Sunday, December 31, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 40: Lifeguards

We had the opportunity to hit Manhattan Beach the other day and the kids loved it.  The waves were high and the surfers were out.

At one point, a lifeguard walked over to me and asked if those were my kids. He said that he was worried that a surfer might lose his board and it  might hit one of them because of how close they were.

Though the kids were unhappy with the request that they get a little closer to shore, I was grateful for the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep others out of danger.  A truly selfless act.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 39: the Museum of Tolerance and Renee Firestone

We visited the Museum of Tolerance in LA yesterday. It was extremely well done with a powerful Anne Frank exhibit and a broad message of tolerance (I think the naming is very smart as well).
We were privileged to hear Ms. Renee Firestone, a 94 year old Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz share her personal story. It was captivating and so important.
I worry about the future when the survivors are no longer around and the deniers feel emboldened and empowered.
Which is why I am particularly grateful that this Museum exists and works feverishly to ensure not just that a Jewish Holocaust will never happen again but to take the horrible lessons from it and help prevent genocide and human rights abuses against everyone and anyone in the future and, at the same time, working to protect the legacy and memory of those victims and survivors of the Nazi Holocaust.

I am grateful for the Museum of Tolerance and the immense courage and strength of survivors like Ms. Firestone, both for having made it through the Holocaust, but also because of her willingness and conviction to tell the story to future generations.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 38: Ancient Artists

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to visit the Getty Villa in Malibu. (We also hit Manhattan Beach and the amusements at the Santa Monica Pier).

I hadn't really had a deep appreciation of Greek and Roman antiquities despite high school classes (thank you, Mrs. Boyar) and some in college.

However, yesterday, as we strolled the beautiful grounds overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I found myself with a newly discovered sense of appreciation for their enormous efforts. The sculpture work and the mosaic work take tremendous amounts of effort and skill.

I was thinking about the artists who created these magnificent works--long dead, of course--and the gift that they have given us thousands of years later to experience their handiwork and their craft.

I am grateful that there are people who develop their skills to create something of beauty and who want it to outlive them as their contribution to the human race and civilization. It's more than art, of course, as this can happen in many walks of life, but I was thankful for these artists in this case.

They spent a lifetime refining their skills and there is still a return on their investment, even if they personally don't realize it. I wonder though, perhaps that was their motivation?

In any event, I am grateful for the artists of previous centuries.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Gratitude Journal-Day 37: The Entertainment Industry

Today, I am grateful for the men and women who work to keep us entertained through television and movies.  

We took a tour of the Warner Brothers studio and saw how much of what we love is made.  It's quite the production and I am appreciative of how hard they work to make it all happen

Plus, I was glad to help Batman when he called and pick up an Oscar for my role as "Dad" in the mini-series "Team Finland Goes to LA"

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 36: Pacific Sunsets

Team Finland is on the West Coast this week doing a SoCal tour. Yesterday, after visiting the Walk of Fame, we caught a beautiful sunset in Long Beach.

Today, I am grateful for gorgeous sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 35: nightguards for my teeth

One of my health challenges is teeth related. Aside from the periodontal issues I've faced, I also grind my teeth (or so I'm told).

That's why I wear not 1, but two, nightguards. They aren't the most comfortable, but I am used to them and I am grateful to my dentist who helped fit me for them, giving me a few more years to keep my own teeth.

It may seem like a small thing-and it is- but that's the point of this exercise, isn't it?

So, today, I am grateful for dental nightguards.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 34- Dave Sloan and Compassionate Friends

As many people know, I've become a big fan of blockchain and Bitcoin in the past 2 years. I haven't been quiet about my excitement for it either.

This week, Bitcoin took a big hit, so my confidence on Tuesday/Wednesday was definitely shaken a bit.

This morning, I was talking to Dave Sloan who said to me, "you know, I was thinking about you this week" and he went on to more accurately describe how I was feeling than even I realized myself. 

The self-doubt, the questions from all the people who looked to me for guidance. It was grueling and Dave perfectly summed it up.

It felt really nice to be understood and it made me appreciative of having a friend who could put himself in my place so well.

And it inspired me as well.

It inspired me to work harder to be the kind of friend who thinks about his friends and understands what they must be feeling so that it informs the way I behave.

Today, I am grateful for compassionate friends like Dave Sloan.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 33- UN Watch

The job of UN Watch is really, really difficult. They just have to let everyone know when the UN is full of crap.

What makes it particularly difficult is that that the UN is full of crap pretty much all the time. Personally, I think I'm ready to pull the plug on the experiment. Save the money, auction off the real estate, and get the diplomats out of NYC.

It's a sham organization.

This all came up because of the recent vote against US for the move of the embassy to Jerusalem.

This isn't about the move. It's about the ridiculousness of the UN which Jake Tapper eloquently points out on CNN.

I'm grateful that we have people and organizations like UN Watch which help keep a small bit of sanity in the world.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 32- WiFi

It's so commonplace now that we are ticked off when it doesn't work on airplanes.

But, for some reason, yesterday I was telling the story of the first time I ever set up a home wi-fi network and it was one of the greatest feelings. Right up there with my kids being born.

No, that's a bit excessive. It was better than when my kids were born ;-)

Just kidding, NFO.

But seriously, we have a technology that allows us to be connected and work from pretty much anywhere. Without wi-fi, I wouldn't be able to work from home for the past 8.5 years. 

I am grateful for Wi-Fi today.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 31: Amtrak

I know it has been a really, really tough week for Amtrak and my heart breaks for the victims in Seattle.  It's so sad.

Still, I am grateful for the existence of Amtrak as it allowed me to go up/back to NYC for the day in relative comfort and speed. I've noticed that, at least at BWI, the bathrooms have gotten cleaner as well. The Acela train is actually quite pleasurable. The conductors are friendly and the wi-fi is solid (not so much on the Regional train).

I know Amtrak takes a lot of abuse and criticism even on weeks when there aren't horrific tragedies and there are always areas for improvement, but a service like it has made a positive impact on my life and I am grateful for what they do.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Gratitude Journal: Day 30- Emart

For 4.5 years at Sprinklr, my steadfast travel companion was Eric Marterella. We shared many train rides and hotel rooms.  Plus, if you ask nicely, he'll tell you what Marriott thinks about the two of us.

Over time, however, as jobs change, etc., you find that the people with whom you have day-to-day contact are no longer day-to-day contacts.  Relationships change.

