Sunday, July 21, 2019

Heads I do the hard thing

"What are the odds that you will be coming home?" Wow.

I have two amazing sons. I think that the special purpose of any parent (or leader) is to teach everything you know.

When they were young, from time to time, my boys would come to me with a problem. The classic, "I don't know what to do" question that we all have experienced in our lives. When I was growing up I learned a lesson from my father, that I was happy to pass on to my two sons.

Which of the choices would be harder to do? 

If it truly is a toss up, if you really could flip a coin, which would be HARDER, the more DIFFICULT thing to do?

Do that. Because if the options are truly equally good or bad, doing the thing that is more difficult will give you more satisfaction, more joy, and ultimately provide more reward for you - and for others.

When you are torn between saying yes or no, when you swing between staying or going, doing or not doing, taking the leap or staying put - simply ask yourself - which would the more difficult thing to do? 

Last night (on July 20th, 2019) we all watched "First Man" the movie about NASA's mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on the years 1961 - 1969. I was born in 1960 and I know EXACTLY where I was when Neil Armstrong stepped off the LEM. Now let's reflect.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_choose_to_go_to_the_Moon

What if JFK never gave his speech at Rice University on September 12th, 1962?

OF COURSE it was going to be hard - and very EXPENSIVE. The technology required to go to the moon did not even exist. We were at war at the time, and there were PLENTY of things that needed attention and money back home. JFK gave that speech because most people at the time were against the mission. Too expensive, and too difficult. Too......hard.

People were going to die along the way. There would be setbacks. There would be tragedy, and pain and suffering. And yet, the Leader of the Free World set us on a path to do the hard things. Because they were hard.

We, all of us, are humans. Effectively, we are all some form of smart monkeys. Our brains are hard-wired for survival. It's hard to pass on our genes if we don't live long enough to find a mate. Taking risks seems to be against our primary mission of survival.

And yet, there is something in our smart monkey brains that pushes us to do risky things, dangerous things, difficult things - hard things. In fact, our entire purpose seems to be to explore, to take risks, to do things that are SO HARD, and so difficult, that they change our lives - and the lives of our future generations forever.

And there it is. Taking risks - doing hard things - actually ensures the survival of our future generations. Doing hard things is the right thing to do, always. When we say to ourselves "I don't know what I should do" our smart monkey brains are lying to us. We actually know exactly what do to. We know the right answer. We just pause to see if there is a shortcut, an easy way out. Hint: there is none. The obstacle is the path. We don't control what happens to us, we control how we react to what happens to us. Stoicism. 

What is the next BHAG for our country? Or how about the next BHAG your family? Your business? What is the next BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS THING that you shall choose to do - BECAUSE it is hard?

OK, fine. If you MUST flip a coin:

Heads - do the hard thing.
Tails - keep flipping until it comes up heads......

President Kennedy's BHAG Speech at Rice University





Sunday, July 14, 2019

Must Love Dogs

Last week, I was invited by a friend to a VIP event in NYC. It was the grand opening of a bank branch, their first in New York City. It was a bank that at this point, I never heard of.

I had no reason to be in New York City on that day. This would be a special trip to the city. After vacillating back and forth, I agreed to go to the event. You would think that by now I would have learned my lesson: when you get invited to something, especially a VIP event, you go.

Last year I was invited to present at the NYC WordPress Users Group. Even with 30,000 members, they had no budget for a speaker. I would be doing this event for free. Including paying for my own transportation.

Well, I do love public speaking. When it comes to public speaking, some people would rather be in the coffin than to be giving the eulogy. For me personally, I tend to be mortally offended if I don't get my turn with a microphone.

So, I did the gig for free. It turns out that someone in the room liked what I had to say. It turns out this person was very close with John Catsimatidis, an American billionaire businessman and radio talk show host. John just recently purchased WABC Radio. And all things "media" (especially podcasts) is a big part of the NYDLA community.

It was that same WordPress friend that invited me to last week's Republic Bank grand opening event. I almost didn't go. But I do love dogs. And I'm a big fan of Tom Peters, the co-author of In Search of Excellence. Tom was connected to Vernon and I am connected to Tom and he said quickly and with conviction: GO.

