Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Being a Boy Today…

The foundation's logo.

Image via Wikipedia

We spend a lot of time as a society, in my estimation, thinking about the changing role of women. About equality in the workforce and the schools, etc.

As the father of 2 daughters, I care about that a lot.

But, I also have a son and, according to this TED talk by Ali Carr-Chellman, it seems like society is starting to forget or discount what it means to be a boy.

And the consequences for them are pretty disturbing in terms of dropouts, detentions, disenfranchisement and more.

Then, fast forward a few years and Hanna Rosin, in her TED talk “New data on the rise of women” shares that the job prospects for men are bleak and getting bleaker.

As a man (or maybe I should just say ‘male,’) I figured I knew what to do as it relates to my son, Paco. I’m a guy…it’s obvious, isn’t it?

It is with the girls where I have to focus since the odds of messing that up are higher.

But, these two powerful presentations opened my eyes to the risks on the boy side of the equation.

Worth the watch.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Could IBM’s Watson Do It?

Image representing IBM as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

The other day someone asked me about what I do for phone service when I am travelling in a foreign country.

After about 4-5 minutes, we had discussed the pros/cons of the various options.

Later that day, I was thinking about how people tend to ask their friends for this type of information.

It’s just data which the questioner then will process against his preferences (time, money, convenience) to come up with an optimal solution.

Then, it occurred to me, “well, pretty soon it would seem that we’ll all have the equivalent of IBM’s Watson computer and just be able to say (kind of like Star Trek), ‘I’m going to country X, what’s the best phone solution for me?”

Then, we’ll get the answer and be done.

THEN, I started to think about the nature of work today and how many, many jobs are relaying this type of information.

Having recently finished “Re-Imagine,” the idea of the future of work is very much on my mind.

The conclusion I’ve reached is that we all need to start asking ourselves: “Could Watson do this?”

And, if we see that it’s just data/information and not experience/emotion, then it’s probably something that a Watson will do….

Friday, May 27, 2011

Past, Present, and Future…at the same time

Ice skating is posbile altough there is no win...

Image via Wikipedia

The NFO did me a huge favor the other day as I was about to take Tonka to her ice skating lesson.

She said, “don’t take your Kindle, put away your phone, just watch.”

Sometimes, I need that reminder…and it was worth it.

What that led to was not just a great 30 minutes (ok, 24 since I did check a few times) of watching Tonka, but a much deeper appreciation for what I was witnessing.

Subsequently, I had similar experiences walking Nadia to school and playing catch with Paco.

I had an eerier feeling of being in three time dimensions as the same time.

I was thinking back to when they were babies/infants and could not do any of the things they can do now.

I was appreciating what they are able to do right now.

And, I was thinking about a point in the future where I would be thinking back to this moment and cherishing the memory.

It was powerful and I’m grateful that the NFO helped me focus.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How Speaking German Paid Off in Canada…

Skyline of Toronto

Image via Wikipedia

Arriving in Toronto in early May, I knew I would have to go to the “special immigration” section since I was there on business and, well, the Canadians like to vet business travelers.

Good for them.

I’d been in the airport for almost an hour. The line at the first, general immigration checkpoint was ENORMOUS.

I got into the secondary screening room and was 6th inline.

At the front, I saw some Immigration officials struggling to communicate with a guy. After a minute, I realized, he was speaking German and the officer’s Deutsch was, shall we say, not the greatest.

I shouted out from the line, “Hey, I speak German…maybe I can help.”

So, I did, resolving their issue.

Then, the officer said to me, “Thanks for that, let me take your Passport.”

Which allowed me to jump 5 spaces in line Winking smile

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

20th Reunion and the Value of Childhood Friends

Class of 1991 20th Reunion--part 2 (7)

People who have known you for 60-85% of your life play a special role.

They give you the perspective, in part, on how you have become the person you are.

I can’t remember which book it was that said it, but your friends have a HUGE influence on your personal development.

This past week, I had a chance to reconnect with some of the people who have done that for me for my 20th high school reunion.