So, it was quite fortuitous that Emart (as he is known) was taking the train from DC to NYC at the exact same time I had planned, so we got to hang out and catch up on some great times.

Today, I am grateful for friends who are willing to run 8 miles through Central Park together in 10 degree January weather.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 29- Exciting football games

Like many people who grew up watching football, I've been struggling with my relationship with the sport since all of the news about CTE has come out and since I saw the movie "Concussion."

It's tough to stomach at times.

There are athletes who say "look, we know the deal and we're willing to make it because it changes the future for our family."

Of course, there are plenty of people who take the risk, but don't get the NFL paycheck reward.

Still, when you see the last 4 minutes of a football game that was as exciting and drama-filled as Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game, you are reminded of why you love sports and why you love the game.

So, today, I am grateful for last minute, unscripted, and unpredictable sports finishes.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 28: QuinnJim who saved my furnace

I came back home on Sunday morning to a freezing cold house. Something wasn't working, after doing a bit of troubleshooting (and recalling that the issue had happened before), I opened up the furnace.

I saw the trouble light blinking, like morse code and I knew it meant something.

Thanks to QuinnJim's video, I was able to figure out what the issue was (fuse blown), go to Home Depot, get the part for $3, and fix it, thus saving the day and being the hero in the eyes of my family!

More importantly than that :-), I was able to save the hassle and money of getting someone else to do it and get back to doing all of the other things I needed to do that day.

I'm grateful for YouTube and for people like QuinnJim who share their expertise so willingly and graciously so that guys like I am able to get on our with our lives.

Thanks, Quinn Jim!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 27- Gratitude Journals

It was 4 weeks ago in the Wall St. Journal that the NFO saw an article about the value of "Gratitude Journals" and which served as the core motivation/catalyst for me beginning this project.

While I can't say it's been a epiphany-like experience, it has been a gradual erosion of my worldview (though with much more to go) and a gradual emergence of a new one. 

So, today, I am grateful for the Wall St. Journal and for the article on Gratitude Journals that helped inspire me to be more grateful.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 26: Metamucil

Following up on yesterday's suggestion from Ginger that we should focus on the smallest of things, I hereby offer my gratitude for the existence of Metamucil.

Now, I have a long and well-documented history with Metamucil, but I would be remiss if I didn't express my appreciation for this fantastic product and service as part of this effort.

If you have used it, you know what I am talking about!

If you haven't, well, you're missing out.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 25: Ginger Pinchot and Friends

The amount of support I have received from friends for this gratitude journal has been really inspiring. One of the most vocal and sincere advocates has been Ginger Pinchot.

First off, how can you not love someone named Ginger, right? ;-)

But more than that, this is a woman who oozes gratitude and authenticity.

Yesterday, I saw her at the middle school basketball game and she told me how much she enjoyed my journal. It led to a great conversation and she shared some advice about how to cultivate it more.

"Focus on the smallest things."

If you look at the really, really small things, you can't help but feel wonder at the fact that they are there and they enrich your life.  So, it could be the stool that my legs are resting on now or the keyboard I am using to type or the fact that I just pushed a button and the screen became brighter.

So, today, I am grateful for all of the friends who are supporting me in this effort to cultivate gratitude and a special shout out to loyal blog reader, Ginger Pinchot!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 24- Waze

"Trust in Waze," that's what we say.

Anyone in the DC area who knows what it is like to drive from Virginia to Maryland in rush hour has felt the pain.

Waze to the rescue again. I am grateful for Waze.

Or, more appropriately, I suppose...I am grateful for crowd-sourced data that leverages route optimization algorithms in real-time

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 23: Kids' Self-Sufficiency

As a parent, one of my goals is to help raise kids who can do things on their own.

We recently bought a nightstand for Paco and the NFO asked me to put it together.  Now, in fairness, she did ask me to put it together, but what I chose to hear was "make sure it gets put together." But that is a topic for a different day.

You know what I really heard? Learning opportunity!

So, I tasked Tikkanen and Jokinen with getting the job done, figuring they were at the stage where they could do it.

And they did (I only got involved at 2 small points for some final Quality Assurance work). 

It was a great feeling to see them do it and I felt very grateful to the NFO (aka my wife) and my kids for the fact that we had all reached this milestone.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 22: Epi Pens

I have a pretty severe allergy to sesame seeds (not oil) and tree nuts ( but not almonds, pistachios, pine nuts or peanuts).

Last night, we went out to dinner at a local Israeli place.

Anyone who has been to Israel knows that they basically fly planes over the entire country and consistently air drop sesame seeds on pretty much anything you can imagine. Pretzels, dates, etc. I think they make you walk through a pile of sesame seeds after you get your passport stamped when you enter the country.

And it's insidious because, for example, take something like hummus. Ground up chick peas, right?

Yes, but added in Tahina and boom...death trap.

As a result, I know to be VERY careful.

Asking is usually not a good idea because Israelis don't even realize how it is everywhere--the hummus example being the bets one.

But last night, I got caught...there was a beet salad that had a sauce which, I am pretty sure had a Tahina base.

Sure, you could say, "Jeremy, why take the risk?"

A fair and noble question, but let's ignore that for another time.

I got hit...hard. I was miserable. I thought I could fight through it. Water, claritin, benadryl.

Nothing. Finally, after a few hours of misery and a couple vomiting attacks, I stabbed myself with the Epi-Pen and...voila. All set.

Another valid question is: why didn't you do it sooner?

We can also ignore my own psychology on that one. The point worked. Well.

So, today, I am grateful for the Epi-pen and its wonderful abilities.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 21: Warm beds and blankets

Like many, we had our first snowfall of the season yesterday. I hadn't been sleeping well the last few nights so I decided that I would allow myself a bit of a "sleep-in" on Sunday morning.

Of course, the NFO had given me the green light as well since there were no pressing child-related obligations.

It had been a long time since I could just lie in bed on Sunday morning and not have to jump out to do something.

The snow on the ground outside, the grayness of the was a perfect morning for just staying snug in the bed.

And it was warm.

I found myself being very grateful for the fact that, in this cold weather in particular and when so many others have less than I do, that we have a warm bed with great blankets and a warm house.

It was comfortable on many different levels.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 20- the Gift of Song

This weekend, our synagogue hosted the Maccabeats, whom some of you may remember burst onto the scene with the Candlelight video that went completely viral.  For a while, it was a sensation.

