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.