the bathroom!

great oral hygiene day

Posted by ShoZu

5 year flashback from the FOJ Archives...

Thanks to Aliza Cooperman for forwarding these 4 FOJ notes of years past.

Here's a quick digital productivity tale as well.

The forwards came through and they looked like this:

> I don’t think I have seen this much snow since the weekend my first sister was born 24 years ago. I remember making snow tunnels and jumping off the top of the family station wagon.
> The most fun I’ve had this time is just staring out our windows and watching the whole drama unfold. You see people fighting the elements to get their cars out. You see nature’s perfection at huge swaths of land perfectly blanketed by pristine white snow. You see a major road artery devoid of any traffic in the middle of the day.

Hate those ">", so I did the following.

  1. copy and pasted the entire text into Word
  2. did an Find and Replace with ">" and a blank space, respectively to remove the ">" symbols (I believe they are carats)
  3. Utilized the "line break removal tool" at to make sure we didn't have any formatting annoyances (frequently happens)

Posted up to blog.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Blood for Oil?

How about blood for copper? Or Zinc? Or Cobalt?

Just finished an absolutely fascinating series of articles about "ChinAfrica" in Fast Company. I HIGHLY recommend that you read them (and once you do, you'll get the irony of this suggestion: Print them out to read them, since they are quite long.)

Anyhow, the author details vividly how there is a mad rush going on in Africa (which China is winning) for natural resources that lie at the epicenter of modern wealth creation.

We're all complicit in it...US as end consumers, China as extractor, and corrupt African dictators as well. Combine that with a Chinese willingness to look the other way re: human rights in Africa and bribery and the US gov't (and consumer!) willingness to ignore Chinese policy...and we have the makings of a resource war.

In his book, China: The Gathering Threat, Constantine Menges argues that the Chinese outlook (political and military) along with the need for resources puts the USA on a collision course with the mainland.

Reading these articles, you've got to wonder if he is right.

While a full on war may not be the end result, what could be are:

  • less democracy and human rights in Africa
  • continued kleptocracy and poverty
  • Chinese crackdown on internal protests to which the world turns a blind eye
  • and the total devastation of the majority of the earth's natural resources (in Africa).

The NFO asked me the other day about rising food prices. "Will it get better?"

"Not in the short term. It's going to get worse before it gets better. Oil is at the center and rising living standards around the world contribute as well. Time to find other, cheaper sources of nutrition."

You know my investment policy is weighted (and has been for 2.5 years now) towards oil going to $200/barrel. And that I have some strong views on this topic (economically and politically).

Time to add another one.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Perspective Doesn't Matter?

Tonka took this picture.

From her vantage point, I've got HUGE arms. :-)

Made me feel like a "manly man!"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Last Doughboy...4,734,990 are gone

From the Washington Post

The Last Doughboy

By George F. Will

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Numbers come precisely from the agile mind and nimble tongue of Frank Buckles, who seems bemused to say that 4,734,991 Americans served in the military during America's involvement in the First World War and that 4,734,990 are gone. He is feeling fine, thank you for asking.

will he be angry later?

too cute not to capture.

learning the ways of men.

my job as dad in full swing

Posted by ShoZu

Friday, May 23, 2008

Scotch, Taxes, and a Marketing Lesson

Took a page out of my own playbook the other night.

Guiding principles for marketing, IMHO, are:

  1. Turn your customers into your best marketers.
  2. Bring like-minded people together.

Sunday night, I hosted "Scotch and Taxes" where I played two roles. One, as marketing advisor to my finanical planner. Two, as "raving fan" of his services.

As a marketer, I told Josh (my advisor) that he needed to get his best customers to advocate for him.

As a loyal customer, I offered myself up.

I invited about 10 friends to join me at my house, drink some Scotch (Josh provided!) and talk about financial issues that concerned all of us (retirement, private school education, etc.) 3 showed up (30% conversion...not too shabby :-)

Josh didn't have a "deck," folders to hand out, nor did he put business cards on the table.

He just had a conversation. Listened, asked questions, and shared his knowledge.

Contrast that to most presentations.

When most companies get up in front of people, what is the first thing they talk about?

Themselves. Who We Are. How We Work. WE, We, We, We!!!

Who cares?!!

So, what do you do?

Start off delivering value. Be informative. Engaging. Listen to people.

Then, at the end, when they ask:

"So, how long have you been doing this?"
"How do you work with clients?"

That's when you know you have interest in moving forward.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cops in the Rain...

Drove up and back to NJ twice last week.

2 of the 4 legs were in torrential downpours.

Know what I realized?

You can actually go faster in the rain.