As part of the festivities, we were privileged to host 3 of the singers for lunch where we got to hear the story from the inside and "talk shop."  

In addition, they regaled Tonka with "Happy Birthday" as it is tomorrow.

As I listened to them sing and others around the table joined in, I found myself feeling grateful for the gift of song that we have and how much we can communicate to each other through song and music.

It's not something that I've thought much about, but our 3 guests devoted a nice portion of their lives to it and have enriched the lives of millions of people (look at the # of views they have!) through it.

That's a great gift.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 19: Maria and Irma

I love Fridays. Not because it is the end of the week or because Shabbat is that evening (though both of those are true).

I love it because our cleaning ladies, Maria and Irma, come and work tirelessly.

It's not that our house is dirty. The NFO and I both make efforts, but you know how it is.

But the time from 10-3 on Fridays after Maria and Irma have left before the kids come home from creates a  special Zen-like atmosphere for me.

They have an amazing work ethic and always with a smile on their face. They NEVER complain and are just fun.  They have fascinating personal stories as well as they have overcome adversity.

I just feel so fortunate to have them and am so grateful for all they do to run the household.

They are here right now, as I am typing this, so it's top of mind. And yes, I tell them how much I value them, greeting them with "my favorite 2 people in the world!" when they walk through the door ;-)

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 18: Nikki (our Roomba)

Keeping a house clean is a challenge. Both the NFO and I are running around daily and let's just say that the kids don't always help as much as I would like ;-)

Recently, however, I bought a Roomba robot vacuum and it's been a nice stress minimizer for me. We call the Roomba, "Nikki" (more on that later).

When the kids leave in the morning, I do a quick walk through of the main floor of the house, picking up anything that will get in the way of Nikki doing her job (like shoelaces, etc.)

Then, I push the button (I was going to say 'turn her on,' but thought better of it) and go about my business. About an hour or so later, she returns to her dock and the house has had a nice vacuuming. For a wanna-be Zen guy, it's a great feeling.

We call the Roomba "Nikki" for a few reasons.

"Nikayon" in Hebrew means "clean up" or "cleaning."

Then, in a nod to our Finland fetish, we made it "Nikkanen" (to go along with Tikkanen, Jokinen, and Lakkanen).

Finally, we shortened it to "Nikki."

When we were deciding what to call Nikki, we also had to determine gender. I didn't want to assume it was a female who did the cleaning and we thought that Nikki could be male or female.

However, Lakkanen (age 9) suggested that Nikki was actually a transgender female, so we agreed that Nikki was a transgender female robot vacuum.

As part of the deal, Lakkanen is also known as "Nikki Janitorial Service Team" as she is responsible for cleaning the Roomba after each use.

So, today, I am grateful to the inventors of Roomba who give me a feeling of serenity.  I am grateful for the effort they put into creating something that works (pretty damn well) and which has some amazing technology to solve a need.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 17- The Right Therapist

I've changed my mind significantly about the value and need of therapy.  I'll admit that, once upon a time, I viewed it as a sign of mental weakness. Sorry, just being honest here.

Anyway, I eventually felt compelled (for reasons I'd rather not share) to give it a try.

Thing is, I've learned the hard way that the "fit" between therapist and patient is ueber critical.  My first two were very nice people, but didn't have the requisite skills to call me on my excessive amount of BS and self-justification.

Third time is the charm, I suppose, as I have found someone who meshes well with me. It's been a powerful and enlightening experience.

So, today, I'm grateful for the right therapist and, I suppose, for the wrong therapists (for me) who helped me realize what the right therapist looks like.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 16-- Erica and Alice

Apparently, for the last 8 months, all of my e-bills that were meant to go to BGE Home have, instead been going to BGE.

These are 2 different entities.

As you can imagine, I was surprised and unhappy to learn that BGE Home thought I owed them $1,000 for payments that I thought I had already made.

Naturally, I wasn't excited about the prospect of having to clean this mess up and so, as I made my way to Erica (at BGE) and Alice (at my bank), I may have been a little more curt and gruff than I would have liked.

This was probably email #15 and call #6 around the still unresolved issue.

So, I was thrilled to find two people who seem to genuinely care about solving this issue and doing so with empathy and compassion, even if I wasn't as nice as I could or should have been.

What Erica and Alice showed me is how to be graceful under pressure and how to be professional when a customer/client is stressed.

One of the things I struggle with, at times, is treating everyone with the respect they deserve simply by virtue of the fact that they are human beings.

I'm getting better at it and I'm not proud to admit that I have this problem, but I am grateful for people like Erica and Alice who demonstrate how it can be done and how you can get things done at the same time.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 15: Autumn in New England

Paco and I spent the weekend in Stamford, CT.  It was cool and sunny.  The leaves were all different shades of colors and there was a slight breeze.

It was refreshing and a great reminder to appreciate the natural beauty that is around us.

So, today, I am grateful for autumn in New England.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 14: Inconsiderate husbands

A few weeks ago, someone we know spoke incredibly rudely to the NFO. The content of the comments were fine, but the manner and tone were entirely inappropriate.

I wasn't there myself, but the NFO tells me that the wife of this man was working quite hard to have him stop and he totally ignored her.

Later, when I confronted the man about his behavior, I expressed how I felt. His wife was present when I did and she concurred with me.

He was obstinate in his position, so I said to him, "you shouldn't just take my word for it, listen to your wife, SHE is telling you that you made a mistake."

His response was, "it's ok, there are plenty of things I ignore that that she says" (or something to that effect).

As I listened to him explain to me why he thought his behavior was ok (it wasn't), I had a realization. It was something that the NFO has been saying to me for a long time.

When you are a husband, your actions do not simply reflect upon you. They reflect upon your wife and your children.  It makes them look bad by association.

I felt terrible for this man's wife as she not only had to deal with the mess that he created and being ignored (on this topic) but also had to suffer the indignity of being cast in a bad light because of something he did.

Now, I probably should listen to my wife a lot more than I do (working on it), but I was grateful to have the opportunity to see an example of what not to do and how every action I take as a husband does reflect on my wife...whether she is there or not.

I am very sorry that the NFO had to go through this experience.

I am sorry that the wife and family of this man had to go through it as well.

