John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Building Blocks

Building BlocksYou know, maybe…. learning to play with building blocks is the most important activity we learn as children.

Because we continue– metaphorically speaking–to play this game our entire lives.

Everytime we experience something new or learn some new piece of information or glean some new insight about life it is like we collect a new block we can play with–to help build something with.

So, I guess we should ask ourselves each day, “What are we building today with our building blocks?” And, “Which building blocks are we choosing to build with?”

jyb_musings==

Success milemarkers for a new business.

The day you replace the two chairs in the entrance you purchased from Wal-Mart six years ago and assembled yourself with two chairs you purchased on clearance from Z Gallerie. That come pre-assembled.

Erica and Matt Chua: He Said/She Said: Japanese Fashion

When you hear “Japanese fashion”, what do you think?  Middle-age men wearing Disney World hats, Las Vegas t-shirts and enormous cameras?  Or do you think the Harajuku women, dressed up like dolls, anime characters, and the occasional horse head?  Are their fashion choices representing craziness or self-expression in a repressive society?  Read our takes then have your say in the comments below.

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HE SAID…

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Fashion in Japan is interesting.  “Interesting” used in a Minnesota-nice sort of way, as in, “it’s not my thing, I’m not sure about it, actually it makes me a little uncomfortable, but I can’t say that because…well I’m a Minnesotan.”  I’ve been told that in other parts of the country people would say something like, “God bless their heart, I wouldn’t be caught dead in that!”  I think many of the fashions are absolutely crazy, the pedophile soliciting schoolgirl outfits, the dancing Elvises, the anime characters!?!  I don’t get it.

I don’t understand why people want to walk down the street and have people gawking at them.  I don’t get why people want to become a tourist attraction.  I really can’t comprehend why some of them get annoyed that tourists take photos of them, after all, they are the ones drawing the attention to themselves with their choices of clothing.  More over, how long does it take these people to get all done up like this?  Caking on the layers of makeup, doing up their hair, buying all the clothes, putting themselves together the way you would a Barbie Doll.  The time, effort, cost and ogling makes the whole production seem unrewarding.

Are those shoes comfortable?  Whatever you used to make your face look like that…is it toxic?  What if it doesn’t go back to “normal”?  Do you even care?  What do you want to be?  What feeling does it give you to do yourself up like this?  Why, why, why?  Maybe I have too many question, maybe I’m too cerebral for fashion, maybe it’s me that’s crazy, not them, but I’m pretty certain it’s them.

There is one thing I do like in Japanese and in broader Asian fashion: super short mini skirts.  If wacky english worded slogans on shirts, strange makeup combinations, or odd styles are what we have to accept to get super short shorts on a daily basis then I could be converted…

Read the rest of…
Erica and Matt Chua: He Said/She Said: Japanese Fashion

Dave Goldberg: Barcelona and the 6%

“We could simply pack our bags and catch a plane to Barcelona ‘cause this city’s a drag.”

- Holiday in Spain by Counting Crows

Dave GoldbergIf you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance I’m catching you on a mobile device. And according to the latest Pew data, 6% of U.S. consumers are mobile ONLY. No home phone. No computer. And from what I saw at Mobile World Congress(MWC) last month in Barcelona, this number is guaranteed to rise.

One of the major conversations at the conference centered on device form factors – they’re getting bigger. Samsung, Nokia and Sony all announced new phones with larger screen sizes, and Huawei showed off its new “phablet,” a phone-tablet combo with a 7.1-inch screen.

The other major trend we kept hearing about is the rise of wearables. Samsung announced a new smartwatch family – the Gear2, Gear Neo, and Gear Fit – while perpetual rumors about a similar Apple device continue to swirl. Things like smartwatches have yet to prove themselves, but simpler wearable technology that tracks daily habits without incorporating other messaging and connectivity components (FitBit, Nike Fuel, etc.) have clearly filled a consumer need.

Another trend that continues to gain momentum is the increasing use of consumer friendly tools and services in a business setting. The trend of people bringing their own devices, or BYOD, has been around for quite some time. It’s now evolved into BYOS – or bring your own services. I participated in a panel discussing BYOD/BYOS, along with executives from Evernote, Merck, AT&T and others.

