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Archive for May, 2016

Golden Oldies: Past Memorial Days

Monday, May 30th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Years ago, when he was a new grad, Jim Gordon drew a cartoon called mY generation, full of Millennial humor and angst, for a leadership blog I wrote for b5Media. Sadly, the two he did for two different Memorial Days are even more applicable today than when he drew them. There are two others I’ll mention, since I’ve been asked why I don’t write more personal stuff. I did so about my father here, and my personal note about Memorial Day here.  Read other Golden Oldies here



Have a safe, fun-filled holiday and I’ll see you tomorrow.

If the Shoe Fits: the Perils of Auto-Correct

Friday, May 27th, 2016

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mToday is kind of holiday — mentally, if not physically — it is the start of a 3-day weekend for those not in startups or retail.

And even many startups will ease off and do a bit more fun stuff and partying.

That said, I decided to add a little to your levity, while subtly providing a lesson learned.

How often do you double-check your content before sending a message from your phone? I’m not talking about spelling, per se, but the way iPhone and Android auto-correct can totally change the meaning of what you’ve written.

To drive the point home, along with adding the promised holiday levity, here is an example, which you may have seen, since it is making the rounds on the internet.

The message:
Hi Fred, this is Alan next door. I have a confession to make. I’ve been riddled with guilt these past few months and have been trying to pluck up the courage to tell you to your face, but I am at least now telling you in text as I can’t live with myself a moment longer without you knowing.

The truth is I have been sharing your wife, day and night when you’re not around. In fact, probably more than you. I haven’t been getting it at home recently, but that’s no excuse, I know. The temptation was just too much. I can no longer live with the guilt and I hope you will accept my sincerest apologies and forgive me.  It won’t happen again.  Please suggest a fee for usage, and I’ll pay you.

Regards, Alan.

Fred’s response:
Feeling insulted and betrayed, grabbed his gun, and shot his neighbor dead. He returned home where he poured himself a stiff drink and sat down on the sofa.

He took out his phone where he saw he has a second message from his neighbor:

Second message:
Hi Fred, This is Alan next door again. Sorry about the typo on my last text. I expect you figured it out anyway, and that you noticed that darned Auto-Correct changed ‘Wi-Fi’ To ‘Wife.’  Technology hey?

Regards, Alan.

Need I say more?

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Whose Money Do You Want?

Thursday, May 26th, 2016


When it comes to marketing, it’s always important to separate the reality from the hype.

Millennials are supposed to be especially good at ignoring the hype and are supposedly brand-immune.

But not when it comes to funding their dream.

When they’re hot for a deal, VCs will promise all kinds of active help, from introductions and actual engineering help to workspace and wisdom.

And when they’re wining, dining, waving their checkbooks and promising anything you ask it’s hard to remember your dudil.

That’s when it’s most important.

But don’t listen to me, listen to Vineet Jain, CEO and cofounder of cloud storage firm Egnyte.

“Most VC firms say we give you more than money. That’s complete hogwash.”

The same holds true for angels.

So, how do you do dudil on an angel or VC?

Search their name along with words, such as ‘sucks’, that are commonly used for complaints.

Ask your peers; not just the portfolio CEOs, but any who have been raising funds or been around for awhile.

And when you ask, shut up; don’t disagree and don’t argue. Just listen.

Plenty of time later to sort out what you’ve been told.

All relationships are based on trust; if an investor says what you want to hear, or what’s convenient, just to get the deal, then you should have a pretty good idea of just how much help they’ll be down the line.

Flickr image credit: 401kcalculator.org

Fighting Back: Google and You

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016


Like porn, privacy evil seems to be in the eye of the beholder (me), but not in Google’s eye.

I’ve written in the past about the fluidity of evil and the privacy difference between Apple and the rest (Google, Facebook, etc.)

Now I see that Google is going above and beyond in the name of “user convenience.”

Google will need to convince people that having AI manage your life is more convenient than it is creepy.

I get that many of you like the idea and have no problem with suggestions and tracking, etc., so you may have no interest past this point.

But those of you who consider tracking more akin to stalking and are happily capable of managing your own life/world will find the following truly valuable.

In a truly informative and useful article Business Insider provides links so you can see what Google knows about you.

Better yet, it walks you through how to delete and control how Google uses it and what it sells to third parties.

It’s a long way from the privacy Europe enjoys, but it’s sure better than nothing.

Thanks, BI!