However, I am grateful that his total disregard for her feelings in this moment was a huge reminder to me of what I should and should not aspire to be as a husband.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 13- Viola Davis

I just finished watching the movie Fences and thought it was magnificent. I was so enamored with Viola Davis' convincing performance that I feel compelled to express my gratitude for her gifts as an actress.

With so much video content out there, we see all ranges of acting quality these days, so it is particularly powerful when I am privileged to see someone who obviously has a gift for her craft.

That I get to appreciate that as part of a story that tells a really powerful me, that is something worthy of gratitude.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 12- Joyner Lucas

Saw this article  about Joyner Lucas' new song/video "I'm Not Racist" on CNN this morning and watched the video.'s NSFW and has a ton of language that you may not want kids (or others) to hear.

I'd never heard of Joyner Lucas before, but I am grateful for his willingness to attack an issue that is bothering many of us...the state of race relations in America.

It's complex and deep and I really admire how he is going after this head on with an effort to be equitable and respectful while not backing down from the problem.

Frankly, I think we need more of that, so I am grateful that Joyner is out there setting an example in his own way.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Gratitude Journal-Day 11: Ragy Thomas

Ragy is the CEO of Sprinklr and 6 years ago, he changed my life.

After being introduced by a mutual friend and reading my blog (not this one, but the Never Stop Marketing blog), he reached out to me and insisted that I join him at Sprinklr.

I was skeptical. He was adamant and persistent (traits I would soon see a lot more of!) that it would be a career/life-changing move.

In more ways than one, he was right.

I remember, however, that his decision to hire me as VP/Marketing was met by some hesitation by some of his Board members and advisors, thinking that I didn't have the right skill set to do the job.

Ragy dismissed their concerns and believed in me.

It was-and is- a great feeling and I am forever grateful for that.

It's also a valuable lesson for the future. Another thing I for which I am grateful.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 10- Adam Faleder

Today I am grateful for Adam Faleder.

The reason I am grateful for him is that he knows how to make people feel special in a genuine way. He has a great sense of humor and a fantastic smile.

But what I am most grateful for is the fact that he constantly asks if he has done something that is "blog-worthy."

As if the crowning achievement of one's life is to be featured on this blog.

Well, my friend, today I am grateful for the fact that you make me feel like my blog- and what I have to say-has meaning.

That is both blog-worthy and, more importantly, worthy of gratitude.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 9- the Garbage Collectors

Monday is "trash" day in our neighborhood and every week, the trash and recycling trucks dutifully drive by, taking away our refuse and keeping our streets clean.

Ironically, I started watching the movie "Fences" this morning while on the treadmill. In it, Denzel plays a trash collector.

It got me thinking about how much these guys put up with and how it is a job that I personally would rather not have.  Yet, they do their job and make our lives better.

Without them, our neighborhoods would not be as clean and healthy as they are.

So, today, I am grateful for all of the people who pick up our garbage and do their jobs so well.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 8- the people of the coffee supply chain

I am a big coffee drinker.

I like to say that I am a married, 44 year old man, who has a minivan; I don't drink. I don't smoke. I am vegan.  There's not a lot of crazy in my I go hard on the caffeine!

I am sitting here with a cup of homemade bulletproof coffee that I just made (which I really like) and I just took a moment to think about all of the people who made this moment possible.

The people who grew the beans, harvested them, roasted them, shipped them, packaged them, made the machines to put them in bags, made the French Press, produced the ghee and coconut oil, and the Vitamix I use to blend it all.

Not to mention, the people who made the mug from which I am drinking.

It's actually quite overwhelming that there were so many people who worked without even knowing that I exist and through their efforts and innovations, I can enjoy this cup of coffee that fuels the writing of this blog post.

Trying to comprehend all of that actually makes the coffee taste that much better.

So, today I am grateful for my personal coffee supply chain.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 7-- postal/delivery drivers

It's gotten pretty cold recently here. For me, it's not super fun to be outside for a prolonged period of time.

Our mailman used to be Danny, until he retired. He was incredible and lived the USPS mantra of "neither rain, nor sleet..."

I learned once, but don't remember the name of our newest postal carrier. He's a really nice guy and is out there in all types of weather.

Same for the people who deliver our FedEx, UPS, Amazon packages and more. They are just super-efficient, professional, and nice.

They are, as some would say, "the last mile" and I feel bad that sometimes I am more excited about the thing they are delivering than I am grateful for the effort of the person delivering it.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 6- Ned Stutman

Today I am thankful for Ned Stutman and his legacy.

It is Thanksgiving Day and I just got back from the annual football game that is affectionately known as "the Ned Bowl."

Tragically, Ned died some years ago from cancer, but every year (and more often than that, at times), we are all reminded of his boundless energy, smile, great sense of humor, and passion for life during this game.

It was he who, in '86 or '87 (we don't remember exactly) took the initiative to get a football game going. We have played every year since.

He is missed, but his mark on the world is evident and appreciated specifically during this time of year.

I am grateful that there are people like Ned who have the energy to start something that adds value to the lives of others and give it enough momentum so that, even if the person is no longer with us, the tradition and meaning of the event persevere.

When I get the picture from this year's event (we had some first-timers as well), I'll post it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 5- Immigrant Workmen

Today I am grateful for the courage displayed by the immigrant workmen who recently completed the renovation of our bathroom.

These guys are impressive.  They left their homes in Central America as teenagers, knowing basically zero English. They came to America legally and were determined to improve their lives. They did this by developing  skills and a commitment to customer satisfaction. 

And it shows.

Their handiwork is evident in a beautifully built bathroom. The work ethic and professionalism they displayed the entire time was inspiring.

But what I loved most-particularly since I am working on this- was the sense of humility. They are grateful for the chance that America has given them and they don't take it for granted.

I am grateful for how they reminded me of what's really important and for giving me confidence that the American Dream is still alive.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Gratitude Journal- Day 4-- Hostesses with the Mostesses

Today I am grateful for all of the hostesses (and the occasional host) who have fed me over the years.

Sadly, until only recently, I didn't really appreciate how much work went into preparing a meal for a guest. I am a bit embarrassed to say that, especially during my college years and while traveling as a young man, I took advantage of the generosity of others who made food for me and allowed me to eat in their homes.

I am particularly reminded of Madame Picard in Strasbourg, France (no relation to Captain Picard) who really went out of her way to make food for me when it wasn't really her responsibility to do it. This was Fall of 1995 timeframe.

