(General) Doolittle Did a Lot, and So Have Many Others

doolittle

This is the eighth in a collection of newspaper ads from United Technologies that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. The link to the original ad is at the end of this post.

The ad is a tribute to General Jimmy Doolittle who at the time was promoted by Congress to the rank of full 4-star General (O-10) on the U.S. Air Force retired list.

I must admit when I went back to read this particular ad from 1985, I did not know who General Doolittle was. Names like Eisenhower, Patton, and MacArthur easily come to mind when I think of heroes of World War II, but Doolittle’s name did not ring a bell.

According to Wikipedia, Doolittle was an American aviation pioneer. He served as a commissioned officer in the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor and leadership as commander of the Doolittle Raid while a Lieutenant Colonel.

As I read through what he accomplished, I realized what an amazing man Doolittle was, and just as important to America’s success in the war as the previously mentioned men.

And so it made me wonder about other people who have accomplished great things, but may not be as well known for their efforts as others.

I am currently reading “Becoming Steve Jobs”, another fascinating look at one of my heroes. However, the book also looks at other people who were just as critical in helping Apple stage its amazing comeback in the late 1990s. For example, have you ever heard of Fred Anderson?

Fred became the CFO at Apple in the mid-1990s, and had primary responsibility for getting Apple on stable financial footing. Doing so enabled the company to begin executing on its strategic plan. Without that stability, it is likely Apple would have never survived those difficult times.

Another example I recall was being at the funeral for a father of one of my friends. As I listened to the eulogy, I was amazed at how much this person had accomplished, and I had no idea about any of it.

I’m slowly learning that everyone has a story, and the better I can learn and acknowledge such stories, the richer my life will be.

Here is the United Technologies ad that inspired this post.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

happymothersday

I’ve been blessed knowing many great women in my life; my mom, my two sisters, my aunt, teachers, friends, and best of all, my wife.

All of them have played a key role in my life, and for that I am grateful.

I am glad that there is a day meant to honor them, and so I just want to take a moment to wish all of them a Happy Mothers’ Day.

By the way, as I wrote about previously, I’m not sure if that is a picture of a rose or a carnation

Reader Comments and Questions

youvegotmail

It’s been a while since I’ve answered reader’s emails, and as a result they have really piled up. I’ll try to answer a few here that may be of most interest to my readers, and I apologize if I cannot respond to your email personally.


Dear Blogger,
Heplo everyone, it’s my first pay a quick visit at this website, and post is really fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting such articles. Also visit my homepage:
Most greatfully, Dmitri

Dear Dmitri,
Thank you for your words kind and for your encouragement me. I’m glad you found the post about personality types fruitful in favor of you.


Dearest Jim,

It was great seeing you today! I was hoping you could do me a favor. Would you be able to give a shout out to my new movie that comes out this week?
Sincerely, Anna K. (Pitch Perfect 2)

Dearest Anna,
No problem. I can’t say enough good things about your new movie; I know it will be another big hit, and I encourage all of my readers to go see it later this week. And thanks again for inviting my wife and I to the premiere, we had a great time!


Dear Borden,
The intruder was “tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. I learnt to identity the symptoms of the “psychic flu” several decades ago. The developer announced on Friday that they reached the milestone number last month.
Signed, Chris Brown

Dear Chris, Are you drunk texting again?


Dear Jim,

Seth Godin and I were hoping that you could give a brief talk at our upcoming conference that will focus on how to successfully blog on a daily basis. We thought we could use your blog as an example of how not to do things.
Signed, Fred Wilson

Dear Fred (and Seth),
I would be honored to do so. I also want to make you aware that I give seminars on “How Not to Run a Personal Training Studio”,”How to Attract a Massive Twitter Following“, or “How to Put a Group of High Energy College Students to Sleep in Less Than 10 Minutes” (hint – it’s got something to do with accounting). Please let me know if you would be interested in any of these other topics.

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”

vessyl

The quote is from Ken Olsen, the founder, and at the time of the quote, chairman of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).

This statement was made in 1977, and is often repeated to show how far off predictions about technology and the future have been. There are several other such statements like this, a list of which can be found here.

