Thursday, December 27, 2012

Connections Drive Creativity: LA Edition

LA FOJ meetupOne of my absolute favorite things to do is connect friends of mine-who don’t know each other-with one another.

When I travel somewhere, I do my best to coordinate a central meet-up for folks in that city.

In LA, we had a great turnout and I felt so blessed to connect:

  • William Francke (and his wife Kim) whom I know from my Snickelways era with
  • Shira Shimoni from my Upper West Side days with
  • Amy Detrick, my world-class designer for the past 3 years (and whom I had never met in person before that night) with
  • Angie Aldape, a co-worker at Sprinklr with
  • Josh David, my cousin, to
  • Mike Bonifer, another person I had never met before that night in person.

What makes a gathering like this work, in my opinion, is that you give people a chance to get out of their normal circles and get exposed to others with new ideas.

For example:

  • William works at a company called Vigilent, which has a hi-tech way to reduce cooling costs in data centers.
  • Shira works at an e-commerce company called Magento which was acquired by eBay
  • Amy is a freelance designer
  • Angie is on the front lines of the social business revolution at Sprinklr.
  • Josh is a writer for E!
  • Mike is an improv teacher for businesses.
Doing so builds connections which drives creativity. This, in my opinion, is the secret to innovation.

And on top of it all, I walk away feeling all the more inspired and connected.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Boss Reunion-Thanking The Teachers

I think it’s important, much like a college reunion, to periodically reflect on how your professional career has unfolded and to express gratitude for those who helped shape it.

There's no way I would have achieved any of my own success without the input and impact of those who hired me into my various roles.

I’ve been fortunate. I have always had a great relationship with bosses who hired me (not always with those who inherited me, but I digress).

One of these days, I’m going to get them all together in a room. For now, I’ll just introduce them all to you and to each other.

Todd Newfield, who gave me my first job doing Internet Marketing in Tokyo, Japan at FACT Communications. Even today, I can’t believe the amount of exposure and opportunity I had to do some great stuff. I certainly didn’t appreciate it all then. His two pieces of career advice still linger with me.

  • “Only do business with people you like.”
  • “Never believe your own bullshit.”

You want intensity? That’s Todd. He truly Never Stops Marketing.

Paul Cimino gave me my first sales job at Snickelways and introduced me to the world of doing business-and doing it well-in New York City. He’s a great salesman and showed how relationships and networks matter so much in building, well, anything. I had been dedicated to my network before then, but Paul supercharged that focus.  He taught me the value of strong negotiations (using that skill on me once or twice) and persistence.

Tom Begley made the call to hire me at Microsoft. He knew I lacked some professional polish (some would argue that I still do), but he saw potential and passion and believed that my love of technology and how it could possibly impact people would come through. Tom is a Zen Master (well, you know what I mean) of Emotional Intelligence, among many things, and taught me many of the nuances of navigating large organizations, the politics of it, and how to listen to a room and “know your audience.” 

Christine Zmuda hired me onto a different Microsoft team. Not only is she a great listener, teacher, and friend, but she’s a world-class planner and execution fiend.  She raised the bar in terms of my expectations and possibilities and showed me how to put it all together from a marketing perspective, giving me responsibility for my own piece of business—and accountability for it as well.  The operational and data side of marketing is where she truly excelled-and where I benefited.

And, Ragy Thomas, hired me into Sprinklr and, well, the jury is still out on him Winking smile  Just kidding…he’s a great teacher, but we don’t write the history until the chapter is over.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Born To Run…

Yes, Bruce Springsteen was as well, but I’m actually talking about YOU.

Yes, YOU.

The person who says “I can’t run a mile without getting winded.”

Turns out, that’s exactly what you were originally built to do…and more.

This is just part of what I learned in a fantastic book called Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.

I re-discovered a love and appreciation for running as I began my Tough Mudder training. I had run in high school and then, in my mid-20’s, developed shin splints and never really got back into it.

With training required, I had to rededicate myself, but went with the barefoot style via Merrell and they worked wonders for me. See the shoes here

As I ran more and more, I found that I started to appreciate it, the energy that came from it, and my friend Yak suggested the book to me.

