Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Entrepreneurial Sensitivity…

One of the the areas that I’ve had to work to become a better husband is my level of sensitivity and empathy to the NFO.

The road hasn’t always been easy, but it dawned on me today the process of starting my own business has actually, I think, accelerated the curve for me.

I think the demands on a service business to think about and understand the needs of a client base (and I’m far from perfect in that realm as well) have made “necessity the mother of invention” in a way.

Since the success of my business depends, in part, on developing these skills, it’s helped me in my personal life as well.

Of course, there’s always room for improvement ;-)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Reason 2,307 why I love NYC…

a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, top slice ...

Image via Wikipedia

There is a store that is dedicated to Peanut Butter.

Those of you who live (or have lived) there will not be surprised about this.

But, this is what makes that city great.

And, as my kids will tell you, I LOVE peanut butter.

So, I bought a spicy, hot chili peanut butter.

It was great.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Trip down memory lane…

Following up on the Kindergarten Friends, 31 years later…, my buddy Josh sent me our class picture from 1978.



JDS kindergarten class 1978-79 (2)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Things you learn as you age…


Image via Wikipedia

If you are one of those people who likes to say “TMI'” ('Too much information) for whatever reason…this post isn’t for you. See you next time. You’ve been warned.

I was at the Urologist the other day and was diagnosed with Prostatitis. This is the 3rd time I’ve had this condition.

I wouldn’t say it’s excruciatingly painful, but definitely severely uncomfortable.

Part of the diagnostic process involves an examination of the prostate, which may actually be more uncomfortable than the infection it is trying to diagnose.

Now, unfortunately, I have experience and know what to expect, but I hearkened back to a day when I was 22 and couldn’t figure out what the nature of the pain in my groin area was all about.

After having to explain to the mother of my girlfriend at the time (I was spending the summer in their house in Rochester, NY) what was going on, she referred me to a Urologist at Strong Memorial Hospital.

He comes in, instructs me to drop my pants and asks me to cough.

“No big deal,” I thought. I’d been there before.

Then, he says, “Ok, I am going to examine your prostate now.”

I had NO idea what he meant.

“Turn around,” he says.

“Turn around?!”

“Bend over, please.”

“Bend over?!!”

“I am going to press on your prostate, tell me if it hurts.”

At this point, I have tears in my eyes and yell out,


Today, as I was leaving the office, the nurse looked at me and I just said,

“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.”

Ah, the parts of life you don’t learn in school.

And the worse part? (aside from the $130 medication is the fact that I have to cut back on spicy foods (which I love) and coffee (which I consider a food group).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thankful for antibiotics…

This will probably kick off some healthcare debate, but it’s not meant to.

The other day, Gianni had a 103.5 degree (Fahrenheit) temperature and was diagnosed with an ear infection.

Within an hour, the doctor had called it in, we picked it up and she was medicated.

By the afternoon, she was already better.

I came home and chatted with our nanny who is originally from Ethiopia.

I compared our life here to people living in, say, rural Ethiopia.

Their kids get ear infections as well, but they could be miles OR days from a pharmacy (and no guarantee that the medication would even be there.)

Just made me really appreciate where we are and what we have.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happiest Occupations…

Saw this article in the WSJ about the happiest occupations. And self-employed is on the list.

Yes, I work a lot and the NFO is ridiculously supportive, but there is that feeling that you “control your own destiny” and no one is telling you what to do.

That’s worth a lot.

Still, I’m tired!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In need of motivational support?

Ok, who needs some motivation?

Test it out and send me an invite.



HT: Dan Pink

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sorry, Kids

Tonka and Paco,

Just wanted to let you know that I am sorry I raised my voice at you two the other day. I shouldn't have. And I hate it.

I'd had enough of your bickering with each other about who got which marker or which piece of paper.

That doesn't excuse it, but it does explain it.

Being a dad is tough work. Providing for you (with a great teammate in the NFO, of course) in emotional, psychological, and economic respects puts a lot of weight on my shoulders and, well, sometimes, I suppose the release valve needs to be opened.

I'm going to do better to find more constructive ways to do that in the future, but for now, wanted to let you know that I feel very bad about what I did.

I'm sorry.