As part of the panel we unveiled the results of a SurveyMonkey Audience survey to find out how many of us are downloading and using services on our mobile devices at work, independent of those recommended or offered by our employers. Here’s what we found:

Employees are spending more and more time on their phones for work purposes

  • Almost 30% (29%) of people report that half of their time – or more – is spent using their mobile phones for work
  • More than half of respondents (56%) report an increase in using their mobile phone for business over the past three years

And most believe they will spend even more time on their phone for work in the future

  • The majority of respondents (52%) believe that they will increase their use of mobile phones for business in the future

Now that employees are bringing their own devices, they are bringing their own services, software and applications into the workplace

  • Slightly more employees (31%) report bringing ALL their own services into the workplace vs. those that only use services approved/suggested/provided by their employer (28%)
  • 29% of respondents report using a mix of services/applications that they downloaded themselves and those provided by their employers
    • 8% do this a lot
    • 8% do this a good amount
    • 13% do this some of the time

With productivity tools continuing to be more consumer friendly, like Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google office apps, etc., and more mobile (we launched our own mobile app last month), this is another trend that will continue to generate lots of momentum. Innovations like these, and the others I saw during my trip to MWC, are going to accelerate the growth of that 6% mobile only number. Gracias, Barcelona!

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Marshmallow Test

jyb_musingsThe “Marshmallow Test,” Batman, and law school (and life) lessons.

Ever since my sophomore year in college, after renting the movie the Paper Chase (about life at Harvard law school) and watching it three consecutive times (the third time as the sun was rising the next morning), I knew I wanted to go to law school.

25 years ago this fall I started law school at the University of Kentucky. Law school, for me, was one of those transitional and transformational experiences. The experience has a way of introducing a student to him or herself. During law school one has to come to grips with realities about himself or herself that can be both humbling and heartening. In my case, law school proved to me that I wasn’t nearly as smart as I had secretly hoped; but proved to others that I was considerably smarter than they had assumed. The experience also proved to me I could work much harder than I thought I could. And proved to my parents that I not only could –but would –work much harder than they thought I ever was capable. It was an important and defining time for me.

A few weeks before heading from Louisville to Lexington for law school a wise mentor took me to lunch and asked me what I hoped to achieve there. I told him I wanted to finish in the top 10% of my class (or Order of the Coif, as it is known in most law schools). He was unimpressed and said he only hoped -–and believed—that after law school he could say that “I was a fine young man.” And that is what was really important. He was right, of course, and over the next 3 years I never forgot his response. But I also never forgot my goal.

Over the past week, I have been texting a friend and law school classmate from a quarter decade ago about our law school experience. What has been most striking is the detail with which we each remember the many facets of our experience, but most especially the detail with which we recall grades and class rank. We each noted if we had had a single class where our grade increased by a single increment (from a B+ to an A – or a B to a B+) we would have graduated law school with a notably higher honor than we did. In my case, I pointed out to my friend, I would have graduated “Order of the Coif.”

And this is where the “Marshmallow Test” comes into play. That test was made famous for demonstrating that young children who could delay gratification (by saying “no” to the tempting offer of a single marshmallow now in favor of being rewarded with two marshmallows 15 minutes later) was a better predictor of life success than any other test devised for young children. What does this have to do with law school? Well, the night before one of my final law school exams, I got invited, cajoled, and ultimately persuaded to scrap studying for several important hours to go see the movie Batman. Prior to that night, I never—ever—had compromised on studying during law school exams. My first year I had no cable TV and would only see and go on dates with my now wife once a week. I missed an aunt’s funeral during first year finals and spent Thanksgivings alone so I could get a possible studying edge on my classmates. But this one time—when I knew I was on the bubble for Order of the Coif and that anything lower than a B would probably drop me below Coif—I went for the “instant” rather than the “delayed” gratification.

I got a “B –“ and didn’t achieve my long held goal of making Order of the Coif. And I had only myself to blame. My former classmate and I, while texting about our “near misses,” concluded that we both took it all too seriously back then and that now, fortunately, we were much less competitive than our younger selves and how that was a good thing.