The problem with the list, as the article notes, is that none of the statements were actually ever made, except for the one by Olsen, and as the author points out, even then Olsen’s statement was taken out of context.

Olsen made the comment during a talk at a 1977 meeting of the World Future Society in Boston. However, he was not referring to what we think of as “personal computers” today, but rather the concept of powerful central computers that controlled every aspect of home life; turning lights on and off, regulating temperature, choosing entertainments, monitoring food supplies and preparing meals, etc.

Olsen clarified that point to Digital historian Edgar H. Schein for Schein’s 2003 history of Digital:

“As Olsen explained to me at length and attempted to make clear, he thought it would be unacceptable to have the computer in the home controlling everything. Why would anyone want that? He did not object to the concept of a PC at all . . .”

So while Olsen’s quote was taken out of context with respect to the modern PC, it seems like we are certainly heading in a direction that will actually make his 1977 prediction completely wrong.

Smart homes and home automation systems are becoming much more common today. Appliances, lights, home security, thermostats, and entertainment systems that can be controlled by a PC, tablet, or smartphone are featured in many smart homes.

My guess is that Olsen would admit that he did not foresee such developments, and would likely be an early adopter of such technologies.

However, just because you can connect something to a network or the Internet, doesn’t mean you should.

Christopher Mims had a great story in the Wall Street Journal the other day titled “Dumb ‘Smart’ Gadgets: The Bubble Is Set to Burst“. In the article, Mims points out many of the devices that have been created under the broad category of “The Internet of Things”.

Here are some examples of such “smart things”: socks, toothbrush, plate, cup, fork, cutting board, stove knob, jump rope, shoes, shirt, aquarium, frying pan.

One of the specific products mentioned by Mims is Vessyl, a smart cup that can instantly recognize what beverage you pour into the cup. Stephen Colbert has a great satire on the virtues of the Vessyl. While the technology behind such an invention is incredible, I am not sure of how broad its appeal will be to individual consumers.

Todd Lemmon and Andy Bobrow have even created a web site that tracks these types of smart devices, called We Put a Chip In It, with the tagline “It was just a dumb thing. Then we put a chip in it. Now it’s a smart thing.”

One final device worth mentioning that is also highlighted in the WSJ article is the world’s first smart detector of the gas that we pass. That’s right, there’s a device (known as CH4) that you can clip on to your back pocket that will measure your gases and tell you what foods to avoid.

It seems like such a product is something Google would have dreamed up for April Fool’s Day, but it seems real, and here’s the Kickstarter campaign.

I can’t imagine the fun Saturday Night Live will have with such a product. It seems like the perfect companion to the classic remote controlled fart machine. (And just imagine the possibilities if you could create a smartphone controlled fart machine!)

fartmachine

I think if Olsen were alive today, he may have modified his famous quote a bit by saying, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in everything he uses in his home. That would be dumb.”

And he would be oh so right.

 

Read to Lead

winnersdream

For the past several years, the Villanova School of Business (VSB) has selected a book for the incoming freshmen to read over the summer. The program is known as the Read to Lead program, and the cost of the books is generously funded by EY, one of the Big 4 public accounting firms.

Examples from the Read to Lead book are then integrated into the Intro to Business course all business students take during their first semester. Such an approach enables students to see the practical applications of the concepts that are being studied in class.

Here is the list of the books that have been used in the Read to Lead program:

  • Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
  • Googled: The End of the World as We Know It
  • Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose (Zappos)
  • Start Something That Matters (Tom’s Shoes)
  • Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business (Whole Foods)
  • Wawa: How a Funny name and Six Core Values Revolutionized Convenience

If you haven’t heard of Wawa, then just imagine what the ultimate convenience store would be like, and that’s Wawa. It’s better than 7-Eleven, Sheetz, or any regional convenience store chain you can think of. It’s a Philadelphia based chain, with stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Florida. If you ever visit the Philly area, then Wawa has to be on your list of places to visit.

The book that we have selected for this year’s incoming freshmen is “Winners Dream: A Journey From Corner Store to Corner Office” by Bill McDermott, current CEO of software giant SAP, Inc.

