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Ducks in a Row: Personal Brand / Personal Culture

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/phploveme/4684039656/Everywhere you turn these days you’re told to use social media to create an easily recognized persona that becomes your “personal brand.”

It’s supposed to be the “real” you, i.e., authentic.

It’s also supposed to be the best you, which usually means inauthentic.

Inauthentic, because people typically share all their upside, but rarely the downside.

They post all the fabulous pictures (even helping them along via photoshop-type editing).

Non-fabulous pics are a rarity, unless they are meant to be funny, e.g., morning bedhead before coffee, and those are screened carefully.

We’re not talking spontaneous, rather faux spontaneous.

In fact, everything is carefully curated to enhance and extend one’s personal brand.

But what about personal culture?

As with company culture, your personal culture is based on your personal values.

Values are much harder to curate, since they underlie all actions.

Fred Destin is the latest VC to apologize for his actions, along with Binary Capital’s Justin Caldbeck, 500 Startups founder Dave McLure, and Lowercase Capital’s Chris Sacca.

Apparently it didn’t occur to any of them that their actions towards women were unacceptable, which makes you wonder about their values.

There is no wondering about Donald Trump’s values, since he stated publicly that he could do as he pleased, because he is rich.

The take away here is that no matter how carefully you curate your brand your personal culture will eventually trip you up if your curation doesn’t accurately reflect your values.

Image credit: Jinho Jung

Why Fake News Spreads

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Fake news is on everybody’s mind these days.

Where does it come from?

How does it start?

Is it intentional? An accident? Honest error based on erroneous assumption?

A few days after Donald Trump was elected, 35-year-old Eric Tucker saw something suspicious: A cavalcade of large white buses stretched down main street near downtown Austin, Texas.

Tucker snapped a few photos and took to Twitter, posting the following message:

Tucker was wrong — a company called Tableau Software was actually holding a 13,000-person conference that day and had hired the buses.

OK, a wrong assumption by a social guy who had to tell his network.

But why didn’t the actual facts refute it when they were tweeted?

A new study published June 26 in the journal Nature looks into why fake posts like Tucker’s can go so viral.

Economists concluded that it comes down to two factors. First, each of us has limited attention. Second, at any given moment, we have access to a lot of information — arguably more than at any previous time in history. Together, that creates a scenario in which facts compete with falsehoods for finite mental space. Often, falsehoods win out.

Also, people consider the source of information more than the info itself. Trusted source = valid info.

The tweet was shared 350,000 times on Facebook and 16,000 and Trump added his two cents.

The corrected information was shared only 29 times.

Why didn’t Tucker tweet his network a correction when he it turned out to be false?

“I’m … a very busy businessman and I don’t have time to fact-check everything that I put out there, especially when I don’t think it’s going out there for wide consumption,”

In other words, he couldn’t be bothered.

Research and economists aside, Tucker provided the real key.

People aren’t bothered whether it’s true or not.

They just care that they get their 15 seconds of fame.

Image credit: Business Insider

If The Shoe Fits: Your Survival vs. Their Hyperbole

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mThe words and images people share through social media have enormous spin.

This is especially true in the startup world where image is everything and perception is key to the next round of funding or investment.

The purpose is to tell the world how world-changing the tech, amazing the team, great the opportunity and how perfectly they are executing.

In other words, they are ‘crushing their goals’, ‘wowing the world’ and ‘killing it’.

Not only that, they are doing it with nary a bump or pothole along the way.

(If you believe that I have a great deal on a lovely orange bridge that would look great in your backyard after you IPO.)

Lee Hower, Co-founder & Partner of NextView Ventures and former entrepreneur at LinkedIn and PayPal, wrote a very needed commentary regarding the hyperbole that irrigates the startup ecosystem.

As he says, “not everybody is killing it and certainly not all the time.”

If anything, the constant social media barrage claiming to be ‘killing it’ is increasing denial, making it harder to admit the challenges, let alone actual problems, and further limiting entrepreneurs ability to talk about it.