That is all true. I even added that “Life with our competitive tendencies kept in check,” is much more rewarding, both personally and professionally. But I also had to confess that despite my 25 years of additional maturity and, supposedly, wisdom, I would never have anything nice to say about the Batman movie franchise.

I was joking, of course. But not entirely. The texting conversation made me realize that 25 years later I still know—and can relive— every detail about how I botched my shot at graduating law school with that distinguised honor. But what I can’t do is recall with even the slightest detail any of the movie Batman, which I chose instead that night. In other words, I have no memory of the single marshmallow I chose 25 years ago. But a vivid recall about not holding out for just 15 more metaphorical, and perhaps literal, minutes for the bigger and longer lasting prize I sacrificed.

I like to think I still graduated as a “fine young man” as my mentor friend had hoped for me—and that, in many respects, my goal of wanting to graduate “Order of the Coif,” was just an extra marshmallow I missed out on, so to speak, but nothing much more than that. But the lesson I really learned –and am quite sure I’ll never forget—is that when faced as an adult with the equivalent of the Marshmallow Test, I will remember that the second marshmallow is always much sweeter and more satisfying than the first. If for no other reason, the second marshmallow is worth much more because of the sacrifice required to earn it.

Marshmallows, like life, are like that

Saul Kaplan: Weird Is In

Saul KaplanI have to admit when I was growing up and when we raised our children I thought weird was out.  Weird was isolated, ostracized, dismissed, and definitely not cool. Turns out I was wrong. Weird is in.  Weird is unique, refreshing, remarkable, and definitely cool.  It just took me a while to figure it out.  The evidence is all around us.  Two personal reminders of how weird can be an advantage are a recent trip to Austin, Texas and reading Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh.

I was asked to give a talk on business model innovation to a group of association leaders in Austin, Texas.  It was my first trip to Austin but the city’s reputation for embracing weird preceded my visit.  I love the city mantra Keep Austin Weird.  How many cities would have the guts to rally around such a weird positioning?  I think it is brilliant.  It is differentiated and sends a clear message to both residents and visitors that Austin is an edgy and interesting place where creativity is central and you just might learn something new.  It makes me want to live and invest there. The night I arrived the positioning was realized immediately as I joined an eclectic crowd forming on the Congress Street Bridge to watch North America’s largest urban bat colony emerge from under the bridge. You don’t experience that every day.  It was delightfully weird and the gathered crowd was a great manifestation of Austin’s community aspiration for a collaborative fission of coordinated individualism.

The discussion I went to Austin for with a diverse group of association leaders focused on declining association membership and how to design and test new business models.  Turns out that many young professionals are not joining associations and the group wondered if those professionals most receptive to innovation and changing the role of their professions are the least likely to join associations leaving an aging membership uninterested in being and celebrating weird.  Maybe associations could benefit from a little more weird.

I just finished reading and highly recommend Delivering Happiness by my friend Tony Hsieh.  Tony reveals his Zappos playbook and no surprise weird plays an important role.  One of Zappos’ 10 core values is Create Fun and a Little Weirdness.  Can you imagine your company explicitly celebrating being weird as one of its core values?  Zappos means it.  Not crazy or extreme weirdness but comfort with unconventional approaches, learning from mistakes, and the ability to laugh at themselves.  Zappos wants a touch of weirdness to make life more fun and interesting for everyone.  Tony is serious when he says the company must have a unique and memorable personality.

I experienced the weirdness first-hand when I visited Tony at Zappos headquarters in Las Vegas.  It is remarkable to see the Zappos culture up close and personal. If you are going to Las Vegas definitely take Zappos up on its standing offer to visit the headquarters.  None of what you have read about Zappos is as powerful as seeing it in action.  From the way you are greeted at the airport to a memorable stroll through the company.  On the outside the buildings look like any one of a million suburban office complexes but once inside you will not forget the experience and uniqueness of being warmly greeted by each department with an eclectic mix of streamers, parades, kazoos, cowbells and what ever expression strikes the Zappos team at the moment.  The Zappos culture Tony talks about is obvious, tangible, and infectious.  In Tony’s own words to Zappos employees, ” We want the weirdness in each of us to be expressed in our interactions with each other and in our work.”  I am thrilled that Tony is joining us as a storyteller at BIF-6 (not to be missed, hint, hint, only 60 seats remain).