Vernon Hill is the founder of Metro Bank UK and Commerce Bancorp. Hill founded Commerce in 1973. It became the fastest growing bank in the US before being sold for $8.5 billion. Vernon is also the Chairman of Petplan.

I don't have the time to tell the entire story of what happened last week, but things are now moving very fast. As of today, Republic Bank has one branch in New York City. And the NYDLA shall be hosting "Sunset Seminars" at the branch for our entrepreneurial members. Something tells me there will be other branches opening in The Big Apple. Many. I see the pattern of success - it will be fun to watch it unfold.

I read Vernon's book this weekend. I could not put it down. Vernon describes how to create growth companies by building FANS! Not Customers with:
  • A unique and value-added MODEL
  • A persuasive and supporting CULTURE
  • Fanatical EXECUTION
From 1973 to 2007, Vernon led the growth of Commerce Bank from 1 to 440 stores with a 30+ year, 23% per year compounded shareholder return. Vernon says: "Give the customer legendary service, and one day your company will be a legend, too. BE ALL YOU CAN BE."

I will be telling everyone that I know to check out Republic Bank. And until further notice, everyone who joins the NYDLA.org shall be getting a free copy of Vernon's book FANS! Not Customers - How to Create Growth Companies in a No Growth World. 

But to be totally honest, Vernon had me at loving dogs. 

And kids......they also love kids. <<<


Sunday, July 7, 2019

You CAN Go Home Again - You Never Left

I was born in Union City, New Jersey. Within months of my birth (I am told) we moved to Cedar Grove, New Jersey. We moved from "the city" to "the country" as that is what Cedar Grove was back in the day.

Here in the USA, the sixth grade is the sixth school year after kindergarten. Students in the sixth grade are usually either 11 or 12, though could be younger or older, if they are promoted (skip grades) or held back for not reaching a standard.

After a fire, the new Pompton Avenue School opened in April of 1961. Leonard R. Parks, who began his career in Cedar Grove as a manual training teacher, became the principal of Pompton Avenue School and eventually the district's first Superintendent of Schools. He retired in 1965 and the school was renamed in his honor.

When you are a kid, you were taught to memorize your phone number, your address, and where you went to school. 

My first phone number:  201-239-0213.
My first address: 45 Bowden Road, Cedar Grove, New Jersey.
My first school: Leonard R. Parks.

Because of a fire, my first school in the '60s was BRAND SPANKIN' NEW. And, we had a BRAND SPANKIN' NEW Public Library in town, too. Everything was state-of-the-art. It was a big deal.

6th grade was my last year of school in Cedar Grove. We moved to Boca Raton, Florida where I would enjoy my "Wonder Years" on the Intracostal Waterway, and Spanish River Park. But before we moved from New Jersey to Florida, I looked up Boca Raton at the Cedar Grove Public Library.

The city's name comes from boca de ratones, a Spanish term meaning "rat's mouth" that appeared on early maps and referred to hidden sharp-pointed rocks that gnawed or fretted ship's cables.

We are moving from Cedar Grove to some place with RATS???????

I'm not going!

I remember the Librarian at the Cedar Grove library calming me down. The Spanish word boca, or mouth, often describes an inlet, while raton means literally, mouse. 

Mouse.

As in Mickey Mouse. I remember the Librarian and my teachers telling me how lucky I was to be moving to Boca Raton, Florida. Not that far from Orlando. The Magic Kingdom Disney World opened October 1, 1971. I remember asking (begging?) to go to Disney World for my birthday: October 2nd. I remember getting my wish.

Ah yes, my first home was Cedar Grove, New Jersey. And then Boca Raton, Florida. In hindsight, Mom and Dad had it all on lock-down.

Yesterday my wife had a patient in Cedar Grove - and I drove her from Boonton Township, New Jersey (where we now live). I saw the old house. The Library. The School. The playgrounds. Wow, what a time capsule.

You CAN go home again - but everything is so much smaller than you remember it. Thank you Leonard R. Parks Elementary School. Thank you Cedar Grove Public Library. I find it interesting how much of our lives are connected to schools and learning.