Honestly, I probably felt a bit entitled (or more than a bit) and I am feeling somewhat ashamed about that now, upon reflection. I'll see if I can track her down to apologize.

In any event, as my wife, mother, and numerous others in my family are preparing for Thanksgiving, I am going to try and take a few moments to think about all of the effort that goes into a meal and not take these things for granted in the future.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Gratitude Journal: Day 3- Nurit Bar-Yosef

Today I am thankful for Nurit Bar-Yosef, her parents, and all of the musicians (and their families) who play for the National Symphony Orchestra.

Nurit is the concertmaster (a term I had to look up) that refers to the first violin and she plays beautifully.

As I sat in the Kennedy Center, next to Aaron who had the idea that we go, I couldn't help but think about the countless hours that Nurit had spent practicing to get to the level where she is right now.  I imagined her parents driving her to lessons, paying for them, taking her all over the world probably, getting some ridiculously expensive violin to play on, and the sacrifices they made.

Nurit probably made sacrifices as well, practicing violin instead of going out and hanging with her friends.

I was thinking about Malcolm Gladwell's theory of "10,000 hours" to become a master at something and thinking that Nurit had done all of that.

And, in that moment, I realized-and was grateful for the fact- that she had done all of that work so that I could enjoy it and appreciate it and feel uplifted and inspired by the sounds of the violin.

It was powerful.

And when I thought about it in that context, the $44 for the ticket seemed like a bargain.  A lifetime of practice, dedication and sacrifice by her and all of the musicians to get to a level of perfection that moved me.

I felt really grateful to be there in that moment and for all they did to make it special and memorable.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Gratitude Journal: Day 2- Girls on the Run

This morning, I joined Lakkanen in the Girls on the Run event in Montgomery County, MD.  I am grateful that this organization exists to help girls feel empowered to succeed.

The last few weeks of revelations about Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Roy Moore, and all the others has really forced many men, I think, to ask themselves how we are part of the problem.  It's not a fun process of introspection, if we are truly being honest with ourselves, and it is uncomfortable.  It is also not easy (at least not for me) to recognize and admit many of my unconscious biases about women that I have picked up over the years and now have to de-program.

So, I am grateful that Girls on the Run is there to help us see this issue through a very positive event and to participate in it with my daughter so my frame of reference is properly aligned.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Gratitude Journal Day 1- the friends in the community

One of the things I am graetful for today are the friends I have in my community.

On a weekly basis, I am inspired by them and challenged by them to think about the world of Bitcoin and blockchain from a huge range of perspectives.

It's invigorating.

For example,

Behnam helps me think about legal issues.

David/Steve help me think about cutting-edge token issues.

Charles helps me think about NSM strategy.

Jacob helps me think about market topography

Tevi helps me think about blockchain and government and politics.

Jon/David help me think about the security considerations.

Dave helps me think about sales and service.

Jonathan helps me think about regulator, tax, and money supply.

Eitan helps me think about value and measurement.

Ari helps me think about the user experience and tools.

There are many more as well like Joe, Aaron, Ed, and Neil.

Each of these people are very accomplished in their own right so the fact that I have an advisory board of such high competence is just amazing.

I am very grateful to have the opportunity to learn from them.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Abraham: Forefather of Bitcoin and the Blockchain

This was the sermon I gave at my synagogue yesterday (Nov. 11).
Some concepts may be unfamiliar to some readers, but either way, I think/hope you'll enjoy it.

Avraham: Forefather of Bitcoin and the Blockchain

Before I begin, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that today is Veterans Day and I’d like to thank all of you in the audience today who have served this great country of ours.  

I also want to thank my wife, Tamar, who, as I like to say, “helps put the ‘Torah’ in my “Dvar Torah.””

If you have had a conversation with me in the past 18 months, you know that I pretty much have a one-track mind.  Yep, all I think about is Bitcoin and the technology that underlies it, the blockchain.

For the 3 people in this room who haven’t heard of it from me, the key thing to understand is that just like email or a browser is an application that uses the Internet, Bitcoin is an application that uses a blockchain. And just like the Internet has spawned millions of applications, blockchains will (and are) spawning an entire new set of applications.

What makes blockchain so powerful is that it mimics the power of the Internet in terms of speed, cost, and ease of transmission of items of information, but does it with assets or items of value, all without the need for any 3rd party intermediary.  

So, any institution such as a bank, a brokerage, the better business bureau, that serves as an intermediary trust agent between two parties is no longer needed.

Now, I realize that the concept of a blockchain is not easy to comprehend as, on the surface, it represents a pretty significant paradigm shift.

But it’s really not.

In fact, this week’s parsha, Chayyei Sarah, shows us that Avraham Avinu laid the philosophical groundwork for blockchain in his purchase of the cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite.

What we see, upon closer examination, is that the concept of the blockchain serves as Avraham’s “original intent” for how assets should be transferred in order to protect property rights and maintain civil society.

The major difference between then and now is the fact that our hi-speed internet and powerful computers and phones allow us to do business in the exact same way that Avraham intended, just at global scale.

Let’s take a look by starting at Chapter 22, verse 10.

“Now Ephron was sitting in the midst of the children of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at that the gate of the city”

In Nahum Sarna’s book, “Understanding Genesis,” he explains that “it was the practice to conduct the affairs of the community in the gateway, a popular meeting place for public gatherings.”

The gate as a locus for asset and information exchange is something that is familiar throughout Tanach.

For example,
  • Lot was sitting at the gate when the messengers came to him
  • Boaz goes to the gate to redeem Elimelech’s estate
  • Amos asks of Israel to “establish justice in the gate.”

It turns out that many ancient Near Eastern documents end with a formula “the tablet was written after the proclamation in the entrance of the gate.”

Sarna writes, “the idea was to give the widest possible publicity to the settlement and to obtain the confirmation of the entire community, so that the likelihood of future litigation might be eliminated.”

There is a concept in the study of biblical text called a “Milah Mancha” which basically is a thematic word that repeats itself multiple times in a given section in order to drive home a specific point.

In this story, it is the root “shin--mem---ayin’ which forms the word שמע and of course means “hear.”  

This root word appears 6 times in the story, signifying the importance of multiple confirmations in a transaction.

