Friday, February 27, 2009

The Challenge of a Trusted Network…

An example of a social network diagram.

Image via Wikipedia

Blogreader Steve rasied some great questions in his comment on my post: Still not sure about Facebook?

He writes:

When I read your piece about the Facebook referrals for your refi it triggered a question in my mind: how does the Bernie Madoff affair fit into your theory of networking? 

It seems that Madoff’s entire Ponzi scheme was built on a foundation of social networking; it worked because of what I suppose you would call Madoff’s “personal brand.” 

If you networked in the elite financial circles that fed Madoff’s scheme, and solicited investment advice (as you did for the refi), I expect that you would have received enthusiastic recommendations of Bernie from trusted networking partners.  In fact, when the scheme was first uncovered and I criticized institutional investors for their failure to vet Madoff’s operation, I had people argue that the word of mouth references in themselves constituted reasonable due diligence

So is there a danger that the very confidence provided by the network relationship can itself lead to the proliferation of false and even harmful information?

Offhand, on a more benign level, I think of all those well-meaning people who receive emails about some seemingly important issue and pass them along to their friends (without checking Snopes first!). 

Most people, even some very savvy ones, tend to trust the information because it comes from a known source. 

Naturally, in your refi case I assume you are checking out the lenders independently, and the referrals just give you some anecdotal data on customer service and  reliability, but it still begs the question of where to draw the line between information and confidence. 

I’m very curious as to your reaction.

As far as I can tell, social networks, Word of Mouth, etc. are generally trusted because they generally work and yield good experiences. Maybe over 90% of the time, but like anything, e.g. investing in the stock market, there are risks and when we rely on our network, we assume those risks.

Perhaps the answer is to make sure that you “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” on anything, lest that referral be one of the times when the network will fail you.


One of the bloggers I read, Chris Brogan, is coming out with a book called “Trust Agents,” where, I believe, he will be diving into this question more deeply.



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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Following Through…

What’s that statement?

90% of life is ‘showing up’ or something like that?

Well, it’s becoming more and more clear to me that if you just do what you say you are going to do, you can spend less time worrying about the competition and other people and more time figuring out how to be the best you can be.

Case in point.

Over the past 2 months, I’ve probably spoken with 15 people which you, blog readers and friends, have sent to me under the rubric of “looking to get into social media,” or “needs some career advice.”

Trust me, I am THRILLED to have these calls. It’s no secret that I love meeting new people and that I live and die by the network.

What I try and do during these calls is not just pontificate (though I do enjoy that part), but listen to the person’s goals and strengths and help them come up with an action plan (and a scorecard) against which they can execute.

At the end of each call, I offer up the following:

“If you want, you can put a tickler in your calendar to send me an updated scorecard every X weeks. What  you’ll find is that the accountability will keep you focused and you’ll see more results.”

EVERYONE says “Yes! I will do this.”

But they don’t.

Of the 15, only one has. Jamie Rubin.

Now, it could be that the plans we built were not that good or achievable or that the person was just saying “yes, I’ll send you a scorecard” in order to placate me, but I doubt it.

More likely, the intentions were there, but the follow through was not.

Jamie on the other hand calls regularly. She sends me “status updates.”  I don’t necessarily respond, nor does she expect me to, but knowing that I’m out there keeps her focused.

I think that is what is going to help her new line of fashion-forward clothing for nursing moms,, a success.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It’s going to take 5 years….

Picture of {{w|Malcolm Gladwell}}. Full set fr...

Image via Wikipedia

One of the best books I’ve read in a while is called “Why We Buy,” by Paco (yes, Paco) Underhill.

He’s an expert in retail store experiences.

Nothing escapes him…lighting, signage, aisles, bathrooms, etc.

Perhaps the most visual story in the book is of a tie rack that is underperforming from a sales perspective.

After hours of video surveillance, Paco and his team determine that the problem is the “butt brush.”

Women who are looking through ties are getting bumped by passers-by because the ties are located too close to the main aisle.

“Move the tie rack 10 feet,” Paco advises…and sales skyrocket.

I’ve heard enough about Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “Outliers” to take away a key point.

To achieve mastery of a subject requires, in his estimation, 10,000 hours of dedicated and focused work.

The analogy for where I’d like to take my consulting practice is to be like Paco Underhill.

You know that when prospective clients call him, they don’t argue about price. He’s the best, they want him, so they will pay it.

So, figuring 40 hours per week and 50 weeks per year (yes, it’s probably more than that, but I’m ok with it), we’re looking at 2,000 hours per year that I devote to my work.

At a minimum, this is a 5 year hike.