Safety permitting, of course.


I just noticed that when it is raining, there are no cops setting up speed traps.

The way I figure it, they don't really feel like pulling you over and standing outside in the rain asking for "license and registration" while they are getting wet.

Rebel. Be Remarkable. All with GOOD PowerPoint..

"Life conspires to beat the rebel out of you," says Alex Bogusky of the Crispin-Porter Bogusky ad agency in this month's Fast Company.

But it's in the little rebellions where each of us has the opportunity to "be remarkable."

The battle against mediocrity is fought on many fronts. PowerPoint is one where I choose to engage (other posts here).

Just finished Garr Reynolds' phenomenal book, Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter).

Reading it won't make you a great presenter, but if you don't follow his lead, it's going to be difficult to become one.

If you read the book and you still think that the best way to convey information (in a presentation you deliver) is through bullet points and "eye chart" graphs, you should probably just stop reading this blog. (I'm mostly serious about that.)

Garr makes a number of solid points about why those presentations are ineffective (if you  want to relay vast quantities of written info, use a word processor). He also lives in Japan, where I lived for 2 years, and relates a lot of his theories to Japanese ideas, which sits well with me.

After all, "Death by PowerPoint" as a phrase didn't come about because most people are great presenters, after all.

With each presentation, you have a chance to tell a great story.

  • What is your point?
  • How do they all fit together?

Want to back it up w/reams of data? Great, hand it out. And for God's sake, please don't read us the slides!

Seth Godin posted the other day on the changing nature of work and the fact that, odds are, you'll need to do even more presentations. Many of those will be where you don't have the in-person audience. Gaining attenion is even more challenging in this environment.

If Seth's right (and he usually is), and you want to be successful, you're going to need to figure out a way to get your points across in a memorable, engaging, and stimulating manner.

Standard templates, slides that don't require you (i.e.: if I can figure out the total story of the presentation just by reading the slides, what value do you add?)...these are things of the past.

I know it's far easier to just "take the template and fill out the slides." 

As a checkbox exercise, you'll be done. It is probably more efficient than spending A LOT of time upfront preparing a compelling and exciting presentation.

No question.

But, it won't be more effective

Which would you rather be?


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Property Tax Appeal...DENIED

I read somewhere that only something like 1% (or fewer) of home owners appeal their property tax assessments.

But, of those that do, 50% are successful in getting a reduction.

I figured, why not?

3 years ago, I appealed and lost. And while I know that the statistics aren't cumulative and the previous results have no bearing on future results, I figured the odds were in my favor if I appealed again.

I was wrong.

Try as I might, I wasn't able to persuade the Tax officer that a reduction was worth it.

So, I lost.

Of course, I knew I was starting from a position of weakness:

the state assessment of the property value is still less than what we paid for the house!

Better luck next time, right?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mind of the 4 year old...

What is not to love?

Now playing: U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday
via FoxyTunes

Flying Family Field Trip

12 weeks post-partum and we're back in the saddle.

Sunday, with the help of my dad (yes, just the two of us), we took the three kids on the next installment of the Family Field Trip.

Our original plan was to go to the Joint Forces Air Show, but it was pouring and we (read: I) just wasn't up for it, so we quickly adapted.

I recalled a conversation I had with Michael Zatman telling me after about the College Park Aviation Museum.

We headed there and were pleased to find a great experience for the kid.

What's more, it's a unique historical place, the oldest continuously operating airfield in the world. The Wright brothers trained Army pilots there after the US gov't bought 2 planes.

Small and manageable. Good for kids as well.
Now playing: Fleetwood Mac - Rhiannon
via FoxyTunes

Monday, May 19, 2008

Steve Ballmer...Egged

Yes, you read that, correctly.

Check out the video. Crazy.

Movie: We Are Marshall...

Love a good story. Love football. So, We Are Marshall was a perfect match for me.

Seriously, I was choked up and tearing 10 minutes into the flick.

The basic story: Marshall University's football team (almost all of it) dies in a plane crash in 1970 and the town of Huntington, WV (and university) are dedicated.

Matthew McConaughey puts in a solid performance as the coach who is trying to rebuild the program after the devastation.

Good character development, appreciation of why football isn't life's most important thing, but how it can be a part of the healing process.

Definitely recommend it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Industrial Revolution of the Mind...

Since I started following Internet trends, one of the people I've enjoyed most learning from is Clay Shirky.

He's got tremendous clarity about how the Internet continues to unfold and what it means for society at large.

In this video, (well worth it) he shares how the shift from passive (TV) to active participation (Internet) will have effects on culture and society that are equivalent to those of the Industrial Revolution.

