My Favorite New Commercials

bleachitawayI’m a big fan of great commercials. Commercials are like the tweets of the video world, trying to get their message across in less than one minute. I keep a list of my favorite commercials ( for when I talk about advertising in my class), so perhaps I’ll start going through that list and sporadically share those commercials on this blog.

But in the meantime, I just came across these two commercials from Clorox and I loved them. Perhaps it’s because my wife and I raised three boys and can relate to the underlying theme.

There’s humor in each of the videos, effective product placement, and a memorable catch phrase as well. You couldn’t ask for more from a commercial.

And all this in just 15 seconds!


Why I Blog


It started as a challenge, more specifically the WriteandRun31 Challenge started by Matt Frazier and Christine Frazier.

The idea behind the challenge was to write and run every day for the month of January. Since I have often thought about starting a blog, I thought I would give this a shot.

Once January ended I decided to keep on blogging, and now all of a sudden it’s March 8, making this my 67th straight day of blogging. While I am proud of the streak, I realize that compared to some other blogs it’s small potatoes.

Seth Godin has been blogging almost every day since January 2002. His first blog post was about how bored he was shopping that day, except for the Apple store he visited (how prophetic!).

Fred Wilson has posted to his blog every day since September 23, 2003. His first blog post provided some background on himself and his venture into blogging.

David Kanigan has been posting nearly every day since October 2011. His first blog post was a take on the classic “Hello, world”,  which by tradition is  often used to illustrate to beginners the most basic syntax of a programming language.

The reason for linking to each of their first blog posts is to show that they all had to begin somewhere. And then by the simple act (well some days it’s not so simple, at least for me) of posting something every day, several years later they have created an impressive body of work, developed an engaged group of readers, improved their writing, and shared their thoughts with the world.

I read their blogs every day, finding their posts informative, entertaining, and inspirational.

I realize I am not even close to their blogging productivity and success, but that’s no reason to not blog, to not share my voice with the world. As Fred Wilson pointed out in his first post, he had no idea if he would do it every day or rarely, but 11 years later it’s obvious which path he chose.

So my hope is that I am on that same path, that 10 years from now I will be able to look back at my first blog post and be proud of how far I’ve come, proud of having persisted in completing the simple act of having posted something every day. At least I hope it gets a little simpler by then.

And as to why I blog, I can’t say it any better than Seth:

Well, I think the most important thing to understand about blogging is that if you are blogging for other people you are going to be disappointed. Even if no one would read it I would still blog. And the people I know who blog passionately, all of them say exactly the same thing. So that is the way you have to look at it, you can’t say: “I’m not getting enough comments I’m not going to blog. I’m not getting enough money, I’m not going to blog.” You have to say: “this is a great chance for me to clear my thoughts and put them into the world, what an opportunity.”

Reader Comments and Questions


My mailbox is overflowing once again, and I apologize that I am not able to answer all your emails and comments personally.

Dear Jim, Have you noticed any changes in your life since you started blogging on a daily basis?
Signed, Curious George

Dear Curious, There have been a few changes, some good, some not so good. The good changes include

  • making new online friends
  • having something to tweet about besides the Wall Street Journal
  • no longer feeling guilty when assigning a project to students that entails creating a blog site and posting
  • lower water bills since I haven’t had time to shower (see below) or change my clothes (no laundry)
  • improved riting skills.

The bad changes:

  • I’ve gained about 10 pounds from sitting at the computer all day trying to come up with something original to write for my blog.
  • I’ve become less sanitary since I’ve had no time to shower because I spend all my time blogging.
  • I’ve had to buy a new keyboard because of all the crumbs I’ve gotten on it from constantly eating while writing my blog.
  • I think I’ve fallen behind in paying my bills, but I’m not sure because I’ve had no time to check the mail.
  • My social life has become non-existent (actually, that’s not much of a change).
  • I’ve fallen asleep in the middle of a couple of lectures because of the lack of sleep from all the time I spend writing my blog (but in my defense, they were lectures about accounting).

So all in all, the good stuff about blogging far outweighs the bad stuff (confirmation bias alert).

Dear Jim, It seems like you are pretty high on Bitcoin. Do you think now is a good time to buy some?
Signed, Buzzcoin

Dear Buzzcoin, I’ve been high a few times, but never on Bitcoin. If you’re looking to get high, Colorado has much better options than Bitcoin.

Dear Jim, I’ve Seen your picture ID from high school, and it was pretty bad, probably one of the worst high school pictures I’ve ever seen. I was wondering if you’re still kind of odd looking.
Signed, I Don’t Blog But At Least I’m Photogenic


Dear Photogenic, I think I’ve turned out OK.