Is this where the term "lifelong learning" comes from? The ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Yeah, lifelong learning. It enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development. I don't know if PHYSICAL schools or libraries will even exist in the future - but home is where the lifelong learning will always live.

The back of the house.... 50+ years later

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Let's get this on tape

Is it Duck Tape or Duct Tape?

Well, today Duck Tape is a BRAND of Duct tape, which for my money is pure genius. We were arguing (politely chatting) in May during a family get-together about if it was DUCK or DUCT tape.

Enter Google: It turns out that it was first DUCK TAPE, invented during World War II by Johnson & Johnson for the military. The waterproof, cloth backed tape was perfect for keeping moisture out of ammunition cases. Like water off a ducks back. Military personnel quickly learned that it was good for way more than keeping out water. Fixing their guns, Jeep repair, strapping equipment to their clothing, the list was endless.

And then AFTER the war, people started calling it DUCT TAPE, because it was a great way to fix leaks in forced air heating and cooling systems.

So all this Google-ing about DUCT / DUCK tape on the deck had me stumble across this new startup, Tape. And so the story now gets very interesting. And very sticky.

Turns out that this new startup tech company called Tape addresses one of the most pressing problems in business today: lead decay.

No, not lead decay as in radioactive isotopes. LEAD DECAY, as in "how long does it take you to get back to someone when they visit your website?"

LEADS, the lifeblood of any size business, are a big deal. So, I filled out the form, and just like that, there was a welcome video waiting for me in my smartphone.

Instant lead processing. Instant lead follow up, instant lead engagement. 

It did not take me long to reach out and have a nice little chat with the young founders of Tape. Ex-Amazon, Ex-Facebook, Ex-(you name it) young geniuses, all of them. It also did not take long for ALL OF US to see how Tape's lead decay solution would be an amazing value-added member benefit for the entire NYDLA community.

Heck, how could anyone in business NOT want to have instant, professional, personal engagement with their website visitors?


And so, just like that Tape is now a value-added member benefit for the millions of members of the NYDLA. And just like that, Tape is (soon) going to have another definition.  There is audio tape, video tape, magnetic tape, ticker tape, mounting tape, adhesive tape, electrical tape and many dozens of other kinds of tape.

But THIS tape, this technology is going to become a verb.

Just as "Google it" has become a verb, sending someone a tape video over SMS technology is going to become expected. It is going to become necessary to compete in the ever growing world of eCommerce. NOT using Tape on your website is going to become, well, like not having any DUCK TAPE when you need it!

Tape: to get back to someone immediately, professionally and with great alacrity.

And I ALWAYS call it DUCK tape. Always have, always will.



Sunday, June 23, 2019

I'm feeling a little saturated

At 58 years old, I think I just attended my first Farmer's Market. I cannot be certain, but if I did wander into one in the past it was not on purpose.

The local Farmer's Market in Boonton, New Jersey was fun. Lots of fresh produce, crafts, and all around cool stuff. It made me smile as I love observing Entrepreneurship in action. My wife bought some home made soap. I bought a large loaf of Italian bread. I don't know if she used the soap yet, but the Italian bread is now GONE. It did not make it to sunset yesterday.

But this brings me to the Blueberries. And the Cherries. And the other fresh produce. As we walked up and down the rows of tents I could not help but to think to myself: wow, that's a lot of Blueberries. I'm going home with a ton of Blueberries and Cherries.

Ah, nope.

Not organic. I learned yesterday that we don't buy anything that is not organic. "But this is a Farmer's Market! How much more 'organic' can you get?"

Boy, my wife was ready for THAT question. She said: "HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW WHAT ORGANIC FOOD IS?"

OK, so I learned yesterday that Camp Capone is 100% Organic. This I did not know. And it looks like I have been violating Camp Capone rules and regulations for years. And now, much research later, I am fully educated on all things Organic Farming and Organic Food.

But now thanks to Google, I am now also very much up to speed and fully educated on all things Farmer's Markets. And they are hurting. 

Nationwide, the number of Farmer's Markets rose from 2,000 in 1994 to more than 9,600 in 2019. And this leads to a major problem. Too few farmers populate the market stalls, and too few people to fill the canvas bags of the Farmer's Market shoppers.

