Thursday, November 24, 2011

Black (and Blue) Friday

According to the life expectancy here in the USA is 77.9 years.  It must be true; it's on the Internet, right?

If one omits the first 18 years of life (when we don’t really know anything about anything) that leaves around 60 good years we are actually involved in the Thanksgiving feast. 60 celebrations with friends, family - and all who make life worth living.  That's 60 official days to celebrate things that we all take for granted. Not very many days, when you think about it.  What did you think about today? 

I thought about L-tryptophan today.

L-tryptophan is an amino acid, a protein building block that can be found in many plant and animal proteins. L-tryptophan is called an “essential” amino acid because the body can’t make it. It must be acquired from food. Like Turkey.

L-tryptophan is used for insomnia, sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, facial pain, a severe form of premenstrual syndrome called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), smoking cessation, grinding teeth during sleep (bruxism), attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette's syndrome, and to improve athletic performance.

How do I know all of this about L-tryptophan? 

I Googled it from my massage chair in the living room.  From my technology powered chair, parked in front of my big screen HDTV while watching (multiple) football games. I wanted to make sure that I was just feeling the effect of L-tryptophan and not suffering from something more interesting, like a stroke.  I’m all good - it is the turkey that is making me slip into a coma.

My two sons (and their friends home from college) are using their iPads from the living room, as we get ready for “Black Friday”.  I'm planning on joining my sons and their friends for Black Friday sales to buy (what else) more electronics and technology toys. Wal-Mart actually opens at 10pm tonight, and we have a “Super Wal-Mart” less than a mile from our home.  Then, our local mall opens at 4am. On Black Friday, you can buy technology gadgets that do magical things, like video chatting live in High Definition video with global friends and family who could not make it home for the holidays.  iPhone 4S anyone?

If I don’t go with the boys tonight (blame the L-tryptophan) I will send my debit card with them on my behalf. My debit card will email and/or text the results of every purchase.  I hope they are not thinking that I will be surprised by anything they buy for Christmas presents; my debit card tells all (in real-time) at the time of purchase.

Thanksgiving is the official “kick-off” of the holiday season.  From today until three days after the New Year, I am officially in cruise control mode.  For me, the annual effects of L-tryptophan lasts around 40 days.  It is not common for this feeling to last this long, but my Twitter followers and Facebook friends say is it not unheard-of.  I will rely on audio, web and HD videoconferencing for the next 40 days, as I travel the globe for mandatory Christmas and New Years "business" parties.

Great times with family and friends, this is what Thanksgiving is all about. How many families are like mine, playing football on Thanksgiving day, working up an appetite?  Get-off-the-couch fun whether you're 5 or 95 - that's why Nintendo Wii™ was invented, right? 

Here’s to hoping that you have a safe and Happy (Technology filled) Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

iWoz Impressed

On this past Monday, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my heroes: Steve “the Woz” Wozniak, Co-founder of Apple.

Before cell phones that fit in the palm of your hand and laptops that fit snugly into briefcases, computers were like strange, alien vending machines. They had cryptic switches, punch cards and pages of encoded output. When I was fifteen years old, a young engineering wizard named Steve Wozniak had an idea: What if you combined computer circuitry with a typewriter keyboard and a video screen? The result was the first true personal computer, the Apple I, an affordable machine that anyone could understand and figure out how to use.

Wozniak's life—before and after Apple—is a mix of brilliant discovery and adventure, as an engineer, a concert promoter, a fifth-grade teacher, a philanthropist, and an irrepressible prankster. From the invention of the first personal computer to the rise of Apple as an industry giant, the Woz ignited the computer revolution.

Personally, I'm intrigued by the science-based creativity that led to early Apple products, and also the psychologically-savvy thinking that went into making computers (and now phones) user-friendly. 

The Woz’s live presentation is for a specialized audience. You need to be interested in the early history of personal computers. You need to get a kick out of the amusing but sometimes unflattering lore that defined Apple's history and culture. You need to want to know about Wozniak's remarkably innovative engineering as well as Apple's entrepreneurship. You have to dig the views and personality of a successful but reclusive countercultural person. 

It probably helps if you dream about making innovative contributions to the world somewhere, somehow, in your own personal way.

When he claims to have "invented" the personal computer, he's not being too grandiose. He created some really beautiful early computers. These contraptions were the first to have typewriter based keyboards; the first to be useable right out of the box; the first low-cost computers to have color, sound, hi-res graphics, and floppy disks. He developed software that changed industry standards. Wozniak was the origin of these ideas, surrounded by creative geniuses like Steve Jobs and others. The Woz was one of the great "out of the box" thinkers of the Silicon Valley "revolution."  

The circuit boards of the early Apple machines were works of art and genius. The components were arranged in ways that defied conventional wisdom. Today the technology is obsolete but the beauty endures. Wozniak was primarily responsible for all of this great stuff. 

Meeting him in person helps to understand Wozniak's personality and thinking style. He was the math-science-electrical guy who works privately in the back while he implements the vision of what a product can be. (Wozniak is part scientist, part artist).

When he speaks, Wozniak shares influences, anecdotes and pranks. This is not the guy who habitually seeks power or the limelight. He's the guy who normally would toil in obscurity, surrounded by friends who let him do his thing and appreciate his skillful vision (and nutty sense of humor). He was able to work among the corporate power brokers for a number of years, on his terms, but was not the sort of person who will immerse himself in corporate culture for long. 

Steve Wozniak is a brilliant guy with a big heart and a wicked sense of humor. I can imagine how his sense of generosity, justice and creative thinking might make it hard to endure the growing pains of a company like Apple. 