Americans spend about 200 billion hours per year watching TV and if we can reallocate a portion of that to more creative, participatory endeavors, the possibilities are endless. Call out to Dean Collins for the link.

One of the points he mentions is how more and more people are taking their free time away from TV to the Internet.  I'm no exception.

Last week, I saw that my 12 month promotion which I had creatively negotiated with Comcast last year had expired.

I called them up and said, "look at $40, the service is barely worth it to me. AT $65, it's not worth it at all." And it's not.

I'd be willing to get rid of the TV altogether, honestly.

Bottom line, I got it for $34/month. TV is just not a value add for me.

Shirky explains why.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A taste of the world to come...

Usually, I blog with the reader in mind, but this one is just for me.

You're welcome to read along, of course.

There's a saying about the Jewish sabbath that it is M'ayn Olam HaBa, literally "from the world to come" (as in heaven, afterlife, etc.).

Many simply say "a taste/foreshadowing of the World to Come."

Today was one of those days for me.

Took Tonka and Paco to synagogue with me, where I read Torah. Had a great time as I pushed them in the stroller (great workout!) through the park and they laughed with each other.

Afterwards, I turned them loose on a new playground at an elementary school.

Sat outside (just gorgeous weather) on the bench (thanks, Dad!) reading while the two of them sprayed water on the pavement and our cars.

After lunch and a nap, we were off to one of our closest friend's birthday dessert party. Then, took the three of them (2 in the stroller, one in the Bjorn) to the baby naming for the daughter of some other close friends.

I must have walked 3.5 miles today pushing 70 lbs of weight (my calves are hurting!)

For someone who loves socializing, it was just a tremendous set of opportunities.

And, after coming back home, I took the girls to see some friends staying a few houses down, where we had a 30 minute chat.

Of all of today's images, the one I love the most is seeing Paco/Tonka running and laughing across the basketball court at the playground.

The weather was idyllic. The kids, for the most part, were well behaved. We saw so many wonderful friends and had such great conversations. Ate well. Just feel like we truly lived today.

If this is what the "world to come," is like, it'll be worth it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Well-adjusted kids...

ONe of the highest compliments I've received to date as a parent was from the mother of one of Paco's playdates.

He had spent 2 hours at her house and she said:

"Wow, he is such a well-adjusted kid."

That meant a lot to me, even though the interpretation could vary.

One of the elements of that remark is that I want my kids to not get rattled or fazed by little stuff, since we know life is full of it.

This morning, I forgot to turn off the alarm before opening one of our windows.

The alarm sounded, loudly, and the kids, who were right in the kitchen where the siren is located, were obviously intrigued, but not fazed. They were kind of laughing, in fact.

I turned it off, explained what happened...and that was it. No big deal.

I would have understood if they were scared or crying, but none of that. They just moved on.

That made me feel good.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Effective Consulting...

Consulting is very much a qualitative experience. Not always, but usually it comes down to how the client "feels" about your performance more than any objective measures.

That can make it difficult.

One measurement that I've noticed, however, is: how often do you hear your clients using your phrases or telling your stories back to you?

If it happens, you're doing your job.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Obama's Approach...

You know I don't agree with Obama's politics, but I like what he's doing now from a positioning standpoint.

So what if he got thumped in WV? He's talking now as if Clinton isn't even in the race. That's pretty hard core, if you ask me.

The best PR training I ever got (still remember it after 10 years) was when I learned the importance of "talking points."

The example was of someone asking George Stephanopolous a question about Clinton: "what does the President think about X?"

George replied:

"Not much. He's too focused on his education initiative" (or whatever the example was.)

Steph answered the question in a word and then moved on to seize the moment to his advantage.

Not 100% analogous, but Obama is doing the same thing. It's tough for HRC already, this is just going to make it tougher (even though I enjoy the theater)

Monday, May 12, 2008

storm window

unfortunately, this was my mom's mother's day gift

what is so remarkable is how the branch seems to have penetrated like a missile and how the window absorbed it like a pillow, just kind of giving in.


good news, no one got hurt

Posted by ShoZu

Excitement and Mild Irreverence...

I'm excited and terrified at the same time on "hanging out a shingle". I'll admit it.

There are large and small details, but I've come to a realization.

The single most important thing I can do in building my business is this: SELL.

I was talking to a friend the other day who was trying to come up with a name for his new website. In his voice, I heard a similar tone as I'd had when I was preparing my business cards:

I need to get it right.

Actually, I don't.

It's possible to spend hours thinking about names, logos, typefaces, etc.

Does my blog look consistent with my business card and with my email signature?