Friday, September 18, 2009

7 Japanese aesthetic principles to change your thinking

I just thought this post was so good that I am sharing it in its entirety…

7 Japanese aesthetic principles to change your thinking

Exposing ourselves to traditional Japanese aesthetic ideas — notions that may seem quite foreign to most of us — is a good exercise in lateral thinking, a term coined by Edward de Bono in 1967. "Lateral Thinking is for changing concepts and perception," says de Bono. Beginning to think about design by exploring the tenets of the Zen aesthetic may not be an example of Lateral Thinking in the strict sense, but doing so is a good exercise in stretching ourselves and really beginning to think differently about visuals and design in our everyday professional lives. The principles of Zen aesthetics found in the art of the traditional Japanese garden, for example, have many lessons for us, though they are unknown to most people. The principles are interconnected and overlap; it's not possible to simply put the ideas in separate boxes. Thankfully, Patrick Lennox Tierney (a recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun in 2007) has a few short essays elaborating on the concepts. Below are just seven design-related principles (there are more) that govern the aesthetics of the Japanese garden and other art forms in Japan. Perhaps they will stimulate your creativity or get you thinking in a new way about your own design-related challenges.

Seven principles for changing your perception
Kanso (簡素) Simplicity or elimination of clutter. Things are expressed in a plain, simple, natural manner. Reminds us to think not in terms of decoration but in terms of clarity, a kind of clarity that may be achieved through omission or exclusion of the non-essential.

Fukinsei (不均整) Asymmetry or irregularity. The idea of controlling balance in a composition via irregularity and asymmetry is a central tenet of the Zen aesthetic. The enso ("Zen circle") in brush painting, for example, is often drawn as an incomplete circle, symbolizing the imperfection that is part of existence. In graphic design too asymmetrical balance is a dynamic, beautiful thing. Try looking for (or creating) beauty in balanced asymmetry. Nature itself is full of beauty and harmonious relationships that are asymmetrical yet balanced. This is a dynamic beauty that attracts and engages.

Shibui/Shibumi (
渋味) Beautiful by being understated, or by being precisely what it was meant to be and not elaborated upon. Direct and simple way, without being flashy. Elegant simplicity, articulate brevity. The term is sometimes used today to describe something cool but beautifully minimalist, including technology and some consumer products. (Shibui literally means bitter tasting).

Shizen (
自然) Naturalness. Absence of pretense or artificiality, full creative intent unforced. Ironically, the spontaneous nature of the Japanese garden that the viewer perceives is not accidental. This is a reminder that design is not an accident, even when we are trying to create a natural-feeling environment. It is not a raw nature as such but one with more purpose and intention.

Yugen (
幽玄) Profundity or suggestion rather than revelation. A Japanese garden, for example, can be said to be a collection of subtleties and symbolic elements. Photographers and designers can surely think of many ways to visually imply more by not showing the whole, that is, showing more by showing less.

Datsuzoku (
脱俗) Freedom from habit or formula. Escape from daily routine or the ordinary. Unworldly. Transcending the conventional. This principles describes the feeling of surprise and a bit of amazement when one realizes they can have freedom from the conventional. Professor Tierney says that the Japanese garden itself, "...made with the raw materials of nature and its success in revealing the essence of natural things to us is an ultimate surprise. Many surprises await at almost every turn in a Japanese Garden."

Seijaku (
静寂)Tranquility or an energized calm (quite), stillness, solitude. This is related to the feeling you may have when in a Japanese garden. The opposite feeling to one expressed by seijaku would be noise and disturbance. How might we bring a feeling of "active calm" and stillness to ephemeral designs outside the Zen arts?

Read more about The Nature of Japanese Garden Art by Patrick Lennox Tierney at Bonsai Beautiful dot com.
Japanese Aesthetics (Stanford Encyclopedia).
Enso: Zen Circles of Enlightenment (book)


Presentation Zen / Mon, 07 Sep 2009 08:30:36 GMT

Sent from FeedDemon

Some nice feedback from friends…

One of the things I love about my current “job” is the opportunity to change the way people think about a few, key things.

I was really touched to get a phone call the other day from a self-described “Raving Fan,” Zakia who just said “I just really love what you write about on your blog (”

And then, the same day…it was a good day for me… I got the following note from another friend about reading the blog had changed his job search prospects for the better.

Here's a small endorsement of one of your mantras. Thought you might like it. (Feel free to use it anonymized.)

I have had "be remarkable" on the brain for the last few weeks while doing some old-fashioned job hunting. Seeing the phrase over and over in your tweets has pounded it into my head so much that it came to me this afternoon at a moment when it mattered.

A couple weeks ago I was rec'd for a job by someone I worked with last year. That got me a phone interview, and then they gave me a sort of take-home test (the job is, in part, data-intensive). I turned in the test, got a "thanks" email, then heard nothing. I followed up a week later and still heard nothing.

I finally got an update email today, saying they're still in process and have been busy on "a couple of big projects that are coming to a head."  This seemed sort of discouraging -- if they'd really liked me in the interview and liked my work on the test, they would've hired me and I'd be helping on those "big projects" right now, right? And job hunting is a fundamentally discouraging exercise. (As an aside, you might be shocked to hear how many people simply stop communicating, despite polite follow-up, even after taking

But "be remarkable," right?  So instead of archiving the update and waiting another week or two, I got cheeky, and replied: "Thanks, [firstname]. Want any help with those projects?"