If the goal is to get better faster and learning is optimal at the edge we could all benefit from a little more weirdness.  We need to make room in our personal lives, organizations, and communities for embracing weird.  Everything else seems boring and stagnant.  Weird is in.

 

David V. Hawpe: Fancy Farm, Mitch McConnell and Blackdamp

david hawpeAlison Grimes ought to remind the Crowd of Fancy Farm that Mitch McConnell is choking the U.S. Senate with blackdamp.

Given what McConnell knows about coal mining, aides may have to explain to him that blackdamp is a mixture of debilitating gases – as one dictionary puts it, a miasma “incapable of supporting life or flame.”

Fancy Farm is, of course, the political picnic in Graves County on the first Saturday in August that traditionally opens the Kentucky political season. St. Jerome’s Parish bills the event as the “World’s Largest One Day BBQ,” where you can get the “best barbequed pork and mutton you’ll ever enjoy.”

At the 134th renewal there will be plenty of ridicule on the menu. In recent years the jeers and the taunts have made it increasingly difficult to hear what the politicians are saying, but nobody seems to mind.

The only violence you can expect at Fancy Farm is the violence that a candidate occasionally and unintentionally does to his or her own campaign. I have in mind two of my favorite politicians. One ranted in front of the picnic crowd as if prepping a Nuremberg rally for the appearance of the main speaker. The other claimed he was one tough son-of-a-you-know-what, when in fact he’s too fine a fellow to qualify as, say, a latter-day Louie Nunn.

I said nobody minds the Fancy Farm faceoffs and dustups, but in fact the Goo Goos don’t like them. Good Government zealots think jeers and catcalls are a threat to political civility. They condemn all the mocking and heckling as if it endangers the democratic process.

I have to smile. If anything, our politics are too polite.

I’m reading a new book by Frederick Brown, “The Embrace of Unreason.” (No, it’s not about what McConnell has done to the Senate.) It’s about France in the period 1914-1940, where civic life was a bit rougher. Opposing groups once turned up at a Paris showing of an ideologically-charged 1930s film called L’Age d’Or, to find the theater lobby decorated in Surrealist art. As Brown describes it, angry right wingers “trashed the premises, splattering ink over the screen, destroying the projector, hurling stink bombs, attacking spectators with blackjacks, damaging the art, and tearing up copies of “Surrealism in the Service of the Revolution” (that were) on sale.”

In America these days we’re much tamer.

A Democratic congressional candidate in conservative Central Washington recently got into trouble merely for airing an online commercial in which he fired a pump-action shotgun at an elephantpiñata . The politically correct folks at Americans for Responsible Solutions condemned Estakio Beltran’s video as “irresponsible and offensive.” As it ends, Beltran rides off toward Washington on a burro.

This is a country where Fox News calls out the Muppets for being“anti-oil” and “anti-corporate.”

The worst damage politically active Americans suffer is Rush Limbaugh boring them to tears or Chris Matthews hurting their ears.

If you make it to Fancy Farm you might hurt yourself, by gorging on pig, but glut and heatstroke are about the only real dangers you’re likely to face. Nobody is going to grab a barbecued mutton shank and thwack you for wrong thought. The stink bombs at this event are likely to be verbal, and thrown from the stage, not at it.

Somebody ought to thwack the McConnell campaign if the senator uses this occasion to once again claim that coal miners need him in Washington. How many miners has he put back to work?

Jobs have plummeted at mines and prep plants in Eastern Kentucky since he was re-elected in 2008 – from 15,418 to 7,332. When he was first elected way back there in 1984, the number of miners working in Kentucky’s mountain coalfields was almost 30,000.

If Kentucky voters send Alison Grimes to Washington, she won’t fix the problem. But she won’t be silent about it either. I expect her to tell both Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to take their anti-coal attitude and shove it – politely, of course.

I’m certain she will join West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin in the Senate’s pro-miner caucus.

Manchin explained his view rather reasonably last year: “It is only common sense to use all our domestic resources, and that includes our coal. Let’s make sure that government works as our partner, not our adversary, to create a secure and affordable energy future, and let’s invest in technology which will have the ability to burn coal with almost zero emissions.” Senator McConnell has been a little more theatrical, charging the President with a “jihad” against coal.