I would argue that the repetition of the word “hear” is not just for Avraham and Ephron, it’s for everyone listening so that the story can be retold and a collective memory is established

Lastly, the transaction took place directly between Avraham and Ephron. No intermediaries

So, let’s think about the reason why Avraham insisted on a direct transaction with no intermediaries, with multiple confirmations, the need for an established collective memory, and to do it all in an open space that anyone could verify was for one reason.

He needed immutability.

When all was said and done, there could be no doubt at any point down the road that the transaction had occurred. Avraham needed to be recognized as the legal owner of the land.

This was particularly acute because Avraham knew that as a “resident alien” he was at a legal disadvantage, so he needed a large consensus to provide additional security.

Now, let’s get back to my favorite topic, blockchain.

Blockchains work by cryptographically securing a certain number of entries in a global ledger in a box, or a “block” of data. Each block is then cryptographically linked to the block that came before it and the block that comes after it.  A series of blocks linked together and you have a chain. Hence, “blockchain.”

These records are not kept in one place on one computer.

Instead, they are decentralized among many different computers in the network.  In short, blockchain technology offers the same thing that Avraham sought...a tamper-resistant immutable record of transactions.

The reason for this is because you have removed the risks associated with centralization of information.

In order for the Avraham’s deal to be rolled back, Ephron would have to corrupt every single person who was a witness to the transaction or a passerby at the gate.

Similarly, to change a blockchain database requires changing not one computer but the majority of the computers in the network.

In both cases, they are doable, but they are also potentially very expensive and time-consuming tasks.

Blockchain transactions occur on a peer-to-peer basis with no intermediaries.

One person sends an item of value to another person directly. Other computers and people in the network can verify that the transaction happened.  The blockchain is open and its history and transactions can be viewed by anyone. In other words, anyone can stand in the blockchain gate, if they want.

As for direct witnesses, in the Bitcoin world, we call them “miners.” They serve to confirm that a transaction actually went through.

And for those of you who remember that the word “שמע” appears 6 times in this story, you may take comfort in knowing that a Bitcoin transaction isn’t considered final until it has been confirmed by a constant pre-defined number of blocks.  That number?  Six.

Since the release of the Bitcoin blockchain on January 3, 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, interest in the past and future of blockchains has grown dramatically.  Many of the earliest pioneers are celebrated for their groundbreaking work...and rightfully so.

To that list, I am proud to add Avraham Avinu.

His thoughtful and conscious parameters for creating a transactional environment that could serve the test of time, protecting citizens and resident aliens alike, is the biblical foundation for the blockchain revolution which we are witnessing.

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

PSA: Bitcoin

OK, this is not to be construed to be investment advice. Any decision you make is entirely your own. It is volatile and risky. Do not buy any more than you can afford to lost.

If you have been considering buying some Bitcoin, my rough analysis suggests that between now and the end of the year is the time to do it.

From what I can tell and what I have been hearing, there is a huge amount of institutional money that is about to pour into the asset. With fixed supply and increased demand...well, you know what happens then.

There is PLENTY of risk and that's why I don't advocate (for most people) putting anything more than 1% into it.

Still, I know there are some people who have been on the fence and given the ongoing "mainstreamification" of Bitcoin (e.g. the announcement by CME), I have a feeling-and that is all that it is-- that there could be a big price jump come early January.

Again, I could be way wrong, but just my opinion.

Monday, October 30, 2017

What can you buy with Bitcoin or Crypto tokens?

Well, I just bought a Ring wi-fi doorbell on and paid for it with District0x tokens.

Never heard of District0x? No worries.

They take Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum and 30+ others....

Thursday, October 26, 2017

On America's role in the world

In the past few years, I have the fortunate opportunity to travel to many foreign countries including Israel, Switzerland, France, UK, Denmark, Hungary, Estonia, Brazil, and Japan.

When I chat with people (as you know I do), and they ask me about American politics. I express my sadness at the amount of discord we currently have. 

I'm pretty patriotic, believe in the ideals of America, and think that the Constitution is one of the greatest documents of all time.

While Europeans, in particular, like to poke fun at Americans, deep down, I think they admire what America represents.

They may make comments about how much we spend on defense, but in their moments of intellectual honesty, they will admit, "when things get nasty, we're pretty glad you do it."

They also recognize that, if America totally opened its borders, there would be 1 billion people who would try and immigrate the next day.

They understand that, despite all of our flaws, we have a product that is in ridiculously high demand worldwide.

They want us to lead.

We're not doing it.

And I'm not going down the anti-Trump or anti-GOP route. I think the Democrats are just as bad. Trump may be failing us now, but Obama failed us in Iran and N. Korea...and probably China.

I'm not sure where/why we became this way, but I think it's a symptom of a disease internal to the US which I don't fully understand.

I'm not saying the US is better in all respects than every other country and there are plenty of reasons why someone (rationally) would choose to live there.  All I am saying is that, at this stage in world history, I believe America has a unique role to play and we're not playing it.

Republicans and Democrats share the blame and I wish (I know, naively) that they could see what I see when I talk to people.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Now you don't even have to go to the coffee shop

I work from home and I make my own coffee.

Thanks to Coffitivity, I can now drink my own coffee, save the money, avoid the trip to the store AND still get the benefits of feeling like I am sitting in one.

It plays the ambient noises you hear at a coffee shop which, according to some studies, actually help you focus.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Some of My Life Hacks Edition

I saw Warren Buffet on Charlie Rose a few weeks ago where he said something like:

"I'm rich. I can buy anything I want. But you know what I can't buy?  I can't buy time. I have the same amount as everyone else."

Though some would argue that you can "buy time" by getting a Roomba (just got one), it got me thinking about some of the "life hacks" that I employ so I can use the time I have the way I want.

  • get up btw 4-5am each morning to have focus time (per WSJ)
  • schedule conference calls back to back and then take them while walking through the park (work+exercise)
  • on video calls, I do curls (keeps my hands off the keyboard so I stay focused on the conversation and builds muscle)
  • listen to audible books at 1.7 speed and watch youtube at 1.5x speed
  • take cold showers (it has the affect of getting me out of the shower faster), but I do it because of what I learned in The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick: What They Know, Why It Works, and How It Can Work for You
  • my admin, Mary...huge.  She does all kinds of things for me. Most recently, she dealt with the local water company and power company to resolve some issues. Saved me a lot of time from waiting on hold.
  • batch processing...put similar tasks together which is why Watch Later on YouTube and Pocket are so valuable
  • keep my head shaved. No prep time. No shampoo time.
  • Right I can write emails now and schedule them to be sent later, i.e. when someone says "hey, remind me of this next week."  I just write the email at that moment and schedule it to be sent in a week.