The book tells the story of Bill’s career path, starting at 17 years old with his purchase of a deli while still in high school and then running the store until he graduated college. After college, Bill joined the sales team at Xerox, where he stayed for 17 years, becoming the company’s youngest executive vice president. He then left Xerox to serve as president at Gartner, Inc., followed by a job at Siebel Systems as executive VP of worldwide sales and operations. He then joined SAP as CEO of SAP America, became co-CEO in 2010, and was named CEO in 2014.

It is a remarkable story, and Bill shares many of the defining moments of his life with the reader, as well as useful words of advice for success in sales, business, and life. The faculty are confident that the students will find the book informative and enjoyable to read.

One interesting side note is that Bill’s grandfather was Bobby McDermott, a professional basketball player considered by many to be the greatest long-distance shooter in the history of the game.

It looks like we may also have the book chosen for the following year – “Do the KIND Thing” by the founder of the KIND Healthy Snacks company, Daniel Lubetzky. This is an inspiring story of the struggles and successes of being an entrepreneur and wanting to make a difference.

 

 

Forget about Flash Crashes, Flash Mobs Are Way Cooler

flashmob

Today is the five year anniversary of when U.S. stock markets experienced unprecedented price volatility, known as a flash crash. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 600 points in less than five minutes, but 20 minutes later had recovered most of that 600 point loss.

Navinder Singh Sarao, a trader from the U.K,  is accused of masterminding a stock market spoofs scam which triggered the 2010 flash crash, and currently faces extradition to the U.S. over allegations of wire fraud, commodities fraud, and market manipulation.

Fortunately safeguards have been put in place to hopefully protect from similar flash crashes in the future, so something positive has come out of the experience.

But enough about flash crashes, let me talk about something much more enjoyable, flash mobs. Flash mobs have been around for a little over 10 years, the first one occurring at a Macy’s in New York City in 2003.

According to Wikipedia, a flash mob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, before quickly dispersing. There has been some debate about whether the term flash mob should be applied to events and performances organized for the purposes of politics (such as protests), commercial advertisement, publicity stunts that involve public relation firms, or paid professionals. In these cases of a planned purpose for the social activity in question, the term smart mobs is often applied instead.

I don’t really care what name is applied to such gatherings. To me, flash mobs are just fun to watch. It does seem like they are not as popular as they once were (I haven’t seen a video of a good flash mob in a while), so I thought I would share a couple of my favorite flash mob videos.

The first video is of 200 people taking over Antwerpen’s Centraal Station in Belgium dancing to the song Do Re Mi from the Sound of Music. The video turned out to be a publicity stunt for a reality show, but it does not diminish the pure joy that one experiences when watching the video.

The second flash mob video took place much closer to home, in fact it was filmed where I work, Villanova University. The song in this video is Katy Perry’s Firework, and features not only several Villanova students, but also the President of the University, Father Peter Donohue, and Jay Wright, the coach of the men’s basketball team. You may recognize Coach Wright, and it won’t be hard to pick out Father Peter either:)

The video was filmed in conjunction with the University’s new campaign to tell the Villanova story, using the slogan “Ignite Change, Go Nova”

If you look hard enough in the background, you may see me in my office, hunched over a laptop, grading cash flow statements prepared by my students. I can’t imagine why I wasn’t invited to take part in the flash mob…

And one final video, also from Villanova, is of the Harlem Shake. This craze seemed to replace flash mobs, and while they may not be as well planned out as the flash mob videos above, some of them are still fun to watch.

The Harlem Shake craze seems to have died out as well, so I’m looking forward to whatever the next flash mob thing will be. Perhaps it will be large groups of people doing the Cups song

 

 

 

Is This Any Way To Run a Business?

waiting

Yesterday, my Aunt had a doctor’s appointment at 4:00, and we made sure to arrive at the right time for this visit. The first thing we noticed was how crowded the office was, and my Aunt asked the receptionist if it was usually this busy, and she said yes. My Aunt then asked if there was going to be a delay, and the receptionist said that the doctor was about an hour behind.

I appreciated the honesty from the receptionist; she could have just said, “He’s a few minutes behind schedule.” That still doesn’t make it right or any less annoying, but an hour wait is doable.

Well 5:00 came and went, as did 5:30, and 6:00. Finally, at 6:05, my Aunt was called into one of the treatment rooms.