It’s amazing what contact lenses can do…

Dear Jim, You do realize that your photo editing skills are pretty weak …
Signed, Tom Knoll, creator of Photoshop

Dear Tom, I don’t know what you are talking about, and besides, who are you to talk about someone’s photo editing skills?

The SPICES of Life


Villanova University has an outstanding Office of Health Promotion. Its mission (from its website) is “to provide evidence-based health resources, facilitate opportunities for students to build skills that empower them to make healthy lifestyle choices, and to instill a sense of personal responsibility for individual health and its impact on the health of the community.”

Student can find information on topics such as the effects of alcohol, how to help a drunken friend, body image, sleep, sexual assault, nutrition, fitness, relationships, stress management, financial health, and tobacco cessation.

In addition, students can be trained to become peer counselors/educators, which enables them to promote health awareness on campus, offer seminars on a topic of their choice, and act as positive role models for other students.

But what I like most about the Office of Health Promotion is its approach to health, known by the acronym SPICES.

SPICES represents the six dimensions of health: Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Cultural, Emotional, and Social.

Our current president, Father Peter Donohue, even stressed these ideas in his inauguration speech in 2006:

We must emphasize a holistic approach to education and acknowledge that there are many aspects of the university that contribute to the process of creation. It is our responsibility to form the total person: Intellectually, Emotionally, Spiritually, Culturally, Socially and Physically. The center of the university needs to be an intellectual center. Our library needs to be refashioned to become a storehouse of knowledge from which everything radiates. Our classrooms must come to the residence halls and our residence halls must inform the classroom. Our expressions of faith should enliven our work. Our student life programs need to be extensions of our academic endeavor. Our playing fields transformed into arenas of learning. Our social events should foster respect for people. And we need to build, and I mean build, a center where culture is appreciated and explored. This is a place where we can shape the body, probe the heart and elevate the soul. Villanova prides itself as a liberal arts institution of learning, a place where humanity is examined with an open but critical mind. Therefore, in our search for truth we can never renounce the liberal or ignore the arts.”

I can’t imagine a better description of the mission of an institution of higher learning, and I love the fact that the Office of Health Promotion takes the President’s words and turns them into its mission.

In business, there is a performance planning and evaluation tool known as the Balanced Scorecard. The Balanced Scorecard is meant to look at multiple measures of performance – financial, customer, internal business processes, and learning and growth. It was developed in response to the fact that most performance measurement systems had focused on just the financial aspect of the business, causing other parts of the business to suffer. While most people would agree that financial performance is the most important measure of the success of a firm, it’s not the only one.

It’s analogous to schools just focusing on academic performance; while that is the most important objective of the educational process, it should not be the only objective.

By taking a more holistic view of the business, the Balanced Scorecard allows managers to look for the causal factors of improved financial performance, such as a more engaged workforce, more efficient operations, and higher levels of customer satisfaction. If a manager is evaluated and rewarded on multiple measures related to such outcomes, then he or she will act in a way that improves the operations of the firm, leading to improved financial performance.

It’s the same at Villanova. If a student can take a holistic, SPICES-based approach to his or her education, and not just concentrate on the academic side of the process, the result will be a graduate who is better prepared to live a happier and healthier life.

And this approach to life and health is not  just helpful for college students.

We could all add some zest to our life by setting goals in each of the six SPICES.

Bon appetit!



Apparently Being Nice Is Worth a Lot More Than I Thought


Two days ago I wrote a post, “Nice is the New Black“, which looked at the growing importance in business, and elsewhere, of being nice.

On the same day, Stephen Schwarzman, CEO and co-founder of Blackstone Group (BX), one of the world’s largest private equity firms,stated  “To be hired at our place and work with us you have to be nice. I don’t like people who are not nice.”

Such an attitude is not the norm in the hyper-competitive world of Wall Street. But it seems to work for Blackstone, and for Schwarzman.

Blackstone’s stock price is up 968% since the market bottomed out in early 2009. By comparison, the S&P 500 is up about 215% over that span.

And Schwarzman took home $690 million last year.

So I guess it’s not crime that pays, it’s nice that pays.

Truth in Advertising?


I just picked up a new Twitter follower (number 354!) today.  I took a look at his Twitter page and the person seems to be affiliated with a  web site known as 100Kfollowers.

100Kfollowers promises its customers Twitter followers, Facebook likes, YouTube views, and Instagram followers.