My graduating class was small..only 41 seniors and there were those who had started kindergarten with me.

We had a chance to reminisce, of course, but also to reflect.

I got the sense from some (I know I felt this way) that this was one of the first moments in our lives where we’d had the opportunity to say, “whoa…a lot of time has passed.”

It’s easy to do that when you remember playing basketball in first grade with that person.

But, I also think these types of friends and people are some of the ones who can help “keep it real” for us.

So to speak, “they remember us when…” and as a result, are less likely to be impressed by fluff or BS and, in many cases, will “tell it like it is.”

I think we all know that, as we age, the true friends are the ones who have the ability to serve that role for us.

Seeing childhood friends who are willing (and often happy!) to help in that respect, even if it isn’t often enough, is how they continue to influence your development for the rest of your life.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lawn Service, Opportunity Cost, and Comparative Advantage

A Striped Lawn

Image via Wikipedia

For many years, I took pride in mowing my own lawn.

I’m not sure why this was a core issue for me, but I somehow viewed having a lawn service as an unnecessary indulgence and, dare I say, a sign of sloth.

Hey, I’m being honest here.

This year, however, as my lawn grew and grew, I started to change my perspective.

  • First off, business has been exceedingly busy.
  • Second, I realized that any time I spent mowing my lawn was time that I was either not spending with my family or on my business. (Opportunity Cost)
  • Third, I thought about time vs. money. How much I would pay the lawn guys versus the upside opportunity from a revenue perspective from that same time on my business.

The economist, David Ricardo, introduced the idea of “Comparative Advantage.” You do the things at which you are best suited and you let others do what they do best.

I can mow the lawn, sure. But, I’m much better at selling Never Stop Marketing services. So I do that more and pay Dave to mow my lawn.

At least, that’s my justification now.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The “Preaculpa”

As far as I can tell from a basic web search, my friend Jacob can be attributed with the creation of the word “Pre-aculpa,” the act of apologizing for something in advance.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Existential Star Wars (in French)

Very clever and fun. Enjoy.

(if you don’t see below, click here)

HT: my brother, Barak

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Modern Art and High-Tech…DC Outing

Hirshhorn Museum Washington, D.C. 1974

Image via Wikipedia

Our latest DC area outing, designed to foster both an appreciation of my kids’ hometown, but also a sense of curiosity and wonder, took us initially to the Hirshhorn museum, which focuses on modern art.

It is FAR from the most kid-friendly place at the Smithsonian and we (I was joined by a number of my family members) had to do double duty to make sure that the kids didn’t run around or touch the exhibits (which wasn’t easy), but we were able to get them engaged in some of the sculptures and the art.

Featured that day was Blinky Palermo (of whom I had never heard), but certainly gave Paco and Tonka something to think about…which was the point.

IMG_0720All of my kids are artistic, so at the very least, they were engaged at that level. The objective was to stimulate their right brains and I can safely say “Mission Accomplished.”

Not my favorite museum in DC, but worth the hour or so we were there for sure.

Next door is one of the crown jewels of DC, the Air and Space Museum. We’ve been there 5 or 6 times already and it never gets old.

All in all, a strong day of artistic and technical inspiration and, once again, I feel like we can make the case that DC is one of the best tourist cities (even for those who live here) anywhere in the world.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

WHY are all these books here?

Library at the De La Salle College of Saint Be...

Image via Wikipedia

I was sitting in the school library yesterday, waiting for Paco after his afternoon activity.

Looking at the rows and rows of books, some of which, I am sure hadn’t been opened in a long time—or ever—I thought to myself “WHY are all these here?”

Not only does it represent resources which could be better allocated, but they are an under-utilized asset.

Lo and behold, I came home that night and read a GREAT post by Seth Godin (one of MY marketing gurus) on The Future of the Library.

Well worth it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Six-Day War and the modern Middle East

armored vehicle of col. motta gur in the six d...

Image via Wikipedia

It had been a while since I read a really great history book, but that changed recently.