The Woz offered his advice to technology entrapreneures: Don't waver; see things in grayscale; work alone; follow your instincts. His thoughts are worth contemplation. Keep in mind that he is speaking about his way; there's no one right way. 

Steve gave me his "metal" business card (he designed it himself) and he said that would be willing to speak to the students at UCONN and Quinnipiac the next time he is in Connecticut. Both of my sons were impressed as these are their schools. When you call his private phone number – you get the Woz – and he actually returns his calls - himself. I think this is the most impressive thing of all.  

Maybe I should have titled this blog “My Friend the Billionaire”.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Superpowers and the Grandmother Rule

Technology makes smart people smarter, and it makes dumb people dumber. Or better put, technology “allows” people to amplify who they really are, deep down inside.  Twitter, Facebook, YouTube – these technologies give the masses a voice.  Everyone with access to a keyboard or a webcam is now a writer, a blogger or video artist.

Technology has the ability to heal or harm. Distance learning can change the world, and provide amazing opportunities to the world’s youth.  But the same technology that powers distance learning can also spread a message of hate.

Who first said "with great power comes great responsibility"?

Despite what Marvel and the movies would have us believe, this epic and powerful quote does not come from a Hollywood script writing team but from the revolutionary ridden and passionate literary haven that was 19th century France. Credit has been given to Stan Lee (creator of Spiderman) Franklin D. Roosevelt and even Winston Churchill at various stages, however the first literary record of this can be attributed to Francois-Marie Arouet aka Voltaire. Much like Victor Hugo, Voltaire was disturbed by the sickening abuse of authority and privilege by those in power while the poor and deprived starved and suffered around him.

Technology changes lives.  Just as gunpowder changed modern warfare, the Internet and “near free” instantaneous global voice and video communication have completely changed the world.

This blog (once posted) has the capacity of having millions of people read it and comment on it.  It can be tweeted, reposted, forwarded, and it can circle the globe in seconds. The same goes for videos, emails and tweets that we all send every day. How many of us stop and think about the power that we possess, that we almost always take for granted?

The Spiderman movies of the past ten years have recycled the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility”. The technology of today has indeed given “superpowers” to all of us, without having to endure the pain a radioactive spider bite.

As this quote from Voltaire (and Stan Lee) reminds us, we all have the power to help or hurt, to do good or to do harm, every single day.

My advice, please use your superpowers wisely. One way to do this is to remember the Grandmother Rule. Before you blog about it, tweet about it, or upload it to YouTube, stop and ask yourself this question: would your grandmother approve?

Would your grandmother be proud of you, if she read your latest post on Facebook?  Or your wife, or your husband, or your kids?  Please - use your superpowers for good and not evil. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011


1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
2. good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for.

I try to walk our dog Bella in the park every day.  It’s good for her and it is good for me too. We are lucky to have several large parks where we live, where you can take dogs off the leash, and let ‘em run.

Yesterday, we went to the “boat launch” park which I believe to be her favorite, as Bella is a water dog.  Just a few minutes after we arrived, Bella spotted a black lab named “Cooper”. This is where it gets dicey; sometimes all goes well and everyone is friendly. And sometimes the Doggie D├ętente goes bad. 

Bella and Cooper bonded quickly, as did the couple and I.  We started walking together, chatting about everything from dogs to the weather. After around 30 minutes of walking and talking, we came to the point in the path where Bella and I usually peel off and Bella and I normally head off into the woods.  I took out a business card to give them, thinking that if they ever wanted to let Bella and Cooper have a play date, they should give me a call. But, as a consummate salesman, I never miss an opportunity to exchange business cards, just on general principles.

“Thomas Capone?  Hey…. are you the Tom Capone speaking at Quinnipiac University this month?”

Whaaaaaaattttt???  I know what a heart attack feels like, and this was just an anxiety attack. 

It turns out that this couple (specifically this gentleman) graduated from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut in ‘82.  He now works for Quinnipiac University as the Regional Development Officer. The couple lives in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. Both of my sons graduated from Mountain Lakes High School (which is around a two hour drive from QU).  This is the same University in Connecticut where my son Tom Jr. goes to school, and where I will be presenting to the students of the Quinnipiac School of Business this month.

Well – we then spent ANOTHER hour walking and talking.  We talked about kids in college today, about getting jobs, the global economy, helping students with job placements, the recent passing of Steven Jobs, and everything in-between.  I have made a successful sales and business career out of “meeting people” and turning such chance and innocent encounters into deep, profitable and rewarding long-term relationships. 

Cooper may not be aware of this just yet, but he will be seeing a lot of Bella in the future.  

When I got home I told my wife the story, and then we called my son at Quinnipiac (he was at the QU hockey game but he could still hear me). One does not need a master's degree in statistics to see that this is all pretty freaky.  What if Bella and I went to a different park yesterday?  What if we simply went to that same park - but at a different time of day?  What if the dogs were not friendly?  Think about it – had Bella walked just a little faster, or a little slower, we would have never met Cooper or his “parents”.

And - what if I never took out my business card?

When I speak to students at colleges and universities about jobs and careers, I stress the fact that you must “make your own luck” in this world. I received an email from Cooper’s “Dad” yesterday.  I showed him everything that I am doing with Rutgers University, and what I hope to do with Quinnipiac.  He said in response to my emails: 

The simple fact is a college diploma today is a starting point not an end point.  The more we expose/train students to understand the broad range of possibilities only increases their opportunity to reach a high quality end point.” 

I like this guy – he sounds like me!

When I speak to students at various colleges and universities about jobs and careers, I will be adding another important item to my list - I also think that you should get a dog, preferably a lab.