Sunday, April 26, 2020

What's the gravity of the situation?

I've got some nerd in me.

There are four fundamental forces in the physical world: electromagnetism, strong force, weak force, and gravity. It's effects on big objects, such as planets or stars, are relatively easy to see, but things get complicated when one tries to understand gravity in the small world of elementary particles.

So basically, the smartest people on the planet still don't know why I just broke my favorite coffee cup. And, they also don't know where my wife keeps the broom and dustpan.

I bring up gravity (get the pun?) because I think it is the scientific principle that 99.999% of the people on the planet would agree actually exists - even if they cannot explain it. Only the most obtuse person would say that gravity does not exist. And if you ever do find such a person, ask them to hold a bowling ball for an hour.

For centuries, 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit was said to be the average, normal body temperature. It's not. More recently, researchers have known that normal body temperature is actually lower than 98.6 and can vary by gender, size, age, time of day and other factors. So, today most healthcare providers consider a fever to be 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

A German physician came up with 98.6 Fahrenheit as "average" human temperature in the 1800s. And it stuck. Until it got unstuck.

In science and math, there are some things we KNOW to be true. And then there are some things that we know to be true - but we still don't fully understand. We know the coffee cup will hit the ground if we knock it off the table with our elbow. But we don't exactly know WHY. It will be hard to find someone who will predict that the coffee cup will hover in midair and not fall to the ground.

OK, let's do Pandemics. For 100 years:

  1. Phase 1 is the period during which no animal viruses are reported to cause infection in humans.
  2. Phase 2 is the first level of threat wherein a virus is confirmed to have jumped from animal to humans. 
  3. Phase 3 is when sporadic cases or small clusters of disease are confirmed, but human-to-human transmission has not occured.
  4. Phase 4 is the point where human-to-human transmission has caused a community-wide outbreak.
  5. Phase 5 is when human-to-human transmission of the virus has caused spread of the disease to at least two countries.
  6. Phase 6 is the point at which the disease is declared a pandemic, having spread to at least one other country.
Got it? OK, now forget all that. 

As of February of this year, the WHO (World Health Organization) said there is no official category for a pandemic. The 6 phases listed above are no longer valid. Just like 98.6 is no longer normal, we don't exactly know how to define a pandemic. The smartest people in the world are not exactly sure when an epidemic becomes a pandemic. 

Where are you going with this Tom?

There is a time and a place to embrace science, to embrace truth, and to live our lives in a way that incorporates science into our behavior. We turn to the experts: scientists, doctors, nurses, public health specialists, and the wide range of medical professionals whom we trust. We all want answers. We want guidance on how to keep ourselves and our families safe. We want to understand how to combat COVID-19: to beat it together, and to beat it quickly. 

Land the plane, Tommy..... bring it home for us......

We don't know exactly WHY the coffee cup falls to the floor, but we are certain it will fall. Just because science cannot exactly explain GRAVITY does not mean we don't believe gravity exists. A lay person is not qualified to compare, contrast or define the general theory of relativity or Newton's law of universal gravitation. 

Just because we don't fully understand ALL of it, does not mean as a global community we should not fully embrace the parts that we DO understand. When fighting a pandemic, do not say "we are not certain, we are not sure, we don't know" because in the world of science, we never know for sure. That is the beauty of science.  

Normal body temperature is no longer exactly 98.6 degrees. The WHO says the 6 Phases of a pandemic is no longer useful or accurate. We still don't know EXACTLY how gravity works, but we know the coffee cup will fall. Every time. 

Science and medicine will get us through this pandemic - and the next one. Yes, there will be another one, just as there were pandemics in the past. 

Don't let the weakness of human nature slow down the healing process. Allow the experts: the scientists, doctors, nurses, public health specialists, and the wide range of medical professionals to do their jobs. We must let the smartest people on the planet to do their jobs - for all of us. We must support them. We must listen to the experts, and take their advice - even if their advice changes from time to time. That's how science works.

Now is not the time for "opinions" from emotional, well-intentioned but ill-informed people. I get it, we are all worried, we are all scared. But we must be mentally AND physically strong, and we must trust the experts. The experts and the scientists are not the enemy, the virus is the enemy. 