I picked up Michael Oren’s excellent work Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East

Not only was it fast-paced and exciting, but it was incredibly thorough and, I thought, very well-balanced.

You might not expect this from the guy who is currently the Israeli Ambassador to the US, but he clearly did his homework in interviews with the Arabs as well.

What I loved is that he provided a LOT of context. A LOT.

With the passage of time, it’s easy to forget some of the things that were critical…like the Cold War, for example, but Oren’s narrative shows you the multi-faceted and complex issues that existed then and still exist now.

If you want to understand the modern Middle East, this is worth it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Airports and Line Jumping

At BWI the other day, I was standing in line to check in at Southwest Airlines. There were at leat 40 people in line with me.

A woman runs up to the front of the line with her two teenage daughters and says "my plane is leaving in 45 minutes, can I go?"

The agent says, "you'll need to ask everyone in line."

So, she sort of yells out, "is it ok if I go ahead of you?"

A few people (myself included) were annoyed.

I mean, what are we going to say, "No!" Or, is she going to listen even if we did?

She's late and we should pay for that?

Look, stuff happens. You get a flat tire. I get that, but what if 20 people in a row do that?

What if the 40th person in line, who would have made it otherwise, now misses her plane because we let someone go ahead of us?

I don't know what the right answer is here: Be human and let someone else not have the hassle of missing a plane (thoughtful, sensitive) or ask the question, "are we rewarding the wrong behavior as a society, if we let people do this?"

The Tool is 1/3rd of the Battle…

iPad con dock y teclado inalámbrico

Image via Wikipedia

Two of the more popular posts recently have been about the software/services and hardware tools that I use.

But buying new technology alone is not going to make you more productive.

This is true on the individual level as well as the organizational level.

Yet, it’s a mistake I see made often…thinking the tool is the “silver bullet.”

Leaving out the absolute necessity that you must make the commitment to learn, play, familiarize yourself with the new technology, there are 2 other components to successfully “jumping the curve” in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.

  1. Strategy: What are you going to DO with them?
  2. Execution: Actually doing it

Now, when it comes to execution, you can be cajoled or whatever, but it boils down to self-discipline. At the end of the day, you have to “Just F’in Do It!”

The Strategy is easier (it usually is), but you need to think about the big question of: Exactly WHAT am I trying to accomplish?

For me, it’s pretty straightforward.

From a business perspective….At every moment, I want to be doing the most productive thing that I can to increase my value as a consultant.

Here’s a recent example from Spring Break week.

  • Got on the treadmill in the morning, used the Windows Media Center (Tivo-like) to watch a CNBC documentary on J.W. Marriott (objective: improve my entrepreneurial skills)
  • Drove to an appointment with my doctor and listened to 4 TED talks on my Zune. I trust TED to curate good content so any talk is something I think will broaden my perspective. All of them did that, but 2 of them, in particular, including this great one from Johanna Blakley.
  • My wife wanted to go to the gym for a bit, so I was “on point” with the kids. They wanted to read, so we all sat in the family room, reading together. I used the iPad to
    • read an entire book (Do the Work !)
    • get caught up on my blog reading
  • Later that afternoon, I ironed some shirts and listened to 2 fantastic podcasts from HBR on the iPad.
    One of them, in fact, was so good that I used the “record a note” feature on Evernote to save it as an action item for later.

The point here isn’t “hey, look at me.”

The point is to say, “the tools can take you to a new level in terms of knowledge and career improvement, but you need to understand what each tool does best and use it for that. Then, have a plan for using them and the discipline to follow-through on the plan.”

For many, this is 2nd nature, but I’ve had enough conversations recently that made me think it was worth it to share these thoughts.

Hope this helps.

Friday, May 13, 2011

How to Show You Care in the Digital Age…

An appendectomy in progress

Image via Wikipedia

One of the fantastic things about the digital and social networking age is how easy it is for you to tell all of your friends about good news and bad.

When we know about it, we can DO something about it.

Case in point.

Paco’s recent appendectomy.

