Monday, March 30, 2009
Send a Tea Bag toWashington on April 1st
If you are a supporter of the Stimulus Package then you can delete now- But if you don't want your children and grandchildren paying back this outrageous debt then read on and send your tea bag to Washington on April 1, 2009!
I am so disgusted with our situation and I feel that I have to do something. Maybe this is a start. One thing for sure, it cannot hurt.
There's a storm brewing. What happens when good, responsible people keep quiet? Washington has forgotten they work for us. We don't work for them. Throwing good money after bad is NOT the answer.
I am sick of the midnight, closed door sessions to come up with a plan. I am sick of Congress raking CEO's over the coals while they, themselves, have defaulted on their taxes. I am sick of the bailed out companies having lavish vacations and retreats on my dollar. I am sick of being told it is MY responsibility to rescue people that, knowingly, bought more house than they could afford. I am sick of being made to feel it is my patriotic duty to pay MORE taxes.
I, like all of you, am a responsible citizen. I pay my taxes. I live on a budget and I don't ask someone else to carry the burden for poor decisions I may make. I have emailed my congressmen and senators asking them to NOT vote for the stimulus package as it was written without reading it first. No one listened. They voted for it, pork and all.
O.K. folks, here it is. You may think you are just one voice and what you think won't make a difference. Well, yes it will and YES, WE CAN!! If you are disgusted and angry with the way Washington is handling our taxes. If you are fearful of the fallout from the reckless spending of BILLIONS to bailout and "stimulate" without accountability and responsibility then we need to become ONE, LOUD VOICE THAT CAN BE HEARD FROM EVERY CITY, TOWN, SUBURB AND HOME IN AMERICA. There is a growing protest to demand that Congress, the President and his cabinet LISTEN to us, the American Citizens. What is being done in Washington is NOT the way to handle the economic free fall.
So, here's the plan. On April 1, 2009, all Americans are asked to send a TEABAG to Washington , D.C. You do not have to enclose a note or any other information unless you so desire. Just a TEABAG.
Many cities are organizing protests. If you simply search, "New American Tea Party", several sites will come up.
If you aren't the 'protester' type, simply make your one voice heard with a TEABAG. Your one voice will become a roar when joined with millions of others that feel the same way. Yes, something needs to be done but the lack of confidence as shown by the steady decline in the stock market speaks volumes.
This was not my idea. I visited the sites of the 'New American Tea Party' and an online survey showed over 90% of thousands said they would send the teabag on April 1. Why, April 1?? We want them to reach Washington by April 15. Will you do it? I will.
Send it to;
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington , D.C. 20500
Personally, I think Congress is just as good a recipient, so I'll send one there as well (my rep, that is).
Ok, enough fun. Back to work to pay off the stimulus package.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The NFO is in New York this weekend for the equivalent of the “World Cup of Israeli Folk Dance.”
I’m going solo for approximately 56 hours.
That’s not to say I haven’t had (or won’t have any) help. My philosophy in business and in personal life is the same: “Scale Through Partners.”
Anyway, being the point person for parenting has not only given me a new appreciation for the NFO (that’s my wife’s nickname-Nameless and Faceless One, since she doesn’t want to be named or shown on the blog), it’s given me a new appreciation for my kids.
Sure, it’s a lot of work, but during those moments of “low tide,” I am really starting to see and appreciate them as individuals…as real people and they are capable of true conversations now, which is pretty exciting.
What’s more, I can tell Paco and Tonka, “When Gianni goes down for a nap, I am taking one also. You’re on your own.”
And they are ok with it.
But, the highlight of the weekend was when Gianni…for the first time…stood on two feet for a few seconds and climbed up the stairs.
We’re into another stage.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
It's where I go to relax.
It's where I go to brainstorm and ideate.
It's also a great place to meet people and chat. When you're semi/totally naked, people are much more willing to converse.
The other day, I met a therapist, a retired Psychology professor who had just become a minister, two Korean men who told me about WWII and the Japanese, and a guy from El Salvador whom I may end up hiring to paint my house.
The NFO once told me that it would be a mistake to have a sauna in my house (this was pre-economic meltdown..and it wasn't ever an option then anyway), because I'd lose the social aspect. She was right.
Friday, March 27, 2009
I was talking to a longtime mentor yesterday about business the other day (per yesterday's post) and we were talking about the pre-requisites for success.
He said something that really stuck with me. "In order to keep your passion, you need to give it away."
Then, it dawned on me that the two ideas are intricately linked.
