Erica and Matt Chua: The Experience that is Khao San Road

Khao San Road is the gateway to Southeast Asia, which means this is the first stop for many young and often inexperienced travelers planning a trip to the region.  It has almost a spring break type atmosphere and just about anything goes, before I go into detail about “anything” lets take a quick look at history. According to wikitravel  the word khao san itself means milled rice and is an attribution to the historical role of this street in the rice trade. The first business to open on Khao San Road was a small hotel aimed at serving civil servants from the provinces who came to Bangkok on business. The hotel was followed by Sor Thambhakdi, a shop selling monks’ accessories. Four similar businesses moved in after, and Khao San became known as a “religious road”.  Let me tell you that the only religious thing about Khao San Road anymore is how people drink religiously when they visit.  Nonetheless, Khao San Road is a must-see in Bangkok.  You might not choose to stay at one of the  cheap guesthouses in the middle of the action, but you may want to do one of the following:

Top Ten Things to do on Khao San Road

1. Drink, I’m not condoning binge drinking here, but this is definitely the place to grab a local Chang beer or a bucket.   A bucket is just that a sand-pale style bucket filled with liquor it’s typically whiskey (the local Sang Som) and Coke,  but you can pick your poison.

2. Stay awake, Khao San Road never sleeps so you can visit anytime day or night.  The morning is the quietest and at night everything comes alive.  Once the bars close by 2:00 am or so, the patrons will flood the street moving the party outside.

3. People Watch, this goes hand-in hand with staying awake as night offers the best people watching.  Herds of young backpackers roam the streets intermingled with street vendors, lady boys and tuk tuk drivers.  It’s hard not to stare at all the crazy characters hanging out.

4. Buy Art, there are some very talented artists that sell their paintings and photographs on the side of the street, it is definitely worth checking out.  Remember to bargain and you could take home a fantastic painting for under $20.

5. Shop, Khao San Road is the bohemian capital of Bangkok, so if you are looking for patchwork skirts, a buddha t-shirt or want to get a singing bowl you will find it on Khao San. Make sure you bargain because all the vendors are willing to “make good price for you.”

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Erica and Matt Chua: The Experience that is Khao San Road

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: My ridiculously amazing experience!

jyb_musingsI just landed…you heard me right, “landed!!” Because I flew. I have been flying…high up in the air…at wicked fast speeds ….and flew over 1000 miles —that’s right, 1000 miles!! –and all in just under 2 hours!!

We landed in cold, icy and foggy conditions. Giant wheels came down underneath the airplane at just the right time and the pilots, who were responsible for about 120 lives, calmly and smoothly landed the giant flying contraption and we all lived. 

I know I have experienced this very same thing many times. But this time I was really conscious of it and paying attention. And aware of how truly amazing it really is!

And the entire mind-boggling trip cost less than two shirts and a belt I could have bought at the airport.

This flight was much better than any two shirts and a belt I have ever bought.

One man sitting 2 seats in front of me missed the whole thing because he hadn’t flown before and threw up in a complimentary bag the entire flight. He was paying close attention just like me and it must have just blown his mind –even more than it did mine. I hope he tries again.

I met the pilot as I got off the plane. He was about 15 years younger than me but real responsible looking with short well-groomed hair and not a bead of sweat on his forehead. If I had his job I would have looked more like the guy 2 seats in front of me. I wanted to say, “Sir, that was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.” But I didn’t because I forget to remember a lot of amazing things I experience.

This was certainly one of those experiences! I just said, “Thanks” to the pilot.

And the most amazing part of all is that all I had to do was think about what I was doing for a few minutes rather than taking it for granted.

I would tell you how I am going to get home from the airport, but I doubt you would believe that either.

Greg Harris: Facilitating a Changed Economy

Greg HarrisAs our nation emerges from the Great Recession, many economists and pundits yearn for Americans to start spending more.  But in this yearning for a return to the economy of old, we may be neglecting an incredible opportunity to move away from a consumerism-driven economy.

In fact, a more deliberate policy discussion should focus on ways to accommodate new economic habits and trends that are undermining status quo economic assumptions and governing approaches to regulating and reporting on commerce.

From Farmer Markets to technology-driven efficiencies, a new generation of entrepreneurs is re-writing rules faster than societal regulatory and reporting systems can adapt. As such, Americans are being given an increasingly false picture of economic activity and health.

In the past, I’ve written for the RP about how social media—in the hands of democracy seeking activists—is the greatest emergent threat to oppressive regimes. A similar dynamic is emerging from grassroots and netroots entrepreneurs who are pursuing ways of exchange that baffle those who seek to tax, regulate, and measure economies.