His reply: "Be careful what you offer, I might take you up on it!  Actually, most of the projects are a little hairy right now, but if I can think of a good way to take you up on your offer, I won't hesitate."

Now, maybe I'll get the job and maybe I won't. But in his update email, the employer gave me a small opening -- an opportunity to improve my position.  And I took it, because I had "be remarkable" running through my head.

So thanks for improving me by being so damn repetitive.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ahead of our time?

For those of you who remember the start-up that my dad, brother and I co-founded in 2000 (, here's some evidence that, perhaps, we were ahead of our time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Very thoughtful bathroom stall…

take a look!-0051

In the stall at the Seattle Airport is a baby-changing station. That’s good and expected.

But, what I saw for the first time was a “child seat” where you could strap in a 2nd child while you were changing the diaper of the first one…or perhaps while you were using the toilet (if you didn’t want to leave him/her in a stroller outside the stall-understandable).

Interesting how society evolves, right?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Facebook, Then Real-Life….

imageI’m often asked the question “should I ‘friend’ people I don’t know in real-life on Facebook?”

My answer: Definitely. (unless they are REALLY weird.)


Well, I’ve had enough instances where I met someone online and then a year (or whatever) later, I meet them in real-life and we are fast friends.

And, now, I have proof.

The whole story is covered in the video below, which Dan took with his super-cool nightvision camera system.

The blog post when I first met Dan is here.

Bottom line: thanks to Facebook, we connected, had a chance to chat, have built a relationship and he was able to meet me at the airport….and I know that my life is richer for it.

And part 2 of the conversation (after I accidentally turned the camera off ;-) is below.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Remembering when the world was fresh...

One of the best things about having kids is re-discovering things you had long gotten used to.

Here's the report from Tonka's first day of science class.

Keep those eyes wide open:

For our first lesson we went outside and explored the yard. Deach child with a mission to find and collect one interesting little object. They found things that I had not even noticed! A delicate, folded blade of grass; a curvy piece of blue ribbon; a leaf half yellow and half brown; some round seeds; a little pine-cone. 

We brought these objects inside, and with magnifying glasses, the children closely observed their objects. Then, in their new Science Journals, the children drew their observations. Finally, everyone put the objects together in a clear plastic container “garden,” and we made predictions about what would happen to them over time. Will some things grow? Will some things get smaller? Will some things change color? We are calling our experiment “The Stinky Garden” because we predict it might get stinky!  

Next week we will observe what has happened to our special objects, and we will continue to explore how living things grow and change. 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Seattle FOJ’s

With the help of my personal sushi waitress, the Seattle FOJ’s (or some of them) joined me the other night for a small get together. Instead of pics, we’ve got video this time.

So great to see Susan (and her 11 week old son, Leon), meet her husband, Isaac for the first time, see Allison Heber (whom I’ve now known for 17 years…crazy) and Inbar Gazit (another former Microsoftie)

On the way out, I gave Elizabeth (my waitress) a big hug while she was at another table.

I turned to them and said, “she’s the best waitress in all of Seattle!”

They nodded.

"No, you don’t understand…I live in DC. Every time I come to town, I call to see if she’s working. I have her cell phone number!”

Their eyes lit up…They got it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9/11

I was in New York City on 9/11. Here are my thoughts from that day.

New York Thoughts: What Can I Say?

Still powerful after all these years.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A World-Changing Sweater

Jacqueline Novogratz was driving down the street in Rwanda many years back and she saw a kid walking down the road wearing her sweater.

Not a sweater that she had lost, but one she had given away many years before through Goodwill.

She checked and her name was still on the tag!

So begins a thrilling story of how one women left Wall St. and the relative safety of corporate America and ended up starting the Acumen Fund, which takes a business-focused approach to helping the poor lift themselves up out of poverty.

It’s an inspiring series of tales, focused mainly in Africa, but shows how one person CAN change the world and how private enterprise exceeds the public sector in getting results (something I’ve long believed).

For those in the non-profit sector, for entrepreneurs, for “change the world” types….a great read.

One quote that stuck with me came from her meeting with a monk in Cambodia.

“If you move through the world only with your intellect, then you walk on only one leg…..

If you move through the world with only your compassion, then you walk on only one leg. But if you move through the world with both intellect and compassion, then you have wisdom.”

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Plane Chats and Swine Flu…

Proving that not all airplane conversations are going to be bad, I had the chance to chat with Susanne Carlson who has a fascinating job (and a ridiculously long title).

She is the Administrative Officer of the Oregon Disaster Medical Team and of the Western Region of the National Disaster Medical Service. (

What that means…as you will see in the video…is that she is part of the medical swat team responsible for being a “first responder” in any type of disaster scenario.