Now I understand that delays are common in other situations, like waiting for the cable guy, or a repairman, or an airline to take-off. But at the same time, those professions/industries are also generally ridiculed by the public for their poor customer service.

But I think a doctor should be held to a higher standard, and that there is no excuse for falling that far behind in your schedule. I understand that emergencies may crop up, but that did not appear to be the case yesterday.

I really can’t say what the problem was, but it seems like the situation could be easily fixed. If, as the receptionist told us, the office is like this every Monday, then something should be done to change that. Schedule fewer appointments, or make more realistic appointment times.

I also felt bad for the office staff. The women working in the office were quite nice, but it appeared as if they had to stay until the final patient was finished. We didn’t get out of the office until 7:00, even though the posted office hours are 8:00-5:00.

So my Aunt was there for a total of three hours, of which 15 minutes was spent with the doctor.

Now the doctor seems to be a nice guy, and the treatment he provided to my Aunt seemed to be effective, but I think there is more to being a doctor than just medical skill.

The following is from a modern version of the Hippocratic Oath:

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

And in this case, a sincere “Sorry I made you wait” from the doctor to my Aunt could have made yesterday’s experience so much better.

Like I said earlier, the solution to many problems is often pretty simple.

Don’t Quit

churchill

This is the seventh in a collection of newspaper ads from United Technologies that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. The link to the original ad is at the end of this post.

This week’s ad is about not quitting, about never giving in. It even quotes from one of Winston Churchill’s famous speeches:

“… this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

I am glad that Churchill added the phrase “except to convictions of … good sense.” I am also glad that Churchill did not use the phrase “quit”, but rather “give in.”

I’ve written before about what I consider the difference between quitting and walking away. Walking away is a realization that what you are currently doing may not be helping you achieve your dream, your life’s purpose, and as a result making a conscious decision to change the path you are to help you achieve your dream. Quitting is giving up on your dream.

Seth Godin has also written about this:

 “Part of what it means to be a creative artist is to dive willingly into work that might not work. And the other part, the part that’s just as important, is to openly admit when you’ve gone the wrong direction, and eagerly walk away, even (especially) when it’s personal.”

Sometimes, however, we get so caught up in the details of what we are doing, that it often takes a trusted third party to suggest that maybe we should be doing something else entirely.

Seth Godin also wrote about this in one of his posts where he notes the difference between a copyeditor and an editor who is your partner:

And the editor who is your partner will tell you that the chapters are in the wrong order, that you must delete a third of what you wrote, or perhaps consider writing for TV instead. This kind of editor is the one who will tell you your time is better spent doing something else entirely.”

I realize there are hundreds of stories of successful entrepreneurs who ignored everyone’s suggestions to quit, to try something else, but kept going and eventually became successful.

I am also quite sure that there are just as many stories, if not more, of entrepreneurs who ignored such suggestions, kept going, and never met with the success they hoped for. Those stories aren’t as inspirational as the success stories, and so they often go unnoticed or unpublicized.

As a result, there is an almost heroic status applied to individuals who persevere against all odds and become successful, and a stigma attached to those who “quit.”

How much better off would those individuals who kept plugging away and never achieved their dream have been if they had “pivoted” (to use a popular phrase these days), if they had walked away towards some other venture where their grit and determination would have been put to better use?

Another issue associated with quitting or walking away is that many people get caught up in the sunk cost fallacy, and think that they need to recoup everything they have put into their latest venture. Such thinking leads to poor decision making.

Reading today’s United Technology ad also brought back memories of my first swim coach, Todd Ellis. I was about 9 years old, and I tried to do everything Coach Ellis told me. Like many coaches, Todd was into motivational techniques, and it was through him that I first came across the poem, “Don’t Quit“. I had the poem memorized within a couple of days, and many of the words have stuck with me over the years.

I can still recite the opening lines:

When things go wrong as they sometimes will, 
when the road you’re trudging seems all up hill…

I was big into the motivational stuff at an early age, and read all of Tony Robbins’ books as soon as they came out. (I’ve actually just started his latest book on Money). 

I even remember Coach Ellis telling us once that the word “can’t” should not be in our dictionary, so I dutifully went home after practice that day and crossed it out of my dictionary.