I have experienced this firsthand through farmer markets, where my wife built her original client base and became emboldened to leave her corporate accounting job to open her own (now successful) pet store. Indeed, these markets are proving an enormous incubator of small businesses.  I have witness firsthand several folks make the transition from vendors hawking their items on rickety tables and from the back of trucks to successful shops and restaurants.

What has further stood out to me about the farmer markets is the terms of exchange negotiated vendor to vendor – perhaps the one true place where a barter economy still exists. What has emerged in Greater Cincinnati is a conceptual cousin to the “network of cooperative colonies” envisioned in Upton Sinclair’s depression-era campaign for California Governor when he advocated for building a system of localized barter economies.

The critical distinction, of course, is that these networks have emerged organically rather than being central government driven. In this sub-economy, the bread vendor gives a few loaves to the pet vendor who in turn swaps food for the baker’s pet; the baker provides bread to the farmer who uses it for himself and to feed his animals, and exchanges, in return, meat for the baker who tonight will be grilling chicken for her kids.  The values of goods are determined through person-to-person dialogue.  Contrary to the economy experienced by most, those who barter are intimately familiar with the value of the goods they negotiate via personal transactions.

In a consumer society built on several degrees of disconnect from the people who grow or manufacture the products we eat and wear, and who provide the credit we often use for purchases that offer a false sense of wealth and inflate costs, the Farmer’s Market is the antidote: a personalized culture of relationships intimately connected to the goods we share and consume.

At a different level, we see these emergent ways of doing business challenging and even undermining the ways in which wealth is measured. Victor Hwang’s recent fascinating piece for Forbes discusses this dynamic as it plays out with businesses like Uber, which trades spare passenger seats in cars:

Here’s some news that might surprise you: Uber will lower America’s gross domestic product .  In fact, it has already started.  The more Uber grows, the worse our GDP will get.  And it’s not just Uber.  Many of its startup cousins—like Lyft, Airbnb, and others—are also guilty of shrinking our economic growth numbers.  The trend is about to become an epidemic.

The emergence of Uber challenges how our nation measures Gross Domestic Product because it encourages sharing in areas once reserved for consumption—indeed, “a high-profile example of the sharing economy, which revolves around the idea of people sharing underutilized resources.”

GDP may in fact present a false picture. New economies should not have to cater to the dated calculus of stale institutions; the institutions should facilitate the ideas, instincts, and innovation of entrepreneurs.   As Hwang asserts, “presidents, prime ministers, and others will have no choice but to rethink the way they measure economic vitality.”

This doesn’t just go for the business start ups or the technologically gifted. It also speaks to a national shadow economy that provides real services. We often hear of true unemployment versus the reported unemployment, as there are millions of people who aren’t counted because they’ve stopped looking.  But many of those who stopped looking for jobs are in fact working.  They afford work by hiding from their government.

So what is the appropriate policy response? Yes, “the State” could continue to seek new ways to capture national productivity and GDP, as well as devise ways to clamp down on personalized transaction paid through barter or cash.

Or perhaps a better path forward would be to look critically at tax policies that promote rather than harnesses broadened definitions of economic vitality? Bloomberg View’s Mark Buchanan examines this reassessment of “wealth” for its broader implications:

The work of creating better measures is decidedly unglamorous, and yet perhaps nothing is more important. It entails finding ways to count the value of intact ecosystems in the natural recycling of wastes and in maintaining soil integrity. It requires quantifying the depletion of capital through the extraction of exhaustible resources such as minerals or fossil fuels, or the destruction of renewable resources such as fisheries or forests. The economists and scientists doing this work might turn out to be the heroes of the future.

In America, this might include looking at ways to incentivize a more holistic notion of national wealth versus today’s consumer economy.

Does the income tax, for example, complement the American entrepreneurial spirit, or serve as its harness? Perhaps a national sales tax instead of income tax is more in line with the American experiment? Exempting the first $10,000 in worker earnings from payroll tax (FICA) could offset the regressive nature of a sales tax.

Policies that encourage savings, a real individual-level valuing of goods, and personalization versus distancing that comes from genuine control over what you earn and how you spend what you earn should be part of some new reckoning with an economy that is, and should be, ever changing.

Much human activity is economic activity: our jobs, our consumption.  How do we facilitate not the economy but a system of economies where individuals are empowered to earn and to spend in ways that facilitate authenticity, personalization, and sharing?

More exciting still, such tax reform would have a strong cleansing effect on democratic institutions hijacked by powerful interests that currently manipulate the tax code to the advantage of elites that pay for their services—you know, the very institutions that were formed to give power to the people.