Right now, who cares?!

Somewhere between now and multi-billion dollar corporation, it is important to get all of that right, but TIME is my enemy.

My cards have to reinforce my brand, which as my newest client (still waiting on legal approval) said represents:

A sense of excitement with mild irreverence

And I am fine with this. More than fine, I love it!

The "brand" is the sum of experiences that a person has with the corporate entity (right now, me), so do the business cards, the blog, the Facebook status updates, and EVERYTHING else reinforce that "brand promise" of excitement/mild irreverence...even if they don't look exactly the same?

That's what matters and I can quickly act according to those guidelines.

Meantime, I need to go out and sell the services I am offering.

BTW, beta 2 of the answer to the "what do you do" question is this:

I help companies figure out how to turn their customers into their best marketers.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Lucky Us...Check your AC before summertime..

My Type A personality paid off.

We've got a service contract with BGE Home that includes an annual check-up of heating and cooling systems (blogged on this before)

I had a reminder on my calendar and had the technician out this AM.

Glad I did. He discovered a piece that would have eventually given out (probably on the hottest day of the year).

Catastrophe averted. Ounce of prevention, pound of cure. Yeah, baby!
Now playing: 10000 Maniacs - Peace Train
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, May 08, 2008

60 Years

Great video celebrating 60 Years of 1 minute

WTF?! I have a client already.

In case you didn't see the announcement :-)

NY Times best-selling author, Dan Pink is my first client.

Story-Beta 1

As a marketer and would-be marketing consultant guru, I know that the most important thing I need is "a good story" to tell.

No question about that.

What I need help with is "finding my own story."

I know it's rough, but since I believe in "perpetual beta" and "co-creating" with the community, I am going to practice what I preach. And who better to ask than the FOJ community?

Question of the day: Does this work?

You: So, what do you do?

Me: I'm a marketing navigator for the attention economy.

You: What?
{but at least I have your attention and permission to go on for a few more seconds]


Let me tell you a story.

"At Microsoft, there was an oft-heard statement of "Laptops Down!"

Usually, some VP or someone would demand everyone's attention and insist that laptops were closed and no email, etc. was being done. This is a hallmark of an era where someone could expect or insist on the attention of an audience. Of course, as soon as laptops were down, Blackberries (er, Windows Mobile devices) came out surreptitiously. Just because the VP asked for attention, didn't mean that everyone gave it.

I did it a bit differently. When I started a presentation, I said, "OK, laptops up. Open up Outlook. Start doing email."

I got puzzled looks. But, I was serious.


Because, I wasn't entitled to their (or your) attention. I had to earn it by being more exciting, more interesting, and more stimulating than their/your email, phone, or thinking about carpool. It's my job to earn that and if I can't, I don't deserve it.

And how did I do it (not always successfully, of course)? By focusing on conversations that engaged the audience and stimulated participation.

My colleagues at Microsoft are no different than your customers.

They don't owe you anything. Attention, respect, permission...nada. There are 6 billion channels out there clamoring for their attention and they continue to tune out traditional marketing messages and tactics which, like the VP at Microsoft, simply expect and demand their attention. Right, like that will work.

You owe them relevant, interesting, and stimulating information based on open and authentic dialogue. You have to build relationships and participate in dialogue that shows your corporate personality and solidifies connections so you can earn and keep your cutomers attention and permission.

And that's what I help companies do. Build conversation-based relationships to generate revenue (after all, we're in business to make money).

and for the kicker, I'll add in this...

Over the course of an almost 6 year career at Microsoft, Jeremy implemented numerous scalable community building (and revenue generating) programs. His efforts were recognized more than once as US-wide best practices and he authored one of Microsoft’s most successful marketing blogs with over 110k views per month.

So, what do you think? Does this work?

And if you don't like "marketing navigator," choose one of the following.


  1. Guide
  2. Consquistador
  3. Advocate
  4. Sacagawea

Changing Road Trip...

Many of us went on road trips as kids. We remember the games and the songs.

Such a different experience now.

I'm in NJ (new client, to be announced shortly-I hope) and I drove up in 3.5 hours the other day.

Had my phone w/bluetooth headset and GPS on it.

Had an iPod full of relevant, interesting material.

It was like a 3.5 hour lecture and networking event.

Oh, and it was a beautiful day (except for the price of gas, but you know how I feel about that)

Writing for you...

I don't know who all of my blog readers are, but I know some of you.

Which helps.

It gives me an image in my mind to think about when I write a post. I think about you and I think "will you like/react to this?"

Takes the anonymity out of it a bit.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Your Purse is Filthy...and full of Stories

An entire book about women's purses and their contents?