Knowing that, however, is helpful. I like to sprint…hard and fast. But if I do that, I’ll never make it. Got to have a good pace.



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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Some facial mask to clear the skin…

wearing Yes to Tomato face mask As a consultant, it’s important to get into the minds of your clients and their customers.

Here I am wearing the Yes To Tomatoes Facial Mask from my client, Yes To Carrots!

Man, does my skin feel soft now :-)

Monday, February 23, 2009

A tribute to the NFO’s crocheting…

tamar's kippot One of the NFO’s many talents is her ability to crochet.

Here is most (not all) of the yarmulke collection she has made for me personally. Some impressive artwork, eh?

Further evidence that I’ve married way above myself.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Words matter…Netanyahu vs. Livni

You know my political leanings, so take this for what it is worth.

A few days ago, prior to the election in Israel, I was scanning through the free paper which Metro (subway) riders in DC get.livni and netanyahu

There was an article on Livni vs. Netanyahu.

Netanyahu was “hardline” who “considers US-backed Mideast peace talks a waste of time.”

Livni, on the other hand, was “moderate,” who would form a “power sharing government,” as opposed to the “hawks who would stall peace efforts.”

Imagine if it had read that Netanyahu was a ‘principled realist who recognizes that negotiating with a terrorist-led organization will not achieve the dream of peace,'” and Livni was a “overly flexible idealist whose vision sounds good, but would result in national suicide.”

Friday, February 20, 2009

How Places Spark Memory

You know how there are certain places where you've been and those places are associated with certain events?

A few days ago, I was in Dallas at the Bar Mitzvah of my cousin.

I entered the hotel and immediately flashed back to a weekend 2 years ago.

In Dallas for another family event, I received an urgent email from the NFO telling us we had to cut our trip short and come home immediately.
Our Nana was dying.

The weekend had been full of suspense. My mom had decided not to go for fear of my grandmother's passing.

The hotel, for all of its glamour, however, only served to remind me of that weekend.  Of the anxiety, of my dad saying that it was his turn "on the firing line."
It's just interesting how a random place like the Hilton Park Cities in Dallas can become a trigger for a memory.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Liveblogging the Birth-1 year anniversary

Nitzahn (aka 'Gianni') is 1 today.

Join in the celebration by reliving the live-blogging of her birth (with pictures and video).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Mind of the Blogger...

Ever wonder how a blogger looks at the world?

Well, the folks at Oscar Mayer seem to understand it.

For us, the world is binary. Perhaps Hamlet could have asked:

"To blog or not to blog? That is the question."

Shout out to the Shelbinator for sending this one in.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bonus Points and Inflation

The punishment for negative behavior on the part of Tonka or Paco is the loss of a privilege.

Usually, this is dessert or no TV or something like that.

I thought that we needed an equal system where they would be incentivized for positive behavior.

So, while I expect them to do certain things like, playing with Gianni, clearing their plates, or cleaning up their room, when they go "above and beyond," I give them 'bonus points.'

I also set a price where 2 bonus points could "buy back" a lost privilege.

So, we had a market.  (We haven't gotten into swaps, options, and derivatives...yet. And there is NO bailout coming either)

Anyway, the system has been working quite well..until the other day.

I walk into the kitchen and the NFO says to me, "Paco earned a bonus point today."

"What?" I asked, "I am the only one who can give out bonus points. What did he do?"

"He cleared his plate from the table without being asked," she responded.

"Uh, he's supposed to do that."

"Well, I gave him a bonus point."

Now, I was stuck. What to do?

As the Central Banker in the bonus point currency, it seemed to me that the NFO's action was tantamount to printing money, thereby causing inflation and a devaluing of the currency. 

Some have argued that her bonus points could be construed as 'counterfeit,' need to be seized, and I suppose, she could be prosecuted (though I don't see a jury of her peers convicting her. Well, maybe they'd convict her of questionable judgment for marrying me, but I digress.)

So, what do we do to stop this rogue behavior?

  • Raise prices to 3 bonus points?
  • Strip them of the bonus points?
  • Put an asterisk by them?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Impressions of Iron Man (Movie)

Iron Man
Image via Wikipedia
As a story, it was pretty predictable.

Good guy, bad guy. Fight to the death, bad guy loses.

Good guy finds love in girl who was in front of him all the time. Got it.

Certainly the technology component was pretty cool and the effects were worth it.

When the movie came out, I heard/saw a lot of people saying “greatest movie of the year.”

Hype was high.

Expectations were high.

Result for me: walked away impressed and entertained, but saying “yeah, pretty good.”