Other areas of consideration might include de-emphasizing “punishing” income in favor of rewarding conservation that preserves our nation’s natural assets. In fact, one recent proposal emerging from Congress to tax carbon could see daylight if, as the New York TimesGreg Mankiw suggests, it uses “the new revenue to reduce personal and corporate income tax rates.”

For my next column, I will explore more fully how tax reforms can be part of the toolbox for simplifying our tax code, encouraging national re-investment, and renewed personalization and individual control over our current economy’s abstracting effects: making tangible costs for a debt and consumption-driven nation that should change its habits for the good of our individual, economic, and environmental well being.

Saul Kaplan: Innovation Lessons From Taylor Swift

photo-saulI’m not a fan of pop music but I am an innovation junkie. My daughter Alyssa, a self- professed Swiftie, has been pestering me to pay attention, if not to Taylor Swift’s music at least to her business model. She wore me down. Turns out, there’s a lot we innovation junkies can learn from Taylor Swift. Whether her music is your thing or not (I have to admit its growing on me!), you can’t help but be impressed with Taylor Swift’s business savvy during a time when the music industry is being disrupted to smithereens. I’m most impressed with her social media presence to catalyze a growing army of Swifties and her aggressive stand against Spotify as the business model war between mp3 sales and streaming services rages on.

The most successful businesses today are movements more than companies. Movements don’t market. Movements inspire and engage. They create an emotional connection through storytelling. Not stories to be enjoyed passively but stories we see ourselves in, stories we can actively participate in. What Taylor Swift realizes, that most businesses haven’t figured out, is that “social” isn’t an extension to an existing business model, it is an entirely new business model. Social isn’t a bolt on, its central to how movements start and grow.

Over the last two years the bottom has fallen out of the U.S. album market with sales plummeting 20%. Taylor Swift’s new album 1989 defies gravity with amazing launch week sales of 1.28 million copies exceeding all expectations according to Nielsen SoundScan. Swifties everywhere mobilized to make it so. My daughter, the fangirl, drove this innovation lesson home for me. Alyssa maintains a tumblr site dedicated to all things Taylor Swift. I didn’t pay attention until the day she called home proclaiming that the pop star had followed her and had actually responded to her question about all important lipstick choices. My daughter was so excited you would think it was a national holiday! That’s what I call fan engagement.

As if that wasn’t enough to lock in a fan for life, my daughter’s next post was a video of her 3 year-old twin nieces (our granddaughters) dancing to Shake It Off. Cute, aren’t they? When Taylor Swift tweeted out the video to her 46 million followers, our granddaughters went viral. Now everyone in our family is a Swiftie!

Multiply the ripple effect from this example of personal engagement thousands and thousands of times and you begin to see how social isn’t about pushing a message out to potential customers, its about pulling people into a movement. Talk about force multipliers. Social business is redundant. All business is social.

There is also an important innovation lesson in the way Taylor Swift has staked out her position in the music industry business model wars. Album sales are declining rapidly because consumers are flocking to free streaming services like Spotify with over 40 million active users. Only about 25% of those active users pay for a premium service without ads, the rest stream for free. 40 million streamers can put a serious dent in album sales. Spotify pays per stream royalties of between $0.006 and $0.0084 which is significantly less than an artist can make through mp3 sales.

Not many artists have Taylor Swift’s market clout but when she announced she was pulling her music off of Spotify it sent a clear message to the market. Content matters and should be paid for. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed and in a Yahoo interview she makes her point of view clear.

“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for”.

“I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music”.

In a world where content can be digitized and the marginal cost of global distribution is virtually zero consumers have been conditioned to get content for free. It’s a business model free for all. Content producers have been squeezed mercilessly. Journalists, authors, and musicians are being decimated. Newspaper and magazine journalists have been let go in droves left to scramble to make ends meet as free agents. Authors bear the brunt of collateral damage from the battle between Hachette and Amazon. Fewer and fewer musicians can make a living pursuing their passion.

A dangerous narrative has emerged in which content creators are supposed to just accept that their content will be free. Authors are expected to write articles and books for free so they can make money giving speeches and doing consulting work. Musicians are expected to release music for peanuts so they can make money on the road doing concerts.

I have personally fallen into this trap as a steady content producer including tweets, blogs, articles, and even a book. How many of us keep pumping out content for free or very little money in the hopes that it will translate into value in other ways? Taylor Swift is taking an impressive stand. Yes it is in her best interest to do so but it is also in the interest of content creators everywhere.