I've heard a number of people say, "I got laid off, so I am probably going to do some consulting for a while before I find something else."
It's just my opinion and while there are no guarantees of success in business no matter what, I do think that you need to have PASSION.
If you don't have TRUE PASSION for what you are doing, it's going to be really difficult to get it off the ground. Because, it'll feel like work.
If it's your passion, it's not work. It doesn't feel that way.
Yes, you are tired. You "leave it all on the field." You are worn out, but it's a satisfied worn out, not a drained on.
And that gives you the energy to get out of bed the next day..in fact, you want to. You can't wait to get started.
Doesn't sounds like a regular job, does it?
Thursday, March 26, 2009
And that is the value of your network of friends and family. When someone asks "how is business going?" I think the answer should be with a question.
Don't say "fine." Don't say, "it's moving along."
Ask them...and it doesn't matter who it is...whatever question is on your mind at the moment. You will be surprised at how willing AND ABLE many people are to help you. Your friends want you to succeed and if you give them a chance, they will give you a lot in return.
I am astounded, honored, and humbled by how many people have been willing to serve as sounding boards for me in refining multiple elements of the business.
Again, I am FAR from a success, but a lot of the things that have happened are due to my friends and family offering their advice (sometimes unsolicited!) about the evolution of the effort.
I didn't always take it, but I appreciated it.
So, my $.02 is for you to ALWAYS have a question or problem of the day that you want solved and then ask anyone who is willing for their opinion. It'll help you refine it.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
A number of people have asked me my opinion on how to best get an operation rolling.
I figured I'd blog it here and invite others to share their experiences and comments.
From my perspective, the three most important things you need to do when starting a business are:
I've been asked about logos, setting up an LLC, business credit cards, etc. These things are important, but they are secondary. When starting a business, it's important to remember what Peter Drucker said:
"The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer."
In other words, prove that your business can do that. I just think that time is your most important asset and time-t0-revenue your most important benchmark of success. The first few customers, I believe, are going to go with you because they believe in YOU, not because they are impressed by your logo, website, or stationery.
The time spent on doing those things is an opportunity cost that is quite large in not being spent in pursuing opportunities.
I am not saying all of the trappings of business aren't important, what I am saying is that they can wait...or at least they can wait to be perfected.
Yes, you need a business card, but go to www.moocards.com or anywhere else and do a basic one.
As my friend, Rob Lederer once advised me, "Do. Refine as you go."
Once you see that your business has some legs and momentum, you will be able to take a deep breath and address the other issues.
I said that if I made it from May to December and it looked like things were moving, I would then form an LLC, which I did.
Same for a business bank account.
(I had a business credit card already, but that's a pretty quick process.)
So, if you find yourself starting a new business or unemployed and looking to do some consulting, go hard after your first client or two, then worry about the operations and infrastructure.
Just one man's opinion here...
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Image by jer979 via FlickrPaco asked me to do some "coloring" in his book with him one morning.
Thing is, it wasn't really a coloring book, more of an activity book, but somehow he had decided that coloring in it....all over it, the pictures, the words, the designs, etc. was the appropriate thing to do.
At certain times, he would say, "you can't color there, that's not what you are supposed to do."
There was NO rhyme or reason as to where I should or should not color. It just felt random.
There were certainly no instructions, since it wasn't a coloring book.
Finally, I asked, "Paco, since you can't read, how do you know where I should color?"
He answered simply, "Because it's MY BOOK!"
Monday, March 23, 2009
While there are those who don’t like Malcolm Gladwell’s analyses of everyday life, I have found them useful over the years to help make sense of the world. Yes, they are theories and we need to be open to the possibility that they could be wrong, but The Tipping Point and Blink have given me mental constructs that I find useful.
So, it is no surprise that I really liked Outliers, his newest book.
What makes him so special..he’s hyped, but deserving, is not so much that his insights are brilliant (though they may be), it’s that he’s just a really, really, (did I say really?) good storyteller.
On my bedstand now, I have 7 or 8 books that people have sent me or I’ve taken out of the library.
I’m at the point now where time is too valuable to wade through a book that doesn’t capture my attention (hey, it’s an attention economy, right?). I feel like I should give them a chance, but if after 40 or 50 pages, I find myself bored, it’s game over.
Well, Outliers didn’t have that problem.
I had the other problem…not being able to put it down.
In short, he says that our basic understanding of success is flawed. It’s not as simple as someone works hard and makes it.