Farmer's Markets have Market Saturation. 

Too many smaller markets are in hyper competiton for an already saturated marketplace. And now they also compete against Amazon, Instacart or Blue Apron for home delivery of fresh foods.

In business, sometimes things don't pencil out. Sometimes people in business don't stop and think through the logistics.

There are too few farmers and too few customers to make having "many" Farmer's Markets viable. Communities should pool together. If five or more communites formed one Farmer's Market, rather than five or more locally competing Farmer's Markets, that one pooled marketplace would be a more exciting venue for customers, and it would be much more profitable for farmers.

And what about an app? Maybe such an app already exists, but there should be a Farmer's Market app that allows anyone at anytime to see what's happening at THAT Farmer's Market, and will it be worth their time and money to drive to THAT market vs. THIS market. And how about filters that say "ORGANIC" so that you don't waste your time driving to a Farmer's Market that is not going to have anything that fits your "organic only" needs?

An app for Farmer's Markets would also open the door for online eCommerce sales. People could get on mailing lists, newletters, and even earn loyalty rewards.

Think of the app like: Airbnb meets Waze for Farmer's Markets. 

Vendors pay good money to host a booth at a Farmer's Market. Having their business listed in an app would be an easy sale. And locally grown Honey from New Jersey could easily be shipped anywhere in country, all via an app. Farmer's Markets Together Forever! 

Take that, Amazon.

Technology could solve the Market Saturation problem of Farmer's Markets nationwide. And we need as much fresh, locally grown food as we can find. I'll continue to support our local Farmer's Market every weekend. Now, about that app......




Sunday, June 9, 2019

Are you famous or something?

The author and hockey legend Wayne Gretzky had a lot to live up to after being tagged "The Great One" at the age of 10.

Wayne Gretzky holds 61 National Hockey League records: 40 for the regular season, 15 for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and 6 for the NHL All-Star Game. He is a 4x Stanley Cup champion, a 3x Canada Cup champion, and has earned dozens of awards and honors ranging from MVPs to Player of the Decade/Century to a Hockey Hall of Fame induction in 1999. His iconic jersey number 99 has been retired league-wide by the NHL. 

And Wayne is waiting for you in your conference room, ready to talk to your team about leadership, sports, or whatever topic YOU ask him. Live.

That is the power of Geniecast - the marketplace for experts, thought leaders, and speakers - otherwise known as Genies. Delivered live, interactive virtual experiences. Genies provide solutions for organizations all around the world via virtual "Casts" on topics ranging from diversity and inclusion to employee engagement & retention, financial stability in a changing economy, sales growth, and so much more.

NYDLA.org (pronounced "NYED-LA") is all about distance learning > DIGITAL learning > DIGITAL LIVING

Ever watch a Netflix documentary? How about a TED Talk? 

Simon Sinek is an unshakable optimist who believes in a bright future and our ability to build it together. He discovered remarkable patterns about how the greatest leaders and organizations think, act and communicate. Simon might be best know for popularizing the concept of WHY in his first TED talk in 2009 (the third most popular TED Talk of all time). 

When the Kolkata, India chapter of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) needed a speaker that would truly amaze and teach members at their annual conference, Geniecast helped them to fight the barriers of time, distance and expense. With a busy schedule and what would have been 30+ hours of travel away from New York, a speaker of Simon's stature would normally have been out of reach.

Geniecast created an interactive discussion between the augmented presence of a world-class speaker and a live audience on the other side of the world. Imagine face-to-face, real-time engagement with a lifelike representation of an expert, speaker, or thought leader standing thousands of miles away. 

World-Class Speakers, Teachers and Thought Leaders. Delivered in stunning real-time via augmented reality. Members of NYDLA.org now have special, VIP access to the Geniecast marketplace. Just as Uber and Airbnb are able to utilize idle drive time in a car or vacant time in an apartment, Geniecast offers the same "gig economy" style options to their speaker network. 

Zoom is the official Videoconferencing platform of the NYDLA, and Geniecast works great on Zoom, but it works on other popular videoconferencing networks as well. 