Many new business models will emerge in the digital era. It will be messy while the market sorts out and balances consumer, platform, and content creator interests. Business models that don’t recognize the power of customer engagement and fully value the contribution of content creators are unsustainable. This new Swiftie is rooting for Taylor Swift’s continued success.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Throwing down some stone cold wisdom

jyb_musingsWhen life throws you a curve ball, duck. And then get out of the way. And if you find the ball, don’t throw it back and try to hit the person who threw it at you. He may have a knife or a gun. And you don’t want things to escalate. Just let the ball lie and be glad it didn’t hit you –this time. And use your rear view mirror.

When life gives you lemons. Take them. You know what they say…free lemons!

When life is unfair, join the club. It is your turn in the barrel. Get in the barrel and roll down the hill. It’s a shorter hill than you think. And it will be someone else’s turn before you know it.

When you are betrayed by someone you trusted, don’t blame them too much. They are about average. But you can strive to be better than that. And that makes you above average. For the moment.

When someone lies to you, don’t call them out on it in an embarrassing way. Just let them know you know the truth and you know they know that you know the truth. And you don’t have to say anything to communicate that. Stay trustworthy. And make peace with the fact that you can’t trust everyone always. But keep trusting –with eyes wide open and lower expectations. Life is better that way.

When someone talks behind your back about you, step back and watch that person from a distance and say to yourself, “I wonder why that person feels a need to do that… Whatever the reason, I hope he gets over it soon” And keep that to yourself and keep doing whatever you were doing. It’s really not about you anyway. And remember, people do things behind your back because they lack the confidence and integrity to look you in the eye.

And if all these things are happening to you, remember, you are right on schedule –for a Wednesday. Be glad you are participating. Life is better that way. Keep participating, please.

But with a little wisdom, a lot humor and and a penchant for patience, this Wednesday may well be just a little bit better.

And there’s nothing wrong with carrying Pepper Spray. Some day you may need it. But only in emergences.

Julie Rath: How Powerfully Are You Showing Up?

nls-logo

Have you ever wondered how you rate on a scale of 1-10? Winter is practically here, and the holidays right after that. Those are key times to be exuding confidence and looking your best.

If you want to get serious about your style, and be taken seriously as a result, I invite you to watch the video I made for you explaining how it all works. I’ve worked with hundreds of men worldwide, and it’s been my incredible privilege to observe how much their lives improve and what opportunities come their way when they upgrade their style.

On the same page as the video, you can also take my style quiz. It will show you how you measure up, and what you can do to get to a 10.

-Content provided by Rath & Co. Men’s Style Consulting. Read more: http://rathandco.com/2014/09/how-powerfully-are-you-showing-up/#ixzz3KJgkrqF6

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Own Your Mistakes

It is always important to “own” your mistakes.

And only after that try to find a silver lining

It is always important to "own" your mistakes.</p>
<p>And only after that try to find a silver lining

Josh Bowen: 5 Pillars of Success

joshAbout 3 hours ago I had dinner with an old friend I had not seen in a while. During our conversation she let me know that over the last several weeks she had been incredibly busy with holiday activities. Work parties, ugly sweater parties, keg parties and hell maybe even an egg nog party. I say that in jest however I know she has been busy with the holidays.

I can only imagine what it would be like for someone who was married and had kids. All the events leading up to the Christmas or Hanukkah must be exhausting, let alone the events themselves. I purposely put off a grand opening event at my new studio just because it was December and I didn’t want to monopolize anymore of my people’s time.

What I am getting at is time is limited. Food choices are plenty but they can be very unhealthy and not what we would classify as “JB friendly.” All in all this time of year is hard on everyone, including our fitness goals. SO…after thinking about what I wanted to say tonight, I decided to share with you all my 5 Pillars for success. They also happen to be my companies core values.

Inspiration
It can often be hard to get inspired to workout or eat right during this time of year. However, we must all realize that one bad meal does not mean you have to eat another and another. Stop the snowball effect by realizing this is marathon and not a sprint. Also, become inspired to inspire others. Others that may be going through something that you have been through. This is an important pillar of success. What goes around comes around.

Motivation
It can be just as hard to become motivated to keep good patterns rolling. Motivation can come from within or it can be external. However, do not be a procrastinator and say you will get to it after the first of the year. Time is ticking and time waits for no one. Start now or continue the path that you have been on. Do not quit.

Accomplishment
A big thing for me with clients are “small victories.” Whether it being able to walk up the stairs without feeling faint or being able to hop off the table with no issue or being able to accept their body for what it is, accomplishment is huge. This time of year we should all reflect on things we have accomplished and continue to build as we move into 2015.

Greatness
“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” That quote defines greatness. If you are going to do it, do it all the way. No half-stepping. Go all in and never turn back.