She’s got some interesting comments about Katrina and after that, she shared her thoughts (not on the video) about the upcoming flu season.

Her take?

The Swine Flu predictions are accurate and it will be a big problem.  She says there is a huge misunderstanding regarding Swine Flu and that calling it a “pandemic” is, in fact, accurate.

The definition of a “Pandemic” is:

  1. how many places/continents/countries it is affecting at the same time, not how many people get sick
  2. the speed with which it moves from one place to another
  3. the speed with which the virus mutates

Based on what we’ve seen in the southern Hemisphere thus far, this virus is mutating very rapidly and there is a huge portion that has mutated to be immune to normal anti-virals.

It doesn’t follow the normal demographic patterns…Usually it is the ill and the elderly, but now, those who are getting the most sick are those who are young and don’t suffer from other diseases.

It suggests that older people have seen this virus before and are thus immune.

The very first set of immunizations are going to young children and pregnant women.

The third reason is that this virus is very highly mobile and moves rapidly through a population.

This differs from a normal influenza situation where we see 1 in 100 get sick. We’ll see approximately 1 in 10.

The last thing is that it doesn’t go through the normal influenza pattern as it goes directly to the lungs.

This is NOT fear-mongering, in her opinion, this is reality.

Purell is good, but she says the best is 30 seconds (sing ‘row, row, row your boat) of soap and warm water, avoid contacts (won’t put your fingers in your eyes) and get your flu shots (ALL of them).

1 in 5 will get sick and hundreds of thousands (in the US) could end up dying.

The good news: people are talking about it and getting prepared

The bad news: we may not be prepared enough and it’s a public health challenge to guarantee compliance

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Online Educational Sites...

My kids have outgrown

I love it, but the games are too easy.

Looking for good recommendations of sites for ages 6-8. Math, science, critical thinking.

Add as comment please, so others may benefit.


Monday, September 07, 2009

Ode to 9/7/09

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the auspicious nature of today's date in my personal history.

If you've ever wanted to know the 9.79 story, here it is.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Join the NSM Movement…

Never Stop Marketing!

Sure, I like the name and the intensity it conveys, but this is about a mantra for businesses. It’s a commitment.

It’s a recognition of Peter Drucker’s guidance:

“The business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation.”  (The Essential Drucker)

So, with that, I set up the Never Stop Marketing store on Cafe Press.

Now, you can have your mantra with you anywhere you want it.

The members of the NSM Fan Page were the beta-reviewers and more than one person pointed to Item 404477739 as their favorite. Not kidding.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Kindergarten Friends, 31 years later…

I’m looking all over for the picture, but haven’t found it yet.

The picture is of my kindergarten class and in it, stands Josh Milner.

Now, his daughter and my daughter are in the same kindergarten class together, 31 years later.

Pretty crazy.

I called him on the first day of school to celebrate the auspicious moment and he said, “so, you think in 31 years from now our grandchildren will be in the same class?”

I hadn’t thought that far ahead, but it’s a powerful image.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

First day of Kindergarten…

Cover of "Sunrise, Sunset"

Cover of Sunrise, Sunset

Do you remember your first day of Kindergarten?

I am pretty sure that I remember mine.

Well, last week, we sent the Tonka off to her first day.

Did I bawl uncontrollably? No.

But, I did tear up.

Cliche as it might be, I thought back to the day she was born.

It was definitely a “Sunrise, Sunset” moment as Josh Levin pointed out in the subsequent Facebook discussion on the topic.

The NFO drove her to school and the two of us connected through the windshield. It was one of those moments that only parents can share and the look said everything about what we were feeling.

I waved to the Tonka in the backseat, thinking that this was just another big step in her growth process and in my doing my job of creating a self-reliant, independent human being.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

“I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

I just love when people come up to me (or the person to whom I am talking), interrupt them, and then say “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”


Yes, you did.

That’s exactly what you did.

Why would you say “I didn’t mean to?”

I just find it very amusing that we all stand by and allow this obvious in-authenticity to reign.

It’s fine if you need to/have to interrupt. I get that. There are time-sensitive things.

People have to leave or whatever.

It’s not a big deal, but why do we say “I didn’t mean to interrupt?”

Better to just come out and say, “ok, I intend to interrupt and I am sorry for that, but here’s why…”

End of story.

Ok, rant over ;-)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The value of candor, part 1

After my post on trying to get Tonka to go down the slide at the swimming pool, I received the following note

I just want to let you know that sometimes in person we don't communicate well and you make me feel you don't really like me, but you're a great writer and your blog is really touching. 

You moved me to tears today and I think you should feel good that you can really get people to think.

How would you respond?

I’ll share what happened next in a future post…