One day in the future, I am sure we shall indeed fully understand gravity. And our full understanding gravity will certainly change our global society and our world forever.

But for now, until we DO know exactly how gravity actually works - you should move that coffee cup away from the edge of the table.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

What if Simon Sneezed?

As of this morning, Simon Sinek's September 2009 TEDx Puget Sound "TED Talk" has 49,512,510 views. TEDx was created in the spirit of TED's mission, "ideas worth spreading." It supports organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community.

There is a 99% chance that you have seen a talk. There is a much lesser chance that you know that TED Talks / TED Conferences LLC (Technology, Entertainment, Design) were conceived in 1984 but they were financially unsuccessful. It took six years for the second conference to be organized. 

What if the folks at TED never tried again, after their initial failure?

Simon's September 2009 TEDx talk - starting with the golden circle and the question: "Why?" became one of the most watched TED Talks of all time. 

When I came across Simon's TED Talk it was already a massive hit. When I learned that Simon was doing a book signing in NYC in July of 2011, I put my two sons into the car and we went to meet Simon.

What if Simon's 2009 TEDx Talk did not go so well? 

What if Simon had a cold that day, or what if Simon just was not on his "A Game" in Puget Sound? That famous TED Talk might have only been really, really good - not freaking AMAZING. Ah, but it WAS AMAZING. Simon Sinek caught lightning in a bottle in 2009. It happened because it was supposed to happen - because IT HAPPENED.

In 2011 I became part of the START WITH WHY movement. 

Before that, I was running my own telecom and technology company (technically, I still do). I was attending the NYDLA (Distance Learning) events for years, like a good salesman should. These were the folks who were buying the stuff I was selling, so this was a target rich environment for sales. But because of the recession, nonprofits like NYDLA were suffering. NYDLA was broke, and the association was on life support. The leadership of NYDLA basically said: we're out of money and we are shutting it all down. Unless someone wants to take it over.

Because I was evangelizing Simon's START WITH WHY movement, I gave a "WHY" presentation at Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey. One thing led to another, and I told the folks at Rutgers about NYDLA and how I was thinking about "taking over" the defunct NYDLA. Rutgers became our first NYDLA sponsor, and with one stroke of the pen, NYDLA had 500,000+ new members - the living alumni of Rutgers. And then, we met all of the businesses that "did business" with Rutgers.

What if I never went to Rutgers that day? Well for one, there would be no NYDLA today. It happened because it was supposed to happen - because IT HAPPENED.

When my son was attending Quinnipiac University School of Business, I made it a point to get to know his professors (helicopter parenting, guilty). One thing led to another, and I was invited to speak to one of my son's IT/MIS classes. From that, I was invited by the Dean of the School of Business to "present" to all of the graduating High School students living in Connecticut. I had to wake up at 4:00 am on a Saturday to drive up to Quinnipiac from New Jersey to make that presentation. I almost talked myself out of going that day. Little did I know that my presentation was going to be professionally recorded by a local TV station, and that it would go viral.

What if I never went to Quinnipiac that morning? It happened because it was supposed to happen - because IT HAPPENED.

Ever hear of this thing called Zoom? 

Eric Yuan, a former Cisco Webex engineer and executive founded Zoom in 2001, and launched its software in 2013. Zoom's aggressive revenue growth and ease-of-use and reliability of its software resulted in a $1 billion valuation in 2017. Approximately one year ago to the date of this blog post, the company went public. Zoom was valued at $16 billion by the end of its first day of trading. Again, Eric Yuan rose to Vice President of Cisco Webex, but after realizing that customers were not happy with the product, he left in 2011 to start Zoom.

What if the Cisco Webex customers were just "a little more happy" back in 2011 - would Eric have felt the need to leave his Vice President position and start Zoom? It happened because it was supposed to happen - because IT HAPPENED.

The NYDLA went from "can't pay their website bill" to servicing 300+ of the Fortune 1000 and 46% of the Schools of Business, including the alumni of all 8 Ivy League Schools. Similar to Zoom, there is a free version and a paid version of NYDLA.

And today, NYDLA is as all members receive the paid version of Zoom (Zoom Pro) for free. It's "baked in" and is a value-added member benefit of our paid membership fee.