Experience
“Life is the about the journey.” Enjoy the ride and hope that every experience can be learned from and built upon for future encounters.

Do not sweat the small stuff and keep your head on straight during the 20 plus days. January will be here before you know it. If you want to get a quick start on your New Year’s Resolution, look no further than yours truly.

John Y. Brown, III: Disliking Chris Hughes

jyb_musingsI don’t like to ever be negative, especially on Facebook.

But if there was ever a time for a Facebook “Dislike” button to exist, it is now, for Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, for dabbling with and then destroying one of our nation’s most respected and thoughtful political publications, The New Republic magazine.

How does one person so single-handedly undo in two years what hundreds of literary giants toiled so diligently and relentlessly for over a century to create and build? The answer to that question –about an astonishing failure– is unfortunately not nearly as interesting or as unlikely as Facebook’s astonishing success.

It is instead the same timeworn story of someone who confuses great ability and success in one area to translate into great ability and success in other and unrelated areas.

For Chris Hughes of Facebook fame it was assuming being a star in anticipating a new niche in the new online medium of social media would mean brilliant success in creating a new niche in the old print medium of political analysis and commentary. Mr Hughes, of course, was wrong.

As stunningly wrong as he was stunningly right about his earlier success with Facebook.

In Mr Hughes’ case, it was hubris caused not from too much intelligence but from too little self-awareness of his own capabilities (and perhaps too much money and idle time) that led instead to his brilliant debacle with the New Republic. And that is worthy of an over-sized and emphatic Facebook “Dislike.” If it existed.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Is Chivalry Dead?

jyb_musingsIs Chivalry Dead?

Not in Louisville, Kentucky, it’s not.

As I was leaving an event the other night, I walked outside with a group of people including a friend and one of the co-hosts, the lovely Tammy York-Day. I decided to walk Tammy to the multilevel parking lot nearby where we both had parked –as any Southern gentleman would be expected to do.

It was dark out and as we peered into the parking garage it was eerily quiet.

I had parked on the 2nd floor and Tammy told me she had parked on the 4th floor.

“What does modern day chivalry command?” I wondered to myself.

OK. I didn’t really wonder that to myself. What I really thought to myself was “Oh, Sh*t! Am I expected to go all the way to the 4th floor with Tammy and to pretend like I am going to protect her?” I didn’t say this out loud, of course. Just thought it. And then I thought, “I really don’t want to do that. It is two extra full floors up and it is late and I am a little scared to go up there with only Tammy to protect me.” I didn’t say that out loud either.

My mind immediately went into overdrive to quickly come up with an alternative plan. One that was still within the realm of chivalrous but not overly or absurdly chivalrous.

Instead of walking toward the elevator I started up the stairs. I let Tammy take the elevator. It would be harder, I reasoned, for Tammy to expect me to walk up two extra flights of stairs than I needed to for my car. And I figured since her car was on the 4th floor, Tammy would prefer the elevator and she did.

But my real save was I yelled out to Tammy as I said good-bye, “I promise to wait here on the stairs until you get to your car and I will listen for sounds of scuffling or screaming. If you get mugged or attacked just scream as loudly as you can.” I continued explaining my chivalrous plan, “I will be able to hear you because a scream from the 4th floor of the parking garage will carry to the 2nd floor where I will be with my car. Then I will start screaming and from the 2nd floor my scream would be heard at the street level,” and hopefully someone would hear and come to the rescue. Someone other than me, that is.

It was a brilliant, fool-proof, and yet still chivalrous plan.

But as we stood at the stairs and elevator, it became obvious to me Tammy was wondering what would happen if she was attacked then and there. I knew exactly how to calm her worries. I reassured Tammy that even though I wasn’t a tall guy or especially strong guy or even an overly masculine guy, I did have a big vocabulary and high emotional IQ and could use sarcasm —biting sarcasm, if necessary —and “shaming,” shaming from childhood parental wounds, if necessary. I explained I had a powerful “Disappointed father” look I could use on any attacker. And combined with devastating sarcasm, I had a powerful “one -two punch” (metaphorically speaking) that would knock back any attacker who was foolish enough to try to harm her.

Although she didn’t say anything, I could tell Tammy felt safe and secure with a Southern –and chivalrous– gentleman so close by as I stood in the stairwell about a dozen feel away explaining everything (so I wouldn’t have to go all the way up to the fourth floor with her).

As I waved goodbye and promised to wait to see if she screamed from the 4th floor, Tammy knew one thing for absolute certain: That chivalry was far from dead. That chivalry was, in fact, alive and well and flourishing tonight —at least here in Louisville, Kentucky for Tammy York-Day.

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