Image credit: Lamerie

Ducks in a Row: Sheryl Sandberg’s Commencement Speech

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

I like commencement speeches, so I make it a point to read the transcripts (since I don’t hear well).

This year a number of them were colored political and skewed heavily anti-Trump.

I’m a fan of President Obama, who spoke at Rutgers University. I especially like his idea of “inflection points.”

I’m fond of quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” It bends towards justice. I believe that. But I also believe that the arc of our nation, the arc of the world does not bend towards justice, or freedom, or equality, or prosperity on its own. It depends on us, on the choices we make, particularly at certain inflection points in history; particularly when big changes are happening and everything seems up for grabs.

And, Class of 2016, you are graduating at such an inflection point.

Russell Wilson’s spoke to the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He offered some good advice about what to do “When life tells you no.”

But no, here’s something I really have learned: you can’t do it alone. You’ve got to surround yourself with good people.

Steve Blank spoke at NYU School of Engineering. He spoke about the need to make every day matter.

But this idea has never been far from my mind: That most of us will wake up 28,762 days — and then one day – we won’t. (…)

Make all the days of your life matter.

  1. Take risks and push boundaries
  2. Learn from wise people who may know more than you do
  1. And let serendipity happen.

Commencement speeches typically focus on lie and the brightness of the future, while  Sheryl Sandberg’s speech at UC Berkeley focused on death. It is probably one of the most powerful, valuable, and best speeches I ever heard (read).

In case you missed it here is the transcript, but since most of the world likes video you can watch it yourself.

YouTube credit: UC Berkeley

Golden Oldies: “Or Else” Management

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Have you noticed the threats flying around this political season? Not in-your-face threats, but the subtle kind; the kind that end with an implied ‘or else’. And some not so subtle, with the ‘or else’ loud and clear. ‘Or else’ may be common, and even acceptable, in  politics, but when used as a management tactic the results are always negative. Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamescridland/4334589129/How often do you (or your boss) add “or else” or words to that effect when assigning a project or discussing a deadline?

It happens more than you would think.

The threats are rarely direct—Do it or start looking.

More often, they are subtle, unstated—I expect employees who work here to be team players.

Have no doubt, the threat is there: Do X if you want to keep your job.

Anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of a threat will tell you that they aren’t exactly motivational.

What they are is atrocious management.

Threats are costly not only to the threatEE, who loses confidence and the threatenER, who loses credibility, but also to the organization itself for allowing it to happen.

Far worse is the ripple effect that the sows seeds of a self-propagating culture of intimidation.

Threats kill creativity, innovation, motivation, caring, ownership, in fact, everything that it takes to compete in today’s economy.

Managers who choose to use ultimatums as a motivational tool should not be surprised when employees respond with their feet.

Flickr image credit: James Cridland

Entrepreneurs: Who to Interview

Thursday, May 19th, 2016


I try to be polite, but sometimes it’s difficult.

Sometimes I just need to shut up in order to avoid telling my host that I think he is the stupidest person I’ve been around lately.

“Clay” was talking to a group of new entrepreneurs; going on at length about how brilliant he is at hiring talent for his company.

He said that knew when he should interview someone just by hearing a few basic facts, like education and general experience; no need for detailed specifics.

When he finally stopped bragging and patting himself on the back just one guy had the temerity to disagree, saying that wasn’t enough information to make such company success-critical decisions.

Clay turned and asked me to do four thumbnail sketches of candidates I knew and he would prove it was enough.

Here are the four profiles I provided.

  1. BSBA, some programming in college; started in customer service and worked his way up through the executive ranks.
  2. Some college; 12 years of programming and management experience.
  3. Harvard MBA w/ 25 years progressively more responsible positions in consulting, sales and management.
  4. MIT BS; more than 40 years programming experience in a broad array of technologies. Strong entrepreneurial bent; excellent manager.

Clay laughed and said he wasn’t surprised I included mostly “oldies,” since I was one of them.

He went on to say that he would pass on 1,3 and 4, because they probably wouldn’t fit into the fast pace of a startup. The second was a possibility, although he didn’t sound particularly aggressive.

Poor Clay, his investors won’t be pleased; he just passed on

  1. Marc Benioff (52)
  2. Sheryl Sandberg (47), and
  3. Ray Kurzweil (68)

He did think number 2 was a possibility, although not a strong one.

But Mark Zukerberg (32) probably wouldn’t fit in.