Rather, there are a multitude of factors that affect that, including history (rice paddy management is more intensive than wheat farming which leads to a stronger Asian work ethic…which directly leads to mathematical achievement.)
As a history major, I liked the holistic approach to analyzing the situations.
Also, it made me ask…what are the confluence of events which have put me where I am and, since the book is about success, how can I maximize the benefit of those events (some earned, some not, some of my own making, some luck)?
Sunday, March 22, 2009
If you haven’t seen it, add it to your queue.
A great movie, based on a true story about how Frank Lucas revolutionized the Heroin trade in NYC back in the 70s.
I was planning to watch this anyway, but moved it way up after reading John Moore’s blog posts on “Business Lessons from American Gangster.”
Denzel is just so good, IMHO, that it’s scary.
Friday, March 20, 2009
As a result, some are decrying the "brain drain."
My dad points out..."let's see, these are the people who made a ton of money by driving the entire economic system into the ground and we're calling it a 'brain drain?'"
Maybe we need some less smart people in charge of our banks?
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Somehow (and I have NO idea from where ;-) ), the kids have figured out that I appreciate startling them (and can appreciate a good startle).
So, now, at some point when they come home from school, they come downstairs and crawl on their hands and knees down the path that leads to my "man cave."
The reason they have to do this that I have a window (yes, a window) that looks into the hallway (not outside) and were they to walk, they would be seen.
Instead, like reconnaisance soldiers, they slither their way and get to my door (my back faces it, (yes I know, bad Feng Shui) and yell "BOO!"
More times than not, they get me...and intensely at that. Sometimes I am ready for them, but we all have a good laugh at the startle.
Of course, as I age and my heart isn't as strong, this could have adverse effects, but for now we get a laugh at it.
I'm raising some pranksters....I can smell detention. (Just kidding, admissions officers.) At least they are creative....
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
And what have I figured out about marriage?
Well, the strategy is simple: "Happy Wife, Happy Life."
And how does that translate to day to day activities?
Well, in its simplest form, I live by this mantra, "Take the initiative to clean up the kitchen."
If I do that, I am on my way...
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
So, I'm on the board of my synagogue, a duty and responsibility which I value. But, you know me. I tend to make decisions really quickly, debate a bit, but not for too long.
Well, non-profit institutions, as you well know don't operate that way necessarily. And, as the saying goes, "two Jews, three opinions."
The debates are important and people are committed and passionate. I am not trying to minimize or downplay the significance of the discussion, it's just that the pace of progress is VERY different from how I run my life. Remember, in my work, if I don't like a policy, I change it...immediately.
So, the other night, I come home from a meeting and a call comes in from a friend. After a while, the conversation takes a turn to the synagogue Board.
He asked, "so, how is it going?"
"I think it is taking years off my life," I joked. "In fact, I think I am going to change my will to mandate that someone at my eulogy say, 'were it not for his involvement with the Board of his synagogue, he'd still be with us."
Mind you, I am not blaming the Board for my death (that will happen regardless), I'm just saying that it's going to cause a premature one.
So, if you think you have what it takes to be the eulogy speaker who can effectively deliver this line, add your name to the comment. (I already have two volunteers).
(I told you that a sense of humor was needed).
Monday, March 16, 2009
Image via CrunchBase
Just a quick heads up for friends/associates in NYC that I’m coming to town this week. If you’re available/interested, it’d be great to see you (even if only for a few minutes).
A few options to meet/hang out.
- Wed. March 18th 4.30-6:15pm
FOJ (Friend of Jer) Meetup
House of Brews -- 302 W. 51st St.
- Wed. 3/18 6.30-8.30pm
Get Digital Social Media Networking Event hosted by Jeff Pulver
New World Stages - 340 West 50th Street, New York, NY 10019
To register (free), go here
- Thurs. 3/19 8am-5pm
Social Media Jungle
New World Stages - 340 West 50th Street, New York, NY 10019
I am one of the speakers and it is a full day discussion/seminar with some really great people and thinkers. If you are curious re: Social Media and your business, this may be worth your time and money.
To register, go here.
Ever since I began the periodic "mass mailings" to the FOJ's back in 1991, Sue has told me that she doesn't like them.
They aren't written directly to her, so it loses some of the connection.
The move to the blog in 2000 didn't change her opinion and we've agreed to disagree.
Now, last week, as some of you know, was my birthday and I got a wonderfully long letter from Pippa, an FOJ since '94. She's also a very loyal blog reader.
I didn't have the energy to write a full response back, but I told her that I really appreciated it (and I did) and sorry, I couldn't be more personal (compared to the impersonal blog).