The days of dry corporate meetings with convenient speakers may be coming to an end. By using interactive online technology and curating the experience, Geniecast is giving smaller businesses access to speakers they otherwise could not afford. Geniecast eliminates the need to fly in speakers, put them up in hotels, and pay them a substantial fee for their time. 

Wayne Gretzky. Simon Sinek. How about you? Are you ready to be a Genie? 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Is It Live or Is It Memorex?

If you were born in the 60's like me, you will remember the commercials for Memorex. The hook was to see if a person could tell the difference between a live performance, and the recorded performance. In one of the better commercials it showed Ella Fitzgerald singing a note live - and it would shatter a wine glass. Then, the recorded voice on Memorex was so good that it too, would shatter the glass. A pretty cool visual, I still remember those ads vividly.

This takes me down the rabbit hole of live vs. recorded. Asynchronous communications vs. synchronous communications. Technology that allows us to do "live" meetings from around the world, rather than buying a plane ticket.

If you ever had the experience of seeing a Broadway play "live" today's blog will resonate with you. Live, in real-time, is always amazing. It is unfolding right there in front of you. There is the chance for an error. There will "always" be something that is just slightly different than a previous performance. Being there live, you are part of the performance.

Ever see a famous comedian live? And then see the same comedian on a recorded HBO special? Not the same thing. Both events could be amazing, and both can be very entertaining. But there is something about a LIVE performance, in-person, that is recorded differently in our brains.

When we have a "live" experience, whether it be a concert, a sporting event, or even attending a business meeting, something very different happens when you are physically present, rather than attending "live" via technology. This is why even though they can be expensive, corporations frequently host off-sites and events LIVE for their staff and teams. Streaming media is amazing, but LIVE is always better.

I noticed that if I meet someone LIVE, in person, any future interactions with that person (Zoom meetings, phone calls, email or texts) seem more real. If I first meet someone virtually, and then meet them LIVE at a trade show, or at a corporate event in the future, it is not the same result. LIVE sets the anchor. LIVE forces us to take in the entire sensory experience including visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, and olfactory.

I will probably never visit Mount Everest LIVE. I would however, enjoy a deep, immersive virtual trip to the summit via technology. But only because going LIVE is really not going to happen. Same goes for me walking on Mars. But I MIGHT visit the Louvre Museum, and I HAVE BEEN to MoMA. If technology allows me to experience an adventure the only way possible (virtually) then wonderful. But whenever possible, we should use technology to first attempt to make things happen LIVE, then if not live at least try for synchronous communications. And if not synchronous, then shoot for the highest quality of asynchronous communications possible.

TED.com talks are amazing. But it would be even more amazing to be in the audience, LIVE.

If technology allow us to do something restorative, visit a national park, exercise, talk to a real human being, listen to music, spend time LIVE with our family, fantastic. Our brains need to experience things LIVE, and we humans don't seem to get that benefit of restoration from living in our virtual worlds.

Use technology to increase the quality and frequency of your LIVE experiences. Use technology to travel better, to have more LIVE quality time at your destination. Watch your kid's school play LIVE, as the obvious choice. Experience more things live. Have more synchronous conversations. Keep your smartphone in your pocket a little longer. Post less videos on social media - let the high fidelity recording last in your brain just a little longer before you share it online.

Make having LIVE experiences and memories be your #1 priority at home and at work. Use your technology to maximize and amplify your LIVE experiences within the real world, not to replace them.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

It's the Techonomy, Stupid!

I love New York. I also love business and technology. I feel that business, technology and our global society are deeply connected.

This past week, NYDLA helped to promote the fourth annual Techonomy NYC conference. At the risk of being overly dramatic with a sincere compliment: if  I was unemployed and if I was looking for a job, I would want to work at Techonomy. For now, I shall have to settle with helping them to spread their vision: Technology + Economy = Techonomy  

The theme of the Techonomy conference was "Collaborating for Responsible Growth" and the timing could not be any better. I believe that a technological future can work for everyone, but we all need to work together to make this happen. I would be hard pressed to think of an organization or community that is better aligned with the purpose and mission of the NYDLA.