Between the blog and Facebook, hundreds of people knew what was going on and many people stepped up to help in a HUGE way…bringing over food, helping out with the kids, etc.

It was great and clutch.

But, there’s a flip side and I think it’s something we all should remember.

I don’t want this to come off as insensitive, ungrateful, or uncaring.

In fact, the point is the opposite one.

When we see a notification that someone is sick, it’s one thing to say “how can I help?”

or “here’s what I am going to do?”

It’s another to send an IM/email/FB message/tweet that just asks “How is the patient doing?”


I think it creates a burden for the recipient.

On the one hand, that person is dealing with a family tragedy/medical situation, whatever.

On the other, they certainly appreciate the fact that you sent the note and you cared enough to do so.

But, responding to 10, 20, 50 messsages asking “How is he doing?” becomes overwhelming and can pull you away from the more important task of caring for your family.

But, NOT responding could leave the person with the feeling of “hey, he didn’t even care enough about me to respond!”

What I am going to do….

You are free to do whatever you wish, of course, but in situations where I can’t really DO anything to help, my new approach is going to be:

“Hey, I’m thinking about you and your situation. I hope it gets better (or whatever). PLEASE do not feel the obligation to respond to this message.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Integrity and Entrepreneurship…

I met a man once who said that the best way to be “fully human” is through business.

Strange, I know, but I’ll say this.

I think I’ve learned more about integrity and character in the past 3 years than I did in all the years before that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Israel: Maybe eternal conflict is a good thing?

Israel 60 Years

Image by FaceMePLS via Flickr

For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about the “peace process” recently.

Since today is Israeli Independence Day, it seems like a good time to share this.

I’m a long-time skeptic of it (as it currently stands), since I think true peace is predicated upon widespread and genuine Arab acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state.

At the moment, I don’t believe we are at that point so any “peace” is built upon an unstable foundation.

It’s natural to get depressed or demoralized about this as a first reaction, but then I started to wonder “maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all?”


I suppose the seeds of this were in my post “Send Flowers to Damascus” and my reaction to the fact that with necessity being the mother of invention, all of the amazing technologies, innovation, and wealth (both present and future)  detailed in Start-up Nation are all a direct result of this ongoing, never-ending, seemingly intractable conflict.

And recently, I started to read Tom Peters’ book Re-Imagine!: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age and one particularly thought-provoking line was:

“In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed—and produced Michelangelo, da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland
they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce— the cuckoo clock.”
Source: Orson Welles, as Harry Lime, in The Third Man

Then, I came across Peggy Noonan’s piece in the WSJ about the decline of America and its culture/values.

That led me to think that maybe “peace” (yes, I know we’re at war and trust me, I view the radical Islamist threat as severely as anyone, but let’s be honest about the relative scale) leads to lowest-common denominator behavior, obesity (physical and mental), laziness, and entitlement.

As Toynbee said, “civilizations die from suicide…not murder.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s great to have innocent civilians die just so more Israeli companies can get on the Nasdaq.

Far from it.

I am just going through a mental exercise to look at the cost-benefits of both sides and just asking if, maybe, instead of longing for peace so much that you make desperate and poor decisions, instead you just sort of accept the status-quo and say “ok, we’ve got conflict. Maybe it’s eternal. We’ll just continue to make the best of a bad decision.”

Kind of like the argument from the semi-controversial article in Time magazine saying “Why Israel doesn’t care about peace.”

Nietzsche: Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

Go ahead, fire away!

Pun intended.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Is Your Job in Jeopardy?

Globe icon.

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling recently (here’s the map) and it’s given me the opportunity to think about economics and globalization.

It’s also given me cause for concern because I genuinely believe and fear that most of America has no real idea of the dramatic changes that are coming as a result of technology and networks.

We’ve had it so good for so long that, even some hiccups, bumps, and bruises may not dissuade us from the sense that we are entitled to a certain lifestyle (see yesterday’s post re: Michael Moore’s movie, Capitalism: A Love Story for more on that.)