That's right. My newest client (announced shortly) sent me In Your Purse: Archaeology of the American Handbag as a backgrounder and, wow, was it interesting.

I just love where you take something that is seemingly so commonplace and mundane and put it under the microscope.

A quick read based on interviews and qualitative/quantitative analysis of the contents of 100 purses in Portland, OR and Plano, TX pulled back the layers of "the simple purse."

You get insight into what the outside of the purse tells you about the owner. What the contents tell you about their habits and their needs.

The author shows you the inherent value in going VERY deep into a subject, trying to make sense of it, and then using it to figure out the macro elements of the story.

And this take away...don't put your purse on your kitchen counter. It's got as many germs as the soles of your shoes.

Gas Prices and Your Behavior...

Economists know about a "demand curve" that as prices rise, people's demand for a given product decreases.

There's speculation that demand for gas is "inelastic" and that people will continue to purchase it, no matter what the price.

That's extreme, of course, but 'relative inelasticity' is a possibility.

I've noticed in my conversations w/the NFO that gas has begun to factor into our decisions...namely how to economize trips.

Also, talked to a friend where one of (not the primary, mind you) factors in which school would be best for their kids was gas mileage.

Has it started to affect you?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Microsoft-Yahoo: Not my fault!

At least three people noticed that the Yahoo-Microsoft deal fell apart the day after I left and asked: "Coincidence?"

Let me assure you, I had nothing to do with the fact that it didn't happen. :-)

While I am honored by"

"So, Jer, once Ballmer saw that he didn't have you, he decided it was time to bag Yahoo..."

it would be dishonest to imply otherwise.

As an MS shareholder, I am glad that the "hail Mary" pass wasn't attempted, that's for sure, but I had nothing to do with it!

The Privilege of Fatherhood...

Sometimes I watch my kids from afar and get the feeling that I am a voyeur on their lives. Like they are in actors in a movie or a play that I have the privilege of watching.

Scenes get etched in  my memory, seared almost, and I seek to hold onto them, knowing that the play will continue and there's no 'rewind' button.

I took all three of the crew to the "jelly" playground. (We have codenames so we don't have to spend time saying, 'no, the one with the slide!!')

On the way home, Tonka and Paco ran off ahead  of me on the sidewalk.

As far as days go, from a weather perspective, today was as idyllic as it gets. It was 5pm and the combination of weather, sun, trees flowers, and 2 young kids, running without the proverbial care in the world, as fast as they could to the end of the sidewalk....well, it was just magical.

I saw them running away from me, a metaphor for the growth process, of course. It didn't make me sad, but it did fill me with a sense of appreciation for the moment and awe for my role in this ongoing human micro-drama.

I looked at Gianni in the stroller, thought about the day she'd run with them and just took a deep breath, trying to take it all in.

BTW, Tonka, Paco, and Gianni are  their nicknames :-)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

field 2 soccer-melting pot

love the melting pot of usa. see next post

Posted by ShoZu

field 1 softball

90 % caucasians playing softball in this pic.

, on the adjacent field, 100% latinos playing soccer, er futbol

melting plot is a beautiful thing

Posted by ShoZu

Kind of like skydiving...

A lot of well wishers for the post-MS era and really appreciate the outpouring of support. A common question: "How do you feel?"

My answer: "either like the smartest guy in the world...or the dumbest. There's no middle ground."

This morning, however, as the first post-MS weekend starts to come to a close, I had a different feeling.

About 8 years ago, when I was single and living in NYC, I went skydiving (tandem, in case you were wondering.)

That first moment is just a blur, then scared out of your mind, then you appreciate the intensity of the 1 minute free fall, a jolt when the chute deploys, and the beauty of the descent.

Not sure where I am in the parallel ride now (probably blur or scared!). Here's to hoping that I (now we!) 'make it,' like I did before.

Friday, May 02, 2008

ChangingDC Neighborhood...

Went to a networking event on 13th St. in DC yesterday morning.

As I was walking to the location, I stopped for a moment before crossing the street.

The juxtaposition of the two buildings directly across the street from each other struck me.

The neighborhood as it was is being slowly pushed out in favor of an upscale condo look.

Just fascinating to see the change. Wondering also...where will the folks go who can't afford to live there anymore?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

PC and Badge...last day at MSFT

You know how on a cop show the officer has to turn in his "gun and his badge" when he leaves the force?

Well, the digital equivalent is the "laptop and smartcard."

I'm leaving those at MS today and the jepstein AT alias will go radio silent tomorrow.

Emotional. Definitely emotional.

gas prices


Posted by ShoZu