It’s a shame the EPA can’t do anything about partisan emissions.

In the old days, miners took canaries with them underground. They knew they had to run from black damp if the canary died

The Democratic leadership also bears its share of the responsibility, but in Mitch McConnell’s gassy Senate, it’s functional governance that died.

David Hawpe, a native of Pike County who grew up in Louisville, has written about coal and Appalachia for more than four decades. This article was crossposted, with the permission of the author, from The Mountain Eagle.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Fancy Farm Redux

jyb_musingsNext Saturday, on what we hope is a sunny and inviting Kentucky summer afternoon, our state will be host to an annual political tradition we call Fancy Farm. 

Fancy Farm is Kentucky’s political equivalent of the ancient legal practice of trial by ordeal–where the accused is set on fire or tied up and thrown into a river to determine guilt or innocence. If the accused survives, they would be presumed innocent. In Kentucky’s political version, a politician who survives Fancy Farm, is presumed politically viable and allowed to continue to pursue their political aspirations. But like the survivors of the ancient legal trial, the Fancy Farm politician will never forget the ordeal endured.

Fancy Farm is probably America’s last vestige of pre-modern political theater. To succeed you need two parts talent; three parts ambition; one part courage; and two and a half parts temporary insanity.

Beyond all the tales about Fancy Farm, and beyond the sound and fury that occur during each year’s big political event, Fancy Farm does signify something. But what exactly that is, no one is quite sure.

So we keep coming back in hopes of finding out.

Maybe we will unravel the Fancy Farm mystery this year. Or maybe not. Most likely Fancy Farm 2014 will again be another irresistible spectacle combining good will and good cheer; characters and charisma; courage and calculation; pleasing food and harsh partisanship; high political drama and low brow political tactics all swirling simultaneously within the context of nothing less than a political orgy sponsored by St Jerome’s Catholic church. All located In the deep recesses of Western Kentucky where real politicians picnicking and politicking face to face with real constituents still matters. At least for a short weekend.

Fancy Farm was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s largest picnic.” Fancy Farm is worthy of Guinness status, no doubt about it. For something. But calling Fancy Farm merely an annual picnic is like calling Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls an annual tour through the city of Pamplona. Perhaps the main attraction of both events is getting to see the people who participate –voluntarily– in these curious historic events that attempt to test and celebrate the human spirit.

Fancy Farm is something to see and should be seen at least once in the lifetime of every Kentuckian. And at least once by every American who is a non-Kentuckian but is a political junkie. Because vestiges of former times don’t last for long. And are painfully missed when finally gone.

So…Happy Fancy Farm 2014!!

May 2014′s political picnic live up to its grand and gaudy tradition –.and just a little bit more than usual this year. Because this year, the nation’s most defining political race may well hang in the balance. Making 2014′s Fancy Farm even fancier than usual. And that is saying a lot.

(Note: This link is to a piece I wrote last year about my political trial by ordeal in 1995, listed by the C-J as one of the more memorable Fancy Farm moments. It not really about me as much as my attempt to capture, the best I could, the essence of experiencing Fancy Farm. It is a flawed human attempt, I might add, to describe a near mythic event. But I tried. Which, in the end, is all that any of the participants at Fancy Farm can do.)

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Wendell Ford

jyb_musingsA very special evening.I attended the annual Wendell Ford dinner tonight.But someone was missing, the honored guest himself, who is home tonight battling lung cancer courageously and magnanimously. Even cancer, as sinsiter and destructive a force as it is, must be ashamed to find itself hosting someone so beloved and beneficient as Wendell Ford. (And, yes, someone also so ornery and determined.)

Wendell may not have been in attendance but no figure has ever– in my experience– been more present in his absence than Sen Ford was at tonight’s event attended by at least 700 friends and political supporters.

Story after story about the iconic Kentucky politician was told by the various speakers, but none were really about politics. The stories all seemed to hew to the personal instead. They were about Wendell Ford the man, who just happened to be a great political leader at the time these memorable and meaningful personal interactions occurred.