My friend, Dave Sobel, was kind enough to send me a copy of Tom Peters’ book Re-Imagine!: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age.

It’s one of those books where I started reading it and said, “Idiot! Why didn’t I read this 7 years ago when it was published?!”

What Peters passionately argues and what I’ve been thinking/saying/writing for the past few years is just HOW BIG the impact of all of these events are on every single nook and cranny of the economy.

He’s arguing for a sense of urgency and a recognition that now, each of us, is more responsible than ever for innovation and entrepreneurship around our own careers.

In synagogue the other day, I overheard a conversation between 3 people (none of whom I knew).

One said to the other: “well, they are renegotiating our contract now.”clip_image002

The other: “So, is your job in jeopardy?”

The first: “Well, of course, I guess it could be.”

“It could be?”

I’m of the mindset that your job, my job, EVERYONE’S job is in jeopardy…every single day.

At a national level, America’s job, as it were, is in jeopardy every single day.

So, if you don’t get up and get started with that mentality, eventually that’s exactly what is going to happen.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Michael Moore & Me: Capitalism

Sometimes it is important to deliberately expose yourself to those who have radically different opinions so that you challenge the orthodoxy of your own thinking.

This was why I watched Michael Moore’s movie, Capitalism: A Love Story

Like a strange relationship, I had three stages in this movie.

  1. Rejection
  2. Curiosity
  3. Annoyance

But, it’s not how you think.


As you might expect, for a long time, I’ve had pretty strong free-market views. As Moore started off his screed and railings against the evils of the Capitalist system, I found myself thinking how easy it was to dismiss him as a “Socialist” and or a “Limousine Liberal.”

Here’s a guy who is probably extraordinarily wealthy because of the very system he hates.

He kept talking about “the rich” and “they” as if there was a mysterious conspiracy.


As the movie went on, however, I started to think, “you know, he does have some pretty good points here. There are some really bad excesses of the system.”

And he began to document that, in fact, “the Rich” were doing things that well, maybe, are just not so democratic.

The final straw for me was his analysis of the TARP bailout, something that never sat well with me. My belief in capitalism was, “if you try something and it works, you should get the reward, but if you fail, it’s on you.”

When the banks failed, it wasn’t on them, their execs, or their shareholders, it was on the taxpayers. That bothered me a lot and Moore touched that nerve.

I left that section feeling a greater sense of awareness about some of the inequalities of the sytems.


As the movie wound down, the overwhelming feeling I had was one of Annoyance. Maybe sadness actually, because the impression I got across the board was that Americans, at least those in his film, didn’t have a sense of individual responsibility anymore.

The banks, the execs, etc. who asked for a bailout, certainly. But, also, Moore in his efforts to talk about how evil the capitalist system is documented people who were evicted from their homes after 20, 30, 40 years. Sad, of course, but he never tells us how or why these people got into those situations.

It’s easy to blame predatory lenders and slick marketing, etc., but when all is said and done, if you re-finance your home to “tap your home equity” and then you can’t make the payments, well…whose fault is that?

The other part that annoyed me is that he doesn’t really offer any solutions. Maybe that’s not his objective, but he says, “I don’t believe in Capitalism. I believe in Democracy.”  That’s great, but HOW do we get there?

What should we do?

Sure, Europe and Japan created these idyllic social welfare states to which he points as a success, but his timeframe is too narrow. They are falling apart now.

I’m open to a better way, but he doesn’t give me the answer.

The Power of Narrative

There’s no doubt he’s a great storyteller and he conveniently uses the facts he wants to support his thesis.

Frankly, I think he could have gotten the job done without all of the Bush-bashing (predictable) and the Obama as Messiah crap (also predictable).

The Future

I think he makes some good points. Some things do have to change in the way our country is run, but his nostalgic view of the past is overly romanticized and he doesn’t even touch on the how the whole country needs to reinvent itself in the face of globalization.

Still, I’m glad I watched the movie and would recommend it.