There are some of mine. What about yours?
What are yours?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Sabbath is a Competitive Advantage in the Smartphone Era

There are many reasons to observe the Jewish Sabbath.  Ranging from "I believe God commanded it" to "it's a great time for family and community."

I'm going to add one more.

In the always-on digital, smartphone age, it actually is a competitive advantage.

Far from FOMO, what the voluntary 24 hour break from all forms of technology and media does is not just force you to have in-person conversations, it gives you the time to do deep reading, intense reflection, and rumination (the new 3 R's).

I will often print out some of the most intellectually demanding articles about crypto/blockchain/Bitcoin to read over Shabbat and, since there are no distractions or any kind, I can focus.

Then, I can internalize it without being rushed.

More than 10 years ago when Nicholas Carr first published his ideas in an article and subsequent book, "The Shallows," many people laughed at him.

His thesis was flawed as we all believed that always-on access to information would make us smarter.

Kudos to him, he hasn't given up on his thesis and now, he is back with reams of data after 10 years of study, supporting his case.

And it's convincing (pasted below for those who can't access the link from WSJ).

I use a device called Circle by Disney to manage and limit time for my kids during the week, but I know that the battle against screens is a challenging one.

However, on Shabbat, everyone screens. Not negotiable, not debatable, and not even an issue. Plus, we don't have to go to or pay for a Digital Detox Retreat (over 250k listings) and we have a built-in operating system for how to enjoy the day.

Carr's closing makes the case for me.

When we constrict our capacity for reasoning and recall or transfer those skills to a gadget, we sacrifice our ability to turn information into knowledge. We get the data but lose the meaning. Upgrading our gadgets won’t solve the problem. We need to give our minds more room to think. 

And that means putting some distance between ourselves and our phones.

That is exactly what the Sabbath is designed to do, a physical separation between you and the world of work. 

Turns out, it's even more beneficial that originally thought.