Flickr image credit: Jon Phillips

The Mind of a Creator

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

I find it forever fascinating to try and decipher the minds behind the creativity that stretches the boundaries and adds unique beauty to normal, real-world stuff. Here are two wonderful examples.

It takes a rare mindset to see a utilitarian object, with its own shape and use, and turn it into completely different object with a totally different form and use. The beauty is found in the operational innovation, since each of the final forms looks totally normal.

Or the artist’s mind that takes something that’s been around for centuries and keeps it’s utilitarian properties, while changing it in ways so far beyond the normal decorative and stylistic features that it is almost unimaginable — except to that one mind.

Wouldn’t you love to share a meal (or a bottle of wine) and just talk? No agenda, no purpose, except to bask in the creativity that flows from a truly original mind?

I certainly would.

Video credits: Sofa and Cabinet

Ducks in a Row: The Reward of Personal Deep Time

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016


I read a wonderful essay by artist Rachel Sussman and two paragraphs especially resonated.

After all, meaning is not made of lone facts, lone people, or lone disciplines, nor is it found in the valuing of the objective over the subjective. Rather, meaning comes by way of knitting together a bigger picture, filled with color and texture, and meant to be felt and understood. We most fully understand what we can internalize—that which becomes part of us. The importance of specializing can’t be discarded, but working only within one discipline and strictly adhering to its rules is likely only to generate one kind of work, one kind of result. (…)

Deep time is like deep water: We are constantly brought back to the surface, pulled by the wants and needs of the moment. But like exercising any sort of muscle, the more we access deep time, the more easily accessible it becomes, and the more likely we are to engage in long-term thinking. The more we embrace long-term thinking, the more ethical our decision-making becomes.

Her concept of deep time connected in my mind to HBS’ Jim Heskett’s discussion of deep thinking years ago — especially the comments. (Both are well worth reading.)

Do you notice the connection?

Both embrace silence sans distractions.

What happens when you shut off and shut out the noise of the modern world?

First comes fear; fear of the unknown that is yourself.

The fear fades as self-knowledge grows.

As it fades you see a spark; a spark that grows until it is a steady fire fueled by your own creativity.

A fire that warms you and from which you draw inspiration and ideas.

And, over the course of your life’s short version of deep time, wisdom.

Flickr image credit: Judit Klein

Golden Oldies: Quotable Quotes: Universal Russian Proverbs

Monday, May 16th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

It’s been seven years since I met Nick face-to-face and 16 since I met him online. Much has changed in our lives, our businesses and each of our worlds, but our friendship has only gotten stronger. But the applicability of these Russian proverbs, and proverbs in general, never changes, but the wisdom they encompass grows more meaningful. Read other Golden Oldies here.

RussiaToday was a super cool day for me. I met my Russian business partner Nick Mikhailovsky, CEO of NTR Lab, for the first time, although we’ve worked together for a decade.

So when I started thinking about today’s quotes Russia was on my mind. And when I think of Russia I think of proverbs.

I find proverbs to be fascinating proof that no matter the color, culture or time there really is only one race on this planet—human.

The basic concepts of human action and interaction span the globe. In fact, I’ll bet that your culture has a saying that embodies the same concepts as these do.

War has been around as long as the human race as has the desire for peace, which only proves the truth of this proverb, “Eternal peace lasts only until the next war.”

Common sense underlies this proverb, “as long as the sun shines one does not ask for the moon,” but people rarely follow it.

Real Estate people are fond of saying that the there are only three things that matter, location, location, location, but I’ll bet that this proverb predates that by decades, if not longer. “Don’t buy the house, buy the neighborhood.”

It is well know that age is no guarantee of wisdom, knowledge or smarts, but “long whiskers cannot take the place of brains” is a more elegant way of saying it.

My next offering is one that has always been true, but has been proven in spades over the last couple of decades. “With lies you may go ahead in the world – but you can never go back.” Bernie Madoff has decades to think that one over.

“There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out.” This is one that all of us need to take to heart. We need to find out about our politicians, financial managers, corporate chieftains, religious leaders and any others we choose to trust.

Speaking of politicians, we should never forget that “when money speaks, the truth is silent” and we have condoned a culture of political silence.

There is a universal applicability and truth in this proverb, “When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart.”

Maybe the reason for the universality of these thoughts is found in my final offering, “Proverbs are the people’s wisdom.”

Flickr image credit: Ed Yourdon


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