We traded emails a few more times and she explained that there was no need for me to write a long note back to her, because as she wrote:
"Last thought for the night - i think it is funny that you think of your blog
as indirect communication - it always feels like direct communication to me."
Just interesting (again!) how two people can read the exact same thing and have two totally different reactions.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
A few months ago, the Controller at one of my clients, JackBe, told me that he had gotten engaged.
I begged him to write the story down.
Initially he was hesitant.
Well, as my cousin Dia, says, "Epsteins are known for persistence and resourcefulness," so here you go.
Kevin and Denise's story.
Now playing: AARON_NEVILLE_&_LINDA_RONSTADT - Don't Know Much
Friday, March 13, 2009
I looked at it. It had Windows 2000 on it.
Certainly not powerful enough for a Vista upgrade, I wiped the entire hard drive clean with a program called "Boot and Nuke." That took overnight.
Then, I installed Ubuntu Linux on it. (free)
That took 24 minutes.
All I use it for is the browser, but it works like a charm.
Just extended the life of an 8 year old machine.
Yes, I feel slightly disloyal to my former employer, but man, it works. What can I say?
Now playing: Aaron Goldberg - OAM's Blues
Thursday, March 12, 2009
"Well," he said, "my daughter has a friend whom she really likes, but my wife can't stand that girl's mother. Drives her crazy. Plus, the mom is always calling up and inviting her daughter to our house."
They were at the point where they would refuse playdates for their daughter because the mother of the other girl was so irritating.
Seemed to me like the parent/child relationship is a team effort in this case. If you both can't get along, that's fine. You wouldn't force your kid to play with someone she didn't like, why should she force you?
Now playing: 10000 Maniacs - Peace Train
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Image by jer979 via Flickr
That part was easy for me ;-)
I was particularly intrigued by the ideas which she brought in saying that children are, in essence, loans from God (there is a Jewish angle to the book) and that our job as parents is to create indepent, self-reliant kids who can survive without us
In the technology world, people talk about "planned obsolescene," basically forcing you (yeah, it's not nice, but it's true), to upgrade to the latest and greatest...and to pay for it.
I guess I've put those two ideas together and recognized that, in this situation, I am the one slated for 'planned obsolescence."
It was kind of ironic, because that same day, Tonka asked me, "what happens when everyone dies?"
It wasn't morbid, we frequently have long, healthy talks about mortality.
I explained that "life goes on," even if people die.
Anyway, I'm really enjoying the book and it's made me think of my role as Father in a very different light, especially since I am preparing my kids to be able to live fully and independently without me.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Certainly, the interpretation and analysis may be off to an extent, but if you are even somewhat accurate, you can feel better prepared for the changes underfoot.
A previously cited "anvil" among the FOJ community is Josh Rogers, who dropped by the another night while swinging through the area.
As far as strategic thinkers go, he is way up there. It may not be saying something that he helped his clients avoid many of the massive losses that others had in the market (that's not to say they didn't lose money, they just lost a lot less), but I think it goes to his high degree of acumen.
In discussing the current economic climate, we came upon a few conclusions.
- The odds are high that the US is at the beginning points of the "decadent decline" that all great empires encounter. We did not think that we would see total destruction of the US within our lifetimes, but we certainly questioned whether our kids or grandkids would.
- A 'decadent decline' is not necessarily a foregone conclusion because, we felt, at the core of America, there exists some elements which are unique in world history. These include the freedoms we enjoy and a spirit and culture of entrepreneurship/reinvention and immigration.
- As a build off of this, however, we were concerned that policies which lower the incentives for disruptive innovation, i.e. new technologies by raising taxes and making it more difficult for businesses to grow and prosper would be the exact wrong move to make.
The reason people come to America from all over the world is precisely because they can make a ton of money (the proverbial American dream) if their innovation-based insights prove marketable. Make that more difficult and we cut off the oxygen at the core of our economic success.
There are a few troubling signs that we are headed in the wrong direction in this regard, including:
- A growing desire for Protectionism at the expense of recognizing that we are living in one global market now.
- More and more, the government is getting involved in running private business. As noted VC (and big Obama supporter), Fred Wilson writes, when that happens, "it messes everything up."
- That being said, as students of history, we were also excited (that is, after we were really depressed.) Because, if somehow, we can get on the right course and avoid the 'decadent decline,' then we are witnessing (and I've been saying this for 12 years,), the modern day equivalent of the Industrial Revolution.