Two years ago I wrote about the high incidence of depression and suicide among entrepreneurs and it hasn’t improved.

Entrepreneurs who go public do so after the fact offering useful insights on how they overcame. While this is valuable, it can make it even more difficult for those in the throes, with no one to talk to.

Entrepreneurship is a double-edged sword; while it can be enormously rewarding, it can also destroy and even kill you — or all of the above.

There are two important take-aways in all this.

  1. Don’t believe everything you see/hear about how others are doing.
  2. Never forget that your pursuits won’t thrive unless you survive.

Ttake care of yourself.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ducks in a Row: The Cult Of Me

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/joannaleeosborn/9802436943/

The “cult of me” isn’t new.

Through time, all generations were self-absorbed, but due to sheer size, the Boomers are the original me generation.

Gen X wasn’t much better and in 1982 Steve Wozniak financed The US Festival. According to Glenn Aveni, director of a recently released documentary about the festival,

“Woz felt the 1970’s were The ‘Me’ Generation and that it was time for the world to embrace a less selfish credo, one of unity and togetherness.”

Great music, but little effect.

Millennials come next, slightly more of them (75.4 M to 74.9) and most happily carry on the focus on me.

Tech has driven that focus across all generations via selfies and social media to the point that for millions their experiences, meals and even their lives exist only if they constantly post them online and they are liked, shared, and retweeted.

There was a time when I allowed myself to be more than what could fit onto a 2-by-4-inch screen. When I wasn’t so self-conscious about how I was seen. When I embraced my contradictions and desires with less fear of embarrassment or rejection.

The focus on me has led to a focus on being happy — polls and articles measuring happiness, and comparing happiness.

Back in the day, the Boomers considered everything a challenge that must be overcome. Fast forward to now and Millennials, especially those in Silicon Valley, see the world as a series of problems to be “hacked” (modern times call for modern words).

Which, to put it politely, is a crock.

Andrew Taggart thinks most of this is nonsense. A PhD in philosophy, Taggart practices the art of gadfly-for-hire. He disabuses founders, executives, and others in Silicon Valley of the notion that life is a problem to be solved, and happiness awaits those who do it. Indeed, Taggart argues that optimizing one’s life and business is actually a formula for misery.

This is important, because, in many ways, it’s Silicon Valley that is shaping much of our world — even for those of us who choose not to actively participate.

But I doubt Taggart and his ilk will change that attitude or the obsessive focus on “my world.”

Scott Berkun, a former Microsoft manager and philosophy major who has written multiple business books on the subject, says philosophy’s lessons are lost on most in Silicon Valley. Many focus on aggrandizing the self, rather than pursuing a well-examined purpose. “If you put Socrates in a room during a pitch session, I think he’d be dismayed at so many young people investing their time in ways that do not make the world or themselves any better,” he said.

I never saw life as a challenge or a problem. I prefer a different mantra.

Life is a mystery to be lived — not a challenge/problem to be overcome.

It’s a happy way to live.

Image credit: Joanna Lee Osborn

Story Power

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Ask any 21st Century marketer about brand building and they will tell you ‘it’s all about the story’.

Every brand works to tell stories that draw people in; that they want to share.

The obvious social deafness of major brands is hard to fathom, with Nivea and Pepsi being two of the most recent.

Nivea’s “White is Purity” ad was pulled and the entire campaign canceled two days after its appearance on Facebook.

The company provided what has come to be a boilerplate apology.

“We are deeply sorry to anyone who may take offense to this specific post,” the company said in a statement. “Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of Nivea.”

Within days it was Pepsi on the social media hot seat for an incredibly insensitive, incredibly white ad focusing on the Black Lives Matter protests.

The ad was pulled in hours, although, as you can see, nothing posted is ever truly deleted; here is Pepsi’s gussied up version of the boilerplate apology.

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.”

Nivea’s story was from an agency, while Pepsi’s was developed in-house.

While I’m no fan of social media in general and its penchant for spreading fake news, in this case the lightening reactions actually did some good.

