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Tim Ferriss’ question #1:  What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

When I give books as gifts – usually to my wife and kids – I choose titles that I think they’ll be interested in, not necessarily books that I found interesting and/or educational.

There is one book I’ve read, however, that immediately made an impression on me (I highlighted parts of it, which I never do) and that I refer back to frequently (in spirit and not literally) –   “First Break All the Rules – What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

To summarize the Soundview Executive Book Summary from 2000, Buckingham and Coffman identified four keys to great management:

  1. Select for talent
  2. Define the right outcomes
  3. Focus on strengths
  4. Find the right fit

Writing this has convinced me that I ought to re-read the book.



Tim Ferriss’s Eleven Questions

I follow Tim Ferriss on Facebook and Twitter (@tferriss) and last week I happened to see his post about the eleven questions that he uses when interviewing people.   I’m going to use these as the foundation for my next eleven posts.

  1. What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
  2. What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
  3. How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
  4. If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?
  5. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)
  6. What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
  7. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
  8. What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
  9. What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
  10. In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?
  11. When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

43North – a startup/economic development initiative funded (in part I think) by the state of New York – wrapped up its fourth contest on Thursday with finalist pitches and an amazing event at the historic Shea’s Theater in downtown Buffalo NY.   Participating in this contest as a judge is a highlight of my year.

All sixteen finalist delivered compelling and well-rehearsed pitches.  The winner was SomaDetect -a Canadian company. SomaDetect makes “an in-line sensor that measures every critical indicator of dairy quality from every cow at every milking.”  Their founder and CEO – Bethany Deshpande – was extraordinarily poised on-stage.  She connected with the large audience (and won the People’s Choice award) and with the judges apparently.   I hope SomaDetect does well while doing good and delivers the benefit to Buffalo that 43North hopes for.


The easiest things to do…

I think that the easiest things to do in my life are:

  1. finding a reason to skip going to the gym
  2. giving in to eating something unhealthy

and now…

3. convincing myself it’s too late to write

I remained stunned by the murders in Las Vegas, and I’m starting to process the death of Tom Petty.   With regard to the latter, I can’t see myself getting into a true funk over the death of a celebrity, but his music permeated my youth and young adulthood.   I need to give a good listen and let the memories come back.


Working hard at the little things

I took time this afternoon to hear one of my favorites – Ted Leonsis – talk at the first of the Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series events at the University of Maryland.

I’ve heard Ted talk a bunch of times.  He didn’t break new ground this afternoon, but he bookended the interview with two stories about people doing “small things” well, much to their benefit.

Ted mowed lawns as a teen.   Before starting, he went to the library and read a book about mowing lawns and about the different types of cuts.   Going door-to-door, he found a client who was impressed first with his unique knowledge (“Which one of these cuts would you like?”, Ted asked, showing him pictures from the book.)  and then with attention to detail (laying down on the grass to look at the cut from ground level).   The client turned out to be Ted’s gateway to Georgetown University, which led directly to his early career in technology.

Michael Jordan ended his basketball career with the Wizards, and Ted got to know him through that experience.   Ted recounted a story he’d heard about Michael during the filming of the movie “Space Jam.”  Jordan asked that a half basketball court be built on the movie set so that he could practice a fadeaway jumper of sorts – a move that he would need as he aged and couldn’t jump as high.   He practiced that move thousands of times, and it was the move and shot that won Jordan the last of his NBA championships.


Crytopcurrencies and the Blockchain

Mark Suster has a great post up today about this topic and I need to re-read it.   I understand the basics behind the blockchain, and I own a tiny bit of Bitcoin so I get this gist of that particular application of the blockchain.   I do have difficulty “seeing” the application of the blockchain to things like asset ownership (think car titles, etc.) or file storage and transfer.


Counting Calories – No Fun!

I’m going to drop 20 pounds – 10% of my current 200 lb weight.

Last night, we ate at Outback Steakhouse.

Those two statements are mutually exclusive.

Knowing that the key to weight loss is controlling calorie intake while increasing calorie outtake(?), I shoved this down my throat last night.

  • 1/3 (at least) of a Bloomin’ Onion – 650 calories (of a 1950 calorie appetizer!!!!!)
  • A side caesar salad – 280 calories
  • A Bloomin’ Burger – 1160 calories (that’s CRAZY!)
  • A shock top beer – 240 calories for 18 ounces

Total?   2,330 calories.

Ridiculous.   And after I totaled this, I was grossed out.


The Motley Fool

Tom Gardner from the Motley Fool was Tien Wong’s fireside chat guest this morrning at Tien’s Connectpreneur event in Bethesda, MD.   My sister-in-law worked at the Fool for a time in the mid 1990s so I’ve been aware of the company for a long time now.

As Tom described, the Fool had big problems in the early 2000s but faced them square on, and 17 years later the company continues on with 300 or so employees, prosecuting the same general mission they’ve been on since it’s founding.

Tom came across as a smart and genuinely good person, and his company is well known for its strong culture.   I was surprised to see Tom on the agenda, because I haven’t thought much about the Motley Fool for years, but I left the event happy that the Gardners and their company are doing well (and doing good).


At least I never hear about it.  In the last few days…

  1. The hack of Experian exposed the personal details of over 100 million people.
  2. Details emerged about a vulnerability in Bluetooth that leaves millions and millions of devices at risk of a hack.
  3. Microsoft’s latest patch release apparently fixed 82 security flaws including one serious zero-day vulnerability.

It’s almost too much to keep up with, and I think an impossible task for a business of any size to tackle without professional support – either in-house or outsourced.


iPhone X – gift to humanity?

I loved the Steve Jobs tribute at the beginning of Apple’s product launch event today.

“There’s lots of ways to be as a person, and some people express their deep appreciation in different ways.  But one of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there.” – SJ

The iPhone X looks wonderful, and I’ll probably get one this winter.  I’m not certain that it will take me to new heights of excellence or change my life in any meaningful way.   I am constantly amazed at what Apple’s engineers and partners are able design to fit inside such a small space, and what their software teams are able to achieve in terms of digital image processing.   Astounding.   Thanks, Apple.