Joseph Schumpeter, as in 'creative destruction,' lives, and how it will play out is going to be fascinating.
For example (and these are only the most recent ones)
- Michael Eisenberg challenges the idea that we even need banks anymore.
An idea echoed by Marc Andreesen (he, the creator of Netscape, see min: 50 of the Charlie Rose interview) And Andy Sernovitz says that it is time for the credit unions to take over.
- Fred Wilson says that the 'blue chip' stocks of yesteryear are gone.
- Mitch Joel points to the complete shut down of the Rocky Mountain News, the signature paper of Denver for years.
If, on the other hand, we can't. Well, as another friend said, "then it comes down to who has the most guns."
Monday, March 09, 2009
So, I started checking around, only to discover that people who have been self-employed for less than 2 years will not qualify for a new mortgage.
What's more, as a small business owner, you want to write off as many business expenses as posssible in order to reduce your taxload, right?
Well, that comes back to bite you because if you have less income on your return, then clearly you are a larger risk for default.
So, do you want a higher income (and pay more taxes) to possibly reduce your mortgage payment?
Or do you want a lower income and a higher mortgage payment?
Dear Congress-the answer is you want both.
Of course, if I am making my payments at 5.5%, doesn't it seem likely that I would be able to do so at 4.5%?
What's more, as the engine that will grow the economy better than a stimulus plan ever will, wouldn't you want to free up capital for business owners to invest and hire people?
I've vented before about how inane and time-consuming our tax system is, so no need to rehash that now.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Friday, March 06, 2009
Thursday, March 05, 2009
"Hey look, a pea!"
Sure enough, he's got a partially cooked/dried-out pea in his hand.
"Great," I say.
A few minutes later, he looks at me, "the pea is in my nose."
I stare at him in disbelief.
Then, I pick him up, lie him down on the couch and look up his right nostril.
Sure enough, the pea is lodged up there. It's not on the endge, it is lodged.
I get a straw. That's right, a straw.
I press his other nostril close and start sucking...
I think to myself, "I am basically drinking his snot through a straw. I can't believe it."
Relatively quickfully, thankfully, the pea is connected to end of the straw and the procedure is over.
Put this in the category of Stuff I Never Thought I Would Have To Do....
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
The NFO and I actually managed to get out on a 'date night' for the first time in a Looooonnnggg time and see a movie. This marks, what I believe is our 5th movie in a theater...ever.
The Reader, starring Ralph Fiennes and a phenomenal Kate Winslett (she's not on the Titanic anymore) is a movie that is both soft-core porn (the 1st part) and a deep study into the post-war German psychology of Guilt.
As you know, I spent the year after I graduated from college in Germany studying this same topic, so it was near and dear to my heart (perhaps not the best phrase, but you get me.)
I thought it did a great job of delving into this sensitive topic and exploring it from an unusual angle...what is it like to have a romantic relationship with someone you later find out is a mass murderer?
That doesn't come up every day.
My general take on modern-day Germany is that they have earned the right to not be held accountable for the sins of a previous generation (i.e. they are not guilty of a crime), however, they do bear a unique historical responsibility to help remedy (what they can) and ensure that the world remembers the lesson.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Once it got rolling, I really enjoyed the movie, the idea of how life takes completely unexpected twists and turns due to ridiculously small events (e.g. 'for wont of a nail...')
What's more, the question of how you can make up for past transgressions...or if you ever can kind of brought Yom Kippur to mind and the nature of offenses vs. Man as opposed to those vs. God.
The twist at the end was great as well.
Monday, March 02, 2009
Remember organizing your schedule to be home for Seinfeld of the Cosby Show?
The other day I was at a presentation where the speaker referenced "Lost."
I've heard of it, but never seen it.
You can't assume that anyone is having the same media and entertainment experience that you are having anymore.
Here's my current mix of shows (some just finished):
- Burn Notice
- Trust Me
- Law & Order (CI/SVU), but not religiously
- Top Chef
- Saving Grace
- Modern Marvels
- How Its Made
Sunday, March 01, 2009
Well, 3:10 to Yuma showed me that there's always a new twist to the familiar.
It was engrossing and the depth of the characters, the questions of good, evil, redemption, and perception were explored in such a meaningful way that I had a hard time pulling myself away (I usually watch a movie over 2-3 nights while working out).
Russell Crowe was fantastic as were all of the supporting actors.
Just a rich feast of complexity with a subtle hint of oak and rolling hills (oh wait, am I a wine critic?)
Seriously a great movie, well worth it.