The stories could easily have been about great legislative heroics or profiles in political leadership. But each and every one centered instead around little acts of kindness observed and experienced from Wendell Ford when nobody else was watching. Because, it seems, that is what stands out about Wendell Ford’s legacy most profoundly.

I chose this picture of Wendell to post –an action picture of Wendell with sleeves rolled up engaging with others while smiling broadly and contagiously rather than a blow dryed head shot behind his senate desk. The latter would be a picture Wendell just posed for. And Wendell was never a poser himself–or had patience with those who were.

wendell fordHe was, as a friend of the family would say, “The Real McCoy” and “the genuine article.” He is obviously still with us tonight and hopefully for a good while longer. And that is important to note because we may not see another quite like him again. Politics has changed…yet didn’t change Wendell.

Wendell Ford, it is true, is a Kentuckian who has walked with kings. But he is perhaps best described by the elevator man at our nation’s Capitol who proudly boasts that Wendell Ford is “the kindest human being to ever walk these Capitol floors.”

And that is an awfully fine legacy for 700 friends and supporters to celebrate tonight.

 

Julie Rath: Look Taller With These 11 Tips

Do you ever wish you looked a little taller? Many of my clients, even if they are above average height, list this as an image goal. At 5′ 1″ myself, I appreciate the sentiment. Luckily for us vertically-challenged folks, we can use clothing as smoke and mirrors to achieve (or at least get closer to) the look we want. Below are 11 tips on how to dress so you look taller:

Patterns and Color
1) Wear the same color (or at least similar tones of color) on top as you do on bottom. That way, you avoid the horizontal line of a color break across your middle, which would cut you in half otherwise.
2) Similarly, you should avoid wearing a belt that contrasts strongly with the rest of your outfit, as it will abbreviate you.
3) Wear socks in the same color as your pants. It makes your legs look longer.

Men's Style Tips: Repp Stripe Tie4) Everyone knows to wear vertical stripes, but did you also know that diagonal lines create illusion of length? In addition to vertically striped pants, suits, jackets, and socks, try a repp (diagonal stripe) tie.

Lines of Clothes

Men's Style Tips: Layering with a hoodie5) Dressing in layers allows you to add lots of elongating verticals. Think a hoodie or sweater with a zip or a cardigan left open (try under a sport jacket or a casual jacket).
6) Wear a pocket square. It draws the eye up to your chest favorably.

Sportcoats or Suit Jacket Details 
7) Opt for peak lapels, as the detail and upward-pointing angles guide the viewer’s eye in an upward direction, making you look taller.
8) As in #1, the diagonal lines of a suit jacket or sportcoat’s lapels will extend your height. Choose one with a “low button stance,” which means it buttons lower on your body, extending those diagonal lines.
9) The gorge on your jacket is where the collar meets the lapel. If you’re buying custom, tell them you want a “high gorge,” which will have the same upward-orienting effect as in #7.

Men's Style Tips: Jacket Length10) Buy your jacket on the short side (or have it tailored that way) so that it just covers the curve of your seat. This makes your legs look longer.
11) When you have your jacket sleeves tailored, ask for at least 1/4″ of shirt cuff to show. If not enough or no cuff shows, it can make your arms (and the rest of you by proxy) look short.

Is there anything about your appearance you’d like to balance or camouflauge? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll tackle it in an upcoming post.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Losin’ It (Not a Diet Post)

jyb_musingsLosing it! 

After receiving 3 calls in less than 5 minutes from a telemarketing company—and all 3 interrupting an important business call– I decided to retaliate. 

I called back the number and got an answer from a robotic telemarketing sales rep and I said, “Hello. How are you doing today? I’m interrupting your day to try to sell you some s**t you don’t need. Do you have a few minutes to talknow?”

And then I gave the real reason I was calling and asked that my number be removed from their call list.

But he hung up on me.

Cold call sales is just hard like that.

(Note: Forgive me. I try never, ever to lose my cool and mostly succeed. But this wasn’t one of those times. But I’m all better now. And even feel a little guilty. But only a very little.)

===

Disconnect? 

Is it possible to receive a monthly phone bill from your phone carrier so detailed with information that it takes 8 full pages to report it all, but nowhere on this detailed bill is there a single reference to a phone number for your carrier if you have any questions? 

Yes, it is.

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