It made me feel better about my speed (or lack thereof..I do about 8.5 minute miles) and proud of my endurance—which I have a fair amount of.

It introduced me to the idea that running was, in fact, the competitive advantage that humans originally had over both animals and Neanderthals.

Not because of speed, but because we are the only ones who can release heat (via sweat) while we are running and breathe simultaneously. Essentially what this means is that we can outrun a deer or an antelope…not by speed, but by dogged pursuit, because eventually, they will just have to give up because they overheat.

It’s called persistence hunting and the idea was fascinating.

The book is based upon a tribe of Mexican Indians known as the Tarahumara who can run obscene distances in extreme heat and uses them as the basis for what Man originally was supposed to be. Our modern lifestyle has destroyed much of that and because we don’t run, many of the diseases with which we are now familiar, exist in abundance.

AS the book says, “we don’t stop running because we get old, we get old because we stop running.”

If you are a runner, you must read this book. Odds are, you have.

If you want to get healthy, read this book.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.

It’s inspiring, well-written, and entertaining…and it may just improve your life.

And my favorite quote about the Tarahumara:

“The Tarahumara aren’t great runners…they’re great athletes, and those two things are very different.”

Runners are assembly-line workers; they become good at one thing-moving straight ahead at a steady speed-and repeat that motion until overuse fritzes out the machinery.

Athletes are Tarzans. Tarzan swims and wrestles and jumps and swings on vines. He’s strong and explosive. You never know what Tarzan will do next, which is why he never gets hurt.

Your body needs to be shocked to become resilient…Follow the same daily routine, and y our musculoskeletal system quickly figures out how to adapt and go on autopilot. But surprise it with new challenge-leap over a creek, commando-crawl under a log, sprint till your lungs are busting-and scores of nerves and ancillary muscle are suddenly electrified into action.”

(Not withstanding that Tarzan is fake, of course. And now you know why I dig the Tough Mudder. Still a good point.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

When losing a negotiation feels great…

Paco has become quite the ferocious and passionate Monopoly player recently.
He’s always asking anyone who will listen, if they will play with him.
Mind you, I don’t let him win. Ever.
But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t absolutely CRUSHED me a few times. He has.
What’s more, in addition to his burgeoning real estate tycoon skills, he’s become quite the negotiator, even outside of the game.
The other day, we were walking home together.
He wanted to play Monopoly.
I wanted to take a nap.
We agreed that if he completely read a new book he had just received, he could wake me up from the nap and we would play.
I thought the book was about 200 pages, so I was confident I would get in at least 2 hours. (He is a fast reader).
When we got home, I noticed the book was about 90 pages and immediately realized I was in trouble.
Paco recognized the same thing and as I attempted to renegotiate the deal, he knew he had me over a barrel.
What he managed to do in the next 4 minutes, without backing down, was extract a series of concessions from me to enable a 2 hour nap.
The details aren’t important. What’s notable is how he saw the opportunity and leveraged his position.
Yes, I was proud…even in defeat.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Halftime in the Game of Fatherhood (sort of)

The other day we celebrated Tonka’s 9th birthday. It was a great party, orchestrated in a meaningful way by the NFO.

In fact, the event was hosted at the Hebrew Home for the Aged and the event consisted of singing Hannukah songs for the residents and then having the kids do projects with them to make blankets for disadvantaged kids and paint vases for sick children.

And, yes, there was cake.

The kids had a great time.

What struck me, however, was that I had hit a ‘halftime’ of sorts, as Tonka was, in theory, halfway to being out of the house.

Sure, parenting will never be done, but if she leaves at 18, well, then I’m 50% of the way there.

Just like that.

I feel like a cliché when I say that it seems like only yesterday when she was born and I was crying my eyes out (and thanks to the web, it’s only a click away)

In this moment, however, I am acutely aware of the passage of time and how precious it is to be with my kids as they grow up.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Get ready to cry...

This guy has heart...
HT Adam for sharing

Are You Honest or Dishonest?

Most likely, you are dishonest.

Here’s why…in a great 11 minute video by Dan Ariely (his previous book reviewed here).

Good can do something about it for yourself…and to protect yourself from others.

HT to David Berkowitz

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is College Really Worth It?