As of this blog post, COVID-19 is ravaging our country, and the entire world. 2,343,293 total cases worldwide. 161,330 deaths. The entire US economy is shut down, as "working from home" is the new normal. The pandemic has affected educational systems worldwide, leading to near-total closures of schools, universities and colleges. The pandemic has led to severe global socioeconomic disruption, the postponement or cancellation of sporting, religious, political and cultural events. There are widespread shortages of supplies exacerbated by panic buying. Some of us are waking up this morning and asking ourselves: why is this pandemic happening? Why is this happening to me, and to my family? 

Today, the NYDLA services the 55M+ people who live, learn, work and play in the "New York Megalopolis". The 14 states that make up the Northeast of the USA. When and where we can help people to get through the coronavirus pandemic, we do so - at no charge. We have gone from "we are shutting down" all operations in 2010 to becoming a source of knowledge, technology and talent to assist and support anyone who needs help.

We (NYDLA) have gone from a bankrupt trade association in 2010 to a global community servicing millions of like-minded people who are living, learning, working and playing in the new cloud economy. 

I have learned many things in the past ten years. As the TV commercial says: "We know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two." Personally I did not have global pandemic on my list of things to experience in my lifetime. But I also would not have predicted working with Simon Sinek, or Eric Yuan or taking over the NYDLA or now - being on the front lines of helping people in dealing with COVID-19 on a global basis.

I've had the honor to work with many amazingly successful people in my lifetime. Celebrities, professional athletes, people from the world of entertainment. But the most important lesson that I have learned from working with any and all of them is simply this: 

It's people first, then money, then things. 

When and where the NYDLA community can help you, your family, your employees or your business to get through this pandemic, we shall do so. No charge. 

Be safe.

Thomas A. Capone
Chairman, CEO

On December 20, 2011, Quinnipiac University hosted the
E-Commerce Entrepreneurship Experiential Event
for high school students in Connecticut.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

People first, then money, then things.

Thomas Jeffrey Hanks began performing with the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in 1977, and later moved to New York City. He starred in the television sitcom Bosom Buddies, but later became far more known when he starred in the Ron Howard film Splash.

Last night my wife and I watched "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" on Amazon. It was $2.99 to rent, so what the heck. The secret to life is a happy wife, right? It was not going to be my first choice.

Lloyd Vogel is an investigative journalist who receives an assignment to profile Fred Rogers, aka Mister Rogers. He approaches the interview with skepticism, as he finds it hard to believe that anyone can have such a good nature. But Roger's empathy, kindness and decency soon chips away at Vogel's jaded outlook on life, forcing the reporter to reconcile with his own painful past.

Spoiler Alert: There is a scene in the movie where Vogel and Rogers are on a crowded subway in NYC. Slowly everyone on the subway recognizes Mister Rogers, and the entire subway breaks out into song - the Mister Rogers theme song.

Children. Old people. Police Officers. Construction Workers. Wall Street workers, students, homeless people. Every. Single. Person. Everyone in the subway car - all of them - proudly singing the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood lyrics.

After the movie ended, I just sat there and reflected. I tried to remember all of the Tom Hanks movies, without the aid of Google. And then I thought about the roles. From Josh Baskin to Joe Banks to Forrest Gump to Jim Lovell to Sheriff Woody. From Captain Richard Phillips to Walt Disney to Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger.

To Fred Rogers.

Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson are feeling better after being treated for coronavirus. They were in Australia for pre-production work on a film about singer Elvis Presley. Hanks is set to play Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker.

Many years ago, I met Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson at a Birthday Party for Senator Ted Kennedy at the St. Regis in NYC. I sat at a table with Tom and his wife Rita, the comedian and actor Chevy Chase, Lauren Bacall, John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. FYI, the "Birthday Party" was really a fundraiser, so I was invited as long as I brought my checkbook along as my "plus one" guest. Basically anyone with security clearance (and a check) could attend the party.

What I remember the most about that night was how warm and open Tom Hanks was. He asked me "What do you do?" and I said I was the head of talent at Disney. Then I said, "Ha, no, just kidding, I sell cellular phones, since 1983." Well, Tom was fascinated and we chatted it up for an hour. And I made a sale.