Check it out on Netflix: Iron Man

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Learning to Walk: A Team Effort

shine over everything else
Image by *RajeshKunnath* via Flickr
I think one of the things we forget as adults is how many people are involved in critical elements of our development as children.

Call it “it takes a village to raise a child,” but the other day I was watching Gianni learning to walk across the kitchen floor, holding the hands of our nanny.

Years down the road, perhaps well after the Nanny moves on (though we love her and hopes she stays for a while), she probably won’t even know or be told of the role that the Nanny played in helping her learn how to walk.

And that’s just one of hundreds of people.

Some hold her.

Some laugh with her.

Some teach her new words.

And we all benefited from people, many of whom are long gone, who did the same for us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Do You Have Your Own Font?

What I love about the Internet is that every single day, I find something that is new and exciting.

Here's a screen shot of the new (and copyrighted) Jer979 font. (click on it to enlarge)

And, while I am sure that you would love to have the Jer979 font on your machine, odds are you would like your own.

So, go get it.

Instructions at are ridiculously easy to follow.

Man, I love this stuff.

Notary Public, At Your Service...

A few months ago, I was sitting in my sister Kira's apartment, when she told me that she was applying to become a Notary Public in Washington, DC.

She had been told that it would be a good thing for her real estate practice.

I was intrigued.

She said, "I think the process in Maryland isn't as difficult."

"What the heck," I decided and I applied. There were a lot of hurdles to clear, but I made it.

I took an oath to "uphold the Constitution" and was sworn in by the Clerk of the Montgomery County Court.

I'm at your service and I really want to notarize something (only valid in Maryland)!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Still not sure about Facebook?


We all know that, when it comes to purchasing decisions, we trust our friends.

This is the essence of my business around Community Driven Marketing (from the corporate side).

And this is why you need to make sure you have a strong network that is willing to refer you based on good work.

Recently, I decided that it was time to refinance my mortgage.

So, what did I do?

I updated my Facebook status.

Within 3 hours, I had 6 referrals via comments (and another 3 via email) of people whom my network trusts.

When you have a large network, you can quickly pull out information from them to make your life easier (and return the favor as well).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

PMS Buddy- You can't make this stuff up

Put this in the following categories:
  • you can't make this stuff up
  • why I love technology
  • EVERYTHING is on the Net
Just discovered a website called where you can create a list of the significant women in your life and the date of their last menstrual cycle.

Then, you will receive an "early warning" email on when to expect PMS to arrive.

No joke.

The NFO found this funny...and yes, she is being tracked. :-)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Virtual Trip Down Memory Lane...

Today would have been the 100th birthday of my grandmother.
In her memory, my dad organized a Virtual Family Gathering, involving a conference call with over 25 participants to reminisce and share stories about her.
The event was complemented by a "pre-read" website full of stories, pictures, and recipes that were associated with her.  
Just a great example of how technology continues to be used to help bring people together, keep families close, and keep memories alive.
Here is a picture of my grandmother, Sonia Furman Epstein, on her wedding day to my grandfather, Jerome (Yudie) Epstein

You think your consultant is tough under fire?

One thing I noticed while traveling in Israel is that the perception among those in America and/or who had never been to the Middle East is that it is a lot more dangerous than (I think) it really is.

But, since perception trumps reality, may as well go with it, right?

While there, I had the opportunity to present on Community Driven Marketing to a group  in Tel Aviv organized by Trendlines at the Israel America Chamber of Commerce.

So, I think I will add to my marketing material that I have "presented in a war zone."

From initial reports, it seems that it may offer some additional 'street cred.'
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Friday, February 06, 2009

A Right-Brained Chandelier

009Blog reader, Ahava, is always saying to me, “isn’t that blogworthy?”

Little did she know or expect that I would find something worthy of the blog in her dining room.

The picture doesn’t do it justice, but since I’ve been cultivating my right-brain, thanks to Dan Pink, I’ve got to say, that is really a great chandelier.





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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Raving fans in dc

Had the privilege of going to another hockey game with loyal blogreader, jacob.

On the way out, we met these guys

Love their heart

Lives of Quiet Desperation…


Image via Wikipedia

One of the biggest anvils I know is my buddy, Josh Rogers.

We were chatting the other day and he said, “Look, I’ve got to live my life to the fullest. I refuse to lead a life of ‘quiet desperation.’”

From there, the conversation progressed.

I wondered, “since, as Dr. Seuss would say in “The Places You’ll Go,” that ‘Life’s A Great Balancing Act,’ won’t there by nature be some parts of your life that are, at least temporarily unfulfilled?  Won’t you have some “quiet desperation” somewhere?”