Long time readers of this blog know that I’ve been wrestling with the idea that college is the sacrosanct ticket to middle-class success that it has been in the past.

This stems from my beliefs around the fundamentally changing nature of work, the skills required for economic success in a flat/globalized/connected world, and the rising costs/debt challenge associated with technology.

Along these lines are two fascinating articles, one by one of my favorite thinkers about the Internet, Clay Shirky, where he uses the Recording industry as the example of how Education could be overhauled. The real kicker isn’t even about that, it’s about how most of us don’t see the big changes that are coming until it’s too late.

I think this may be one of them.

Then, is a 2nd article from the New York Times about, at least on the cutting-edge, in some circles, not going to college is viewed as a positive thing.

As a note, I enrolled in Sebastian Thrun’s class (described in Shirky’s article) and though I didn’t complete it, I saw the power and potential in it.

I also have a recording of Thiel’s 20 under 20 on my DVR which I haven’t watched yet, but will soon.

It’s going to be tough for many of us (myself included) to arrive at the conclusion that the model of college (not higher education, mind you) might be outdated, but if the changes wrought by the Internet are as big as I think they will be (and I think we are only at the beginning), we may have to do just that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to Quickly Identify (and stop) Junk Mail

This is so darn smart, I'm just upset I didn't think of it first.

My friend and fellow JHU Blue Jay, Ray Wang of Constellation Research, has a brilliant system for identifying which companies sell his name to others.

He uses the "Address 2" line to identify the company to which he is giving his info.
So, for example, he'll write "United Airlines-Spam" or "Verizon-Spam"

The Address 2 line is not subject to mail verification, so it always works.

Then, when he sees a piece of mail coming with that on the address, he knows who sold it.

Before he throws it away, he can call the company and give them a choice:

"Take me off your list or get sued. Your call."

Love it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Clean Water and Clean Style

Do you own a Brita filter? 

We do and one of the things that drives me crazy is the little pieces of carbon that float around.

Then, there are the times when I forget to change the filter.  Or, and this is my responsibility, I don't clean out the top and, well, it doesn't look so nice.

Which is why I was particularly excited to hear about this new project my friend and former client (Yes To Carrots), Ido Leffler.

It's a a beautiful glass carafe cand a 100% compostable water filter that is delivered on a regular basis via subscription service. So, it's not just stylish (it is), but it's potentially more environmentally responsible (save carbon footprint of shipping) and also healthier (if filtered water is your thing.)
One thing I know about Ido (aside from the fact that he makes really smart hiring decisions about hiring marketing consultants) is that he is passionate, committed, and dedicated to healthy living.
Ok, that's 3 things, but you see what I mean.
Anyway, his kickstarter campaign is under way and I'd suggest you check it out.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Must Use Tool for Password Management

I cannot recommend this tool highly enough.

It's called LastPass and it plugs right into your browser, syncs across multiple devices, and most importantly, makes it ridiculously easy to securely save all of your passwords.

What's more, you can share your password with friends without actually giving them the password.

Say, I want to let you log in to some site that I use (maybe register my kid for camp, I don't know).

Instead of emailing you the password (not so good), I "LastPass" it to you. You accept it and can log in...but you never actually know the password.

What's more, it's allowed me to get more secure in choosing my passwords and remember the various iterations I use or must (1 cap, 1 number, 1 symbol or whatever).

Seriously, I love it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Sushi and Mastering Your Life’s Passion

Find your passion and then commit fully to it.

That’s one of the key messages of a fantastic movie that I watched recently (with my kids as well) called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.”

You learn the story of the 85 year old who is regarded as the world’s greatest sushi chef and his lifelong dedication to his craft.

Plus, you get a pretty clear picture of what it takes to become (and stay) the best in your field.

The movie isn’t about sushi. It’s about, well, a lot of things, but it’s a blueprint for mastery.

Most of us don’t achieve that level and Jiro’s dedication shows us why and why it’s so rare. And, I suppose, it helps us appreciate Mastery when we see it.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Why God Sends Rain to Latin America & Not to the Middle East...

Before you judge me, let me tell you this.
I got this in email…from my mother.
Didn't think so.