So the idea of not quitting has been ingrained in me for along time, but over the years I think I’ve become more aware of how best to utilize my time and efforts in order to achieve certain goals.

And so while I completely support the notion of not quitting, sometimes it just makes good sense to walk away (note how I cleverly combined both Churchill’s and Godin’s words!)

Here is the 1980 United Technologies ad that inspired this post.

A Day at the Beach

dayatthebeach

I’m not sure what I’m more excited about, the great day I had at the beach today, or finding the book cover shown above.

My wife and I, along with our youngest son, had the chance to go to the beach today (Ocean City, NJ), where we met my wife’s sister and her husband, and their youngest son.

It was a great day to spend at the beach – sunny, relatively warm, and not too crowded. While there was a cool ocean breeze, it was still just nice sitting down by the water and watching the waves and the few surfers who were out in the water doing their thing. I was also impressed that there were a few brave souls who ventured into the water just for fun, which I heard was only in the mid 50s. (Meanwhile, I was wearing jeans, t-shirt, and warm-up jacket. Such an outfit served two purposes; first it acted as a good sunscreen, and second, it kept me warm.)

After just hanging out on the beach, we all went up to the boardwalk (Ocean City has THE best boardwalk) to grab a late lunch/early dinner.

Along the boardwalk there are probably 15 places to grab a slice of pizza, but there are only three that we’ve ever eaten at over the past 30 years – the Manco & Manco at 8th street,  the Manco & Manco at 9th street, or the Manco & Manco at 12th street.

It is an amazing thing to see; there will be lines out the door waiting to get into any of the Manco & Manco pizzerias, while two doors down there is another pizza place that is almost completely empty.

Anyway, we waited a few minutes for our table and ordered the pizza, and it looked as good as ever. I say looked because I no longer eat cheese pizza, but it certainly brought back good memories of how good their pizza tasted.

After we finished the pizza, we played one of my favorite sports, miniature golf. The highlight was my son getting a hole-in-one on the 19th hole that won him a free game.

By this time we were all ready to head back home. A day at the beach was a great way to end the weekend, and it felt like we got a head start on summer.

As to the book cover, that used to be one of our kids’ favorite books. I remember reading the book to each of my three sons several times over many years, and at one point I am sure I had it memorized. When I wrote the title for this post, the book title came back to me immediately. So I searched on Amazon, and there it was.

I hope that our kids remember the book, but more importantly, I hope they remember all the great days we’ve had at the beach, and hopefully the many great days at the beach we have left ahead of us.

A Call for Truth in Direct Mail Advertising

I received the envelope below in the mail yesterday, and I was 99% sure that it was some form of advertising.

junk_mail

However, there’s always a little bit of doubt when I see words like “Urgent – Requires Immediate Action” or “Business Mail – Penalty for Tampering” on the envelope, or when I can see what appears to be a check made out to me inside the envelope.

So I reluctantly opened it, and of course, it was just a promotional piece for a local car dealer, who I now have no desire to do business with as a result of what I consider deceptive advertising.

If you are proud of what your business does, why don’t you display your name on the outside of the envelope, as well as clearly state what the purpose of the mailing is?

There’s an analogy I can use here.

The FDA requires proper labeling on the outside of food products, so that consumers have a good idea of what is inside the package. As a result, consumers can make a decision as to whether they want to buy a food product just by reading the outside label, instead of having to buy the product, open it up, and taste the product.

Why can’t the FTC require a similar form of truth in advertising when it comes to labeling mail that is sent through the USPS?

Such requirements might include that the name of the company sending the mail is clearly labeled on the outside of the envelope, as well as a basic summary of what the contents of the envelope are. Words such as “important” or “penalty for tampering” would not be permitted. Giving the impression that there is a check inside the envelope would also not be permitted, if there really is not a check inside.

You might be thinking that if businesses were required to start implementing such regulations, then no one would open such mail. And that’s exactly my point. Let consumers decide just from looking at the envelope if something is worth opening, rather than tricking them into opening something they might have no desire to look at it.

Of course, if such regulations were to pass, there could be problems with some direct mailers making dubious claims that the contents of the envelops are all natural, or organic, or perhaps even non-GMO.

But even that’s better than where we are now.