Chevy Chase was aloof. John F. Kennedy Jr. was shy. But Tom Hanks was so real, so genuine, so human.

There is another scene in the movie where Fred Rogers says to Lloyd Vogel that "the most important thing in the world (at that moment) was him speaking with Lloyd Vogel on the telephone."

Last night, Tom Hanks hosted a Made-From-Home Edition of SNL.

I was reflecting how our view of heroes might change, pre and post COVID-19. Will we still worship people who score goals, or touchdowns, or hit 3-pointers, or home runs, or people who can sing or dance or act? Will we still go "gaga" over Lady Gaga?

What (and who) will be important to us - post coronavirus?

Tom Hanks said during his coronavirus recovery: "Thank you so much to all the helpers. The real heroes in our lives are the helpers."

I hope that we indeed change who we worship as heroes, don't you?

People first, then money, then things.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, 
my mother would say to me - Look for the helpers. You will always
find people who are helping." - Fred Rogers

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Place of the Way

A dojo is a hall or space for immersive learning or meditation. This is traditionally in the field of martial arts, but has been seen increasingly in other fields, such as meditation and software development.

The term literally means "place of the way" in Japanese.

For many years I have been teaching (preaching?) to everyone that works with us, that "the way" that you work is the work. Especially with remote work. 

I was selling "car phones" for a living in the 80's. The birth of the cellular phone industry happened in the New York market, with only 9 cell towers (the NYCGSA - New York Cellular Geographic Service Area).  Wow, some things you never forget, eh?

I was there for the birth of the Palm Pilot, the first PCs, (I had an Apple IIe) and Modems. Ah yes, I remember buying my first modulator-demodulator don't you? 

It seems that all my life, all of my working business career the path was to remote. To work "away" from the office, away from the desk. Computer > Portable Computer. Office Phone > Car Phone. Then portable phones, then smartphones. Technology (all my life, in reflection) has been about making things work - remotely. Chinese Tao (or Dao) means "way" or "path". 

And here we are. COVID-19 has thrust the entire world into a remote lifestyle. We used to go into the city because that was where the office was - the office with the business phone system, the filing cabinets, the conference rooms. If you are old like me, the office was where the typewriters were, the copy machines, the fax machines. You HAD to commute to the city, there was no alternative to producing valuable work. Cue the skyscrapers. 

Contact Centers, Call Centers - with rows and rows of cubicles were necessary for massive corporations to function. 

The world has flipped. We now have Box and Dropbox and GoToMeeting and Zoom and Zoom Phone and Workplace and Shopify and BigCommerce and iPhones and iPads and Basecamp and Salesforce and.....

Ah so. But, THE WAY that we work, "the way" that we use these tools - has become the work. The way that the work is done - is the work. 

One of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes is "You are not paid by the hour. You are paid for the VALUE that you bring to the hour". 

For the next several months, the business world is going to pinch every penny twice before they spend money - on anything. There will be less room for error. Competition for work will increase 10x as remote work just becomes - work. Just as Distance Education has become simply Education, and Telemedicine has become just Medicine and how Commerce became eCommerce - but is now back to just being Commerce!

My "OK, Boomer" brain just thought about the 2004 Pixar movie "The Incredibles" which had a famous line: When everyone has a superpower, then no one does. 

When we all have access to superpowers (Box, Zoom, Zoom Phone, Workplace, G-Suite, Microsoft Teams, iPads, iPhones, etc.) then we are all "Supers" and when we ALL have superpowers - then we have rendered the difference meaningless. 

The global playing field has been leveled by COVID-19. New York or Nebraska. Miami or Milwaukee. London or Los Angeles. The size of your skyscraper no longer matters. 

But "the way" that you work - the VALUE that you bring to the hour - that shall indeed be your superpower. 

And back to the dojo. The place of the way. Just remember this: not every White Belt will become a Black Belt. But EVERY Black Belt was once a White Belt. 

Congratulations, Sensei - YOU (yes you) are now the proud owner of your own dojo! And it looks like your dojo (spare bedroom) can hold a few million students. 

Now, THAT is truly...Incredible.