Full Article

So you bought that new iPhone. If you are like the typical owner, you’ll be pulling your phone out and using it some 80 times a day, according to data Apple collects. That means you’ll be consulting the glossy little rectangle nearly 30,000 times over the coming year. Your new phone, like your old one, will become your constant companion and trusty factotum—your teacher, secretary, confessor, guru. The two of you will be inseparable.
The smartphone is unique in the annals of personal technology. We keep the gadget within reach more or less around the clock, and we use it in countless ways, consulting its apps and checking its messages and heeding its alerts scores of times a day. The smartphone has become a repository of the self, recording and dispensing the words, sounds and images that define what we think, what we experience and who we are. In a 2015 Gallup survey, more than half of iPhone owners said that they couldn’t imagine life without the device.
We love our phones for good reasons. It’s hard to imagine another product that has provided so many useful functions in such a handy form. But while our phones offer convenience and diversion, they also breed anxiety. Their extraordinary usefulness gives them an unprecedented hold on our attention and vast influence over our thinking and behavior. So what happens to our minds when we allow a single tool such dominion over our perception and cognition?
Scientists have begun exploring that question—and what they’re discovering is both fascinating and troubling. Not only do our phones shape our thoughts in deep and complicated ways, but the effects persist even when we aren’t using the devices. As the brain grows dependent on the technology, the research suggests, the intellect weakens.
The division of attention impedes reasoning and performance.
Adrian Ward, a cognitive psychologist and marketing professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has been studying the way smartphones and the internet affect our thoughts and judgments for a decade. In his own work, as well as that of others, he has seen mounting evidence that using a smartphone, or even hearing one ring or vibrate, produces a welter of distractions that makes it harder to concentrate on a difficult problem or job. The division of attention impedes reasoning and performance.
A 2015 Journal of Experimental Psychology study, involving 166 subjects, found that when people’s phones beep or buzz while they’re in the middle of a challenging task, their focus wavers, and their work gets sloppier—whether they check the phone or not. Another 2015 study, which involved 41 iPhone users and appeared in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, showed that when people hear their phone ring but are unable to answer it, their blood pressure spikes, their pulse quickens, and their problem-solving skills decline.
The earlier research didn’t explain whether and how smartphones differ from the many other sources of distraction that crowd our lives. Dr. Ward suspected that our attachment to our phones has grown so intense that their mere presence might diminish our intelligence. Two years ago, he and three colleagues— Kristen Duke and Ayelet Gneezy from the University of California, San Diego, and Disney Research behavioral scientist Maarten Bos —began an ingenious experiment to test his hunch.
The researchers recruited 520 undergraduate students at UCSD and gave them two standard tests of intellectual acuity. One test gauged “available cognitive capacity,” a measure of how fully a person’s mind can focus on a particular task. The second assessed “fluid intelligence,” a person’s ability to interpret and solve an unfamiliar problem. The only variable in the experiment was the location of the subjects’ smartphones. Some of the students were asked to place their phones in front of them on their desks; others were told to stow their phones in their pockets or handbags; still others were required to leave their phones in a different room.
As the phone’s proximity increased, brainpower decreased.
The results were striking. In both tests, the subjects whose phones were in view posted the worst scores, while those who left their phones in a different room did the best. The students who kept their phones in their pockets or bags came out in the middle. As the phone’s proximity increased, brainpower decreased.
In subsequent interviews, nearly all the participants said that their phones hadn’t been a distraction—that they hadn’t even thought about the devices during the experiment. They remained oblivious even as the phones disrupted their focus and thinking.
A second experiment conducted by the researchers produced similar results, while also revealing that the more heavily students relied on their phones in their everyday lives, the greater the cognitive penalty they suffered.
In an April article in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, Dr. Ward and his colleagues wrote that the “integration of smartphones into daily life” appears to cause a “brain drain” that can diminish such vital mental skills as “learning, logical reasoning, abstract thought, problem solving, and creativity.” Smartphones have become so entangled with our existence that, even when we’re not peering or pawing at them, they tug at our attention, diverting precious cognitive resources. Just suppressing the desire to check our phone, which we do routinely and subconsciously throughout the day, can debilitate our thinking. The fact that most of us now habitually keep our phones “nearby and in sight,” the researchers noted, only magnifies the mental toll.
Dr. Ward’s findings are consistent with other recently published research. In a similar but smaller 2014 study (involving 47 subjects) in the journal Social Psychology, psychologists at the University of Southern Maine found that people who had their phones in view, albeit turned off, during two demanding tests of attention and cognition made significantly more errors than did a control group whose phones remained out of sight. (The two groups performed about the same on a set of easier tests.)
In another study, published in Applied Cognitive Psychology in April, researchers examined how smartphones affected learning in a lecture class with 160 students at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. They found that students who didn’t bring their phones to the classroom scored a full letter-grade higher on a test of the material presented than those who brought their phones. It didn’t matter whether the students who had their phones used them or not: All of them scored equally poorly. A study of 91 secondary schools in the U.K., published last year in the journal Labour Economics, found that when schools ban smartphones, students’ examination scores go up substantially, with the weakest students benefiting the most.
It isn’t just our reasoning that takes a hit when phones are around. Social skills and relationships seem to suffer as well. Because smartphones serve as constant reminders of all the friends we could be chatting with electronically, they pull at our minds when we’re talking with people in person, leaving our conversations shallower and less satisfying.
In a study conducted at the University of Essex in the U.K., 142 participants were divided into pairs and asked to converse in private for 10 minutes. Half talked with a phone in the room, while half had no phone present. The subjects were then given tests of affinity, trust and empathy. “The mere presence of mobile phones,” the researchers reported in 2013 in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, “inhibited the development of interpersonal closeness and trust” and diminished “the extent to which individuals felt empathy and understanding from their partners.” The downsides were strongest when “a personally meaningful topic” was being discussed. The experiment’s results were validated in a subsequent study by Virginia Tech researchers, published in 2016 in the journal Environment and Behavior.
The evidence that our phones can get inside our heads so forcefully is unsettling. It suggests that our thoughts and feelings, far from being sequestered in our skulls, can be skewed by external forces we’re not even aware of.
Scientists have long known that the brain is a monitoring system as well as a thinking system. Its attention is drawn toward any object that is new, intriguing or otherwise striking—that has, in the psychological jargon, “salience.” Media and communications devices, from telephones to TV sets, have always tapped into this instinct. Whether turned on or switched off, they promise an unending supply of information and experiences. By design, they grab and hold our attention in ways natural objects never could.
But even in the history of captivating media, the smartphone stands out. It is an attention magnet unlike any our minds have had to grapple with before. Because the phone is packed with so many forms of information and so many useful and entertaining functions, it acts as what Dr. Ward calls a “supernormal stimulus,” one that can “hijack” attention whenever it is part of our surroundings—which it always is. Imagine combining a mailbox, a newspaper, a TV, a radio, a photo album, a public library and a boisterous party attended by everyone you know, and then compressing them all into a single, small, radiant object. That is what a smartphone represents to us. No wonder we can’t take our minds off it.
The irony of the smartphone is that the qualities we find most appealing—its constant connection to the net, its multiplicity of apps, its responsiveness, its portability—are the very ones that give it such sway over our minds. Phone makers like Apple and Samsungand app writers like Facebook and Google design their products to consume as much of our attention as possible during every one of our waking hours, and we thank them by buying millions of the gadgets and downloading billions of the apps every year.
A quarter-century ago, when we first started going online, we took it on faith that the web would make us smarter: More information would breed sharper thinking. We now know it isn’t that simple. The way a media device is designed and used exerts at least as much influence over our minds as does the information that the device unlocks.
People’s knowledge may dwindle as gadgets grant them easier access to online data.
As strange as it might seem, people’s knowledge and understanding may actually dwindle as gadgets grant them easier access to online data stores. In a seminal 2011 studypublished in Science, a team of researchers—led by the Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow and including the late Harvard memory expert Daniel Wegner —had a group of volunteers read 40 brief, factual statements (such as “The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry over Texas in Feb. 2003”) and then type the statements into a computer. Half the people were told that the machine would save what they typed; half were told that the statements would be immediately erased.
Afterward, the researchers asked the subjects to write down as many of the statements as they could remember. Those who believed that the facts had been recorded in the computer demonstrated much weaker recall than those who assumed the facts wouldn’t be stored. Anticipating that information would be readily available in digital form seemed to reduce the mental effort that people made to remember it. The researchers dubbed this phenomenon the “Google effect” and noted its broad implications: “Because search engines are continually available to us, we may often be in a state of not feeling we need to encode the information internally. When we need it, we will look it up.”
Now that our phones have made it so easy to gather information online, our brains are likely offloading even more of the work of remembering to technology. If the only thing at stake were memories of trivial facts, that might not matter. But, as the pioneering psychologist and philosopher William James said in an 1892 lecture, “the art of remembering is the art of thinking.” Only by encoding information in our biological memory can we weave the rich intellectual associations that form the essence of personal knowledge and give rise to critical and conceptual thinking. No matter how much information swirls around us, the less well-stocked our memory, the less we have to think with.
We aren’t very good at distinguishing the knowledge we keep in our heads from the information we find on our phones.
This story has a twist. It turns out that we aren’t very good at distinguishing the knowledge we keep in our heads from the information we find on our phones or computers. As Dr. Wegner and Dr. Ward explained in a 2013 Scientific American article, when people call up information through their devices, they often end up suffering from delusions of intelligence. They feel as though “their own mental capacities” had generated the information, not their devices. “The advent of the ‘information age’ seems to have created a generation of people who feel they know more than ever before,” the scholars concluded, even though “they may know ever less about the world around them.”
That insight sheds light on our society’s current gullibility crisis, in which people are all too quick to credit lies and half-truths spread through social media by Russian agents and other bad actors. If your phone has sapped your powers of discernment, you’ll believe anything it tells you.
Data, the novelist and critic Cynthia Ozick once wrote, is “memory without history.” Her observation points to the problem with allowing smartphones to commandeer our brains. When we constrict our capacity for reasoning and recall or transfer those skills to a gadget, we sacrifice our ability to turn information into knowledge. We get the data but lose the meaning. Upgrading our gadgets won’t solve the problem. We need to give our minds more room to think. And that means putting some distance between ourselves and our phones.
Mr. Carr is the author of “The Shallows” and “Utopia Is Creepy,” among other books.

Appeared in the October 7, 2017, print edition as 'How Smart- phones Hijack Our Minds.'