Heineken is another story (pun intended) entirely and has the awards to prove it, so it isn’t surprising that it was Heineken that successfully created the story the others screwed up so badly.

The take-away is that stories are a two-edged sword, so be sure to do them outside the echo chamber or don’t do them.

Image credit: Heineken and Team cast

Does Being Busy Make You Valuable?

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/3619878820/

Live mindfully long enough and you can get an interesting perspective on lifestyle changes.

Some will please, some not; some you’ll question, some deplore, and some will cause you to shake your head in amazement.

The last is how I felt when I read new research from HBS.

In fact, some boast the lack of spare time as a status symbol—even an aspirational lifestyle.

“The new conspicuous consumption is about saying, I am the scarce resource, and therefore I am valuable.”

I’ve seen this first hand, not just in the startup community or twenty-somethings, but among Gen Xers, Boomers and even my own peers.

It used to be that overload came from always saying yes, instead of a carefully evaluated “no” — however, if you are known for saying ‘yes’ be prepared for the backlash if you change.

These days, the things that keep you busy also need to raise your profile/ reputation/Klout score/ increase your Likes/generate followers (preferably on multiple platforms)/social presence/etc.

A couple of year after I started MCS a reader asked why I bothered to do it when it generated so few comments.

My response was that I wasn’t writing to promote myself, but to provide information to those who wanted/needed it and that comments came when readers had questions or wanted to add to the dialogue.

While accurate, my response ignored the fact that because my blog is not high profile commenting on it has a very low ROI.

That said, I understand and don’t fault readers.

We live in a world where building your personal brand is a necessary part of building a career, so the time allotted to writing comments needs to provide a certain ROI and, of course, you are busy.

OK, I get all that.

But no matter how long I live I doubt I’ll ever understand the fragility of egos that need to prove their value so badly they are willing to give up their lives to do it.

Image credit: Sean MacEntee

How To Become An Adult

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Sometimes people seem to forget that kids grow up and become adults.

Or they used to.

The responsibility for most of the problem can be laid at the feet of their parents and their helicopter approach to raising their offspring. Most ironically, they complain when job candidates sport the same attitudes as their own kids.

Other factors retarding adulthood include the escapism offered by today’s video games, especially for under-30 males, the lack of interpersonal skills driven by social media, along with social media’s unsubtle efforts to foster addiction in the name of profit.

And, of course, the largest factor being family and friends, whose emotional and financial support, enable a relatively comfortable living situation.

The difficulty today’s young adults are having in becoming actual adults was the impetus for (what else) a startup.

Rachel Weinstein, a psychotherapist, and Katie Brunelle, a former elementary school teacher and coach, responded by creating the Adulting School, a place for people to gain the skills they need to feel like an adult, from goal-setting and sheet-fitting to how to manage money or hang a picture.

Simon Senek, a British author and motivational speaker, also blames parents for the false expectations of so many Millennials, who never were given the chance to learn/live the process of achievement.

“Everything you want you can have instantaneously, except for job satisfaction and strength of relationships,” Senek argues. “There’s no app for that; they are slow, meandering, uncomfortable processes.”

Whatever you think about a school that teaches adults how to be adults the real question is: in what direction will the next generation go?

Image credit: the Adulting School

Ducks in a Row: Behavioral Addiction Means Profit

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital/4549543273/

Do you believe that Twitter was founded with effects like Arab Spring in mind? Or that Mark Zukerberg started Facebook for altruistic reasons? Or that Instagram, Snapchat and other similar sites actually have your wellbeing in mind?

If so, you probably also believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

The primary purpose of every one of these sites is simple: to make as much money as possible.

How?

By using personalization to achieve behavioral addiction.

Infinite personalization comprises the artificial intelligence-driven, big-data based tools that allow algorithms to build a personalized Internet echo chamber customized just for you, designed to make you feel great. Infinite personalization feeds you the real, the fake, and everything in between, with the simple goal of holding your attention and getting you to come back for more. It is the process by which companies can measure, match, and predict consumers’ individual preferences with amazing accuracy and then tailor offerings to maximize revenue.