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Power of No…

Opportunities are great because they are just that. Opportunities.

You never know what might happen if you do it and, particularly in building a business or in marketing, when you are working so hard to grow, our fear of a possible future loss sometimes can rule us.

But, there’s also a cost to them. Opportunity cost.

When you focus on one thing, by definition, you are not focusing on other things.

As Peter Drucker says, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”

To be a great marketer, business owner, or just downright productive, you MUST ask yourself constantly: Is this the most valuable use of my time right now?

I heard a podcast from HBR featuring Bob Pozen, a lecturer at Harvard B-School, called Productivity Secrets of a Very Busy Man and while he’s off the charts in terms of focus, it’s instructional at the same time.

Things will come your way. Partnerships. Sponsorships. New jobs. New deals. New prospects.

It’s tempting to say Yes to them all and see what you can make happen, but there’s a HUGE power in saying No.

You must cultivate that.

Case in Point

I received an email from a good friend, Dave, who said he wanted to “pick my brain” (its own blog post) about the factors that have led to 3 years (hopefully) more of the Never Stop Marketing experience.

Here’s what I shared. 

You asked how I manage my time. Answer: relentless focus on the priorities at every turn.

So, here’s the deal…I’m more than happy to sit and chat, but I can’t do it for a while. I’m talking “2 months from now” kind of a while.

I realize you’re looking for sooner (most likely), but I am just slammed at the moment. I’m sorry, but this is perhaps the key lesson. I can do everything. I just can’t do it now.

Takeaway Thoughts 

  • What are your priorities?
  • How well do you stay focused on them?
  • Have you said “NO” today?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Infidel…Funny Movie

It’s like the beginning of a bad joke…

“So, this Muslim guy wakes up one day and finds out that he is really Jewish. Oh, and meanwhile, his son wants to marry the stepdaughter of a radical Islamic cleric…”

I found myself laughing out loud at this one.

If you are looking for a serious review of Muslim/Jewish issues, this isn’t the movie for you.

Light comic relief? Then, worth checking out.

The Infidel.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Have I lost focus on what’s important?

I’ve learned a lot from cab drivers over the years.

They meet a lot of people in their line of work and often have good stories.

I’m usually happy and excited to make conversation with them.

The other day, however, I got in a cab on the way to the airport and after some initial conversation, I pulled out my laptop.

Not to be anti-social, but because I was on a few deadlines.

I felt bad.

I wondered if I had lost perspective and stopped appreciating my fellow human being, from whom I could learn?

Or, was I just being responsible at that moment?

In an entrepreneurial endeavor, it’s easy to be fully consumed by the business.

In some respects, that’s necessary, but I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Balance. Easy to say. Hard to do.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Official Guide to Kids’ Nicknames

Since many people have asked…here you go.

Daughter, Age 7 Son, Age 5 Daughter, Age 3
Tikkanen Jokinen Lakkanen
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts
Tonka Paco Nadia
  Maximus Gianni

Real names withheld at request of NFO (Nameless Faceless One), aka my wife.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Watching ‘em grow…

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Image via Wikipedia

Probably my favorite thing to do with my kids is just watch them grow.

The other day, with Paco, we played catch with the football.

And when I say “played catch,” I really mea

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n it. Back and forth a large number of times.

That evening, he read Dr. Seuss’ book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” to me…for the first time.

A milestone marked.

I felt like I was watching the next stage of lift-off.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Maybe Steroids should be legal?

Well, I mean Anabolic Steroids.

You know, the kind that Barry Bonds took?

The movie Bigger, Stronger, Faster is a fantastic exploration of the American mentality and makes you ask yourself that question.

Not only does it star personal favorites of mine like Ben Johnson (of 9.79 fame), Henry Waxman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Hulk Hogan, but it’s a compelling story of regular people faced with choices.

And, in some ways, it’s a story about marketing. The marketing of steroids as inherently bad.

It’s one of those movies where, after you watch it, you walk away with some of your conventional assumptions destroyed, forced to confront a different reality.