You may be focusing on work and have ‘quiet desperation in your personal life.”

Or you may be in an unsatisfying job, but with the economy the way it is, you prefer to ‘suffer’ through it since you, at least, have a job?

In other words, will there always be some part of your life that is ‘desperate?’

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Why I Won’t Be Flying USAir or use Expedia Again…

US Airways A330-300 taking off from London.

Image via Wikipedia

Because they are “penny wise” and “pound foolish.”

I bought a ticket on USAir using Expedia to go to Tampa, FL for a conference.

Total cost $171 (incl. $20 for pre-paid shuttle service voucher)

Needless to say, the next day, the conference was cancelled (long story).

It took me a few days, but I finally got around to calling Expedia.

When I did, Expedia told me that:

  • If I canceled my ticket, I would lose the $7 booking fee and have $144 credit
  • However, if I were to re-book, I would get charged a $150 re-booking fee by USAir (Yep. You do the math)
  • Plus, the $20 for the super shuttle is also lost (‘the policy of our vendor’)

The rep told me that “Had I called within24 hours of booking to cancel, I would have had a full refund.”


I understand that there are rules.

I understand that there are ‘non-refundable’ situations.

But, I also understand that you need to do right by the customer if you want to engender positive goodwill and word-of-mouth referrals. It’s one of the survival strategies (Make Advocacy A Core Practice.)

And, I understand that if you don’t, that, these days, it’s even easier for people to tell their friends about their negative experience with you.

Which makes your job of marketing that much more difficult.

As a “gesture,” the rep, who was admittedly very nice offered me a voucher for $50…but only if I booked a hotel AND a flight through Expedia.

I’ll forward this post to and to

I’m sure nothing will happen.

Makes me wonder…this policy…what does it really impact?

How many people buy a ticket and then cancel just for fun?

How much money does this policy really net the airlines?

So, yes, they have my money, but this feeling will stick with me a while and next time I have a travel purchase to make, I will remember it.

Just seems like a poor ROI decision.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I loved Slumdog Millionaire…

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 11:  (L-R) Directo...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

All I can say is “Watch this movie. Final answer.”

Slumdog Millionaire is just a great, great story that gives insights into Indian culture and history, plus is just a great story. The familiar “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” theme gives a nice thematic flow to it.

I really got emotional at multiple points during the film and the empathy I felt for the characters was almost visceral.

Intense and enjoyable.


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Monday, February 02, 2009

Not sure what is eating Gilbert Grape…

What's Eating Gilbert Grape

Image via Wikipedia

Actually, that’s not so fair, because I could certainly venture a guess.

Maybe he thinks that life isn’t fair for the fact that his brother is “mentally retarded”?

Or that his mother is severely overweight?

Or he is stuck in a dead-end job?

Either way, he certainly has enough to keep his mind occupied.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is really a solid movie with an all-star cast.

You know, it’s funny.

I finished watching this movie on the day after my TV broke (have another, older one) and perhaps because I (you/we) are predictably irrational, I was looking for reasons to justify the purchase of a new one. So, when I saw this movie, I said, “wow, this is really a bad situation and he’s making the most of life. It’s important to ‘stop and smell the roses,’”…which is of course why we need a new TV :-)


Ah, the human brain is a wonderful thing.

So, is this movie, which is about the brain (in a way).


P.S. When I see Johnny Depp, no matter what, I think 21 Jumpstreet. Is that bad?


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Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Beauty of Innocence

A Greco-Roman wrestling match in the United States

Image via Wikipedia

While child psychologists may not approve of it, Paco and I have developed a unique style of conflict resolution.


For example, we’ll be in a discussion about whether he can eat yogurt at the same time as he eats cereal or AFTER he eats cereal.

Our experience is that

  1. more food is wasted when he eats yogurt at the same time
  2. after cereal, he finds he’s not really hungry, so he gives up on the yogurt

But, as Jeremy 2.0, he’s pretty determined, so we have a battle of wills.

Until recently.

Now, I say to him, “ok, Paco, let’s do wrestle. If I win, you eat the yogurt after the cereal. If you win, you can eat it at the same time.”

What’s so amazing about this process is not that he agrees to wrestle, it’s that he genuinely and sincerely believes that he is going to win.

Sure, there are times when I let him win such as “if you win, I will give you breakfast, if I win, your Mommy will give you breakfast” (when he wants me to do it, for example).

It’s just so inspiring and exciting to see him believe with 100% of his heart and without a shred of doubt, that he will emerge victorious.

It’ll be sad when that is gone.


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