Here are just some of the session topics that were covered over two amazing days in The Big Apple:

Technologies of Togetherness * Creating an Inclusive Tech Industry * Partnering for Good * Hacking a More Secure Society * Tech Tools for Public Servants * Can Anyone Beat Amazon? * Sustainable Development Goals * The Internet Civil War * Internet of Things * The Food Industry * Internet & Blockchain * Cybersecurity * The New Technologies of Politics * Ethical Engineers * Big Data * AI * Wellness * US - China Battle Over Tech * Agile Enterprise * Food Delivery and Tech * Women and Tech * Podcasts *Telemedicine

The people behind Techonomy believe that technology must be a tool for progress. But this requires both our attention and intention. Sadly too often, the technology that we create fails society. Technological, business and economic challenges are impossible to separate.

Since 1983 I have watched distance learning morph into DIGITAL learning, which today has simply become DIGITAL LIVING. And so, I have seen the "D and the L" in NYDLA morph from DISTANCE to DIGITAL and from LEARNING to LIVING.

To be successful in the new global economy, you must become a "Techonomist" and you must embrace lifelong learning. The path to a sustainable and healthy economy is through knowledge + technology + talent. It is technology that will allow (all of us) to find the solutions that we need. And boy, do we need solutions and fast. 

From David Kirkpatrick, Editor-in-Chief of Techonomy: "Will tech destroy the planet? Or can tech save the planet? We have a crisis of industry behavior, of public confidence, and of policy. As a longtime chronic optimist, with the tools of tech employed with focus and good intention, there is hope of spreading prosperity."

I too, am an optimist. Born in 1960, I watched NASA put men on the moon. I watched DISNEY give birth to Walt Disney World and EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). As of April 2019, 56.1% of the world's population has internet access. This is up from 0.4% in 1995.

This blog is possible because of technology. Amazon. Uber. Apple. Google. Podcasts, TED.com talks, NETFLIX documentaries. Folks, we are all techonomists. What will the future hold? Will tech save or destroy our planet?

The best news from spending two days at Techonomy NYC: we get to decide our future.

All of us are techonomists and we are all in this together. I vote for SAVE.










Sunday, May 12, 2019

Manage Like a Mother

My friend Lee Cockerell once said on his podcast that you should "Manage like a Mother" and it stuck with me. I love leadership quotes.

I feel that the single most important leadership skill is the ability to determine what is the most important thing.

Managers focus on doing things right - they are into efficiency. Leaders focus on doing the right things - they concern themselves with effectiveness. Sometimes they overlap, but Management and Leadership are not the same thing.

When I was growing up, my Mom ran the household. She would learn how to prioritize. She had the ability to separate what was the most important thing, from what was not important. And once she knew what was important, she put all of her focus and energy into what she determined was essential and best for the family. [ Mom would never quit. ]

Mom was very good at processing new information as it came in. Mom knew that as things change, plans change and that our priorities needed to change accordingly. [ Like discovering a sick child the night before leaving for the big family vacation. ]

Mom would always encourage healthy habits for myself and my sister. She would give us praise when it was warranted and she would criticize our behavior when needed. But she would only criticize in private. And the criticism would always be constructive. [ Praise in public, criticize in private.]

Mom would allow us to make mistakes. We would learn that actions have consequences, and that we needed to take ownership of our actions. [ Don't lie to Mom. She would always find out. ]

Mom would make the tough calls from time to time. Ultimately, it was Mom's call as to what would be the best for the family. Over time, it became evident that Mom was (almost) always right.

At this point in my life (and my business career) I see how CEO and MOM can mean the same thing. Moms demand action when action is needed. Moms fully pour their heart and their entire being into their family. Moms help the family to be its best, creating a positive vision of what can be. Moms hold their children to a higher standard. Moms expect honesty and accountability from their children. And Moms are always there for their children, no matter what.

Here is something cool. Google "Leadership Quotes" and you will find thousands. Now, replace the word "Leadership" or "Leaders" with the word Motherhood and Mother.