It’s done with full knowledge and, in my opinion, malice afore thought.

It’s why tech titans, starting with Steve Jobs in 2010, limit their kids, as I said a couple of years ago in The Hypocrites of Tech.

They want their kids to grow to positions of leadership and power and know they can’t if their world shrinks to a self-enhancing echo chamber that only regurgitates information that fits their preconceived ideas.

Personalization is active in the real world, too, and has been for several years, with young adults inventing ways to shrink their world by curating their college roommates and demanding “safe places.”  

All I can say it ‘good luck’ when their carefully curated echo chamber has to function in the work-world.

However, it’s a sad and scary commentary that in the frenzy to make more and more money tech is providing a detailed roadmap, along with the supporting technology, for demagogs to become dictators.

For a more detailed look at behavioral addiction check out Adam Alter’s Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

Image credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Golden Oldies: The Screen that Kills Connection, Friendship and Empathy

Monday, October 17th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back at 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.

A couple of years ago I cited research that showed how the vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and that, like muscles, it needs exercise to stay strong; screen time weakens that connection. I also predicted that the research would fall on deaf ears if it fell at all. Sometimes I hate when I’m right, so here it is again. Read it carefully, share it with all your friends and then plan your own vagus exercise routine.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitpedia/4882197805People’s preoccupation with their screens has been blamed for many things and if you’ve been around someone who kept sneaking peeks while talking you know how annoying that is.

But did you know it messes up not only your brain, but also your capacity for connection, friendship, empathy, as well as your actual physical health?

Texting even messes up your infant’s future!

New parents may need to worry less about genetic testing and more about how their own actions — like texting while breast-feeding or otherwise paying more attention to their phone than their child — leave life-limiting fingerprints on their and their children’s gene expression.

It’s not just a case of being distracted.

Your vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and how you handle your social connections affects the vagal tone, which, like muscle tone, can improve with exercise and that, in turn, increases the capacity for connection, friendship and empathy.

In short, the more attuned to others you become, the healthier you become, and vice versa. This mutual influence also explains how a lack of positive social contact diminishes people. Your heart’s capacity for friendship also obeys the biological law of “use it or lose it.” If you don’t regularly exercise your ability to connect face to face, you’ll eventually find yourself lacking some of the basic biological capacity to do so.

Do I think this research will actually make a difference in people’s actions?

No!

Even if the information becomes widespread I don’t think people would give up the instant gratification of being mentioned or conquer their FOMO and focus instead on quality face time.

It doesn’t seem a big deal right now, but look into the future at a world that doesn’t just lack connection and empathy, but is filled with people who aren’t even capable of it.

I’m glad I won’t be around.

One last item; a short essay that says better than I have in the past exactly why I don’t carry a cell phone. Enjoy!

Flickr image credit: Digitpedia Com

Entrepreneurs: More About Naming

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

WhartonMy part of this post will be a brief, because I want to be sure you use the link I’m going to give you.

Have you ever noticed that when a subject, word or name comes up you suddenly start running into it from all sides.

Last week’s Entrepreneur post look at the challenge of naming a company or product and used CB Insights as a kind of case study.

Today I read an article from Knowledge @ Wharton (it’s worth subscribing) called How (Not) to Name a Company in the Digital Era.

“Name selection is more important now than ever before,” says Alexandra Watkins, founder of brand consulting agency Eat My Words. “Your name has to work harder than it did 20 years ago.”

Driving the charge are shifts in technology and consumer habits. The ubiquitous presence of internet domain names and web addresses, or URLs, social media and the prevalent use of smartphones and tablets with their smaller screens call for new rules on how a company, product or service should select its name, marketing experts say.

I thought it was very good and sent it to several serial entrepreneurs who have been through the naming fire multiple times.

They also thought it was excellent and said to share it.

So I am.

Now click the link.

Image credit:  Wharton

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