A couple of issues I had with the site and with my newest follower.

First, 100Kfollowers has less than 9,000 followers. Secondly, my new followerk is currently offering “10,000 followers within 24-48 hrs for $39 USD”. My new follower currently has 238 followers.

I do admire their panache, but seriously…

This reminded me of a similar product from a few years ago. This one  was for a book titled, “How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less”. Sounds like that would be a useful skill, particularly given the popularity of elevator pitches.

The problem is that the audio  version of the book is 44 minutes long, and that appears to be the abridged version…

An SEO company promotes itself as a company that can help your web site reach the top of Google search results, a search engine optimization company.

To see how effective it might be, I typed “SEO” into Google, and this company didn’t even make it into the top 400 results.

I don’t know how such claims about potential outcomes can be made, particularly when the firms or individuals promoting such claims aren’t getting such results.

But I guess people and firms that stretch the truth have been around since the 1800s; they’ve just gone high-tech now.

So if a business model can stick around that long, I guess it must work.

So I figure I’ll give it a try. I am so confident in the power of this blog, that I would like to make this no-risk offer to my readers:

If reading this blog does not make you smarter, better looking, healthier, and wealthier, then I will promptly refund you 100% of your payment. Send your request to

One final example I came across today: an article on WikiHow titled “How to Teach Yourself to Read.” How would the target audience be able to use such a site?

Is Nice the New Black?


My wife has always said (and I agreed) that the number one trait she wanted in our three boys was that they be kind.

While such a trait may not be the first one you think of when you think of how to succeed in the business world, there have recently been several best-selling books on just this idea.

Here’s a sampling of such books:

The Thank You Economy: Gary Vaynerchuk believes that now and in the future, the companies that will see the biggest returns won’t be the ones that can throw the most money at an advertising campaign, but will be those that can prove they care about their customers more than anyone else.

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t: Robert Sutton talks about the jerks and bullies at work who demean, criticize, and sap the energy of others, usually their underlings. It could be the notorious bad boss or the jealous coworker, but everyone agrees that they make life miserable for their victims and create a hostile and emotionally stifling environment. Sutton offers alternative examples of workplaces where positive self-esteem creates a more productive, motivated, and satisfied workforce.

Nice Companies Finish First: Why Cutthroat Management Is Over–and Collaboration Is In: Peter Shankman profiles the famously nice executives, entrepreneurs, and companies that are setting the standard for success in this new collaborative world. He explores the new hallmarks of effective leadership, including loyalty, optimism, humility, and a reverence for customer service.

The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness: Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval show that “nice” companies have lower employee turnover, lower recruitment costs, and higher productivity. Nice people live longer, are healthier, and make more money. In today’s interconnected world, companies and people with a reputation for cooperation and fair play forge the kind of relationships that lead to bigger and better opportunities, both in business and in life.

And while not exactly a business book, I can’t ignore the following commencement speech turned bestseller:

Congratulations by the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders. Here’s an excerpt: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly. Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth? Those who were kindest to you, I bet. It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

I’m thrilled that the value of being kind and nice are finally being recognized, something my wife knew long before they came into vogue. Thanks to her, our three boys did turn out to be three kind, successful young men.

And I can’t think of a better way to end this post than with the same words Ellen uses to close her show:

“Be kind to one another.”

Why Complicate Things?


Earlier today on CNBC,  LeBron James asked Warren Buffett for some investment advice, and Buffett’s advice was quite simple: “… just make monthly investments in a low-cost index fund.”

Buffett has given such advice before, specifically telling his heirs to put the money from his estate into a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund, recommending Vanguard’s.

No need to worry about PE ratios or large management fees, no investments in REITs, CDOs, derivatives, or junk bonds (I don’t know what some of that stuff is, but they sound complicated), and certainly no need for a Masters degree in computational finance. (my alma mater!)

Just good, simple advice.

It made me wonder what else we unnecessarily complicate in our lives. Our health, our relationships, our goals?

When you think about it, life is pretty simple; eat less and exercise more, be nice, and try your best.

Einstein said it the best, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

But Thoreau said it even simpler, “Simplify, simplify.”

Let’s hope that King James takes Buffett’s words of advice to heart, otherwise he could end up like a lot of former NBA players, living in a van, down by Walden Pond.

So Do Something, and May His Song Be Sung


Harry Chapin, of Taxi” and “Cat’s in the Cradle” fame, was one of the greatest singer-songwriters, social activists, humanitarians, and philanthropists to live.

He was well known for “playing one night for me, one night for the other guy.”