Here is an example:

"A good objective of leadership (Motherhood) is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better." ~ Jim Rohn

And one more:

"Leaders (Mothers) instill in their people (family) a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders (Mothers) empower people (family) to accomplish their goals." ~ Unknown

Last one:

"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader (Mother) adjusts the sails."  ~ John Maxwell


Happy Mothers Day to all the Leaders and Managers out there....... ESPECIALLY to all the Momprenuers in the world - the female business owners who are actively balancing the role of a Mom and the role of an Entrepreneur.

My Mom

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Thank you for your service

Thank you for your service. Now get into the trash (or recycling) pile. 

OK, so my wife and I were testing out the Marie Kondo tidying methods this weekend. We hit the basement armed with trash bags, gloves, and my smartphone. Why the smartphone you ask? Because before I threw something away, before trashing something that was a memory from the past, I took a picture. Believe it or not, just the act of taking a picture helped to speed up the process. It was like we were "thanking each individual item" for serving its purpose before getting rid of it. More on this later.

Did you Ojo? Back in around 2005 we sold the Ojo video phones and service. I just found around a dozen Ojo phones in the basement, unopened, and still in the box.

Yes there was Skype, but Ojo was a dedicated, always ready two-way video connection. It also looked very cool on your desk. Two phones cost $1,600 plus around $9.95 per month, per phone. I see that you can (still) find Ojo phones online at Amazon and such, for around $55.

Ojo did not make it. The devices were too expensive, and the service was too limited. Fast forward to 2019: we have Facebook Portal. Dedicated phones, so that if you can't be there, you feel like you are there. Unlike the video calling you're used to (Skype, Zoom, etc.) Portal has a Smart Camera that will follow your voice as you move around the room.

When Facebook's smart display was released last year, it received mixed reviews. But now - we have the privacy and personal data controversies that have recently surrounded Facebook. Having an always-listening microphone and always-watching camera, after a year of privacy scandals, I'm not buying it. At $498 for two of the Portal "Plus" it seems like they might be going down the same road as Ojo. Would the Facebook Portal bring you joy?

Sometimes things change, and sometimes the change is within you. I remember when Newton's Telecom Dictionary was a must-have for anyone in the telecom or technology space. And every year, I would gladly pay good money for the latest version of that paperback book. I just said "thank you for your service" for the 16th version, and threw it into the throw out bin. I also see that you can buy the 31st "Updated and Expanded Version" of the paperback book online for around $25. But now I have poked around the Internet to find www.HarryNewton.com and www.TechnologyInvestor.com and so I hope that Harry Newton is still doing well. I just pinged him on LinkedIn. If he is still around, I will thank Harry for his service - and I'll buy his new book. Harry Newton has given me joy over the years, and it looks like he might have lots more joy to give.


I also found the 2008 Jenne.com catalog in the basement. I find it amusing that the folks from NYDLA leadership had lunch in NYC last week with the folks from Jenne. And I find it even more amusing that you can access their 774 page products and services "book" online. Do they still mail this thing? I hope they are not still killing trees. I thanked the 2008 Jenne catalog for its service - and I threw it in the recycling bin. But I also thanked the guys from Jenne for our most excellent lunch meeting (again) as I will send them the link to this blog. Working with Jenne gives me joy, and this has been the case for over 25 years.

While poking around in the basement I also found all of our paperwork on the patent that we applied for: distance learning.

Back in 2006 (thanks to our Ojo experience) we thought that we were onto something - a way to take "off the shelf" technologies and create something magical. Guess what - we were right! Guess what else: it only pays to pursue and own a patent (on anything) if you have the means to defend and protect said patent. Otherwise the only people making any money are the patent lawyers. Lessons learned. Marie Kondo would be proud, as I thanked our technology patent (legal documents) for its service. It's all now in the trash, but first - I took pictures. Ah yes - mistakes are tuition. But the lessons learned, even the expensive ones, have given me joy over the years.

So was the Ojo phone too early? Will the new Facebook Portal become a hit, or will it find the same fate as Ojo? Will the issues of privacy and security kill it before it gets off the ground? And what about the voice only services like Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri? It will be interesting to see how privacy issues and data ownership issues all play out. For now, today: Alexa and Siri do not give me joy.

OK, back to Marie Kondo. The KonMari method is based on getting rid of physical items that do not bring joy into your life. But the method makes you pause and reflect on the things that did (and still do) bring you joy.

Sometimes we need to get rid of the good to make room for the great.



Sunday, April 28, 2019

Being Memorable

I live around 30 miles west of Times Square, in Boonton Township, New Jersey. The Garden State. I personally do not "garden" but our neighbor raises goats, and chickens and they have a cool Donkey named Dominic. The braying of Donkeys is a distinct sound. Donkeys have the ability that horses and zebras lack: they can vocalize while they're breathing in as well as while they are breathing out. Significant sound is produced during both air intake (the hee) and air outflow (the haw). It may not be the most musical of sounds, but it's always memorable. And it is special and specific to this species.

This past week, I had my morning coffee on our deck, before heading into NYC for a day of events and meetings. And Dominic the Donkey could be clearly heard through the trees, reminding me:

Be memorable today, but don't be an ass in the process.

NYDLA helped to sponsor "For Creators by Creators NYC" which is an event for creators, entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and innovators. It was an amazing gathering of successful crowdfunded companies and experts to meet, share resources, and engage with the community - international creators, retailers, manufacturing, legal, and investment firms.

It costs me $12.25 to take the bus from Boonton Township to 11 Times Square, NYC. One day in the near future, I am sure that this bus will be electric and self-driving. I actually enjoy these bus rides - I sit in the last row (leg room) and I work on my laptop (Secure WiFi) and I usually do Zoom meetings or chat in Basecamp with our global team during the commute. When I arrive in NYC I usually take Uber or Via or Lyft to wherever I am going if it is MORE than a 20 minute walk. Weather permitting, I like walking in NYC.

As I returned home to The Garden State that evening, I reflected on the events of the day. I had meetings with mega companies like Salesforce and Wells Fargo. And I watched freshly minted entrepreneurs - the creators, the makers, the visionary founders trying to become memorable. I remember clearly when Salesforce was born, and now we have a Salesforce Tower in NYC. I just witnessed the Zoom IPO, one for the record books. It seems like Zoom came from nowhere and now is everywhere.

When it was my turn to speak, I asked: "Raise your hand if you have a Zoom account" and I would say that 99% of the people in the room were happy Zoomies. How did Zoom do it? How did Salesforce do it? You never know who will become the next Uber or Airbnb or Spanx. Or Zoom or Salesforce or Apple.

How do you become "memorable" without becoming an A$$ in the process? One of my favorite quotes is "Become so good they can't ignore you." Make a product, a service, a system, a technology so good that life is better with you. Time is the most precious thing we have in life. If you give someone your time, you have given them a part of your life. Makers and Creators. Founders and Visionary Leaders. Make spending / investing "time" in you, with you, the best possible use of their time.

Bootstrapping entrepreneurs, or future billionaires, all have the same coin of the realm: time.

If you invest your time in a person, or in a project, or attend an event, you are forever connected with anyone and everyone who have taken that same leap of faith. Everyone in the room (at that event) anted up and pooled their most valuable resource - their time - and they (we) all can only hope that the mutual investments will pay dividends.

Whenever I attend an event, I give out my "Golden Tickets" along with my business card. I want to be memorable, and I want to curate and nurture new (and mutually rewarding) relationships. I can immediately see on the person's face their reaction. This will either become the beginning of a wonderful new relationship, or the Golden Ticket card will find it's way into the trash. And that's fine. I like to think that I can be friendly with anyone, but I can't be friends with everyone.

Time is the ultimate resource, and it is scarce.

I have no doubt that the next Zoom or the next Uber or Salesforce was in the room at the "For Creators by Creators NYC" event last week. But everyone who attended that event, has given everyone else who attended that event a part of their life. They made the investment of time. And now, since you have taken the time to read this blog - so have you.

This country, the USA is a creation "dreamed up" in the minds of it's founding fathers. Our entire country is built on the backs of and in the minds of creators, inventors, small business owners who had a vision and a dream. And all of these founders, makers and creators all worked very hard, and invested the necessary time and other resources to see their vision and dreams become reality.

So always strive to be memorable, just don't be a braying ass about it. And respect and defend others time, as if it were your own.

Because after all, it is.