After his life was tragically cut short in 1981 at the age of 38, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal  in 1987. The Gold Medal is awarded to persons “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement”  (other recipients have included Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela).

Chapin was particularly committed to the issues of hunger and the performing arts.

He co-founded World Hunger Year, a national organization that focuses on grass-roots solutions to eliminate hunger. He also founded Long Island Cares, a food bank that gives 2.8 million pounds of food a year to 300,000 people.

Chapin was just as zealous in his support of the arts. “For him, the arts were not a luxury but the key to articulating people’s ideals, dreams and values — a necessary part of democracy,” according to his daughter Jen.

It was actually my future wife Mary who introduced me to the music of Harry back in the late 1970s. In fact, one of our first dates was to see Harry in concert (our first date was to see Boz Scaggs). I remember Mary waiting in line after the concert for about 30 minutes for the chance to get a kiss from Harry, in exchange for a $5 contribution to fight world hunger. (By the way, that’s a tough act to follow.)

A tribute concert was held at Carnegie Hall in 1987 to honor Harry and to present the Congressional Gold Medal to his son Joshua. Among the performers were Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, and Bruce Springsteen.

Springsteen sang Harry’s song “Remember When the Music Died“, and it is one of my favorite performances by Bruce. As he is prone to do, Bruce paused in the middle of the song to share his thoughts about the song and Harry with the audience.

Bruce’s best line is “So Do Something, and May His Song Be Sung.” (for those of you want to skip right to that part, it happens at the 6:00 minute mark of the above video).

I can’t think of a better tribute you could offer to Harry; encouraging others to do something in his honor, and making an appeal that his music and message be carried on.

I also can’t imagine what our world would be like if Harry were still alive, and fighting the good fight. I do know that it would be a kinder, more generous, and more committed world.

One of my favorite Harry Chapin songs is “Story of a Life”, and two lines from it seem quite prophetic:

“And somewhere on your path to glory
You will write your story of a life”

And while it was way too brief, Harry certainly wrote a story of a life that was full of meaning and a burning desire to help those less fortunate.

I hope we can all be so lucky to write such a story.

If you want to read some more about Harry, here is a great story from the New York Times.

Three Questions That Can Change Your Life


Once again, I have the Wall Street Journal to thank for this post.

Today there was a story about “life planning”, an approach to financial planning developed by the The Kinder Institute that is based on the premise that advisors should first discover a client’s most essential goals in life before formulating a financial plan, so a client’s finances fully support those goals.

In order to discover such goals, George Kinder, the founder of the Kinder Institute, suggests that its advisers ask potential clients the following three questions:

  1. Imagine you have enough money to satisfy all of your needs, now and in the future. Would you change your life and, if so, how would you change it?
  2. This time, assume you are in your current financial situation. Your doctor tells you that you only have five to 10 years to live, but that you will feel fine up until the end. Would you change your life and, if so, how would you change it?
  3. Your doctor tells you that you have just one day to live. You look back at your life. What did you miss out on? Who did you not get to be? What did you fail to do?

The idea of life planning seems like a great idea, and I am going to spend some time reflecting on my answers to the three questions.

It brings back memories of a high school English class where we had just finished reading some Shakespeare play (I have no idea which one) and the teacher asked the question “Do you think people  prepare themselves for dying?”

No one seemed to want to answer, so I raised my hand and said, as only a naive 17-year old can, “It seems like they do since a lot of people have life insurance.” While he was nice enough to acknowledge my answer, in the back of my mind I had the sense that’s not what he was really asking. He then went on to explain how many, if not most, people rarely think about the end of their life, or do much to really get ready for it.

I think the issue is not that people don’t want to think about the end of their life, it’s that they don’t want to think about their current life.

The WSJ article references the General Social Survey, which is conducted every few years by NORC at the University of Chicago, a research organization. In the 2012 survey, just 33% described themselves as very happy and only 27% said they were satisfied with their financial situation.

Meanwhile, 47% described their lives as routine or dull. Asked about their work, 37% said they were only moderately satisfied and another 12% said they were dissatisfied. These numbers haven’t changed much over the past four decades.

Given those kind of sobering statistics, the power of the three questions becomes more obvious.

The questions are meant to get us thinking about the here and now, not about our life 20 years from now. I think the earlier in life we are able to answer the questions, and live our life based on the answers, then the happier our end of life will be.

And while I can’t offer you any insight as to how you should answer the third question, I  do suggest you consider spending your penultimate day alive reading my blog, since a day of that would seem like an eternity…Badabum-ching!